Embrace Your Weaknesses and Failures

I believe in the value of emphasizing strengths over deficits. I’m pleased that ADHD professionals and researchers are talking more about this. At the same time, being strong also means being willing to accept failures and weaknesses as normal. Denying having weaknesses, and being defeated by failure, are not qualities of successful people. Affirmative thinking calls for accepting your strengths and weaknesses alike, and learning from failed efforts. There’s no day without night. Everyone experiences both. And failed effort is effort, which is the opposite of giving up. 

Attaching negative meaning to failures and weaknesses is the bigger problem. You are not the failure. You are not weak. Instead of judging your self, only judge your performance. Then you will find creative ways to work around failures and challenges. Many highly successful people have said they learned more from their failures than their successes. 

Let me illustrate. My memory is a weakness, just like my right eye. I rely on reading glasses for close-up vision. If I denied the unreliability of my working memory, I would handicap myself. Relying on my unreliable memory would be disabling. Relying on strategies and tools instead would be wise. If I thought of my self as a procrastinator, I would not find creative ways to activate. If I thought of my self as lazy, I would not sustain my effort. If I thought of my self as incapable, I would give up. Competence can be acquired. Any time I said to my mother that I couldn’t do something, she would say, “Can’t never did nothin.” 

Is it possible to focus too much on strengths? I think so. After receiving early rejections of my book proposal, I didn’t lose confidence in the manuscript. I was certain those publishers and agents were all wrong, and I was going to show them. But my drive to prove my worth backfired. I was one chapter short of completing my book when I got derailed by writer’s block for a couple of weeks. I had nothing to say because my values had shifted. I had become attached to the idea of becoming a published author instead of staying with my original value of helping people through writing. Thanks to my meditation practice, and reading Phil Moffitt’s Emotional Chaos to Clarity, I saw the disabling effects of abandoning my values. When I returned to my original purpose, writing that next chapter was easy.

We are neither blessed with strengths to the exclusion of weaknesses, nor cursed with weaknesses, absent any strengths. Normal people aim high and sometimes fail. They also aim high and sometimes succeed. Success does not require being exceptional; it only requires exceptional effort. Normal life experiences, by definition, are not special. If you want to succeed, consider releasing any preconceived outcome so you can start and sustain your effort. Getting to the finish line follows many moments of effort. In fact, it comes out of  effort. That’s why we call it outcome.

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