Let’s talk about your strengths that help you reach your business goals, and challenges that might prevent you from becoming successful. When participants explore their strengths and confront their challenges in my marketing workshops, they feel better equipped to make their business goals a reality.
A strength is a trait, characteristic, or skill that comes effortlessly to you. If something comes naturally to you, it’s a strength that you most likely enjoy using. More ethereally, you can’t be great at doing something unless it’s a strength. Even when others recognize your strengths, you might minimize them because your strengths might be taken for granted.
A challenge is an activity that takes you out of your emotional and intellectual comfort zone and could cause anxiety. When you face a challenge, you’ll need to harness many of your internal strengths to achieve success. My psychotherapist friends like to say that dealing with a challenge can be an area of personal growth.
You often hear people refer to one’s strengths and weaknesses. I equate weakness with helplessness. I see weakness as a fault emanating from the world of negativity. Not good. Living in a world of negativity is a bummer. Negativity begets more negativity.
There are two different approaches to working with your strengths and challenges. First, you identify your strengths and use them to their fullest advantage. Second, you recognize your challenges and work to overcome them. Your strengths are not necessarily related to your challenges, but they can be.
Here’s an example of how one of my marketing workshop participants worked on his strengths and challenges. Ben is a 28-year-old graphic designer. He currently works for an advertising agency and wants to leave the agency to start his own graphic design studio. I asked him to tell me one key strength he would bring to building his own business. He immediately replied, “I’m creative!”
Next, I asked Ben to describe the most difficult challenge he faces in building his business. He hesitated for a few seconds, and then said; “I’m always second guessing myself about my ability to be creative. I question whether I’m able to sell and whether I’m good enough to compete in the market.” For the first time, Ben was able to articulate his challenge.
Next, I asked Ben to carefully look at this difficult challenge. Then I probed deeper and asked him if there is some other way in which he might be second guessing himself. Ben looked down for a few seconds. He seemed to be somewhere else. “I don’t know.”
Another question. “Ben, think hard now. What, if any internal messages do you have about yourself that would make it difficult for you to overcome your challenge?”
Now Ben was deep in thought. “I’m not smart enough to be doing this,” Ben revealed. “My parents always compared me to my older brother who I thought was smarter. But it extends farther than that.
“Ben,” I asked, “is there something positive you would like to tell yourself in place of your negative message?” Ben replied, “I’m a competent, creative professional”.
I gave Ben a pen and an index card and asked him to:
- Write this positive message on the card
2. Display the card in a prominent place where it can be seen every day
Now that Ben had a clear picture of his new positive message, we went on to the next part of the exercise. I asked him if he had at least one concrete idea to address his challenge of second guessing himself. Ben, feeling more confident, said he would make a list of his recent accomplishments.
Finally, I asked the other workshop participants if they had any ideas to help Ben.
Someone suggested that Ben call one of his colleagues and friends to remind him that he’s a competent professional. Another suggested that Ben reread his list of accomplishments when he would start to second-guess himself. My suggestion was a straightforward message for Ben to say to himself: “I have an amazingly successful track record.”
Ben was candid about his struggle with second guessing himself. He took a good, hard look at himself. After the workshop Ben told me he felt like a burden had been lifted off his back. Good work, Ben.
Now it’s your turn. Answer the following questions:
- What are three strengths you bring to building your business?
- What are three challenges you face in building your business?
- Looking at the most difficult challenge you identified, is there something more you know about this challenge?
- Think hard now. What, if any internal messages do you have about yourself that would make it difficult for you to overcome your main challenge?
- Is there a positive message you have about yourself that can replace your negative message?
- Name several ideas you have to deal with your main challenge
If confronting and doing something about your challenges seems daunting, take a step back and focus on your strengths.
One final note:
“Our ability to handle life’s challenges is a measure of our strength of character.”
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