In our last blog, we looked at aligning your strengths with potential. Building a deeper understanding of how you and your team can better make use of your strengths to achieve your goals.

In this blog, we’re looking at aligning those strengths and potential with aspirations.

If you’ve already done some work understanding your individual strengths, linking those strengths to your aspirations is a valuable activity. We’re going to be using the 5As as a guide to get you thinking:-

  1. Aspirations
  2. Awareness
  3. Actions
  4. Agility
  5. Achievement

With these 5 steps as a guide, you can use your strengths to achieve your goals.

The 5 As – 5 Steps to Understanding and Achieving Your Aspirations

 Step 1 – Aspirations – What are they?

Marathons, half marathons, triathlons, tough mudders, park runs, 10Ks … they are all the rage right now. Particularly for those going through the first traumatic experience of middle-aged health kick!

All these physical endurance tests are aspirational. And they have a deeper aspiration at their heart than simply completing a race. They are the stimulus for a healthier lifestyle, the proof of retained youth, and the evidence of personal achievement and stamina. They are the motivators we use to achieve a desired goal. An aspiration that requires something better of ourselves.

And, as the people who are preparing for these personal trials will happily tell you, they can’t be entered into lightly. They require serious preparation of both mind and body. In fact, all the physical endurance tests we put ourselves through, from week-night 5-a-side to ultra-marathons require regular practice and “stretch” to build up physical and psychological strength.

In simple terms, we have to put in the hard miles and do some work, before we can achieve our goals.

In the same way, the goals and aspirations we have in our employment also require preparation and work. The strengths we use to achieve those aspirations need to be practiced and stretched if we want to achieve our aspirations and make the best use of our potential.

Step 2 – Awareness – Write Down Your Aspirations!

It is amazing how few people actually sit down and record their aspirations in any meaningful way. You might think we know what you want to achieve, but do you really? Are you aware of how your aspirations may have changed? When did you last review your aspirations against your current situation?

By writing down your aspirations and reviewing them regularly, you are more likely to be able to articulate and understand them. By answering why each of your aspirations is important to you in your current situation, you can gain an awareness of how you can use our strengths to achieve them. 

With a better understanding of your aspirations you can begin to look at which of your unique strengths you will need to employ and practice to achieve them. Using strengths development tools provided by Co-Creation, will help you identify how your strengths can combine most effectively to deliver on aspirations.

Step 3 – Action – Time to be Doing

How many times have we heard phrases such as, “actions do speak louder than words”, or “procrastination is the thief of time”?

The fact is, we are often very good at writing down and making plans, but never actually acting on them. Now is the time to give things a go. Having a growth mindset is about understanding that failing and feeling incompetent is part of the learning journey to achieve your aspirations.

This is where working with professional support can help you to “train” yourself.

Step 4 – Agility – Positive Challenges to Stretch your Strengths

It’s important to regular test your ‘limits’ – to see what you are capable of achieving when you use your strengths productively and in different ways. This builds what we call “agility”.  That crucial capacity to be flexible across different situations and operating environments.

The process of stretching strengths means taking an area that energises you and learning new skills within that area, which will take your natural energy in a new direction

Just like training for a marathon, stretching your strengths can be difficult. It takes you out of your comfort zone. But without a positive challenge, you are unlikely to get the most out of your strengths, skills and knowledge and will never discover the true value they offer to achieve your aspirations. 

Stretching strengths is a concept that we don’t often use. We are not programmed to think in this way. More often than not, there is a focus on working on our weaker areas because we believe they provide the greatest opportunity for development.

However, by working on our strengths we remain motivated for longer and can gain far greater achievements. Stretching strengths takes time and practice before it comes naturally, just like learning to drive or ski. It might seem awkward and unnatural at first, but the more you do it, the more it will feel natural and can be done almost automatically.

We recommend the 3Es approach to development: –

  • Experience
  • Engage
  • Educate

This is based on a well-researched and practiced 70:20:10 adult learning model. Which shows that effective learners get 70 percent of their learning from job-related experiences, 20 percent from engaging others to support, coach and help them and only 10 percent from formal education and training.

 Step 5 – Achievement – Learning to Grow

Learning to grow is all about recognising and celebrating success. To do this, you need to know when knowing when you’ve hit your targets. Which requires you to have SMART targets:-

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

We do this all the time for those physical challenges. When you ran the 10k in 49 minutes, which was one minute under your target time for completion you know to celebrate.

The same can is true of all your aspirations. Take the time to reflect on why you achieved that success, so you can use this learning for future growth. Was there a new technique you tried that helped?

The most important way we can recognise achieving a goal is to celebrate! It’s highly motivating for the next time you decide to take on a challenge and set new aspirations.

Remember, Your Aspirations Can Change!

Your aspirations won’t always remain the same. They will change as you grow. Few teenagers feel motivated to run a marathon, but more and more of us become motivated to do physical endurance activity as we approach our middle years. In the same way, your aspirations when you first started work may not be the same as they are now.

Aspirations will change because of what’s going on in our lives. And it’s important to remember that not everyone’s aspirations will be focused on an upward drive to leadership.

Following the 5As and regularly reviewing your aspirations, strengths and goal setting can help you and others to learn and develop and achieve, without being tipped into stress.

With a clear understanding you can create new goals that to a point where you feel challenged and engaged, but not overwhelmed.  This ongoing process will keep your confidence, commitment and contribution high, giving you the best opportunities to achieve your aspirations.