by Brice Long, WeAlign Associate Coach

While research has shown that 95% of people claim to be self-aware; only 10-15% of those people actually fit the criteria.  This same study also suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we:

  • make better decisions
  • build stronger relationships
  • communicate more effectively
  • are more effective leaders
  • and the list goes on…

If Aristotle is correct, and “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, then how do we become more self-aware and live an authentic life?

I believe the place to start is by learning to identify and accept our natural talents and abilities.  As Donald Clifton said, “What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”

The personality profiles such as DISC, Myers-Briggs, and Enneagram, can provide you some valuable insight, but they force you into certain groups or categories based on your responses. The CliftonStrengths assessment measures your talents – your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving – and forms your unique talent DNA with 34 different themes.

As a Christian, I firmly believe we are God’s unique creations. There are many verses in the Bible that support that, and the science backs it up as well.  Consider the following statistics of you finding someone else who has the same talent DNA as you:

  • 1 in 275,000 – Top five talents regardless of order

That’s 2.5 times the capacity of Michigan Stadium, the largest stadium in the US.

  • 1 in 33.4 million – Top five talents in the same order

That is more than the population of the 18 largest US cities combined.

  • 1 in 447 trillion – Top 10 talents in order

Unfortunately, the prevailing mindset in today’s culture is to identify a perceived weakness and work on it until it becomes a strength.  Instead, we should be focusing on our strengths and working to make them stronger.

The philosophy of CliftonStrengths is that:

  • You don’t have to become a different person to be successful
  • You don’t have to be all things to all people
  • You can’t be anything you want to be, but you CAN be more of who you are…and a better version of who you are

To do this, we need to understand what a talent is; identify it as a signature, auxiliary, or non-pattern talent; and, finally, what to do with the talent and how they interact with other talents.

  • Signature talents provide us the greatest chance to succeed, represent us at our natural best, and give us energy when we are using them.
  • Auxiliary talents are things we can do well, and can be developed to an extent, but are energy neutral.
  • Non-pattern talents, or weaknesses, are energy drainers, and often result in frustration or burn out.

A talent is the foundation of a strength, which is defined as the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific task.

Signature and auxiliary talents can be developed into strengths by applying skill, knowledge, and experience to them over time.  A non-pattern talent can never be developed into a strength, no matter how much time and effort you put into it, but you can take steps to minimize the impact a weakness has on your daily life.

We can begin to live authentically by starting with:

  • accepting who we are and how we were created
  • continuing to learn more about ourselves and how other see us
  • and finally, accurately representing our true nature and beliefs

“The real tragedy in life is not that each of us doesn’t have enough strengths. It’s that we fail to use the ones we have.” – Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham

Brice Long is an entrepreneur, management & technology consultant, CliftonStrengths & leadership coach who has a passion for helping leaders solve complex problems so that they can lead authentic and impactful lives. He can be reached at