How to Discover Your Strengths and Skills
By Keith Cook
Have you always wanted to do what you love and get paid for it, but you’re just not sure how to discover your strengths and skills? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with this same issue. I remember trying out for chorus as a little boy. There were 3 other students from my class trying out as well. I already knew I couldn’t carry a note from me to you & I just wanted to get out of class. Well of course, I was not chosen to be a part of chorus group. I knew singing was not a skill or strength of mine; however, I still needed to figure out my true strengths.
Now you may recall when you were in school and it was time for report cards. What happened if you didn’t get the desired grade or straight A’s; a lot was said and maybe even done about that less than desirable grade, “right?” Let’s jump forward to now, as many of you are in the work force. What happens when it comes time to getting an evaluation? During your evaluation, your boss points out the areas not up to par. They are dissected, turned upside down and inside out. But the areas in which you performed well, get only a little bit of attention.
Conventional wisdom states we should work on improving our weaknesses. The problem with this is that it’s a complete waste of time and energy. Highly successful entrepreneurs, as well as top scientists, artists, athletes and entertainers throughout history have achieved greatness by focusing on their areas of strength.
Everyone has a natural aptitude in something. We all have inherent God given talents and gifts. We all have talents and a propensity to do something easier than others. You may excel working with the elderly, teaching children, growing plants or caring for mentally or physically disabled. Your special talent may involve calculations, you may have a knack for photography, athletic ability, love to write poetry, or working with animals. Some people work better when using their hands and are considered mechanically inclined. These are the areas in which you should explore and give your attention because they make you happy and feel good.
Let’s take my friend CJ for example. At the age of 13 as an 8th grader, he was invited to photograph the high school senior class trip because everyone knew how awesome of a photographer he was. Over the years, CJ has photographed and videoed weddings, birthday parties, different types of celebrations and the list goes on and on. CJ is currently in his seventies and fortunate for him, he realized a strength and passion at an early age. He’s been a photographer for over 60 years.
So let’s explore how you can discover your natural talents. Start by making a list of the activities that seem to come easy for you. Let’s call it “things I like to do” list. These are the things you can do that seem effortless. For example, you may find it easy to make friends or build rapport with strangers. So you may consider yourself a people person, connector, a match maker, or relationship guru.
You may discover that you have an infinity for interior design and sculpting. You notice that people you just met are in awe about your designs and ask if you will decorate every room of their home and they are willing to pay top dollar for your sculptures and insight. Think of the activities in life that just seem to come easy to you.
Second, make a list of things you do where time just seems to stand still. Think back when you were little and your mother checked in on you just to find you in the same spot entertaining yourself with the same tools and toys. When you are doing these activities, you may discover that several hours pass without you even noticing it. You may find yourself engulfed in a painting, constructing, writing poetry, building or creating a masterpiece of some sort. Friends, loved ones and family members have given you positive feedback, support and encouragement to continue doing what you’re doing. This is the beginning to finding your true passion in life.
Last but not least, write down all the activities that make you happy. I mean these activity makes you smile from ear to ear! These are the tasks you would do free of charge, just because they increase your happiness, excitement and fun. You would do it all day long and never seem to get tired. The passion, the fulfillment received from these tasks are characteristics and signs guiding you toward your purpose. As your desires and wants expand, continue to add to your list of “things I like.” This can serve as a form of positive reinforcement, focus, discipline or a place of mental retreat in the event you find yourself in a negative downward spiral and in need of a pick me up.
You can always delegate less meaningful tasks, tasks you don’t enjoy doing or just aren’t good at to members of your staff or your children. You can hire someone that specializes in the area in which you are weakest. Like if you just can’t see yourself spending the time to learn how to put tile in the shower, bathroom or kitchen, hire someone that is an expert at it. This frees up time for you to work in your core genius, the areas you are best at, and allows you to use your time most effectively.
So the next time your child brings home a report card, spend some time, figure out why and ask questions as to what is liked about the classes they do well in. As for the class(s) with the undesirable grade, inquire as to what is liked and not liked, ask if help is needed, evaluate the situation and move on.
We want to receive more of the good grades, behavior and interaction our children, friends and spouses’ are expressing, so showing appreciation and gratitude will promote more of the same. As for evaluations at work, remember to highlight and bring attention to the good being done so you will receive more of it. No one is good at everything. Think for a moment, if you are constantly working in areas that aren’t a strong suit, this can create a sea of unhappiness because you are constantly being reminded of your shortcomings.
“Invest your time and energy in being great at something. Really great. You will be happier. And the recipients of your work, your customers will reward you for your excellence. What a combination; doing what you love and people pay you for it! Focus on your strengths. Experience the immense satisfaction that comes with being superb at something.” Gary Lockwood
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