Get in Touch with Your Inner Superman or Wonder Woman: Use Your Strengths!

What I’m about to share with you took me well over half of my life to figure out: When you possess a strength, it’s in your best interest to use it as much as possible!

Were you a little surprised when you read that last sentence? Did you expect something more complex and profound? I’ll admit that the concept of playing to your strengths doesn’t seem groundbreaking at first glance. After all, it’s something all of us have heard many, many times throughout our lives. But how many of us actually live according to that advice?

When I look around, I see a lot of Americans spending large chunks of their lives doing things that they don’t enjoy, that they don’t find fulfilling, and that they might not even be very good at. That doesn’t sound like “playing to your strengths” to me. So why do we live like this?

Here’s what the answer was for me: As a younger man, and even as a child, I worked twice as hard in the areas I found to be difficult as I did in the areas that came naturally to me. I couldn’t stand the thought of being “bad” at something; in fact, I felt compelled to be as perfect as I could possibly be. So what happened as a result of my efforts? Well, I’d usually manage to pull myself up from “bad” to “mediocre”—but rarely higher in these areas.

Also, way too many of us accept the first job offer we receive after graduating from high school or college—perhaps because it was recommended by a friend or because it was the only option available (or maybe we just needed a paycheck as soon as possible). And twenty years later, we find ourselves trying to remember how we got stuck in this career path that we don’t like and that isn’t really using our greatest gifts.

Personally, when I finally realized that I had been spending a lot of my life doing things that frustrated me, drained my energy, and made me unhappy, it was a real epiphany and turning point for me. I asked myself, What could I have accomplished—and how happy could I have been—if I had spent all of those hours doing things that I was good at, that I enjoyed, and that enriched my life and the lives of others? I knew that I couldn’t change the past, but I promised myself that in the future I’d stop beating myself up over the things I wasn’t good at and spend more time playing to my strengths. I encourage you to do the same.

Yes, I know that you can’t just rearrange your life as easily as you can rearrange your living room furniture. You can’t instantly quit a job that you’re not suited for; in fact, it can even be difficult to clear enough time in your schedule to pursue a neglected hobby. But you can start taking little steps in these directions. For example, begin looking at online job postings or for local classes in your field of interest. Instead of zoning out in front of a reality show, pull your art supplies out of the closet.

And what if you aren’t sure what your strengths are? It’s entirely possible that you might not be able to identify them easily, especially if you’ve been stuck in the same mind-numbing rut for years. If this is you, I recommend you start figuring out what you were most meant to do by making two lists. First, write down the five things you believe you are best at. The list could include professional skills, hobbies, or even personal qualities (like “good listener”). On the second list, write down the five things that you enjoy doing the most. When the same thing shows up on both lists, you can bet that it is one of your God-given talents.

Even if you’re spending only fifteen minutes of each day doing something that you consider to be one of your strengths, you’re still moving in a positive direction. Whether you’re by yourself in the garden or mentoring the new hires at work, you’ll find that your sense of fulfillment and self-worth will begin to grow, and your contentment will grow, too! If we all start to use our special gifts and talents more often rather than constantly trying to shore up all of our weaker areas, we certainly will be much happier people, and the world will be a much better and brighter place, too!


Prioritize Your Marriage Every Day

If there’s ever a time when we make focusing on our spouse or significant other a priority, it’s Valentine’s Day. After all, February 14th is all about romance, fancy dinners, thoughtful gifts, and expressions of love. In that sort of candy-coated situation, it’s very easy to feel a spark as you gaze into your partner’s eyes.

But what about the other 364 days of the year? If you’ve been married (or in a committed relationship) for much time at all, you know that champagne and chocolates are only a small part of what makes up a partnership. You also have to deal with things like shared bills, housework, busy schedules, kids, the occasional argument, and more. And in the midst of all of that chaos, well, it can be all too easy for the “love” part of your relationship to take a hit.

If you have read my book or heard me speak, you’ve probably heard me say that your marriage is like anything else in this life. If it is not growing and expanding, it is slowly dying. If you don’t put regular work into maintaining your marriage and repairing any problems that crop up, it will eventually break down, or even worse. Furthermore, if you’re unhappy at home you’ll find it more difficult to succeed in other areas of your life as well because you will constantly be stressed out about your number-one relationship. And you’ll also lack your partner’s full support. That being the case, we all must start to put even more effort into our marriages than we do into succeeding professionally or trying to keep our homes, lawns, and/or cars looking great.

Essentially, the real secret to maintaining a fabulous, loving relationship with your spouse boils down to this: Every day, it must be your number-one priority to make your husband or wife feel as special, loved, and valued as he or she did when you first got married.

