Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our strengths grow out of our weaknesses.
Assessing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can be of tremendous value for your life and career. This awareness is invaluable because it will help you focus on the right things in an optimal way. This will of course also help you make better career and life decisions moving forward.
Knowing your strengths will for instance help you to become more resourceful during difficult moments of your life. Furthermore, you will be in an optimal position to take advantage of critical opportunities that only become available when you’re focused on the right kinds of things. On the other hand, understanding your weaknesses will allow you to garner the necessary support you need in pivotal areas where you require most assistance. You can therefore turn these weaknesses into strengths by acquiring the necessary support and resources you need to accomplish your goal.
When you clearly understand what your strengths are you will derive the following benefits:
- You will naturally focus on the right things that have the biggest impact on your life.
- You will save time by focusing on things that will bring you the greatest returns.
- You become more resourceful and therefore make better decisions every single day.
- You put yourself in a position to raise your standards and therefore improve your results.
- You can contribute more value to others and to the world around you.
- You will naturally improve your levels of self-confidence because all of a sudden there is more certainly in your life.
In general, knowing your strengths will allow you to make smarter choices and decisions about your life, career, goals and circumstances. You will for instance have more clarity about the career path that would be best suited for your natural talents, tendencies, and abilities. And when it comes to your goals, understanding your strengths can help you to lay out a definitive course of action that takes advantage of your personal strengths; thereby allowing you to make the most of your time and the opportunities that life throws your way.
When you clearly understand what your weaknesses are you will derive the following benefits:
- You can focus on spending your time on areas that bring you most confidence and self-assurance.
- You can delegate tasks and projects to people that are more proficient with getting them done.
- You can dramatically reduce your levels of stress, anxiety, overwhelm and frustration by focusing on just the things you are naturally good at.
As you move forward through this assessment process it’s important to clearly understand both your strengths and weaknesses, however focusing on your strengths will be of most value because that is after all where your competitive advantage lies, and that is where you will gain the most value from your time, energy and efforts.
Assessing Your Personal Strengths
Your strengths are found in the things that seem easy to learn and easy to do. These strengths often manifest as behaviors, characteristics, inherent talents, learned knowledge, and transferable skills. These are areas of your life that you have developed through prolonged disciplined effort; and because you have spent so much time focusing on these areas of your life, you become proficient and able to perform certain tasks and activities at a higher level than most other people.
When we come into this world, we naturally develop certain interests early in life resulting from very specific life experiences. These interests immediately influence how we think about these things; and as we think about these things we learn more about them; and as we learn more, we know more — then as a result we become more proficient in specific areas of our lives.
None of us is born with strengths. Yes, some of us will certainly have some genetic strengths, however the majority of our strengths stem from our interests. These interests are built upon our curiosity and willingness to be more inquisitive about certain aspects of life. This inquisitiveness encourages us to learn more about these areas through experience, and as we gain more experience we begin to develop strengths that carry us forward for the remainder of our lives.
Strengths can however also come about as a result of our observations. For instance, when you were young you might have observed your parents or peers doing things a certain way. Because you were very young and impressionable at the time, these experiences made a lasting impression on your mind. And even though you never personally took part in these tasks or activities at the time, you gained the necessary awareness you needed as a result of your observations.
Now many years later you find yourself in a similar situation; and with no personal experience things just happen to come naturally for you. People call you a genius and tell you that you have natural talent and ability in this area, however little do they realize that you are strong in this area because of your interests and the keen observations skills that sparked your curiosity at a younger age.
It’s these kinds of strengths that you must tap into and utilize to help move your life forward in a more positive way.
Strengths Analysis Process
To begin with, take some time to list your talents, skills, characteristics, behaviors, and areas of greatest knowledge. Ask yourself:
What are my strongest character attributes?
What strengths have assisted me most?
What would [person’s name] say are my greatest strengths?
What qualities could I not do without?
What do I do especially well?
What seems easy to learn and easy to do?
What indispensable knowledge do I have? How is this a strength?
What activities was I drawn to when I was a child?
What skills have I learned rapidly and mastered quickly?
What skills, abilities, and/or qualities account for my greatest successes?
What activities do I get completely immersed in?
Where do I have the ability to be outstanding?
What part of my job do I do better than other people?
What behaviors have shaped my strengths?
