Having spent 26 years of my life until 2002 cloistered away in a small room that was as austere as a nun’s cell, listening to the stories of distressed people as a hypnotherapist in private practice, I’m lucky enough to belong to a discussion forum of fellow hypnotherapy and psychotherapy professionals. One of our number posted an article (see below) with an enthusiastic endorsement. I glanced through it in a spare moment and became transfixed.
Tom Butler-Bowdon (author of “Never Too Late To Be Great”) is a well known and highly regarded writer and blogger for the Huffington Post. He was working as a political adviser in Australia when he first read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” and was fired to write himself. Everything he does is well researched and documented and his advice is accessible and enabling. He doesn’t pull his punches – of course success takes very hard work. What makes eminent good sense to me is his emphasis on playing to your strengths. From childhood I have been given a hard time about my untidiness, lack of detail and minute attention span when it comes to organisational tasks. What Tom tells me on the contrary is that I need to focus on my talents and strengths, the things that interest and fascinate me – like human behaviour. He very kindly gave me permission to post his article. Read on……
Hope you caught some of the London Olympics on television or, if you live in the UK, made it to some events. I managed to attend a couple of things and loved it.
Saw an article on GB’s David Hemery, who won gold in the 400m hurdles in Mexico City in 1968. He was studying at Boston University at the time and after his victory wrote up a dissertation on sporting achievers. he highlighted to big factors:
- Very strong focus on their goal or objective; and
- High awareness of their strengths and weaknesses
Both things seem obvious, but how easy it is to forget them. The business guru, Peter Drucker for one, never stopped talking about ‘management by objectives’, and in doing so gave companies and organisations clarity about what they were for and what they wanted to achieve.
The key is to choose a goal that would be life-changing if you achieved it, but at the moment seems a bit out of reach. Vague or easy goals don’t motivate. Make your goal specific and difficult. This is what Dr Edwin Locke found in his research on goal-setting from the 1960s, and it remains true today. What are your objectives?
It took me years to really appreciate what ‘focus on your strengths, not on your weaknesses’, really meant. I got training, joined a speaker agency, tried to do a lot of speaking gigs, but somehow it never developed into something big. It slowly dawned on me that it was really not my thing, and I shouldn’t be spending loads of energy correcting a weakness. Instead, my focus should be on a strength: writing. When I do speak now, I’m clear that it’s a sideline, not my real purpose.
Millions of people devote huge amounts of time and energy to correct a weakness to have a ‘full set’ of abilities, but the hard truth is that the world doesn’t reward the well-rounded, but those that are extremely good at one thing. What are you wasting your time trying to improve, when you could be making your great strength even greater?
Can I add two extra elements to the imaginary course, ‘Success 101’ that I hope will be taught one day: Hard work. After winning his second gold medal in the London Games for the 10,000 meters, Mo Farah was asked by a BBC interviewer, “What’s the secret of your success?” Farah replied, “It’s all hard work and grafting. It’s been a long journey grafting a grafting, but anything is possible.”
Notice the word ‘long’ in Farah’s comment. For years he had finished well in World Championships and other events, but never really triumphed. It was only relentless training combined with a long-term view that lifted him to another level. The final success element is therefore: think long. As pointed out in ‘Never Too Late To Be Great’, this is perhaps the most overlooked element of success, but for me, the most basic.
This month Psychologies magazine has a feature, ‘The Long Game’ which covers to whole ‘thinking long’ concept in a nutshell. If you would like to read it, just email me now with the word “Article” in the title bar and I’ll email it to you.
Can I leave you with a final thought: people may be complicated, but success is simple. There are thousands of books and ideas on how to succeed, but never forget the basics:
- Have objectives
- Focus on strengths
- Work hard
- Think long