Playing to Your Strengths – Part 2

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When I was in elementary school, every once in a while someone would run up and toss out a dare:  “Don’t think about pink elephants.” Guess what? I spent the rest of the day thinking about…pink elephants. I couldn’t make myself stop. It’s one of those immutable laws of life: the thing you most try to avoid thinking about is the one your brain naturally focuses on.

Since then, I’ve learned how to get the pink elephants out of my head. I change focus. As soon as I consciously start thinking about something else, the pink elephants drop off my mind’s radar scope.

Marcus Buckingham’s book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, talks a lot about focus. He offers practical suggestions on how to tilt your life to maximize your strengths and focus on the things you love.

But what about our weaknesses? We all have things we wish we could do better. Things we wish we didn’t do.

And then, of course, there are the people in our life who test our limits and drain our energy: be they bosses, co-workers, children or spouses. What do we do with those? We can’t—and often don’t really want to—get them out of our life permanently.

According to Buckingham, there, too, the answer lies in changing focus. Start putting your energy into building up the good things about yourself or that troublesome relationship, and the negatives will cease to be as important.

My friend Tammy has often said, “If you have a spotted dog and you start looking at the spots, after a while, all you see are the spots.” She’s right. If you only focus on the negative, on the “pink elephant” that’s making you crazy, pretty soon, that becomes the sum total of the relationship.

So turn it around. Focus on the positives, the strong points, the things you love and appreciate about this other person. Do that, and pretty soon those things that make you nuts will lose their power. They’ll probably never go away—sorry—but you won’t care as much, because your focus will be on the good stuff.

The same thing applies to our own weaknesses. Focus on your strengths, on the things that give you energy and make you feel strong, and those other things will cease to weigh you down.

Today I’m heading outside to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I’m going to consciously think about the things I love about my life and my family and my job.

The rest will take care of itself.

What about you? How do you deal with your weaknesses–in yourself or your relationships? I’d love to hear your strategies.



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    The Conversation

  1. Vonnie Davis says:

    Your blog is so timely. We all have weaknesses–and for those of you who think you don’t, THAT is your weakness. Mine has been with me since early childhood. I stutter. As a writer, who may be asked to give a reading sometime, I try not to stress over it, but I do. I mean the whole visual makes me nervous and, yes, stutter more. Those who stammer have a mental rolodex of words that flow easier than others. Automobile flows easier for me than car, for example. When I can speak freely, picking and chosing my words and concentrating on my breathing patterns, I can have a fairly smooth discussion. But put a book in my hands and tell me I MUST read what’s written and my stomach clenches, my palms sweat and little comes out. How will I give a reading, if asked? First off I tell myself not to worry until it happens. My husband, who has a lovely deep southern drawal, has offered to read in my place. A sweet gesture on his part, but shouldn’t I put on my big girl panties and deal with it myself? I’m starting in small steps. I teach little mini-seminars to my writers’ group and make myself read from a paper before I continue ad libing the information. I started out with one sentence and have now worked up to one paragraph. Does it flow smoothly? No, not always, but my writer friends know what I’m doing and they are supportive and patient as I struggle to get the words out. Sometimes the best way to face a weakness is head on with a strong dose of resolve–no matter how painful.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thank you SO much for sharing this! I admire your courage in facing it head on, giving mini-seminars even. That’s wonderful. You have daring and resolve and the courage to forge ahead. And I love your husband for offering to do readings for you. What a guy! And you know what, I don’t think there’d be a thing wrong with it if you sometimes had him do it for you. That’s one of the lovely perks of marriage–often you balance out each other’s weaknesses. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Ruth says:

    When I was in college, the popular saying was ‘You can have it all’. A wise teacher told me “No, you can’t have it all, but you can have a lot of it”. I think that speaks to the focus Buckingham talked about.