Marc-Aurèle Palla's BLOG


Focus on your weaknesses and forget your strengths

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  • By Marc Palla, 25/04/2020
BLOG: Focus on your weaknesses and forget your strengths

Photo by Ashutosh Sonwani

We often hear that focusing on our strengths is the best, as if weaknesses were absent from the 'Get Better' equation. But what if we could do more with our weaknesses?

Once upon a time...

I was 10. Like a lot of other kids of this age I was mainly reading (YES) scientific and adventure books. I was particularly of fan Bernard Werber, a French writer whom I discovered with his famous book The Empire of the Angels. Great book, as I recall.

I will always remember this particular scene in which a character (is it the main one? I don't remember...) learns to play chess. It goes like this famous common thought:

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Well, that was bad advice to follow.

The hard truth

I know it won't surprise you, but we are no Gods or Heroes.

What I mean is that we are not without flaws, bad habits, imperfections, wrong behaviours. We are humans. That said, we thus have weaknesses, and focusing on our strengths is not going to make them disappear. To compare, not focusing on the bad things happening in life does not make them disappear (hello Positivism!)

Is it that profitable to focus on strengths?

Why strengths are our strengths? Because we are good with them, yes, but why? One is strong because it is her/his facility. Another one is smart, and another one nice, etc. It doesn't mean that the strong one cannot be smart or eloquent. It only means that the easiest thing to do for this person is to be strong.

Now, what focusing only on her/his strengths (literally) and not his weaknesses, whatever they are, brings to this strong person? Simple and obvious: this person is going to get stronger.

Does it look like such an improvement? The strong one gets stronger, the clever one more clever, the nice nicer, etc.

Still, there is another effect of choosing strengths over weaknesses.

Going for the easy way

We just saw that focusing on strengths implies going for the easy way. It just appears that must of our choices in life follow the same rule: without thinking of it, we often make decisions regarding how easy or instinctive choices are.

It is easier for the bully to scare people rather than to make friends, since people are probably already afraid.
It is easier for someone with a job to keep it rather than looking for a new one, even if could probably be better.
It is easier to go to the same places because we know them, rather than to risk losing time trying new ones.
Etc. etc. You name it. My point is that going for the easy way leads to bad determinism:

Determinism, in philosophy, theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do.

Determinism, in Philosophy, is basically the concept of free will: we know where we come from, thus we can decide where we are going to.

Determinism is opposed to fatalism, idea that whatever choices we make the end is going to be the same.

Unfortunately, when the choices we make are always dictated by the same logic (choose your strengths/take the easy way), it tends to become a form of fatalism, leading toward a single path and thus toward a unique end...

The good news (finally)

On the one hand, focusing on our strengths doesn't lead very far. We simply get better at what we are already good at. Moreover, it makes us constantly choosing the easy way. By doing so we do not challenge ourselves.

Focusing on weaknesses, on the other hand, offers a lot more: think of all that can be improved! (And so quickly, that's the plus being green.)

Become the hero

Think about the movies you like. Now think about the heroes into these movies. How do they evolve? What do they do? Sure, at the beginning they try to continue doing what's easy, what they're good at.

Yet, as the story continues they are forced on a road where bigger and bigger challenges await; challenges these heroes won't overcome unless they overcome their flaw(s) first. Eventually, the story a happy ending. But if the flaw(s) is(are) still there, the story is more likely to finish tragically.

Isn't it why we love stories so much? I believe that, unconsciously, stories guide us.

So, what do story tell us? Strengths will always be there and we shall use then to face challenges. But without a proper focus on our weaknesses, we stop ourselves from truly evolving and overcome the real challenges life puts on our way.