Each year, I evaluate my life and figure out where I would like to improve. Maybe my current fitness routine needs a boost (or it’s just a little bit non-existent), or maybe there’s a goal that I have never reached that I’m sure I could get around to if I just pushed myself a little harder, or I see an opportunity for better productivity because I’m slacking just a little in some areas. So I’ll form a list, put a date on it, and do my best (which is never quite enough). But as varied as the list gets, every item on it has one common theme: They’re based on what my weaknesses are.
And that’s not a huge shock, considering my personality. I have a habit of saying that no area of my life is ever safe from reevaluation and improvement. I am constantly scanning my existence for weaknesses, problems, and room for betterment- and being human, they’re anything but rare.
In fact, even if something is working well, that doesn’t stop me from dissecting it and figuring out how to make it better. And while this is actually an excellent skill to have, I’ve started to realize that I don’t have a lot of ability to turn it off. Which means that almost each and every Monday (or Wednesday or Thursday, I’m not picky) I start some brand new experiment to change my life for the better.
Now before you get jealous of someone who is always self-improving, let me tell you the downside. First of all, this tendency has made me pretty self depreciating. I nearly never see myself as “okay”. I look at myself with a wince and then jot down a few more items on my “to improve” list. I’ve been told that I am a lot like a student who gets a test back with a pretty decent grade, but can’t enjoy the good marks because I’m staring so hard at the ones marked incorrect.
I tend to focus on my weaknesses.
So this tendency had every bell, whistle and alarm going off in my brain during a meeting a few weeks ago where my Pastor was encouraging our worship team before practice. “I know that as musicians and singers, the tendency is to focus on where you need improvement,” he said. “But what we really need to do is to place your focus on your strengths.” My brain did not compute. Everything that I am has always focused only on where I am weak. My motto could easily be, “What is wrong with me, and how can I make it better?” The thought of growing by focusing on my strengths made about as much sense to me as cutting down a tree to help it grow more apples. But for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my Pastor had said.
My take on strengths had always been that if I’m good at something already, then I could leave that part of my life alone. I wanted to focus on what I’m not good at so that I can bring them up to the same level as my strengths.
But the truth is, that will never, ever happen.
Your strengths are your strengths. Your weakness are your weaknesses. I’m not saying that your weaknesses can’t be improved, they certainly can, and they should be. But your weaknesses will never take you places. Only your strengths can do that.
Let’s say you’re great at math and finances and bad at singing. Which would be a better New Year’s resolution… to take singing lessons, or become an accountant and help people manage their money better? Sounds like a ridiculously obvious choice, right? But a lot of us choose resolutions that have nothing to do with where we are strong.
So, in response to all of this, I pulled out my Strengths Finder test results and actually based my goals on that. According to this test, my top five personal strengths are Restorative, Empathy, Developer, Relator, and Consistency… which are just fancy ways of saying I’m good at solving problems, I can sense other’s feelings, I enjoy helping other people improve, I thrive on close relationships and I insist on treating others with equality and fairness. I ended up making goals, big and small, that capitalized on these strengths. Some are as small as setting a weekly reminder on my phone that I’m a problem solver and reminding myself to stay in touch with the people I want to stay close to. Some are bigger and scarier- like taking the opportunities I have to mentor and speak into young people’s lives.
But the best part is, when I look at my list of goals for 2016, I don’t feel like I’m looking at a bad report card. I don’t feel depressed. I don’t feel down on myself.
I feel excited. And that is something that New Year’s has never brought me.
So this year, as you’re forming your goals, think about where you’re drawing from. Are you frowning at yourself from the outside, picking at the flaws and trying to make yourself into someone you’re not supposed to be? Don’t do that to yourself this year. It’s a New Year, but it doesn’t have to be a New You. Cause you are not a bad thing to be. You’re spectacular. Set goals that let some more of that spectacular out into the world in 2016.
So get out there, take a strengths finder test or ask your friends and family what some good qualities about you are, and make a list that helps you to enjoy 2016 to the fullest.
I got this cute striped Day Designer in July at Target. I love it, because it asks you for your top three goals of the day, has a weekly goals section, and most of all because there’s a section at the end of each week where you can record your gratitude for the week. That always helps me end my week on a positive note instead of the “glad that’s over!” feeling that’s so easy for me. :)