So you’re stuck, huh? Welcome to the crowd. With constant peer pressure from social media to define ourselves in 140 characters or less, it’s no surprise that who we actually are gets lost in the shuffle. But once we get away from those glowing screens of identity-makers, how do we decide what our strengths are and how to use them? Identify your talents and start using them now with these ten simple tips:
1. Take a personality test.
Think these tests are a one size fits all approach? Think again. Personality tests are an objective way of understanding what makes you tick. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular tool to help you define the patterns in your seemingly complex personality. Once you know which category you fall into, you can start seeing your strengths and weaknesses more clearly in everyday life. Use this to your advantage by walking into a job interview, first date or any other high stakes situation and playing to your newly discovered strengths.
2. Find what makes you feel strong.
Ever have those moments when everything feels easy and light? Do you know that you have the answer or are capable of finding the answer? When we are drawn toward a sense of ease that is usually our inner talent scout speaking up. Notice when you feel your strongest and create more opportunities to feel that way. If you’re naturally good with kids, see if you can volunteer time at an after school program or babysit for a friend who needs a little help. Let your strengths lead your schedule.
3. Find what you spend the most money on.
We often put our money where our mouth is when it comes to what we desire. Using easy and free applications like Mint to go back through your finances is a great way to notice where you pour your dollars. When you follow the green you discover what you value, and chances are you have a knack for what you value. If you go back through your yearly spending and notice that your biggest expense is that group fitness class you love, use that as a sign of your athleticism. Sign up for a road race, try a new kind of class or simply just commit to a healthy lifestyle.
4. Ask your friends what your best and worst qualities are.
You know they are going to be brutally honest. But the great thing about asking a handful of trusted friends about your qualities is that they all usually say the same thing. It’s enlightening to hear different people see you in the same light and this is definitely an indicator of talent. Use your friends’ perspectives here to work on what you’d like to do better. Are you compassionate but also a little bit on the chatty side? Use your compassion to slow down, breathe and give others the right of conversational way. Use your natural talents to improve those parts of your M.O. that might need a little work.
5. Ask your family what you loved as a child.
Sometimes the people who have known us the longest are the people who know us the best. Ask your family what you used to do as a kid – maybe you always played alone, with friends, made up stories, wrote, drew, acted out scenes, played baseball, read books. More than likely these are things you still love today, but some things we easily forget as we grow into responsible, mature, serious adults. Take these recollections as a hint to get busy playing again. See how much of your childhood you can recreate in your adulthood by following your sense of play. Using your talents in recreation gives your brain a chance to play, making you more productive in every other area of your life.
6. Write in a journal.
Let your thoughts flow onto a few pages every morning and walk away from them for the rest of the day. Stream of consciousness writing can be very effective at identifying your talents. Come back after a week and re-read your pages. You’ll notice a lot of your thoughts circle back to one main idea. This is usually a talent or desire. Use your writing to look for hidden answers. What are you missing? What are you longing for? What opportunities do you wish would come through? Then, use your journal to create a list of your strengths and a list of opportunities to set new goals that are aligned with those strengths.
7. Look for talent in others.
Sometimes being inspired by others’ talents makes us realize what we’re good at, too. If you are a writer and you read something that absolutely connects with your soul, tries to define what exactly lit you up. Conversely, if you see talent in others and feel jealous (don’t you worry, we all do this) you can use this to your advantage as well. Ask this person to mentor you, give you advice or simply chat over coffee. Reaching out and seeing talent in others will open up opportunities and connections while helping you define your own.
8. Take stock of your book/music/movie collections.
The media we consume says a lot about what we value, but what we own says something even larger. This is a true identity maker. I am extremely aware of what books I read on the subway because I know that I’m outwardly identifying something hidden about myself on my morning commute. Glance through all of your collections, what is the one resonating idea? This is probably something that lights your fire. Dig further into this, is there a convention, a class, a workshop you could take to use this talent? How can you connect with others who enjoy the same thing as you? All of these avenues lead to connections and potential networking, so go ahead with your talented self.
9. Remember what you have been thanked for.
When people thank us for something, they have been helped in some way. Notice what you are thanked for on the regular. Are you a good listener? A good teacher? A good motivator? All of these things are talents even though they seem small. Remember that your talents shouldn’t just be in service to other people, but to you as well. If you’re in a constant mode of selflessness, use your talent as a caregiver to take care of yourself. Know that as you give to yourself, you’re growing your ability to give to others.
10. Be open to change.
Know that as we age, our tastes change and our strengths grow. Don’t allow yourself to be complacent by telling yourself the same story over and over again. If you say, I’m not athletic because I didn’t play sports in high school, you’re not giving your current self a chance to identify new talents. Being open to change means letting go of preconceived notions and honestly absorbing the world around you. This kind of openness will lead you to discover new talents and help prepare you to tackle any challenge life throws your way.