What’s working?

Photo by Marcin Wichary


We often hear people say that they need to work on their weaknesses. Today in class, I heard someone say that he sees the positive feedback he receives as pat on the back, but he really wants people to focus on his areas of improvement.  The problem is, our weaknesses are not only hard to fix, fixing them will lead (at best) to marginal improvement in results. The more effective way to improve our performance is to focus on what we are good at and think of ways to do more of that! I love David Rendall ‘s approach to this issue:

Fact #5: There is nothing wrong with you

How does a sundial work? What does it require? It tells time by casting a shadow on the appropriate hour. It needs to be in the sun. What happens when you put a sundial in the shade? Does it work? Of course not. But is it broken? Is something wrong with it? No, it isn’t broken and nothing is wrong with it. Then what is the problem? The problem is that the sundial is in the shade. It is in the wrong spot. The sundial doesn’t need to be fixed; it needs to be moved.

It is the same in our lives and our work. When things go bad, it is not because something is wrong with us. It is because we are in the wrong spot. The job or the relationship didn’t work out because it was the wrong fit.

Instead of fixing our weaknesses, we need to look for the right fit. We need to find situations that match our strengths, highlight our abilities, and bring out the best in us. We need to get out of the shade and into the sun.

It is a mindset that is relevant both in the personal and the professional level. We spend too much of our lives worrying about what is not working. About how to fix or change things that are broken. Negativity is contagious and when you spend all your time thinking in negative terms, it affects you well-being and performance. But positivity is also contiguous. What will happen if instead we focused on what is working? A few months back I quoted the Heath brothers from What Matters:

We’re wired to focus on what’s not working. But Murphy asked, “What IS working, today, and how can we do more of it?”

You’re probably trying to change things at home or at work. Stop agonizing about what’s not working. Instead, ask yourself, “What’s working well, right now, and how can I do more of it?”

So, what’s working for you?


3 Responses to “What’s working?”

  1. Rishi 'G' Sahgal Says:

    I think we should definitely try to recognize our strengths, because ultimately those are what differentiate us. I do think, however, that we do need to understand our weaknesses and work to improve them. I don’t know whether your statement that changes in performance due to addressing weaknesses will result in marginal benefits at best is supported empirically….i would be surprised if it were.

  2. Rishi 'G' Sahgal Says:

    by the way, I think there is something wrong with the retweet button on this page.

  3. sherfelad Says:

    Hey Rishi,
    Thanks… I love to get your input on the blog. Always an interesting and intelligent perspective. I actually think you made a similar comment in the past about some related to this subject… I guess I could not convince you then or now…
    It is supported by empirical evidence (just not mine). Of course the specific statement is an exaggeration meant to make a point.
    It is never smart to disregard anything considering your personality. I just think that people put to much emphasis on weaknesses. They do tend to improve, but the efforts are huge for the kind of improvement they get. When you focus on strengths however, you are able to overcome those weakness and create real growth. I suggest you read some of David Rendall work in the links above or some of Marcus Buckingham’s work…
    The retweet link works just fine for me… You can always retweet manually.. just for me 🙂
    Thanks again!

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