Tackling the right problem?
Achilles had his heel, Narcissus got lost in his own reflection and Dragons have a weak spot covering their hearts. We all have weaknesses, both obvious and worse, ones which we are not even aware of, our blind spots. It is far too easy to be proud of our strengths, people are happy to reinforce your self-image and tell you about them, but it takes a real friend to tell you about your weaknesses, it is a uncomfortable experience and almost impossible if one of your weaknesses is pride.
If you want to check whether your friend are too kind and caring (which is only a limitation in this particular circumstance), there are other ways of identifying your weaknesses. We have other guides, wherever there is resistance or discomfort, it is always tempting to take the easy path, the path of least resistance, to do the same things that you have been doing before, to keep returning to your area of expertise rather than having the experience of being humbled by your lack of skill. Resistance is a teacher and it points out your weaknesses, if you think you are confident but the idea of giving a speech terrifies you, you are either less confident than you think or you have a weakness in the skill of speech giving.
That tendency to avoid resistance, is mirrored and reinforced throughout society, as a whole we want people to do what they are best at, there is an economic incentive for this to occur, it is good for the efficiency of an economy for everyone to do the one thing that they are better at than most people. Though just because it is better for society, does not mean it better for you in every circumstance.
Comparative advantages is perhaps one of the most important economic ideas that there is and the general public is largely unaware of its full implications. In the famous desert island economy model, where you have only two people, one of which is very good at making fishing spear and the other is very good at fishing, it makes sense for each of them to concentrate on what they are better at, with one of them only making spears and the other only fishing, as they end up spending less time overall to catch the same number of fish which is of benefit to both of them.
However what is less known is that this holds true even if one of the people is better at both making the spears and fishing than the other person. That is because even when you are better at doing both, you will still be better at one of the skills or the other and when that is true you are still better off concentrating on the thing you excel at, it is still your most efficient use of time, even if your secondary skill is better than your companions. That is you will have a competitive advantage even against yourself.
Though this economic idea tells that you should concentrate everything on a single activity, it ignores the fact that we are not actually economic units whose only purpose is to produce money with which we can buy everything else. Though it seems many people try, when you are working sixty hours a week fully committed to that one task, it is unsurprising that people try to buy everything else including their time back, so people outsource everything they can, cleaning, cooking and even in some cases love. The one thing that you can not outsource is happiness, you can not buy it, you have to live it, practice at it and allow it space. When all your time is just focused on making money, to be a more efficient economic unit, there is a human and opportunity cost. It seemed strange to me that so much of the self-improvement movement justifies the time you spend on it as being a way of making yourself more efficient and effective in work and money generation. Instead it seems to me that the joy of self-improvement comes from your growth, as we are a growing being of consciousness who feel joy when we are experiencing that growth, it fulfils our purpose and gives our life meaning.
By missing that point, and having your sole goal as more money and efficiency without a greater purpose, you will always be dissatisfied with where you are. As you will feel lack and scarcity as a necessary part of the motivation to carry on, you only need more if you have a lack. It sets up a never-ending task, it is like Sisyphus having to eternally push a rock up a mountain, just to have it roll down again, every time you achieve a new level of wealth there is another mountain in front of you and a new rock. What if instead you were able to feel abundance in the moment, if you were able to feel gratitude for what you have now, Stoics achieve this through negative visualisation, we imagine what our lives would be like without the things we have now, we unleash the power of our imaginations to make something feel real, when you imagine not having something it feels real and then you feel gratitude when you remember what you do have. You get to see what you have with fresh eyes, you appreciate the abundance that you actually already process.
In the same way when you visualise the perfect kind of life you could be leading, when you consider what you could be doing if money was not a factor, if you are able to spend your time as you wished, not free of obligations but a life full of carefully chosen obligation. Time you get to spend with your family and friends, being of service to your community, time spent learning about yourself and the world. You get to imagine a great life and for moment as far as the mind is concerned it is with real, once something is real it becomes possible, you can have the feeling of having and you can even choose to be as close to that feeling of having in your life now as it is possible to be.
If you note that being a better father with more time for your children is the thing that is missing from your life now, you might not be able to immediately free up two hours a day to start playing them but it certainly indicates your Achilles heel. It points to a weakness that needs addressing, if you do not know what your priority should be, it is far too easy to get distracted by your short term wants, if reading a story to your child at bedtime is your priority, it becomes easy to turn down money over time as the extra money does not buy you back that moment that you have lost. It also highlights the way your spending the time you do have, if you decide you want face-time with friends, it is easier to give up screen time with your phone.
More than that money and the prestige we get from doing one thing well can blind us to the fact that it is often our weakest point by which we are judged by. This is especially true in dating, we have a number of traits that are attractive to others, genetics, kindness, togetherness, the ability to be effective, communication skills, intelligence, emotional reasoning and character. However if we are exceptional in one trait there is the risk that we ignore the others, when we are actually judged and in many cases discarded because of our weakest trait, that is the area where we should actually be concentrating our efforts.
And if you have any problems figuring out which is your weakest traits, ask a friend, work colleague or you can remember what you hated most at school. Which is why despite being traumatised by French lesson when I was young. I find myself studying and trying to learn French very unsuccessfully even still today, and yet that is the thing that I find most rewarding and I get the most sense of progression from in my life. I get to fill the joy of growth, as I get to fail so much. It is one of my many weaknesses, and without doubt one of the right problems in my life to enable me to grow as a being of consciousness.