Here are a few things I do to keep my own wife (I hope!) feeling amazing and special throughout the whole year. I use the terms wife, she, and her, but I promise, all of these strategies work just as well with men!:

  • Celebrate your spouse every day. Tell her how wonderful, beautiful, and talented she is. Tell her you love her every chance you get, and how incredibly fortunate you feel to be married to her.
  • Be sure to compliment your spouse whenever you can. By and large, we can’t count on hearing praise from our bosses and coworkers, or even from our friends and kids. And most certainly, we don’t make ourselves feel very good with compliments directed at ourselves, either. So over time, it’s all too easy to feel small, unhappy, and dissatisfied. As a spouse, though, you have the power and responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen to your wife. You can light up her world every day with love, affection, and yes, glowing praise!
  • Learn, and do, what makes your spouse feel most loved. Some of us need to be touched to feel love. Others need to hear it, and still others need to be shown through gifts and nights out on the town that we are loved and appreciated. Don’t assume your way of feeling loved is the same as hers. Simply ask your spouse directly what you do for her that makes her feel the most loved, and then incorporate her answer more frequently into your daily lives.
  • Don’t let resentments build. Always keep the lines of communication open, even if you need to take a walk and clear your head before broaching a touchy subject.
  • Look at yourself before trying to fix your partner. Instead of nagging, complaining, and accusing, ask yourself—honestly—where you might be dropping the ball and/or causing the problem. When you start changing your behavior for the better, you’ll probably be surprised by how quickly your spouse will do the same for you!

Obviously, these are only a handful of the many habits that can keep your marriage great. Overall, just remember that when you are committed to loving, respecting, and celebrating your spouse every day, she’ll smile more, feel better, and experience more of that romantic “spark” (and so will you, I promise!).

So, go on that fun, romantic Valentine’s Day date…and then prioritize and enjoy your marriage every day thereafter. You won’t regret it—I know I haven’t!

Learn to Love Yourself

As we all know, Valentine’s Day is coming up soon. If you browse through store aisles, you’ll find a multitude of greeting cards aimed at husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, bosses, children, and more. It seems to me that one person is missing from that list, though: yourself!

Yes, I know. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about letting the important people in your life know how much they mean to you. I’m not trying to end that tradition by any means. What I am hoping to point out is that most Americans don’t put themselves in that category. And if you have read any of my book or watched my videos or speeches, you know that the number one thing I believe today about happiness is this: Until a person learns to truly value and love themselves simply for who they are and what they do, they can never really be happy long-term. That’s why it concerns me that even on a holiday that’s so devoted to love most of us don’t show much of it to ourselves.

Yes, it’s a big problem when you don’t love yourself. Until my breakdown, because I did not love myself, I thought that my self-worth came solely from my achievements. I depended on “atta boys,” pats on the back, and awards to make me feel valuable and worthwhile. And that led to a life that was way, way out of balance and to numerous problems:

• I became a workaholic. My job was the one place where I could guarantee that I could be number one…if, of course, I was willing to work harder than anyone else. Thus, at Foreign Autopart in the ’90s, I was always the first one at the office and the last one to leave, continually reaching for the next record to break so I could be okay with myself (and frankly, sleep at night!).Quite simply, I was not much of a dad when Josh was young. I regret that now.

• I didn’t treat myself well. As you may have already guessed, I pushed myself too hard and rarely did “nice” things for myself—even something as simple as taking a nap when I was exhausted. These days, mainly on the weekends, boy do I cherish my naps!!!

• Not all of my relationships were genuine. Because I didn’t value myself, I was often insecure about how others felt about me—even if I didn’t show it. When I was younger, I tended to behave the way I thought people wanted me to instead of doing what I wanted to do or felt was right.

• I was always trying to be everyone else’s favorite person by doing everything for everyone. In this way, I hoped that others would love and appreciate me more. At times, this compulsion led to me being taken advantage of and abused, and later I felt resentful and totally burnt out.

I know I’m not the only one, either. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I think we should all consider how much we do (or don’t!) value our own selves. If you look to others for love and approval instead of giving it to yourself, as I once did, please try to make this change now. The fact is, you can never have totally authentic and meaningful relationships with other people or achieve your full potential until you truly learn to love the wonderful human being you are.

First, acknowledge that of course you’re going to mess up from time to time because you’re human. Then, start making a mental list of your many talents, successes, strengths, and blessings. (Ask your loved ones for help if you need to!) Remember, God made you to be a one-of-a-kind, and He gave you amazing qualities that no one else possesses.

Trust me, once you begin to value and love yourself more, your whole life will change for the better. You’ll be happier (and healthier!), you’ll feel more confident, and your relationships will improve. You may even notice more positive opportunities coming into your life as others begin to respond to you differently.

So, even if you can’t find a Valentine’s Day card addressed to “you” as you do your shopping, don’t forget to show yourself love on February 14th—and every day thereafter! You deserve it! And your kids do too, because—I promise you this—your children will learn to love themselves for who they are and what they do only if you learn how to do this first.