It is a great time to ponder where we should be making improvements in our lives. We can look back over the past year to recall moments where we excelled because of our strengths; and mediocre moments caused by what may have seemed like a weakness. However, we could be ignoring the one thing likely to determine if we are successful next year by not paying attention to our habits, because we wrongly assume a bad habit to be a weakness.
Focusing on Strengths vs Weakness vs Habits
“One should waste little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence” – Peter Drucker (Managing Oneself)
Focusing on one’s strengths rather than weaknesses is not a new idea. That is the basic premise of such literature as Strengths Finder. However, in practice it is hard to shake that itch to work on areas in which we seem to lack natural competence. This feels reasonable because it is not easy to accept that one’s poor public speaking skills should be left unattended. Won’t neglecting where we are weak put our success at risk? Maybe, maybe not.
The role of habits should get more attention when discussing how our strengths and weaknesses play into our effectiveness and performance. Sure, public speaking may not be your strong suit, but lack of preparation (a bad habit) will likely leave you worse off. Bad habits not only accentuate weaknesses, but they also dull strengths. On the flip side, good habits could be a buffer for weaknesses while sharpening strengths.
A Good Place to Start
If you are thinking about being a better version of yourself this time next year, then focus on curbing your bad habits and building really good ones. In ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful people‘, Stephen Covey does a great job of highlighting some good habits to adopt. In ‘Talent is never Enough‘, John Maxwell takes a different angle to address habits and mindsets that really make your strengths shine.
These and similar resources call out bad habits such as lack of preparation, lack of initiative or pro-activeness, lack of prioritization, never being willing to invest in a repeatable process, saying ‘yes’ to every request, and procrastination. With these we have a choice. This is how you draw the distinction between a weakness and a bad habit. You have a choice about your attitude or being lazy. These are not weaknesses. Drawing from Peter Drucker again, “things we do or fail to do that inhibit our effectiveness and performance” are fair game when identifying bad habits.
Investing in improving a weakness might move you from an F to a D+ skill level, but the right habits can make any B talent appear to be A+. The idea is not to ignore or pretend we don’t have weaknesses. Rather, we should be self aware and focus on building good habits. Game plan on what habits to build as you double down on areas of strengths next year. You can start with Strengths Finder to discover those strengths. In fact, why wait till Jan 1st? You should start right now.