Fixing Your Weaknesses Is A Waste Of Time
By Dr. William K. Larkin on July 16, 2012
Stop wasting time trying to fix your weaknesses. We are caught up with notion of having to “work on” our deficits. Deficits do not get replaced until there is new behavior or a new plan in place. We grow from our strengths. We grow from having a better plan, from knowing and living a better and more effective way of being.
You have at least 10 major strengths that can rule your life. When you identify them and use them, your weaknesses become less and less and less. They show you a better way that is more in sync with who you are. In fact, your weaknesses are most importantly a sign of not using your strengths and letting them grow and take over your world.
Very often our weaknesses are the opposite of our strengths, and simply signs pointing to what the potential really is. If you can be good at your weaknesses, you can be far better at your strengths.
Our focus is on our deficits because they are negative. Negative things get immediate emotional reactions. We want to escape them. We feel guilt and we feel shame. We feel all of the things that reinforce our weaknesses and cause us to evade and avoid them, to obsess over them when we are anxious and fearful. Deficits get more airtime because the negative feelings associated with them just get seem to demand more attention. They carry a bigger immediate “punch” than our strengths.
Strengths are more gradual and satisfying over the long haul. It is much easier, though, to react quickly to our weaknesses than to give ourselves a pat on the back for using a strength, especially when we usually don’t know what the strength is or take it for granted, not realizing its significance.
Our weaknesses change very little over a lifetime, but our strengths are infinitely malleable.
We can show you how to play to your strengths, grow your strengths, and be happier. There is a direct correlation between using your strengths and becoming a happier person.
Your strengths are your super neuro-highways. This is why incarceration, punishment, and negative reinforcement work so poorly. They actually reinforce deficits rather than growing more positive behavior.
We think our weaknesses are us but they are merely signposts to what we could be. They are red alerts to move in the other direction. They are the indicators that something isn’t working.
Attack these weaknesses directly and they simply grow a hundred ugly heads in other directions. Stop feeding them with attention and focus all that energy on your strengths and see what happens.
Your weaknesses may never completely disappear. They are, after all, important signposts that you are going in the wrong direction. But they can become much better managed by your strengths.
And this is most important. You will feel better and happier and you will become more and more of who you really are.
We can show you how.
Our next NeuroPositive Life Class begins on October 22.
Make your reservation now by calling 760.636.1400
CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR COACHES
1) “Deficits get more airtime because the negative feelings associated with them just get seem to demand more attention. They carry a bigger immediate ‘punch’ than our strengths.” How has this proven true for you personally and professionally? How have you worked with clients or group members with ANI neuropositive coaching tools to address this issue? How have you used these tools with yourself?
FOR OUR LARGER BLOG COMMUNITY
1) How do you see the greater natural power of your strengths at play in your life? Personally or professionally? Tell us the story of a time when you were “at your best.” What strengths do you think were in play? How did they support you in manifesting personal or professional excellence?
Steve D wrote on Wed Jul 18th, 6:03pm:
I love knowing what my strengths are and have so much gratitude for putting them into play in theis new playground I find myself in. Maybe it’s my age, close to retirement , if not already there, but I look back on my life and see all that I have accomplished and I can write for hours on how each strength got me to where I am today. Then I sit with the present and see the power of coninuing to use them in my everyday life. I choose one each day to focus on ans delcare an intention with that strength to accomplish something even if it’s chilling out and doing nothing, there will be a related strength.
Seems like yesterday, 1973, half way through college with thoughts of deep despair, I remember saying to God, “just give me a chance to get out of this small town” and at least “be in the world”.
A man, alone, at that time…fast forward almost 40 years later and I’ve been blessed with an incredible life and journey.
I feel this moment in time is when I am thriving, at my personal best, complete with healign of the past, anchored in gratidue, love peace, joy inspired hope, and child-like innocnece. I am grateful for every moment of life. Collectively my strenfgths have formed the glue of how I live my life white achievement, adaptability, responsibility and with the additional strengths of vitality, love, and kindess. I feel it pulsing each day, in rhythm, in the flow.
