Written by: Zoë Share
It often feels like we are living in a world where self-improvement is the only way to get ahead in life. After all, if we aren’t improving in the areas we are weak, how can we be truly be growing or successful?
For instance, I’m not great at accounting, which means I feel I need to try harder when I do this task, triple check my work and read as many books on accounting for entrepreneurs as I can to strengthen this weakness. Similarly, when it’s the new year, I often try to promise myself that I’ll do a mindful activity like yoga. Sound familiar? So many of us resolve to try to improve something – drink less coffee, take up a yoga class, learn a new skill – and then, so many of us fail.
I’m not saying I haven’t improved at my weaknesses; I have also been able to add new skills to my list. I can do my own business accounting (but probably should not), I can (and have) taken regular yoga classes. While I’m doing this “self-improvement” activities, I realize that I’m not feeling any happier or like my business is truly growing as a result. All this time I have spent trying to improve myself hasn’t necessarily made me a better boss, leader, mother or friend and often can actually make me a little bit unhappy. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, as opposed to doing what makes me feel strong and alive.
What if spending time working on improving my weaknesses is a mistake?
Recently, I was fascinated to learn that teams who focus on their strengths every day are 12.5% more effective. So, what does this mean for me? “What a relief!” is my first thought. This means I get to spend my energy doing more of the things I’m good at, as opposed to trying to always (and only) improve the things I’m not as good at.
At first, even the thought of letting go of self improvement felt like an impossible feat, because the world inside my head is a busy one and a strongly self-critiquing one. It has always felt as though the things I am not good at are what limit me from becoming the success I want to be, but through this process I am beginning to learn focusing on self-improvement is actually self-limiting
Now I’m focusing on spending more time on activities that grow my strengths…
As I have started to do the hard work to reframe my activities and goals around my strengths, I have started recognizing my family and my work team shift as well. By doing what I am good at and focusing on that, I am feeling less focused on being competitive, proving something or protecting myself from judgment. What I have learned is that when you lead with positivity and spend your time doing the things you are good at, you can actually get closer to achieving your goals.
I was limiting myself by spending time trying to self-improve, rather than letting myself shine for who I already am.
What this all means for you and your business
Hiring someone whose strength is accounting to do it for you or recognizing that doing yoga doesn’t make you feel alive does not mean you are not capable or good enough on your own. These may be someone else’s area of strength or a tool that works for them to become a happier, more centered person. If you’re doing things, like yoga and accounting regularly because you think you’re supposed to, it means that you are using your time to do the things that aren’t your natural gifts.
What I’ve uncovered about my own strengths in this process has made me feel better about myself. I love learning, and I’m good at it. I love reading and that is what stops me from having unhealthy thoughts, more than yoga ever would.
As a leader, I feel I’m being truer to who I am when giving feedback and providing support to my team. I’m trying to help my team to learn what each of their individual strengths are and help them to give input into the company that allows their strengths to shine.
What do you think you’d do differently if you lead your life and your team with your strengths?
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