How APPA Changed my Life: Jasmine Khoo's StrengthsTransform Story

“You sometimes think you want to disappear, but all you really want is to be found.”

I was once lost. And being lost was the worst feeling anyone could have. I wanted to be found. I wanted to know what I’m good at. I wanted to feel positive about myself. The Singapore Education system has shaped us to be good students, good students that are able to fit into the mold that the society needed. Ever since young, I wanted to fit into the mold and I just wanted to be like everybody else. It was not until when I was 22, that I come to realize that being unique is a beautiful thing. I wish to share my story by leading you through my short but arduous 22 years, of how I journeyed from being lost to feeling affirmed. This is summarised in a 4 stage process of what I call “APPA”.

What is StrengthsFinder?

Strengths-based development focus on what is right with people instead of what is wrong. It emphasizes using one’s talents instead of preoccupation with fixing our weaknesses. Few people know or understand who they really are, how unique they are or how to engage this uniqueness in everyday life. The Gallup Organization developed StrengthsFinder ™ to introduce a new way of looking at oneself – through the lens of strength. When one receives their StrengthsFinder™ assessment results, they will discover and learn just how unique (individual results have over 33 million unique combinations of strength) and strong they are.

Stage #1: Awareness

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As a 15-year-old girl in secondary school, I go through the same routine day after day- waking up, going to school, doing my homework, calling it a day. However, a huge part of me didn’t feel engaged at all in school. I was socially withdrawn as well. I knew since young that I love to read, I treasure quiet time to myself to reflect on what I’ve learned. Yet, to others, I was a social freak. A socially awkward teenager that chose to close her doors and sit at the back of the classroom staring out of the window, thinking about life. Although I very much enjoy the process of learning in school, the lack of social interactions with my peers made me disconnected in school. I became a social rebel, I tried to fit in by portraying an outlook that I knew wasn’t myself. I went into trends that I thought would make me cooler and hence receive acceptance by my peers. I started to act notorious, I tried to stay out of school just to hang out with my peers, going to shopping malls and engaging in rebellious practices.

I would always remember my teacher mentor telling me “What do you want to get out of the 6 hours you spend in secondary school every day? Do you want to waste it or do you want to gain the most out of it?” I thought about what he said almost every day after school, telling myself time and time again that I hated who I was becoming.

I didn’t know that what I really enjoyed doing (reading and introspecting that is), was actually what I was naturally talented in. If only I was more AWARE of what my natural ways of thinking, feeling and behaving were, I wouldn’t have to try to be someone I am not.

Fast forward to today, at the age of 23, when I finally was exposed to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment tool and fortunately being in a strengths-based company that breathes and speaks the strengths language, I am aware that my talents are Learner | Input | Empathy | Achiever | Intellection. It was without a doubt that I am someone that likes to engage in strategic thinking and learning.

Stage #2: Platform

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Talents, knowledge, and skills — along with the time spent (i.e., investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base — combine to create your strengths. A strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. However, to be able to hone your strengths, you need a PLATFORM that you could leverage on your talents.

I was lucky enough to have a platform for me in school to leverage on my talent, and that is in academics:

  • Being a learner, I not only am able to learn fast, I am also able to discern the best methods to learn a material.
  • This talent combined with my input, I like to store what I’ve learned in my mind as a mental archive, as well as keep my handwritten notes because I believe that one day they will come in handy.
  • As an achiever, I often study hard for 6-8 hours during revision period without feeling burned out and felt really satisfied when I am able to complete what I set out to do.
  • Finally, with intellection, I enjoy introspecting and using this ability to review and mentally engage in discussion about the information I learned on that day. I was able to practice and develop my skills because I had a platform to do so.

Stage #3: Performance

And being able to practice and develop my skills did pay off. I was able to achieve excellence in my results. Being able to achieve 2nd in the cohort and receiving best results in Chemistry & Physics was a dream come true. As mentioned previously, a strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. I was able to consistently achieve near perfect performance even in Junior College and University because I was doing what I do best.

Stage #4: Affirmation

Although I was able to achieve near perfect performance in my studies, I wasn’t raised in an environment where AFFIRMATION was given readily. My teachers and my parents would often pin point the subjects or other aspects of my life that I wasn’t performing in. For example, my poor ability to interact socially. This was because I wasn’t aware of my empathy talent, and therefore I kept telling myself that being able to sense and mirror others’ emotions was a sign that I was emotionally weak. Without that awareness, I wasn’t able to leverage my talent in social platforms and of course unable to practice it to achieve excellence.

I believe that is a common case for many youths out there, where most focus still lies in what we do wrong, and not what we do right. It was because of this that I want to spread the Strengths Philosophy to as many youths as I can, because I know what it feels like to not feel affirmed. StrengthsFinder is a strong self-awareness and affirmation tool. It crafts a path for each individual to not feel lost anymore! It is empowering and positive to let individuals know and do something that they are naturally good at.

Today, I was lucky to know about the StrengthsFinder tool and practice it in my everyday life. Being aware of my talents now, I can seize opportunistic platforms to maximise my talents to achieve peak performance and through affirmation, I am able to keep on doing what I do best.

Think about a penguin. Why does a penguin have a black body but a white stomach?

“It is because it has short arms and could only rub its tummy while washing itself.”

Although this was a joke, did you realise that no other animals have the same outlook as a penguin? That is exactly what the strengths philosophy is about. It is about being unique and proud. If this little penguin was to be like every other animals and try to be like them, we will miss out on the beauty of a penguin.

I challenge everyone to stay unique and do what you do best every day!