Image credit @kingmaphotos

Changing Focus

With the 1st January 2020 came the motivation to set goals for a new year. But how many of us felt defeated only two weeks into the month? Perhaps not reaching the initial targets we set ourselves; or falling short of our expectations; or maybe even failing to get started on our goal pursuits in the first place. Often the issue is not down to our lack of drive or passion – but more that our focus when initially setting our goals was misplaced.

Society’s preoccupation with Weakness

Our life experiences – at school, with family, within organisations, in sports – have shaped our thought processes, to the extent that we believe we need to identify our deficiencies and seek to correct them. In a work context, many of us will be familiar with the appraisal scenario – where feedback has been gathered and played back to us, highlighting our shortcomings, with the aim of setting a personal development plan to address these ‘gaps’. This line of thinking has become so second nature to many of us, that we set personal goals and aspirations focused on ‘fixing’ our weaknesses. While working on issues that might be holding us back – in work, in relationships, in life – is commendable, overly focusing on changing certain ‘lesser’ elements of ourselves will never be as powerful as investing in our strengths, if personal improvement is what we seek.

The amplification effect of Strengths

Strengths – our true strengths – are so much more than things we are naturally good at. They are things we can do better, faster, more efficiently than other people who don’t possess those same strengths. They are the value we can bring to groups, teams and communities. They energise us and give us our spark. They build self-esteem. They make us feel good and ‘in the zone’ when we are using them. In this way, playing to our strengths, will not only help us achieve our goals quicker and more efficiently, but is also highly beneficial for our wellbeing.

Strengths-Based Development

So, if, like many others, you find yourself at the beginning of February, feeling disappointed in your 2020 achievements so far – maybe the answer is to shift your focus towards your strengths and centre your goals around harnessing, investing in, and building on these. There are a number of ways you can identify your strengths, but the most common is to use an online psychometric ‘test’. Some of these you will need to pay for, but Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) Values In Action survey available at, is free to access and available in both adult and children’s versions. Research has shown that people who are able to identify their strengths and put these to regular use in new ways are happier, have increased vitality and self-esteem and perform better (Seligman et al., 2005; Wood et al., 2011; Li&Liu, 2016).

A small shift in focus can bring a step-change in success………