There are two schools of thoughts on this. Some “experts” tell you to focus on your strengths versus your weaknesses and others tell you to do the opposite. So who do you listen to? As the overarching theme of this website dictates, you listen to what is true in your life. I know that if I focused on my strengths rather than my weaknesses, then I would be an amazing hermit who excelled at her job counting widgets in the corner of a dark factory. Why that imagery – I don’t know, but it describes the reality of my comfort zone. I also know that person would be unhappy because she had not fulfilled her purpose, nor had she left the world better off for her being in it. Because this seemingly has become my online diary, I will share my known weaknesses that I continue to work on daily.
You will notice that I pretty much summed up the characteristics of an introvert. And you would be right. I am an introvert to the point where it should probably be in the DSM-V (or whatever edition we are on now). So I know that focusing on my strengths would not make me a better version of myself, so I guess by default I will focus on my weaknesses.
I believe we must recognize our weaknesses in order to overcome them. People often say that if want to make God laugh tell him your plans. Well, he had a good laugh at my expense. I understand that I am an introvert but because I trust God to lead me and guide me on the path to fulfill my purpose, I listened and trusted the path I was on.
Growing up, I was the quiet, shy person in the class whose voice would shake when she had to answer a question or give a presentation. Years later, I went to law school afraid to death of going to court and having to speak in front of people. I was giving my oral arguments during first year of law school and the judges on the Court of Appeals asked me if I needed to sit down because I was shaking so badly. Essentially having to speak in public was akin to a punishment.
Cut to my first job out of law school. I was working for a government agency and became the Jane of all trades. I was given a position in upper management with no real guidance. Left to fend for myself, I began identifying things that needed to change or improve. In doing so, that meant that I had to find ways to communicate with 1400 staff. Understanding that I can’t speak to 1400 staff individually, the next logical step was convening meetings and ultimately conferences. Do you see where I am going with this?
At most government agencies, money for essential services is tight. So, imagine me asking for additional funding to improve communication, training, and morale. The answer as you guessed was a rousing “NO!” Well because I knew what was needed to be successful, I threw myself into public speaking. I was terrible the first few times I did it in front of a large group of staff. My voice was shaking so badly, I was gripping the podium, and I read to the audience. But after the first time, something amazing happened. I was proud of my bravery for facing one of my fears head on.
So how do you turn your weaknesses into strengths?
Here are my five steps:
Identify your weaknesses – Take some time to reflect on the things you don’t do as well or the things you are afraid of. Rank those things in order of what will take the least of amount of time to fix to the greatest amount of time. Or you can rank them based on what will give you the biggest bang for the buck. These approaches give you an idea of which thing you should focus on first.
Choose the item on your list that you want to tackle first – This is a personal choice. I am of the belief that you should begin with the thing that will give you a quick win. How many of us have tried to do something new but have given up when we don’t see any progress? Know thyself and choose wisely.
Create a game plan – Now that you have chosen what you are going to focus on, create a game plan. This means, identify the steps that you need to take to make the necessary improvements. Give yourself enough time to work the plan. Identify milestones as part of the plan. Lastly, at the end of your plan identify the realistic outcomes you expect to achieve by embarking on this journey. The plan must identify what steps you will take, how long you will commit to each step, and what success will look like. As we all know, a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
Check-in regularly and adjust the plan – This means you MUST check in on your progress and be honest with yourself. If you didn’t meet your milestones, be honest with yourself about the reason you didn’t. Tweak the plan as much as needed to be successful. Changing the plan to take into account lessons learned, is how you can almost guarantee yourself success.
Celebrate your wins – Regardless of how small the win is, you must celebrate to keep the positive momentum going.
The final word… do not let a weakness keep you from being your best self. Recognize your weaknesses and work the steps to overcome them.