Personal Growth

Know Your Strengths and How to Leverage Them

This is a key to so much in life. We’re all good at something.

But not everything we’re good at is good for us. Think about that carefully.

  • Do people keep asking you to do things you don’t find energizing, simply because you can do them well? These are apparently “strengths” of yours, but they feel more like traps you keep falling into. It can be hard to say “no” when people compliment you for your skill at things that drains you.
  • Or look at the other side of the coin. Do you keep trying to get better at something you don’t do well and really hate to do? Instead of finding a creative way to get it done by someone else. for example?

What a waste of good energy if you fall into either camp!

I made both mistakes for a long time…until I started thinking differently.

How did I make the leap? I started looking for all kinds of information that would give me different perspectives on myself, that would tell me things I didn’t already know.

I found some excellent resources that I now use to help clients break new ground in the way they look at themselves.


My approach is to do an in-depth personal interview with you in person, over the phone, or online. From that I learn what you want your future to be like. Within four sessions you have a clear picture of where you want to be and start on the path to it. This is an economical yet powerful process. Contact me at to learn more.

I also want to direct you to some very helpful self-assessments I use with people as well


The VIA is an online survey covering 24 fundamental character strengths applicable to almost every known culture. By taking the VIA you are contributing to a long term international research project. You immediately get a computerized report showing your top or signature strengths, with an explanation of their meaning.

Go to and look for the VIA Survey. The basic VIA report is free.


The Realise2 assessment from the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology is also taken online. Like the VA, it asks you to decide how much you agree or disagree with different statements. This will uncover the strengths you already use as well as potential strengths, weaknesses, and learned behaviors (things you may be good at but which drain you). It’s useful for both individuals and for teams in organizations, where it helps group members recognize the strengths each of them brings to a team. You get an immediate and rather colorful report with suggestions for action based on the total picture.

This can be taken by going to It costs about $25 American dollars, part of the fee going to international charities.

Think of yourself as a fine musical instrument whose performance will benefit from study, practice, skill development, and deep insight into your particular gifts.


Tapping Into Your Good Energy to Reduce Anxiety

Visualizations and guided imagery are time-honored ways to do forms of meditation that work for many people in many situations. But we’re not all alike, so it pays to have a treasure box full of different techniques to call on when we’re stressed.

I thought about that this morning as I sat in the dentist chair and had my gums gouged and teeth scraped, all in the name of keeping as many in my head as possible for as long as possible.

I’ve been going to a dentist since I was seven years old. My earliest “teeth” memories are of climbing up steep, narrow steps in terror, dreading the pain that waited at the top behind that dark door. No wonder I can’t sit through horror movies!

Most of the younger generation, thankfully, don’t have this kind of experience built into their nervous system, because dentistry has progressed so far. But I know personally that there are still young people who react to the dental chair with unreasoning panic.

For them I’d like to recommend trying accupressure techniques I’ve been using since 1998, when I got extensive training in TFT (Thought Field Therapy). I now use a simpler method called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) that seems to work quite well with many forms of anxiety.

You can easily learn the sequence of tapping by following the modified directions in bold below, taken from Gary Craig’s free manual available on his website (click here).

During the first go-round, every time you tap on an area, think about your fears, keeping them clearly in mind. Sometimes, surprisingly, this in itself reduces the anxiety around them. OR, if it works better for you, start with the next instruction instead, omitting this first step. Find out what works.

Do a second round of tapping in sequence, and this time use reminder phrases at each point you tap on. Here are some examples: “I can choose to relax about this.” “I am safe.” “I can relax and release now.” “I can be comfortable right now.” You can repeat some of them or add others that come to you.

Repeat these phrases to yourself and keep tapping in new rounds for as long as you need to. Usually your body will respond and work with you to decrease your tension.

After you’ve practiced by actual tapping on your body and know where the points are, try this: as you are sitting in the dentist chair or doctors office visualize yourself tapping on these points and feel the imagined pressure as you do. Silently say, as you mentally tap each point, “I can relax.” “I am safe and comfortable.” “I can release,” etc.

In my case this has worked beautifully not only today at the dentist but also when I had a nuclear stress test where my nose was literally inches from the scanner for 20 minutes at a time. The first time I had a Cat scan, I had a full-blown panic attack. The second time, I used tapping from the get-go and sailed through.

A client of mine recently had a body cast made for special radiation, which took several hours. The staff couldn’t believe how calm she was in spite of not being able to move. They thought she had gone to sleep. “No,” she said, “I was tapping.”

Here are the instructions:

From Gary Craig’s free manual:

Tapping tips: You can tap with either hand but it is usually more convenient to do so with your dominant hand (e.g. right hand if you are right handed).

Tap with the fingertips of your index finger and middle finger. This covers a little larger area than just tapping with one fingertip and allows you to cover the tapping points more easily.

Tap solidly but never so hard as to hurt or bruise yourself.

