It’s a beautiful ideal that each of us is born with unique talents. I’ve heard it said by my mother, by my old teachers, and by a number of public speakers. They all believe that you, me, and everyone else has something special to bring to the table. Something that will make us superior to the others. And guess what, I’m starting to believe that it’s true. The only problem is that those talents are not so easy to figure out.
When talking about talents, most people think of the obvious ones such as being a great pianist, or a painter, or a code wizard. These talents are easy to notice, because they result in external evidence that is a direct proof of the talent of the creator. We can see a painting in a gallery and say “this artist has talent”, and it makes sense. However, considering a talent to be merely a channel for creating tangible objects will limit your way of looking at talents. I think there’s more than just artistic talent that needs to be taken into account.
I propose looking at talents as characteristics or aptitudes that are an integral part of who we are. More often than not these aptitudes are not so clear, especially to ourselves. I’m sure everyone has had some great teachers before, and some who were completely abysmal. What do you think was the difference between them? Maybe the great teachers had charisma, better communication skills, authority, enthusiasm… They had an understanding of how to facilitate learning. To my experience it’s not that the bad teachers lack knowledge, but there seems to be an invisible wall preventing them from transferring that knowledge to the students.
A great teacher has talent in teaching. Other examples of these more subtle talents could be the people who have a knack of conflict resolution, who motivate others. Or how about those who can go and talk to anyone, and instantly create a relationship with that person. Sometimes these talents can be so integrated into our personalities that we are completely unaware of them.
Spending some time trying to discover your talents can be pretty useful. I don’t know why, but most people – if not all of them – enjoy using their talents. This makes them feel appreciated, that they are doing something meaningful and congruent to their life’s purpose. This comes even more clear if you’ve done something for work that’s completely out of your character, something for which you have no talent. Letting your talents go to waste is likely to make you feel unhappy and worse about life.
Now, before you can start to actually think how to use your talents and take advantage of them, you need to know what they are. A true talent is something that should fit the following criteria:
- It is a superior ability that other people notice and value.
- You love using that ability, and want to use it as much as possible.
- Using that ability energizes you, and those around you.
- You keep getting better and better at using it, never running out of possibilities for further improvement.
It might be a tough personal challenge to find something that fits the above description. Give it time. I am only slowly starting to have some mental clarity about my own talents, and I’ve started to actively think about this almost a year ago. However, now that I’m getting closer to understanding what my talents are, I realize that deep inside me I’ve known about them for years.
A great way to gain some insight about what your talents might be is to ask. People who have known you for years, and are close to you, usually see you differently than how you see yourself. Ask them how would they describe you? What do they appreciate in you? What makes you exceptional and talented in their opinion? This can provide rather surprising revelations, because others see you as one of many people in their lives. They will compare you to those other people, and to themselves. Something that you are not able to do, as it’s impossible to be objective about one’s self.
I am not a big fan of quizzes, but I’ve found that the Myers-Briggs test can provide helpful insight into your personality and help you discover your talents. I did it myself couple weeks ago at HumanMetrics, and felt that the resulting personality type (ENFJ – the Teacher) was spot-on accurate. It also helped me see some aspects of my personality that I had taken for granted and not paid attention to before. The test helped me realize, that those parts of my personality are also a part of my talents.
If you decide to do the Myers-Briggs test and cannot relate with the results, try doing it again some other time when you’re in a different state of mind. Your mood will affect your personality, and it shows in the test results as well as in real life situations. Also, the Myers-Briggs type indicator is not something static you’re born with, but it changes over time as your personality develops and changes.
Everyone has talents, but finding them may take time. Don’t worry about it or blame yourself for not figuring it out. If you believe that you have a talent but can’t seem to be able to discover it, it’s likely that sooner or later your subconscious will drop an answer in your mind and then it seems so obvious, that you can’t believe why you didn’t realize it sooner.