How To Maximize Your Strengths & Minimize Your Vulnerabilities

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How To Maximize Your Strengths & Minimize Your Vulnerabilities
Self

You can free up your talents by accentuating your strengths. This process also helps you understand how to maximize your strengths and minimize your vulnerabilities, as you’ll see below.

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What are strengths and vulnerabilites?

Strengths relate to abilities you naturally express well or can develop further with relative ease and pleasure.

Vulnerabilities are not weaknesses. Instead, they tend to show aspects of yourself that are easily breached or exploited emotionally by others.

Both strengths and vulnerabilities have traps and advantages, as you’ll see in this article and from your own experiences.

Start with strengths.

Strengths are more confirming and immediately promising. In the popular StrengthsFinder, there are 34. Surely, you will notice many of yours listed there.

Since all these strengths make focusing and learning a challenge, deepening and expanding strengths is often easier when you start with fewer choices.

The following suggestions integrate just three areas for attention. I encourage you to fashion them to your situation as you design a better present and a holistic approach to improving your quality of life over time.

Integrating and expressing your strengths.

The first set of strengths focuses on creating and having effective relationships crucial for love, family, work, and community. As you know, many of these connections can mingle and cross-fertilize.

When chosen and sustained well, these connections often provide immediate, enjoyable support for your confidence, security, and growth. They also add opportunities for building collaboration and success, including the fun and joys that come with sharing progress and accomplishments.

Your answers to the following questions can make many of your strengths expressed through relationships more apparent.

To stimulate action and results, name one to three for each bullet you choose or adapt. Every one of them will benefit from some thought, imagination, and visualization. Specific examples are also useful.

  • From where and who do you get the most stellar, healthy support, acknowledgement, or appreciation?
  • In what situations do your significant relationships help you express your authentic abilities?
  • Which two or three connections contribute to your joy and meaning in life?

A second set of strengths is totally within yourself.

They are what makes you unique and where you have the most immediate choices and insights. That can include care and development of your inter-connected gut, brain, and psyche ─ that rich combination of mind, soul, and spirit.

Implicit in all three is your motivation to learn and explore, to create your own progress, and ultimately others’ as you use your powers. See Neurodharma by Rick Hanson to consider and make such connections.

Use and adapt the following questions to appreciate and enrich these internal strengths. To avoid overwhelming yourself, name one to three for each bullet.

  • What ability or inspiring idea do you want to apply and expand further through formal courses, self-study, practice, and collaborative efforts?
  • What particular spiritual interest has meaning for you that’s valuable enough to incorporate related philosophy, religious expression, and quietude?
  • How will you honor your body with viable, healthier practices and enjoyable play?

A third set of strengths relates to extending yourself further.

They deal with influencing others to make a difference, caring for your physical and cultural environment, and creating and organizing resources for your own security and to benefit others.

You may think all this is a too expansive a range, but the elements have aspects in common that bring them together. They all require you to move into the world in more ambitious ways. They also come with risks that could expose your vulnerabilities.

Here are some questions to help you focus such outreach and action to apply and adapt. To avoid taking on too much, name one to three for each bullet.

  • What formal and informal powers do you have that you want to express to influence an important outcome to benefit yourself and others? Name the outcome you want.
  • What main cultural values do you embrace that contribute to your influence and purposes in life?
  • What specific resources — financial and intangible, such as time — will you marshal and use to accomplish a main purpose in life that you have already clarified or will explore soon? How and when will you do that?

Making the most of strengths and vulnerabilities

Just as healthy relationships help sustain your strengths, they can also expose your vulnerabilities.

For example, to develop and express your internal and external strengths, your support system is crucial. In turn, that dependence also makes you vulnerable to other people’s needs, foibles, and tendencies.

Use members of your trusted support system for learning, finding and sustaining resources, and influencing ways to make a difference probably have expectations that are important to clarify.

Unless you find or create common ground, your own goals and accomplishments may be weakened, thwarted, or sabotaged.

So, first identify and cultivate further the more balanced, worthwhile relationships in your support system. Among them are people clearly in your corner and beneficial such as:

  • Cheerleaders and appreciators
  • Connectors and empathizers
  • Astute, caring questioners and information providers
  • Happiness and joy stimulators
  • Promoters of healthier behaviors

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As possible for each of these bullets, name one person who gives you such encouragement.

While thinking about that, how would you improve and sustain the connections you have? How would you try out some new ways to encourage additional relationships?

In contrast to the individuals who strengthen you, here are examples of people who tend to distract your focus and drain nonrenewable time for progress in areas important for your health and welfare.

