Q. I’ve been to several seminars recently where the speaker talked about brain strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t hear that at your seminar and wondered if there was a reason for that omission?

A. You are correct. I choose to avoid using that terminology. Rather than talking about strengths and weaknesses, I prefer talking about the brain’s energy advantage, for several reasons.

  • The brain is believed to have an energy advantage in one cerebral division over the other three. When you are performing activities that utilize functions of that division, the brain uses significantly less energy. That doesn’t mean the rest of the brain is weak or that division is strong. It does speak to relative amounts of energy that must be expended to complete a specific activity. Based on PET Scans, Dr. Richard Hayer put the difference at 1 to 100. Using a monetary metaphor, that’s $1 per second or $100 per second. A substantial difference!
  • Many people grew up being told to “work on your weaknesses.” That can be very discouraging as you work very hard on activities that are energy-exhausting for your brain. While you may realize some improvement, you’ll never achieve the success you would be expending the same level of effort on activities that are energy-efficient for your brain. If you work on your weaknesses you can typically develop average levels of function. If you work on areas of energy advantage, you can often become exceedingly competent. This represents current wisdom in terms of preserving brain function for as long as possible.
  • Some have worked very hard to develop specific skills in order to take advantage of an opportunity, to meet expectations, or to avoid punishment. Because they have learned to do a skill “well” they often mistake that for an innate energy advantage or “strength” and continue to perform that skill even though it is exhausting due to the higher energy expenditures it requires. Fortunately, you have a lot of brain energy when you are younger. It tends to diminish with age, however, so the goal is to spend 51% of your life’s activities matched with what your brain does energy efficiently.

Therefore, for many reasons, talking about strengths and weaknesses can be confusing and may even extend the time it takes for a person to identify their brain’s innate energy advantage.