When we think about growth, many of us think about eliminating our flaws or improving our weak points. There is definitely a time and place for that. However, in today’s article, let me share a different perspective with you. A big part of growth includes striving to make what is already good, better. It involves making your strengths even stronger so that you develop more and more ability to help others and realize your full potential in the process.
Here’s what sparked interest in me on this topic.
Last week, I had an interesting discussion with a person I am coaching. Let’s call him DT. We were talking about how to provide constructive feedback that inspires a person to grow.
DT felt like many times when he provides a suggestion for improvement to his employees, they either get hurt or offended by it. He wanted to learn how to make that feedback come across as helpful and inspiring instead.
After asking him some follow-up questions, I realized that DT’s problem was his perspective on growth. Like many people he defined growth as reducing or eliminating weaknesses.
I do not agree with that.
Here’s what I told DT:
“The key to providing a constructive feedback is your perspective and definition of growth. Train yourself to recognize strengths, and the ways to build up on those strengths. The only time to work on a weakness is if it’s hurting your strengths and not allowing your natural abilities to shine fully. Whether you analyze somebody else’s progress or your own, this perspective will help you find effective ways of bringing out their or your full potential. When you share these observations with them, the feedback will be not only constructive but also inspiring.”
That was a light bulb moment for DT. He was delightfully surprised with this vantage point.
If you have been thinking like DT, you probably felt the same way. Trust me, this little change in your perspective will help you grow faster and achieve more than ever before.
He explained that he never thought about growth as making something that is already good even better. Unintentionally, like many of us, he had been trained to look at growth as minimizing our weaknesses. But he instantly saw the value in focusing on strengths.
The interesting part is that I had never really verbalized that definition of growth until DT pointed it out. So thanks to him, I have now given much thought to how it affects our career and life. Today, I am going to articulate that perspective in the hope that it helps you shine brighter in your career and life.
Why should you focus on your strengths?
Improving your weaknesses can only take you so far. But if you work on your strengths, your potential increases exponentially.
Let’s say you are 50% good at skill A, and 90% good at skill B. If you put the same amount of effort and time on improving both the skills, you can take the skill B close to 100% but skill A will still be only at 60% of its full potential, if that.
When you have a mastery of a skill (say 95%), that starts reaping you the benefits. At work, you will increase your value. Your contributions will be important for your team and meaningful to you. You will receive promotions faster.
If you use the skill at home or in the community, you will make more impact on people around you. You will derive more joy from your activities. Your experiences will be happier and more satisfying.
So no matter the skills, when you are already good at some, it is much easier to hone them so that you become a master at it. And when you do, work and life becomes a lot more fun.
Here’s another point to consider:
Even if you invest the same time and energy on both, you will progress much faster in your strengths than your shortcomings.
You will enjoy the process of working on your strengths a lot more than working on your weaknesses.
In short, the work on your strengths provides exponential results, and the process itself is more rewarding.
When do you work on your weakness?
Is there a place for improving your weaknesses?
You work on them until you get them to a point where they don’t hold you back from progressing.
If you enjoy that process, then by all means make that your hobby. But don’t invest all your time in improving your weaknesses because no matter how much work you do, you can only take them so far.
For example, I work from home. It needs discipline. I didn’t have clear boundaries of time when I finish work and “go home” which was turning out to be a problem for me. So I wanted to take on a hobby which forces me to stop thinking the way I am used to (logical, analytical), and shifts gears into a different mindset. That’s why I started taking lessons on pottery.
I don’t necessarily consider myself a crafty person. I have never had much interest in doing anything artistic with my hands even when I was a child. But pottery puts my right brain to work, and forces me to shut off my work related thoughts.
What started as a need for my success now continues as a hobby because I love it. As you can imagine, I am not aiming to be the best potter in the world but I am working on this weakness of mine to help me get better in other areas of my life, where I actually use my strengths e.g. writing and public speaking.
Then, what’s with all the talk about stretching my comfort zone?
Again, there is a time and place for testing your limits. In a career, you want to showcase your strengths. You want to take on the projects where you can add some real value. You want to make an impact by doing what you do the best.
While doing so, if you keep an open mind and a learner’s mentality, you will keep getting stronger and stronger in your chosen field. Stretch your limits by taking on advanced projects that motivate you to achieve more using your strengths. Learn the cutting edge approaches from the industry thought leaders. Take risks and apply what you have newly learned.
But do not treat your career as the place to get rid of your flaws. If something is really bothering you or you are looking to challenge yourself in a completely unfamiliar territory, take on a hobby that supports your growth in that aspect. It will allow you to experiment and make mistakes without any consequences.
Your career should be crafted using your natural abilities, talents, and skills in order for it to be meaningful, lucrative, and satisfying. It should not be driven by your flaws.
For example, I have always known I like to write. But clearly, it took some time and experience before figuring out what I like to write about, how do I express my thoughts with clarity, and similar other writing skills.
If you ask me today, I can see writing being a big part of my career. But it wasn’t the case 10, 5 or even 2 years ago. So when I wanted to develop my writing skills, I didn’t take a job in that field. I took it on as a hobby.
I used to write when my profession was engineering and later product marketing, but ONLY as a hobby. That was a pragmatic thing to do. Had I thought of stretching my comfort zone in my career, and getting a job as a writer of some sorts, I would have soon felt defeated, and probably deemed as a failure simply because I was yet to express it as a strength. So instead, I took on a new hobby of blogging. 🙂
In short, putting yourself out of your comfort zone is an attitude. In your career, you can stretch your limits by challenging yourself to achieve more and more using your strengths. In your free time, you can stretch your limits by trying on new hobbies or experiences that will help you minimize your flaws or discover new strengths or just allow for experimentation without consequences.
Have I made the case yet that it pays more to develop your strengths further than to minimize your weaknesses. Nobody is perfect. Our best shot at making a real difference in this world is using our natural gifts to help others. The talents, skills, and strengths that come naturally to you are the best tools you have at your disposal. Focus on honing them, and using them to help others and add value to the people around you. That also seems to be the way to build a rewarding career and live a meaningful life. I wish you all the best in this journey!
What do you think?
Do you hold the same perspective or was this a light bulb moment for you as it was for DT? Care to share an experience which strengthens your belief?