So often people say things like ‘do what you love’, ‘be who you really are’ or ‘use your unique gifts’ as the way to success. But how are you meant to find out what your gifts are? If I love to lie in bed, how will that make me successful? Unless you have a really obvious, amazing talent such as being an artist, a great cook or an innovative computer programmer, how can doing what you love lead to success?
I watched a great video by Marie Forleo the other week that clarified this.
Her explanation: Your gifts are actually your strengths. Just changing that one word made it all a lot clearer. When you think of your ‘gifts’ as your particular combination of strengths, the advice in the previous paragraph begins to seem more realistic. After all, although I wouldn’t say everyone has an amazing talent, everyone has strengths – things they do well or characteristics that are admirable. And strengths, to me, suggest qualities that can come to you in several ways, such as through being mentored or through practice, rather than these inborn talents that have just magically always existed, which the word gifts implies.
But this still leaves a big question: how do I work out what my strengths are?
It can be challenging to find our strengths because strengths are qualities we easily overlook because they come so naturally to us.
Here are my top six questions to start identifying your strengths/ gifts/ values/ talents:
1.a How do you spend your free time?
1.b. What do you like about those activities? E.g. If you play on a local sports team, is that because you like to compete, because you’re naturally physical, because you like to be part of a team, because you like to lead a team?
2. What comes easily to you? Do you always meet deadlines, can you make small talk with anyone?
3. What confuses you about other’s behaviour? E.g. Do you struggle to see how another person could fail to stop to help someone in need? Can’t work out why people vote Liberal? Having trouble accepting that others wouldn’t act the way you do in a given situation is an indicator that you are viewing that situation through the perspective your strengths give you.
4. What do you prioritise? E.g. When you have to choose, is it more important to you to see your friends or to honour another commitment you made earlier?
5. What is your ideal job (it has to actually be work, not lottery winner!) and what appeals to you about that job? Why do you think you would like it?
6. What makes you feel alive when you discuss it/ work on it? What never gets boring to you?
These are the sorts of questions where there are no right or wrong answers. However, if something is a strength for you, it might feel like there is a right answer, because you can’t imagine being any other way. Also, because strengths are so close to our hearts, it can be very difficult to self-assess our strengths. Ask your close friends, partner, boss or family members about what they perceive to be your strengths and see what they say.
Here are some examples of strengths to get you started
Communication, Optimism, Leadership, Empathy, Altruism, Family Focus, Team Player, Achiever, Planner/Organiser, Flexible, Mentor, Problem Solver, Relationship Builder, Creative, Loyal, Friendly, Determined, Initiator, Innovator, Self-Reliant, Persuasive, Negotiator, Good listener.
You know, all those things you say you are on job applications!
Would you like some one-to-one help with determining what your strengths are? I offer strengths-finding sessions, using assessment tools and tailored questions which uncover your unique strengths. If you know your strengths but don’t know how to apply them to your benefit, I can help with that too. Contact me on 0421 720 635 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.