What happens when you let go of your weaknesses and focus on your strengths?
Naturally, with any change in direction in life that involves "letting go," there is an associated feeling of failure, of "giving up," of being a "quitter," words trained into us since we were young children as BAD.
An entire future post will be focused on how to know when to quit, but today's post is about what happens when you finally make the decision to let go of a weakness and move on. Maybe that weakness was in the form of a sport, a career path, a job, a relationship, a hobby: whatever it was, odds are there will be a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety before you finally decide to let it go. But then what happens?
For most people, the first feeling is one of relief. Indecision is a major hidden stress and just the act of deciding is a major release. The second feeling that emerges is a sense of additional willpower, bandwidth and energy emerging. It is a well published fact that human willpower is in limited supply: we use it up. Relentless focus on weakness eats up willpower like Pac-Man eats glowing dots. Letting go of a weaknesses and designing around them can feel like getting half your brain back. Third, refocusing on strengths creates greater resiliency. When less and less of your day is spent playing whack-a-mole with weaknesses and instead is spent building momentum on areas of passion and capability then when the inevitable obstacles emerge, a strengths focused individual will be better able to clamber up and over them.
Examples: David Rendall was a high strung kid who found himself regularly in trouble with school teachers and officials because he couldn't sit still, talked too much, was the class clown and didn't like to be told what to do. Years of remedial discipline and training to "fix" these weaknesses had little to no effect. Later, however, David decided to let them go... as weaknesses, and instead embraced these same traits for what they are in the right environment: strengths. Now Dave's career is spent talking incessantly, telling jokes along the way, while never sitting down or sitting still, and working for himself as a highly regarded public speaker.
When I (John K. Coyle) was an aspiring olympic athlete, the coaches had me focus incessantly on my weaknesses. In so doing I went from 12th in the world to not even making the team in two short years. After I let go of my weaknesses, and instead began "racing my strengths," a year later I not only beat my own personal record by more than 5 seconds in a sport where improvements are measured in 1/100ths of a second, but skated faster than the world record and earned an Olympic silver medal.
Gillian Lynne was labeled as having a learning disorder - as artfully told in his excellent TED talk by Sir. Ken Robinson.
She couldn't concentrate, was fidgety and a poor student. Fortunately someone intervened and recognized a hidden strength, "Gillian isn't sick; she's a dancer. Take her to dance school." And they did. Gillian went on to become a dancer for the Royal Ballet and a choreographer for shows including Cats and Phantom of the Opera, becoming a multimillionaire in the process.
Letting go is never easy, finding your strengths is no small task, and finding the right environment for your strengths to have natural resonance may be the hardest part of all. But... when the rule of (Strengths X Environment(squared)) plays out, world changing performances result.
Have you ever let go of a weakness? Is it time to "quit" something and place your energy elsewhere? Please share your story.