Concentrate on your strengths, not your weaknesses
Culturally we tend to not focus on our strengths and we are pressed to conform to the social norm of being modest, even self-effacing. As children, we are indirectly taught to focus on our weaknesses and this habit continues into adulthood. This way of thinking is incorrect in that we believe it is our weaknesses, rather than our strengths, that are our greatest areas of growth. This blog post explains why it is so important that we focus on our strengths as only then can we become happier, more engaged, motivated, perform better at work and achieve our goals.
Before discussing why we should focus on our strengths, it would be useful to define what strengths are. Leading strengths researcher, Professor Alex Linley, defines a strength as:
“a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance.”
Why should we focus on our strengths?
I like this definition because it succinctly explains why strengths are so important. People who focus on their strengths are more confident, have higher levels of energy and vitality. They are also more resilient, perform better at work and are more likely to achieve their goals.
When focusing on our strengths our body language naturally reflects this. We smile, we laugh, have wide eyes and our speech is more rapid and fluent. We appear naturally engaged and motivated. Also we are happier and more able to seek out different opportunities for self-growth that capitalize on our strengths.
In my career coaching and well-being practice Naturally Excel Coaching, the clients I see love “strengths based coaching”, finding it positive and empowering. In taking on the tenets of this coaching style my clients are more able to find their own solutions to challenges and so achieve ever greater levels of success. When individuals are able to identify their strengths, they are more likely to find an appropriate matching job, perform better and have higher levels of job satisfaction.
Focusing on our strengths is a more effective use of our time
We can’t be perfect at everything that we do. So, rather than being mediocre at several things, we may be better off spending our time trying to perfect our strengths. In focusing on our weaknesses, we may make some progress, but we will never reach an expert level of ability. These are not our natural strengths, so we may not be energised or highly motivated to make any improvements.
We may also overestimate our ability to really improve on our weaknesses. Often people are overconfident in their ability to change and they may set unrealistic goals for themselves. Although we start off with good intentions, we frequently discover that trying to improve or relearn a skill just may not be possible. Sometimes it will require a lot of hard work and effort to make only a little progress. Then, on realising that this may take more work than we are willing to put in, we can become frustrated, demoralised and give up trying to make the change.
Are there times when you should concentrate on a weakness?
When a weakness affects your internal self-confidence, it is time to focus on it. An unchecked lack of self-confidence can be debilitating, resulting in an intense fear of failure. It can also have a significant negative impact on our actual strengths. In turn we are likely to feel stressed and worried, which holds back our progress, impairing our performance and making us ineffective. By taking the time and effort to resolve the issues concerning this weakness, we will gain more self-esteem and enable our strength to shine through.
Should we concentrate more on our weaknesses or our strengths? Improving our weaknesses is of course important. Yet there is a danger of spending too much time and energy on areas that can’t change or where any improvement will be minimal.
By contrast, when focusing on our strengths, we become happier, more engaged, motivated, perform better at work and achieve our goals. We are more able to seek out opportunities for self-growth that capitalize on our strengths. Our strengths have the potential to be our biggest growth areas and they are where we will see the biggest returns.When we invest in our strengths, we can be confident that we are using our time productively and making wise investments in ourselves and in our future.