Right around now, many people who resolved to make positive changes this year are floundering. It’s easy to get pulled down by a few slips off our intended path.
Pick up a cup of water or coffee and estimate how heavy it is. Now hold it straight out sideways at shoulder height. How much heavier does it feel? What if you hold it that way for five minutes? How about an hour? Imagine if you tried to hold it that way for a day. In the unlikely event you could, your arm and shoulder would need serious medical attention.
Focusing on our weaknesses causes us to hold on to past failures, and our shortcomings for far too long. The longer we hold on, the heavier those burdens become. As we hold on, we fantasize and magnify those weaknesses. We make the proverbial mountain out of a molehill. Dwelling on weaknesses and all that we’ve failed to accomplish is deadly to our health, happiness, relationships, performance, and just about everything else in our lives.
Some Steps for Playing to Our Strengths
Here‘s a menu of ideas to help you, compiled from my new book, Growing @ the Speed of Change: Your Inspir-actional How-To Guide for Leading Yourself and Others through Constant Change:
• Complete tests like VIA Character Strengths, the Kolbe Index, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Gallup’s Strength Finder Profile, Social Styles, and so on, to determine your personal style and how you can maximize your preferences and strengths while working effectively with varying styles among co-workers or team members.
• You can manually brainstorm a list of all of your strengths. Your list might also include Emotional Intelligence, technical aptitude, service orientation, training/teaching, speaking, writing, self-discipline, helping others, visionary or strategic thinker, or trustworthiness. List any quality or strength you feel you have to some degree. Now cluster similar strengths until you have three to five groups. Put a heading or title on each group. Cluster headings might include Persuasive Communications, Leading Others, Personal Growth, Achievement Drive, or Generosity. Write a sentence or short paragraph defining each cluster. These are your core strengths. They are your energy source.
• If you’re in a management position but your work isn’t energizing you so you can energize and lead others, you have four choices: (1) Do nothing and wish for your “fairy job mother” to appear, poof!, and straighten out your life; (2) Get out of a leadership role so you stop dragging others down to your low energy level; (3) Realign your work with your values and strengths; (4) Figure out what your ideal job is and go find or create it.
• Develop hobbies or special interests that play to your values, strengths, and passions.
• Don’t focus on your weaknesses unless they become “fatal flaws” that seriously hold you back. Instead, concentrate on your strengths and how to align all aspects of your life with them.
• If you’re a sumo wrestler, don’t waste time trying to be a ballerina. We can’t teach frogs to fly. Don’t allow others to “should” on you by making you feel guilty about your weaknesses (as long as they are not fatal flaws) and telling you what you should do. Do what aligns with your values, strengths, and purpose.
• Ensure that your day planner and calendar reflect your values and play to your strengths. Schedule personal and professional activities that are aligned to them. Don’t allow today’s pressures to crowd out what’s really important in your life.
• Analyze your calendar and meeting agendas for the past few months. Do they clearly reflect your top goals, priorities, and strengths?
• If your work needs realignment, talk with your boss about your values, strengths and what you’d like to change in order to be more effective.
• If you have tried your hardest to align your work to your strengths and haven’t been able to do that it may be time for you to find other opportunities. Life is too short to live in misalignment outside your strengths zone.
• Identify a complementary partner in your business, on your team, or in your personal life, whose strengths are your weaknesses. Work together to balance each other. This won’t always be easy or conflict-free. Practice give-and-take based on connections around your shared vision, values, and purpose.
• Develop and keep expanding your Blessings and Brag list. List every accomplishment, strength, and success you’ve ever had or thing you’re grateful for. Make it as long as possible and keep it growing. Review the list whenever you’re feeling down on yourself, anxious, or a little sour.