Fundamentally Shifting from Covering for my Weaknesses to Exploiting my Strengths

Growing up as an ethnic minority person, it was easy for others to point to my weaknesses, or just a relevant one, to support some claim or thought they had that I was inferior. Sometimes it felt as if whatever they pointed out, to them, was either the only thing that mattered, or mattered so much it should be the only thing that mattered, or as if nobody else had a weakness, or that particular weakness. I also didn’t like the idea of having very visible, obvious and/or very weak weaknesses. I might have even bought into the mentality of those who isolated my weaknesses in thinking I were like a chain, where I’d only be as strong as my weakest link… though I thought they were, too! ūüėČ

As a result, with regards to strengths and weaknesses, I’ve generally spent my life strengthening my weaknesses, sometimes to the point where they became my strengths! I wasn’t athletic as a scrawny little kid, so I became a recreational athlete in playing ball hockey, soccer and trying some sprinting, despite not being good at any of it. I am naturally fast twitch muscle type (I have a ACTN3 speed gene), which is good for those things, but lacked endurance and the slow twitch muscle type for it. So I worked on endurance and ended up running 31 marathons, qualifying for Boston on my 18th and some subsequent others, even ending up on a varsity level cross-country team in my mid-30s! Then there’s humour, one of my Signature Strengths, where I went from having no sense of humour to doing amateur stand-up and having to keep it in check so I don’t get in trouble, especially at work, for being too liberal or inappropriate. I got myself multiple artistic sides for a very technical nerd growing up, who is still a go to person for tech matters at work. I write classical form poems and songs. I play instruments and sing. I draw and paint. I always used to be methodical, not spontaneous, but now, while my job relates to being methodical, I could jump into an improv acting skit any time! I could go on and on.

Once at work, a former supervisor name Mary B mentioned that I should focus on my strengths to develop them more, than cover for my weaknesses, though I should do that as well. However, seeing as my strengths weren’t generally utilized nearly to their capacities, I continued to work on my weaknesses at work as I did in life. That’s not a bad thing, but upon learning about how positive psychology shows people are happier, or happiest, when able to utilize their Signature Strengths (i.e. strongest Character Strengths), I’ve decided to make a complete fundamental shift in my life to start exploiting my strengths rather than work on my weaknesses! I’m in this Science of Well-being to learn and try things, so I figured the least I could do is give this a try, even if it is a big fundamental shift in life. That’s¬†before I hack the system in my own ways to improve it for myself and/or its impact, which is how I usually learn things and then get creative with them, sometimes before I complete the learning if I feel competent enough with what I’m learning to branch out and accept risks I can foresee.

 

What could possibly go wrong?

In living focused more on my Signature Strengths rather than covering for my “Signature Weaknesses”, I leave myself “vulnerable” to more “risks” any time I need to use skills or show traits relating to those weaknesses, which are:

¬†CATEGORY¬† ¬†‚ÄúSIGNATURE¬†WEAKNESS‚ÄĚ
 Wisdom  Love of Learning
 Temperance  Forgiveness
 Temperance  Humility
 Courage  Bravery
 Transcendence  Spirituality
 Justice  Teamwork
 Humanity  Love

 

Looking at that list, I’m not the least bit worried, to be honest. My “Signature Weaknesses” are strong enough at this stage in life that I think they’ll hold their own if put to the test without me attending much to them for a while. The text below explains how I came to that conclusion there would be minimal “risk” involved, which means I can wholly turn my focus to using my Signature Strengths:

