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Knowing Your Achilles’ Heel and Secret Sauce

You are destined for greatness. It might sound cheesy or cliche, but it’s true. You are 100% capable of “creating happy” in your life. You can bring positive change to your life and to the world. Success, love, happiness, fulfillment—it’s all within your reach. But you do have to put in the work to get there. You do have to have the right mindset, the right attitude, and the right plan in place if you’re going to accomplish all that you’re capable of. And to do that, you have to know your Achilles’ heel and secret sauce.

Know thyself

“Know thyself” is a Greek aphorism whose original author is unknown, although it is often attributed to some of the most well-known thinkers of Ancient Greece, including Plato and Pythagoras. Over the years, the phrase has been used in many prevalent and important works, implying that the advice strikes a chord with many people, regardless of who they are, what they do, or when and where they live. 

Why do you need to know yourself?

Because knowing yourself allows you to:

  • Recognize your potential
  • Build confidence in your abilities
  • Improve your weaknesses
  • Figure out how you fit into the world
  • Discover your purpose

When you’re trying to know yourself, you ultimately want to know all of your strengths and weaknesses. But more than anything, two things are vitally important to identify: your Achilles’ heel and your secret sauce.

Knowing your Achilles’ heel

Continuing with our Greek theme, let’s discuss the Achilles’ heel. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Achilles was an undefeatable Greek warrior with one weakness: his heel. One hit to that weak spot was enough to end Achilles’ fighting career (and life). These days, we use the phrase to describe the major weakness that can cause you to fail, even if you’re generally a smart, capable, strong person.  

Why it’s important to know

Identifying your Achilles’ heel is vitally important to being able to create and live a life you love. You don’t want to put immense time and effort into creating something only to have your work ruined by a single, fatal flaw. If you’re aware of your greatest weakness, however, you can catch yourself before succumbing to it. 

How to identify it

So how can you discover what your Achilles’ heel is?

Realize you have one. 

You’ll never uncover your weaknesses if you deny that they exist. Own up to having flaws, and specifically, to having one flaw that seems to bring you down more than others.

Reflect on past experiences. 

Think about a time when things didn’t turn out the way you planned. What happened? Where did you go wrong? What role did you play in the whole event? Did you make any mistakes? m 

Use resources. 

Personality frameworks like the Enneagram or Meyers-Briggs can give you some insight into what your weaknesses might be. The free Design.org assessment can also help direct your thinking as you start to identify areas for improvement in your life. 

Create a short list. 

Chances are, you can probably make an educated guess as to what your Achilles’ heel might be, especially after you’ve reflected on past missteps and done a little research. Make a short list of the possible culprits (3-5). Remember: be honest. Trying to deny your fatal flaw won’t do you any good. 

Pay attention. 

Now, pay attention to your day-to-day life. What happens that gets in the way of you accomplishing what you want to accomplish? Are you easily distracted? Do you have a hard time getting started? Do you stubbornly stick to your calendar, even if your time could be better spent elsewhere? Make note of when things go wrong, and do your best to identify why. 

If all else fails…pick one. 

At this point, either a single flaw has become glaringly obvious, or you’re still trying to narrow it down. If you’re struggling to identify your true Achilles’ heel, don’t stress. Just pick one. Moving in any direction is better than getting stuck trying to find the perfect answer.  

What to do once you do know

Now that you’ve settled on your Achilles’ heel, how can you put that information to good use moving forward?

Watch for it. 

It’s most important that you’re able to recognize your fatal flaw when you see it. If you’re looking for it, you’ll likely see it more often. 

Identify triggers. 

Are there times when it is more likely that your fatal flaw will show up? For example, is your indecisiveness worse in the morning? Or do you have less patience if you skip a meal? Identifying triggers to your weakness can help you have more control over when and how often it shows up.

Learn to control your thoughts

Your Achilles’ heel will manifest itself in your thoughts. For example, if your Achilles’ heel is envy, you might catch yourself thinking, “I’ll never be as good as that person.” When you learn to control your thoughts, you can catch that thought and replace it with a helpful thought, like “I admire that person. I want to work hard and be like that.” or “I’m grateful for what I can do and what I do have.”

Do the opposite.

Overcoming your weaknesses ultimately comes down to changing your actions. How you act, how you treat other people, how you spend your time—all these things can be negatively affected by your Achilles’ heel. 

