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Many of Us Can’t Identify Our Strengths and Weaknesses Because We Misunderstood What They Mean

Many of Us Can’t Identify Our Strengths and Weaknesses Because We Misunderstood What They Mean

“Soooo, tell me about your strengths and weaknesses…”

Do you experience that ominous “deer in headlights” feeling when you hear this question? What does it even mean? What are the things you identify as strengths? Why do you label them as such? Is it because it is an ability or skill at which you excel? Is it something you do better than most people? Who or what measures what a strength or weakness is? This question–especially in an interview–can be tricky terrain to navigate.

As one who has sat on both sides of this question–I will try to provide some insight and direction on how you should approach this extremely slippery slope.

Even If You’re Good at Something, It’s Your Weakness If It Drains You.

Discovering your true strengths and weaknesses isn’t just critical for nailing a job interview. It is a fundamental key to your success in all aspects of life.

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Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths To Work, provides the most pure and concise explanation for determining what is a strength and what is a weakness. And it has nothing to do with what you are good at or how you fair against others.

“A better definition of a strength,” said Buckingham, “is an activity that makes you feel strong. And a weakness is an activity that makes you feel weak. Even if you’re good at it, if it drains you, that’s a weakness.”

Consider that statement for a moment. Are you starting to gain a bit more context and insight into what your true strong suits and deficiencies are?

I Was Proud of My Ability to Deal With People But I Later Found That It’s Not My True Strength…

Here’s an example from personal experience.

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I am extremely “good with people.” I am compassionate, considerate, attentive, encouraging and accommodating. I am good at getting the best out of people, calming intense situations and making people feel heard, validated and appreciated. I work at it. I study people. I am a student of psychology and human interaction and can usually determine a person’s primary temperament[1] within moments of meeting them and can adjust to play to their temperament strength.

In interviews[2], I have always listed my interpersonal skills as one of my strengths. But if I take a step back and really assess this “gift” I find that it really isn’t one of my true strengths. The truth is people drain me and human interaction, often times, is akin to navigating a mine field. I prefer being alone or with my husband to being around others. My interactions with people don’t flow naturally. I am not instinctively a “people person.” I have to calculate my moves and measure my responses before I speak. I am innately shy, incredibly introverted and socially awkward. My people skills are manufactured and have been honed out of necessity. It is not a gift–it is a well developed skill.

Below are a few principles you should consider when assessing your strengths and weaknesses:

Never Judge Your Strengths and Weaknesses Based on Comparison

You may be better than everyone else around you at something and still can be a weakness for you. A strength is something that energizes you and something for which you have a natural inclination. A person who is charming, charismatic, a natural conversationalist and enjoys being around and entertaining people can list “interpersonal skills” as a strength.

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A strength is something you rely on to achieve goals and to win, weakness are obstacles that must be overcome or avoided in order to achieve victory. Your strengths and weaknesses are only relative to you. Comparing yourself to others skews your view of your true gifts and areas of lack.

Do Not Waste Time Working on Weaknesses Not Related to Your Life Goal

You can strengthen your weaknesses just as I have done with my interactions with people. It will, however, never be a strength. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you can attack them in one of two ways. First, you can work to strengthen the weakness so that it becomes less of a deficiency. Or, you could strengthen and learn to leverage your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses.

Learning to cope is key when it comes to handling weak areas. It is a waste of time working on weakness that are not related to your life purpose or tied to your goals.

I do not–in any way, shape or form–possess a green thumb. Plants and foliage cringe, shrivel and die in my presence. I could learn to care for plants and develop this skill if I chose too. However, it has nothing to do with my destiny, goals or my success in life. If I need flowers for an event, I purchase them just before I need them (they die otherwise). I have a beautiful yard which I pay someone to maintain. I spend my time and energy working on things that matter and that propel me towards my life’s purpose.

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Context Should Be Taken into Consideration When You Judge Your Strengths and Weaknesses

This is a huge mistake that most of us make. Take for example the characteristics, introversion and extroversion. Both of these traits are completely benign. They only become good or bad with context.

As I stated earlier, I am very introverted. I am a writer and I work in an office with other writers. Being an introvert in this environment is a strength. In this context, I don’t need to be outgoing and chatty. If I were, that would hinder my performance and put a strain on the work environment. However, prior to becoming a writer, I was an educator. Teaching requires you to be outgoing, approachable and have the ability to genuinely connect with people. In this context, being an introvert was a weakness. I had to put time, energy and mental fortitude into being what I needed to be to be successful.

Avoid Using General Terms to Describe Your Strengths and Weaknesses Or You’ll Be Distracted

Another mistake we make is by mislabeling or overgeneralizing strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are not talkative you may be tempted to label yourself a poor communicator–which is completely inaccurate. Being overly chatty does not make you an effective communicator. A few, well chosen words, is multitudes more effective than mere verbal vomit. It’s about the quality not quantity of your words. Hone in on what you are adept at and your deficiencies and then determine if it truly is a strength, weakness or neutral.

Final Word:

When assessing your strengths and weakness:

  • Figure out what energizes and what drains you.
  • Consider what you are naturally good at.
  • Determine what your goals are and how your strengths and weakness enhance and hinder your progress.
  • Plan how to strengthen your weaknesses or use your strengths to compensate for them.
  • Avoid labeling neutral characteristics as “good” or “bad.”
  • Always work on making your strengths–stronger. Weak strengths, strengthens weaknesses.

Determining your strengths and inadequacies requires brutal honesty. You must take into account your skills and your natural inclinations. Some strengths are more desirable than others but it is incumbent that you accept yourself as you are and work with what you have. It’s the only way to reach your full potential and fulfill you destiny.

Reference

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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