Once upon a time, a group of animals decided to create a school for their children. There were ducks, frogs, birds, rabbits and many other animals. The parents decided that the curriculum should consist of running, jumping, flying and swimming. To be fair, they had each animal take all classes. For the purposes of this story, we’ll follow the rabbit.
The first day of school was running class. Rabbit was fantastic! His teacher raved about how great she did and even called her parents to let them know. The next day was jumping class. Once again, rabbit was at the top of her class. The teacher sent home a big A+ for rabbit’s parents to see. The next day was flying class. How do you think rabbit did? She fell out of the tree. She was so disappointed in herself. Her teacher reassured her and let the rabbit know she would be going to flying tutoring. The next day was swimming class. Not a pretty picture. The poor rabbit almost drowned.
At this point, the teacher sent a note home to rabbit’s parents explaining that because she was already so good at running and jumping, they were going to take her out of those classes and have her focus all of her time and energy on flying and swimming. After all, those were the areas that needed improvement.
The poor rabbit was devastated. All she wanted to do was run and jump, and now her days were filled with falling out of trees and several near drowning incidents. Finally, rabbit had enough. She dropped out of school, became depressed and ran away from home. She went on to join a rabbit gang, and it all went downhill from there.
How many times do we have people in our lives that are wonderful runners and jumpers, yet we continually get frustrated with them when they can’t fly or swim? This happens in both our personal and professional lives. Whether it is team member that is not a good fit for a specific project, or a friend or family member that just can’t seem to change the things you wish they would do more or less of, the rabbit phenomenon is a constant battle. And guess who we spend the most time frustrated with for not being better swimmers or flyers? Ourselves.
We each have a certain set of strengths and talents that come naturally and that we enjoy. There is a great book called StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath that offers a way to identify yours. The book is an abbreviated version of the original, Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
It is unfortunate, but most of us spend so much time trying to fix our weaknesses, that we become burned out, frustrated and mediocre. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend any time developing your weaknesses. It simply means the time developing those areas should focus on keeping those things from being a liability, rather than trying to be great at them.
What can you do to focus on maximizing and leveraging your strengths? If there are certain tasks or activities that give you energy and make you feel good about yourself, try to identify what skill set or talent they allow you to use. Then, try to do those things more often or apply the same strengths in other areas. Spend your time further developing what you do well so you can do it even better. If all you ever focus on are your weaknesses, you might end up getting depressed, running away and joining a rabbit gang!