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5 Clues to Discovering Your Strengths

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“You can be anything you want to be.” Do you believe this? Have you structured your life or career around this belief? I hate to disappoint you, but this just isn’t true.

We’ve done ourselves, and everyone around us, a great disservice trying to prove that, if we just work hard enough or put our mind to it, we can pave our path. Unfortunately, the premise is wrong.

The Truth of the Matter

We’re all different. We’re all unique. We were born with innate abilities, not chosen by us. We didn’t have a say. Rather, they were hand-selected for us to be used with intention and a specific purpose in this world.

Our job is to discover and use these natural talents.

The process begins during our early years through a series of experiments that nudge us toward the things we do with ease and the things that require more effort. This is very different than measuring successes and failures. While this may hint at some of our natural skills, it’s about something a bit different.

It’s about energy expenditure.

It’s noticing the things we don’t have to work so hard at. Our talents are the things we repeat regularly without noticing we’re doing them. In fact, we often don’t recognize our “talents” because we do them so easily we think everyone else does, too.

The 5 Clues to Strength Identification

If you’re having trouble identifying your strengths, let’s dive into the discovery process.

Here are 5 clues to help you identify your natural talents:

  1. Flow: when do you lose track of time or experience a sense of timelessness?
  2. Learning: when do you pick things up quickly or with ease?
  3. Yearning: when do you notice a magnetic attraction or a desire to do something again?
  4. Excellence: when do others observe your high level of performance or what are you known for?
  5. Satisfaction: when do you say “I can’t wait to do that again?”

One of my first experiences with this happened when I was working for a temp agency the summer after I graduated from college. During one of my assignments, I was tasked with filing paperwork and making copies. That was it. I finished the job and reported back to my supervisor. She responded, “Wow. That was fast. You’re a really hard worker. Most people wouldn’t have finished that.”

I was stunned.

Wasn’t filing paperwork and making copies easy? Doesn’t everyone do what they’re asked to do?

Apparently not.

Much later in life I understood that this was one of my natural talents “leaking.” The psychological ownership I take over something I’m asked to do and the person I’m asked to do it for comes easily to me. CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) calls this Responsibility.

Make it Personal

Do you recall a similar experience? Were you recognized for your work only to brushed it off as “No big deal. Everyone else does this, too, don’t they?”

Your natural talent was probably leaking, too.

No matter how hard we try, some things will never be easy for us. We’ll always lose energy when we invest time fixing our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses and managing them is important so that they shouldn’t disrupt our lives or our relationships.

But our time is better spent investing in and developing our natural talents.

Let’s go back to the “you can be anything you want to be” statement. Here’s the twist. Once you’ve identified the things you do with ease, you can apply them to anything you want. You’re only limited by your imagination here!

If you’re exhausted at the end of the day, you may be fighting against your talents.

You may be targeting your talents at the wrong work or the wrong people. Or you may not be using your talents at all or underutilizing them at best.

If you’ve never taken an assessment like Clifton Strengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) this is a good place to start. If you already know your Top 5, it may be time to work with a coach to maximize their potential.

Don’t try to be anything you want to be.

Just be the best version of you.