The strength of weakness.

We’re frequently encouraged to recognise and celebrate our strengths. But might there also be merit in taking the same approach to our weaknesses?

You know, I think there could be. I’ll explain more in a moment.

First, though, a swift update on my current progress building a tool to help lift and maintain morale.

You might remember that in March, when I asked for your help with an alternative to the word “morale” itself, the most popular suggestion was “spirit.”

It’s a terrific synonym, and I’m so grateful for your collective wisdom.

Seeking a proven structure on which to build my morale-building material, I’ve been greatly inspired by the work of Carol Ryff, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In 1989 Professor Ryff proposed a model for psychological well-being consisting of six dimensions: Self-Acceptance; Positive Relations With Others; Autonomy; Environmental Mastery; Purpose In Life; and Personal Growth.

It should be said, by the way, that psychological well-being is quite distinct from happiness. In broad terms, someone with a high level of psychological well-being is an individual who “flourishes,” making the most of their life.

Anyway, although there’s been some recent discussion about the degree to which Professor Ryff’s dimensions are independent of one another, it seems to me (and thousands of researchers and scientists who have built on her work in the past 30 years) that they make good sense.

My one hesitation was a sense that some of the labels could seem a little scientific and complicated to a mere mortal like me.

In my own work, therefore, I’m suggesting alternatives.

Professor Ryff’s term “environmental mastery,” for example, describes the ability of someone to manage and make the most of their everyday life.

Here’s where the academic world and our amazing Moodnudges readers come together, though.

As I said, there are six dimensions in Professor Ryff’s psychological well-being model, and it just so happens that there are also six letters in the word you selected as a morale replacement: spirit.

And, what do you know, it really didn’t take much persuasion to formulate labels for the dimensions that form the acronym S.P.I.R.I.T.Self-Acceptance; Purpose; Independence; Resourcefulness; Interconnection; and Transformation.

Resourcefulness, by the way, and for example, is my new label for Environmental Mastery.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

In the coming weeks, I’ll walk us through these six facets of psychological well-being, starting today with the “S” of S.P.I.R.I.T. – Self-Acceptance. Which is where that celebration of weakness comes in.

Self-acceptance is all about adopting a positive attitude to yourself, warts and all.

It’s acknowledging that, just like everyone, you have both strengths and weaknesses.

It’s about viewing your past life in a grateful way.

And it’s about being happy with the person you’ve become.

How can you embrace weakness in a way that feels positive, though?

I believe it’s all down to the way you choose to view it.

Let me give you an example from my own life (which comes from that environmental mastery/resourcefulness category, actually).

A particular weakness of mine is being less than good about keeping up with personal admin.

Although I’m probably not alone, I’m terrible at staying on top of responsibilities like paying bills, managing my bank account, and filing paperwork.

I won’t make excuses today, just simply recognise that it’s a weakness of mine.

But how can I possibly celebrate this?

Well, in a few ways, I think.

First, it gives me an opportunity to consider asking for help. Asking for help is nearly always a healthy tactic.

What’s more, there are certainly those in life who love this kind of work, and some make money from doing so, of course.

So maybe I can find someone to support me in this area? It could help both of us.

I’ll look into it.

Second, I currently spend the time I perhaps should be devoting to my admin to creating things – like writing today’s Moodnudge, for example, which will occupy my Wednesday morning, as it usually does.

So not doing my admin allows me more time to create.

Third, simply sharing my weakness with you feels like a positive step.

Revealing my guilty secret could strengthen the connection between you and me, bringing us closer together.

I describe these steps in detail because I hope they’ll suggest a process you can try yourself.

What’s one of your weaknesses?

And how could this be turned into a cause for celebration, albeit gentle celebration?

Next week, we’ll move on to the “P” of S.P.I.R.I.T. – Purpose.

Between now and then, however, I really do encourage you to work on your sense of self-acceptance, in particular identifying the positive aspects of a weakness you may have.

Right, I’m off to ignore that pile of bank statements again.

19 thoughts on “The strength of weakness.

  1. It sounds like your plan is coming together nicely – I look forward to learning more.
    One of my weakness is shyness or being willing to let others take the lead in conversations or discussions. I think there is a positive aspect in that I always allow others to speak and I always learn from listening .

    1. Hi Judy,
      That’s a lovely way of thinking of your shyness…allowing others to speak and giving them your ear…you are very kind without realising it!
      Karen 🤗

    2. Thanks for your encouragement, Judy. I also echo Karen’s sense of your kindness, and it’s great that you’re able to see the contribution you’re making by being a good listener. The world needs more of that, for sure.

  2. Hi Jon.

    This is all very exciting! I like the whole concept and look forward to hearing more about it all.

    I too suffer from the old bank statement syndrome to a ridiculous degree! Nice to have to problem put into words!

    Thanks Jon and good luck.

    1. Well, it’s nice to hear I’m not alone in hating admin stuff, Siobhan. Great to hear your enthusiasm for the work I’m doing, too. Slowly and steadily, it feels like progress is being made.

  3. Hi Jon,
    This is really exciting for all of us. Thank you for including all of us in your new ventures and thank goodness you have left your paperwork for more important things!!

