Attack Your Limitations: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

Zen Habits

Hailing from Guam it's a pleasure to introduce Leo Babauta, who will be providing the frank community with inspiration and tactics on setting and achieving your goals each and every week, check out his blog Zen Habits

Something that has always intimidated me from starting something new has always been a deep worry about my shortcomings. I know that I have weaknesses, and I’m afraid they’ll lead to my failure.

“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve learned in recent years, however, that those weaknesses can be turned into strengths with a very simple tool: the right mindset.

I’m not talking just about the power of positive thinking (which I think is a great tool for anything) but about figuring out ways in which weaknesses can actually be strengths. If you develop the mindset that weaknesses aren’t really weaknesses, you’ve just broken through your limitations and fears.

For example, for the longest time I was no good at sustaining something for very long, at achieving any kind of long-term success. I was good at short-term projects, but I couldn’t keep anything going for long. So I found two ways to make this work in my favor:

  1. I became the master of the quick turnaround. Someone needs a job done? I’ll do it in a day or two. Any job that takes longer than that is broken down into smaller jobs — and I take them on one at a time, rather than as a group of intimidating and overwhelming projects. I can do amazing work in short bursts — and that’s an awesome strength.
  2. I learned to focus on baby steps. For some goals, you need to sustain something for a long time — running a marathon is a good example. But if I focused on one step at a time, and made each step a major success, I could achieve a lot over time with little baby steps. Instead of worrying about an entire marathon training program (usually takes 3-4 months), I focus on one day at a time, or one week at the most. And I celebrate my successes as though I completed the entire program.

What Weaknesses Are Holding You Back?

What do you think your weaknesses are? Are they keeping you from starting something new, from pursuing a dream?

Sometimes we have fears about our weaknesses without realizing it. Take a minute to think about what you’ve always wanted to do, or what you’re doing now. What are your fears? What do you perceive to be your weaknesses? What are your limitations, and what’s holding you back?

Take assessment, and then read on to change your mindset about these weaknesses.


Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I won’t be able to do an exhaustive list of weaknesses, but the main thing to learn is to have the mindset where your weaknesses can ALL be turned into strengths. There might be exceptions, but I haven’t thought of one yet. Even if there are, it is extremely useful to always look at your weaknesses and see how you can use them to your advantage.

First step: examine your weaknesses.

Second step: figure out your strengths.

Third step: figure out how to move your weaknesses into the strengths column.

Here are just a few examples … again, I can’t list all of them and the main idea is to figure them out yourself. The more you practice this mindset, the better you’ll get at it.

  • Not a good public speaker. Be an intimate communicator instead. If you aren’t good at talking to large crowds, talk to small groups or communicate one-on-one instead — and learn to be really good at that. Talk in ways that connect intimately with people, that draw them to you. Learn effective small-group communication and one-on-one skills.
  • Not a good writer. Be a people person instead. If you can’t write a great proposal, make it in person. If you can’t write a great report, do a presentation. If you can’t write a great blog, do a video blog or podcast.
  • Don’t have a lot of money to start a business. Be lean and creative instead. Small is actually an advantage in business. You can develop products without bureaucracy, witha quick turnaround, without too much planning or meetings. You can market using guerilla tactics. You are faster and more nimble than a larger competitor. You can adapt faster.
  • You aren’t fast. So be deliberate. Be more thorough. Be more thoughtful. Work on important stuff instead of cranking out a lot of stuff.
  • Don’t have large blog audience. So be more intimate and build stronger bonds with the small audience you have. Turn them into your biggest advocates, and really get to know every new reader. Have fun with your small audience in a way a bigger blogger can’t.
  • Not a people person. So work on brilliant stuff alone. Find your niche and make amazing stuff with the talents you have. Find people who are people persons to promote your stuff for you.
  • Not organized. Simplify things so you don’t need to organize (if you only have a few things, you don’t need to organize them). Be a creative genius instead of a diligent organized person.
  • Not good with tech. Go low-tech. Work with paper or simple text files. This will allow you to concentrate more on your work rather than always being online, always trying out the latest tech stuff, always learning new coding methods or whatever. Let others figure out technology for you.
  • Don’t have enough time. Great! So take what limited time you have and use it to maximal effect. Limitations are good — they force us to choose, and in doing so, they force us to choose what’s most essential. That increases our effectiveness. Choose only the task that will have the most impact.

You get the idea! Now get started on turning your weaknesses into strengths — start right now.

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