What are your Strengths & Weaknesses? I remember being asked of this numerous times, right from my school days when I interviewed for the post of my School Captaincy, to the time when I interviewed for the becoming the Head of a senior secondary school. I remember preparing for a polished answer to this question until I realized of the deeper question that remains unanswered.
Why is it so important for employers to know their strengths and weaknesses? Is it just a standard question or is there more to it? Here is what I learnt when I started asking these questions while hiring people into my organization: it is an inevitable question because people make the most important judgement about your character, about your Self Awareness, about your Personal Intelligence all through this one question. Did you know what is the one common thing between all successful people? It is Self-Awareness. They know each one of their strengths and understand the fact that every weakness is actually a cover up for a potential strength which lies undiscovered.
These two words strengths &weaknesses actually define your character. These two words test your ability to identify how you match your current strengths to your potential future opportunities while overcoming your weaknesses.
Arunima Sinha, a national level volleyball and football player lost her left leg in an unfortunate accident on April 11, 2011. She was thrown off a moving train by some hooligans. However, this horrible, possibly life-changing and tragic accident did not change the way she led her life. She never gave up on the spirit of life and defied all conceivable odds. Arunima transformed her weakness into her biggest strength with her “Never Say Can't” attitude and undying conviction. She made history on May 21, 2013, by conquering Mount Everest. Her name stands out across the world as the first amputee to accomplish this feat with the aid of a prosthetic leg.
Arunima’s example stands to be a true testimony to the fact that not all our weaknesses are meant to bring us down. Sometimes it is only by focusing on your right strength, do you get the power to overcome a weakness, blow the cover and reveal another hidden strength. It is when you discover these hidden disguised strengths that you generate unbelievable power and accomplish unimaginable heights, including the Mt. Everest.
From this particular blog, if there is one thing that I want you to takeaway, it is this: I believe each one of you has that power. Sometimes this power may be visible to you as your strengths and sometimes it is just a matter of self-discovery. Sometimes, our power is disguised as a weakness, given to you to reveal the real ‘YOU’. I urge you specially, that if you are a young person, moldable and just beginning to experience life, give yourself a chance to look within, understand what actually makes you ‘you’. If you pay attention, this will allow you to discover your personal qualities, individual strengths and weaknesses. It will enable you to face your shortcomings while feeling happy about your strengths and this is what builds the balance.
It is obvious that each one of us is unique in our own ways. We have our own strengths and weaknesses that distinguish us from those around us. The question, however, remains, “At what point in life do people discover their strengths and weaknesses? At what age do they need to start acting on their strengths so as to make the most of who they are?”
Just like it is always better to start preparing for your exams the moment you get your date-sheet. Life is long and short all the same. It’s funny but true that we know everything about others, but we are clueless about ourselves. Here is a short poetry that I wrote to express this duality in my own little words:
We discover new strengths every day. Just as we feel that we overcame one weakness yesterday, we encounter another one the very next day. In this sense, working towards making our strengths better and working on them to make them our own and overcoming our weaknesses is truly a life-long process and is only possible when we are open to introspection.
Remember what I mentioned about self-introspection earlier? Yes, well it is time to put it to use. Take my word on this, observation will create the premise for any strength or weakness that you want to build upon.
While you are busy with ticking off the items on your daily to-do list, try to take note of the kind of tasks you find difficult and the ones you find easy to handle, the ones you love and the ones you avoid. This one observation activity gives an insight into your strength-weakness curve.
Try to identify your cribbing patterns to find out your future threats. If you are smart you will pen them down instead of trying to remember them. (Learn to create checklists.Check my blog on organizational skills and enhancing your productivity here.)
Then, make an action plan to overcome your weaknesses before they are hardwired into your system. Give yourself the time to work on yourself, sit down and figure out if there is some particular constraint that has been stopping you from accomplishing important goals. Maybe some insecurity? A habit?
Little things which you don’t notice might be a sign of your strengths.
Your creativity will seep through instances in your daily life, look for the signs. If you have a critical standpoint, watch out for the way you solve problems in day to day life, the way you approach every situation. If you are a great listener, watch out for how the people around you appreciate the way you pay attention to their conversations with you, how they want to talk to you.
The skills that you might be taking for granted, might actually be your strengths, which could in fact seem to be, a piece of work to others.
Bottom line is that you need to consciously put time and intention to figure out what you are good at and focus on those areas.
