Many of us work hard to improve ourselves. We want to be better people: slimmer, fitter, healthier, happier, more patient, more organised. The list goes on and on. But is this really the right focus?
When you spend all the time focussing on yourself and what’s wrong, you give yourself a hard time.
When you keep thinking about how badly you’ve behaved, you can feel miserable and defeated.
You can feel so overwhelmed you give up in despair.
You may decide to love yourself just as you are.
But that’s probably the hardest task of all!
Most of us just don’t achieve it. So more misery and disappointment.
It seems like we are stuck:
We can be constantly striving, reducing our enjoyment of life and often disappointing ourselves
We can aim to accept ourselves as we are, but probably fail dismally at that.
So what’s the way out? One way is to focus on our strengths. What are your strengths? What are you good at? All of us have some strengths. You may not feel you have many, but don’t get hung up on that. Just focus on the strength or strengths you do have. If you’re in a really negative state and your answer is “nothing”, ask a close friend or try taking the test on the website www.high5test.com. The test is free. After you have answered 100 questions you get details of your top 5 strengths. This is simple and straightforward but will probably produce interesting insights into what makes you the person you are. The test has already been taken by more than 1,500,000 people.
My top 5 strengths are:
- Problem Solver
Each strength comes with a clear description of what this means in your life. (Particularly good for me as I didn’t know what a philomath was!)
This is all free, but for a small amount extra, you can dig deeper. You can see a list of 20 strengths. These are divided into 4 categories:
- Focus: Strengths from 1 to 5 are your most powerful strengths or your HIGH5. Science shows that if they are your greatest chance to succeed in your professional life and to be happy in your personal life. To maximize your potential you need to focus on applying these 5 powerful strengths every day.
- Leverage: Strengths from 6 to 10 represent strengths that you might use on situational basis. They are not as dominant as the top 5, however, by learning to leverage them in specific conditions. Think of them as your support system for you.
- Navigate: Strengths from 11 to 14 demonstrate patterns that might not come so natural to you. Therefore, to stop them from hindering your potential, you need to learn how to navigate situations that require these capabilities by leveraging your top 10 strengths.
- Delegate: Despite the popular misconception, strengths from 16 to 20 are not necessarily your weaknesses. They are your least powerful strengths. They are the least likely to bring outstanding results. Therefore, these are traits you would be better off looking in your partner or a teammate.
You may think you know your strengths, or you may decide to ask a friend or colleague, but the High5test is likely to give you important additional insights. It may even throw up strengths you were not aware of at all.
Now you know your strengths you can focus on them. This may seem like a daft idea. After all if they are your strengths, you don’t need to work on them. This, of course, isn’t true. Even strengths need some work. You are almost certainly not at your full potential for any strength.
T Harv Eker has written:
“I spent a lot of time when I was younger “working on my weaknesses”. The problem was that I kept finding more problems with myself, and I kept on getting disappointed about just how many flaws I actually had/have.
“It finally occurred to me to stop trying to fix my weaknesses. Instead, I began focusing on my strengths and letting the weaknesses be where they are. If they go, they go. If they stay, they stay, and I’ll just manage them.”
The High5test full report gives advice and ideas for how to take “something that is already good and turn it into something even better.”
The High5test can help you work on your over-arching strengths, but you can also work on them at a more granular level.
You may already be good at keeping to your gym schedule. But could you work out harder when you get there? Could you research new workouts that would add new interest to what you do? Could you explore the gym community more? Could you try out that new piece of gym equipment?
You may be good at managing meetings already. But are you sometimes a bit strident? Do you talk over other people? I’m sure there’s some way in which you could be even better at managing meetings.
Get the idea? You focus on what you are good at and become even better at it.
So, life will get better if your strengths are even better. You’ll simply achieve even more in these areas of excellence.
You’ll also have more confidence, as you are working with the positive side of you. You are focussing on what you are doing well.
This increased confidence can cascade into other areas of your life, including areas where you are weak. With more confidence and a feeling that you are making progress in your life you can become a better person all round. The momentum of these improvements can help to kick start improvement in those difficult and awkward bits of you.
I don’t think you need to do this necessarily all the time. If you’re ground down and despondent and feeling you’ll never change, commit to working on your strengths for a few weeks and ignoring your weaknesses. There’s a good chance that you’ll make progress in your areas of weakness even while not focussing on them.
Worth a try? Of course, it is.