As a child, I was a failure. I wasn’t good at anything. I was fired by my piano teacher after two torturous years of lessons. In fact, I wasn’t just fired; she told my mother I shouldn’t be allowed at the piano because I was too uncoordinated to play. I loved the piano and I was sad.
I took ballet when I was young. That didn’t last long either. Apparently, I was also too uncoordinated for the world of dance. I took a sewing class in middle school. It didn’t end well. It was probably the only time in my life I was thankful for social promotion so I wouldn’t be given a failing grade. (In fairness, I stuck with it and in my early adulthood finally mastered the art of sewing). I signed up to sing in the choir for the school play in eighth grade. After two rehearsals they told me I could stay–if I mouthed the words. My middle school attempts at becoming a distance runner ended after a couple of serious asthma attacks. Middle school was pretty rough on my ego.
By the end of middle school, I was convinced I had no talents, no gifts to offer the world. I figured I was destined for a life as a loser. 13 is pretty young to be giving up on one’s future, but apparently I wasn’t all that good at optimism back then either.
Have you ever felt that way? Do you question whether you have any talents or gifts that make you special and unique? You shouldn’t. You DO have talents. You DO have gifts. Do you know how I know this? Because none of us were sent to this life without the talents and gifts that we would need to accomplish our purpose here.
Perhaps like me, you have struggled to discover those talents and gifts. Maybe you still struggle some days. Or maybe you aren’t recognizing those talents and gifts because they aren’t obvious or aren’t things that the world thinks of as talent. Talents aren’t limited to the performing or visual arts. The arts might quickly come to mind when we think of talents, but there are so many other talents and gifts that it would take weeks to list them all.
I still don’t sing. And I’m not very good at the piano, though I have to confess in absolute defiance of my piano teacher’s pronouncement I taught myself to play “Fur Elise” and it’s one of the few songs I can actually play. If I practice a lot, I can learn a moderately difficult piece of music. I took up the flute at the end of eighth grade and had an enjoyable four years of marching band. I’m not a great flute player, but I did well enough. And perhaps more importantly, I developed an incredible love for music, so much so that I became a school music volunteer and spent more than 15 years encouraging my children and other children to develop their musical talents.
The summer before high school, with the encouragement of my parents, I decided I would try out for the swim team. Never mind that I couldn’t swim the length of the pool. I was going to become a swimmer. I rode my bike down to the community pool and enlisted one of the lifeguards to become my “coach.” I spent every afternoon at the pool that summer swimming laps, and he taught me how to do a flip turn and dive off the blocks. And by 1/10 of one second, I made the freshman swim team.
I also discovered along the way that I had some gifts. They didn’t look much like talents to the world, but when I really began paying attention, I discovered there were things I was good at. Over time I have discovered more talents and gifts. Some I have recognized as part of the maturing process, and some were talents developed out of necessity, to be able to be competitive in the world of work or to be able to improve my home and my family.
You have gifts and talents too. It really doesn’t matter what the world thinks of them. Sometimes the world fails to value that which is most valuable. It’s important that we don’t fall into that trap and devalue ourselves by devaluing our talents.
Are you having trouble identifying those talents? Here are some ways that you can begin identifying your gifts and talents so you can focus on them and fully develop them.
- Ask someone else. Or several someone elses. Ask several trusted friends and family members what they think your talents or gifts are. Be sure to ask each separately so you can get a more objective response. Finally, ask co-workers or people you serve with in volunteer positions the same question. Write down all the answers you get. You may be surprised at what you hear.
- Create a resume. If you had to go out and find a job (or a new job) tomorrow, what would you put on your resume? It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a formal job. What skills would you include on that resume? This exercise is much more effective if you take it seriously and really try to put together a resume that is going to sell an potential employer on you.
- Take an assessment. Many career development websites offer assessment tests that will give you a picture of your current skills, talents and interests relating to the career world.
- Work with a Mentor or Coach. A good mentor will help you to breakthrough some of your negative thinking regarding talents, and will help you to identify the talents you have and talents you should be developing. If you would like to see how this works, drop me a message here to arrange a complementary mentoring session.
Once you’ve identified your talents, own them. Be proud of them. And now, you need to begin finding ways to developing those talents and gifts and learning how you can use them to achieve your purpose, to improve your life and to make your corner of the world a little better place.