Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Born June 27, 1880, Helen Adams Keller fell ill at the age of 19 months and became blind, deaf, and mute. At the age of 7 years, her teacher, Anne Sullivan, recognized a strength - the ability to communicate and began working diligently with her. She mastered several methods of communication, including touch-lip reading, Braille, speech, typing, and finger-spelling. Before graduating college, she wrote her first book, The Story of My Life, which covered her transformation from childhood to the 21-year-old college student. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904 at the age of 24. Helen continued to concentrate her efforts to help those with disabilities. She became active in social and political matters, including women's suffrage, pacifism, and birth control. She co-founded Helen Keller International to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition. In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Other activities included her membership with the American Federation for the Blind and many other campaigns to help raise awareness, money, and support for the blind, including both domestic and international work.
Helen Keller refused to allow her weakness to define her. She turned her attention away from her inability to see, talk, and hear and used them to build a platform on her strengths. She realized at an early age that, although these senses are important, they weren't the best part of her. Her strengths were much more. She was simply a woman of accomplishment with a special gift who could not see. You too have strengths that have much more value than any weakness you possess. The problem is that so many concentrate on their weaknesses instead of realizing and feeding their strengths. Of course, knowing your weaknesses is important. We all have them and if you don't think you do, that is your greatest one. You must control them or they will debilitate any progress you may achieve. Most performance systems, or at least during the appraisal, are geared to discuss only what you don't do well and schedule training to help you turn that weakness into a strength. However, your weaknesses are such due to core reasons beyond your control.
Below are four reasons that you should spend most of your energy finding and developing your strengths instead of expending your resources to correct your weaknesses.
Your strengths are the best part of you. You may fail to recognize many of these, but they are waiting to be developed. These are natural instincts that stand out. They are innate and were given to you by the Creator. They are attributes that come natural to you. On a scale of 1 to 10, your weaknesses may be a 2.5. Because it is a weakness, it will respond less effectively to stimuli. Pouring all of your resources into your weakness may raise it to 4.0 to 4.5. You are still below average. However, your strength, without any stimuli, will rate higher, say at 6.5. Because it is a strength, it will respond much quicker and effectively to stimuli and, therefore our may rise it to a 9.0. Helen Keller developed her strength and helped millions of others, whose work continues today. She replicated others through her strengths.
Focusing on your weaknesses takes time and resources away from more adaptive resources you could be using to feed your strengths. The mental paradigms of weaknesses are debilitating. Instead of realizing what you can do, you struggle with focusing on what you can't do. These mental pictures block vision and the motivation to pursue your dreams. You see these weaknesses as huge problems. Focusing on your strengths provides you with a mental picture of a target too large to miss.
Focusing on your strengths adds value to you, your organization, and everyone around you. If I am interviewing you for a position, I want to know what value you can add to me and my organization. If you can't add value, I won't hire you. Adding value creates organizational collateral and increases your worth to the organization and yourself.
Focusing on your strengths adds value to you, your organization, and everyone around you. -----Dr. Tony Daniel
Finally, recognizing and focusing on your strengths teach perseverance. It takes courage, stamina, and determination to develop your strengths. Don't let anyone tell you that feeding and developing your strengths are easy. Patience is a key ingredient. The accountability becomes much higher and the stakes become much more extensive. Navigating these strengths in the marketplace may be difficult at times and acceptance by others may be low. However, as Helen Keller's story teaches us, perseverance will teach you to not be deterred and not let any deficiency define you.
To help you find your strengths and a career path that is more compatible to those strengths, there are a variety of instruments for use. I recommend participating with as many as possible for a more holistic viewpoint. You'll be amazed at the results, which will shed light on why certain things or events occurred, both positive and negative in your life. You'll gain a more thorough understanding about you and how you can be more strategic in creating a plan to develop you.
Have you recognized your strengths?
Do you find yourself thinking more on needing to correct your weaknesses that feeding and developing your strengths?