If you got 40% and passed a test, what would be your first question? Would it be:
- What happened to the other 60%, or
- What did I do to pass and get 40%
If it’s answer 1, then you’re taking a ‘weakness focused’ approach.
If it’s answer 2, you’re taking a ‘strengths focused approach’
Personal development often focuses on improving weaknesses but there’s a body of research that argues a ‘strengths-based’ approach is more effective. In short, we can’t all be fabulous at everything.To attempt to do so would require massive effort. It’s more economical to invest more time in what we are already good at, so we can specialize and excel (we can then manage the weaknesses).
I remember hearing of a child who arrived home with a staggering 96% on a maths test. The response of one of the parents was ‘What happened to the other 4%?’ Whereas they should have be celebrating the 96%. The questions they should have asked are:
- What did you do to get that result?
- Was there anything that you really think helped that you can do more of next time?
- What strengths and qualities helped you get this far?
- What did you do differently this time?
- Is there something that you use to do that you stopped doing this time?
- What can you let go of that didn’t help?
- What else did you do?
- What else?
With the strengths focused approach you concentrate on what you have already attained and then build on it, whether it’s 96%, 57%, 40% or 22%. This makes sense as it is the same approach we use with babies. After witnessing a baby’s first step, surely you wouldn’t dream of saying ‘And why didn’t you run around the coffee table?’ No, you’d praise them, encourage them to try again and focus on how they managed to take that first step. Now think about the staggering amount that babies manage to learn in a very short space of time.
You can apply the same to any goal you’ve set and tried for. If you didn’t get that 100% result, try focusing on what you have actually achieved and how you got there. Using the above questions you will use the feedback to build on strengths. If you obsess over what you didn’t get, you’ll probably lose motivation and give up! So go back and review previous attempts at goals and apply the strengths-focused questions. You have everything to gain.