In and of itself, getting to know yourself is important. As I wrote in that first series post, “Your relationship to yourself will be the longest and most significant of your lifetime.” But, there’s another piece to this, and that is taking responsibility for yourself, owning your decisions, and creating the life you dream of, that is, making your life yours.
I know the desire to go with the flow, to accept other people’s opinions or allow them to make choices for you. It can seem easier to drift through life and allow things to happen to you instead of deciding what matters most and making the appropriate choices to bring that into being. But, to live your best life, you need to make those choices yourself.
To that end, this week’s topic is identifying and honing your talents. Now that you’ve uncovered so much of what makes you you—your belief systems, values and motivations, interests and passions—it’s time to figure out how you want to bring value into the world. And while you’re doing this, remember to honor your personality. It’s the only way to do this your way.
Let’s talk about talents. I could use many words to describe what I’m talking about here; your talents could also be called your gifts, your strengths, or your innate abilities. They are tangible and transferable, things you can give to or trade with someone else to create or exchange value. They are also broad and can be applied in many ways, in many professions, on many life paths.
Identifying Your Talents
Before we can hone our talents, we must first figure out what they are. Your talents are your innate gifts, they’re those things that create a sense of flow when you’re doing them. They’re the things you enjoy and for which you have an affinity.
When you look for your talents, you’re not looking for something you’re necessarily skilled at (yet!), but instead something you feel deeply engaged in when you do it.
Often, because our gifts are so close to us, so deeply ingrained in who we are, we can have trouble seeing them for what they are. You may assume that everyone is as good at negotiating as you are. Or you may think, because you’re a natural organizer, that organizing is so easy anyone can do it. Neither of those is true.
We each have unique talents and honoring and honing them is what leads us to developing a productive, happy, fulfilled career and life. So, how do you uncover your talents?
Self-Guided Talents Exercise: One way to tease out your talents is to create a list all of the things you’ve loved doing before. Consider volunteer and paid jobs, hobbies, and things you do willingly to help out at home or in your family.
You might want to start by writing down all of the roles you’ve held (student, teacher, manager, daughter, entrepreneur) and then spend a few minutes thinking through each one and writing down what skills you enjoyed using in each role.
Initially you may write down something like playing pool or dancing or writing essays. When you do, look at the larger picture, the transferrable skills behind each talent.
What makes you good at playing pool? Spatial relations abilities.
Dancing? Kinesthetic ability.
Writing essays? Linguistic or communications talents.
The things we’re good at that seem small and irrelevant can often be translated into broader themes that are translatable to a lot of different professions or societal contributions. Someone with spatial relations abilities could design a new bridge or make beautiful art. Someone kinesthetically gifted could be a welder, performer, or yoga instructor. Linguistic or communications skills could translate into careers involving writing, translation, or advocacy.
There are also several assessments you can use to tease out your talents.
Multiple Intelligences Test: In 1983, Harvard professor Dr. Howard Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. From his research, Dr. Gardener found that each of our brains develops differently and that some parts may develop more fully than others.
He suggested there are eight forms of intelligence, including verbal/linguistic, math/logical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic (physical ability), interpersonal (relating well to others), intrapersonal (self-understanding), and naturalist. To explore your various intelligences, take this free assessment.
StrengthsFinder: Developed by psychologist Donald O. Clifton and The Gallup Organization, StrengthsFinder measures the present of 34 talent themes, your innate patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be applied productively. For more information or to take a paid version of the test, visit http://www.strengthstest.com.
VIA Character Survey: Developed under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of positive psychology,” the VIA survey measures 24 individual character strengths. You can take the free, scientifically validated assessment here.
Honing Your Talents
Once you’ve figured out which talents you’re naturally inclined toward and enjoy using, keep developing them. If you love learning new things, read, take classes, and never stop learning. If you’re a people person, spend as much time as possible around others, figuring out how to bring light to both their and your lives. If you’re a naturalist type, spend time in nature, learning about flora and fauna, and figuring out how to preserve our natural habitat.
Doing so is the only way you can bring your very best to the world. In the process, you’ll be taking responsibility for your life and bringing about your own greatest fulfillment.
As Abraham Maslow said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.” Go forth and be self-actualized.
For part nine in the getting to know yourself series, click here.