Some of your strengths will be easier to identify, while other strengths will be more subtle and difficult to pinpoint. For instance, are you courageous, energetic, focused, helpful, productive, caring, disciplined, flexible, motivated, outgoing, trustworthy, warm, determined, artistic, analytical, adventurous, compassionate, optimistic, patient, curious, inspiring, organized, responsible, precise, team-oriented, etc? These are all very subtle things that you might overlook when building your list of strengths, however they are all aspects of your personality that can provide you the strength you need during difficult times. As such, it’s important to list these characteristics down wherever possible.
If however you do get stuck compiling this list of strengths, then consider asking a few people you know to help provide you with some insights. These people may very well see things that you might not be aware of. And it’s sometimes these things that can have the biggest impact on your life.
Having compiled your list of strengths, take the time now to ask yourself three additional questions:
Which of my strengths would I like to improve upon?
Which strengths are most important with accomplishing my goals?
What strengths will help me to become the person I seek to be?
In the end, the entire purpose of this assessment is to help you make the necessary adjustments to your life and career path in order to best utilize your strengths to achieve your goals and help you become the person you desire to be. That is after all what really matters. However, what if you’re unsure of what specifically you would like to achieve and do with your life? Well in that case, the purpose of going through this process will be to gain the necessary clarity you need in order to build your goals or career path on the foundation of your personal strengths. In other words, you will be using this process to help lay down the path of least resistance moving forward.
As you build your future and career path upon your strengths, you naturally begin to make more optimal choices and decisions; you use your time most effectively; and you get the greatest returns for the time and effort you put into something. No longer are you struggling to focus on tasks and activities that make you feel frustrated. Those are the things you allow others to do for you. You instead focus on the areas you are best at, most passionate about, and areas where you perform at your highest level. That is in essence how the highest achievers lay down the foundations of their success.
Assessing Your Personal Weaknesses
Your weaknesses are found in the things that seem difficult to learn and difficult to do. In other words, your weaknesses are simply areas of your life where you have had very limited experience, given very little attention to, or been misguided in some way. They may include underdeveloped characteristics and skills, poor learned behaviors, limiting beliefs, and inadequate knowledge. Above all others, your limited beliefs are probably the biggest culprits. They aren’t however necessarily what we would typically call “weaknesses”. We don’t call them weaknesses because they are often the “cause” of all our weaknesses.
There are three main reasons why you have weaknesses. You have weaknesses because of a lack of experience; because you have been misguided in some way; and because of a set of limiting beliefs which lead to less than optimal habits of thinking.
A Lack of Experience
You’ve had very limited experience in certain areas of your life because you have probably shown little interest in these areas. When we’re interested in something this makes us more receptive and willing to learn new ideas quickly. We are naturally more open to new perspectives and ways of looking at things, and as a result we focus more and more on these areas until what initially started as a fascination now becomes a hobby or career path.
Weaknesses can also manifest from the fact that you were misguided in some way. You might for instance have certain traits, characteristics, behaviors and limiting habits that you learned and picked up from observing other people. Alternatively you might have had certain experiences in your life that brought about these tendencies.
No matter how these tendencies developed, they aren’t working for you in the way that you might have imagined, and as a result they become weaknesses because they don’t get you the results you are after.
This now brings us back to limiting belief systems. Your weaknesses can for instance often stem from the fact that you think about things in less than optimal ways. This can of course revert back to a lack of experience or to the fact that you were misguided in some way in the past. And as a result you have a set of limiting beliefs in certain areas of your life that negatively influence your behaviors, decisions, thoughts and actions.
Let’s say that nobody ever showed you how to think about something or how to approach a specific task in an optimal way. As a result of this lack of knowledge and experience you do things ineffectively. However, your ineffective approach doesn’t mean that you are not capable. You might in fact be very capable, you just need to change how you think or what you believe about the situation, then as a result this will shift what you do within the situation. And all this basically comes down to your “attention to detail” and what you are willing to believe about yourself and about the situation.
Other Reasons for Weaknesses
Alternatively, your weaknesses can also stem from a lack of resources, a lack of support, or a lack of self-discipline. When you have the necessary resources, the required support, and the discipline needed to see something through to the end, then that is when what initially seemed like a weakness can quickly turn into a strength. However, for this to occur you must be open and willing to accept the fact that you are simply not living up to your full potential. In fact, you may very well have an ample amount of untapped potential that’s just bursting to come out. All that’s required is that you begin to see your weaknesses not as something that you’re “stuck with”, but rather something that simply hasn’t yet been developed to its full extent.