Personal Best…right now!
Katherine wrote on Thu Jul 19th, 8:19am:
You will find in Tom Rath’s book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 a change in our old maximum of “you can be anything you want to be” to “you cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are (pg. 9)” provides a great starting point when exploring our strengths. The good news is that a strengths-based approach to life can “improve our confidence, direction, hope and kindness to towards others”, according to Gallup’s research (pg. 12).
The fact that our weaknesses will only change slightly over time and our strengths our what genius is made of sets the stage for developing an awareness of what our top 10 strengths are, recognizing when they are in play and developing our use of them more often.
Once I identified my top 10 strengths I completed The Strengths Portrait assessment (12 New Steps for a New Millennium, Dr. William Larkin – Appendix A [pg. 301]). This assessment is a way to find out which of your weaknesses are predominant in your life and provides a spectrum of how to find your way back to the strength that relates to that weakness.
It is important to memorize each one of your top 10 strengths. You can do this by writing them down and leaving them in many different places, like your desk, bathroom mirror, in your wallet, etc. One tool I used was my recorder on my smart phone. I simply recorded my top 10 strengths and would listen to that throughout the day. This works well for me since I am an auditory learner.
Once I completed my StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment I was able to access My Dashboard (strengths.gallup.com/) and I had lots of fun using many of their tools to reinforce and help memorize my strengths. One was the Certificate Creator that can be used to print door hangers of your top 5 strengths and you can hang them around your house for a reminder to live in your strengths.
Finally, once you have identified your strengths and understand their meaning it is time to start recognizing how they come into play throughout the week. Using my Plans to the Universe & Answers Back by Dr. Larkin has provided an opportunity for me to journal daily about my strengths. I start the day by creating an action plan. I consider my schedule and match which strength I can use to ensure success in an event and/or interaction coming up that day. I have positive expectations that my strengths will provide me with everything I need to succeed in whatever the endeavor is. Also, at the end of the day I will assess how I did and identify how the strength supported my success. This ongoing awareness is what helps me build my strength portfolio of successes supporting my increase competence and confidence in my activities.
chivalry57 wrote on Thu Jul 19th, 11:08am:
Yes, I can be polite and acknowledge my weaknesses or even the negativity that comes around. For me it means a lot less stress…whew!! I just tell them “Thanks, but no thanks!” I don’t have the time for them. I am simply leaning away from them or in some cases I am making a quick hard right turn away from them and keep speeding toward my goals with my plans in hand (my 5/5).
I know I am going to accomplish my goals and I know there will be some speed bumps, BUT!!, it is the knowing…the believing…and the openness of good things to come! Like anything in life that you want and is worth having or becoming…it does take time, concentrated effort, practice, dedication, have a good circle of supported people, keep my focus…mix all that with our positive emotions, well, that is what reels me back to the UpSpiral World and is keeping all of me there longer and longer. I am getting better at this “MIND STUFF” for sure!!
Much Gratitude To All
neuromind wrote on Sun Jul 22nd, 7:36pm:
Dr. Larkin writes, “Our focus is on our deficits because they are negative. Negative things get immediate emotional reactions… Deficits get more airtime because the negative feelings associated with them just seem to demand more attention. They carry a bigger immediate ‘punch’ than our strengths.”
Reading this blog took me back to a program I saw on PBS called Happy for No Reason. In this program and in her book with the same name, Marci Shimoff explores ways to build more happiness in our lives. The part that stayed with me and ties in with this blog is, “We’re still hard-wired the same way: we pay more attention to the negative than to the positive. As the psychologist and brain researcher Dr. Rick Hanson explained to me during our interview, our brains are ‘Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity.’ Our negative experiences stick to us like Velcro, while our positive experiences slide right off us like Teflon. In fact, researchers have found that it takes numerous positive experiences to overcome a single negative one!” (This makes a good argument for going to the emotional gym).
