Weaknesses Are Strengths Running Amok

March 15, 2011

In recent years, when I’ve come up against resistance to doing something, I’ve typically seen it as a sign that learning or growth is required of me in some way.

I’ve assumed that regaining flow and ease requires me to identify and dissolve a limiting belief. Or examine and move through my fears of doing something new. Or stretch myself in some way.

Everything is a potential lesson, right?

Except these days I just don’t have the patience for it.

Lately, I’ve been responding differently to moments of resistance.

I’ve set aside all the self-improvement and chosen instead to see resistance as a sign that I’ve merely made things much much too complicated.

Considering my firm belief in keeping things simple, you’d think I would have noticed this before.

Planning being one of my superpowers, I can come up with an overcomplicated strategy blindfolded and with one arm tied behind my back.

It’s so easy I don’t notice how needlessly convoluted I’ve made things for myself until I feel totally repulsed and overwhelmed by the work of actually carrying out my plan.

it’s a sign of distortion

This month in the Maintenance Department we’re talking about working with rather than against our hardwiring – our innate preferences and tendencies.

I’m an advocate for radical self-acceptance of our hardwiring. I think all those innate traits can be powerful – even serve as our superpowers.

But every talent can be taken a little too far.

Maybe it’s true that we have genuine weaknesses. But what if our weaknesses are merely distortions of our strengths?

  • It’s not that I have a weakness for making things complicated, it’s that I sometimes let my planning superpowers run amok.
  • It’s not that I have a weakness for perfectionism, it’s that I occasionally let my talent for refinement get completely out of hand.
  • It’s not that I have a weakness for isolation, it’s that now and then I let my preference for recharging from within go on too long.
  • It’s not that I have a weakness for being a couch-potato, it’s that I often let my tendency to live in my head become too dominant.

There’s tremendous usefulness in being able to create a strategy, give attention to detail, draw upon your own resources, or engage your intellect – until there isn’t.

When our strengths stop serving us as they should, it’s time to pull back.

less is more

It’s easy to assume we are lacking – that something needs to be gained rather than taken away for us to be Strong. Good. Whole. Okay.

But what if we are already enough?

What if we already have all the talents we need for success and the only thing we are lacking is a better understanding of how best to use them?

What if by simply noticing when we’ve crossed into distortion – and bringing ourselves back into right-relationship with our powers – the weaknesses resolve themselves?

What if by pulling back a bit, balance is restored and what we need naturally fills the space we’ve opened by doing so?

Without all the self-improvement.

what this has to do with productivity

Responding to resistance with simplification has proven to be a very efficient and effective use of my time and energy.

Partly because that’s the nature of simplification, but also because I am strengthening a strength, rather than beating myself up about exploring solutions to a perceived weakness.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, it is our strengths – not something we are lacking – that help us to understand how we are overusing them and what to do about it.

  • It’s my planning superpowers that allow me to pare down an overcomplicated strategy (and learn how to make them simpler in future).
  • It’s my talent for refinement that allows me to see how I am ruining something by trying to perfect it (and learn how to avoid repeating the same mistakes).
  • It’s my understanding of my inner world that allows me to become aware of when I need to get out of my head and into my body or connect with others (and learn how act on that feedback before I get achy or crazy).

Developing trust and confidence in our strengths – knowing how to skillfully wield them, understanding what they can and cannot do for us – is the shortcut.

It takes a huge amount of energy to try change who we are, to attempt to trade one set of strengths for another – to always be fixing things.

Just the mindset of brokenness is draining.

When we put the bulk of our time and effort into self-improvement, that doesn’t leave much left for getting things done – whether that’s achieving ambitious goals or just moving through the ordinary tasks of an ordinary day.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do, consider dropping personal repair from your schedule for awhile.

When things feel “off” in your work or life in some way, consider the possibility that you’re simply overusing one of your strengths.

Rather than assuming the undesirable situation in which you find yourself is the result of some shortcoming that needs a complete overhaul, just try pulling back a bit until things start to feel right, balanced or exciting again.

Then pay attention to the effect that has on your to-do list.

• • • • •

Organized under Uncategorized.

7 responses

  1. These are some of the most useful ideas I’ve heard in a long time. It’s exciting to think of how paying attention to them might create change. Or since creating change might be one of my overused strengths, not! Thanks for getting me thinking this way.

  2. The Thesis Whisperer has written about a similar issue in relation to PhD students. In particular, how time management problems might actually be curiosity run amok. I suspect creative entrepreneurs might also suffer from a “curiosity problem” from time to time.

    http://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/what-is-your-dark-side/

  3. You are one of the few jewels I’ve found on the web. Thank you for this.
    I too tend to overuse my talent for refinement and my understanding of my inner world run wild at times.
    But, up until now, I didn’t considered them as strengths being overused.
    Talk about a paradigm shift.

  4. This is great. I have always thought of strengths and weaknesses as traits that are on a continuum and the things I love about others and myself do often seem to be tied to the same qualities I admire. Nicely put. Thank you.


  5. 1249 days ago,
    Cairene said:

    @ Carolina –
    Aw, thanks! So pleased you found a useful shift in perspective here. -C


  6. 1249 days ago,
    Cairene said:

    @ JoVE – Great link. Thanks! -C


  7. 1158 days ago,
    Kristeen said:

    This is a subject that has been coming up quite a lot this year for me and everyone I have worked with. I really appreciate your writing on this subject, very helpful.