Why MANY smart people fail to make the most of their BIGGEST strengths

The answer: There is an invisible weakness related to your biggest strengths.

It is really a blind spot. A blind spot that will make you not notice your biggest strengths.

This short piece is about how you can overcome that invisible weakness and actually take steps to do something about it.

The Problem

Why does that happen?

It happens because when you do something so effortlessly that is when you are operating on your biggest strengths, the “act” itself goes your background. You stop “noticing” the act or the thinking that went behind the act.

When was the last time you noticed how you walk?

When was the last time you noticed how you talk?

Well, let’s take a specific example that most of you can relate to: When was the last time you noticed how you drive?

When you first drove your car – the very first time, you noticed everything. You wanted to coordinate the clutch, gear, the steering wheel etc. Then came a moment when you stopped noticing how you drive. You stopped noticing what you do, the steps you take to start the car, the steps you take to stop it, the steps you take to pass someone – you forgot that you are doing any of these things voluntarily. Things came to you as a natural response to the external stimuli. You forgot that you were thinking before taking those actions. See->Think-> Respond all of them just merged into one seamless action. In summary, as driving became your strength, you stopped noticing that you were putting in an effort to drive.

So, what’s the problem, you ask.

The problem is that if you don’t notice your biggest strengths and work on them, they won’t become even bigger. They won’t become your true assets. You stop growing to greater heights in the areas where you are already good. Rather than doing that, you will start focusing your attention on noticeable strengths. Your noticeable strengths may not be your biggest strengths. While it’s good to improve on whatever you are required to improve, your big returns will come from where you big strengths are. So, it is sort of your duty to give them the attention they truly deserve.

The Proposed Solution

So, what’s the solution?

You can’t build on something that’s invisible. So, before you attempt to do anything you have to make that “invisible” to “visible.” This would require that you start noticing what you are not noticing. You have to train your mind to notice the un-noticed. It may seem odd but you can do it. What you notice and what you don’t notice both are important. Here are a couple of examples to get started:

  • When you and your friend go to a movie and you both like that movie, share with your friend why you liked the movie. Then, ask your friend why he or she liked the movie. While “liking” the movie was the common theme between you, the reason for the liking may be different. You both notice and observe different things based on your backgrounds, taste and interests.
  • When you are in a class or a conference, take down some notes. Then ask four other people to share their notes and compare those notes with your notes. You will notice some insights that you would have missed. Not because you didn’t hear them but because everything that you heard did’t “touch” you in the way it touched others.

The fact that you are smart – you don’t need someone to come and explain to you what your biggest strengths are. You just need to get a hint, a whiff of what they are. You will grab them by their horns and take control of them. When you start being open and start to notice those things that were blurred into the background, you start to get those hints. It is better to realize your strengths earlier than later as even your biggest strengths need to be paid attention to and nurtured to make them your true assets. You can’t focus on something that you don’t know you should be focusing on. Learning to notice what you are not noticing is the first step towards uncovering those hidden strengths. Once you do that and operate in that space, then the demarkation between work and play will start to disappear.

Good luck!

Image Courtesy: Impact Visual Communications on Flickr