The Strength of a Couch Surfer

Couch Surfer


Been hosting a trio of British couch surfers for the last few weeks – my cousins’ 19 and 20 year old sons. Partly payback for backpacking my way through my aunties’ living rooms and partly paying it forward in the hope that my own daughters can do the same. When I say couch surfers I’m not joking. Space being what it is in the inner city, we have been creeping past them in the morning to get out of the house as they sprawl on the living room sofa and floor as only 19yr olds can.

One of them, Hugh, left early to start a medical degree. This was a significant turnaround from the surly ten year old I remember, voted most likely to say the f word when grandparents were around.

It was touch and go if Hugh would get into med school. He was advised to do some extra curricular activities that would be favourably looked upon – like working in a nursing home – which he did.

As I drove him to the airport he told me stories of his time in the nursing home. He had formed an unexpected friendship with an elderly woman, Nancy, who would only let him and not the other aides put her to sleep at night. He recounted how she asked him to sing her favourite song. Hugh was with her when she died.

As I listened, apart from tearing up, (tricky on a freeway), I reflected on what this story revealed about Hugh’s strengths of character. What I saw clearly were his strengths of kindness and love.

Strengths. What are yours?

When you put your strengths into practise you feel energised, authentic and drawn to what you are doing. They feel like an expression of the real you. You may not even recognise your own strengths but others will.

To identify your strengths, think about when you are at your best and when the “real you” is most evident. Ask family, friends and colleagues what stands out about you.

In a work context, Gallup research has found that people with the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their work. Before you start googling, think first about how you can start bringing more of your strengths into your current role. You may be surprised.

Strengths Assessments can be helpful

I like VIA – Martin Seligman and Chris Petersons’ (positive psychology) character strengths survey because it’s about your fundamental character and it’s free, having being set up for human betterment.

Realise 2 – Alex Linley’s tool is also good. More complex with sixty strengths being assessed, so it takes time to understand and apply (Probably helpful to have a coaching session with this one).

Strengthsfinder – Gallop’s tool is all about workplace strengths. It has some made up words like intellection, but once you get past that, then it’s a useful workplace tool.


Don’t shy away from discussing your strengths or acknowledging them in others. It’s a healthy conversation to have with those you love and work with.

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