Which is more helpful for success: building on strengths or fixing weaknesses? Based on my work with the ADP Research Institute on the Global Study of Engagement, less than 20% of people will answer “building on their strengths.” With the majority of people trying to fix their weaknesses, it’s clear that we’re fascinated with failure for three reasons:
- We think that excellence is the opposite of failure.
We study disease to understand health, study divorce to understand happy marriages, and we study failure as a means to understand excellence. But it just doesn’t work like that. Inverting why we fail gets us no closer to excellence than studying depression will get you closer to happiness. It may get you to a level playing ground, but it won’t help you excel. You’ve got to be a student of excellence in order to be, well, excellent.
- We focus on fear.
One of the reasons we study disease, or divorce, or depression is because we’re afraid. Our evolutionary instinct is to survive – so we focus on all of the things that could, and sometimes do, go wrong. Which, of course, makes sense in certain scenarios. But we can’t let our fear define our reality. Change follows the focus of your attention, so focus on what you aspire to be.
- We think the best way to help you grow is with feedback.
Feedback is a means of pointing out flaws or weaknesses (hyperlink this sentence to Why Feedback Fails blog) so they can be fixed; but people don’t learn that way. They learn through insights and recognizing then refining the patterns that are intrinsically a part of them (this sentence is a little confusing). That means that the raw material for your future greatness is your present goodness – so pay really close attention to the things that work and dial in on those.
Once we pivot our fixation with failure to focus on what’s working, and then start amplifying that – we are going to be so much more capable of seeing the best in ourselves and everyone around us.