The New Year, a Fresh Start: How to Tap into Your Strengths For Real Change

For many Jews, the High Holidays are a time of introspection followed by a desire to improve. It’s our time for introspection as well as a new year, so sentiments are similar to anyone’s “new beginnings.” We’ve acknowledged our human frailties, the many times we went astray: now what? Where do we start? It can seem overwhelming. It can also leave us anxious: what if I commit to some change, and fail (like I did last year)? Better not to try at all?

Don’t despair. There’s a strategy for change and improvement that may give you confidence:

Use a strength to address a shortcoming.
Here’s an example:

Charlie Gilchrist was a competent, bright, driven man. First in his Harvard Law School class, he got into politics and became County Executive for Montgomery County, MD. He came across as totally work oriented, direct, in a hurry, a no-nonsense guy. Political observers expected him to become Maryland’s governor.

One day he called his Director of Human Resources, Chuck Short. Chuck’s wife had just given birth to a child who was born blind, with life threatening conditions. He asked Chuck how his baby was doing. Chuck replied, “OK, his blood work looked good today, we’re praying for him … What can I do for you, Charlie?”

“Nothing,” Charlie said. “You can’t do anything for me Chuck. I was really concerned about your little boy and just wanted to know how he was doing.”

That call had a powerful impact on Chuck Short, one that lasted for decades. When Gilchrist asked about his struggling infant, he was sincere. They talked a while; Charlie, wasn’t in his usual fast-paced business mode. Gilchrist was using one of his strengths – he was a good listener—to deal with one of his weaknesses, that he didn’t seem concerned about his staff.

Chuck Short learned from that interaction. He started calling or sending a short note to a staff member every day, asking about a work or personal matter. Decades later, Short recalled, “it’s amazing how many people mentioned that note or call I’d made. It really impacted them.”

What strengths do you have that can help you improve on a weakness?