All this of course doesn’t mean that you will suddenly be good at everything you do. You will always have a natural predisposition for certain things. These are the things that come easiest to you, and as such these are the things that you must spend the majority of your time focusing on. This basically comes down to making the best use of your time by focusing on the things that will bring you the highest returns. And that essentially comes down to concentrating on your strengths. However, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your weaknesses. As a matter a fact, it’s critically important that you take the time to fully understand your weaknesses. It’s important because it will prevent you from engaging in activities that will be of little worth or value in the long-run.
The process you’re about to undergo isn’t about overcoming your weaknesses. You could very well spend a lot of your time trying to overcome your weaknesses, however is that really the best use of your time, energy and effort? What if you could just focus on your strengths and simply sidestep your weaknesses? You can do this quite effectively by gaining the necessary support you need from others in areas where you are weak. Wouldn’t that be the most productive use of your time?
It’s important to keep this in mind as you work through this process. In the end life isn’t about being great at everything. It’s rather about being great in the few areas that will bring you the highest returns.
Weaknesses Analysis Process
To begin with, take some time to list limiting characteristics, beliefs, behaviors, and areas where you are lacking the necessary skills and knowledge. Ask yourself:
What is preventing me from living the life I desire to live?
What have I personally struggled with over the years?
What has prevented me from performing at my very best?
What seem to be my character flaws?
What learned behaviors are letting me down?
What limiting beliefs are preventing me from moving forward?
How could these limiting beliefs be connected to my character flaws?
In what areas do I lack the knowledge I need to get ahead?
As you work through your list of weaknesses, keep in mind in particular to the character flaws that might be letting you down. For instance, are you moody, lazy, greedy, fearful, bossy, arrogant, controlling, shy, sloppy, naive, ignorant, impatient, aggressive, reckless, pessimistic, irresponsible, impulsive, insensitive, etc? These are all potential weaknesses in your character, however they do not necessarily translate into weaknesses in all situations.
You might for instance be impulsive and impatient. This might not work well in some situations. However, in other situations your impulsiveness and impatience can actually work to your advantage. You must therefore be very careful how you label your weaknesses. Ask yourself:
In what specific situations are these weaknesses unhelpful?
In what situations are these weaknesses potentially helpful?
What’s the value of knowing this?
Given your answers to these questions, it’s important to see the value that your weaknesses have in certain situations. What might seem like a weakness might in fact turn into a strength; it will just depend how you use it and in what specific situations this characteristic is called upon.
At times though a weakness is simply a weakness in almost every situation — at least in every situation that matters. In such instances, just focusing on your strengths might not be enough to get you the results you are after. You might therefore need to work on overcoming your weaknesses in certain situations in order to provide yourself with the competitive edge you need to move forward through your challenges.
In order to turn weaknesses into strengths, you either need to gain more experience, resources, knowledge, or support in a specific area of your life. At times all that might be required is a little guidance that will enable you to think about your life and circumstances in more optimal ways.
Have a think about your current situation, career path, and the goals that you would like to achieve, and consider how you might be able to work through your weaknesses in order to get the results you desire to have in your life. Ask yourself:
How could I best overcome my personal limitations?
Who could potentially assist me in this area of my life?
What resources and knowledge might I need to acquire?
What experience might I need to gain?
How can I potentially use my strengths to overcome my weaknesses?
What potential opportunities can be found within my weaknesses?
How could my weaknesses become strengths in a different context?
As you work through these questions it’s important to keep in mind that even though you might have a weakness in a certain area, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an actual “limitation” or that it should stop you in any way. You might be weak because you lack a “certain something”. And if you acquire that “certain something”, e.g. resources, support, knowledge, experience, etc., then that in itself might provide you with the necessary confidence you need to excel in this area of your life. However, you must be open to the possibilities.
On the other hand, if a weakness is an actual limitation, then it’s important to accept this fact and instead focus on developing your strengths in order to gain maximum value from your efforts. Therefore in such scenarios you would be better off utilizing other people’s strengths to offset your weaknesses in order to get the outcomes you desire to have in your life. As such, it might be worthwhile asking yourself three additional questions:
How have I managed my weaknesses in the past?
How can I minimize my weaknesses in the present?
How can I better manage my weaknesses in the future?
The answers to these questions will provide you with the solutions you need to gain most value from your choices and decisions moving forward.
How to Use this Information
The strengths you identified throughout this process will provide you with unique insights into the areas you should be focusing on to help move your career and life forward. The key here is to begin restructuring your life, priorities and goals in ways that will enable you to take full advantage of your strengths while at the same time minimizing any weaknesses. However, it is important to keep in mind that some of your weaknesses can in actuality translate into strengths in the right context. As such, it’s important to consistently put yourself into situation that will allow you to optimize your efforts at all times.
