Recently I read an article by James Altucher, author of The Power of No in which he explained, “I’m going to be dead for about 9 or 10 trillion years. And only alive for the next 40 or so.” Pretty depressing stuff there, Mr. Altucher, but actually a little inspiring too. It puts things into perspective, right? We have a short window of time to make our mark on this world while at the same time, finding happiness.
I have a sure-fire way to help people maximize that time and I’m going to share it here with you. Don’t laugh at me for being simple. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas and solutions that are the very best! So, here goes. If there is one thing I have learned over the last decade or so as a Talent Analyst, it is this: If you spend your time doing what you are naturally good at, you will be more productive and happier. On the flip-side, if you try to force yourself into a role that isn’t just right, it’s only a matter of time before you stop growing and find yourself overwhelmingly frustrated.
My friend Donna is a realtor and I will tell you, there is a chemical reaction that happens to her when she is working with clients and showing houses. It’s so strong that you can see it even when she is simply recounting a story later. She loves her work. She doesn’t mind working weekends, dealing with totally stressed-out people, continually showing homes that meet all the criteria but just “aren’t right,” or being on her feet all the time. She’s like one half of a magnet and her job is the other half. It just pulls her in and she’s right where she’s meant to be.
One of my coworkers recently explained to me that one of the things she likes most about her job is her ability to work from a home office. She creates a quiet, peaceful environment in which she has full control. Playing the music she likes and arranging her desk and her files in the way that she prefers, she spends her time working on things that are important to the company without interruption. I have no doubt she would hate being a realtor constantly on the go and feeling like her time is not her own.
My dad was a well-respected neurologist with a thriving practice for as long as I can remember. A brilliant, quiet, thoughtful man, he was often described as introverted. But one-on-one with a patient you would see joy light up his face. Make most people work on no sleep with a pop tart for dinner in-between emergency calls, and worried family counting on them and it would send them over the edge. But he’d sit down with his patient and feel purposeful, like he was exactly where he belonged. He would have gone nuts sitting in a home office all day.
We are all wired the way we are wired and the luckiest among us have found a way to spend our time, earn our living, and make that mark on the world in a job that allows us to use the natural gifts we were given.
So ask yourself:
- Do you look forward to Mondays?
- Even if you go home from work tired, do you feel energized rather than depleted?
- Do you feel as though you learn quickly in your job and know how to apply what you’ve learned?
- Do you want to learn more?
- Could you say you feel a true sense of purpose in what you do?
- When you tell people about work, does your face light up?
If you just uttered a string of yes’s then you have certainly found a path to a job that calls for your natural talents. You’re like a round peg in a round hole.
If you cannot answer yes to most of the questions above, then you might consider how you can adjust your job or responsibilities to be a better match for your talents. While there will be parts of everybody’s job that become tedious or annoying, overall when you are using your strengths you feel strong. Don’t cram your round self into a square hole! Search for the right fit for your talents and you will increase your level of happiness.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.