Develop Strengths. Manage Weaknesses.


When it comes to personal or professional development, the focus is always on improving weaknesses. Looking back, this focus on weaknesses started as a student; teachers would always provide feedback on where I was weakest and needed improvement. The mindset that I grew up with was one where I was constantly focusing on how to become better in the areas where I was most behind, and was so pervasive that when someone complimented me, I was quick to point out the areas of deficiency, lest anyone think that I was good at anything.

My experience is not unique; I believe that most of us feel this way. Think about when it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, we are always about improving skills we feel we are lacking. And, I think it’s time that we start shifting the perspective from examining our flaws to looking at a picture that includes developing our strengths also. We should start putting time and effort into enhancing our strengths. This may sound strange and people may question why should anyone spend more time working on something that he/she is already good at, to which I would reply that by investing in our strengths we can really build our core skills and have more to offer.

For instance, one of my strengths is adaptability. When things change, or need to be switched up, it doesn’t derail me. I simply switch gears and work within the new set of parameters. In contrast, one of my weaknesses is being singularly focused. I can’t take one task and work on it consistently until it is done. Knowing this weakness, every year my resolution is to work on improving my focus. I find myself frequently lamenting about my lack of focus and am always trying new ways to improve. All of my work towards improving myself is always on focus, yet I never think to improve upon my skill of adaptability. In doing this, I feel that I am doing a great disservice to myself because the amount of effort that I spend trying to improve my weakness gives me a smaller return. I mean it’s been at least three years since “improving my focus” has been a priority area of improvement and I would say that I have made some headway. Meanwhile, had I spent the last three years on developing my strength of adaptability, I would have probably had a much greater return of using adaptability to my professional benefit.

Strengths focused development does not mean people should not work on their weaknesses at all, but I do think that everyone needs to stop just focusing on his/her weaknesses. In fact, I think we should spend more time developing our strengths and learn how to appropriately manage our weaknesses. Rather than constantly working towards “fixing” a weakness or trying to turn a weakness into a strength, what if we simply learned how to manage our weaknesses. We should find strategies to handle our weaknesses so that they don’t derail us but when it comes to self-improvement, we should invest our energy in our strengths and our weaknesses.

Zaimah Khan