It is not so rare that after we had experienced something negative, we start analyzing what happened and try to find and understand reasons and their root cause for the unwanted outcome of the situation.

But how many times have you contemplated activities that make your heart beat faster and happier?

Have you ever thought what actually happened when you felt energized, confident, fulfilled, satisfied, you were lost in time while doing it, or you were looking forward to it?

These are the times when you were using your innate talents and strengths.  These moments are moments when your best version comes alive. They are clues to your strengths.

We usually don’t look at them intentionally and, therefore, somehow happen more or less accidentally. And because we are not able to pinpoint what makes us thrive, it is difficult to control them deliberately.

But what if you do start intentionally creating circumstances when you can use your strengths as often as possible?

You can start discovering your strengths by yourself or with the help of different strengths finding tests. No matter which way you choose, you can use the following steps and actions as your starting point or for an even more in-depth understanding of your strengths.

And remember, this is a process, and it takes some work, but it is possible for everyone, no matter what you do in your life.

»You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks the light in you. « Alexander Den Heijer

Start with »Clues to your talents and strengths«

Now, take a moment, relax, and look back at times when you felt energized, confident, fulfilled, secure, and/or accomplished after you have achieved something. Think of things, events, activities that were important to you, that you enjoyed, and that stand out for you now as you think about them. It can be anything, no matter how small or big it is – as long as your energy level was high, and you consider it as something important for you. These moments are “Clues to your talents and strengths.”

Each “Clue” will bring you closer to your discovery about your natural talents and strengths. You can think in terms of a typical day or week at your work, home, community, society, or you can consider your past experiences in school or previous work environment.

Yearning – a feeling of intense longing for something

Have you ever watched someone performing an activity and found yourself saying, “I want to do that!”

Yearnings, particularly those felt early in life, often indicate the presence of a powerful talent. You look forward to doing something; you are drawn to it. Yearning is a pull that is felt internally and leads an individual to a particular activity or environment over and over again.

What do you know you can do well, but haven’t yet done?

To what kind of tasks or activities in your work or personal life are you naturally drawn to?

What stirs your soul?

If you had an entire week of your calendar still empty, how and what would you spend your time doing?

What specific aspects of those activities are most compelling to you?

Rapid Learning – you simply just get something

This clue to talent deals with the way you are naturally wired to learn. You may find yourself thinking, “I have always known how to do this.” You tend to learn something quickly and stay engaged. Some things seem to come easily to you, and you can’t really explain why. For example, you can speed-read social dynamics, or you can often offer a more in-depth insight into relational or emotional problems. Although you have had little experience in the activity, you pick it up quickly and also usually anticipating the next steps.  You may even have difficulty breaking down the steps to explain or teach it to someone else.

What comes easily to you? What tasks take little effort on your part?

What kind of tasks or activities do you pick up quickly?

What have you done well, and you didn’t need to be explained?

What activities or skills have you enjoyed improving in and noticed you continued to feel engaged?

Flow – being in the Zone

Have you ever become so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time?  Then you have experienced flow. It is sometimes referred to as “timelessness” – lost in the moments or hours. Get curious about which and what a particular activity makes fun for you.

What kinds of tasks, activities, or skills are stimulating and engaging for you in order you get lost in doing (in the flow)?

What kind of activities do you want to do more because they energize you?

What are you doing (at work or at play) when you’re truly enjoying yourself?

What do you find you can’t stop doing?

Glimpses of excellence

Success is a compilation of moments, and it takes a trained eye to notice these moments in everyday life. Listen to these experts, be them your coach, boss, manager, teacher, a family member, or a friend. In witnessing the activity, one recognizes the display of great talent and can easily see the potential for the development of that talent into a strength.

What have other people told you you’re great at doing?

What are the areas where others have said: “I wish I could do that as easy and as well as you?”

What were you known for doing well in the past (your childhood, school, previous work, in your free time)?

During what activities have you had moments of subconscious excellence when you thought, »How did I do that?

External feedback

Pay close attention to the things that people give you compliments on, ask for your help, seek your advice on, or refer to you as the expert in. Even though you don’t appreciate those traits too high, as they come so easily and quickly to you, they are the things that others notice, and they distinguish you from others. You may not consider your kindness, your reliability, curiosity, perseverance, staying calm under pressure as a strength.  You take it for granted, but if you get that feedback from others, it means you’re doing things differently than others. You never know, maybe cause of your friendliness and ability to put others at ease, you will become one day a great founder of an event planning company.

