We’ve all been asked, “What are you good at?” or “What are your strengths?” For some people they can immediately list several things. For others, they look perplexed and struggle to think of a few things. These are truly hard questions to answer. In response to those questions, I’ve heard people ask or say, “You mean in my personal life versus my work life?” or, “I ‘m really good at resolving customer issues, but I don’t like doing it”.
There are “clues” to discovering your talents. And in a way that you can know or communicate them that goes beyond general descriptions such as “I’m very organized” or “I love working with people”. The depth I love hearing from others about their talents is when they can provide a fuller richer description that includes the joy or energy behind their talent. Such as, “I love taking a big idea or vision and thinking through all the details and tasks and working them into an operational work plan” or “I thrive on asking questions to learn my customer’s issues or needs and directing them to different resources or people who can help them”. I love coaching people so they can discover what it is that brings them joy or energy, and that is particular to them.
So how can you get to that level of rich understanding? By taking a few quiet moments to quietly reflect and spot those “clues”. Through their ongoing research, Gallup identifies these five clues to discovering one’s talent.
- Yearning. An interest or pull to certain activities over others, even if you’ve never formally learned a skill or activity. For me, I had a life long appreciation of dance, and was captivated by ballroom dancing. It wasn’t until it became more mainstream thanks to shows like Dancing with the Stars, that I finally pursued my yearning to learn it. It now provides me with a never ending source of new learning, challenge and creativity as well as an identity outside of my home and work life.
- Satisfaction. This is my favorite clue in coaching others to discover their talents and strengths. Gallup uses the word satisfaction, the word I use is “energized”. These are the skills or activities that when experienced, the result is an immediate positive energy or engagement from doing them. We can’t wait to do those activities again and again. It’s a joy to watch others light up and describe these experiences in detail when they are naturally engaging their talents.
- Glimpses of Excellence. Sometimes we need others to tell us what our strengths are. Our strengths can be so innate, we are unaware of them. Find those trusted friends or team mates and ask them what they see as your strengths. Specifically, what are those things they see you as expert or masterful at doing and has a positive impact.
- Rapid Learning. This is our own natural “hardwiring”; it’s ingrained into our DNA so to speak. Recall those past situations when you were able to be successful at activities not having the benefit of being taught. You just seemed to know what to do naturally. You might also think back on those times when others have asked you how to do something they were struggling with. They wanted to learn from you because you did that thing so well.
- “Flow”. This concept came from an early pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He described flow as those times when people were positively engaged in tasks or activities that were highly motivating, they lost of track of time doing them. Think back and write down those times when you were in the “flow” of specific tasks and activities. Identify why they were so enjoyable to you.
Knowing your talents can help you in so many ways, being prepared for the next job interview, working better with your team mates, or just enriching your life with new opportunities. Take five minutes once a week, during a quiet moment to reflect on the questions I posed above and discover new talents and deepen your understanding of them.