Dwelling on weaknesses may result in low mood, while identifying strengths can be the path to happiness.
I wonder if you can work out who said this:
“I wasn’t very good in school at all. I was kind of useless. I found the work really, really difficult.”
A clue? He’s a famous actor, currently 24, who starred in his first massive blockbuster at the age of 11.
Got it? Yes, it was Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe who admitted being a bit of a disaster at school. But has this hurt him? Probably not. After eight Harry Potter movies, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s one of the richest young people in the UK.
His strength? Acting, particularly playing the part of a bespectacled young wizard.
His weakness (or at least one of them)? Failing to excel in an educational setting.
So now let’s imagine being young Daniel Radcliffe’s teacher. Would you honestly have advised him to ditch the acting thing in order to work on his greatest weakness – scholastic achievement? Or would you, perhaps, have argued instead that he should be encouraged to build on his strengths?
Actually perhaps that’s an unrealistic question, as while it’s very clear in retrospect that acting was the right thing for him, I suspect some in his school may have seen things differently. All too often, I fear, the education system prefers students to conform rather than plough their own furrow of individuality.
Mild gripes about education aside, though, my overall suggestion is that there seems great value in building up your strengths rather than trying to remedy your weaknesses, and perhaps there’s food for thought here when it comes to your own emotional health?
One of my emotional weaknesses, for example, is that I tend to become super-pessimistic when I’m down. One of my strengths on the other hand is that I’m generally able to stay productive even when my mood has taken a hit.
Would it be helpful to work on becoming less pessimistic? Well, yes, although I think it’s hard to tackle deeply-established behaviour patterns such as this.
Might it be easier, and more helpful, to simply ensure I’m productive (which generally makes me feel better? Almost certainly.
My really quite simple point is that there may indeed be value in identifying your personal emotional strengths, then seeing if you can find a way to maximise their use.
Don’t simply focus on your weaknesses.