As humans, most of us are inclined to spend more time dwelling on our negative attributes, and trying to improve upon them, than we are developing our inherent strengths. We learn this bad habit at an early age… a child is deficient in math but great at writing? Great, get them a math tutor to improve the deficiency and keep them at pace with their writing proficiencies. In adolescents this makes sense because of the need of self-discovery, developing learning styles, and foundational growth. However, once we have matured this reasoning can lead to frustration because sometimes our efforts become futile. If we have mastered something close to the peak of our potential in a particular area, then further training makes little sense. This ties in with my post Applying the Pareto Principle. When a maximum effort will only result in smaller and smaller increments of improvement for a skill that is not a core competency for fulfilling a particular goal, then wouldn’t your efforts be better served elsewhere? Peak performers on the other hand spend time developing their core strengths …and with any remaining time only try to correct their most dominant weaknesses.
The attributes of a particular “strength” are usually defined by the methodology used to evaluate a particular set of strengths. My personal preference is the VIA Strengths defined by Martin Segliman (due to my affinity for Positive Psychology), but there are others out there such as Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0.
Experts are starting to agree, that developing and improving upon existing strengths is a better use of time than trying to improve upon weaknesses. For another person’s take on strengths and weaknesses read the HBS article Stop Worrying about Your Weaknesses by Peter Bergman.