Optimize Your Life With the SWOT Matrix

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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.


  • 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.


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?

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  1. Mmmm … let’s seee. What are my weaknesses … oh I can’t be bothered finishing this 😉

    Ha! Yes very good idea, I have never thought of using this tried and tested business cliche on my life. Nice of you to turn a cliche into something fresh like that – good job!

    Seamus Anthonys last blog post..Are You Neglecting Your Inner Child?

  2. Hi Seamus!
    Thanks for your encouragement! It’s sometimes hard to know if what is helpful for me is also helpful for others.

  3. I would like to change my weakness of having too many strengths. It just bothers me…

    Seriously, I’m impatient. I learn things but I don’t use what I know as often as I should. I also have trouble staying present, like a lot of people I know do.

    Thinking about getting this watch… http://www.geekologie.com/2007/07/now_watch.php

  4. Hi Jonathan!

    Yes, it’s really interesting how our strengths can actually be our downfall, and our weaknesses our saving grace. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Bengt says:

    When it comes to weaknesses, even on a personal level, we shall think wider than about what we can improve. Do we need to improve in that area or can we team with someone else that balances our weakness?

  6. Doug says:

    This is a very interesting read. I have been used to SWOT analyses as part of business development but this is the first time I have read them applied to personal development. I feel your approach has much to commend it and would be useful to a wide number of people.

    Dougs last blog post..How to Make Affirmations Work

  7. Hi Bengt!
    That’s a really interesting point. I’m just working on a couple of collaborative projects, and your comment has inspired me to think about the projects in a new way. Thanks for that!

  8. Hi Doug!
    When I researched SWOT I was suprized that so little was written about using it for personal growth. I like SWOT because it’s simple. Simple is good!

  9. Evelyn Lim says:

    I learned about the SWOT analysis years ago. Thanks for reminding me about it. It sure is a useful tool, especially this period. While the economy looks gloomy, there can be opportunities around. We can use our strengths to turn things around!!

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Law Of Attraction Quiz

  10. Bonnie says:

    I think this is very clever. I have used the SWOT analysis for businesses but never thought of using it for personal evaluation. thanks.

  11. Hi Evelyn!
    Yes, I think there are opportunities in such difficult times – but we have to hold our nerve, so that we can spot them.

  12. Hi Bonnie!
    Sometimes a simple change of perspective can fire up our creativity. Glad you like my idea of using SWOT for personal growth!

  13. Hi Mary! Great article, and thanks for the link to Leo’s article. Really inspired by them.

    One mentor once told me that your strength is your weakness, your weakness is your strength.
    And the point is whether we are controlled by them or not. The best is when you learn self-control and not putting your strength in every circumstances you face.

    One example is efficient. You can be efficient with task, it’s a strength. But you can’t be efficient in relationship, we need to adjust our strength. Be adaptable and keep growing.

    Looking forward to the next article!


    Robert A. Henrus last blog post..Making Work Work for HSP by Barrie S. Jaeger

  14. Hi Robert!
    You say: “But you can’t be efficient in relationship, we need to adjust our strength”

    That’s such an important point! I’m quite an efficient person (having grown up in Germany), but when I use efficiency in a relationship, it instantly becomes a weakness.

  15. […] Optimize Your Life with the SWOT Matrix | Goodlife Zen […]

  16. Hollie Korth says:

    Here is my SWOT

    Recognition provides the strength to my weakness. Others recognise my weakness and the resemblance attracts and endears because it provides connection, yet my self is often repulsed .

    Weakness is actually a weak part in my ego. If embraced the weak points bear the opportunity of breaking through my ego defenses and enter . What lies underneath?.

    In my experience, people sense there is opportunity around weakness and are much more attracted to others who bare their weakness rather than to those that perpetually show strength.
    The self knows that it has soft and weak spots. It is like a child, feeling threatened of being found out?

    What is there to find out?

  17. Hi Hollie! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I think people trust others when they show weakness, as well as strength.

    What if our weaknesses are actually our strengths, and we just don’t know it?

  18. […] I have used SWOT for business purposes but it turns out that SWOT can be used on a personal level too. Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen has a very interesting post about how to Optimize Your Life with the SWOT Matrix. […]

  19. […] to focus on your strengths, to minimize weaknesses, and to take advantage of every opportunity. [details] (by Mary […]

  20. Fier says:

    Great technique. One of my favorites in the Litemind project.

    Fiers last blog post..Topics du Jour Experiment #3

  21. […] to focus on your strengths, to minimize weaknesses, and to take advantage of every opportunity. [details] (by Mary […]

  22. kazerniel says:

    Very useful article, thank you!

  23. […] Before defining any important objectives, it helps to look at the big picture. Determine your Strengths, your Weaknesses, your Opportunites and your Threats with SWOT Analysis. […]

  24. roy says:

    It’s good enough to improve one’s life.I too found it helpfull.

  25. […] available to you. The tool is basically a grid with each word in representing a single square, (further explanation here) you can perform an analysis of your personal […]

  26. […] used on a personal level too. Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen has a very interesting post about how to Optimize Your Life with the SWOT Matrix. The second part was posted on December 3rd, 10 Questions That Will Change Your Life: SWOT Analysis […]

  27. […] used on a personal level too. Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen has a very interesting post about how to Optimize Your Life with the SWOT Matrix. The second part was posted on December 3rd, 10 Questions That Will Change Your Life: SWOT Analysis […]

  28. […] to focus on your strengths, to minimize weaknesses, and to take advantage of every opportunity. [details ] (by Mary […]

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