Is achieving balance one of your goals in life? If it is then that is very good. However, I have recently come to realize that it is not one of mine. I am perfectly willing to become excellent at using my innate talents while accepting that there are areas of weakness or things that I am not good at accomplishing. Just yesterday I was engaged in a discussion about the Strengths Based Approach to Leadership Development and this led me to realize that this is not true for everyone.
In a nutshell, the Strengths Based Approach concept is built around the theory that we all have within us some innate talent or talents and we would all be more successful in life if we were able to identify those talents, practice and become skilled at using them so that they become strengths for us and then leverage them on a daily basis to accomplish our goals. The idea is that we could be more successful if we focused on developing our strengths rather than focusing on improving in our weak areas.
I firmly believe this to be true. I believe that if we put our limited time, energy and attention into getting better at something we are innately good at, we have the real potential to become enormously successful doing it. And long before I knew what to call this concept, I have been trying to identify those areas for myself and for those who work around me. Therefore, you can imagine my shock yesterday when someone in my training program asked me whether that focus on developing their strengths would help them to achieve balance. I told him that it really depended on what he meant by balance. However upon reflection, I have come to realize I fundamentally do not believe that we need to be in balance to be successful in life.
In turn this has now led me to the realization that I have not been taking into consideration the fact that people have differing definitions of what it means to live a successful life. My message has only been targeted to the individuals who were defining success the way I do, i.e. finding what you are really good and working at that to see how far it will take you.
I often tell a story I heard many years ago.
“Man met God on a mountain path and God told man that he wanted him to push against the boulder in the middle of the pathway. Man did as he was told and for many years he pushed against that boulder even though it did not move. When God returned Man hung his head in shame and said God I have failed you. For years I have been pushing against the boulder and I was unable to move it. God smiled and said to Man I did not ask you to move the boulder, I only asked you to push against it. That you have done and as a result you have grown strong and determined.”
For some people there is great growth that comes simply from working at the things that are not strengths for them. They enjoy the struggle of consistently fighting to get things done and overcoming that feeling of challenge and increased level of difficulty. It would appear however that I am not. I like the sense of accomplishment from achieving something and the chance to win is my greatest motivation.
The problem is that for many of us, we take our strengths for granted because they come so easily and we seem to believe that the things which cause us to use more energy are the ones that we need to keep working at because that is where our growth potential lies. Maybe some people find great happiness in working to overcome those weaknesses.
What is interesting is that we are often very accepting of individuals who long ago identified their own innate talent or talents and then spent years developing them to get better and better at them. We reward them with fame, success and glory. Yet for ourselves we live in constant fear that the one thing we are not good at will someday be our downfall and bring us to some point of ruination. (A little dramatic, I know.)
For years I have been telling people about the value in the Strengths Based Approach because I firmly believe that this is where we should all focus our energy if we really want to be successful. When you are in a state where you are using your innate talents, practicing with them and building your skills in using them, you are less stressed. You feel more energized and you are able to accomplish more with little or no effort. The more that you use your innate talents and strengths the easier it becomes for you to recognize those areas that are not your strong areas. For those areas you work around them.
However, I will now amend this to start reminding myself that not everyone defines success in the same way. Therefore if you are the kind of person that likes to constantly push against that boulder whether it moves or not, simply because you know that you are growing just by going through the struggle, then I suggest you continue working on those weak areas. In the end, you will have achieved success and perhaps even the balance that you may be seeking.