When a child comes home with their report card and there are several A’s and one grade that is C or below, which grade do we generally focus on? That’s right the lower grade. My niece is a smart young girl but a few years ago she began to get lower grades in reading versus classes like math and science. Her teachers emphasized what she wasn’t doing well in which negatively affected her other grades and self-esteem.
If a guy walks over to you and there is a small stain on his shirt, it is unlikely you will say, oh look how clean most of his shirt is. You will likely stare at the stain on his shirt. You will focus on what is wrong with the shirt versus what is right. (2016 Rendall, David).
Now imagine if we lived in a culture where we focused on your strengths versus weaknesses? According to the Clifton Strengthsfinder, we are all born with natural abilities. There are abilities we are born with that if we focus on them, we can become great or even experts in them. However, we also have weaknesses but if we focus on our weakness, we will only become average at them. Given this theory, why do we keep focusing on our weakness versus excelling at our strengths? Do you become a better person by focusing on your weaknesses?
Let me give you a common example that is often given during strengths training. Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player. It is likely he was born with abilities that assisted him in becoming a great player. However, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have to practice honing his skills. He had to work on his basketball abilities so that he could become an expert.
After Michael Jordan retired for the second or third time from his basketball career, he decided to give baseball a try. You would think that someone with his athletic capabilities would be able to do well in another sport. However, the sport is very different and involves different skills, things that Jordan was not naturally born with. Michael Jordan did not succeed at baseball no matter how much effort he put forth. This is what happens when we focus on our weaknesses versus maximizing on our strengths.
Last year I attended a talk by David Rendall, the author of the book the Freak Factor: discovering uniqueness by flaunting weaknesses. He believes if you focus on what others perceive as your weaknesses you will flourish. When he was younger, he got in trouble in school for never sitting still in class, talking too much, and having too much energy.
Now he gets paid to be a motivational speaker, where he walks on stage for hours, shares his story and energy. All the things his teachers told him he shouldn’t do (his perceived weaknesses by others). Rendall also spoke about Jimmy Kimmel and how he talked about a school teacher who told him he wouldn’t amount to anything if he didn’t stop screwing around. Now Jimmel Kimmel makes a living out of screwing around. Here is a YouTube video of Jimmy Kimmel giving president Obama a high five and acknowledging the teacher who told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. https://youtu.be/q2GjcZznsGw
If Jimmy listened to his teacher versus following what naturally came to him, where would he be today? What others often perceive as your weakness are often strengths if used in the right circumstances.
Something else Rendall speaks about is that every strength has a weakness and every weakness a strength. Similar to side effects of a medication. Medicines do great things but there are also side effects to the medication. If you take the weaknesses away, you lose the strengths. You can’t have one without the other.
Rendall gave a story about his wife who likes the house very clean and organized. She won’t let Rendall leave a water bottle sitting around the house for more than a few minutes before she puts it away. This may be seen as a weakness. However, let me show you the other side of this ability. His wife can tell him exactly where she stores the AAA batteries for their children's toys, the top shelf of the hall closet, the third bin to the right labeled Batteries. Due to his wife’s organizational skills, Rendall doesn’t have to search for too many things, his wife can tell him where things are stored. If he focuses on his wife’s perceived weakness he would miss out on her ability to stay organized.
So what is it you do naturally well or what perceived weaknesses do you possess that may really work in your favor given the right circumstances? Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what you do naturally well because it is natural for you and you may not realize that other people don’t have the same strength.
If you want to know an official answer, you can take the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment which will give you your top five strengths. Or you can speak to close family, friends, and co-works and ask them what they notice you do naturally well. Imagine how much better you would feel about yourself if you began to focus on what you do well, have natural abilities, and know you can make a positive impact in this world.
If you would like to work one-on-one with a coach to learn about your strengths or develop a strength-based department at your office, contact Happiness Now.