I’d like to share some wisdom I found in watching the 1969 animated movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown with my son. In one scene, Charlie Brown told Lucy, the 5 cent psychiatrist, “I’ve never succeeded at anything in my whole life.” Lucy jumped in – “Charlie Brown – it’s true. I recognize your frailties, your weaknesses. You need me to point out your faults Charlie Brown. It’s for your own good.”
She proceeded to share with Charlie Brown a prepared slide show of all of his foibles, weaknesses, and faults, whereby poor Charlie Brown finally said “Turn it off – I can’t stand to watch.”
Most of us don’t need Lucy to point out our foibles, weaknesses and faults – we have that slide show ready to view at any time. Evolutionary psychologists say that it’s part of our human condition – we keep our failures front of mind to help prevent us from making the same mistakes again.
Researchers have found, however, that when we focus on our strengths, and get to practice getting better at them, we are happier and more productive. The research firm Gallup has demonstrated empirically that when companies focus on, and continue to develop, their employees’ strengths, there are significant gains in performance:
- Profits 14-29% higher
- Employee Engagement 9-15% higher
- Safety improves 22-59%.
A more enlightened Lucy might have taken the opportunity to have Charlie Brown develop awareness of what he does well – about how much he loves his dog Snoopy; about how he cares about his friends; how he perseveres.
Focusing on strengths doesn’t mean ignoring our weaknesses. Knowing ourselves, knowing where we excel and where we don’t – gives us greater awareness of how to handle situations as they arise. It provides some perspective for us as we navigate our lives. Often times, we don’t have a choice but to navigate through our weak spots. Understanding our unique gifts gives us greater self-confidence to tackle the challenges.
A Good Read: Buckingham, Marcus & Clifton, Donald O. (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. NY: The Free Press.
A Good Watch: A Boy Named Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz, 1969. Film.