    One of my weaknesses is being unable to say No! I used to get more and more work piled on me and got overwhelmed by it. I talked to my editor and she suggested I told the publisher that yes, I would be able to do…fill in the blanks…but it wouldn’t be for a couple of weeks. I was terrified saying it, even in an email, but he appreciated me being honest and said he delegates whenever he is able to and that he wouldn’t take me for granted any more. It worked for a few months!!

    Thank you for keeping us updated on progress, Jon.
    Karen

    1. I really enjoy this process of sharing work as I go, Karen. In my first job, as a graphic designer for a bank in London, I used to hate people looking over my shoulder. I wanted to keep my “workings out” to myself, but over the years I’ve learned the value of involving others. I think you learn a ton by doing so.

      Fascinating to hear that being more open with the publisher did actually help, even though – as you say – it was only for a while. Perhaps he’s one of those people who need regular reminders!

      Thanks for taking such an interest in everything. It’s much appreciated.

  4. Hi Jon

    Haha, I’m the opposite in that I can’t wait for bills to arrive so I can put them on my spreadsheet/ pay them and file them.

    … Being a control freak would be my weakness! I hate it when I don’t feel in control / in the know.

    The upside is that I’m always super informed with the latest details on many things but it also causes a lot of stress over ‘what might be’ (hello anxiety!).

    Trying to counter this with meditation, distraction and trusting thing will work out for the best.

    Thank you for all that you do and looking forward to your next S.P.I.R.I.T. post!

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Wendy. Isn’t it amazing that humans can have such complementary strengths? You love admin, others (like me) hate it. It’s a super reminder of the power of collaboration, it really is.

      Great to pick up your enthusiasm for S.P.I.R.I.T.

      It’s starting to look like a useful concept.

  5. Caro John, innanzitutto grazie per questa tua riflessione.
    La mia debolezza? non so lasciare andare cose e persone, apparentemente sembro in grado di farlo ma nella realtà continuo a portare dentro eventi, parole, pensieri, insomma tutto quanto è legato a una determinata persona o a una determinata cosa. Ringrazio per ciò che è stato e che ho avuto, ma non so fare il passo successivo, lasciar andare….ecco la mia debolezza più grande.

    Grazie ancora per ciò che fai.

    con affetto,
    Anna

    1. Thank you Anna! I’m not going to attempt to reply in Italian, but for the benefit of other non-Italian speakers, I asked Google Translate to come to the rescue. Here’s what you so kindly said:

      Dear John, first of all thank you for your reflection.

      My weakness? I do not know how to let things and people go, apparently I seem able to do it but in reality I keep bringing in events, words, thoughts, in short everything related to a specific person or a certain thing. I thank you for what it was and what I had, but I can not take the next step, let go … my biggest weakness.

      Thanks again for what you do.

      with love,
      Anna

  6. Hi Jon,

    It’s amazing how you took the word “spirit” and turned the letters into an acronym for six psychological well-being concepts! I look forward to diving into these welcoming waters of self discovery along with the Moodnudges community.

    To embrace a personal weakness in a positive way . . . now that’s quite a challenge. I’ll be thinking about that. Thanks for the idea and your own example!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement, Lynne. I’m happy with the way the Spirit thing is working out and although I did spend a day with a dictionary and thesaurus, the end result feels surprisingly unforced, I think.

      Good luck with thinking about seeking the positive side of a weakness of your own. I know it may feel an odd thing to do, but I certainly found it valuable.

  7. Hi, Jon
    It’s good to hear about everybody else’s weaknesses – makes me feel better about mine! I have plenty to choose from but I suppose Household Management would round up quite a few of my failings. Mrs Beaton would been very disapproving of the general state of chaos and clutter, dust, dog hairs and drooping house plants that only occasionally are subject to a hasty domestic blitz.
    Looking on the bright side, my fellow occupants – husband and two dogs – are equally unconcerned (and guilty) but we all have more time to do the things we really enjoy and when visitors drop in, they probably experience a warm glow from knowing their own abodes are in a vastly superior state.

  8. Hi John my weekness is allowing other people to hurt me with their words of judgment about my relationship with their Dad, and I am talking about inlaws here. My world came crashing down from a recent breakdown but two months have passed and I have recovered and I am doing really well. I have stopped any interaction with them and I must say this has been very beneficial to me. My wounds from them have heeled and I have moved forward. I have used my situation has a chance to get to know myself a whole lot better, and learn. I will not let anyone ever treat me like that again. I now have peace of mind and realise if anyone in your circle is not supportive when you most need it …then get a different circle. In my opinion every experience I have is a chance to learn and grow and improve. My breakdown taught me what my absalute limits are with my mental health. I feel like I have risen from the ashes with a whole different outlook and can think more clearly and can now focus on getting the best from my life. So in a nut shell I am glad I went through all of this. It’s made me realise I am not going to sweat the small stuff anymore. I am happy and content now and free from judgement and that is huge. Thanks Jon for your insight.

    1. Sounds as though you’ve had a tough time, Ruby. But you’ve also clearly worked hard at managing things. Very happy to hear you’re feeling better than you did. Do look after yourself, though.

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