Once you’re able to identify your Achilles’ heel, along with the thoughts and actions (or inactions) it provokes, it’s time to respond. Don’t let that weakness guide you or dictate your actions. Reclaim control. Do what you know you’re supposed to be doing—not what your weakness is telling you to do. 

Your Achilles’ heel probably isn’t something that you’re proud of, but it’s definitely something you should be aware of. Know your weaknesses, forgive yourself for them, and work on taking away their power. 

Knowing your secret sauce

As important as it is to know your Achilles’ heel, it’s also crucial to know the other side of the story. Just as you need to know what will hold you back, you should also know what will help propel you forward. You need to know your secret sauce.

Why it’s important to know

What is the point of your life? I know—it’s a loaded question. But if we’re speaking generally, I would say this: the point of your life is to create and live a life you love. That’s going to look different for everyone, but the principle is the same. Happiness is your reason for existence. It’s what you deserve. The good news is that you can create it for yourself, as long as you have the right tools. 

One of the most important tools you have is your secret sauce. This is the thing that sets you apart from other people. It’s the thing that stands out and gets remembered. It’s what makes you, you. 

And if you can tap into it, it’s going to help you “create happy,” more than anything else can. 

How to identify it

So how do you tap into it? How do you find out what your secret sauce is so that you can start using its magic in every part of your life?

Funny enough, the same process that can help highlight your Achilles’ heel can also help you identify your secret sauce. 

Realize you have it. 

Yes, you have secret sauce. Yes, you do! Stop telling yourself that you’re average, that there’s nothing special about you, that you’ll never get ahead. Your secret sauce exists, whether you accept that fact or not. But it’s only when you do accept it that you can start putting it to good use.

Reflect on past experiences. 

Think about projects you truly enjoyed, times in your life when you were genuinely happy, or victories (big or small) in your life that brought you joy. What did you do to make that good thing happen? What was it about it that stands out to you? Why did you succeed?

Use resources. 

Personality frameworks can reveal strengths as well as weaknesses. When you’re talking about strengths, however, you can also turn to other resources: friends and family who know you well. While they might not be willing to point out your flaws or weaknesses, they’ll probably be all too happy to help point out the strengths you have that you might struggle to see.  

Create a short list. 

Use your gut instinct and the data you’ve gathered to create a shortlist of strengths that could be seen as your “secret sauce.” Again, try to list 3-5.

Pay attention. 

How do your strengths affect your daily life? How do they benefit you and others? The more you look for them, the more you’ll see them. 

If all else fails…pick one. 

Once again, if a single answer doesn’t quite jump out at you, pick one to focus on. Decide that that’s your secret sauce. Deliberately using any of your strengths is going to benefit you; wasting time trying to find the perfect answer is not. 

What to do once you know

Now that you know what your secret sauce is, how do you use that? Here are some ideas.

Apply it to your weaknesses. 

How can your secret sauce help you get over your weaknesses?

For example, let’s say your Achilles’ heel is that you’re easily distracted, but your secret sauce is that you know how to say “no.” Maybe you could start saying “no” to yourself and your potential distractions. It’s a solution you might not have thought of otherwise, but that deliberately leverages your greatest strength to help you overcome your biggest weakness.  

Remind yourself of it. 

Knowing what you’re good at is powerful. It inspires confidence. It makes you see the good in you, when so often we’re focused on the bad. 

Remind yourself of your strength. Repeat it to yourself often (e.g. “I say ‘no’ when I need to.”). Let it build your confidence. Let it empower and encourage you to keep being you.

Use your secret sauce to benefit others.

At Design.org, we believe that showing love is essential to creating a happy life. You’re going to find even greater joy from your secret sauce if you’re able to use it to benefit other people. So think about how you can use your unique talents, capabilities, and qualities to bring happiness to those you love. 

Prioritize it.

Step up to challenges that allow you to use your secret sauce. See how you can stretch it and strengthen it to make your life even happier. Try to bring it into your daily life. Don’t let it fall by the wayside. After all, this is what makes you special—forgetting it would be a tragedy.

We all have an Achilles’ heel, and we all have secret sauce. When you’re aware of what they are, you can start using them to help you move in the right direction—away from the fears and hesitation behind your Achilles’ heel, and toward the happy, fulfilled life you (and your secret sauce) can create. 

Know thyself. It’s worth it. 

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