Are you putting your gifts to good use?
I don’t mean the presents you eagerly unwrapped on Christmas Day – although here’s hoping you got everything you asked for. I’m referring to the gifts that can’t be given or received, that are already naturally yours; those particular talents which stem from your individual inclinations and unique capacities.
It seems to me that to be truly satisfied, finding and using our gifts is one of life’s most vital, exciting and sometimes challenging tasks – an adventure in the truest sense of the word.
Don’t be put off by the notion that your gifts and talents have to be dramatic, outstanding, or exceptional. Those are descriptions which can only be measured by comparing yourself with others, which is rarely (if ever) a useful pursuit. Not everyone was born to be famous. That your gifts stand out to you – and are distinguishable from your everyday abilities (like breathing) – is all that really matters.
Also, beware. Gifts are not necessarily skills – not immediately, anyway. Skills (such as fast typing, tying your shoelaces, and calculating simultaneous equations) can be taught and learned, and whilst useful, don’t have to emanate from your own unique personality. However, with practice, gifts and talents can be turned into skills, and that is something you may well wish to do if you decide to parlay your talents into a vocation, as I’m sure any successful professional sportsperson would agree.
Despite the fact that gifts are innate – and we all have them – many of us struggle to believe that fact, or to conceive of how to find them. Thankfully, it’s quite simple. You just need to pay close attention to the things you love. The objects, pursuits, concepts, events, people, thoughts, and perceptual experiences which give you the most pleasure in life. This is very important, because the things we love are the signals as to where our greatest talents lie. Consider them the instruction manual of you.
“What you love is what you are gifted at, and there are no exceptions to that” – Barbara Sher
The above statement may be hard to believe, until you realise that even when we are pointed towards our gifts, the manner in which we use them doesn’t have to be the most obvious one. Consider this. If you love music, does it mean you have to be a musician? No. Someone with a deep passion for opera but with a voice like the smell of gas may not be able to become an opera singer, but perhaps they could be a music historian, or work in a music library or record shop, or design the cover of Cecilia Bartolli’s next CD, or become an agent for an up-and-coming opera singer – or even Placido Domingo. Of course, they may choose not to pursue their gift into a vocation at all, but to volunteer at the Royal Opera House instead, or turn others on to opera by writing an article about it for their local paper. Or they may just decide to amass a fantastic collection of operatic sheet music, solely for their own pleasure.
The point is, if you really love something, your passion and unique way of “seeing” that thing mean that you have something important to offer that no one else in the world has, or ever will have - not in precisely the same way. This is no small matter. The pursuit of your talents provides you with the opportunity to give something unique to the world, and most importantly, to increase your own happiness – what better gift could you give yourself, or the rest of us, than that?
Finding And Using Your Gifts:
To find your own unique talents, sit down in a quiet place with a pile of paper and a pen, and start writing furiously. You’re about to begin the process of mining the rich seams of potential which lie within you.
1. Go On A Treasure Hunt. Consider the following areas: fantasies and daydreams; your future plans (especially the less practical ones); your childhood. What are the things you love, or loved, or imagine loving, in each of these areas? Write them down, without censoring yourself. Remember, you’re just looking for what you love, so there is absolutely no need to be practical yet. There will be time enough for that later. Leave nothing out. Also consider the things that other people have complimented you on throughout your life. However, they must be things you’ve loved being complimented on! You’re not just looking for things you’re good at here – you’re looking for things that make your heart sing. If you don’t love it – leave it out.
2. Start Making a List… Compile a list comprising everything you find – all the things you discover you love. The same thing may appear in more than one area of your life, but don’t be tempted to combine too many things for the sake of saving space. Make sure you don’t leave anything out of your list, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Stamps, butterflies, dancing, comic books, yachts, fresh air, the novels of Mrs. Gaskell, building a dry stone dyke, the feel of hessian on your skin, listening to other people’s voices, the smell of struck matches, roller-skating, assembling electrical equipment, Coronation Street – capture them all. Nothing is irrelevant.
3. …And Checking It Twice. Look for themes in your list – what do you see appearing again and again and again? At this stage, you may find some striking patterns emerging. If you loved singing in front of your family as a child, and regularly imagine starring in a hit movie in your wildest fantasies, and are seriously thinking of standing for election to your local Council before you reach the age of 40 – you might consider that the themes of “performance” or “influencing/moving others” are prevalent in the things you love to do, or imagine doing. What themes stand out to you, and what is it you love most about these things? If there are too many to realistically explore, consider prioritising them. If you could only investigate one theme, what would it be? What would you explore after that? This can give you at least some indication of where to start.
4. Generate Ideas. Brainstorm for yourself all the different (and enjoyable) ways you could play these themes out in your life. In which jobs? In which hobbies? By reading which books? Travelling to which places? Collecting which items? Speaking to which people? Your job here is to fill as many pages as you can with your ideas of things you’d love to do in the areas you’ve identified. If you think of something that really appeals to you, but seems pretty impossible to do – write it down anyway.
5. Get Support. Ask others – people you trust, and people who are successful in the areas you’ve identified – for their ideas as to how you might be active in these areas, or how you might pursue the options you’ve already discovered for yourself. Be as open as you can be to new suggestions. It is likely that at this stage you’ll make the exciting discovery that there is a vast array of different things you could be doing in pursuit of your fondest dreams that you may never have conceived of on your own.
6. Have A Go! Now you’re ready to make some choices. You’ve examined what you love, and what these delights tell you about your particular way of seeing the world. You’ve begun to uncover your gifts, no matter how well wrapped up they’ve been – and you’ve come up with a list of different ways in which these gifts can be used. All that’s left to do now is to start using them! If you’re still feeling nervous about going after your biggest dream, don’t worry. You can practise with something a bit more manageable to start with. But whatever you decide, get started – there’s nothing like taking action to move you closer to a life you love.
© Brian Cormack Carr, 2009
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