How Your Struggles Can Shape Your Strengths [en]

How come I am so good at setting priorities in a work context, or helping others sort through their priorities, when I can spend a whole Sunday faffing around because I can’t decide what I want to do the most?

When it comes to my personal interests, I struggle with setting priorities. There are so many things I would like to do! The world is so interesting! Which book do I want to start with? Will I write or work on my photography? Shall I spend time on refining the documentation for my existing support group, or dive into a new communications project on the margins of that community? I’m sure some of you can relate.

So, I tend to view myself, internally, as somebody who has trouble setting priorities. But that is not how others see me. They often see me as decisive, clear-headed, rapidly capable of teasing out what needs to be done first or what is most important.

How come?

As with many things in life, it is my personal struggles that have honed these skills. I have spent an immense amount of energy trying to figure out how to help myself decide if I would rather go for a walk on my free day or sort through my holiday photos (two activities I enjoy). I have come up with countless strategies to break down projects into manageable tasks, and determine what must be done before what. I have spent hours thinking through the consequences of doing or not doing, so that where to start would become clearer. Because if I do not take the trouble to do this, when I’m alone with myself and with few constraints, I tend to slip and slide.

So, I have had a lot of practice doing this, because it didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to think it through. I’ve had to devise methods. I’ve done it again and again and again.

Put me in an easier setting, like work or facing somebody else’s priorities: I have a huge toolbox, and I probably don’t even need to use all of it.

The very fact that I have a personal struggle with – in this example – setting priorities in my personal life means that I have developed strong skills in that area. Skills that are an asset in my professional life.

Think of a young man who has to carry a heavy load of rocks on his back everywhere he goes. He might struggle compared to his peers when they go hiking. He may actually stumble and risk falling more, he will be tired, he will be slow. But if he can put down the load of rocks to go and run an errand, he will be the quickest and the strongest of them all.

What superpowers do you have that were born from your personal struggles?

Also published on Medium.

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