If someone asked you what you were good at, what would your response be? Would you find it easy to tell people what your qualities are, or would you mutter under your breath and change the subject very quickly? Generally people struggle to understand or articulate their strengths and their skills, what they are good at and where they excel. Many people find it easier to talk about their weaknesses. You may find yourself saying ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m no good at that’, or put yourself down, and find it hard to accept that you do have strengths and abilities.
Knowing your strengths and (yes of course, weaknesses) is part and parcel of developing yourself. With a better understanding of these factors, exploring what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about and ultimately what you want to do with your life becomes easier.
As you start to explore and take ownership of your strengths, you’ll also start to understand what you can naturally do to express them. You don’t see a fish trying to fly, do you? Or an eagle trying to swim? They do what comes to them naturally, because that’s who they are. They are just “being”. Imagine having a job where you can ‘be’. That’s something I hear from clients so often, they want to be able to be themselves in work! They don’t want to have to put on a mask and feign interest, they don’t want to living in fear that they’ll be caught out; they don’t want to continue feeling ‘not good enough’.
Strengths or Weaknesses
It’s the classic question: should you focus on your strengths, or should you work on addressing your weaknesses? It’s a question with good arguments on both sides, but personally I believe that you should focus on your strengths.
Success depends on doing certain things extremely well, rather than doing a lot of different things at an acceptable level. By sharpening your skills and strengths, you give yourself a competitive advantage. Great will always win over mediocre. People will always choose impressive over acceptable just as you will naturally gravitate towards what makes you enthusiastic.
You Are Most Happy When You Enjoy What You Do
Achieving goals are external reasons to focus on your strengths, but there are inner motivations as well. Strength is a natural ability, an innate quality that comes instinctively. According to the renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced me-high-cheeks-sent-me-high!) who studied happiness and productivity, full happiness is achieved only when we are fully using the physical and mental talents given to us. Csikszentmihalyi describes this state as being in “flow.”
Is There Enough Emphasis on Strengths?
In a recent worldwide survey of employees in large corporations, it showed that only 20% of people regularly apply their strengths at work. Markus Buckingham, author of ‘Go Put Your Strengths To Work’ believes a major reason for this is that society puts too much effort on addressing weaknesses rather than improving strengths.
Think about school for a moment, if you got your report card and you got 2 A’s, 2 B’s, 3 C’s and 2 D’s- where would you be told you needed to put more effort into? Without a doubt it was your weakest subjects? You would get grinds; you would have extra lessons and put so much effort into improving your weaknesses. That’s fine if it’s necessary to pass an overall exam but if this becomes your pattern throughout your whole life- ignoring your strengths and focusing on your weaknesses then it’s not ok. It’s pointless and harmful. Some experts say that we have a natural tendency to focus on our personal insecurities but is it really natural or are we trained this way by being encouraged to focus on our weaknesses?
While your priority should still be on your strengths, here are some strategies to address your weaknesses:
1. Improve it to just an acceptable level: For this strategy, you’re not trying to be good at it. You’re only trying to improve it to the point where it doesn’t affect you negatively anymore. For example, if you are taking doing a driving test, you may be a perfect driver and be completely in control however, parallel parking is your weakness. If you don’t learn to parallel park, you may fail the exam. So obviously here, you would spend some time improving your parallel parking to an acceptable level so that you can pass the test. Once the test is completed, you don’t have to park that way if you don’t want to. If you’re uncomfortable with it and would rather find a space you can pull into, then do that!
2. Delegate it to another person: Collaborate with a partner who can work on this weak area for you and you could work on an area for them which to you is a strength.
3. Use your strengths to overcome the weakness: Sometimes your strengths can compensate for your weaknesses. If I was to take my own strengths and weaknesses, self control and discipline rank low for me which is quite bad for someone who is self-employed! But love is my highest strength. For me to be disciplined at a high level in my work, I need to link it to a higher purpose- supporting those I love. This is what I have done and it works beautifully, perhaps even a bit too well!
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Progress and that you got something valuable from it! I’m curious though- do you know your own strengths? Pop over to the facebook page and let me know!
Until next time,
Focus on the good stuff!
Conquer Your Career Crisis- 30 days to knowing what you want to do with your life!
Starts Saturday 9th November 2013!