Why you should be bad at something

Over the past couple of months I’ve written many times about the benefits of focussing on your strengths (e.g. here and here); most Positive Psychology literature (unsurprisingly) concentrates on what’s good about using a strengths-based approach and mentions very little in the way of the downsides. I’ve come across the phrase “overusing strengths”, but that’s about it. You need to look quite hard at the VIA-IS, StrengthsFinder and Strengthscope websites to find anything suggesting there might also be disadvantages.

Carol Dweck’s* research on fixed and growth mindsets made me wonder whether developing an inflexible view even of one’s good points (e.g. strengths) might actually be a bad thing, and that’s how I came to write my recent posting on Positive Psychology News Daily.

Anyhow, today I was sent a link to a post on the Berkun Blog, called “Why you should be bad at something“. It’s not just that being bad at something is OK, according to Scott Berkun it’s an absolute necessity if you’re going to learn something. How right he is. In order to learn you need to have a growth mindset, to try, and to keep trying over again when you fail. As a child you had a growth mindset – you’d never have learnt to speak, walk, read and write if you’d waited until you were good at it first.

What I like about Berkun’s post is it links the themes of comfort zones (which we have also discussed before here), learning, ageing, mindsets and happiness.

Berkun says “This sounds idiotic but I think being good, as in proficient, isn’t good all the time… as I get older I realize how important it is for my soul to be bad or awful in at least one thing I do, and to take pleasure in it anyway. There is a way to take pleasure in things independent of my ability at them and I’m convinced that cultivating it will make me a happier person“.

I dare you to be really bad at something!

* Carol Dweck (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success

Thanks to Neil for the link to Scott Berkun’s blog.

One Response

  1. Yang-May Says:

    Hi Bridget, I’m just catching up on my blog reading after a few frenetic weeks and it’s always good to be reminded of the important things by your blog. I’m definitely bad at taking time out to get some perspective! I’m also bad at being bad at things – so I’m always much too hard on myself.

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