A few weeks ago I was reading a book and came across an idea that had never occurred to my perfectionist mind.
It’s better to work on improving what you’re best at rather than your weaknesses.
After years of mental self-flagellation over every little shortcoming, my soul was ready for a change. I quickly realized that the solution to many of my problems, including perfectionistic thinking, was to learn and live within my strengths.
I knew I was good at a few things but never really understood their importance to my progression. After nearly 30 years, I have developed the unfortunate habit of burying many of my talents in favor of doing what everyone else tells me.
It was time to change all of that.
Understanding the inhibition I had towards admitting my own gifts, I turned to others for the information I needed. Here’s the exact pattern I followed to discover my skills, and how you can do to find your strengths also.
1. I asked the people who know me best
I made a mental list of the people who are closest to me and sent out a quick text to ask if they could help. I worded it something like this:
“Hey, so, I’m not great at knowing my strengths, and I could really use your help. What am I good at or what are some of my strengths?”
I sent this or a similar message to my Mom, Dad, best friends, and closest cousin. I also asked my wife in person to tell me her ideas. My goal was to get as many different but reliable sources as I could.
I was astounded at the answers, many of them revealing similar things about my character. My Dad sent me an entire page in response. I learned things about myself that I never knew how to put into words.
My confidence grew instantly as the feedback trickled in.
The next step was to gather everyone’s responses together.
2. I compiled the answers in one place
I may have an addiction to creating spreadsheets. I’ve got budgets, planners, goal-trackers, and more all in the form of Google Sheets documents. It’s wildly effective for recording and reporting just about anything.
And it just so happens to be one of my gifts, too. I wouldn’t be able to admit that if it weren’t for going through this exercise.
After a few days, I had received replies from most of those I had asked. After reviewing them, I created a new spreadsheet and listed them all there.
I put a note by the ones I saw multiple times. I re-organized the sheet to have the talents with the greatest multipliers at the top so I can work on those first.
I also made columns for a one-word version, ways I can improve each, and how I’m already working on it.
Here’s what the result looks like:
If you want to copy it for your own use, you can hit “File” in the upper left corner and then click “Make a Copy” to save to your own Google Drive.
3. I refer to the spreadsheet often to improve
As with anything important, this exercise only works if you do. To grow your confidence and progress, you have to review your list frequently.
Many times when I am down or lacking confidence in my abilities, I look back on these responses to recover my courage. It works every time. I’ve grown my confidence more in the last few months after doing this than I did in the previous two decades combined.
Another unanticipated but welcome effect is that my thinking patterns are improving. Whenever I’m tempted to beat myself up, I remember the words of encouragement and praise from those who love me most.
I know that no matter how loud the dysfunctional voice in my head gets, it’s always lying to me.
I’m not a terrible person because I have loads of gifts.
I can do whatever I set out to because I was made to make it happen.
I have every reason to live confident and happy working within my talents.
Following these simple steps has transformed my life in small and simple, yet profound and lasting ways. I am confident they can do the same as you use them to find your strengths too.