I hope you are having a great summer. Only about 150
days left to accomplish your 2011 objectives.
Most of my clients develop an annual personal development
program. They outline what they want to do to get better
in some areas of their life. Sometimes it is to learn
something new, but many times there is emphasis on getting
real good at something they do well.
This month I would like to focus some energy on our
The Road to Self-improvement
"Most Americans do not know what their
strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a
blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge,
which is the wrong answer." Peter Drucker "
To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming,
is the only end of life." Baruch Spinoza
Most of us have a poor sense of our talents and strengths.
Throughout our education and careers, there is a lot of attention
paid to our weaknesses. We are acutely aware of our faults
and deficits, our “opportunities for development, or whatever
euphemism is popular for naming them.
Parents, teachers and managers are all experts in spotting
deficits. In fact, most parents, teachers and managers consider
it their responsibility to point out flaws and try to help
us correct them.
We have become experts in our own weaknesses and spend our
lives trying to repair our flaws, while our strengths lie
dormant and neglected. The research, however, is clear: we
grow and develop by putting emphasis on our strengths, rather
than trying to correct our deficits.
Most people don’t concern themselves with identifying their
talents and strengths. Instead, they choose to study their
weaknesses. A Gallup poll investigated this phenomenon by
asking Americans, French, British, Canadian, Japanese and
Chinese people of all ages and backgrounds the question: Which
do you think will help you improve the most: knowing your
strengths or knowing your weaknesses?
The Path to Improvement:
Strengths or Weaknesses?
The answer was always the same: weaknesses, not strengths,
deserve the most attention. The most strengths-focused culture
is the United States, but still only a minority of people,
41 percent, felt that knowing their strengths would help them
improve the most. The least strengths-focused cultures are
Japan and China. Only 24 percent believe that the key to success
lies in their strengths. The majority of people in the world
don't think that the secret to improvement lies in a deep
understanding of their strengths. Interestingly, in every
culture the older people (55 and above) were the least fixated
on their weaknesses. Perhaps they have acquired more self-acceptance
and realize the futility of trying to be what they are not.
Why are Weaknesses so Attractive?
Why do so many people avoid focusing on their strengths? Weaknesses may be fascinating and strangely mesmerizing, like watching soap operas and Jerry Springer shows. But the attraction lies in the fact we deeply fear our weaknesses, our failures and even our true self. Some people may be reluctant to investigate their strengths because they may fear there isn't much in the way of real talent or strength inside them anyway, or that they are just average (again, ingrained from education models). Or, maybe there is a feeling of inadequacy, an "imposter syndrome," and an underlying fear of being found out. Despite your achievements, you may wonder whether you are as talented as everyone thinks you are. You suspect that luck and circumstance may have played a big part in your getting to where you are today. However, if you do not investigate your strengths, for any of the above fears and feelings of insecurity, you will miss out on discovering more of who you really are. You will miss out on becoming who you are really meant to be.
Too Close to See?
You are probably not as cognizant of your strengths as
you could be because most of us take them for granted. We
are so embedded in our strengths, we are not aware of them
as strengths. We think everybody is that way too. It never
occurs to us to be any other way; it is just natural for us.
This way of thinking excludes developing our strengths and
becoming even stronger and more brilliant. You can’t develop
what you don’t recognize. You can’t expand what you are not
aware of. Building on your strengths is also about responsibility.
You probably don’t take pride in your natural talents any
more than you would take pride in your sex, race, or hair
color. Natural talents are gifts from God and your gene pool.
However, you have a great deal to do with turning your talents
into strengths. You can take your talents into the realm of
excellence. It involves becoming acutely aware, developing
an action learning plan, and “practice, practice, practice”.
Viewed in this light, to avoid your strengths by focusing
on your weaknesses is almost a sign of irresponsibility.
The Courage to Be Brilliant
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest
fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves,
`Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually,
who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing
small doesn’t serve the world.
The most responsible, yet the most challenging, thing to do
is to face up to your natural talents. It is an honor to have
such blessings. Do not waste them. Step up to the potential
inherent in your talents and find ways to develop your strengths.
Be true to yourself by becoming more of who you really are.
This advice is easy to give and difficult to put into practice.
It is easier when working with a trained professional coach.
Working with your coach can make it easier for you to identify
your talents and strengths. There are also a number of online
self-assessments available to help. Once your five top strengths
are identified, you can examine how they show up in your life.
It is a process of a few steps back, a few steps forward,
and learning as you go. It is not the same as book learning.
The only way to learn about your strengths is to act, learn,
refine, and then act, learn, refine. Open yourself to feedback.
This means you must be strong and courageous. Personal development
is not for sissies.
Discovering your true strengths is the path towards improvement
and success. When you pay attention to your deficits and try
to overcome them, you are placing emphasis on becoming what
you are not. You wind up living a second-rate version of someone
else’s life rather than a world-class version of your own.
Please forward this to one of your
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I continue to be humbled by your
kind remarks about this newsletter. Thank you for sharing
it with friends. Our subscriptions continue to grow. During
these last days of summer, I suggest to my clients that
this is an excellent time to make a list of all the things
that you are thankful for. I hope a high energy level is
on your list. I am very aware that managing energy is much
more important than managing time.
Managing energy versus managing time is a new concept for
many of us. Give me a call or send me an email if you’d
like more information on how I can help you develop this
The highest compliment you can give us is to refer your
family and friends.
For the last twenty
years Jerry has been president of his own firm. He has spent his
career helping small business organizations grow and succeed. He
has a passion for success that he shares with his clients. His current
focus is providing executive and personal coaching to persons who
are interested in improving their effectiveness and their ability
to be successful. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with
The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Plan Consultant.
Jerry has facilitated planning retreats and planning sessions for
Jerry’s experience includes serving as Vice-president of Marketing
for IGA staff office, Vice-president of membership for the National
Grocers Association, Sr. Vice-president of procurement for Shurfine
International and the Managing Director of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.
Jerry is an Eagle Scout. He lives in Chicago with his wife Terri.
Jerry spends his volunteer time as a coach and consultant for The
Executive Service Corps of Chicago, an organization committed to
help the non-profits in the community improve.
Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
e-mail me by clicking here