Friday, October 28, 2005

Ditch your weaknesses and express your strengths

In talking with someone yesterday, I remembered another book that changed my life: Now, Discover Your Strengths. It's #2 of a two parter from the Gallup Organization, the first one is, First, Break All the Rules. These are management / employment books, but they actually helped me spiritually.


Discover Your Strengths poses the basic premise that we spend too much time on fighting our weaknesses rather than developing our strengths.


Many people don't concern themselves with the intricacies of their strengths; instead, they choose to devote their time and energy to investigating their weaknesses. We know this because we asked them this question: "Which do you think will help you improve the most: knowing your strengths or knowing your weaknesses?"


[The result?]: weaknesses, not strengths, deserve the most attention.


And here's a telling thought:


You may be reluctant to investigate your strengths quite simply because you don't believe that your true self is much to write home about.


Hmmm. This came up in my conversation yesterday. That we don't notice the things we're good at because they're so natural to us, but we are abundantly aware of those things we're not so good at and we fixate on them. What if we turned that around, and realized that the very things that are natural for us are the very things to celebrate and cultivate?


Once I glommed onto this concept, I became a much better manager. I realized I had been managing to weaknesses, i.e., focusing on what my subordinates needed to do to improve. Instead, I now focused on what they did well, and encouraged them to focus on that also. It turned out the group I managed had complementary talents, so with a few rearrangements of job duties, I wound up with a brilliant team that was expert at everything they were doing and could count on each other to shine. We worked like a well-oiled machine and were much happier.


When I saw how effective that was in the workplace, I realized it had to reflect a spiritual principle. I believe now that it's essential for each of us to realize and express that which makes us unique.


This is because God is infinite. Think about it. An infinite God creates an infinite creation. Creation is infinite as an expression of God. Infinite is unimaginably diverse—otherwise it wouldn't be infinite, but finite in some way. (I had a friend once who was so quirky, I used to say, "W— is convincing proof that there is an infinite God, for who else would have created someone like him?")


That infinite God created us to express Him, to be His image and likeness. Every bit of that infinite must be filled, and only we can fill our bit. If we try to fill someone else's bit or try to alter our own, we're not fulfilling our spot as a unique element of God's infinite expression.


What would you think that infinite God wants us to focus on most? Our weaknesses, to beat ourselves up about and feel consistently unworthy, or our strengths, given to us by Him for celebration and cultivation? Sure, we need to self-improve and grow in grace. But shouldn't we at least give equal time to our gifts and recognize them for what they are?


You are amazing in His eyes, because He created you and He knows your strengths. Yes, I mean you. Celebrate what He gave you today.


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