How to Ignore Your Weakness and Focus on Your Strengths for Best Results
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
You have one job in life, and that is to get the best out of yourself. To become the best you can be and live the best life you can. Sounds easy, right?
It is hard to know what the best you looks like and how to become that person. You live in a world of constant media assault. Television actors show you how Hollywood thinks you should look. Advertisements tell you what car to drive, what clothes to wear, and even what alcohol brand will make you most attractive to the opposite sex. Informercials show you what you could be and then offer to help you become fitter, more beautiful, smarter, happier, etc., in easy monthly payments. Even the bookstore has shelves dedicated to self-help books to cure whatever you think it is that ails you.
There is nothing wrong with you
The good news is there is nothing wrong with you. Industries need to convince you there is something wrong with you that purchasing their product or service can fix. But that is all a lie because there is nothing wrong with you.
The mistake is in thinking you bring out your best by addressing your perceived flaws. You believe that if you could overcome your weaknesses, then you would be perfect. Wrong. Think about it, if you focus on overcoming your flaws, the best you can be is average.
Let’s say you have a flaw. On a scale from -10 to +10, with 0 being average, your deficiency is a -5. If you work hard, you may raise your score by five-point which will get you up to a 0. Congratulations, all your hard work made you average.
Focus on Your Strengths
Now let’s look at a strength you have. If you are good at something, then you already have an above-average score. Suppose you are a +3 on some talent. by investing the same time and effort, you could go from a +3 to a +8. Now you are bringing out your best and becoming what you can be. It is a score that will make you stand out in the crowd.
To market their products, advertisers first have to convince you that you are flawed. They spend billions of dollars each year to convince you that you are imperfect because marketers need you to feel bad about yourself so you will buy their product.
Here is the truth; you are not perfect. Sorry to break it to you, but it is true. No one is perfect, and no one will ever be perfect. So why worry about perfect?
The goal of life is not to grind off all your imperfections so you can be average. The goal in life is to become the best version of yourself you can be. You only do that by building on your strengths.
Don’t waste your time and money trying to go from -5 to Zero. Who aspires to be a Zero? I hope you don’t. Instead, focus your effort on strengths that already make you above average and build on them so you can stand out from the crowd. How can you do this?
7 Steps to Building on Your Strengths
- Identify your strengths. To build on your strengths, you must first identify what they are. That can be harder than it sounds because it is easy to overlook your strengths. Take time to make a list of the things that come quickly to you, but seem hard for others. Think about the times people come to you for help; they see an ability that you may be overlooking. Don’t ignore the things you can’t keep yourself from doing. Maybe you are an inveterate doodler. There may be a potential there that you have not seen. If all else fails, try taking the free Values in Action Character Strengths Survey to see a list of your strengths. It will not tell you what to do with your life, but it may break your thinking lose and help identify areas you may be overlooking.
- Make a plan. Ask yourself how you can build on your abilities. Can you take a class, learn from someone more experienced, or find videos on the internet. Take a solid look at where you are and where you would like to be, then plan how to get there. Invest in yourself. You are worth it. Pay for the class. Take time off work to attend the workshop. Do what you need to do to become who you are capable of being.
- Practice. As the old story goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” To get better, you need to engage in your talent as much as possible. Look for new opportunities to engage with your old interest. I remember reading the story of one office worker who enjoyed making cupcakes. She used every birthday or other celebration at her office job to bring in her confections. Over the years, this allowed her to try out many variations on a willing audience. When she had her recipes perfected, she started a successful bakery focused on those cupcakes.
- Put yourself out there. You can practice quietly in your home, but that is not what will make you stand out. I practiced photography quietly for years. Then I realized that to be a photographer, I needed to show my work to others. Putting your work out there where others can criticize it is a challenging but necessary step on the road to excellence. You will take a few lumps, but generally, I have found people to be supportive. Most people are impressed by your willingness to be brave.
- Make your “weaknesses” work for you. The film actor Humphrey Bogart is one of the most iconic male actors in history. One of his most distinguishing characteristics was a subtle lisp when he spoke. That impediment was the result of an injury that left him with a scared upper lip. The “stiff upper lip” came to define the actor. Rather than let his injury sideline his career, Bogart made his “weakness” into one of his strengths.
- Minimize your weaknesses. I am not great at spelling. I can look at a misspelled word and not recognize the error. This weakness dogged me terribly in grade school and high school. I hated writing and avoided doing so as much as possible. When the first home computers came along, I quickly jumped on to the new technology as a word processor with a spellcheck function. Now I could focus on writing and let the machine worry about misspelled words. Turning over a weakness to technology or to someone good at what you are not is a great way to overcome your “weakness” without wasting a lot of time and effort.
- Avoid comparison. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others. You can always find people who are better than you in some areas. Just remember that no one person is better than you in all areas. There are only two people you need to compare yourself to; who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow. End each day by asking yourself these questions, “Am I better in some way today than I was yesterday?” and “What do I need to do to become the best person I am capable of becoming?” Now do that.
The world needs people to come alive and bring out their best. It does not require people to focus on “fixing” their perceived “flaws.” All a focus on flaws will get us is a world full of ordinary people at best. Accept your weakness, learn to work with them, or to minimize their impact on your life. Then pursue your strengths. Get better at what makes you great so you can become your best self. Then share your best self with the world. Enrich the lives of those around you. Inspire others to follow in your example. The world needs you to come alive and bring out the best that is within you. Don’t let us down.