I work in six week sprints and at the close of every sprint I self-prompt with some questions on how the six weeks went. During a recent personal retreat, I reviewed my answers for the past year.

Here are some excerpts from that:

  • The challenge is that I’m always ambitious,so I stepped over the lines I set up…
  • I filled my mornings with tasks and meetings that weren’t essential and ended up working on important work in the margins…
  • I re-realized that protecting focus is a primary strategy for enabling my strengths and to do that I need to limit my commitments…
  • I didn’t have time to chase sales because I was doing client or personal stuff…
  • … competing priorities have created a habit where I note I need to do something, but don’t always make it a priority….

When I failed at completing an objective, much of the time the reasons why had to do with my drive.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting stuff done, it was that I was doing too much. In and out of work. Objectives weren’t completed not because I wasn’t moving, but because they were eclipsed by other objectives.

In my Strengthsfinder profile I have a couple very closely scored strengths: achievement and strategic. Achievement is a reflection of drive and a focus on getting things done. All the goals I pursue and commitments I make are a manifestation of that drive.

Strategic on the other hand, is about anticipating the future and developing novel paths to navigate it.

What I realized in my review was that leaning too far into my achievement strengths sabotaged my strategic strength. For me, space enables strategic thinking. I’m more creative and perceptive when I’m not juggling commitments. But with my high drive, I often cram my schedule and remove that space to think.

When I set goals for this six week sprint, I was circumspect to aim at much less than what I believe is possible. If I were to wager a guess, I would say that I’ll achieve my goals and much more- probably very close to what I would set if I gave my ambition its full reign.

However, the experience will probably be very different: the difference between driving change and being driven.

Often, strengths and weaknesses walk hand-in-hand. What makes us exceptional can also be what holds us back. It all comes down to how you exercise your strengths and the bounds you place on them.

“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”― Ursula K. Le Guin