An Inside Look at an Outsider: Using Strengths Use Plans!

A few months ago, I published a couple of blogs about a new approach in early education: focusing on family or community strengths:

In Mary Ellen Peterson's Parents Helping Parents presentation, community agents, parents, and caregivers learned about the five different protective factors that already exist or can be built for families and their communities.  For a refresher, check out the Center for the Study of Social Policy's website,

The idea of approaching an existing situation and trying to improve it by focusing on strengths can be applied to improving one's self image.

Being told how your behavior is "not acceptable," ; "odd," etc., can be daunting for someone on the autism spectrum.  According to Mirko Uljarevic, etal in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in an article called, "Anxiety and Depression from Adolescence to Old Age in Autism Spectrum Disorder", "both anxiety and depression are highly prevalent across the lifespan in this population" (people with autism spectrum disorders).

Having a way to lift one's self image is crucial for someone who already suffers from anxiety or depression.

Trying to Build a Positive Self-Image: Strengths Use Plan

According to Therapist Aid, a Strengths Use Plan:

"is a two-page worksheet designed to help people identify the strengths they would like to use more, and make plans for doing so."

Instead of focusing on weaknesses that need to be corrected, this plan focuses on a person's strengths.  Using this approach is much more positive and invigorating than thinking about all of the weaknesses that one needs to work on for self-improvement!

A great benefit of this plan is that you can continue to use this, even after you are done with the initial one-week introduction!

So, you might be wondering, how does this plan work?

The List of Strengths

First of all, you will list your strengths.  You can start with a list of 10-15 strengths.

Listing your strengths may be quite hard at the beginning.  Many of us often only think in terms of our shortcomings!  However, once you start writing down your strengths, you will probably find that you have more strengths than you may have thought possible!

Writing down your strengths, is enough to put you in a good mood, when you might be feeling down.

If you need help, Therapist Aid has the following suggestions:

  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Love of learning
  • Bravery
  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Kindness
  • Social awareness
  • Leadership
  • Forgiveness
  • Humility
  • Self-control
  • Optimism
  • Humor
  • Spirituality
  • Flexibility
  • Persistence
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Gratitude
  • Enthusiasm
  • Teamwork

The Plan

After you make your list, it is suggested that you include in your weekly planner one strength per day.  You can use the same strength for several days, a different strength for a week, etc.  It is all up to you!

For each strength, you can write down a sentence or two about how you intend to implement your daily plan.

For instance, under "kindness," the plan suggested by Therapist Aid is to "bring breakfast for the office."

Here are some ideas for strengths planning:

  • Monday: Love of learning - "start to read a new book."
  • Tuesday: Creativity - "start to write a new story."
  • Wednesday: Optimism - "start the day with a greeting for everyone you meet."
  • Thursday: Flexibility - "If someone calls in sick at work, I will be open to doing different tasks."
  • Friday: Teamwork - "I will help a co-worker who needs help with a problem."

Focusing on strengths is naturally more inviting for continued self-improvement.  When focusing on negatives, like weaknesses, it can be easily discouraging to continue this very important work of self-improvement.

Let me know about your journey utilizing this useful plan in the comments below!

Using the Strengths Based Approach

Strength Based Parenting, book cover
Strengths Based Leadership, book cover
The Strength Switch, book cover
The Depression Solutions Workbook, book cover
Parenting Bright Kids Who Struggle in School, book cover