What are your impediments?
The activities that drain your energy and put you into mental paralysis.
Because your impediments will keep you from working toward your goals and vision.
Weaknesses – What Is Holding You Back?
You can’t talk about strengths and not discuss weaknesses. There are three types of ideologies around these two highly related concepts. Some people think you should focus one hundred percent on your strengths and forget about the weaknesses. The other idea is to continuously concentrate on eliminating shortcomings. Lastly, the third idea, which I subscribe to, is that you need to do both, but not equally.
The reason behind the first group’s idea is that by putting all your efforts into your strengths, you will become so productive in what you do that your weaknesses won’t matter. The second group reasons that by continually working on eliminating your weaknesses, you give more space for your strengths to manifest.
Well, here’s the problem with both of those extreme theories: your strengths and weaknesses span all aspects of your life. Your life contains physical, mental, emotional, and social or spiritual dimensions. If you had all your strengths and weaknesses clustered into one area, then perhaps the two theories above would work. But that is rarely the case.
We all lean more toward one or the other. People who grow up with a significantly better-developed mental side might find themselves left behind physically or emotionally. All combinations that you can think of are present. And the critical thing to remember is that they are not isolated boxes closed off from one another.
These life dimensions cross over and interact with each other profoundly and powerfully. When you are in an emotional black hole, you feel it physically and mentally. If you are physically sick and weak, you’ll feel it in the level of energy you can put toward mental activities. This is an ecosystem that needs some form of balance to function correctly.
Therefore I firmly believe that taking the time to identify and name your weaknesses, and learning how to work around them while in parallel pushing yourself to become better in those areas where you are naturally strong, is the best combination. If I were to put some numbers on it, I’d say that the focus should be about 70% on strengths and 30% on weaknesses.
Because you put less emphasis on weaknesses than you put on strengths, it is imperative to make sure you tackle first those weaknesses that impede your progress the most. So, with strengths, you map them to your goals and figure out which one to sharpen. With weaknesses, you need to identify them in the context of your entire life and choose the one with the most negative impact to work on.
Here’s an example that affects 75% of the population, according to studies: public speaking. Note that, although it matters, your ability (or lack thereof) to speak in proper and compelling sentences and communicate logical and easy-to-understand thoughts is not what drives the fear of public speaking. Behind the words is an emotional fear of looking bad, of sounding stupid, of not being accepted or being rejected, of being humiliated or laughed at.
That is a significant weakness, and if you address that one alone, you can unlock an enormous amount of potential. Perhaps your strength lies in your ability to synthesize ideas into beautiful charts and presentations that are compelling and informative. But you are too afraid to get out there and present them in front of anybody. Getting over that impediment would unlock your ability to leverage your strength, which has been held back by your weakness.
Methods For Identifying Weaknesses
Much as with your strengths, identifying your weaknesses will require a certain level of self-awareness and introspection. Here are the three fundamental methods you will need to use:
- Looking at your missing strengths.
- Self-reflection on your past.
- Inquiring with your close circle.
1 Looking at your missing strengths
As you went through the strengths exercise, there were items that you didn’t mark as strengths. When you read them, you thought, “That is absolutely not me.” Or, perhaps you took one or both of the strength-finding tests I recommended, and you saw a bunch of low scores toward the tail-end of the results. Your missing or lesser strengths could be a hint toward weaknesses. It’s not 100% that way, but by and large a very low score or a gut-feeling of “This is not me,” or “This scares the crap out of me,” could point toward a weakness.
Therefore, begin by exploring the analysis of your strengths, and see if you can pull some items from there that sound like they could be your weaknesses.
2 Self-Reflecting on your past
Your past is the best indicator of your weaknesses, and you must be open-minded and honest with yourself in order to uncover what hides in there. Remember that your instinct is to ignore your weaknesses and make your brain focus somewhere else. You don’t want to remember that embarrassing moment when you saw a member of the opposite sex and you froze before you could say a word. You don’t want to recall the time when you had to present your project in front of your co-workers and you started sweating through your shirt until you looked like it was raining on only you.
Those are indicators of weaknesses, and your brain is a master at protecting you from those feelings, much as it protects you from putting your hand in the fire after that time you got burned. So you must force yourself to remember: you have to go back to those times in your mind and recreate those emotions.
To do so, split your past into chunks of ten years. Depending on your situation, the farther they go, the more cloudy and less clear the memories will be. So start with the most recent ten years. Ask yourself:
- What activities or events did I dread doing?
- What are the things that drained my energy and left me lethargic?
- What was I afraid of, and what situations have I run away from because of fear?
- What are some things I always knew were right for me, but I procrastinated often in that area?
One way that works well is to recall actual experiences; pinpoint the issue and remember a story evocative of that moment. Recall how it made you feel, how you reacted, what you said, how you and the people around you interacted. Through those personal stories, you'll be able to dig deeper and deeper into your weaknesses.
3 Inquiring with your close circle
We all have blind spots, and the reason they are blind is just that—because we can't see them. And not only that we don't see them, but often when people point them out to us, we resist believing them.
If someone came to you and pointed out a smudge of food on your face, you'd wipe it off immediately. That's because such a comment is not only easy to believe, it's also easy to fix. You won't run to the bathroom to verify it first. Instead, you'll believe the person, even if you don't know them. You don't need trust for something so trivial and easy to address.
But what if someone told you that your speech was impossible to understand because you spoke too low and constantly looked down while wiping the sweat off your face? Or what if your spouse or child told you that last week when they were feeling emotionally vulnerable and needed support, you brushed it off and moved on with your life?
Those things sound... wrong. Because admitting them means admitting to your flaws, and that you might be different than how you believe you are. And that is damn scary, because it's a direct attack on your identity.
Well, take a breath. Understand that the way you appear to others might be different from how you think you are, and also from how you really are. And this is where trust comes into play. A person who gives you feedback must be already in your trusted circle.
A personal psychiatrist is in your trusted circle. Your best friend, your parents, or your spouse—they all should be in your trusted circle, except for some very specific reasons.
You see, these people, who have lived with you and have known you for the longest time, have a different perspective that you lack. Be open-minded enough and let them speak. Although they are in your trusted circle, take their advice at face value, but also analyze it yourself because the context in which they provide feedback matters.
Be mindful of the other person's strengths and weaknesses, too. Feedback from a person who has the same shortcomings as you have may not be helpful, depending on their level of self-awareness. Look for people who have a matching strength or who have demonstrated their ability to overcome their weaknesses. Look for a role-model, not an enabler.
Also, consider the context of the relationship. For example, if you haven't spoken with your brother in ten years because you had a nasty fight, asking him for feedback might not result in useful information. So context is critical.
To begin, think about the top five people you trust the most. They can be professionals you've worked with, such as a shrink or psychologist, close friends, or members of your family. Approach them and ask them:
- What do you think my weaknesses are?
- What do you think I could do better?
Don't be afraid to go personal and in-depth. These questions are very open-ended, and you might be surprised where they take you. Keep in mind that you are talking with another person; don't make it all about you. Ask questions that reveal ways in which perhaps you've hurt or upset these people through your behavior. Those might be hints toward weaknesses.
What Are Your Weaknesses?
I know it's odd to actively think about and document your weaknesses, but please click the download link below and power through this worksheet. Soon you'll be glad you did. Once you complete it, jump straight to the next phase, Discover Your Skills.
Feedback, Comments, Suggestions, Testimonials
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