Finding our natural talents can be quite difficult to do. For me, it took me decades to find out that I was good at writing.
It was never a skill that I knew I had, especially since all I ever received in high school English were C’s. But here I am today, with millions of views on my content.
Much like many other people, discovering what your talents are can be extremely hard to figure out. Because of that, I sought out expert advice on how to not only identify, but embrace and hone in on your natural talents. I reached out to Doug Wilks, a talent investigator who founded StrengthsLauncher.
Doug Wilks provided these three key insights to discover what your natural talents are:
1. What Thrilled You as a Child?
Take two minutes and recall your most joyous memories from elementary school.
What made those moments so enjoyable? What were the common threads?
Were you highly competitive as a nine year old? Maybe you loved soccer and couldn’t wait for recess every day. You lived for it. You cherished that moment you could run out to the practice field and start competing.
Or, maybe you enjoyed working on big, competitive, team-oriented projects? Your friends loved it when you were in their group. You had a knack for nudging the whole team’s grade from a B to an A . You relished these opportunities. It was thrilling.
As you ponder these childhood memories, consider what similar activities thrill you as an adult.
You may still be highly competitive, but now you’re competing to win new business for your startup. You may still love complex, strategic projects, but now you do it for an international consulting firm.
Why do we make certain choices and enjoy certain activities? Why are we better at some things than others?
If you’ve ever taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, you know that a “talent theme” (to use Gallup’s terminology) is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.
Understanding your unique talents gives you answers to these questions. Your unique talents show you why you make certain choices, enjoy certain activities and are better at some things than others. In fact, there’s only a 1-in-33 million chance you have the same top five talent themes as another person!
So, understand that what thrilled you as a grade school student and what thrills you as an adult are actually very similar. You’re just using those same talent themes—competition and strategy—in different environments.
What work tasks today most closely resemble that joy you felt 20, 30 years ago?
Find ways to tilt your work today toward those moments that thrilled you from yesterday.
Those grade school memories are powerful stories that reveal what your talents are and how to use them.
2. What Makes You Lose Track of Time?
Imagine this: It’s 9 AM Saturday morning. Your time is your own. No soccer games, no carpool, no TPS report cover sheets.
Somehow, you have a free calendar for a few hours.
You begin a favorite activity. Maybe it’s playing guitar or gardening or writing that novel. Maybe it’s coding Python for that personal pet project you started months ago.
This activity, whenever you do it, pulls you in like a tractor beam. Your mind, body, and intuition begin working in perfect symmetry. You lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s 12:30 and you haven’t even thought about lunch yet.
What if work was just as fulfilling as your Saturday morning side project? Is it even possible to capture and harness that magic?
Yes—take very close note of moments like this. If you’re so captivated in an activity that you lose track of time, you’re experiencing one of the key symptoms of flow.
And, if you’re experiencing any amount of flow on a project, you’re most likely also using one or more of your natural talents.
3. What Do You Yearn to Do?
What fire is burning inside of you at this very moment?
There’s never been an easier time in the course of human history to begin fulfilling your life’s mission than right now.
Do you love writing? Cool. Start a blog.
Can you crochet better than anyone in the tri-state area? Great. Make a few extra scarves and sell them on Etsy.
Does even thinking about meeting and connecting with new people send you into happiness overdrive? Perfect. Launch a meetup for local executives in your city.
Enjoy all three? Even better. Start a monthly meetup for expert crochet bloggers.
In a perfect world, everyone would get to use their strengths at work every day.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most people. In fact, 63% of workers worldwide are not engaged in their work. This doesn’t even include the 24% who are actively disengaged.
While there are multiple reasons for this, one of the key factors is most workers don’t get to use their natural talents at work on a daily basis.
Think about it. In nature, eagles can fly between 75 and 125 miles a day. Wild elephants can roam up to 50 miles a day. If that eagle or elephant is locked-up in a cage, they’re not living the way they were made to live. They’ve been stifled, suffocated, trapped.
Similarly, millions of workers aren’t able to do what they were made to do on a daily basis.
What do you yearn to do?
If you find yourself in a place where you’re not using your gifts, that realization can be painful and uncomfortable. Thankfully, life is a journey, not one isolated day.
Find at least one small way to begin recapturing some of that joy you felt back in grade school. Get lost in a favorite activity and lose track of time on a Saturday morning. Hone in on what you yearn to do, and start doing it.
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