Strengths and weaknesses are all a matter of perception. They have been established over the course of our lives by the feedback we receive from ourselves and those around us. The problem is, our current definition of weaknesses is very limiting and does not allow the potential for change. Instead of living by such strict definitions (strength=good, weakness=bad), what if you could redefine what strengths and weaknesses mean and learn how to utilize both strengths and weaknesses to accomplish personal goals?
First, I like to think of strengths as qualities within a person that they are comfortable with and that help them to excel personally and professionally (think: confidence or intelligence). Weaknesses are simply characteristics someone would like to improve upon because they create barriers to excelling personally and professionally (think: impatience or shyness). Alternatively, there are neutral traits that may fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and do not necessarily help or harm (think: enthusiasm or seriousness). The dated notion that certain traits are permanent and "bad" creates the mindset that they cannot be changed. In actuality, any quality can be strengthened as long as you set your mind to making the change.
The second layer is to be mindful of the dual roles most traits possess. Confidence, for example, can be both a strength and a weakness, depending on the intensity of the trait, the person, and the situation. In a professional setting, high levels of confidence may be looked at as a strength and a necessary part of the position. In a personal setting, that same level of confidence may be a weakness and create distance in relationships. Instead of seeing traits only as strengths or weaknesses, I ask clients to be aware of the strengths within their weaknesses, the weaknesses within their strengths, and always aim to find the balance between the two.
Using your already established strengths and evolving your weaknesses as leverage to accomplish goals is the best, and most lasting way to long-term success. With some goals in mind, write out the strengths that will help you achieve those goals and the weaknesses that may get in the way. Next, think about the strengths within the weakness and develop an affirmation to remind yourself of what you are trying to accomplish.
Your list may look something like this:
- Goal: Better time management
- Strengths: I am self-motivated and have prioritized this goal as a necessity for more productivity in my professional life and more fulfillment in my personal life
- Weaknesses: I can be impatient and self-critical
- Strengths Within Weaknesses: I am good at measuring progress
- Counterbalancing Affirmation: I recognize that my critical and impatient nature can knock me down if I'm not making progress fast enough so I will be mindful of when my progress is not meeting my expectations and remind myself that this goal may take time to accomplish
Remember, weaknesses are only as limiting as you allow them to be and strengths are only useful when you are allowing them to help. All it takes is determination and a shift in perspective to begin developing your weaknesses into newfound strengths.