Everyone has unique gifts but not everyone knows what his or her gifts are or how to maximize them. In fact, often people are far more aware of their weaknesses than their strengths.
According to Peter Drucker, quoted in Now, Discover Your Strengths: “Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.”
Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths, much less the ability to build our lives around them. Instead, guided by our parents, by our teachers, by our managers, and by psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.
What can you do? Identify your talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy consistent, near‐perfect performance. When you exploit your natural abilities, you can’t help but succeed. Of course, the converse is also true. Expect an uphill climb if you are always in “self‐improvement” mode.
We spend too much time focusing on our weaknesses and trying to make them stronger, rather than recognizing our strengths and trying to capitalize on them. You will have greater joy and effectiveness when you better understand your God-given potential, focus on your strengths and put them to good use.
Every day there are hundreds of small decisions to make. We are unable to intellectualize every little decision, so we react instinctively. This means our brains take the quickest path to making the decision, which results in using our natural talents to make these smaller decisions. These smaller decisions ultimately add up to a person’s performance for the day, then the week, then the year.
Talents not only come naturally to us, but are accompanied by an “it feels good” quality. So it not only feels natural to use our talents, it also feels good to use them, thus constantly pushing us towards using our talents again and again.
The best way to pinpoint talents is to monitor your behavior and feelings over an extended period of time. Or, you can take a StrengthsFinder test that helps identify these natural talents. The online test to discovering your strengths is found in the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
Now, what about weaknesses? We all have weaknesses, and one way to define it is “anything that gets in the way of excellent performance.” First, identify if the weakness is a skills weakness, a knowledge weakness or a talent weakness. If it’s hard to figure this out, go acquire the skills and knowledge you need in a certain area, and if your performance is still subpar, then you probably lack the talent.
Here are 5 strategies for dealing with weaknesses:
- Get a little better at it – for basic things (communicating, listening, organization), you need some level of ability or they will undermine your real strengths.
- Design a support system – it might involve getting a PDA if you are disorganized, or organizing short meetings if you have a short attention span.
- Use one of your strengths to overwhelm your weakness.
- Find a partner – Find someone with complementary themes of talent. For example, an entrepreneur with no knack for numbers might team up with a skilled accountant to fill that weakness. Requires a person to be able to admit a weakness in themselves.
- Just stop doing it – Last resort strategy, but effective if needed. If you stop doing something you’re not good at it’s possible nobody will notice or care. It’s possible you earn more respect. And it’s possible you’ll feel better about yourself. For example, one manager who lacked the talent of empathy finally told her employees that she lacked this talent and was failing at trying to fake it. So she told her employees this and asked that they just tell her how they feel if they wanted her to know. Her employees felt like she became more “authentic”, even if flawed, and more trustworthy.