Complex and massive flows of information overwhelm our finite ability to process. Examining our current state, seeking ways to improve our lives, can lead to more bewilderment than a defined successful course of action. We get stuck with the same dead-end commitments, trying to succeed at the same goals that has repeatedly defeated us. Perhaps, we need a better way to analyze our lives and devise a better path to success. Usin SWOT for self-analysis may assist us in this journey.
Organizations may provide a model to follow. Since the 1960’s a common tool for evaluating the success and failures of an institution is SWOT analysis. My research was unable to unveil the person or group that originally developed the acronym, I found several references to SWOT analysis trailing back into the early 1960’s.
SWOT provides a framework “for addressing complex strategic situations by reducing the quantity of information to improve decision making” (Helms & Nixon, 2010, p. 216).
SWOT as a Tool for Self-Analysis
When setting life goals we run into a number of obstacles. T. Franklin Murphy wrote, “many dreams are curtailed not because of lack of vision. Most of us have magnificent dreams. Failure typically occurs in route to those dreams. We either fail to develop a workable plan or fail to do what we have planned” (2021).
We may plan something to grand for our skills and resources, undershoot our potential, or just have no idea what we could achieve if we properly focused or efforts and resources. The goal of SWOT self analysis is to provide the structure to organize all our chaotic thoughts into a clear vision of where we want to go, and how to start the journey to get there.
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Performing a SWAT self analysis requires spending time examining these four characteristics of self.
Four Areas of Focus for SWOT Self-Analysis
Tom Rath wrote “a strengths-based approach-improves your confidence, direction, hope, and kindness to others” (2013).
Aristotle referred to the Greek word aretē when teaching about happiness (eudaimonia). The Greek word aretē meant excellence, virtue, or goodness, especially of a functional sort. The aretē of a knife is to cut well; the aretē of an eye is to see well; Our own personal aretē would be fulfilling our individual nature, not limited by our strengths but propelled by them.
Aristotle “was saying that a good life is one where you develop your strengths, realize your potential, and become what it is in your nature to become” (2006, Haidt, Kindle location 2,984).
One of the first rules of success is capitalizing on your strengths. Sometimes, because of the way we are, we overlook our strengths. We easily criticize, agonize over the slightest imperfection, but then, fail to see the obvious strength.
Using Tools for Assistance
There are tools available for discovering strengths. Aptitude tests help uncover areas of strength. Tom Rath provides a detailed map to finding your strengths in his book Strength Finder 2.0.
Angela Duckworth suggested we find strengths within three reliable clusters. She lists them as “the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual dimensions of character.” You could also refer to them as “strengths of will, heart, and mind” (2016).
While some people struggle to acknowledge their strengths, others refuse to recognize weakness. Murphy wrote, “we march across the same bridge a thousand times never fearing its integrity, until we peer underneath and see the rust and cracks. Now that same bridge feels different. Each sway sparks fear of collapse. We hold the rails a little tighter, move across with more urgency. We fear our demise. Our security in our mental, and physical strength is like the old rusting bridge. We enjoy confidence until the weaknesses are exposed” (2018).
Weaknesses may frighten but realizing their existence is key to our success. We can find reliable work arounds, gather resources that will assist in those areas where we fail, or we can practice, learn, and develop those areas of weakness.
Some weaknesses are “ever-present” parts of our character. Other weaknesses are just neglected skills that we need to develop. Learning which ones are which is important so we don’t waist too much time trying to develop the most resistant parts of our character.
Robert Najemy reminds that “it would be illogical to expect perfection from a being that is still in the process of evolving. Thus, when we perceive weaknesses and imperfections in ourselves and others, let us remember that we are all half-finished paintings, which are logically imperfect, but on the other hand, perfect for our particular stage of completion” (2001, p. 107).
Duckworth’s research of experts found that they set “stretch” goals, meaning they focus on specific areas to develop. She explains that “rather than focus on what they already do well, experts strive to improve specific weaknesses. They intentionally seek out challenges they can’t yet meet” (2016, Kindle location 1,753). In the Art of Possibilities, the authors explain, “the frames our minds create define-and confine-what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear” (Zander & Zander, 2002, page 14).
Capitalizing on Opportunity
Seeing and capitalizing on opportunity is paramount to success. We need an opportunity mindset. Within the realm of opportunity is our ability to envision possibility. Not just fruitlessly dream, but actually see how through our strengths and weaknesses we can make our dream a reality. However, for this to happen, we must seize the day. Make each day count.
Depending on our mindset, we might see obstacles as justification to quit, or perceive them as opportunities to do something special.
Our appraisals of possible opportunities is much more than finding the siler lining in setbacks. Opportunities abound. We are surrounded by them:
- Education (earn a certificate or a degree)
- Expand social and professional networks (join a club, attend a non-profit organization)
- Improve family relationships (take time off, go on a vacation, break the routine)
- Apply for a new job or put your name in for a promotion
Opportunities to grow are abundant. We need to identify them and then commit to courageously venture into the unknown.
There will always be threats—dangers lurking in the shadows. We can identify some of these threats with careful planning. When we prepare escape routes prior to encountering the threat we are better able to implement helpful responses.
We also may discover that our chosen path is unwise—the risks outweigh the potential benefits. I found that planning for the potential setbacks prepares not only for the threats you can identify but also the ones you might have missed.
There is No Perfect Self-Analysis Tool
SWOT is not the only tool out there. It is just a good one. If your life has stalled and you need a boost, perhaps you need a little motivating SWOT. Begin with basic examinations, using the four areas of focus. Tinker with the process, adjusting areas to personalize your own version of self-analysis. But, perhaps, with a clearer view, we may identify a few areas where we can implement healthier behaviors that will push us towards the life we desire to live.
Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner; Illustrated edition.
Haidt, Jonathan (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books; 1st edition.
Helms, M.M., & Nixon, J. (2010). Exploring SWOT analysis – where are we now? A review of academic research from the last decade. Journal of Strategy and Management, 3(3), 215-251.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2021). Workable Plan. Psychology Fanatic. Published 6-2-2021. Accessed 8-22-2022.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2018) Frightened By Weakness. Psychology Fanatic. Published 4-2018. Accessed 8-22-2022.
Najemy, Robert Elias. (2001). The Psychology of Happiness: Understanding Our Selves and Others. Edition: 4th. Holistic Harmony Publishers.
Rath, Tom (2013). Strength Finder. 2.0. Gallup Press; 1st edition.
Siddiqui, A., & , (2021). “SWOT Analysis (or SWOT Matrix) Tool as a Strategic Planning and Management Technique in the Health Care Industry and Its Advantages”. Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research.
Zander, R. S.; Zander, B. (2002). The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. Penguin Books; REV ed. edition.