Playing to Your Strengths...

How often do you think about your weaknesses? Your faults? The places in your life you 'need to improve'? I've spent a great deal of time in my life thinking about these, and I'm willing to bet you have, too.

Upwards of 80% of the thoughts we have on a daily basis are negative; we're hard-wired to be cautious and aware of potential danger, and think negatively to avoid harm (the 'what if?' game at work...). The problem with this base instinct is that it just doesn't apply to most situations we find ourselves in.

I used to be nervous -- to the point of shaking -- when I had to speak in front of a crowd. I worked myself into actual physical sickness to avoid social situations. I'd hide my self-deprecation in humour so that the truth of it (in my mind) seemed as though I was only being sarcastic. All of this, and more, because I focused so heavily on my weaknesses. Or, better put -- my perceived weaknesses. I would tell myself stories about how I wasn't good, worthy, competent, or even likeable, and then create situations that inevitably brought them to life.

This is the damaging effect of misplaced focus. This is the result of letting negativity rule the day, and buying into the crap that we tell ourselves. I spent a significant portion of my life highlighting all of the weaknesses I thought I had, and creating a reality that mirrored them. I held the belief it was naive or egotistical to focus on my strengths, and deny what held me back: my weaknesses.

Was I ever wrong.

Focusing on weakness didn't help me improve, or even move forward. Had I learned in those moments, or sought to improve, perhaps that may have made some kind of difference. Instead, I, like many of us, wallowed in the frustration of failure, and let it get the better of me. That negativity was like a black hole, and nothing good was able to escape from it. When I finally became tired enough of beating myself up, I tried a new tactic. I decided to focus on what I did well.

I chose to radically change the way I viewed my life and success. Focusing on the positivity of my strengths and abilities, I found myself ready to set goals and make plans. I became so much more engaged and excited, because I was able to see success instead of becoming mired in where I came up short.

This change in mindset didn't mean I ignored my areas of weakness -- but it changed how I approached them enormously. No longer was I pulled down by the weight of self-inflicted negativity; instead, I sought to improve areas where I wasn't as skilled. As opposed to my life coming to a screeching halt because I was unable to do something, I learned to ask for help. In shifting my focus to strength, I enlivened and empowered my personal outlook. Failure became moments for learning, and weakness became opportunity for growth.

These changes didn't happen overnight -- I can attest to that. However, you can decide to make changes in your life right now, and then do something about it. You can choose to see yourself as possessing a myriad of strengths, capable of learning and growth, instead of someone who fails. You can choose to use your strengths to create strategies in life that bridge the gap to success. And if you're having difficulty making the shift, you can choose to work with a coach to help you with the entire process; I've been there, and can help you get through it, too.