Mitigating Blind Spots for Personal Growth

What makes a good day? I usually feel I’ve had a good day if I’ve been productive and provided value at work and in my relationships.

But it’s all too easy to get into a routine without really thinking about my life in a more meaningful way. After all, personal growth is hard and making a deliberate choice to stay self-aware isn’t easy.

Looking honestly beneath my behaviors, examining my motivations and considering my impact on other people is hard work. Inviting others to speak to those things is even harder. It is not a choice for the faint-hearted.

So why bother?

Without a personal growth plan, I am at risk of being taken out by my blindspots- those areas in my life that I don’t see clearly that can have a negative impact on how I interact with others. As a leader, identifying my blind spots becomes even more critically important, but also more difficult.


Identifying Weakness

We all have areas of weakness in our lives. With some self-awareness we may recognize those weaknesses: being too introverted or passive, acting based on emotions, a tendency to procrastinate, being undisciplined with money. A quick examination of my life may reveal these things if I can be honest with myself.

So, I spend time shoring up these weaknesses and set goals to improve them. A believer in personal growth, I make commitments to lose weight, live on a budget, be more assertive.

These are all good things.

Although there are a few problems with the examinations of our weaknesses.

The use of the word “weakness” implies a deficit or a fault. When we begin to believe we have some type of deficit or fault, shame follows close behind. We feel bad about those areas and often shame ourselves because of them. This begins a vicious cycle because shame is the energy that drives the repetition of unacceptable behavior. So we use the very behavior that we are trying to eliminate to bring about some type of change or to bring us comfort because we know it so well. And the cycle keeps spinning.

A second problem is that these areas that we want to develop are often hidden in our strengths. That makes them difficult to find and own, thus making it easy to overlook them. And when overlooked, those strengths have the capability of taking out even the most competent leader.


When Strengths are Risky

I love to operate in the areas of my life that I know I’m good at. Don’t you? I feel good about my accomplishments, I feel productive, and I know I can have an impact on whatever project I’ve undertaken when it’s in my sweet spot. I believe, and I let others know; “I got this”.

And therein lies the problem.

The more confident I am in an area of my life, the easier it is for arrogance and ego to slip in. I’m less likely to listen to feedback because I’m in my wheelhouse. I know what I’m doing, and I can make things happen. This is where blind spots love to hide.

When I am overconfident, I spend less time examining my motivations and impact. I seek out less feedback. I have trust in my abilities, and I believe that if you follow my lead, we’ll all be successful.

This attitude feeds a blind spot that has the potential to dramatically decrease my success in the long term. It won’t take long for others to feel the impact of such an attitude.

I’ve been taken out by such an attitude. My career was taking off, I was surrounded by a lot of success and had a great reputation. But I didn’t take a hard look at some of the issues that were motivating me, and some of the fears that were driving my activities. I pushed those fears down deep and kept driving forward. The choice not to face those fears and keep them hidden behind my strengths eventually led me to make other choices that severely damaged my leadership and my career.

Accountability is Key

Let’s face it, none of us like to hear things about ourselves that are unflattering. But accountability from a trusted friend or advisor is the key to personal growth.

Those who interact with me every day see things about me that I may never see. Unless I am willing to take a look at these areas, they will go unchecked and will stunt my personal growth. My blind spots aren’t blind to those closest to me. And one of the reasons I am blind to them is that they are in areas that I view as my strengths.

What’s the best way to avoid this? Invite a few people you trust to speak truth to you anytime, anywhere. Take it even a step further, and ask about specific situations and interactions. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

  • How did I come across?
  • How do you think I impacted those listening or interacting with me?
  • Was there anything I did or said that rubbed you the wrong way?
  • Are there things about me that annoy you, that you overlook because of our friendship?

Others will clearly see in me the things that I am often blind to. If I want to lead or manage well, my personal growth must include a few relationships that will speak into those areas of my life. Without this accountability, those blind spots will grow, gain power, and impact much of what I do. I’ll leave a wake of chaos and frustration behind me without even knowing it.

So even though the work of personal growth can be difficult, it is worth it so that I may maximize my impact in a positive direction.


Next Steps

If you are working on personal growth and want to mitigate your own blind spots, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Examine your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Are there any strengths that you have a tendency to overdo? In what areas do you feel most confident that could be a risk for arrogance?
  2. Find 1-2 people that you trust to speak honestly to you about yourself- your behavior, habits, and the way you interact with others. Meet regularly and ask the tough questions outlined in the article above.
  3. Hire a coach. An effective coach has the benefit of being a “third party” to your life. He or she can speak to things in your life that you may not see without the emotional weight of those close to you. Additionally, a coach has tools and resources to help you reach your personal growth goals. The coaches at Achilles Consulting Group are ready to help you identify and mitigate blind spots, reach your personal growth goals, and achieve things you never believed were possible