Strength Focused in a Culture Focusing on Weaknesses

In America, highlighting weaknesses in people is a billion dollar industry. If a problem can be created, a solution can be purchased.

The focus on weakness gets perpetuated by the belief that working on weaknesses as a step toward success. This methodology is effective in sports for instance. I tend to be a slow long distance runner, so recently I have been adding intense interval running to my workout schedule. After just a few months I can feel an improvement on my long weekend trail runs.

In mental health however, constantly looking for the problem or sometimes waiting for an “official problem” can keep us from finding the way out. Furthermore, relationships are a key indicator and asset as a human. If one’s relationships are affected by the way one is thinking or perceiving, it can indicate that one’s mental emotional health needs attention.

In this context, often focusing on what is going well for a person, what has worked in the past, and what they desire in the future is an effective way to identify solutions and stop the feedback loop of looking at problems. It can be easy to get focused on the preferred past (what we would have liked to have happen) or past hurt/sadness/anxiety, which just builds the barrier toward identifying the desired future higher.

I used to be shocked by how difficult it was for some to state their wants, needs, and preferences. In other words, how hard it can be to just say what a person does want. After nine years as a practicing psychotherapist, I get it now. The deck is stacked against the practice of focusing on strengths, finding what is good, what has worked well in the past, and cultural norms bring people back to what is wrong.

A starting place for being more strengths based is a simple gratitude practice. Perhaps starting a journal or adding to your planner 3 things in the morning and 3 things in the evening you are grateful for or that went well. From there, finding more about what is going well will get easier and easier.

Curious how this might apply to your situation? Schedule a free 20 minute consultation 541-639-2986

Showing up for life 

The theme of my week has been the importance of showing up. In a world where with the click of a mouse and/or the swipe of a debit card we can send condolences, comfort, and pseudo connection I’ve been struck by the power of showing up. No one can read your mind and often our intentions are assumed by others. By showing up we communicate our thoughts and intent clearly. 

Here are some ideas of how to show up in your life for those most important to you:

Take flowers to someone

Say thank you in person

Look people in the eye

Compliment what you admire

Shake someone’s hand

If you love them, say it! Again and again.

When you feel the urge to say just about anything to make someone feel better; hug them instead.

Hold your loved ones hand

Be patient with emotion. Feelings come and go but some linger… that’s ok.

Human interaction truly matters. Don’t let the digital world fool you into thinking otherwise.

3 Reasons Life Feels Unsatisfying

While this may not be an exhaustive list, here are a few reasons to explore and get you started:

  1. Something NEEDS to change or be addressed: If there is one thing I have learned from years of working with people it is that human beings are extremely resilient. The body, mind, and spirit can endure and cope with large amounts of stress. Whether it is the physical stress of not addressing a medical need or the emotional stress of staying with a harmful relationship. People are able to cope themselves into corners and dark places. Taking time to reflect on life and truly look at how long a relationship, job, or physical condition has been going on can provide clarity into what truly needs to change. It never ceases to surprise me how many years people will endure things (especially jobs and relationships) that are literally destroying other areas of their life.
  2. Change Requires New Narratives: It doesn’t matter how far someone moves or how great the new job or relationship is, the old story will still replay from time to time. Be prepared to remind your wandering thoughts that life is changing and to give it time before feelings of satisfaction or peace come with that change. Keep track of successes and milestones that mark your way to the life you do want. Proactively choose the narrative or story that you replay in your mind. I ran into this problem when I went from a grueling internship to private practice. I had days I would catch myself dreading going to work or feeling anxious about my practice. I finally realized, I was addicted to that way of thinking because I had endured and coped with a harsh environment for so long. It may sound silly but I had to literally remind myself that I was not doing that kind of work any more. I had to create a new story to tell myself about my career. I would reflect on how lucky I am to spend my time helping people and if there is something I can change it.
  3. Gratitude is a practice first and a feeling second: A practice of gratitude is truly life changing. When clients discover the ability to be grateful for the change that is occurring in their lives or focus on the parts of life that are going well feelings of happiness and satisfaction abound. The ability to not let work stress or one relationship bleed into other areas of life is important. Just because there is a couple difficult people at work doesn’t mean a person has to hate the whole job. Practicing gratitude helps keep life in focus and can offer clarity about what needs to change. I see this commonly with the most intimate and important relationships in client’s lives. When there is marriage or family stress, it appears to affect all areas of life. Staying grateful for what is going well in life keeps people focused and offers an honest reflection of your present context or environment.