Focus on your strengths or fix your weaknesses?

When I was in primary and secondary school, I was sent for weekly Chinese enrichment classes because my grades could barely make it.

I vividly recall that I once scored 9 out of 100 for a Chinese written paper – the lowest score in my entire class. It was one of those times when my mum would nag at me and my Chinese teacher would make me re-write a chapter from the textbook ten times over in what was known as 练笔练字.

Instead, I loved the English language and I enjoyed writing argumentative essays. I scored an A for my general paper in Junior College. For modules in university that required writing skills like marketing or organisational behaviour, I also easily scored an A. It was in university that I found where my strengths were.

A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with one of my mentors at work, and I asked him if I should focus on my strengths or my weaknesses.

Everyone of us is great at some things and less perfect at others. For example, one common weakness cited by my colleagues is that their presentation and public speaking skills could be improved. Yet, these are the same people who are amazing in their logical thinking and analytical skills.

There are also others who would admit that they are great in the details but less adept in seeing the bigger picture.

The traditional way to resolve this would be to fix what you’re bad at. If you suck at presentations, you’d better start doing more presentations.

The modern way to do it, according to research, is that people experience faster growth and development when they nurture their strengths instead of correcting their weaknesses.

Focus on your strengths

People who use their strengths are happier, less stressed, and more confident.

Every one of us is talented. Some are more talented than others, no doubt. But finding and reaching our greatest potential is through the mastery our strengths and developing them.

The world pays people who focus on their strengths very well. Look at Cristiano Ronaldo – he is paid 31 million Euros a year to kick the ball on the field for 90 minutes each game.

Marcus Buckingham, author of the book Go Put your Strengths to Work, advises us to see our strengths as figuring out what energises us rather than finding what we are good at.

He described our strengths as things that make us feel successful, fulfilled and engaged.

For me, I enjoy connecting the dots, sharing my knowledge and making an impact. From there, I figured what I’d enjoy doing and do well in.

But don’t let your weaknesses hold you back

We should at the very least bring our weaknesses to a level such that they don’t hold us back from doing our jobs well.

A lot of weaknesses can be mitigated by working with others or outsourcing the work. If you’re a manager, you can hire someone who complements your skillsets and you have a formidable team. By doing so, you can sharpen your skills in areas you’re stronger in and deliver a much higher value to your employers and clients.

You can also downplay your weaknesses or ignore it altogether. If you’re not a funny person, why try to be funny all the time?

Stop obsessing over your weaknesses and focus on building your strengths, which are more likely to bring you happiness, instil creativity and relieve stress.

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