Tap about 7 times on each of the tapping points. I say about 7 times because you will be repeating a “reminder phrase” while tapping and it will be difficult to count at the same time.

If you are a little over or a little under 7 (5 to 9, for example) that will be sufficient.

Most of the tapping points exist on either side of the body. It doesn’t matter which side you use nor does it matter if you switch sides during The Sequence. For example, you can tap under your right eye and, later in The Sequence, tap under your left arm.

The points: Each energy meridian has two end points. For the purposes of The Basic Recipe, you need only tap on one end to balance out any disruptions that may exist in it. These end points are near the surface of the body and are thus more readily accessed than other points along the meridians that may be more deeply buried. What
follows are instructions on how to locate the end points of those meridians that are important to The Basic Recipe. Taken together….and done in the order presented….they form The Sequence.

**At the beginning of the eyebrow, just above and to one side of the nose.

**On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye.

**On the bone under an eye about 1 inch below your pupil.

**On the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip.

**Midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip. Even though it is not directly on the point of the chin, we call it the chin point because it is descriptive enough for people to understand easily.

**The junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet. To locate it, first place your forefinger on the U-shaped notch at the top of the breastbone (about where a man would knot his tie). From the bottom of the U, move your forefinger down toward the navel 1 inch and then go to the left (or right) 1 inch.
It is at the beginning of the collarbone and we call it the collarbone point because that is a lot easier to say than “the junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet.”

**On the side of the body, at a point even with the nipple (for men) or in the middle of the bra strap (for women). It is about 4 inches below the armpit.

**On the outside edge of your thumb at a point even
with the base of the thumbnail.

*On the side of your index finger (the side facing your thumb) at a point even with the base of the fingernail.

**On the side of your middle finger (the side closest to your thumb) at a point even with the base of the fingernail.

**On the inside of your baby finger (the side closest to your thumb) at a point even
with the base of the fingernail.

**The last point is the karate chop point. It is located in the middle of the fleshy part on the outside of the hand between the top of the wrist bone and the base of the baby finger.

Please notice that these tapping points proceed down the body. That is, each tapping point is below the one before it. That should make it a snap to memorize. A few trips through it and it should be yours forever.


Using Guided Imagery to Harness Anxiety

I was talking to a friend the other day and was reminded of the importance of learning a number of different ways to harness normal anxiety.

She was recalling a major operation she underwent a few years ago. To prepare for it, she explored Eastern and Western methods for decreasing anxiety. She was surprised to find how much they helped her through that difficult time. She still uses techniques she learned then, when other stresses come up in her life now, ranging from work pressures to family conflicts.

You don’t have to be faced with an operation or serious illness to experience debilitating anxiety. Many stresses in our lives–good as well as bad stresses, I should point out–arouse the feeling.

While a limited amount of anxiety can actually bring you to the top of your game, sharpening your mind and reflexes, too much of it quickly overwhelms the nervous system.

Over the years I have taught many people to calm their nervous systems through testing out a variety of approaches. We treat each method as an experiment that may or may not work.

None of them are invasive or dangerous, but in stress reduction as in almost everything else, there are “different strokes for different folks.” So there’s a certain element of uncertainty that can add some interest and excitement to the process.

Some of these methods are simple to describe in writing. Others are a bit more complex and benefit from pictures to refer to. But let’s start with a very basic idea, similar to the one my friend has found so useful over time: anchoring to images that remind us of positive experiences.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, for many people. Strange as it seems, we aren’t strongly wired to retain good memories. So don’t feel there is something wrong with you if a connection to a highly pleasant internal picture doesn’t immediately manifest itself.

Waiting until you are in the midst of a crisis before learning how to do this won’t work, so start practicing now.

You can try this activity sitting or standing or lying down, whatever position gives you the best ability to focus and find a scene that you associate with well-being and good times, a picture that draws you in and holds your interest.

Find something active in the scene and follow it with your eyes, guiding the action and keeping it going.

Here’s an example. There’s a beautiful pasture in the nature preserve where I often walk. It’s on a hill, open to the sky. Several horses graze there peacefully, but every so often they all start running back and forth from one end of the pasture to the other.

One begins and the others follow. They wheel and chase each other around the perimeters of the wooden fence. They form figure eights. They seem tireless in their play. Watching them run, seeing their muscles move effortlessly, sensing their exuberance makes me feel intensely alive.

So when I need to chill out, I bring up this memory and “watch” the horses until I feel calmer. If I need more time out, I change the direction and the patterns of their running and keep watching. I’m absorbed in the rhythms of their movements and my own body begins to mimic them.

There are many ways to use imagery and visualization to combat the human tendency to focus on pain, fear, and negative predictions. When you have a dream or project that is daunting, it’s all too common to find yourself paralyzed by anxiety. That’s the moment to interrupt the negative pattern of paralysis by letting the horses of your imagination run free and so free you to move forward again.