5 Fascinating Ways to Transform Your Weaknesses into Strengths

Techniques for Turning Weaknesses into Strengths…

Photo by Maranatha Pizarras on Unsplash

I remember a story I heard once of a prison warden who worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the men in his prison. One day someone told him to stop doing this because “leopards just don’t change their spots!”

The warden responded with something to the effect of,

“Leopards don’t change their spots. But I don’t work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day.”

I firmly believe in the power of human growth, human change, and that we can and should be constantly revising and improving ourselves.

It takes a lot of conditioning and hard work to change ourselves, to fix our weaknesses but I also believe we have all the resources inside of us to do so, especially when we stack the cards in our favor…

These are the 5 strategies I’ve found to transform weaknesses into strengths…

5. Treat Your Weaknesses Like a To-Do List

“In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure. In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve.” — Derek Sivers

Weaknesses can be changed, especially when we treat them less like extreme downfalls and more like a to-do list…

In his book The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence, Josh Waitzkin, world-renowned master of both chess and Tai-Chi, explains that success is all about investing in loss, enjoying the process of learning, and never believing the world is fixed around us.

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity.” —Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

Something I heard from Tai Lopez once really rings true to this,

“Once a monkey is put into a zoo, it gets depressed because it feels helpless to hunt for its own food and control its own destiny. Even when you take the monkey out of the cage and return it to the jungle, it usually will still act helpless and just sit and starve to death. It doesn’t realize that it’s no longer helpless now that it’s out of the zoo cage.” — Tai Lopez

My mind was formerly a lot like this monkey who believed it was always in a cage.

I confess… I had a very fixed mindset…

Whenever anything great came along my typical response was usually, “well I can’t do that because of bla bla bla” or “Oh I probably won’t achieve that because of ma ma ma” (and so on).

I’m still a work in progress, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I’m my own worst enemy and that I need to take a lot less offense when it comes to weaknesses. I try look at my weaknesses as a means to grow and change because that is the fun and essential part of life anyways.

“Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.” — Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

We often tell ourselves we are not capable of controlling our own destiny when actually the world is our oyster and we’re one step away from finding our pearl…

Instead of hiding away or believing we can’t change, we should always be willing to work on our weaknesses as easily as if they were a to-do list. Because remember, the monkey out in the jungle only thinks he is in a cage, he’s not really trapped by anything…

4. Partner with Other People’s Strengths

As the saying goes,

“You can’t win them all…”

And I believe you can’t win them all

But you can always find someone out there who can…

Someone out there can do this. Someone out there can do that. There is someone for every task.

Sometimes, the best way to address a weakness is to find someone who already is great at it and team up with them. Then, you will compensate for your weaknesses while also learning from example as well.

Find a mentor in your weakness. Learn from them. Observe them. Team up with them.

“We know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other…we’re all in this together. We always have been.” — Michelle Obama

We all have different strengths and weaknesses out there. We might as well make that work to our advantage…

3. Treat Your Weaknesses Like Blindspots

Whenever my husband Jonathan Chew analyzes something about me, I’m shocked how right he can be.

“How did you know that about me?! I didn’t even know that about myself!” I think…

But then I realize,

You cant see your own blindspots.

It’s important to ask those who we love and trust to help us with our weaknesses, to seek out the things we may be blind too.

Keeping an open mind and looking for fresh perspectives are great ways to tackle roadblocks we may not know how to cross.

In his book Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter Robert Bruce Shaw tells us that blindspots may come from a variety of factors including gaps in our experience, emotional biases, misaligned incentives, and other factors that have caused us to not understand the importance of something.

“Managing blindspots is learning to accept them as inevitable and…positive because they force you to remain vigilant.” — Robert Bruce Shaw, Leadership Blindspots

In order to recognize our blindspots we should:

  • Seek advice. Especially from those that could understand us better than ourself.
  • Play devil’s advocate and question our own decisions. Seek out the things that specifically disconfirm what we believe.

I also recommend creating a weekly or monthly check-in with someone you trust in a safe environment. This check-in can be a time of compliments and constructive critiques.

“A true friend has your best interests at heart and the pluck to tell you what you need to hear.” — E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

2. Turn Toward Your Weaknesses

In his TED Talk, A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit, Judson Brewer dissects the processes that trigger our bad habits.

Essentially, when all is said and done, we condition ourselves with reward-based learning processes.

