You have all probably been to that dark place where the only thing you see is a failure and the only thing you hear is the ticking of negative thoughts in your brain.
This is certainly a ‘place-to-be’ as our brain cannot function without negative thoughts. But one feels even more vulnerable when this dark place happens in a new country they have just moved to.
That is exactly what happened to me when I moved to France from Armenia. Luckily, I spoke French so getting around and meeting people was not a problem. But when it came to finding a job and making close friends, I made efforts that never landed.
Eventually, my confidence level shrank to a point where I was ready to return to my country.
At that very moment, I am glad my ego said, “It means you are a weak person.”
That ‘weak’ triggered my attention as no one had ever called me weak before. So I started looking for an answer to why I felt defeated until one day I had this weird thought. I wondered what would happen if I changed the spin and concentrated on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. Apparently, I had long forgotten about my strengths by that time.
You have possibly heard a lot, “Focus on your strengths, forget about your weaknesses.”
So I really wanted to know how it felt to be totally focused on my top skills.
Well, that paradigm shift appeared to be the reason why I succeeded in my life in France. So I decided to share with you how focusing on my strengths resulted in 3 unexpected turns in my life.
#1. Focusing on my strengths helped me ‘own’ my weaknesses
There is a popular opinion that when you focus on your strengths you should no longer notice your weaknesses. But concentrating on my strengths helped me become more self-assured about my weaknesses and freely talk about them.
There’s a saying: ‘Tell me what you can’t do, and I’ll believe you when you tell me what you can do.’
It is true because focusing on one’s top skills does not mean shutting down the weaknesses. They both coexist in harmony and prioritizing one should not block the other.
Knowing and talking about weaknesses only builds trust and distinguishes you from other people. Neglecting those weaknesses and acting as if they do not exist only builds temporary confidence.
When I fully focused on my strengths, it helped me notice and own my weaknesses. And when I started talking about my weaknesses and the ways my strengths complemented them, I built relationships of trust both with recruiters and with my friends.
#2. Acknowledging and embracing my strengths taught me to think positively
I always thought that when we think positively only then we start to see our true strengths. But focusing on my strengths first helped me comprehend that it is the only prerequisite for positive thinking to work.
I had tried positive thinking before but I always failed. I thought that thinking positively would make me stronger and would resolve all my problems overnight. Well, little did I know at that time that nothing was going to work unless I understood what my top skills were.
While studies have already proven that thinking positively helps people see more opportunities, it is only through my own strength-awareness that I understood what positive thinking was.
I started to see more solutions not because I was thinking positively and La Vie was en rose, but because I knew what I was good at and how I could use my skills to find endless ways to rectify what did not feel right in my life.
#3. I gained true confidence that does not depend on time, country or profession
It seems evident that when we use our top character traits and skills, we automatically feel confident. But how many times have you felt shaken when traveling to a new place or taking up a new project? I guess at least once.
I personally felt anxious many times because I did not know if I was competent enough to quickly adapt to a new environment.
Well, it would not have been the case had I known that my top skills are only dependent on me and not the environment around me. Of course, one’s strengths perform differently depending on people, places, and events around us but they do not fade away in a new environment.
One of the reasons why I shut down while applying for new jobs was because I completely neglected that my strengths still remained my strengths. And that is regardless of the country, of the time or the position I was applying for.
So it is only when I embraced my strengths that I gained true confidence to persist in any environment.
How to actually focus on one’s strengths?
One of the most common ways is by making a list of your top strengths based on your own perception. You should then ask your friends and colleagues for feedback.
There are numerous personality tests and strengths finders that could also help you identify your top strengths. I personally used HIGH5 which is this free strengths finder that helped me discover my top 5 strengths and the ways I could leverage them more in my life and work. Other alternative tests include CliftonStrengths and VIA Survey.
Another way of finding one’s strengths is with the help of career coaches. They guide you during the whole process of strength-awareness and strengths use.
The key to succeeding lies not only in knowing what one’s strengths are but also being able to use them.
Take a couple of minutes every day to brainstorm how you can use your strengths in your everyday activities. Research has shown that those who utilize their strengths feel more satisfied with their lives and are usually happier.
You might probably be wondering now if I ever landed a job and found true friends in France. Well, I did. But what focusing on my skills taught me was even bigger than a full-time contract in one of the coolest marketing agencies in town.
I learned how to accept my weaknesses and be proud of them, how to think positively and not lie to myself. I also learned how to be truly confident regardless of circumstances around me. Is there anything better than this?