Optimize Your Life With the SWOT Matrix

The economic crisis is casting a shadow on many lives at the moment. Maybe you too have some fears about the future? Are you worried about your job? Or about having less opportunities?

I’m going to to show you a simple way of optimizing your life. It’s called the SWOT analysis and is usually used for analyzing businesses. However, it’s actually a great tool for getting a grip on one’s life! I found that I could see more opportunities, as well as be alert to possible dangers, after I did a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT matrix is a framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats you face. This helps you to focus on your strengths, minimize weaknesses, and take advantage of every opportunity.

SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first two, strengths and weaknesses, are our personal attributes that we bring to our life. The second two, opportunities and threats are what the outside world brings to us. In this article I’ll take up the first two aspects of the SWOT matrix: strengths and weaknesses.

how confident are you

Strengths

  • What are your signature strengths?

Signature strengths are the things we like doing and are good at. It’s important to be clear about what we are good at. As I pointed out in my article on signature strengths, we tend to be happier if our life is aligned with our signature strengths. And – conversely – you might be very unhappy if what you do isn’t aligned with your strengths. For example, if creativity is one of your key strength, you might not be happy being a career soldier in the army. (Anyhow, I don’t think they’re exactly renown for encouraging creative ideas!)

  • What advantages do you have?

What kind of skills do you have? What about your education? I’m thinking of education in the widest sense here. It’s not just formal education that’s helpful in life. It’s also what we learn from life itself. What about your connections? Who do you know? Whom could you work with? Whom could you ask for advice?

  • What are you good at?

Make sure that you don’t get tripped up by modesty when answering this question! In general, it’s good not to be puffed up, but in this moment you want to get a clear picture of yourself. When you reflect upon this question, make sure you consider all aspects of your life. And look at all the things you are good at. Even the ones nobody seems to take much notice of. For example, I’m not a particularly good cook, but I make a mean date and ginger chutney! Also, notice what new strengths you’ve noticed recently. For example, I noticed that I tend to make good connections with fellow bloggers and we’re starting to work together. I took this skill for granted because it seems so natural to me. Maybe you too have a strength that seems too natural to be called a skill?

  • What personal resources do you have access to?

What are personal resources? The main ones are money, time, and energy. Do you have income or savings to draw from? How about time? Do you have time to develop something new, or are you totally tied up with work and the chores of life? How about energy? Are you full of beans, or do you feel depleted?

  • What do other people see as your strengths?

Ask your family, friends, and colleagues about what strength they see in you. They might see something that you can’t.

Weaknesses

All of us have strengths as well as weaknesses. It’s easy to fold at the knees when thinking about our weaknesses. A much better way to address them is to think about how and what we can improve.

  • What could you improve?

What would you like to change in your life? Personally, I definitely want to become more patient!

  • What should you avoid?

What comes to my mind immediately is – cigarettes! Here’s my cautionary tale: When I was in my twenties, I smoked about thirty cigarettes a day. And then I managed to stop from one day to the next. Seven years later I took just one tiny puff of a cigarette. And three days later I was back on thirty cigarettes a day! It took me another hard year to get off smoking. And I haven’t smoked since. So, I definitely know that I have to avoid cigarettes!
What is it that you should avoid?

  • What things do people around you see as weaknesses?

Check out what family and friends see as you weaknesses. Maybe there are also signs you can catch a glimpse of at work. Are there certain tasks that colleagues tend to get done faster and better than you? Are there things that close friends and family say about you that may have a grain of truth?

A while ago I came across a very interesting article by Leo Babauta, called Attack Your Limitations: Turn Your Weaknesses into Strength. It’s a look at how our weaknesses can actually be our strengths in drag. Leo says:

If you develop the mindset that weaknesses aren’t really weaknesses, you’ve just broken through your limitations and fears.

The SWOT matrix is designed to help you break through your limitations and fears. Don’t miss my next week’s article on SWOT, where I’ll write about how to spot opportunities and threats facing you.

Please share your thoughts on the SWOT matrix in the comment section.

Read these related articles:
SWOT Analysis – Part 2: Ten Questions that Will Change Your Life

What are Your Signature Strength?

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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