Weaknesses usually are our first thought when it comes to personal or professional development. Focusing on improving your weaknesses will only bring mediocracy, and the path to get there is full of resistance, procrastination, and frustration. It doesn’t have to be like this. Don’t fix your weaknesses, start to manage them, then your personal and professional development can be a fun game.
The self-help industry has been significantly prominent for the last couple of decades, all about self-improvement and self-development. If I asked you, what would you like to improve about yourself? Very likely you would jump into areas of your life where you struggle the most, areas that make you unhappy or things you are unsatisfied with. Be more persuasive, be more strategic, be better organized, be more thoughtful. You would look at your weaknesses. Wouldn’t you?
In many societies in early childhood, we are taught and encouraged to work on our weaknesses in order to become stronger and more successful. And it continues in school systems and at workplaces. Does this sound familiar to you “You are good at languages, but it would be better for you to focus on math since you need to improve there?” When you become a well-rounded figure, you will be good enough.
Why are we so inclined to improve our weaknesses?
New research by psychologists Andreas Steimer and André Mata shows that people tend to believe that their weaknesses are more changeable and could be lost over time, but their strengths are there to stay.
Gallup, based on their research states that people believe that what comes easily must not be valuable, and what is challenging and takes work must be better.
Therefore, we think it is not that important to work on our strengths, and when it comes to improving our lives, we are more inclined to try to improve where we’re weak since we’re assuming that mastering these areas will provide the greatest growth. We take our talents and strengths for granted, and unfortunately, they stay overlooked.
However, this prevailing belief has its downsides.
In short, focusing on improving your weaknesses will only bring mediocracy, and the path to get there is full of resistance, procrastination, and frustration. Now, let’s contemplate a little bit on this.
Merely focusing on our weaknesses stresses our brains. Because of the toxic environment in our brain, we feel mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. If we allow us to be in that state of mind for prolonged periods of time, the results can be dire. Focusing on our weaknesses supports an inner voice in our head, saying you are not good enough, at least not yet.
Research from 2011 suggests that approximately 70 percent of people will experience at least one episode of impostor syndrome in their lives.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which individuals doubt their accomplishments no matter how successful they are in their field. They attribute their success incorrectly or they think that they were lucky, moreover, they have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” This psychological discomfort is often rooted in pressures from self or others to achieve great success. And despite the experience of doing well at something does nothing to change the belief of not being good enough.
Many people experience symptoms for a limited time, such as in the first few weeks of a new job. Others may battle feelings of incompetency for their whole lives.
It is true that for some people, impostor syndrome fuels feelings of motivation to achieve, but on the other side, this usually comes at a cost in the form of constant anxiety. You might over-prepare or work much harder than necessary, just to “make sure.”
So, improving your weaknesses can bring you success, but where comes here joy? This path can be daunting and exhausting; therefore, your happiness is at stake.
Working on weaknesses and not paying any attention to strengths was actually pretty much my case. But, as I started to become more and more interested in research based on positive psychology, the studies amazed me, and they opened me up to a new perspective. First, it helped me to realize my fall belief on self-improvement, and secondly, I have realized that there are techniques and strategies I could apply to change the things I didn’t like about my life in a much more pleasant and comfortable way.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou
People who intentionally use their strengths are less stressed, more confident, and happier.
Various studies have shown that when we focus on our strengths and intentionally developing them, we grow faster than when (merely) trying to improve our weaknesses. Researchers found that people who practiced their strengths in this way were happier and less depressed six months later.
Using your strengths makes changes in your brain biochemistry. Developing something where your innate talents lie underneath, can help you promote the release of feel-good brain chemicals, such as norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, and endorphins. They improve your mental and physical condition, and they make you feel good while doing it. Surrounded by the right conditions, you can reach the “flow state.” The flow state is a compelling state of mind where you are extremely productive, motivated, and satisfied. You are immersed in an activity, and you lose track of time. It’s a state when you forget about your worries, your confidence is improved, and you feel secure.
I will ignore my weaknesses
Probably, now you are asking yourself: “Ok, so if I decide to focus on developing my strengths, should I just ignore my weaknesses?”
Not at all.
Gallup defines weaknesses as anything that gets in the way of your success.
Every person, no matter how successful he or she is, has a counterproductive side as well. Everyone shows some thoughts and behaviors that could be detrimental in some situations or even in a specific area of life. If we just ignore those tendencies, we put at stake our quality of life. Therefore, weaknesses should not be excused or ignored. Identifying your weaknesses is as important as identifying your strengths.
People differ in awareness of their weaknesses. Some people tend to fault themselves for everything wrong in their lives too quickly, and contrary, some people put all the blame on the outside world. Both cases have the same underlying belief that you must be good at everything, and this could be the Achilles’ heel for many talented people.
What to do with weaknesses?
You can’t truly fix a weakness; you can manage them. The right approach for managing weaknesses is simply to account for them through a combination of awareness, responsibility, and strengths-based strategies. Here are some steps and strategies which can be applied by both categories of people, people who are too critical towards themselves and people who resist acknowledging their weaknesses.
Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses
Gallup identifies four main issues of self-awareness that people commonly struggle with:
• Claiming strengths, they don’t possess.
• Failing to see their own weaknesses, or the impact those weaknesses have.
• Being defensive and self-protective around weaknesses and non-talents.
• Viewing their areas of weakness as more valuable or important to develop than expressing their areas of strength.
Therefore, the question is about accurate self-awareness. We all have to acknowledge that we’re good at some things, just above the minimum at others, and pretty lousy at some other things which are really important. You can’t be good at everything.
So, you must be aware of your habits, behaviors, actions which undermine your daily performance, potential, and happiness. If you are having trouble identifying your weaknesses, consider situations when you felt insecure or disappointed in your performance.
Addressing and confronting weaknesses is a lot easier to handle when the spotlight is on a person’s strengths.
Take ownership of your weaknesses and commit to managing them.
It is you who is responsible for yourself, your circumstances, and your problems. Acknowledge that you have the personal power to change and influence the events and conditions of your life.
Some people without any difficulties take responsibility for the impact of their weaknesses after becoming aware of them, while others may resist taking responsibility and instead shift the blame to circumstances or other people. No matter in which case you fall in, having a mentor, coach, or friend who can gently help you on your development path is a golden asset.
Organize your self-identified weaknesses into categories
For instance, if you wish to be more persuasive, influential, and visible, create a category to work on entitled, “communication-related shortcomings.” Categorizing can make your weaknesses seem less overwhelming.
Find the source of your weakness
Where is the weakness coming from?
When you dig into a weakness, you often find the misapplication of talent, for instance, overusing or underusing your talents as a result of your life experiences. Or you simply just don’t have a talent in this specific area. If you know the source of your weakness, it helps you find the right approach to managing it.
It is important to understand that weaknesses and non-talents are not the same. Non-talents are just those themes that rarely (if ever) show up in your daily life, and there is nothing wrong. There is nothing to do with them. What is essential here is to be aware of where you don’t have talents as they provide some clues to things that may be weaknesses for you. It lets you know the areas where you might need to rely on others or have a strategy in your pocket in order to be successful.
Find a convincing reason to overcome it.
The more convincing and powerful the reason, the more likely you’ll be to overcome that weakness. Maybe your weaknesses have held you back in life, professionally, financially, or personally speaking. Because of your weakness, you let go of an appealing opportunity for your professional development, you never start your own business, or you were afraid to change your job which was for already too long undermining your happiness.
And be aware of “SHOULD” thinking and try to avoid it. If you think you SHOULD be a better influencer, ask yourself why that matters to you? Is it something which will actually help you improve your life? Or can you compensate for this weakness with some of your strengths?
Find strength-based strategies for managing your weaknesses.
So, what are you going to do to follow through?
As Gallup declares, weaknesses can be meaningfully managed only by means of your strengths. You can use some of the bellow listed approaches, depending on a weakness you want to manage.
You can use your talents in a complementary manner.
Your success from your strengths will make up for any weaknesses that you have. Think about how you can apply your strengths to manage your weaknesses. For example, think, how can your analytical talents help you build better relationships? How can you use your stamina for new achievements to better anticipate obstacles?
For example, you found uncomfortable to work with assertive and bold personality types, and therefore, you tend to quiet your own ideas and opinions around them, which has been detrimental for your professional development. Instead of beating yourself up because of your lack of confidence, use your other talents and strengths, such as empathy, analytical talents, detail orientation talents, to learn more about them, about their needs, motivations, and communications style. This new understanding will definitely help you to better collaborate with these personality types.
Outsource your weakness and develop complementary partnerships.
You can develop complementary partnerships that will make use of the talents of others. Instead of trying to fix your weaknesses, it is more efficient and effective if you can delegate, hire, or purchase the thing you’re not as good at. It will save you a lot of time and negative energy.
You build a complementary partnership by teaming up with someone who is strong in an area where you are weak. For example, you are quick in seeing a big picture of the problem and can find the best route moving forward, but you can miss out on some important details, and therefore, the quality of your work can suffer. In this case, it would be a good idea to partner with someone who has an excellent eye for details.
Albert Einstein was a dreamer with his head in the clouds. He came to success in roundabout ways. His wife kept her head on straight, and together they accomplished greatness.
You can create a support system.
Support systems help you with what you don’t do well or give you reinforcement when you need it. They can be technological, such as different apps, programming a spreadsheet that does the math on sales reports, or reminder e-mails that you send to yourself.
For example, if you have trouble saying ‘no’ to requests and end up taking on more than you can handle, you can use a project management app. You will avoid stress and burn out as the app will help you visualize how much work you have at any given moment and know when it’s necessary to say no.
Treat your mind like a temple
Probably you’ve heard the phrase “Treat your body like a temple.” Why wouldn’t you also treat your mind like a temple? As with any new habit, it takes time and will to develop it. Changing your focus from weaknesses to strengths development is a habit and requires conscious work over a longer period. But it is worth it as it will mitigate your life’s discontent.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Herman Cain