What do people typically ask you for help in, at work, in free time?

What kind of compliments do you usually get from people around you (co-workers, managers, friends, family members)?

Then, consider the responses: Do any of the strengths people reported make you feel excited and energized when you exercise them? If so, those may be the strengths you want to grow, especially.

Satisfaction – Sense of Accomplishment

Not all accomplishments give us the same feeling of satisfaction. Some accomplishments give us greater emotional and psychological rewards than others. The pleasure is not just in the moment or in the outcome but creates a person’s intrinsic motivation, and you are looking forward to doing it again. You feel fulfilled and satisfied, which is really important on the happiness level.

What tasks or activities, after you had finished them, gave you a sense of true satisfaction?

What activities give you a kick, either while doing them or immediately after finishing them, and you think, »When can I do that again?

Think of times when you successfully navigated through difficult times? What enabled you to be successful?

When you experience these types of energizing experiences, you know a natural talent is present.

What do these clues tell you about your natural talents and strengths?

What are the common themes or threads you see in your answers?

What would you name as your natural gifts?

For instance, you might get energy when you learn something new, or when you interact with many people over the course of a day, or when you restore and resolve problems, or when you are in conversations with people with different perspectives, or you enjoy the exposure that comes with independence.

Or you might instinctively recognize talents, skills, and knowledge in people or you know how very different people can work together, or you might even ordinary tasks turn into competitive games, or you always take control of a situation and make decisions.

Or you might get a sense of accomplishment when you help people learn and grow, or when you are fully accountable for the success or failure of projects, or when you get credit for your ideas.

Or you get inspired when you build a relationship with people you consider to be “big thinkers”, or when you contribute your ideas about the future.

You might notice that so far, you were not aware of many of your talents and strengths, or you didn’t praise them so much because they came so easily and quickly to you. You took them for granted. But remember, what comes easy to you does not come easy to everyone.

These are your patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that give you energy or profound gratification. These are your talents and strengths, and while using them, you become engaged in an activity, and your productivity grows. And a job that encourages you to use those patterns, whatever they are, will improve your whole life.

Focus on talents and strengths instead of only on skills

It is not enough just to be really good at something, you must have some love or enjoyment of it. Otherwise, this is just a skill.

I worked with a client who had amazing results in sales, but he didn’t enjoy it. Actually, for years he quietly tried to get out of it. But because of his good results, everyone in his organization felt like it was a common-sense decision for him to stick to it. Through our coaching sessions, we found out where his joy actually lay. He gets in a flow state when he has to deal with different data, finding the connections between them, and especially if he has to find out how one thing influences something else. He realized that he was so successful in sales because of his high analytical talents. But, to reach his fulfillment, full potential, and full engagement at work, we needed to find the right circumstances for using these talents. It took a lot of self-awareness work, but eventually, as he was finally able to pinpoint where and how to use them, he was able to deliberately create his next career move, which led him to sales analytics.

Or let’s take another example. “I am great with people.” is one of the most commonly used sentences when it comes to the question of what is good about you. Now, dig a little dipper into this skill, and ask yourself:

What is it that makes you great with people? 

What is it specifically that you enjoy in the interactions with others? 

What kind of people you really enjoy interacting with?

You will find out that there is so much more than just “be good with people.” You might be great with people because you can easily put them at ease, you can quickly find commonalities with them, or because you enjoy yourself when you are helping them resolve their problems, or because you recognize their potential and you get inspired when you can help them to grow and develop, or because of your desire to build a meaningful relationship.

These are your innate talents and strengths, and when you can use them, you get inspired, energized, and joyful.

When you focus and orient yourself around your talents and strengths, your job search or your professional growth will become more aligned with who you are and what you want. And the way how you present yourself on a job interview or talking with your boss for a raise or promotion will become much more compelling and persuasive. Your argumentation will be more transparent, sharper, and more precise.

What does sound better to you?

I am good with people.”

or

I get energized and engaged when I work with people. I am able to help them identify and resolve their problems, and I can easily recognize what is best in them. I feel accomplished if I can help them to grow and develop.”

It is important to realize that your strengths are the value you bring to the world. This doesn’t mean avoiding your weaknesses. It means focusing on those activities that allow you to demonstrate your value.

Knowing your strengths means you know what activities to engage in that will allow you to shine.

Gallup scientists found that people who use their talents at work are more engaged in their jobs and are three times more likely to report a high quality of life than those who do not.

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