As someone with a top strength of Positivity, I have often wondered why there is MORE focus on negativity than positivity, more attention to our weaknesses and not to our strengths. Some would argue we are “hard wired for survival,” and without focus on feelings like fear or anger, we would not have survived. For example, the caveperson, who wasn’t driven by fight or flight, and who walked up to pet the saber tooth tiger wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale. This is one argument for negativity; however, over the years I have learned there are other views that do not reduce us down to reactionary survival machines.
Now there are more voices that direct us to the positive, voices like Dr. Larkin(Growing the Positive Mind), Dr. Barbara Fredrickson (Positivity), and Dr. Dacher Keltner (The Compassionate Instinct).
As a NeuroPositive Licensure Student I am drinking this all in, and watching how it fits with my clients as well as in my own life. Learning about my top 10 strengths and focusing on growing them (versus trying to fix weaknesses) has been helpful to me.
A top strength of mine is Strategic. In the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, one recommendation to grow this strength is to “Make yourself known as a resource for consultation with those who are stumped by a particular problem…By naturally seeing a way when others are convinced there is not way, you will lead them to success.” I am finding this to be true. In my corporate job I come in contact with many clients who are, as Rath says, convinced something cannot be done. My mind naturally goes in another direction, as a result clients are able to move more into an UpSpiral. As a coach, I keep a NeuroPositive frame, which helps my clients focus more on what is possible for them.
Recently a corporate client came to see me… there was a moment where I knew he could have headed into a downspiral and I helped redirect his focus to his strengths. The session remained constructive, and he walked away feeling more positive about the situation and what he could do by using his strengths.
livestrong81 wrote on Mon Jul 23rd, 12:16pm:
It is unfortunate that our society is focused so much on improving weaknesses. It seems as though the public school system is geared towards structure, systematic learning and expecting kids to adapt rather than adapting to the learning differences of specific learning styles. As a kid growing up, I did not get good grades, mostly because I was bored and nothing I was studying excited me. I didn’t know what I was good at and I didn’t feel that school was for me. Focusing on deficits is something I have done very naturally for most of my life. And its true, there is limited growth that can really take place. When I begin to focus on my strengths, I feel good about myself, like I have something to offer and really enjoy learning more and growing in those areas.
Looking back, I wish someone would’ve taken me aside and told me about strengths. I would have chosen a completely different academic experience and would have made different choices as an adult.
Thank goodness for neuroplasticity! I have the power to reprogram my brain and choose to strengthen different thought patterns for a more positive, healthy, creative experience. The last few months, I have really applied ANI excercises to my daily practice and although it hasn’t always been easy, I do feel a shift happening. My view of myself and who I am is shifting. I have learned a great deal in taking both the VIA Character Strengths test as well as the Strengths 2.0 test. Now that I have strengths to focus on, it becomes easier to problem solve and come up creative solutions. My brother has also taken one of the tests and has mentioned several times in this last week how impactful it has been for him.
Staying in a state of gratitude is a daily practice (and one of my strengths!) that I have adopted for my daily practice as well as doing my emotional gym excercises. Using the daily universe journal has helped me to stay focused for the day and to put the intention out there of what I wanted. I also use my Strength Heroes often and call upon them for advice.
Now, when I have a client or friend complaining about trying so hard to “fix” themselves to “fit” into a box of some sort, I refer back to the strengths test and tell them how focusing on their strengths will change how they view themselves. Its powerful and so simple! It feels good, to feel good!
Fiat Lux wrote on Mon Jul 23rd, 3:46pm:
Incorporating the practice of playing to my strengths in my professional life has completely changed
the way I perceive my value to an organization and in turn the way I show up in many group situations.
