Why we started MyStrengths

Working as a counsellor, I felt stuck.

My name is Dan Hardie and for my whole working life, I have been working with teenagers. I was a teacher for 7 years, ran youth groups and camps, did overseas missions and even wrote some fun little books. Go me. I’ve been part of a creative Not-for-Profit, developing products and programs for those in most need and working among some of the world’s most at risk groups.

In my late 20’s, I wanted to deepen my work among young people and took on a Counselling degree, hoping that I can help to solve the world’s problems – or at least those of the young people close to me!

So I studied psychology and counselling. I got a part time internship with a great not-for-profit welfare agency, where all of their younger clients were sent to me. I went on to open my own private practice, specialising in work with teens where I saw hundreds of adolescents and families.

I ended up frustrated.

Here’s why.

Teenagers are trying to work out their identity. They are navigating relationships, figuring out their place in the world, connecting with their passions and wrestling with their feelings. As they wrestled, invested parents would bring them to me for help – and we would diligently work on “the problem”. I felt smart being able to diagnose and define the problem. “Oh, you have anxiety. Oh, that’s ADHD. Well, it could be depression.” I could use big words, dig deep into psychological issues and come up with strategies to overcome. I thought I was relateable and down to earth. And hopefully for many, it was helpful. But rarely did we do the deeper work of identity formation.

  • “Who am I?”
  • “What do I like about myself?
  • “What’s unique about me?”
  • “What contribution do I make?”

 

Teens would get a temporary fix, a few strategies to get by, but I didn’t really see a shift in self esteem, confidence and self love that many were needing. That was until I met Dean…

He used the “S” Word.

It was a normal Thursday when a Mum called my office and told me that her 16 year old was suicidal. She wanted him to urgently see me and do anything to help him. When Dean came into my counselling office, he was notably down and depressed. He had hair hanging down over one eye, dragged his feet and didn’t look up. Mum had been crying and was anxious. At first, Dean wouldn’t talk to me. The only thing he would tell me is that he hates himself and he gets bullied. A girl dumped him and he wished he was dead. From there, he just wouldn’t talk. 

"I hate myself. I'm not good at anything, the other guys call me 'nerd'. I asked a girl out and she just laughed. I try to be funny, but instead of laughing with me, they put crap on me and laugh at me. I’m over it, and just want to end it all."

Dean wouldn’t talk further. He wouldn’t look at me. Eyes down. Silent. All of my techniques and CBT and therapy models wouldn’t get him to budge. So I tried something out of the box…

“Dean, what if we do a little quiz together that finds out what your Top 5 strengths are?” His answer made me smile. “Fine. I’ll do it, but the result will turn out zero.”

As Dean finished his strengths assessment, he got his 5 results: Strategic; Analytical; Observant; Investigator; Thinker.

Righto, Dean, let’s discover more about you and some of the best parts of your personality.

He was less than impressed.

Strategic? Sounds stupid. What’s that supposed to mean?” So we started reading that strategic people are good at hitting goals – they figure out what they need to do or avoid in order to reach their target. They make plans, have ideas on what could work, and enjoy mapping out the steps – what we might call “coming up with a strategy”…

"Hey Dan... Maybe this is actually me... Well I play Warcraft and I recently I won my way into a gaming team. One dude was in the US, another in Croatia, more in the UK. I was the newest and youngest to the team, but I instantly knew what we had to do. You! Go on defence. We need these weapons. Let's go through that warp. I knew what we needed to do... And do you know what, Dan? They followed what I said and we won! Hmm, maybe that is my 'Strategic' strength."

It was the first time he looked up at me. There was a flicker in his eyes. There was something awaking in him.

“Are there any other areas that you use your Strategic strength?” He went on to tell me that he works at Maccas and is saving toward a property investment for when he finishes school. He’d already saved $14k – are you kidding! The kid has more money than I have!! And what teenager thinks like that?!? Dean does.

From there, we went on to talk about his “Analytical” strength, and how he notices the details of things and nothing gets past him; he is super Observant; is the dux of Science… He’s actually an amazing young man!

I’m telling the truth, after 40 mins, we walked into the waiting room where Mum was, and he said with confidence, “Mum, I’ve got the ‘Strategic’ strength! That’s why I love Warcraft so much and why I like to save. It’s cool, check this out…” and he waves his Top 5 strength cards like a fan in his hand.

Mum looks at me, like, “What the? What happened in there? Have you brainwashed him or something?”

Brainwashed.

A week later, I get an email saying, “Seriously Dan, something has changed. Dean is talking to me about his strengths, has a new way of seeing himself, and is just different! Whatever you did, it worked! It’s just amazing.” 

Brainwashed? Washing his brain? I like it.

  • Can you imagine if every young person in Australia was to be brainwashed that they might believe that they are actually beautiful and amazing in their own skin? 
  • Can you imagine if every teen was to discover their strengths and have language for it!?? 
  • Can you imagine if they had different labels to call themselves, ones that were positive, insightful and true? 
  • What would change in our society if young people liked themselves, were confident in their own skin, and celebrated the diversity of one another?

We want to create a movement.

This is MyStrengths.

A growing tribe.

Every person I spoke with could get it.

There are literally hundreds of teachers, principals, DP’s, School Counsellors, therapists and others who are using MyStrengths daily to help young people discover their strengths and learn to love themselves!

In 2020, we launched the MyStrengths Dashboard so that anyone can create a free account and take groups, teams and individuals through MyStrengths, having all their insights, graphs, trends and data in the same place. From schools to businesses, charities to Universities, there is a strengths movement that will change the way teenagers feel about themselves and their future.

And their future is bright.

 

Check out what the MyStrengths Dashboard offers here. 

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Dan Hardie

Dan Hardie

Dan is a counsellor and the founder of MyStrengths

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