You are different from the people sitting around you. In fact, you are so unique that the chances of you having the same top five talent themes as someone else are about one in 275,000. The odds of having the same top five themes in the exact same order is one in 33 million.
Because of your talent themes, your experiences and your environment, you look at life in a unique way. Many people think they need to be exactly like someone else, whether that’s a celebrity, some other towering figure of success, or somebody they know and admire. But trying to be someone else doesn’t work. Becoming more of who you already are is the key to your success.
Who you are is a gift given to you at birth — you are born with a set of talents that nobody else has. Turning your unique talents into strengths requires skills, knowledge, conscious effort and deliberate action — all applied to the things that matter to you. While success means different things to different people, everyone achieves their version of success by fully developing and applying their strengths. Nearly 70 years of research has proven it.
In the early 1950s, Don Clifton, a popular psychology instructor and researcher at the University of Nebraska, started thinking about all the ways the field of psychology had to describe what is wrong with people — medically, psychologically and socially — and the very few ways it had to identify what is right with people.
Clifton began researching why some people become great at what they do and others don’t. For one project with ROTC students in the mid-1950s, he looked closely at the common factors of successful people. The study kept expanding, and in 1998, Clifton, who was then chairman of Gallup, sought to invent a common language and talent themes to describe what people do well.
So Gallup researchers mined their database, which contained more than 100,000 talent-based interviews at the time, and looked for patterns. They examined specific questions that Gallup had used in studies of successful executives, salespeople, customer service representatives, teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, nurses and people in several other fields.
Through this process, Clifton and Gallup researchers established the 34 themes of talent. Researchers then developed the first version of the CliftonStrengths assessment to measure these distinct talents. As of this writing, more than 15 million people have taken the assessment. And the American Psychological Association officially gave Clifton a presidential commendation as the Father of Strengths Psychology.
Though people do change over time and personalities evolve, scientists have discovered that core personality traits are relatively stable throughout adulthood, as are people’s passions and interests. And research suggests that the roots of personality might be visible at a young age. A 23-year longitudinal study of 1,000 children living in New Zealand revealed that children’s observed personality at age 3 shows remarkable similarity to their reported personality traits at age 26. That’s why CliftonStrengths measures talent — talents don’t really change much.
Knowledge, skills and practice — along with talent — are vital parts of the strengths equation. You will likely develop skills and knowledge through your experiences in school, in work settings and in hands-on practice. When you supplement your talents with your knowledge and skills to the point that you can consistently provide near-perfect performance in a given activity, you have developed a strength. And by applying and even further refining your strengths, you move closer to fulfilling your natural potential as an individual.
Building your talents into strengths requires practice and hard work, much like building physical strengths. That's where your Luther College Strengths team comes in. Schedule a coaching session or invite us to your team or class to take a deeper dive into your strengths development.