How Focusing on Strengths Instead of Weaknesses Changes Your Brain

Deivis Hernandez Valdes Blog

L

et me ask you a question. How many of your New Year’s resolutions focus on fixing a weakness?

My guess is most of them. Am I right? It’s human nature to focus on our shortcomings. And by doing so, we sabotage ourselves. Research clearly shows that people experience faster growth and development when they nurture their strengths instead of correcting their shortcomings.

THE POWER OF NURTURING OUR STRENGTHS

As a Harvard Business Review shows, once people focused on their strengths, they felt more satisfied with their lives and believed in new possibilities. All in all, they became happier.

And this goes for focusing on strengths in the form of talents and natural abilities as well as having positive feelings and trusting in yourself too. Often one is influencing the other. Let’s review a real-life example.

I am quite musical. I play the piano, some other instruments, and I'm part of interesting group of film and music producers in Monaco, Germany and USA. I had to compose a part last December 2016 at a different style of music for a project in LA, and took some private composing lessons in this kind of style to give my best. I enjoy this. I don’t mind putting lots of work and hours into rehearsals. After every rehearsal, I feel happy and refreshed. And I was thrilled to realize that I improved.

On the other hand, when I have to write something, I feel like disappointed. Even after learning some new writing techniques, I am still frustrated that nothing I wrote turns out the way I want. I feel like I want to jump and stomp on my works, and then throw it out of the window. It frustrates me sometimes. And I’m not having any fun at all.

Can you see what I mean?

In both cases, I am putting effort and energy into something. I learn techniques, and I try to improve.

But with music production, I’m having fun. I see real improvement that leads to something great, which I can perform and present to other people. It leaves me happy, satisfied, and with a feeling of achievement.

With writing, I’m not having any fun – at all. After putting lots of energy and time into improving this skill, the result is still in great need of improvement, and I can’t release it to anyone. I feel like I’ve wasted precious time.

HOW WHAT WE FOCUS ON AFFECTS OUR BRAINS

What I described in the examples truly affects our lives, our successes, our happiness, and how we perceive ourselves. Where we direct our focus affects our brains.

Focusing on our weakness makes our brains believe that we are not good enough

Whatever we think of most becomes stronger and more powerful in our brains. So, if we think of our weaknesses, they become stronger in our brains, to the point that our brains make us believe that we are our weaknesses and that we are not good enough.

Focusing on our weaknesses stresses our brains

Spending every day being reminded of what we’re not good at is frustrating. And it stresses the brain. So all of the brain’s functions are reduced to one simple activity: surviving the present situation.

The brain does only what guarantees survival and uses only what it knows. In no way is the brain able to use all of its areas and capacity to visualize and be creative at this stage. Stress reduces and blocks all that.

Focusing on our strengths opens our minds

If we do the opposite and think about our strengths, our brains let us believe that we are strong. We can use more areas of our brains, and our minds open up to new options. Our brains are also more open to learning new skills and new knowledge.

Only a positive, happy, and relaxed brain can be truly creative and think freely.

Focusing on our strengths increases our brain activity

Focusing as part of practicing a strength and talent improves this specific talent. Improvement is success, to the point of mastering the talent. And the more we experience success, the higher brain activity we’ll have. This activity changes our brains. It increases motivation, self-esteem, and happiness.

Focusing on our strengths releases dopamine

Doing what we’re good and strong at is usually accompanied with enjoying what we’re doing. This releases a molecule in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine in the brain provides feelings of pure happiness. It motivates us to continue doing what we’re doing. In addition, dopamine makes the brain be alert and able to react faster to new information.

Focusing on our strengths is not an easy way out

Don’t misunderstand what focusing on strengths means. It’s not an excuse to do only what you feel like. It’s not an excuse for avoiding hard work. Building your talents into real strengths requires practice and hard work, much like building physical strength does. It is your ticket to success, but it won’t happen by itself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

You’ve seen clear proof that focusing on your strengths changes your brain, opens your mind, and releases stress. Your strength is what sets you up for a positive life full of possibilities, creativity, and happiness. If focusing on your strengths is your way to happiness and success, why would you still focus on your shortcomings and waste your time with it? Forget about obsessing over your shortcomings.

You have a unique set of talents and strengths.

Use them.