If you want to achieve excellence at something, it is important to become fully aware of what you are naturally very good at and which tasks you really enjoy. Figuring out what your strengths are and what you do a “bit better than anyone else” is the first step?
How Do You Find (All) Your (Hidden) Strengths?
I want to provide you with a possible answer to this question. It is based on the research findings of several scientific disciplines (i.e., positive psychology, creativity, success and happiness) because I agree with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that “at this time, science is still the most trustworthy mirror of reality” and I believe it can offer us evidence-based (practical) solutions. However, this does not mean that we cannot experiment with them to a certain degree and adapt them to see what works best for us.
You Are Unique
On your journey to find your (hidden) strength you need to understand that every individual on this planet is different and born with a unique combination of aptitudes. That means we are naturally good at some things and not so good at other things, that is genetics. We generally are not aware of all our aptitudes as we might have never had an opportunity to discover them. You don not know if you have an aptitude for golf if you have never tried it. So, exploring different paths and making different experiences are necessary to discover all your (hidden) talents. But this is only part of the equation.
It Takes Time
It is also important to consider that our abilities and skills often need to be developed over time, i.e., the course of months, years, decades or even a lifetime. They require a considerable amount of education, effort, hard work, dedication and perseverance before we can use them fully to our advantage. You might have a natural talent for singing but this alone will not be enough to turn you into a successful musician.
What Makes You Tick
Be aware that we all have natural interest and passions, and they are a good place to start your search for what you do “a bit better than anyone else”. Many of our natural talents and passion are already revealed to us during our childhood or youth. Maybe it helps you to go back in time and think about what fascinated you as a child or teenager or on which task you spent a considerable amount of time because they were worth doing for their own sake.
And then there is the X-factor, and one of the most important capabilities you bring to the table: your unique combination of personality-based strengths. There are two ways to find out what these strengths are.
One way is to take personality tests, but there are several problems with these concerning their validity, objectivity and reliability. It is also questionable that the traditional understanding that certain personality traits or strengths suit one job better than another hold true. In fact, the opposite is often true: the diversity of personalities is what allows us as humans to make profound changes in an area or field. So maybe this is not the most advisable choice.
A better way to find your personality-based strengths might be to reflect on yourself and your experiences in the past, pay attention to the details and try to figure out who you really are as a person. Which part of your personality naturally shines the brightest?
Having just mentioned it, what you also have to keep in mind is the value of your past experiences. Each stage of your life builds on the last and equips you with different capabilities and the lessons you have learned from your successes and (maybe even more important) your “failures”. Your experiences make you more unique than you already were at birth and give you a chance to hone in on what you can do “a bit better than anyone else”.
Listen to YOURSELF
Of course, it is important to mention that we are influenced in our believes about ourselves by external factors like our upbringing, family, cultural background, social status, sex, age or the opinions of others. Therefore, it is important to be as “honest” to yourself as possible and try to initially think about the things you do “a bit better than anyone else” purely based on what YOU think, before you ask others what they would say about you.
Dig Them Up
Finding your strengths probably is like the late Sir Ken Robinson, creativity expert and the author of the most popular TED Talk of all time, puts it: “Human resources are like natural resources; they are often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they are not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”
Now it is up to you. Take your time and gather your thoughts, think as broadly as you want. Feel free to share your ideas, thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
The purpose of reflecting on your aptitudes, abilities, skills, passions and interests is not to find the one right answer or the one right path (because there is none). It is to start broadening your mind, to think in different directions, to let your mind wander, to be open to new thoughts and (maybe) to changing your perspective on how you view yourself. And you might find that (some of) your true strengths have been buried deep in the ground. Dig them up.
Here are some guiding questions that can help you on your journey to find your (hidden) strengths. Keep in mind that this is not a 10-min exercise, look at it as a journey that could take weeks or months. You will not have all the answers right away, but if you start thinking about it, eventually you will figure it out.
It will help to write down your thoughts and discoveries, for example, in a diary or in the form of mind maps; or make a vision board, or you might want to try automatic writing. Of course, each method also has its shortcomings, but there is no right way how to find YOUR answers to these questions. The only thing that matters is that you take action and start now.
Task 1 - What I think:
- What do you think you are naturally good at?
- What are your natural interests and passions?
- Which kind of activities come naturally to you?
- Do you have any aptitudes or talents that you have not (fully) developed yet?
- Which things would you like to try out because you think you might be good at them?
- Do you have any talents that you have not developed further?
Task 2 - What Others Tell Me:
- What do family, friends, colleagues, etc. tell you that you are naturally good at?
- Does their feedback match with what you think of yourself?
Close At Hand
Whatever your answers are, always remember, what makes you “a bit better than anyone else” at something usually does not come from a single, world-class talent but rather from the unique combination of your capabilities.
Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2014). Finding your element: How to discover your talents and passions and transform your life.
Shell, G. R. (2014). Success, your way: Do what you're meant to do. London: Portfolio Penguin.