Focus on Strengths, Not Weaknesses. Be Exceptional, Not Average

What is your biggest weakness? Nearly every job interview includes this question. once you get the job, the same question will be asked during performance evaluations, and this time your manager will have their own perspective. Your co-workers and subordinates might even offer their opinions as part of 360-degree feedback.

Your family also has strong feelings about your flaws and limitations. Even complete strangers are eager to offer feedback regarding your driving skills. Given this constant criticism and your own self-awareness, you have probably developed some sense of what is wrong with you.

What should you do with this knowledge? How should you respond?

There are three basic options for self-improvement.

  • Fix weaknesses
  • Build on strengths
  • Do both

The most common choice is to build on strengths and fix weaknesses, usually with special attention to fixing weaknesses. This is prevalent at work where annual appraisals are focused on overcoming our apparent limitations. Those who are lacking in any particular area are confronted with their flaws and given strategies for improvement.

The obvious goal of these remediation efforts is to foster success by producing well-rounded people. however, do these efforts really work, and is being well-rounded what we should be aiming for?

I believe the goal of being well-rounded is both undesirable and impossible to attain.

Anyone that speaks with me on a regular basis will know that I don’t advocate ‘well rounded’ ideals. While there are of course benefits to being well rounded, I believe in striving for greatness and that means we have to understand what our strengths are; and make them stronger.

Don’t Try To Fix Your Weaknesses

“You can’t put feathers on a dog and call it a chicken.” Dr. Phil McGraw

Fact is, we all have weaknesses. But it’s our weaknesses that allow us to identify our strengths. And success is achieved by developing our strengths, not eliminating our weaknesses. Our strengths are patterns of passion and proficiency. They are what we love to do and are what we do well.

There are three primary reasons to build on our existing strengths:

  1. It feels great. it is enjoyable and energising to work on our strengths.
  2. We can reach greatness by focusing on our strengths. They are our natural gifts and provide us with our best chances for success.
  3. Our strengths make up for our weaknesses. Well developed strengths often make our weaknesses irrelevant.

Maximise Your Strengths. Be Exceptional

strengths-vs-weaknessesIt’s funny, because when you ask someone the question, ‘what are your strengths’ it’s not uncommon to receive a muttered and stuttered answer. It’s a question we tend to fear or are not sure how to answer. Self belief, confidence, insecurities, society; whatever the reason we fail to understand what our strengths are, we have to begin to acknowledge that we all have strengths that must be explored.

“It’s time to celebrate our weaknesses and be proud that we are simply not great at everything.”

So what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? It’s time to celebrate our weaknesses and be proud that we are simply not great at everything. Don’t hide in fear from your poor grammatical ability or lack of organisation. Shout about them, add them to your CV, tell your employers and work colleagues, parents and friends that you know what you are rubbish at. Tell them that you’re rubbish at them for a reason and that they allow you to understand what you’re excellent at.

As an employer i’d be extremely impressed if I read a CV that highlighted the candidates weaknesses and areas they would not be of benefit in. It would be refreshing. The level of honesty would tell me volumes about what kind of character I am dealing with. Moreover, if the candidate would counter these weaknesses with strengths that have been identified via understanding weakness, i’d likely offer them a job. This type of individual knows exactly who they are, what they are capable of and will likely deliver consistently when they are working to their strengths.

I encourage you to explore this approach to self understanding. Celebrate weaknesses, uncover your strengths and live a life of being exceptional rather than average.

This post was inspired by this manifesto

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