For generations, we have been conditioned to focus on our weaknesses, right our wrongs, and round out our flaws. Now, however, there’s been a paradigm shift that is asking us to master our strengths, to continue to hone our talents, and to turn our gifts and natural abilities into something we can put back into the world. We are inspired and encouraged to leave our mark by putting our best skills forward and making something out of them.
When it came to sharing my own strengths with my own voice, to owning up to who I believed I was and saying “I am great at this and good at that” my mind blanked
A few years ago, I was given a new boss. During our first one to one meeting, he asked me what are my top two towering strengths. For the life of me I could not think of an answer because no one had asked me that before. I was used to people pointing out what they thought my strengths were over the years with quick, nonchalant comments like “Oh wow, you’re great at this” or “Did you know you are really good at that?”, and I had accepted it. When it came to sharing my own strengths with my own voice, to owning up to who I believed I was and saying “I am great at this and good at that” my mind blanked, and my throat went dry.
I think part of this is because of the uncertainty we have inside of ourselves about which of our self-perceptions are authentic in reality and which we form for our own egos. I knew that the things others said about me had at least a little credibility, but there was no way to be sure how much. It was impossible, in my brain, to know whether these “strengths” of mine were valid, enhanced by the perception of others, or blown out of proportion by my own self-image.
The reality is, if we spent all that time and energy improving and finessing our skills instead, we would probably have better outcomes and more success.
We have spent most of our lives with a list of things we need to improve on. Each year, each of us has different weaknesses we want to stamp out: be kinder, be firmer, work harder, play harder, and so on. And we believe that by correcting the flaws we see in ourselves, we will become stronger and better people. The reality is, if we spent all that time and energy improving and finessing our skills instead, we would probably have better outcomes and more success.
While wanting to improve in areas of your life is never a bad thing, we need to consider the impact to our productivity goals when we focus only on our weaknesses. Take me, for example. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the same goals land on my list annually—become an exceptional public speaker, be more expressive or competitive (i.e. extroverted) etc. And each and every year, I was failing to actually see results, but felt I needed to master in order to be successful in a particular industry or social circle.
For me finding your strength is a mix of what you are good at, what you feel good doing, and what others admire about you. However, we have to be wary of that last point; just because others enjoy some aspect of who you are, it does not mean anything if you don’t find joy and strength in it yourself. I remember a young man who I supervised had amazing skills in marketing and graphic design, but all he wanted to do was finance. Even though he had the skills and strength to do marketing and graphics, what's the use of pursuing something that others admire but that leaves you feeling shackled? You are at your best, always, when you are doing what feels natural and right to you.
So I encourage you all to think about your top two towering strengths today.
What are your top 2 towering strengths?
How do you know?
In what ways could you optimize these strengths?
In what ways can you use your strength to make your mark on the world?