An Exercise in Self-Reflection
- Grab a Piece of Paper and a Pencil
- Write down 5 things you are AWESOME at.
- Write down 5 weaknesses you have.
- Write down 1 thing you want to actively get better at.
Are you Too Hard on Yourself?
I like this exercise because it emphasizes how much better we are at identifying our flaws. If step 2 took you less time than step 3, then you’re awesome. And you know it. For most of us, writing our strengths takes way longer that it does to write down our weaknesses. Those are always at the top of our minds.
If we can’t successfully identify our strengths, we don’t know where we can add value.
Focus on the “A” – Not the “F”
When a student brings a report card home and they get an “A” in science and an “F” in English, the immediate reaction of a parent would be to focus on the “F” in English. This is the wrong approach. If this kind of grading is a consistent trend for this student, it’s clear the student is gifted in science and not in English.
Yes, the student should improve the “F” in English because we all need to learn how to be proficient in things outside our natural skillset, but those “F” grades don’t all need to turn into “A” grades.
In high school, I got my first “B” in Physics. I was really good at math and English classes. Then came calculus. I was actually failing calculus (and again, I had gotten only one “B” and all other “A” grades up to this point). I was told that I couldn’t drop the class and still graduate with honors (a ploy at teaching us not to be quitters). I could, however, fail the class and graduate with honors (because my GPA would still be high enough to qualify). I worked to improve my “F” and worked so hard, I earned a “C”; I was so proud! (In the end, the teacher bumped it up to a “B” because of my efforts.)
Is the moral of the story that I did something hard and made it my new strength? No! I haven’t had to use physics or calculus since those classes in high school. They aren’t my strengths. Instead, the lesson is that if you show up and try hard, you’ll get through. The lesson is that I knew in high school that I was good at research. I was good at writing. I was good at analysis. I was good at statistics, geometry, algebra. Physics and calculus didn’t come naturally.
Success Follows Authenticity
“Authenticity” is overused these days. People are always trying to be “authentic,” live “authentically,” or live up to some ideal of what it means to have an “authentic life.”
What “Authenticity” really means is that you live YOUR life. You do you. That means your “authentic life” will be different from anyone else’s (and may not be as Instagrammable as someone else’s “authentic” life – my research-filled “authenticity” makes a really bad social profile).
Success comes when you stop trying to mimic the success or talents of others, and instead fuel your natural abilities. You already have a head start with things that come naturally! Use that to your advantage!
Rethink Your Goals
Now look at the one thing you wanted to improve on. Does that line up with your strengths or your weaknesses? Is it something that you would be forcing yourself to do? How will it help you to be good at that? Would it be better to focus elsewhere?