The Blog

Focus On Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Nobody is perfect, we are all flawed in one way or another. But we are all unique and all carry a host of skills and attributes which have the potential to become powerful tools in our arsenals...we just have to realise it!

I have just finished reading a fantastic book by Marcus Buckingham titled "Now Discover Your Strengths. The book highlights the need for individuals to begin to reverse the belief of having to focus their development around overcoming their weaknesses, spending valuable energy attempting to try and repair these flaws, while their strengths lie dormant and neglected.

From personal experience this kind of thinking has really helped me in my life. It made me reasses what kind of profession I was going to go into when I graduated. I would consider one of my main strengths as someone who is very creative. I thrive of seeing a single thread of consciousness spun into the material world. If I am not involved in the creation of ideas then I am straying away from one of my central strengths as an individual.

"It's all well and good saying that we should all be focusing on our strengths rather then our weakness's but how do we find out our strengths in the first place"?

Well according to Buckingham our strengths are discovered by monitoring our spontaneous reactions (the behaviour we revert too when we are put under stress). However you don't have too put yourself into a dangerous situation to find your strengths. A much less harmful way to find out what your innate behaviours are by thinking about the things you would do in certain social situations, are you drawn to quite people? Or are you outgoing? Do you enjoy making decisions because of a "gut feeling"? Or are you someone that likes to accumulate as much information as possible before making a decision?

As students we are constantly getting feedback on our work and other assessments which we have completed. And one of the curses of the human condition is that we tend to focus on the negative elements of such feedback over the positive due to the process the brain undertakes whilst registering such information. This cognitive bias is damaging because whilst it is important to assess and manage our weakness it is even more important to build upon our strengths!

We all have things which we are inherently good at, things which we seem to pick up easier than other activities. Yet many people go through their lives without truly realising the things they excel at. Or they spend too many years wasting their energy on trying to overcome their weakness's. This often leads people into attempting to become someone they are inherently not ever going to be! Jo Owen in "the foundations of leadership" even goes as far to say that you "cannot succeed by dealing with weakness". Successful people play to their strengths, they focus on tasks where they can make a positive difference.

So for example if you have the"gift of the gab" then put that strength at the center of your character profile, make it your "Sun" in the solar system of you. And like the Sun, your key strengths will supply the energy needed to excel within your given profession or task. It is not enough to be aware of your strengths, use them as catalysts for empowered action.

This is not to say that we should all start ignoring our flaws,being positive and focusing on your strengths whilst making an attempt to insure that your weakness become manageable (my organisation issues for example) is a key feature in increasing productivity.

Working around your strengths is about seeing opportunities rather than problems, learning to be lucky consistently moving from analysis to action (taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach) and generally just living better! For example one of my character flaws is impatience and a lack of organisation. But I am also very creative and imaginative. I therefore focus my creative energy and direct it to innovative new ideas and plans, I try to manage my impractical and unorganized tendencies by ensuring that I slow down and think about what I am doing.

Nobody is perfect, we are all flawed in one way or another. But we are all unique and all carry a host of skills and attributes which have the potential to become powerful tools in our arsenals... we just have to realise it!