This is a perennial question in the self-development space: is it better to focus on and grow your strengths or is it better to work on and improve your weaknesses?
What is a “strength?”
What is a “weakness?”
I believe that the very idea of strengths and weaknesses is very contextual. Something that is viewed as a weakness in one area may actually be a great benefit and strength in another.
There are schools of thought around self-development that encourage you to transform yourself into something new in order to improve. We often hear it at the start of the year: New Year, New You – as if there was a fundamental problem with who you were last year. You’re encouraged to find and improve your perceived weaknesses rather than focus on your strengths.
The question of whether you are better off focusing on your weaknesses or your strengths is a common one; it comes up again and again with good rationale and reasons on both sides. You could learn about your weaknesses and do what you can to improve them or you could double down on your strengths and use them to your advantage. To which I say: why not do both?
If you are living an intentional, growth mindset life, part of maturing means learning to recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses. You learn where your blind spots are and where your talents shine. I think there is benefit in challenging yourself by taking opportunities that allow you to work on your weaknesses, at least for a while. In my own experience, spending a bit of time feeling uncomfortable and out of my element has helped me to grow.
A recent example of this for me was my time on YouTube, especially YouTube marketing. In 2019, I had a typology podcast with a friend of mine. I love podcasts and the podcasting medium is one I had wanted to try for a long time. As we became comfortable with our podcast routine, my podcast partner had the idea that we should save the video of our recording session and post the episodes to YouTube. We were on Zoom before the pandemic made it “cool,” so simply recording the Zoom calls, doing a bit of editing and posting the videos to YouTube was a pretty straight forward thing to do. Making YouTube videos helped me learn and grow in areas that haven’t traditionally been my strengths.
After about a year in the typology space, I decided to spin off and start a new YouTube channel on my own. I lost my core audience and only a handful of people migrated over to my new content. It was a personal struggle for me to take time each weekend to record, edit and post videos and eventually my heart simply wasn’t in it anymore. I realized that, even after I took the time to record, edit and post a video, I never felt comfortable marketing my videos in the way that is needed to grow an audience on YouTube. I came to realize that I wanted to focus on my book and my blog; writing has always been a comfortable medium for me and a strength of mine. And so, I faced a choice: continue pushing myself in a “weaker” area for me and do the hard work it would take to grow a YouTube audience or shift my attention and focus over to writing. I chose writing and I’m glad that I did. I know in my heart that it was the right choice for me.
Focusing on my writing means growing and developing my strengths. There is still a lot of challenge; writing and publishing a book is a daunting proposition that scares me even as I move forward in developing my manuscript but for me personally it builds on an area of strength that has been with me since I was a child, writing stories on lined paper in three-ring binders.
The very idea of “strength” and “weakness” is nothing more than a judgment that we put on our lives. Once you can be honest with yourself and get to know yourself as a fully formed person, warts and all, your strengths and weaknesses become more like your dominant and non-dominant hands. There are some areas that come more easily to you, like writing with your dominant hand and other areas that are more difficult and will always feel awkward. Learning the balance of growing your strength while honoring and respecting your weaker areas is key to reaching your goals. I believe in the value of pushing yourself to improve your weaker areas but it’s important not to push yourself past the point of breaking.
Your strengths and weaknesses make up who you are as a whole. You are not just your strengths and you don’t need to feel stifled by your weaknesses. They are a part of your reality, learning to use your strengths while honoring your weaknesses is, to me, part of your hero’s journey
It starts with discovering what your heart truly wants and then taking an honest stock of your talents and struggles. Get to know your blind spots and the dark areas that you tend to avoid. Respecting those weaknesses may mean developing yourself in those weaker areas or it may mean outsourcing those tasks to someone else who can do them better. In order to reach your goals, you’ll need to both grow your strengths and respect your weaknesses.
Until next time… know yourself fully and completely. Own your strengths and your weaknesses. They make up who you are.
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