Home All Find Your Voice By Tapping Your Strengths ©

Find Your Voice By Tapping Your Strengths ©

written by David J. Pollay 2 June 2008

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.

Boys ChoirIt was 1977 and I was in the sixth grade. I joined the Boy’s Choir. I really didn’t like singing in choirs, but I joined anyway. All my friends had signed up, so I did too.

I can still remember our two performances. I stood in the back row of the choir and mumbled my way through most of the songs. Why? I didn’t know all the words. So I sang the choruses and smiled a lot.

How many of us mumble and stumble through life? We just go through the motions. We’re not happy with our performance, but we continue anyway. Will we ever be good at what we’re doing? More importantly, will we ever be happy if we stick with the things we’re not passionate about?

Martin Seligman, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., of Claremont Graduate University – the co-founders of Positive Psychology – wrote that people do their best when they focus on “identifying and nurturing their strongest qualities, what they own and are best at, and…find niches in which they can best live out these strengths.” Success will come to us when we discover what we enjoy doing, what natural strengths we have, and what activities we find meaningful.

Positive Psychology researcher Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Seligman conducted extensive research on strengths. They developed a scientifically validated and widely used assessment tool to help people discover and learn about their strengths. The assessment is called the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths Survey (VIA-IS). The VIA-IS helps people identify what strengths are most natural to them – the strengths they use most often in their lives. Over 600,000 people throughout the world have taken the assessment. You can complete the VIA-IS Survey here.

When you complete the VIA-IS, you will walk away with a greater awareness of your top five strengths. You should then ask yourself two powerful questions:

  1. How do you use your top five strengths in some way every day, and how have you used them in the past? You’ll find out that you express your strengths in many areas of your life.
  2. When you look back at your most significant accomplishments in your life, which of your top strengths helped you achieve those successes? You’ll begin to see a pattern in your life: You will discover that many of your greatest achievements were made possible by engaging your top strengths.

Now that we’ve talked about your strengths, what about your weaknesses? Can you forget them? The answer is “no, but.” The “but” is that you no longer should focus your energies on trying to fix your weaknesses. There’s a better answer: Look for the people who have the strengths you lack and partner with them. Focus on what you do best, and then let others do the same.

So, let other people sing in the Boy’s Choir if that’s what they love to do. As for you, find your own voice in life and express it in your own unique way.


Vienna Boys Choir.
Collin in Choir courtesy of Tammra McCauley

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Chris 2 June 2008 - 8:02 am

Thanks so much David for another great post! I especially like your advice on how to use the results of the VIA-IS. I have taken it a number of times, and have a good idea of what my signature strengths are. I am now going to focus on putting them into action on a daily basis!

Jeff Dustin 2 June 2008 - 8:10 am

Hi David,

Find Your Voice was a great reminder to find your best self. It is optimistic to look to what you do best and then to commit to goals around that. I’m sometimes a very hard rater of my abilities and that often makes me lose focus. Thank you for reminding me of what matters.

Abby 2 June 2008 - 9:20 am

What a great message. I just took the VIA and found out so much about myself. I look forward to seeing myself differently and better!

Lillian 2 June 2008 - 8:08 pm

Thanks for this great post. I took the VIA some time ago, and it was amazing to learn that what I love to do was one of my top strenghts. I appreciate the research and the knowledge that you share with us. I got a good start with your Monday Morning Momentum today, thanks. Lillian

Max 2 June 2008 - 8:21 pm

As a senior, senior citizen, I wish I had known about the VIA-IS many years ago; it would have saved a lot of trial and error. It is never too late to learn. Many thanks, Max

David J. Pollay 2 June 2008 - 8:27 pm

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the post! Good for you for turning your awareness of your strengths into action; it is fun and energizing when you do!

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 2 June 2008 - 8:36 pm

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for your post; it’s good to hear from you.

You touch on a great point. The coolest part about aligning your life activities to your strengths and passion is that you just have to be great in that area. And because you love the area of life you have chosen, you are more likely to persevere in the face of self-doubt (hard self-rating) or the criticism of others: You’ll find a way. You’ll focus your energy on the areas that matter.

Thanks again Jeff for connecting.

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 2 June 2008 - 8:37 pm

Hi Abby,

Thanks for your post! Good for you for jumping right into the VIA! I’m so glad you’re now read to explore your top strengths and how you can bring them out in your life.

Have fun!

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 2 June 2008 - 8:46 pm

Hi Max,

I agree with you! It is a great assessment. And your attitude is awesome; we can all learn. Enjoy bringing out your top strengths! You and everyone around you will see the positive difference it makes in your life.

Best to you,


David J. Pollay 2 June 2008 - 8:51 pm

Hi Lillian,

That’s great that the VIA affirmed something that you love to do is a strength of yours. I can only imagine how much more you have brought out this strength. And the people in your life probably appreciate your strength even more.
And thanks for the support Lillian; I enjoy what I do!

Best to you,


Judy Krings 20 January 2010 - 3:55 pm

No assessment I have ever used in my 32 year clinical psychology and personal and professional coaching practice has come close to the hit-the-bull’s-eye-target positive impact of the VIA-IS. The Signature Strengths and Virtues are a gift to humanity. Even better, they have taught me to have fun in the joyful journey we call life. Kudos to the positive psychology pioneers.

David J. Pollay 20 January 2010 - 6:58 pm

Hi Judy,

Great to hear from you! I’m so glad the VIA-IS has been so good for you. Chris Peterson did a phenomenal job with the VIA. Nansook Park has been a great partner on the strengths journey. And of course Martin Seligman helped make it all possible with his vision and support.

All the best to you,


Preston 25 February 2010 - 12:58 pm

My cousin sent me “The Law of the Garbage Truck”
Since it’s something that I needed. I don’t mind
sharing it. Thanks a whole lot…..


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