When it comes to weaknesses, if you find yourself getting stuck and not being open to thinking of creative solutions to problems- this could prove to be a real issue. Because at the end of the day, there is no one such person on earth who can be spared from facing obstacles in life. Similarly, look for what are the areas that you generally find yourself stuck at to identify your weaknesses.
Nevertheless, your areas of work/weaknesses need a thorough action plan too. The problem is not when you fail. The real issue is when you fail repeatedly and do nothing about it.The real worry is when you don’t want to reattempt or face situations in life with a creative and new approach.
On one hand, ask two people to simply cover a distance without any element of challenge and on the other hand, make two people to compete to cover the same distance and see who reaches first. In what scenario would you see more effort and action from both the parties involved? You would say undoubtedly the second one, but why? Because the concept of getting to compete to prove ourselves is something that we human beings incline towards. We all try getting ahead of ourselves in order to prove others wrong. Doing something that we deemed impossible is something that inevitably takes us on cloud nine and enhances our belief in ourselves.
Competing, accepting challenges and coming out on top, always leads to being appreciated by those who matter, irrespective of the outcome. Using this inherent personality trait is a great way to overcome your weaknesses.
You don’t have to go run marathons to challenge yourself. The point is to ‘Challenge Yourself’ on a daily basis, just to ensure you could do something better than the last time.It doesn’t even matter if it’s just a slight improvement. What matters is that it should make you feel proud enough to pat your own back and work a little more tomorrow. See if you can complete all the tasks on your to-do list and maybe you will end up surprising yourself with your time-management skills. Give yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, apply for that job that you always wanted, test your communication skills by talking to someone new every day, maybe volunteer to be a part of a group project and see how you work in a team and how you solve problems.
Don’t over burden yourself though, don’t create undue pressure for yourself. But give yourself the space to grow. Challenge yourself, even if it might seem scary at first.
The only difference between those who excel in life and those who remain stagnant is their analysis. So, remember: no matter how small a task is, it calls for analysis.
This gives you an opportunity to improve every single time you do something wrong. Analysis inculcates the understanding that no matter how small or big a task is, no one can ever be perfect in life. And it’s okay to be wrong as far as we know ‘what went wrong’.This is one technique that also calls for observation, in a much more nuanced way.
While you are focusing on the “what went wrongs”, also remember to think about the things that could have gone better. I would like to give a beautiful movie reference here: I was watching Black Panther with my daughter the other day and something that Shuri said in a particular scene really caught my attention: “Just because something is working, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” I am just going to leave you with that thought.
This may sound cliché and take a lot of exploration but finding your strength is only a matter of understanding what makes you happy.
There is no better combination than being good at something, enjoying doing that something, and that something also being your strength.
There might be a lot on your plate and all that combined with this constant need to “find your passion” could be overwhelming. But all you need to do is give yourself the liberty to do something that you really enjoy every day, or even every week. You owe that to yourself!
Growing up most of us have a role model, the one person we look up to. They could be one of your parents, a mentor, a friend, or even someone that you aspire to become like.
Now, I want you to consider this: we never expect our role models to go wrong; they are our superheroes in a way. This makes stepping into their shoes so difficult because they are much better than us.
But that is not always the case because even your role models are human beings, at the end of the day. And the truth is, every person has their own set of weaknesses that they want to work upon. So, try talking to the closest person you look up to: your parents, friends, or mentors, and ask them:Did they ever find themselves failing at something? How did they get back on their feet?
The more you talk, the more you will understand that everything does not work out perfectly all the time, and that you need to give yourself the time to get back up.
A key component to discovering your strengths is to be open to participate in as many things as possible.
It is important to strike a fine balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone so that you can grow and biting off only as much as you can chew.
Once you experience diverse activities, it opens you up to the unique experiences that life has to offer while also allowing your adventurous streak to unfold itself. Trying new things every once in a while builds up on your confidence and inculcates the belief, “If I try my hands on something and work towards it, there is absolutely nothing in this world that I can’t do.” You may not even realize that you have an inherent strength in an area until you explore it.
I would love to help you discover your strengths, and your weaknesses,identify the hidden opportunities you might be unaware of, your personality profile and so much more. So, allow me to invite you to my Personal Intelligence Mastery course- that I have specially designed for teenagers and young adults to help them master their Personal Intelligence. I’ll also be meeting you LIVE in our Zenith Master Mind inner circle sessions where we have fun together, and you meet your fellow Zeniths.
I would like to leave you with this thought: Discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses is much more than trying to become the best. It is about trying to discover oneself, one’s passion and living a life that feels fulfilling early on.