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10 Ways To Identify Your Talents And Utilize Them

10 Ways To Identify Your Talents And Utilize Them

So you’re stuck, huh? Welcome to the crowd. With constant peer pressure from social media to define ourselves in 140 characters or less, it’s no surprise that who we actually are gets lost in the shuffle. But once we get away from those glowing screens of identity-makers, how do we decide what our strengths are and how to use them? Identify your talents and start using them now with these ten simple tips:

1. Take a personality test. 

Think these tests are a one size fits all approach? Think again. Personality tests are an objective way of understanding what makes you tick. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular tool to help you define the patterns in your seemingly complex personality. Once you know which category you fall into, you can start seeing your strengths and weaknesses more clearly in everyday life. Use this to your advantage by walking into a job interview, first date or any other high stakes situation and playing to your newly discovered strengths.

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2. Find what makes you feel strong.

Ever have those moments when everything feels easy and light? You know that you have the answer or are capable of finding the answer? When we are drawn toward a sense of ease that is usually our inner talent scout speaking up. Notice when you feel your strongest and create more opportunities to feel that way. If you’re naturally good with kids, see if you can volunteer time at an after school program or babysit for a friend who needs a little help. Let your strengths lead your schedule.

3. Find what you spend the most money on.

We often put our money where our mouth is when it comes to what we desire. Using easy and free applications like Mint to go back through your finances is a great way to notice where you pour your dollars. When you follow the green you discover what you value, and chances are you have a knack for what you value. If you go back through your yearly spending and notice that your biggest expense is that group fitness class you love, use that as a sign of your athleticism. Sign up for a road race, try a new kind of class or simply just commit to a healthy lifestyle.

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4. Ask your friends what your best and worst qualities are. 

You know they are going to be brutally honest. But the great thing about asking a handful of trusted friends about your qualities is that they all usually say the same thing. It’s enlightening to hear different people see you in the same light and this is definitely an indicator of talent. Use your friends’ perspectives here to work on what you’d like to do better. Are you compassionate but also a little bit on the chatty side? Use your compassion to slow down, breathe and give others the right of conversational way. Use your natural talents to improve those parts of your M.O. that might need a little work.

5. Ask your family what you loved as a child.

Sometimes the people who have known us the longest are the people who know us the best. Ask your family what you used to do as a kid – maybe you always played alone, with friends, made up stories, wrote, drew, acted out scenes, played baseball, read books. More than likely these are things you still love today, but some things we easily forget as we grow into responsible, mature, serious adults. Take these recollections as a hint to get busy playing again. See how much of your childhood you can recreate in your adulthood by following your sense of play. Using your talents in recreation gives your brain a chance to play, making you more productive in every other area of your life.

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6. Write in a journal. 

Let your thoughts flow onto a few pages every morning and walk away from them for the rest of the day. Stream of consciousness writing can be very effective at identifying your talents. Come back after a week and re-read your pages. You’ll notice a lot of your thoughts circle back to one main idea. This is usually a talent or desire. Use your writing to look for hidden answers. What are you missing? What are you longing for? What opportunities do you wish would come through? Then, use your journal to create a list of your strengths and a list of opportunities to set new goals that are aligned with those strengths.

7. Look for talent in others. 

Sometimes being inspired by others’ talents makes us realize what we’re good at, too. If you are a writer and you read something that absolutely connects with your soul, try to define what exactly lit you up. Conversely, if you see talent in others and feel jealous (don’t you worry, we all do this) you can use this to your advantage as well. Ask this person to mentor you, give you advice or simply chat over coffee. Reaching out and seeing talent in others will open up opportunities and connections while helping you define your own.

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8. Take stock of your book/music/movie collections. 

The media we consume says a lot about what we value, but what we own says something even larger. This is a true identity maker. I am extremely aware of what books I read on the subway because I know that I’m outwardly identifying something hidden about myself on my morning commute. Glance through all of your collections, what is the one resonating idea? This is probably something that lights your fire. Dig further into this, is there a convention, a class, a workshop you could take to use this talent? How can you connect with others who enjoy the same thing as you? All of these avenues lead to connections and potential networking, so go ahead with your talented self.

9. Remember what you have been thanked for.

When people thank us for something, they have been helped in some way. Notice what you are thanked for on the regular. Are you a good listener? A good teacher? A good motivator? All of these things are talents even though they seem small. Remember that your talents shouldn’t just be in service to other people, but to you as well. If you’re in a constant mode of selflessness, use your talent as a caregiver to take care of yourself. Know that as you give to yourself, you’re growing your ability to give to others.

10. Be open to change. 

Know that as we age, our tastes change and our strengths grow. Don’t allow yourself to be complacent by telling yourself the same story over and over again. If you say, I’m not athletic because I didn’t play sports in high school, you’re not giving your current self a chance to identify new talents. Being open to change means letting go of preconceived notions and honestly absorbing the world around you. This kind of openness will lead you to discover new talents and help prepare you to tackle any challenge life throws your way.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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