Everyone’s been told at one point or another to “work on your strengths.” In a way it’s a bit of a misleading statement because strength—and its opposite weakness—aren’t necessarily things that we’re born with but are rather developed and nurtured. While it’s true that your genes may naturally support a likelihood of greater or lesser physical strength, most anyone can make themselves strong through rigorous training and proper nutrition.
So when we say “work on your strengths” we’re really saying, “Work on your talents.” In other words, those tools or skills you were born with that seem to come to you easier than they do to others. There’s a difference between talent and strength. A young woman born agile and graceful who opts to indulge in excessive eating and substance abuse is certainly not catering to her talents or her strength. But the young man who discovers he’s good at influencing people and purposefully seeks to cultivate that through a career in sales or through education is setting himself up to use those skills productively. And he’s setting himself up for greater success.
Nurturing your talent is what makes that talent strong, and it’s the only way that makes sense if your goal is success and fulfillment. The problem is a lot of people don’t know what their own talents are, mostly because when you’re good at something naturally, you barely notice it. It’s who you are.
Identifying and Nurturing What You’re Good At
So how do you identify your talents and build upon them for business and life success?
- Recognize Your ‘Zone.’ You hear it more often in reference to athletes, but it can apply to anyone. When you’re in the zone, it’s like nothing you do can go wrong. The right actions, movements, or words seem to just flow out of you automatically, almost effortlessly. You are in the zone when you lose track of time doing something that you’re passionate about. At the end of the day jot down those activities you were engaged in. Notice those moments where time seems to just fly by.
- Recognize Your ‘Weaknesses’. Some suggest that we should look at what we’re not so great at and improve upon those things. After all, if we’re already good at something and it flows naturally, why focus on that when you can get better at other things too? Here’s the thing: anyone can—for example— take an art class and learn how to mechanically mimic what they’re taught. Fewer people can create art untrained. The point isn’t to avoid your ‘weaknesses’ at all costs, or even ignore them. Just simply accept what you’re not good at and, if necessary, get whatever training or education is necessary if it allows you to further maximize what you’re already good at. You want your resources to go where they will be maximized, and that includes teh energy toward your talents.
- Recognize What They Recognize. “They” means those who are closest to you and know you well. Remember: if you’re asking the question, “What am I really good at,” chances are your own talents and/or strengths are virtually invisible to you. However, other people around you see what you’re good at through your actions every day. When they come to you for help they usually want assistance in your area of strength—whether it’s dependability, good listening, negotiating skills, or whatever the case may be. Start noticing these requests and you will start becoming more aware of your talents.