Identify and modify any descriptions below of such people who could distract your focus and drain nonrenewable time. Ask yourself how well they contribute to your interests, needs, and hopes.

Also, consider the balance in your life between the examples of valuable people above and the detractors below.

  • Users ("one-way streeters" who take advantage of givers especially)
  • Squelchers and whiners who rob energy and time with their focus primarily on their interests and needs
  • Passive-aggressive and action-thwarting people who tend to keep you static
  • Intolerant, unhappy, jealous people who prefer to put you down than lift you up
  • Boring, stuck, or untrustworthy people who suck your energy and hope with their own issues they’re unable or unwilling to address

For each bullet above that relates to your situation and main connections in your life, name one person with whom you’ll spend less time or limit your commitments and contact as much as possible.

Traps and benefits of strengths.

As previously mentioned and shown above, there are traps lurking in your strengths you have no doubt experienced or suspected.

Both supporting and exploiting people could be attracted to you for your strengths or unquestioning generosity and instincts. And you will be tempted or seduced into expressing them, because you like being of value to others and certainly enjoy being effective and useful.

That’s where your strengths can also contain vulnerabilities. If you give in to habits and people that are not likely to serve your needs and interests.

What other traps from your strengths come to mind? Yet, there are ways to finesse the traps and avoid giving in to your vulnerability. 

Here are some suggestions on when someone habitually asks you do something that you know they can do themselves or find other assistance...

1. Ask them questions, rather than jumping into helper mode.

For example, explore with them who else they know who could provide the assistance or sources of services they could engage if you were not so accommodating. You could also choose to demur, saying you’d like to help, but have other commitments you can’t change.

By doing that, you will also help them develop their strengths and repertoire of self-sufficiency. You will also make additional time for your own needs and preferences, which will benefit from renewed attention. 

2. Offer to teach them or refer them to sources for learning about how to do something on their own.  

Their attitude and response will tell you something about their motivation. This will reveal how willing they are to translate their supposed caring for you into action in your interest.

Ultimately, they can also reap benefits as they become increasingly skilled and effective in managing their own lives.

3. Figure out the aspects of ego satisfaction that you get from being the go-to person, or continuous source of generous giving.

Ask yourself why most of the people you connect with are needy. You may also just be the victim of your own "autopilot mode."

That impulsivity is strengthened by neural pathways deepened by repetition. Often such habits can promote others’ dependency or sense of inadequacy.

Acting on autopilot makes you even more vulnerable to others’ needs. It also robs the needy person of developmental opportunities to find aid from a range of resources and become more self-sufficient.

How would you benefit from modifying any tendencies, habits, and connections that hold you back? How willing are you to deal with any natural conflict or rejection that may accompany expressing your concerns and assertion of what you want?

You can convert a vulnerability into a strength.

One way to turn a vulnerability into strength is to generate or find assistance for yourself. Among the tendencies that don’t benefit you, name one that’s holding you back from making the progress you want.

For example, I was forced to stop giving in to my block about math that went on for decades. Finally, I had no choice but to confront rather than tiptoe around it; my doctoral requirements in statistics could no longer be avoided. I had to confront my fear, because there was no way left to wiggle out.

Luck, coupled with motivation forced by reality led me to a confessional conversation with a classmate who was struggling with a subject that I enjoyed: organizational theory. She was a math whiz. We decided to tutor one another regularly with agreed upon guidelines.

Instead of focusing just on the information, she also paid attention to how my fear showed up. I’d go blank or feel frozen about knowing what to do and she’d catch me as I turned off by saying, “Your eyes are glazing over.” Then, I’d laugh and return to better focus and thinking. We both got A’s in the two courses and gave ourselves gold stars for mutual mentoring!

Enjoy your strengths.

Many of the benefits of your strengths have already been demonstrated and imagined. Keep on appreciating them through further development and use. Celebrate, even boast about them, with your caring supporters, acknowledging how they may have helped you.

In fact, hearing your own confidence can strengthen it within you, especially when you describe specific examples in appealing ways.

Now is the time to choose how you can and want to thrive through self-management, relationships with others, and exercising your influence in effective, salutary ways. Then the chances for win-win outcomes will be enhanced. You will continue maximizing your strengths and minimizing your vulnerabilities for your own delight and success.

As author E.M. Forster said, “Only connect.” In this article, that means connecting with your true self as well as with others in relationships that have meaning and pleasure for you all. Your empathy, curiosity, and positive experiences will continue to bring dividends for yourself and others.

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Ruth Schimel, Ph.D., is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future on her website, where you’ll also find your invitation for a free consultation.