Most of us are hyper-focused on our weaknesses. Why? I think it’s a combination of things. We’re hardwired to give far more weight to sticks than to carrots. All else equal, protecting ourselves against loss (pain) is naturally more motivating than the promise of potential gain (pleasure). This served us well as a species at a time when wild animals, etc. threatened us on a regular basis – but not so much these days. Media messages take advantage of and contribute to this negativity bias. They tend to boil down to something like: “You’re not okay as you are. Buy our product and you will be.”
Throughout life we receive feedback. But even if the overwhelming majority of that feedback is positive, we tend to ruminate over that one piece of feedback that is negative. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism and striving to improve. But magnifying, distorting, and obsessing over shortcomings isn’t particularly helpful. In spite of that fact, doing so tends to be our default as we perpetuate the struggle against our weaknesses, expending a lot of energy and not necessarily making much progress.
Fortunately, we can consciously mitigate our propensity for negativity and weakness obsession by identifying, honing, and leveraging our strengths. Data incontrovertibly show that using our strengths is part of the key to both happiness and contribution. Some of our strengths are obvious, but for many of us identifying our greatest ones are not. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that we take them for granted; we are too close to see them. We see a number of the results of our strengths in action and can try to extrapolate what they are from there. But these extrapolations often reveal peripheral strengths instead of distilling our essential, fundamental ones – again, probably because we are just too close to them. Since our greatest strengths tend to come relatively easily, we assume that everyone possesses them and we fail to distinguish them as such. By distinguishing, acknowledging, and owning them we are empowered to choose, empowered to develop them into super powers.
This is where good, research-based assessment tools – like Strengths Finders –come into play. Again, the first step in transforming strengths into super powers is identifying them using such a tool and then embracing and growing them through practice and challenge. Using my Strengths Finder results has made and continues to make a huge difference for me. It guides my choices, showing me where my energies would be best spent, where I can make my highest contributions and experience the fullness of the satisfaction that flows from that. I encourage you to explore this for yourselves.