I’m a big fan of personal growth. I love the idea of continually growing to be my best self, so I am able to give to the world, and the people in my life, the best that I can.
The question, though, is where do you start? How can I narrow down where I want to focus my desire to grow, when I have more than enough weaknesses to keep me busy improving myself for several lifetimes? And do I even focus on my strengthening my weaknesses, or do I double-down on my existing strengths?
A few years ago, I came up with a framework to help me narrow in on the types of self-improvement efforts that would yield the most impact. I work predominantly by this principle:
When it comes to your character, work on your weaknesses.
When it comes to your skills, work on your strengths.
Character is make or break. In everything – personal and professional. Weaknesses in our character are problems waiting to happen. It is absolutely worth the effort to grow in these areas. By character, I mean our ethical and moral integrity, but I also mean our emotional intelligence and the way we manage, or are managed by, our drives and emotions.
Skills, however – are different. We simply can’t be great at everything. If we work really hard, we might eventually get to be great at a small handful of things; a handful of things we put a lot of time, effort and practice into.
There are, obviously, some skills most people will need to achieve their goals.
Say you’re an amazing designer, but you never get any repeat clients because you have terrible time management skills and so never deliver on deadline. You’re going to want to work on that skill weakness, because it’s preventing you from really flourishing in your strengths. But you’re probably not going to try to work so hard on it that you can become a time management consultant.
Conversely, if you’re an amazing designer, it probably doesn’t matter at all if you’re terrible at cooking, or tennis, or coding. If probably doesn’t even matter that much if you’re not good at public speaking – even though that’s a weakness that someone else might need to work on if it was holding them back from their real strength in strategy and leadership.
The point is this – everyone has a handful of skills they have the potential to be really good at. To really make a difference with. I believe that the most effective way to approach self-improvement and growth is to figure out what those are, and be the best at them as you possibly can, whilst dealing with the weaknesses that directly impede your ability to flourish in them.
If we do work on our skill strengths, and address our character weaknesses, we are pursuing a path that is most likely to allow us to be the best version of ourselves we can be, in order to utilise our gifts and seek the good of others.