  • Love of learning isn’t a true weakness given my Curiosity Signature Strength to learn and try new things, and Judgment Signature Strength to think things through, analyze them, before concluding and likely showing my Creativity Signature Strength to “hack” whatever I’m learning for “my” customized version of it that either suits me better and/or lets me get more impact.
    .
  • Forgiveness I can do in the true sense of the word when it really counts. Otherwise, I walk away with faith that my karma will more than take care of things towards those I might need to forgive, as explained in a previous post going through my entire set of Character Strengths.
    .
  • Humility, well, I’m just finishing off a month where I’ll have spent all of $84 Cdn on all food and drinks. I made almost every meal, with most being quite good and healthy, and made social and other sacrifices not to spend more money on food, all to make sure I still appreciate the value of money, and what those who don’t have a lot of it have to put up with, in the smallest of ways, when I’m in no danger of running out of money. You tell me who else does things like that and if I should worry about my humility?
    .
  • Bravery is not just physical bravery, but moral and other kinds of bravery as well. I have Honesty as a Signature Strength, to say the truth when I feel like I need to. That’s the most common kind of Bravery I have to display on a regular basis, so I’m not afraid about having to cover for this “Signature Weakness”. Also, making a full 180 degree fundamental shift in life philosophies and life style isn’t Bravery? How often do people have the courage to do that in their lives, even with small risks as I’m seeing in analysis here before committing.
    .
  • Spirituality is only this low for me because it relates to something divine, in the way the questions were asked. I’m not much for the divine, just generally accepting things will eventually turn out well in the universe. I’m much more spiritual through self-analysis, constant self-improvement, and such… including this whole analysis and commitment to changing my life and lifestyle focus to my Signature Strengths rather than my “Signature Weaknesses”.
    .
  • Teamwork may be troublesome as I do collaborate a lot at work. I won’t completely turn my back on this one, but looking out for 1 of my 7 “Signature Weaknesses”, and at less effort than before, I’ll still be focusing mostly on Signature Strengths, by far!
    .
  • Love is only low for me through circumstance mostly beyond my control, and some by choice not to engage in it where I live due to the biases in those circumstances. It has nothing to do with my capability that, as said in¬†the previous post going through my entire set of Character Strengths,¬†I don’t have a doubt Love could be one of my Signature Strengths if given the chance. Given the circumstance I live in won’t likely change for me, and I had neglected Love all this time, I’m not worried that if, by some crazy chance, an opportunity for love came my way in life, my capacity for Love will be more than enough to give myself the best shot at capturing that love and making that love last.

 

How will I make this fundamental shift?

Making fundamental shifts in life is like turning around an ocean liner rather than a unicycle. You don’t do it on a dime, though maybe a paradigm (haha), but rather over time. I will start with some daily activities first, like getting back to more of some things I’m strong at rather than trying more new things I’ve tried lately and have been working to improve on them. Trying new things is exhibiting my Signature Strengths like Curiosity and Creativity, but some of these things I’ve been working on to improve like drawing, isn’t that “new” to me any more in the ways I’ve been doing them. I will have to find more “new” (to me) ways of doing them for them to be showing my Signature Strengths rather than covering for my “weaknesses”. It’s a complicated deal with some very fine lines to straddle, but I think I’ve got it figured out, and starting small is generally not a bad thing.

Over time, I’ll start into bigger things that will utilize my Signature Strengths and/or that I’ve been good at, like maybe designing a dress collection rather than just some odd mix of garments that don’t really go together, and which I haven’t been at much in the past year or so. I’ll figure out more possibilities with time as I think about it. I’ll give myself a couple of days before starting on Fiscal New Year on April 1st. No April Fool’s joke! But I have that intent to start living focused on my Signature Strengths now, at least. I may go overboard in neglecting my weaknesses at some point in this shift, but I’ll make the corrections as I need, and possibly more than once. It’s hard to turn an ocean liner to exactly where you want it to point without either going past and correcting, likely several times over, or really slowing down long before approaching the direction desired. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make my course corrections without straying too far off where I want to go and have to deal with big consequences.

 

Here’s to my new approach to life! ūüôā

 CATEGORY   SIGNATURE  STRENGTH
 Wisdom  Creativity
 Wisdom  Curiosity
 Courage  Honesty
 Transcendence   Hope
 Transcendence  Humour
 Courage  Zest
 Wisdom  Judgment

 

To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.

And click here if you want to register for the Science of Well-being course, by Professor Laurie Santos, free on Coursera!

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