This article originally appeared on Christian Personal Finance. Used with permission.

True or false: “You will learn and grow the most in the areas in which you are weakest.” If you consider that true, unfortunately you believe a common misconception. According to author and motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham, people grow most in the areas they already know and love. Magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant (famous for having the highest IQ in the Guinness Book of World Records) shares Buckingham’s convictions with this thought: “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”

You may be thinking, “Sure, everyone knows that.” Really? According to Buckingham, a Gallup poll asked parents this question, “If your child’s report card was: English: A, Social Studies: A, Biology: C and Algebra: F, which grade would deserve the most attention from you?” 77% of these parents said they would focus their attention on the F. Granted, the F should not be ignored, but these parents overwhelmingly agreed that they should devote the largest portion of their time on their child’s weakest – not strongest – area.

Disproving Conventional Thought

Conventional thought seems to be that we should strive toward becoming more well-rounded by working on our weaknesses, but highly successful people disprove conventional logic every day. What if Einstein had focused on history, language and geography (his weaknesses) instead of math and science? Aren’t you glad that Beethoven (who was known for his fits of temper) did not allow anger management to preempt his musical pursuits? You get the idea. Michael Jordan would never have become an elite basketball player if he had set his sights on becoming a banker or an investment broker. And what if Bill Gates had devoted his energies to graduating from Harvard instead of developing computer software?

How About You?

You might not be another Einstein or Michael Jordan, but you do have strengths and weaknesses. Your natural inclinations make some pursuits fun and easy while others are tedious and exhausting. It seems obvious that we should work at the fun and easy challenges, but we are all too often plagued with guilt when we ignore the things we hate. Today, I challenge you to feel liberated from that guilt. No matter how hard you work at your weaknesses, you will never rise to more than average ability, but when you pour your energy into something you love, you could become world class at that endeavor.

Discovering Your Strengths

Not sure what your strengths are? Give yourself this three-part quiz:

1. Write down a list of things that come easy for you. One thing that comes easily to me is math. As a child, I would buy books of riddles because I loved trying to solve them. Therefore, math problems (especially the word problems) became my new love when I took math courses in school. Studying engineering, for me, was a form of laziness because it was what came easiest for me.

2. List all activities where time seems to fly by. What do you get so focused on that you lose track of time . . . when several hours disappear without you realizing it? This activity is a clue to your natural talent. Me? I can easily lose track of time while writing.

3. Write down the things you do which make you happy. I am probably happiest when I am helping others learn something important. For example, I have been teaching Sunday School regularly for 35 years without ever once dreading it. I also love to help people reach their financial goals...a process which often requires considerable explanations.

When you compare the three lists, you will discover your areas of natural aptitude and greatest potential. For me, math, writing and teaching may seem diverse, but these three qualities are all key to my writing and financial coaching.

What about you? The activities in your life which come easy for you, make you happy, and cause time to fly by are the huge indicators of who you are and what makes you tick.

Why wouldn’t you want to pursue them?

Do you tend to develop your strengths or work on your weaknesses? Parents: Do you encourage your children to pursue their passions or work on their weaknesses?

Joe Plemon started Plemon Financial Coaching in 2006. He has been the Money Columnist for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper (circulation 30,000) since October, 2007 and blogs at Personal Finance by the Book.

Christian Personal Finance is a resource dedicated to building God's Kingdom and helping others through money.

Publication date: January 17, 2013