Where to Focus: Strengths or Weaknesses


Here is a common question we ask ourselves and one another all the time:

Is it better to focus on improving our weaknesses or building on our strengths?

For many of us, the natural answer is that by focusing on our weaknesses, we might turn them into strengths. Our strengths are already things we are good at, so what use is it focusing solely on those?

But new research in a wide variety of different fields suggest that this common sense answer is wrong. It suggests that you will get more value out of focusing on your strengths in the long run.

Why is that?

  1. For most people, strengths are also things we are most interested in, meaning we have an intrinsic motivation to improve. We’re more likely to stick with exercises targeting those things we’re interested in versus things we are not.
  2. Your strengths are what set you apart. Improving them, will help further establish you in your field and make you more valuable, whereas working on your weaknesses might just bring you up from below average to average.
  3. Despite popular desire, no one can be truly good at everything. The best of us are good at a few specific things.
  4. Focusing on weaknesses stress us out, while focusing on strengths makes us feel prouder/happier.

All of this is not to say that you should completely ignore your weaknesses. Especially if you have major gaps in your skills or abilities that hinder your job performance. You should absolutely work to fix those. But what this does it mean is that you will get more value out of focusing on your strengths in the long run.