What Skills and Abilities are You Over-relying On?

| | Personal Leadership
What Skills and Abilities are You Over-relying On? post image

There are probably a lot of things we all just take for granted. Perhaps it’s because we naturally assume there are just some people (or things) that will always be there.

When suddenly they are not, we experience a wake-up call. It could be a customer that leaves unexpectedly, a friend that stops responding to our calls, or something even more earth shattering like the unexpected loss of a loved one. I’d venture to say we have all been surprised by a sudden, unexpected loss at one time or another in our lives. Those kind of wake-up calls typically leave a lasting impression that often elevates our awareness and appreciation for the people in our lives.

There are also thousands of perhaps more mundane things we take for granted though.

One of the things I have been paying more attention to lately are the talents and abilities we take for granted, and the value of raising our awareness of those skills and abilities we have, but under-utilize.

My thought process about this was triggered by the temporary loss of something mundane – the temporary use of my right arm and hand. After all, I do have another arm and hand and a lot of people around who have been there to help me out. It was fixable and certainly not a permanent life-changing kind of thing.

The experience did provoke some questions, however, that I have been asking myself that apply to self-leadership.

Ask yourself these 3 questions and see what you discover:

1. What skills or abilities might you be over-relying on?

In the case of not being able to use my right arm, I started to realize just how dominantly I use the entire right side of my body.  This heightened the inconvenience and frustration involved.  As a result I continued to try to use my arm and hand, attempting to work past the pain.  Ignoring my body’s red flag I worsened the injury.  It wasn’t until I had surgery that I completely gave it a rest and realized the obvious – I needed to adapt my behavior and leverage other things like my left arm and even my voice by dictating into a voice recorder vs. typing everything.

Consider the 1-2 things that come easy to you and observe the strengths you have that are currently taking a back seat in your repertoire.

For me the strength I have been focused on developing and have become over-reliant on is writing.

2. What could be the cost of that over-reliance?

Even after having my arm in a sling for a month it was still markedly stronger than my left. This lack of balance was more than likely the source of the injury. My left hand is already far more coordinated and I am finding that two hands are indeed better than one for a lot of things.

I am a big believer in the power and wisdom of leveraging your strengths, so I am not talking about strengths vs. weaknesses.  Instead consider how an over-reliance on one strength or ability might be at the expense of developing others.

One possible cost of my over-reliance on writing is that it has resulted in a very one dimensional content management strategy. It’s highly likely I am not adding enough value or even reaching those who are more auditory or visual in nature.

3. Are there skills and abilities I could strengthen that would make me more effective?

One of my primary personal goals for this year is to get fit.  Injuries clearly thwart my progress.  Strange as it may seem I was taking the entire left side of my body for granted.  By taking a more balanced approach to strengthening, not only in my workouts but by being more mindful in achieving balance in how I execute every day movements, I am much more likely to make steady progress.

In terms of my skills and abilities speaking is a strength.  I can clearly see enormous potential benefits if I were to develop and leverage that strength more in my content management strategy vs. just through speaking engagements.  By observing my over-reliance on writing and exploring the cost I can more clearly see the gap then ever before.  And yes, you can expect to see video and audio content from me in the near future so stay tuned!

Getting present to the cost is a highly effective way to help you to break through those situations when you know you you should be doing something, but you still don’t seem to do it.

Your turn:  What skill or ability might you be over-relying on?

Image credit: gajus / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Brad   |   27 March 2014   |   Reply

Wow! I learned this the hard way.
I believed that my position would be respected and my personality accepted in the most positive manner possible. Alas, working in several, similarly focused, faith-based organizations gave me no indication that my approach was offensive.
Boy, was I wrong.
Take time to earn respect, do not presume it exists – to your face, or behind your back.
I relied too heavily on my enthusiasm and desire to improve things; others did not believe the same things should be changed.

Susan Mazza   |   28 March 2014   |   Reply

Great example of this dynamic at play Brad. And you offer some excellent advice. It’s always a good practice to get in the world of others and avoid the trap of thinking everyone else thinks like us and sees the world as we do. It is a surprisingly common trap.

Jon Mertz   |   28 March 2014   |   Reply


First, I hope your arm and hand are healing well! It is a challenge when we have to adjust — big and small — when an event happens. For me, relying on routine to carry certain things through needed to be disrupted. Routines were getting in the way of making real progress. Changing routines meant changing paths forward. We need those jolts to re-engage and re-orient.

Good reminders here. Thank you!


Susan Mazza   |   28 March 2014   |   Reply

Terrific insight about routines Jon. Your comment has me think of an observation a friend made recently that time seems to move much more slowly when we step out of our routine. Turning off the auto-pilot and breaking our routine causes us to be more present – we pay attention more and we notice more – so I can see how that disruption can be essential to progress.

Is there a routine you changed that was particularly fruitful that you’d be willing to share about here?

P.S. Healing very well thanks and appreciating the gift of mindfulness that came from the process.

Jon Mertz   |   28 March 2014   |  


Two examples. One is I run but wasn’t doing much more than that. I needed to do some strength training in order to get some better health benefits as I grow older. I had to disrupt my “healthy” routine to gain more in what I need to do to really be healthier.

Another example may be an odd one. At work, it is easy to say “it will get better” and then let things go another round. I have taken the step of drawing some lines and stepping up to say “we need to stop this.” We need to shake some things up to gain greater engagement and better results.

Glad you are healing! Thanks, Susan!


  • What Skills and Abilities are You Over-relying ... 28 March 2014, 28 March 2014

    […] There are probably a lot of things we all just take for granted. Perhaps it's because we naturally assume there are just some people (or things) that will always be there. When suddenly they are no…  […]