Accentuate the Positive – Strengths vs. Weaknesses

StrengthsWeaknessesGrowing up, one of my jobs was to clean the pool. Didn’t seem fair that I always had to do it – why not my other siblings? (Please try to get past the whining coming from the child fortunate enough to have a pool to enjoy).  The response I got was that I did a good job of cleaning the pool and the others did not. I thought that perhaps they needed more practice!!! If I started doing a poor job would I then be freed from cleaning? What I didn’t realize at the time is that while I was busy cleaning the pool, my siblings had been assigned other tasks for which they were better at than I. Certainly a great way to run a ‘team’ – identify the strengths and act accordingly!

Secretly, a big part of me took pride in the fact that I was the one that did the best job of cleaning the pool AND that someone recognized my ability (plus I was young and foolish enough to appreciate the nice tan I was getting). And that is a big part of focusing on your strengths – when you do something well the emotional rewards are marvelous and when you succeed it fuels your ambitions to continue to succeed. When we focus on our weaknesses, we are continually reminded that we don’t do something well. Practicing and practicing and practicing and working to improve on weaknesses will result in improvements, but the effort required will not seem justified as most times we only reap average or mediocre results.IGotSkills

There are several books out that encourage the philosophy of focusing on your strengths and delegating weaknesses. Most of them are geared towards corporate or business success – assign tasks based on your individual team members’ strengths which potentially eliminate weak performance areas for the group. These practices are also great for us individually. I read several excerpts, summaries, and reviews of Marcus Buckingham’s book on finding your strengths and focusing on them (Now, Finding Your Strengths). I confess, I did not read it in its entirety but the premise I got really struck a chord with me. We all have things we’re good at – things that we may even be great at if we allowed ourselves to be. We also all have things we struggle with.

I ran across an article in Psychology Today that listed ten beneficial reasons to focus on your strengths and contained studies that support each. Being happier, experiencing less stress, feeling more confident, are  a few of the highlighted reasons in this article. Even if these were the only ones, each is fantastic on its own!

Things we're good at

I know this much, I am 55 years old and I have managed to find ways around the things I don’t do so well. I did not say I am now good at them, I just said I have coping systems in place. I have never been good about staying on budget or managing finances well. However, there are many programs and institutions and businesses that do all that well. I have been able to set up default systems that automatically pay bills, invest money, save money, etc – thereby eliminating the repeating floggings previously associated with these tasks. I now have time to focus on things that I can do well and can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. I also have a daughter who loves to organize; she has organized my cupboards and drawers while I polish her resumes and proof read her professional papers. Win – win! You may have a family member, neighbor, dear friend that excel in areas you do not and vice versa. Figure out a way to barter your services for theirs and release yourself from feeling like a failure.

WhatareyouBestat

Jo Owen, in The Foundations of Leadership, says 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. Again, while this was a business example, these principals also work for us in our daily lives. Think about what you are good at, what your ‘default’ mode of thinking and acting and doing is. Are you a people person? Detail oriented? Flexible and adaptable? A motivator or a worker bee? Creative? An idea person? Spend some time cultivating those strengths in your job, your marriage, your parenting, your social activities and your personal dealings with others – all aspects of your life. Focusing on those strengths will make this year an incredibly positive and rewarding year full of fierce growth!

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12 comments

  1. I used to wash the boat and cut the grass and got paid extra money above and beyond my usual chores. That made me want to excel. I think that contributed to the desire to improve my family’s standard of living after I was married…get the college degree and a career.

    1. An entrepreneur at an early age – nice going!!!! It is interesting what motivates us isn’t it. My dad worked so hard on his family’s farm every day of his young life (up until his mid 20s) and he never wanted to work that physically hard again. My uncle (Dad’s brother) wouldn’t want to do anything but farm!

  2. Great post and article. I think sometimes we get in our own way when it comes to accentuating our positive attributes. My older sister was assigned to cleaning our pool, but as I got older, we shared the duty. Oh…the leaves that used to fall. 😦

  3. Great advice and something I basically figured out on my own a few years ago. As an adult, I decided to resume piano lessons, thinking my maturity and self-discipline would ensure that this time around I’d become an accomplished pianist. Many lessons and hours of practice later, I determined that no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to get past the basic seven songs I could play. When I began to devote that amount of time and work to my writing, I achieved a much greater degree of success and satisfaction.
    Oh, and btw, my special “talent” when I was growing up was cleaning the bathroom–the ONE bathroom that serviced FIVE people. My mother kept me motivated by telling me how good I was at it. What a sucker I was! 🙂

    1. Now that particular chore (bathroom duty) would have been a much harder job to feel good about! I’ll bet your bathrooms today are in pretty good shape though? Mom’s can be tricky sometimes!
      Isn’t it nice to give ourselves permission to not be great at everything and focus on what we know we can get better at or enjoy the process of attempting the feat. This doesn’t really have anything to do with focusing on your strengths but I love that I now allow myself to not finish a book that I have started but does not hold my interest!

  4. It is so important isn’t it to be acknowledged for – something! We can’t all be good at everything – and the popular things would win out….. ‘It takes a village’ and all that. [Please be aware this is an early morning, only-halfway-through-first-coffee response. I’m aware it may make no sense to you but is perfectly lucid to me] Any-hoo, great post!

  5. The division of labor between BFF and me is focused on playing to each other’s strengths. And, as you note, it’s a win-win.

    As I type this, he’s vacuuming . . . something he’s much better at than me! 😛

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