Have you ever been told that you can do anything you set your mind to or with enough effort and focus, you can make your dreams come true? I was given that advice from so many different people throughout my life and found it so inspiring. To think that I could make anything a reality if I worked hard enough was awesome!
Unfortunately, it was also a big fat lie. I know what you’re thinking. Well that sucks, Kelly. Thanks for bursting my bubble.
But wait, there’s good news.
Those well-wishers were all leaving out one very simple but incredibly important factor. If you’re not tapping into your innate talents, hard work and dedication will only get you so far. Without the application of your natural gifts, you will struggle to reach the true kind of success you desire.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” (Whoa, I think Yoda was stealing some Ben-isms.)
In the book, Strengths Finder 2.0, which delves into findings from Gallup’s 40-year study of human strengths, the following was discovered:
Talent (a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving) + Investment (time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base) = Strength (the ability to consistently provide near perfect performance)
Just imagine if you were able to apply your strengths every day in your work. It would feel pretty good, wouldn’t it? You would look forward to going to work, have more positive interactions, and achieve so much more on a daily basis. You would be a star performer.
The funny thing is that we all know what our innate talents are (you do!) but sometimes we don’t recognize or see them. It’s not uncommon to think our own talents are something that come easily to everyone and therefore not special. You might find yourself thinking things like, “Doesn’t everyone notice [fill in the blank]” or “It’s so obvious what the answer is.” These are clues that you have a special talent. Discovering talents requires some introspection and unearthing truths about patterns of behavior and how that translates into our natural abilities.
To get you started, there are a number of ways to do this:
Take the Strengths Finder test
I'm a huge fan of this talent assessment! Buy the book, Strengths Finder 2.0, and flip to the back of the book where there is a code to use for an online assessment. Find 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to take the test. The key is to not let any current frustrations at work influence your answers. For each scenario question, let your first instincts guide your answers.
Review the Strengths Finder results
Once you receive the results of your top 5 talent themes, review each one thoroughly. Underline or highlight the sentences that resonate with you most. Think about when you’ve used each talent (in the past or currently) and how it affected your work performance. Are any of your talents not being tapped into in your current job? How could you use them more?
Claim your talents
Often times, people don’t recognize their innate talents or don’t believe they are useful or important. Embrace your natural gifts – these are the things that come easily to you. They were given to you for a reason and it’s up to you to figure out their best use. Take inventory on the activities you’ve participated in throughout your life (even when you were a kid) and review the ones you were drawn to and what aspects you enjoyed most. Also, think about what people come to you for and ask for help on. These should all give clues to your natural talents.
Focus on your strengths, work around your weaknesses
Create rigor around focusing on your strengths and continue leveraging them as consistently and often as possible. Improving your weaknesses will net mediocre performance at best. To work around your weaknesses, identify people who can fill in your gaps. For example, if you’re someone who loves getting into the details and making sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, then identify someone who enjoys looking at things from the 10,000 foot level and sees the big picture. You’d make brilliant partners.
In conclusion, the basic (erroneous) assumption is that you can teach and train yourself to be good at anything, while ignoring the fact that you have natural gifts and abilities. By identifying your own unique patterns of behavior, combining it with skills and knowledge, and applying it consistently to things that are intrinsically interesting and exciting to you, there is a high likelihood that you will experience massive and incredibly fulfilling success.
My challenge to you is to think about one natural talent that you can start using in your job today that you previously ignored or thought was irrelevant. Leave a comment and share it with us. Put your sundial in the sun!