What are you really good at? Better than anyone else?
We love asking this question of men going through Unravel. It prompts a lot of great thinking, leads to some powerful conversations, and reveals the incredible qualities of those in our midst.
We should be ready to answer this question at any time. Having this elevator pitch at the ready — whether you’re on an interview or a date — communicates that you’re self-aware and know your value. It also invites others to think about and share their own “bright spots.”
If you can’t think of an answer clearly and quickly, you’re not alone. And it would serve you well to spend some time coming up with a good answer. (If you’re really stumped, invite someone who knows you well to weigh in). Each man has been uniquely created with a unique set of talents.
And while seemingly straight-forward, this can be a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Sure, there’s the occasional narcissist who can’t wait to sing their own praises about all the ways they’re the best. But for the rest of us, a quick inventory of our lives will flag more problems and gray areas than really great things.
Why We Focus on Problems
We men like to focus on problems, and it’s no surprise. First, there are problems everywhere. We’re imperfect, the world is imperfect, and it’s not hard to notice. As Abraham Lincoln observed, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”
Second, we are natural problem solvers. It’s deeply satisfying to make a bad situation better, solve a tricky equation, or help someone out of a jam. As you’re reading this, you might be thinking of problems you’re particularly good at solving.
However, our “problem focus” can hurt us when it’s time to make changes. When faced with a crisis or tough situation, we often (and accurately) see problems all around us. There are so many things to figure out, which can result in indecision, overwhelm, and burnout. There’s simply too much to do, and it may seem impossible!
What are the Benefits of Focusing on Strengths Instead of Weaknesses?
In their book Switch, co-authors Dan and Chip Heath explore how best to go about making changes in life. They propose a radical adjustment in our “problem” thinking and argue for the benefits of focusing on strengths. “When it’s time to change, we must look for bright spots — the first signs that things are working, the first precious As and Bs on our report card. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What’s working, and how can we do more of it?”
When we identify things that are going well, we get a clearer picture of what we can do. We’re good at it, it works, and we just might be able to do more of it!
Let’s imagine you hate your job. Is there anything about it that’s going well? Maybe you’re great with people? Maybe you’re a natural improver — whenever there’s a problem, you come up with a creative solution. What if you could reimagine your job, focused more directly on the parts that are accurately working? Or maybe you need to find another job that plays more to these strengths?
Or say you’re feeling disconnected. There’s probably thousands of things you could try to improve your relationships. But if you focus on what you’re doing well, the number of choices shrink considerably, and you’ll have a higher degree of confidence that you’ll succeed.
Whatever your circumstances, just ask yourself: what skills or talents do you have? How can you use those skills or talents to make your situation better? By focusing on how to build on strengths you already have, you may find that the solution you’ve been looking for has been right there all along.
So how do you put this into practice?
Here Are Three Tips to Get Started
- Celebrate hope. No matter how many problems you have, there are some things you’re doing great. These successes prove that you are capable. Let them motivate you on the road to growth!
- Brainstorm ways to repeat yourself. If you’re having success in your career but your relationship is suffering, ask how you might use those gifts in this area of your life.
- Make a habit of finding bright spots in others. If someone is a really good communicator, let them know. If they’re great at organization, or being reliable, or an incredible artist, tell them. Receiving honest, positive feedback is motivating! And it may invite them to return the favor!
As you’re looking to make changes in your life, you may feel stuck. If you’re finding yourself in this situation, we encourage you to “unravel” your problem focus and look for what’s working. The biggest problems often have the smallest, brightest solutions.
Looking to Make a Change in Your Life? Try Unravel.
If you found this blog helpful, we encourage you to explore what Unravel has to offer. We’re a community of men just like you, and we’re dedicated to pushing each other to be the best we can be as friends, as fathers, as husbands, as workers, as Christians, and as men.