Many of my strengths and values are around relationship, connectedness, positivity, gratitude, the ability to love and be loved, individualization, communication. As such, I always found myself focusing on how to engage others in the organization’s mission in a way that empowered the individual. “WIN/WIN”.
Often times, my colleagues who appreciated my concern for them, would gently make fun of me calling me “the caretaker” or the Spiritual Godmother. I always felt somewhat embarrassed by my high touch approach and perceived that my concerns or behavior was not “corporate” enough…whatever that meant.
As soon as I started elevating the importance of playing to my strengths in my own “playbook”, I stopped apologizing for highlighting the human element in most work situations. I stopped trying to
bridge the gap between who I am and who I think I need to be in order to provide value.
The minute I stopped trying to be something other than who I am, opportunities flowed to me like bees to flowers which allowed me to be myself, give what I have to give, and appreciate how those gifts help others to be who they truly are. This work of this course has led me to those keen insights and made all the difference.
Suzanne wrote on Wed Jul 25th, 8:58am:
I remember the utter excitement and delight I felt when I first took the Strengths Finder test a few years ago. I was thrilled to read about ME! It was a good validation for what I, on some level, always knew to be true.
I was never comfortable focusing on my weaknesses.
When I was at my best: I had a career for over 25 years in the Performing Arts, as a professional dancer, choreographer and artistic director of a touring dance company. I had so much energy and enthusiasm for my work. Being in the creative field gave me tools of discipline, focus and a sense of purpose. It brings me great joy to look back on those days. I could never have had the success and excellence I did, without my strengths.
I recently had to defend myself to someone - for why I attend so many workshops in various spiritual and healing modalities. I explained that two of my top strengths are “Curiosity and interest in the world” and “Love of Learning”. And yes, I go to workshops, but then I choose those parts of what I have learned that I feel will benefit me, to add to my tool kit in order to be a stronger, more whole person. I am not ashamed of attending events.
I also took the “Strengths Portrait” at the back of the “12 Steps” book and was happy to see a high score.
I DO play to my strengths, I Do feel good, I DO feel free! Strengths Rock!
nickhhall wrote on Wed Jul 25th, 9:55pm:
Weaknesses are often focused on not simply because they “are negative,” it is usually because they create some kind of pain or dysfunction in a person’s life. This could be for one of two reasons: either a) they have expectations of being or performing or feeling a certain way which they are not (often because of social comparison), or b) one or more parts of their lives are very difficult due to a “weakness” (e.g., difficulty balancing their finances, difficulty reading social cues, their argumentative nature, etc.).
I would argue that this blog post mostly addresses the first reason - people’s expectations of themselves, usually due to social comparison: “I want to or should be this way and I’m not - I have a weakness here.” The less people focus on these kinds of weaknesses, the better. And what better way to deflect this focus than to focus on something positive and intrinsic - their strengths! (Rather than something extrinsic in the case of social comparison.)
The second reason - weakness that creates difficult life situations - is only partially addressed in “focusing on strengths.” Yes, we must definitely find and use our strengths to help and support these kinds of problems. However, not all weaknesses can be ignored. If you’re bad at math, you better learn your multiplication tables, you can’t simply ignore them. Yet, if you have a strength in musical ability, maybe you can use that strength to “strengthen the weakness” of math aptitude.
There’s a fine line between self-beratement for having a weakness and focusing solely on it to “fix” it, and accepting it/yourself for what it is, without paying attention to it if it is causing problems in your life. Pains and problems must be addressed, and sometimes, working on a weakness to strengthen it is the only way to solve it. We just have to make sure to not make the major focus of our lives be on weaknesses; they should be on what’s good and efficacious - our strengths. Even if they are in the service of our weaknesses.
