There are many opinions about whether we should strive to be a "Jack of all traits" or a "Master of One". If you have read my previous posts (e.g. knowing vs figuring out), you would have identified that I caution against a binary way of thinking — this is one of them.
BEFORE YOU GO, I know this is not the answer you are hoping for but stay on for a little more. Just like most of our major decisions, we tend to hope for a clear direction on which option to choose (and commit to) but we actually know that the real situation is not as straightforward. So instead of deciding WHICH path to take, I think it is more appropriate for us to reframe the question to WHEN should we work on our weaknesses and WHEN we should double down on our strengths.
We perform best when we have a balance of strengths (what makes us marketable) and a lack of weaknesses (deal-breakers)
Let's start simple: why are we thinking about this topic? What is the key motivation behind this reflection? Are you facing rejections in your job/course/school applications? Or, are you feeling stagnated in your current situation?
The condition you are in should provide you with a lot of clarity about your decision. There is no question that both strength development and minimising weakness would be good for us, but at the same time, the process of self-development is usually challenging. It would involve committing to new routines (such as signing and showing up for a course, or practising mindfulness every time to time) which often consume our time and energy. This is why understanding intrinsic motivation is so important since it helps us gain the necessary drive to effect the change.
Deciding on WHEN
At this point, I would like to bring back the topic of tending to our ego (previous post). It is often that the key motivation is to develop ourselves into versions that we are proud to expose to the rest of the world. This way, we can market ourselves with confidence and stand by ourselves at times of crisis (instead of being overwhelmed by self-doubt).
If possible, grab a piece of paper and write down your answer. It doesn't matter if you eventually choose to discard this paper. Writing helps us focus and concretise our thoughts. Here is a list of guiding questions to help us with our decision:
What got me thinking of self-development? Was it a specific incident, a series of events or a sudden inspiration?
If I were to introduce myself to a stranger, what would I wish to be able to describe myself as?
What are the key characteristics that people around would identify me with?
Is it more positive or negative? If negative, work on those first!
What are some baby steps that I am willing to commit myself to for the coming week? (try for a week, is it too much or too little? Adjust and aim for another week... and another...)
Finally, don't get attached to labels
When asked about our strengths and weaknesses, we tend to mention traits and characteristics. When done too often, it comes ingrained in our subconscious as something that we identify with (which in turn identify us). Since I am dyslexic, the process of conveying my thoughts can sometimes be a struggle (fact) and I have always thought that it is therefore natural for me to struggle with writing (perception). One fun fact that I realised is that... I struggle MORE when I am reminded of my condition. This is the power of labels.
Fortunately, nothing is absolute in the real world. Our strengths can always be further developed and we are never a complete embodiment of our weaknesses. Being weak in an area (e.g. social interaction) seldom means being completely incapable of it (e.g. what about social interactions with friends or online?). It is often the case of RELATIVITY — when we start comparing ourselves to that scholar, the employee of the month, that successful cousin and even ourselves in our "golden days". It is great that we strive for the better but is also important that we keep our ego at a healthy level and learn to appreciate the imperfections of life (learn about Wabi-Sabi)!
Since life is a constant flux, we will all change with time. Regardless of the events, all we have to do is steer ourselves in the general direction of our goals and visions. Empower ourselves with the thought that we just need to be a little better than yesterday. Get started and stay committed to the long game. One bit at a time and enjoy this process! Cheers~
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