Focus on your Personal Strengths, Not Correcting All the Weaknesses


October 7, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Gallup asked thousands of US workers a provocative question: “At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” Shockingly, only 32% of people said that they did. Other countries were even worse. This represents a remarkable misallocation of talent: imagine the huge overall gain to productivity that would come from reshuffling everyone into roles they are suited for!

Alas, no one can pick people up and shuffle them around by force; not Gallup, not the government, not even the Jolly Green Giant. Only the people themselves can do this. This means you. So if, on reflection, you discover you’re one of the 68% that doesn’t get the chance to use their true talents at work, here are a few reasons you might want to consider a change of career:

    1. Strengths contain your greatest potential for growth
      It’s so intuitive – “I’m worst at tasks involving my weaknesses, so my greatest potential for development is in these areas. If I work on those things, I’ll become rounded!” Too bad it’s incorrect. Your strengths represent your natural ways of responding to the world; by going ‘with the grain’, instead of against it, you’ll find it easier to perform the amount of practice necessary to reach expertise in your chosen field. 
  • Strengths lead to flow
    ‘Flow’ is that special state, also called ‘the zone’, where you lose track of time, you become one with what you’re doing, and your sense of self comes out stronger at the end. Activities involving your strengths are more likely to lead to this state. You’ll produce better work, you’ll do it more quickly, and of course, flow is also an enjoyable experience in itself. 
  • People who use their strengths become happier
    As mentioned before on Dumb Little Man, strengths-use leads to happiness. Achieving this happiness means both finding tasks that are suited to your strengths, and finding ways to involve your strengths into the tasks that you do. 
  • You’ll make a better leader
    The idea that there’s a specific mold people must fit to be a great leader is old-fashioned, and unsupported by recent research. Effective leaders are conscious of their own strengths, and build their teams around them. This creates a working environment that’s more productive, and that’s more conducive to collaboration. 

Do you believe the idea that you can do whatever you set your mind to? Well, maybe you can. But this perspective only refers to results of your labor and says nothing about the quality of it. If you’re not using your strengths, you’re in for a long and hard journey. On the other hand, strengths-use is inherently fulfilling – it feels natural, and right. And on top of that, you’ve got the potential to go further with your natural strengths than you do with your weaknesses.

Written on 10/07/2009 by Warren Davies. Warren is a psychology student who spends his spare time writing for his blog, Generally Thinking. The blog focuses on the practical applications of scientific psychology – if you’re interested in personal development or psychology, visit his website at Photo Credit: ncanup

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