Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Focus on Your Weaknesses

I hate paying bills. I'm not good at finances, budgeting and have an aversion to sitting down and working on our checkbook. It could be termed a "weakness." Current research says that I should minimize my attention in that area (my weakness) and focus on my strengths (speaking and writing?). Yet recently I realized I've learned some key things by focusing on my weakness that have made my strengths better. So now occasionally I purposely focus on something I don't do well and am amazed by what I learn. 

First of all, have you read the research about focusing on strengths in order to excel and not on weaknesses? It's out there in psychology, education, personal development, etc. The challenge is that the singular focus on strengths in order to excel might be over-blown. We can learn quite a bit by tackling a weakness that we might not learn just by focusing on a strength. 

One of my "skill" strengths is writing. It's something I do well enough that other encourage me to do it more. I'm very aware that I'm no Hemingway, but others enjoy my writing, or at least my family does. So, writing would be termed a "what" strength. It's "what" I do well. Yet, what I didn't realize, since writing comes relatively easily to me, was that I had created a mental model about how I wrote, how I set up my writing area, and the time and discipline I set aside to pursue my writing. 

As I wrote above, finances and paying bills are one of my "weaknesses." So my object is to complete them as efficiently and effectively as possible so I can move on to other things. Yet I realized that the same discipline, order and efficiency I brought to paying bills (playing to my weakness) were skills I could apply to my strength of writing. Because of what I've learned I radically reordered my writing space, the time I write, how I focus and how I determine the outcomes. It has worked very well and it was totally outside of the mental model I carried for how I was supposed to write. 

Focusing on strengths is still a powerful tool to excel. Yet avoiding weakness, or avoiding something brand new because it is not a strength is a mistake. Try wading into the morass of a weakness and focusing on making it slightly better. Yet at the same time be mindful to what you learn. You might find, as I do, that there are things you learn from focusing on your weakness that you will not learn by focusing on your strengths. And for me the bonus is... the bills are paid. 


Lisa Sansom said...

What I really take away from this is to use a growth mindset about your weaknesses...

Chin Leng said...

hey, good idea there about cross learning about strengths and weaknesses. Agree with you that there are things done right with weaknesses. that's a strength from the weakness area :)

actually, i don't really get why finance is your weakness since you aim to get it done effective and efficiently. from what you described, it seems like a strength!