Advice, Happiness

Build your strengths, not your weaknesses

If I asked you to tell me three things you are bad at, would that be an easy thing to do?

Will a number of different things (ranging from cooking to opening up to new people) pop into your head with no end in sight, or will you sit there and struggle to give me an answer?

My guess is that it would be the first of those two responses, because we love to focus on everything we are bad at. Whether we admit it or not, we tend to neglect what we’re truly good at to focus on becoming better at something that we, for lack of a better word, suck at.

You may think that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but doing this actually harms you. Typically, without you even realizing it.

Mediocre

There are just some things that you are naturally good at. Maybe it’s an artistic ability, like photography or painting, or maybe it’s a way of thinking, like being organized or planning ahead. It’s as if you’re born with these skills (or strengths, as we’ll call them), so you often take them for granted.

Not only do people take their strengths for granted, but they often push them to the side in an attempt to get better at something else (which we’ll call weaknesses).

Instead of really owning what we’re good at, we tend to ignore our strengths and focus on being better at our weaknesses. When we do this, not only do we not live up to our full potential to what we’re already skilled at, but we just become okay at things that we really aren’t that great at.

So, instead of becoming great at a few things, we become mediocre at everything. It’s time to end that.

Find your strengths

If I asked you to tell me three things that you are good at, would that be an easy thing to do?

It’s probably a lot harder than thinking of things you’re bad at, right? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

We live in a world where we all focus on what we’re terrible at, in the hopes of getting better. People rarely own and develop the skills they naturally have, and, more often than not, don’t even know what their true strengths are.

In my last semester of college, I took a class that focused solely on finding and developing your strengths. At the beginning of the semester, we took a strengths assessment test through Clifton StrengthsFinder, and talked about and developed our strengths throughout the semester.

It gave me an entirely new understanding of myself. I now know why I think the way I do, and it has helped me work and learn better overall.

(If you’re interested in taking the StrengthsFinder assessment, you can find it here. It does cost money, but I think it’s totally worth it. If you don’t feel like spending the money, this free test is a nice alternative. It actually gave me similar results to the Clifton StrengthsFinder, too.)

Build your strengths

Once you actually have words and meaning to what you’re good at, you should really own it by applying them to your everyday life.

That might sound like a daunting task, but it’s much easier than you may think. Some of your strengths may even be characteristics about you that you didn’t even consider a strength—it’s just how you are.

For example, one of my strengths (according to StrengthsFinder and the free test I linked to above) is empathizer. To me, being empathetic is just something that comes naturally. I can really feel how others feel (which sometimes makes me over-emotional), and it helps me to understand where people are coming from.

Believe it or not, it has helped me in my career, too.

I have to interact with people all the time—whether it be on a client basis or simply emailing back and forth—and my ability to understand where someone is coming from has helped in more ways than I could have imagined.

If someone becomes upset or angry, I’m extremely good at calming them down (I might have to thank my five years working at Panera for that, too). I can relate to them and know exactly how they feel and what they want, and they appreciate that.

The key to this whole strengths thing is putting all of your focus on what you’re good at, not what you need to improve. When you become aware of your strengths, you become aware of how you use them, and you can focus your energy on tasks, work, projects, etc. that use them.

It’s amazing how doing things you’re naturally good at just comes, well, natural to you. Not only is it easier to get work done when it focuses on your strengths, but it’s also more enjoyable. You feel like you have a sense of purpose, and work becomes an invigorating experience, not a draining one.

Why focus on your strengths?

Don’t believe me? Let me throw some numbers at you. (I got all this info from the free strengths site, for the record).

  1. You can be happier. When people focus on their strengths, they have lower levels of depression, higher levels of vitality and are in good mental health overall.
  2. You can feel less stress. People who use their strengths report higher levels of positivity, which, in turn, creates a buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma.
  3. You can feel more confident. Both strengths knowledge and strengths-use are significantly associated with self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-confidence.
  4. You can see faster career growth. People who use four or more of their top strengths at work are more likely to experience job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement and meaning in their work.
  5. You can feel more meaningful at work. Strengths help people to better adapt to change, engage in more creative and proactive behaviors, pay more attention to detail and work harder.

I know this might seem like an advertisement or something (Trust me, my blog is not that popular—yet 😉 ), but finding my strengths genuinely helped me. It really did make me feel more confident—in myself and in my work. Here are my five strengths from the free assessment:

IMG_1716

It only takes about 10 minutes to take the test. If you do take it, share your results below so we can see if any of us share the same ones!

 

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