Strengths and Opposites


December 7, 2015


When it comes to opposites, some pairings are easier to identify than others.  If we start small, we can say that the opposite of up is down and that the opposite of good is bad.

These are the sorts of binaries that make it easy to distinguish between ideas in broad strokes.  Opposites are, in fact, the two poles that make up a spectrum.  Each serves as an extreme, which creates distinct points for comparison.

At times, opposites serve to whittle the world down to a manageable size—a world made of two parts: this or that, one or the other, all or nothing.

We all know that not everything has an opposite, however.  For example, we can say that black and white are polar, but what is the opposite of purple?

Or, thinking about balance, can something really have two completely different opposites?  That is, what is the opposite of the middle of something?  Is it found at each end of whatever it is the middle of?

Now, let’s look at something subjective like being “cool”.  It may be easy to say that the opposite of cool is uncool, right?  Yet, most of us have been around long enough to know that it simply depends on who we ask.  What is cool to one person is totally uncool to another person—like hypercolor shirts, lava lamps, and Smartcars.

Which begs the question, if something can occupy both ends of a spectrum at once…what is it, truly?

The decisions we make everyday are formed out of both objective and subjective materials.  We ourselves are constantly changing and adapting to our environments.  What is appropriate in one place is inappropriate in another.  We are shape-shifters, of sorts.

Our very own impressions about who we are are likely to change throughout the day, not to mention our opinions about the world around us.  In any given 24 hours we are likely to mentally run around on countless spectrums, enjoying and dreading moments from one end to the other.

What is the opposite of a person, anyway?

As social and emotional creatures, we live between extremes, which we create and define as we go.  It’s an ever-morphing reality filled with interactions, compromises, learning experiences, and inevitable growth.

So, when we are daily faced with complex, multifaceted, many-sided ideas, concepts, and world-views, how do we best make decisions and take action?

When we focus on our strengths we are opening ourselves to the greatest number of possibilities.  And, it’s likely that we will be able deal with changes more gracefully from this position because we will be willing to deal with change.

That’s because this version of who we are is less likely to live in a rigid binary of yes/no, hot/cold, right/wrong.

Instead, when we allow ourselves to be who we are at our cores—and to live from strength as opposed to fear—we are allowing ourselves to live inside the matrix of our complete personality—not just one end of it or the other.

No one has only one strength.  No matter what our top strengths are, there is diversity.  We are not simply one thing or another thing—we are many things.

We no longer have to feel like we need to be either this or that.  Instead, we can find certainty and strength in the fact that we can be both.

Three Questions

What are the top ten words that describe me as a person?

What advice would I give to my twelve-year old self?

What is a list of things that have no opposites?  (Brain exercise).


Set the timer on your phone for five minutes.

Imagine yourself twenty-five years in the future.  What advice would that person give to you today about how to live your life?

Freewrite their advice to you for five minutes.  No restrictions.  Go.


Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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