Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Post #62: Focus on Your Strengths

For the last two weeks we've been focusing on, well, focusing. Why? Because without concentrated focus, we tend to either mill around aimlessly, or work too hard with too little reward. The answer, of course, is learning to discriminate between what deserves our attention, and what we'd do better to ignore.

Many years ago, I read a parenting book that advised parents to "feed" the positive behavior of their children, while "starving" negative behavior. This means when a child is playing nicely or treating others well, we gush over them, and when they're whining or trying to get attention by being naughty, we ignore them. The book pointed out that many (most?) parents actually do the opposite. When two children are playing and one attacks the other, we tend to turn all of our attention to the "perp," and ignore the victim entirely. What is this reinforcing?

Why am I talking about parenting? Because it's a great illustration of what happens when we give our attention to the negative, instead of the positive. We all have strengths and weaknesses---that's a given, but people who play up their strengths and play down their weaknesses tend to be a lot more effective than those who spend most of their adult lives trying to fix what they perceive is "wrong" with them, while ignoring or denigrating their God-given talents.

Does this mean that we ignore our weak spots entirely? It probably depends on what the weak spot is. If we're talking about a tendency toward drug addiction or violent behavior, then this will need to be addressed. But if you're weak in math and strong in language, why not write the book you've always dreamed of writing, and hire an accountant to do your taxes? (If you're middle aged and your highschool math teacher still lives in your head, it's time to kick her out!) Nobody's good at everything. Accepting that is liberating.

So, what are your natural talents? What do you love to do? What do you do effortlessly that others struggle with? Sometimes we downplay these strengths because we've been taught that if you want to achieve something, you have to work hard. That's not always true. Sometimes what you do the best is so effortless that it doesn't even feel like work. Does that mean you shouldn't be paid to do it? Heavens, no!

This week, I ask you to take a look at how you're spending your precious time and energy? If you're constantly stressed out or waiting for the weekend to roll around, then you're probably not doing what you came here to do. Or, maybe you're doing what you came here to do plus a million things that you needn't be doing at all.

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend the following books: Now Discover Your Strengths, by Buckingham and Clifton, and, The Power of Focus, by Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt.

Have an amazing week!