gabenza wrote on Thu Jul 26th, 4:55pm:
This is the story I remember when I want to pulse joy when I do the emotional gym and during the day when I feel or encounter negativity. I love to dance. I have used my strength “love of learning” with dancing by taking many lessons and purchasing many how to dance videos. There was a dance contest coming up that I wanted to enter so I asked my boyfriend if he would take a lesson with me and watch some videos. He agreed. That was using my strength of “positivity”. I used my strength of input by combining my knowledge of many different dances and we came up with a routine. That used another strength” teamwork”. He had a medical problem and we stopped practicing. We decided to enter the contest on the way to the event. About 15 seconds into our routine he admitted that he had forgotten what to do next! I am still laughing as a remember this! This gave me the opportunity to use my strength of “mercy and forgiveness”. This struck me as extremely funny and I tried to tell hi to just dance like we always do, but I was laughing too hard. I eventually got it across to him, and he relaxed and smiled back. We took first place in that contest his first dance contest ever.
palmspringsesq wrote on Mon Jul 30th, 2:05pm:
The natural play of my strengths is significant in that they appear to be correlated to one another. At least they appear to be in that these strengths compliment one another. For instance, my strength of empathy is closely related to another of my strengths, Social Intelligence. All this while remembering the basics of the emotional gym, one does feel their particular strengths working throughout ones daily routine.
Steve D wrote on Sat Aug 4th, 1:15pm:
OK…so I’m an old guy <g> but then again I’ve had a lot of time to experience the full potential of life. And with the years of experience come an expanded level of consciousness. I would have to say that right now, and in this moment I am realizing my full potential for I am in th eprocess of discovering the tools that can sky rocket me forth into experiencing gratitude, love, peace, joy, inspired hope and child-like innocence every day of my life. I can choose to take every event in life, trusting in the divine order of the universe, and create a story or thoughts that align each to one of the six attributes. I am filled with joy to use my strengths throughout the day whether it be through: achiever, resonsibility, kindness, love, vitality, creativity, adaptibility, harmony, curioisty , or harmony. I can take any experience and use my strengths to view the “story” I create differently and use the “tools” of positive thought to consistently stay in an UpSpiral. Right now all of my actions, thoughts, and beliefs are in alignement with realizing my full potential…and I know with certainty I can only continue that journey by clearing the past, being at peace with what is and creative a life of love
Mary Garvey Horst wrote on Wed Aug 8th, 8:30am:
I appreciated reading Neuromind’s comments following this blog article about concepts discussed in Marci Shimoff’s book “Happy for No Reason” because I am about half way through reading this book. When I got to the section about “Velcro for Negativity and Teflon for Positivity” as Neuromind referenced in her post, I recalled Dr. Larkin’s voice in the UpSpiraLife Group Leader training sessions calling attention to the “stickiness” of a share. He would direct those of us who were group members to listen to a share and connect on the inside with what the person had described, particularly with how that felt within. He was assisting each of us in focusing our attention on a positive feeling from our own experience attached to what the member sharing had described. Rather than focusing on the stickiness or the velcro of negativity, Dr. Larkin was attuning the group to connect our velcro to the positive “stickiness” of a share. Velcro for positivity, rather than negativity….brilliant!
For me, this shift from weaknesses to strengths and from negativity to positivity relates to adapting a new “script” for my life. I can write a better story for my life! I am in the process of living that better story that incorporates my strengths. Once I learned that a slump into weakness offered me the opportunity to choose from a strength, I started to re-program myself. I tune into my own internal guidance system (GPS) of my feelings and when I experience a slump, I know that it is time to re-orient myself toward the positive by engaging one (or more) of my Top 10 Strengths. The more practice and skill that I developed in doing this for myself, the more readily I began to hear it in the conversations of my coaching clients. It has become second nature to hear where a client needs to velcro to positivity, rather than focus on negativity or weakness. The next prompt becomes: What strength can you apply to this situation in order for the outcome to change for the better? As this process unfolds, the client becomes more and more adept at navigating his or her own life by engaging with strengths, rather than weaknesses. The outcome is infinitely more satisfying!
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