How to Use Nature to Inform Our Personal Strengths
When we know how to identify people by their natural creative strengths, we help them understand their core identity
When you envision the most exquisite scene in nature, what do you see?
A meadow awash with vivid fall colors?
The summer sun setting over a vast desert?
Hillsides gleaming in the Southern California sunshine?
Snowflakes landing softly on forest trees?
What words would you use to describe it?
To describe the California hillsides, we might use beautiful words like golden, rolling, deep, majestic, smooth, sturdy.
Yet, it is also possible to view them as being ugly: brown, scorched, dusty, ugly, lifeless, dead.
Based on the descriptions alone, which scene would you rather visit? Which set of words better communicate the real, fundamental essence of these hillsides?
How we describe people
Our instinct is to look for beauty in nature, but with people the growing tendency is to describe what's wrong first: lazy, weird, boring, slow, clumsy, ignorant.
This tendency is so strong (part of what I've termed the "inertia of no") that we need an active strategy to see people differently. The lens of creativity—a uniquely human feature—can help us do this.
As we wrote in Creativity for Everybody , each one of us has an individual constellation of creative strengths. The strengths that make up this constellation are the underlying human qualities that support individual growth and expression. All of these qualities are inherent in humans, but they are expressed by each individual in different degrees and combinations.
Your constellation may include strengths like: persistent, curious, brave, and genuine.
Mine might include strengths like: observant, adventurous, intuitive, and focused.
Certainly, we each have all of these to some degree, but your curiosity shines more brightly for you while my intuition shines more brightly for me.
Strengths as stepping stones
When we know how to identify people by their creative strengths, we help them understand their core identity. Even if weaknesses glare us in the face, it is strengths that give people a leg to stand on. When we consistently define people by their weaknesses, or what they don't have or are not doing, we contribute to a culture of depression, gloom, and hatred.
Knowing that our strengths are useful and have the potential to be even more useful, makes life worth living. Knowing that we have strengths gives us hope and a vision of possibility for the future. Knowing our strengths helps us use them as stepping stones to productivity and progress at work, school, and in life.
Moreover, when we use the lens of creative strengths to help us identify ourselves and others, the barren, parched hillsides are replaced with golden, majestic beauty.