For example, our brain often associates eating food with a good feeling since we have used it for so many years to survive. So that’s why when we are sad, we have the tendency to want to stuff our face with things like rocky road ice cream (any The Orville fans out there? Klyden’s voice is coming to mind, “I wish to eat some what did Commander Grayson call it? depression food…”)

“Now, with these same brain processes, we’ve gone from learning to survive to literally killing ourselves with these habits.” — Judson Brewer

Brewer suggests that we can stop our weaknesses and bad habits with mindfulness or curious awareness. As the title of the TED Talk suggests, the technique is simple but powerful

“What if instead of fighting our brains, or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process …but added a twist? What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience?”

Mindful awareness, observing our mental/emotional responses in the moment, being curious about what we are feeling and why, can allow us to fight off our bad habits in a natural and rewarding way.

“When we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based, reactive habit patterns, and we step into inner being. We become this inner scientist where we’re eagerly awaiting that next data point.” — Judson Brewer

The process put us in control. We don’t have to be slaves to our weaknesses. We can turn toward them rather than away…

Next time you experience an unpleasant habit or weakness, ask yourself something like:

  • Where is this feeling coming from?
  • Why am I caught up in this behavior?
“Notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.” — Judson Brewer

1. Overwhelm your Weaknesses with Strengths

So, what are your weaknesses?

If you’re anything like me, I bet you could immediately give me a loooong list of your various flaws (and specific examples to go along with them.)

Now…

What are your strengths? (And I mean real strengths, concrete, specific and non-generalized strengths.)

Is it more challenging for you to think of your strengths? Are you sitting there, tapping the palm of your hand to your forehead over and over like me, coming up with stupid things like “ummm…I can do a pretty good Sean Connery impression?” or “I like to smile? Smiling’s my favorite…

In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton tell us,

“Guided by the belief that good is the opposite of bad, mankind has for centuries pursued its fixation with fault and failing.” — Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths

We have a tendency to criticize and find fault, not only with the world around us, but with ourselves as well. So naturally, we might feel the right way to fix our weaknesses is to become an expert in them.

Right?

The authors advise us otherwise. They tell us that being fixated on weaknesses is closer to damage control than it is to self-development.

We should never ignore our weaknesses, that would be irresponsible. But we should instead try and tackle our weaknesses with our strengths.

“Whatever you set your mind to, you will be most successful when you craft your role to play to your signature talents.” — Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths

For example, if someone has a fear of public speaking, a technique to fight off that weakness might be for the person to speak on a topic that he/she is incredibly passionate about.

Though this might not work with every weakness or strength out there I still think it’s a great technique to keep in mind.

“Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.” — Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths

Playing to our strengths while working on our weaknesses actually helps us to practice both at the same time. Two birds. One stone.

Wait…But what are my Strengths?!

If we’ve conditioned ourselves so much to focus on our faults, how in the world are we supposed to even know what our greatest strengths are to begin with?! (Because right now I don’t think things like being a great female Sean Connery impersonator will do too much for me…)

If we want to overwhelm our weaknesses with our strengths, we have to first know what they are. The authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths tell us that strengths are things we can do/have consistently, happily, and successfully.

Resources for Uncovering Strengths:

  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath — Basically this book is the reason I even started writing on Medium. Without it I would have never known my top strength, or talent theme, is something called input. (Basically it means I like to gather, collect, and research a lot of data that I find interesting and then curate it for others.)

The book gives you an individual access code then acts as a companion guide to an in-depth assessment you will take. (The book Now, Discover Your Strengths will also give you an access code to the test as well if you’d rather use that. But I should mention that you do have to buy either of these books new to get your own one-use code to take the test.)

The test will uniquely identify your core natural talents and then give you various strategies to apply those strengths in areas of your life, especially business/career. I’ve taken a lot of personality and strengths tests out there, but for some this one really resonated with me.

Once you take the test and receive your top strengths, figure out how often you have been using them. Is there any area in your life where you can actively pursue this strength even more? And can you think of ways to use your strengths to challenge any particular weakness you may have?

Call To Action

“Because your weakness is something you do, then it’s something you can do something about.” — Marcus Buckingham

Remember that in attacking your weaknesses you can always:

  • Treat them more like a To-Do list, rather than fixed downfalls.
  • Seek out mentors. Learn from Example.
  • Treat weaknesses like blindspots you need help in seeing.
  • Approach problems with curious awareness and a mindful attitude.
  • Use your strengths to work on your weaknesses.

If you have any other methods or insights or examples from your own life on how to turn weaknesses into strengths, I would also love to hear about it in the comments below!


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