Living Strong Abroad: Tap into your innate talents

Want to know how your inner strengths can hurt and help you abroad? A strengths coach explains her experience through the filters of her dominant talents.

We’ve already learned how, in 1995, my strengths helped me in five major ways – and on occasion caused me issues (thanks #WOO). Fast forward 16 years to 2011 and I had made my way back here, this time to live. I wasn’t sure if I would actually stay but, nearly six years later, here I am and becoming a citizen is just around the corner.

Does that mean I love it here? No, not all the time; but truth be told, I wasn’t real happy at home either, so there’s that. And honestly, in both places, a lot of that has to do with recognizing my needs through the filter of my strengths.

Snapshot of why strengths can help us or hurt us:

The strengths psychology movement was born from Dr. Donald Clifton’s desire to ‘œfocus on what was right with people instead of what was wrong.’ The late doctor is considered the grandfather of positive psychology and the father of strengths psychology. I learned about my strengths in 2003 after reading the book, ‘œNow, Discover Your Strengths’ and my world (and self-understanding) was transformed. You see, all of our strengths, which are initially talents (you’ll see me interchange them occasionally), have needs and values and dislikes. Of the 34 talent themes, everyone I share #Ideation with, for example, will mutually understand these needs, values, and dislikes. As we move on through the series, I’ll share more details, but this should suffice for the purpose of this article.

1. Strategic. I love to have a plan A – and B, and C, and frankly, having a D doesn’t hurt either. My motto is ‘œI like having a plan to work against.” Fortunately, this talent serves me incredibly well with the daily unexpected occurrences in Peru. For those of you who have lived here any length of time you know that no matter how well you plan, it will almost never go accordingly. I’m OK with that on most days. That is, until the #Activator inside me gets involved.

2. Activator loves to get started. And while I’m OK with change, change that prevents me from getting things going – like starting a business, getting people to commit to plans, getting tramites (legal procedures) appropriately taking care of, well, this can start to get to me after a while. I admit it. The downside of having #Activator can be a lack of patience, and there are days where I own that in spades.

3. Maximizer. This talent does not like to start at zero. It prefers a big return on investment and can be a perfectionist. My #Maximizer, fortunately mostly focuses on people and recognizing the potential in them. And I see so much potential in Peru for good and for being better. It often amazes me when I have conversations – most often with taxi drivers – and they ask me what I like about Peru, besides the ceviche. I always tell them it’s an amazing land of opportunity. One must have the guts and grit to go after it, but there is so much that can be done which doesn’t take re-inventing the wheel (something else a #Maximizer would never do). Does this mean it’s all bad here? Heavens no. It’s just a country that has yet to fully accept that it already has what it takes to become truly amazing and reach its height of greatness.

4. Communication. As I mentioned in my earlier article, this is a big one for me. Combined with the talent above, it can occasionally hold me back. However, my love of communicating has made living here so much easier and it fuels my determination to master the language. The idea of living here and being disconnected just because of a few words is absolutely devastating to me. Being able to connect with others through stories and experiences has also made living here much easier, whether in my own language or Spanish.

5. Ideation. I am often intrigued by the ingenuity of people in Peru. I can remember marveling over the use of old sandal soles for hinges on gates in Titicaca. I am also just as often astounded by the lack of thinking outside of the box. When I wanted to have a piece of furniture made, I went to 4 different people. I had an idea for a moving table. Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, that it just wasn’t possible. I had instructions; I had pictures; but the answer I was receiving was essentially, ‘œWe just don’t do it that way.’ Sometimes my ideas need to become reality and it frustrates me when I can’t make that happen.

This is just a brief glimpse of my top five; but no one has just five dominant talents. Most claim 10-15 and in my case, I claim 12. We’ll explore the rest of my strengths in my upcoming article. In the meantime, if you’re intrigued to learn your top five strengths, check out Gallup Strength Center to purchase your US$ 15 code and then email me so we can unlock the meaning behind your top talents.



Jo Self is Peru’s only Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and is on a mission to disrupt the status quo and raise a Strengths-Based Generation. She believes in a world where everyone can live to their full potential, talents aren’t wasted & happiness is contagious. As a mompreneur & expat living in Peru, she understands the challenges and rewards that both entail. When she’s not helping others create extraordinary lives, she can be found at the sewing machine, at the movies, enjoying a glass of wine with friends or horsing around with her terribly precocious little boy, affectionately known as O. http://joself.consulting or jo@joself.consulting