In order to move forward in life, you must use your strengths to develop key skills that will help you to best achieve your goals and objectives. In other words, you must take all those characteristics, traits, talents, and behaviors you identified as your “strengths”, and put them to use by transferring them into skills that you can utilize in the real world to help move your life forward in a more positive way. To do this, ask yourself:
What are my goals and life objectives?
What kinds of skills would I need to learn in order to achieve my professional and personal goals?
What are the potential benefits of each of these skills?
What are the potential drawbacks of each of these skills?
Which of these skills are best aligned with my strengths of character?
Which of these skills potentially expose my weaknesses?
Which skills are most vital to my career and the goals I would like to achieve?
Which particular skills could I potentially do without?
How will I go about acquiring these skills?
How will I go about transferring my strengths of character to each of these important skill areas?
How must I now rearrange my life’s priorities?
Once you’ve gone through this questioning process, it will be helpful to create a hierarchy of skills. At the top of this hierarchy you would have the number one most important skill you need to develop in order to achieve your goals. If this particular skill is aligned with your personal strengths then it will be easy to develop in the coming days, weeks and months. However, if this skill isn’t aligned with your personal strengths — but it is still essential to your goal — then you will need to figure out how to make use of this skill through other means.
Let’s say for instance that you are a musician. You are actually a very talented musician, however in order to succeed you need the ability to be able to promote yourself. But this is a problem because you are naturally an introvert; and selling yourself or your music to other people isn’t one of your strengths. You simply don’t have a “knack” for promotions because you’re more of a creative introvert who prefers to spend time on creative individual pursuits.
In such instances, unless you quickly develop your abilities as a promoter, you will struggle to get the word out about your music. As such, your only other option is to work off the strengths of other people who can help you in this area. You can therefore either hire a promoter, or you can do the promotional work yourself. And even if you’re adequately good at promoting your own music, it might not be the best use of your time based on your areas of greatest strength. Why not let someone else do what they’re good at while you focus on what you’re best at? Leveraging your time in the right way is after all one of the fastest ways to get ahead in this world.
Now getting back to our hierarchy, continue listing all the most important skill areas according to their level of importance. Once this is done, tick off the skill areas that are aligned with your natural strengths and abilities and develop a plan of action that will help you spend the majority of your time focusing on these important things. Then with all the other skill areas where you don’t feel as strong or confident about, spend some time brainstorming how you could potentially use other people, specific tools and/or resources that might help you to account for these important areas.
It’s of course important that you are very clear about the skills that are required to achieve your goal, because some skills may not be necessary — you may actually be better off doing without them. In fact, the less you have on your plate the better, because it means that you will be able to focus all your attention on the most important areas that will provide you with the highest return for your time and efforts.
When You Don’t Have Goals
In the instance that you went through this strengths and weaknesses analysis process without having actual goals in mind, you might now want to use the information you’ve garnered from this process to help pinpoint potential career paths that might be worth pursuing.
Consider all the strengths you’ve pinpointed and ask yourself:
Given my strengths, what things am I naturally good at doing?
What things do I find easy to learn and easy to do?
What kind of career path or goals would be most ideally aligned with these strengths?
What about my weaknesses? Does this career path or goal allow me to navigate safely through my weaknesses?
Could my weaknesses potentially translate into strengths along this path I want to take?
Whether you came into this process with a goal in mind, or whether you started with a blank slate, doesn’t really matter. What’s most important is that from this point moving forward you consistently play to your strengths in order to always optimize your time and efforts. That is after all how you will live up to your fullest potential on any career path you choose to pursue. However, please do keep in mind that this entire process rests on your ability to prioritize accordingly. You will only maximize your results when you focus on the right things, at the right time, and in the right way. And that of course all comes down to utilizing your strengths and the accompanying skills you identified throughout this process to the fullest of your ability.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Steps to Assess Your Strengths @ Harvard Business Review
- 10 Ways to Find Your Own Personal Strengths @ Lifehack
- How to Assess Your Strengths: 5 Tactics for Self-Growth @ Psychology Today
- How to Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis @ Forbes
- How to Keep Your Strengths from Becoming Weaknesses @ Tiny Buddha
- Personal SWOT Analysis: Making the Most of Your Talents and Opportunities @ Mind Tools
- Should You Work on Your Strengths or Weaknesses? @ Scott H. Young
- Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths @ Zen Habits
- Work from Your Strengths @ Steve Pavlina