Living Strong Abroad: Strengths Philosophy and the World Today


The state of affairs today in the world can seem quite dim. Let’s take a look at the dark side of people’s identified strengths and see why.

I have to do it. I have to jump into my strengths philosophy. This doesn’t have much to do with Peru, but with the state of the world at the moment and how I’ve noticed something really interesting as I’ve been developing my Parenting through Strengths program.

As I started writing summaries of how each of the 34 talents can be maximized and valued in our day to day family life, I was using the method of going through each talent – one-by-one – in order of frequency found among all those who have taken the CliftonStrengths Assesment. The last summary includes nearly 16 million responses from around the world, a majority of those in the US.

What I found surprised me. And it’s made me think…

The top 10 strengths according to frequency from most often found on down, is:

  1. Achiever – setting goals and getting things done
  2. Responsibility – keeping your word and being responsible to others
  3. Learner – a joy for the process of learning
  4. Relator – building and needing deep relationships
  5. Strategic – being able to plan for an intended outcome
  6. Input – accumulating knowledge to be put to use
  7. Harmony – finding the win-win in difficult situations
  8. Empathy – being able to feel what others are feeling and expressing feelings as well
  9. Restorative – a master problem solver
  10. Adaptability-the ability to be flexible

And coming in at number 11 is Positivity, the optimist.

Do you notice anything strange about this list and what we are currently facing in the global, political panorama? I know I do.

What I also know, is talents have a dark side. When they are raw or immature, and I’m beginning to think this might be our problem. My take, one at a time, and will do my best to keep it brief.

Achiever: Might be a workaholic, neglects others for work-related goals. We are overscheduled in so many parts of our lives, we often forget or neglect what is most important to us. That distance certainly doesn’t foster a close relationship and connection is something we need terribly at the moment.

Responsibility: Can take on too much and fail to keep their word. Also, micro-managers. In many places, the government makes too many promises and can’t deliver. Some men actually think they may accomplish what they set out, but they are met by obstacles bigger than themselves. There is also an air of “we know what’s best for the people, so just leave it to us.” This hasn’t been working now, has it?

Learner: Never stops learning to put into action. The more we learn, the less we seem to do about it. We know more about climate change, food systems, water shortages… but now with so much information, we don’t know who to trust, so we trust no one. An overabundance of knowledge is not always a good thing.

Relator: Only prefers deep relationships so trusts few people outside their circle. I’m not sure I need to say more about this, but with the immigration and refugee situations only worsening everywhere, this certainly seems to be a major factor.

Strategic: So far ahead in their vision they can’t bring others along. Likes change for change’s sake. When the goal is clear, the plan can shift, having a plan A, B and C are key for Strategics. However, I don’t feel like there’s ever a clear goal anymore – and if we don’t know where we’re going, how will we ever get there? (paraphrasing the great Yogi Berra)

Input: Lots of useless information. 1. See Learner. 2. Fake News. 3. Sometimes it is critical to avoid detours and stay focused on finding an answer to one particular question.

Harmony: Avoids conflict altogether. I think of this as the “head in the sand” approach, which I would say sums up a majority of us (myself included). We feel so overwhelmed by the conflict at hand, that we do nothing instead of something. We hear a lot of debate on the issues, but no one is taking much action. I hope that is changing and that we’re at a tipping point.

Empathy: Overly sensitive. As a global community, we have tried to differentiate ourselves so much, through so many avenues (culture, country, race, gender, sexual identification) that our need to express ourselves has superseded the ability to step into another’s shoes. We see our differences as something to separate us, not unite us and make us stronger.

Restorative: Always seeing the negative, what’s broken. Well, our media pretty much sums that one right up. And yet, we eat it up. They wouldn’t feed the beast if we weren’t helping their ratings. Perhaps, again, if we could focus on the solution rather than the problem, we might actually get somewhere.

Adaptability: Directionless and indecisive, a sheep. If we could be a force for positive change, this could be such a powerful strength for a country, but I fear a majority of people, once again fall into the ease of not having to think or move out of their comfort zone. So, until it affects you directly, why bother?

I know the above sounds grim, and I don’t like to be a pessimist, but when I see this as a collective strengths profile for us as a world, I am inspired by the possibility of what we can truly achieve. Yes, I know it’s a small sliver of people who have taken the assessment (recently passing 17 million people), but it’s a start.

It only takes 10% to influence real change according to a study by Freakonomics. Where would you rather be, in the 10 % or the 90%?

I know my answer, and that’s why I’m building a strengths-based generation.



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Jo Self

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. or