The most effective way to achieve anything big in life, whether that is to get a promotion, start a business, get fit or run a marathon, is to play to your strengths. That means making the most of the skills you already have, rather than dwelling on the things you can’t do.

It works because to get ahead in work and life you don’t actually need to be good at everything; you just need to be good at some things and to use those skills well.

As a bonus, studies show that people who play to their strengths tend to be happier, less stressed and more satisfied with their lives. Here’s how to do it right:

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1 Work out what your strengths actually are.

Your strengths are a mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills. They are a combination of qualities you were born with and those you have gained through your life experiences. That might include practical, creative or organisational strengths, for example.

To find out what your strengths are is to ask yourself two questions: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? Your true strengths lie in the bit that overlaps. If you are still not sure, ask your friends and family to describe you and see which words appear most often. And then dig out your old school reports to rediscover qualities you have forgotten about.

2 Follow the fun

If you want to achieve more in life, make sure you are doing activities that you enjoy, whether at home or at work. There’s no point becoming a world-class trumpeter if you don’t actually like playing the trumpet. Build your life around things you love. That way you will not only have fun, the chances are that you will get pretty good at whatever it is you are doing too.

When five college friends in Texas started throwing balls into a basketball hoop in their backyard, they did it simply because it was fun. But then people started watching the videos they posted of their trick shots on YouTube and their Dude Perfect channel is now one of the most successful brands on YouTube with 15.9 million subscribers, worth millions.

Of course, for most people simply doing what they enjoy is not going to turn them into highly-paid YouTube stars. But thinking about how you might create a career around doing something you enjoy is a great place to start.

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3 Turn your negative traits on their head

There are two sides to any character trait, which means that all of those negative labels you have stuck on yourself over the years can simply be flipped over and viewed in a far more positive way. You might think that you are impatient, for example. But this also means you don’t procrastinate and you are good at getting things done. Or you might feel you lack confidence, but this simply means you are always questioning and checking rather than merely blundering on. Don’t feel burdened or defeated by the unhelpful traits you think you have, simply start looking at them in a different light and see how useful they can be.

4 Knock down obstacles

Along with your character traits, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the potential hurdles you face in trying to achieve big things in life. Maybe you think you are too old, too young, too inexperienced, too poor, or have too many family responsibilities to be a success in life.

But obstacles are only obstacles if you let them be so. The secret is to turn your liabilities into assets. Think you lack knowledge and experience? Good news – this means you have no preconceived ideas about how things should be done and so are free to create your own path. Think you are too old? Success is not age dependent. Your age means you have accumulated lots of experience, skills and knowledge about how the world works, all of which is going to come in very handy.

Think your family commitments will get in the way? Having children does not have to be a barrier to success. Not only can raising children make you really good at using your time efficiently and productively, your kids can also fire up your imagination like nothing else can.

5 Keep learning

Successful people place huge importance on continually learning new things, no matter what field they are in. They attend courses and conferences, they read widely, they consult experts, they employ coaches, they ask questions. And so should you. Continually learning new things is not only interesting in itself, it can also spark off all kinds of thoughts and ideas that you weren’t expecting. Watch free TED talks, join your local library, sign up for an evening class, attend free talks and events at your local university or college.

6 Write your own mission statement

A simple way to focus on your strengths is to write yourself a simple mission statement – a sentence that sums up your values and purpose and explains what you’re about.

Companies and brands often use mission statements as a way to explain the values that guide what they are trying to do – Sony’s’ mission statement, for example, is ‘To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.’

However, mission statements can also be a good way to think about what you stand for personally. Try writing one for a specific goal. If you are trying to get promoted at work, for example, your statement might be: ‘Make sure my enthusiasm and expertise shine through every piece of work I do.’ If you are aiming to adopt a healthier way of life, your mission statement might be: ‘Treat my body with care and respect in everything I do.’

7 Make room for the magic to happen

In its early days, Google introduced a ’20pc Time’ policy that allowed all its employees to spend 20pc of their working hours on projects of their own. The aim was to enable people to be more creative and innovative, and it worked – it is thought that 20pc Time led to the development of Google projects such as Google News, Gmail and AdSense. You too need to make room for new ideas to emerge in your life. At work, make one day a week meeting-free. At home, shake up your routine. Take a different route to work, try a new form of exercise, buy your clothes from a different shop.

8 Be flexible

It may be that you don’t have the talent, or the resources, or skills, or money to do exactly as you had planned. But it may still be possible to make a few small changes until the outcome is just as good. If you really love sport, for example, then make the decision to work within the sports industry – but stay open-minded about the kind of job and career you might have within it. You may not have the necessary talent to be a professional sportsperson, but you could still be the manager of a sports centre, or a sports journalist, or have a great career in sports marketing, or take up any one of a hundred roles involved in putting on a big sporting event.

9 Stop worrying about what other people think

You can’t stop people talking about you. But you can stop caring so much. Don’t waste time worrying about what other people think of the choices you make in life. One of the most liberating discoveries you can ever make is the realisation that, deep down, other people don’t really care that much about what you do. They just like having something new to talk about for a while.

10 Keep at it

Success requires effort. If you really want to achieve something, there’s a lot to be said for simply turning up and working away at it every day. If your plan doesn’t work out immediately it can be tempting just to give up. But it is not costing you money or involving crazy sacrifices, don’t underestimate the importance of simply plugging away at it.

Before Elizabeth Gilbert achieved global success with her book Eat Pray Love, she struggled for many years to find a publisher for the books she wrote. Her solution was to simply keep on writing. As she says: “Let the records show that I showed up for my part of the job. Don’t be afraid, don’t be daunted, just do your job, continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.”

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Article written by : Author Rachel Bridge.

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