In college I learned how to do a SWOT analysis and I’ve been using it in one form or another at work and in my personal life ever since.

Update 5-19-2015: The authors of this amazing SWOT guide reached out to me to let me know about their work. After reading my simple how to below check out their full guide to learn even more.

So why do I care about my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Because I’m ambitious (both a strength and a weakness) and I constantly want to be better at everything I do and I want everything I’m a part of to constantly be improving.

How do I identify and analyze these areas with regard to my personal life or work life? I choose what I want to analyze (myself, a friend asking for feedback, an area of my job) and then sit down with a pen and paper.

I start by draw by drawing a vertical line down the center of the page and then a horizontal line across the page. I now have four quadrants and I label them S, W, O, and T.

Next I write down weaknesses and then strengths in their quadrants. You probably won’t be sharing this analysis with anyone so be brutally honest. Depending on your disposition you may find it easier to write down weaknesses than strengths, or vice versa. With time you’ll get better at identifying both if you practice consistently.

Once I have an understanding of strengths and weaknesses it is usually pretty easy to identify opportunities that capitalize on strengths and work to turn weaknesses into strengths. Likewise threats are anything that could turn a strength into a weakness or further entrench an existing weakness.

Now you have to decide what action to take based on the opportunities and threats. After repeating this process a few times you start to see patterns and improve your process even more. Here’s an analysis I did on myself a few months back with regard to my work life.

I noticed after this analysis that my first opportunity, “listen more”, was the most important thing to act on because it addressed several of my weaknesses while building on my strengths and lessened at least one threat. This is one pattern I look for now, opportunities that apply to multiple concerns.

Try a SWOT Analysis next time you want to level up.