Your strengths are things you are naturally good at. Things that come easy to you and that you enjoy doing. You get totally absorbed in using them and time just flies by. There is no question of clock watching when you use your strengths.
On the other hand your weaknesses are a drag. The only thing about them that can make you happy is getting shut of them. Research shows us that you cannot turn a weakness into a strength no matter how much time and effort you put into it.
You need to make strengths stronger and build your life around them to be truly happy.
Your weaknesses are things you just are not good at no matter how hard you try. Too many people believe otherwise and sadly they are never going to be happy. Think of an accountant who has poor numeric skills or a plumber who can’t wipe a clean joint.
My old professor joked about maths teachers who are weak at maths. Because their weakness played on the mind so much that they choose to work in a job where they use it. Sadly it makes them both bad at their job and unhappy in it.
Two myths that stop us from using our strengths
The first one is that it is better to fix your weaknesses than to foster your strengths. Yes we need to work to improve our weaknesses, our ability adapt to situations and ways we undermine ourselves. But the truth is that to fix what is wrong is not the best way to fulfil your potential.
The second myth is that you can do anything you put our mind to. For most of us this is an impossible goal. The truth is that we can’t do anything we want. There is a real limit on what we can do. The key to success is to know what you can do well and to learn to get better and better at doing it.
Work on your strengths
Focus on what you do very well and do more of it. These are your strengths and your weaknesses are areas in which you do not work very well. Identify these and find ways to compensate for them. One way to do this is to delegate them to someone who is good at them.
To begging with you need to focus on just one of your strengths. You will find that as you get better at it other strengths will come to the surface.
How to spot your strengths
There are five aspects to your strengths. One, you yearn for certain areas of interest, goals or directions. If you learn to pay attention to them these will lead you to your strengths. Two, when you use a strength you feel satisfied and good about yourself and the activity you are doing. Three, when you use a strength in some cases you find it easier to learn and to absorb and use information in more satisfying ways. Four, when you use a strength you sometimes perform very well. You can also experience excellence and flow. Five, when you use a strength it takes less effort to do things than it does in other activities.
How to develop your strengths
You develop your strengths better with the help of other people. Their support, understanding, empathy and commitment to you creates the ideal setting for building strengths. Your strengths develop when you have high expectation of yourself and others.
Having a mission – a deep commitment to the future – or a life passion makes it easier to find your strengths. A mission expressed in basic terms guides the direction and purpose of your life. A mission is not the same as a goal. Goals can help you to fulfil your mission. If you fail to achieve a goal it does not invalidate your mission. Your mission is greater than any of your goals.
You need to find the things you are strong at doing, build on these strengths and organise your life around them. Use the five ways listed above to spot your strengths and move on from there.
You also need to know your weaknesses so you can avoid using them. The secret of happiness is to find what you do very well and do as much of it as you can. And to know what you do not do very well so can avoid it like a plague.
When you know your weaknesses you can not only avoid them but find ways to compensate for them. For example you can choose people who are good at the things you are not good at to work with you. You need to think about this because you are more inclined to choose people who have the same strengths to your own. While these make great mentors they are not the ideal working partners.
Clifton, D. & Nelson, P. (1992) Soar with your strengths. New York: Dell.