Some years ago (in 2008) I wrote a paperback about the advantages of strengthening your strengths as opposed to overcoming your weaknesses.  There were (still are!) many reasons why focusing on strengths is preferable to struggling with weaknesses and, not surprisingly, in my book I rattled off a good many of them.  Here are just four:

Greater gains – improving something you are already good at transforms your performance whereas striving to improve something you are not good at will only give incremental gains.

More enjoyable – since you already enjoy doing the things you are good at, becoming even better at them is far more fun than the alternative.

Easier to persevere – when an activity is enjoyable you are far more likely to persist whereas forcing yourself to overcome a weakness is an uphill struggle and you are more likely to lose heart.

Feel-good factor – you feel more confident, positive and fulfilled when you focus on your strengths.  By contrast, weaknesses are depressing things, reminding you of past failures, criticisms and frustrations.   

Get the gist?   

The only problem with this upbeat approach is that it encourages you to ignore your weaknesses, allowing them, almost permitting them, to fester unmolested, beyond the reach of self-improvement.  So, as the a new year approaches with the inevitable invitation to make resolutions, I thought it would be fun to blow the dust off some of my weaknesses and to reconsider whether or not to do something about them.

But where to start? 

I suppose the answer is to proceed cautiously with admissible weaknesses.  It might also be wise to be highly selective, limiting myself to just four self-confessed weaknesses:

1  Changing the duvet cover.  I’m hopeless at this.  It’s always an unequal struggle!  I’d never hold down a job as a hotel chambermaid but, fortunately, this has never been an aspiration.  My wife has kindly written (in an indelible pen) on the duvet label ‘Label at the bottom’ and, even though I dutifully read this, somehow I still manage to mess things up.

2   Answering quiz questions.  One of my recurring nightmares has me as a contestant on the TV programme The Chase and, having disgraced myself with, say, a mere £1000 in the cash builder, a kindly Bradly Walsh says, ‘You’re a better player than that’.  But I know I’m not and I go on the prove it by being eliminated by the Chaser.  Do you ever watch a programme called Only Connect?  I can’t even understand the questions, let alone the answers!

3  Understanding flashbacks.   I like stories to unfold, like life, in chronological order.  Mucking about with timelines has me completely flummoxed.  I’ve been watching a TV programme called The Girl Before (I suppose the clue is in the title) with flashbacks aplenty and, even more confusingly, two characters, Jane and Emma, who are deliberately interchangeable.  To make sense of it I urgently require (a) everyone to wear name badges and (b) flashbacks to be clearly signalled by the screen going all wavy and/or for flashbacks to be in black and white. 

4  Forgetting passwords.   Need I say more?   Even the word password causes my blood pressure to leap.

Now that I have confessed to these weaknesses, I feel better!  Perhaps that’s all we need to do: admit to having the blasted things and move on?   In my book extolling the advantages of strengthening strengths, I attempt to address the issue of whether overcoming weaknesses is worth the struggle.  Here’s a quote: ‘It may be necessary to correct a behaviour that is hampering your performance, but the gain will always be less than concentrating on getting even better at a strength.’   Weasel words, eh?  Excuses, excuses.  Never mind, I still think new year resolutions would be more sustainable if they helped us to get better at the things we (a) enjoy and (b) are already good at. 

Happy New Year!    

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Talent, difficult to define, easy to spot