Every time we at Writer’s Block Philippines hold a freelance writing workshop, I always begin the day by taking participants through a Life S.W.O.T., which is basically a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis done on our own lives. On my journey on this path, I realized that we often go through our own lives without enough objective self-examination (only unnecessary self-flagellation), and this is affirmed every time I ask our workshop participants if any of them had ever gone through a Life S.W.O.T. before taking our workshops. Only about one or two raise their hands; sometimes, nobody does.
And why not? If we can go through regular S.W.O.T. Analyses for our jobs or our businesses, why not on our own lives? If we can map out opportunities based on strengths of our teams and our organizations, why not map out opportunities for ourselves? What is it about examining our own selves and lives that is so difficult? Even when I was going through my own Life S.W.O.T., a number of years ago, I found it quite easy to fill out the Weakness quadrant and quite difficult to fill out the Strengths quadrant. Why? Probably because, while growing up and throughout our professional lives, many of us never really had the affirmations we needed to know that we were good enough.
I dare say that, today–especially in this weekend of self-reflection and looking inward, we can begin to affirm ourselves and take a snapshot of where we are now in our lives.
No judgments, no apprehensions, no talking down at ourselves. This Life S.W.O.T. is a personal document, not to be shown to anyone else, and it is confidential. So if you need to praise yourself for that AWESOME project you worked on last month, go ahead and praise yourself as you need to be praised. We don’t have to wait for others’ acknowledgement just to recognize our own gifts.
But I have digressed a bit, so let me go back. A Life S.W.O.T. is an important tool for assessing where you are in your life, right here and right now. It is meant to be a snapshot–not an ultimate map–of your life, so it doesn’t have to encompass everything that has happened ever since you were younger. It can and will change from time to time, so it’s really best to do it often enough–maybe once or twice a year.
Just take a blank piece of paper and make a quadrant like the one above. Find a quiet space where you can be alone without distractions, and start asking yourself these questions*:
- What advantages (for example, skills, education or connections) do you have that others don’t have?
- What are your skills and talents? What are the things you’re really, REALLY good at? (And better than anyone else?)
- Technical, Creative, Interpersonal, Organizational/Management, Leadership, Other
- What personal resources do you have access to?
- What do other people (and your boss in particular) see as your strengths?
- What are the things you enjoy doing?
- What would you enjoy doing for FREE?
- What are the areas that usually leave you overwhelmed? What are the things you WISH you were good at?
- What could you improve?
- What should you avoid?
- Where do you have fewer resources than others?
- What things are the people around you likely to see as weaknesses?
- What kinds of tasks/projects would you rather assign to someone else?
- What good opportunities are available to you right now?
- Changes in technology, markets and your company on both a broad and narrow scale;
- Changes in government policy related to your field;
- Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.;
- Local Events
- What are the interesting trends you are aware of?
- How can you turn your strengths into opportunities?
- What obstacles do you face?
- What are the people around you doing?
- Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing?
- Is changing technology threatening your position?
- Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten you?