Most of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing with our lives. We wonder whether we are on the right path and if we are using our strengths as we should.
Although some discover their passion and their purpose at a young age, for most, this is part of a life-long journey. Regardless of your age or experience, it may be easier than you think to spot the tell-tale signs of talent and figure out what your strengths are! Then, once you have pin-pointed your strengths, it’s just a matter of seeking additional opportunities to use them.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to hear Marcus Buckingham speak. He explained the difference between a strength and a weakness in a way so simple that a small child could understand—yet it was powerful enough to change how grown adults think. Don’t quote me here, but essentially what he said was that when you do something that uses a strength, you feel strong. Even after hours of practice, although you may be tired, you are left feeling energized and eager. When you do something that is a weakness for you, you feel weak. At the end, you feel depleted, disengaged, and you are ready to stop.
So, consider how you spend your time and ask yourself the following questions:
What was I doing the last time I felt really effective and strong?
What do I find myself looking forward to doing?
If I had an hour between appointments, how would I spend it?
What have I found makes me totally lose track of the time?
Make a list of your happiest and proudest moments, and figure out what those moments had in common. Were you brainstorming? Presenting to others? Figuring something out? Connecting with people? Look for opportunities to practice the things that make you feel strong—even if you are not good at them yet—because you can grow in an area of strength by ten times.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to correct your weaknesses either. That will take up all your time and leave little left for developing your strengths. Bottom line—figure out what you like to do and do more of it.
Take a lesson from Grandma Moses who discovered her creative talent in a life-long journey. She worked on a farm for 50 years and had little time for artistic expression. After she retired at the age of 70, she discovered that when she practiced her painting and refined her technique, she felt strong. She looked forward to doing it, and she easily lost track of the time. At the age of 80, Grandma Moses opened her first art exhibit and showcased her new-found strength.
What can you showcase? Take the time to discover it!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 12, 2011 and has been updated.