I am a strong believer that everyone has a natural gift or talent. Some are more obvious than others, like the ability to sing or being built for a certain sport. However, character gifts can sometimes be hard to identify, like being able to read emotions or staying calm under pressure.
Unfortunately, many people never find their hidden talents. Some may not believe they even have a talent. Others might lack the opportunity to develop it—either by themselves or from the support of someone, like a teacher or partner, who sees and encourages that special gift to reach its full potential.
Take Penelope Fitzgerald for instance, who came from a family of intellects but was left homeless after her husband’s return from World War II. Fitzgerald worked in a bookshop for years before deciding to follow her passion and published her first book, The Golden Child, when she was sixty. It was the novel that established her on the literary scene and propelled her late-blooming career. Fitzgerald went on to become a Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. The Times included her in their list of “50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945” and The New Yorker said she wrote “with utmost confidence that she will be heard and that we will listen.”
Of course we’re not all going to be a Penelope Fitzgerald, but when you capitalize on your talents, the self seems brighter and so does the world. For those willing to start the search, here are seven tips to help you find your inner treasures.
1. Consider your childhood
Start by looking at your past. Think back to a time when you weren’t influenced by peers or fears. What did you do simply because it made you happy? What experiences created your best memories? With a little revision to fit your adult life, this could be a catalyst to propel you down a path to discovering an overlooked talent. Sometimes just considering what you did a lot as a kid, or what you were known for, can reveal your deepest talents and reveal interests that you can further probe.
2. List your hobbies
Typically, what you’re drawn to it is a natural talent. Think about what you love to do most when you have free time. What activities do you find so captivating that you sometimes forget to eat or sleep? Your obsessions could be the things that help you identify your deepest passions. Even if your hobby is watching movies, you may have a talent for storytelling or analyzing narratives. Even film critics have to start somewhere.
3. Take a personality test
Personality tests are simply an objective way of understanding what makes you tick. They help individuals determine key personality traits, skills and interests. The Myers-Briggs test is possibly the most famous personality quiz. It separates people into one of 16 personality types based on your answers to various questions and helps you define patterns in your personality. It’s crucial to answer the questions as honestly as you can in order to get the best results.
Once you know which category you fall into, you can start seeing your strengths and weaknesses more clearly. By learning more about your natural tendencies for or against certain ideas and behaviors, you can narrow down your areas of interest and expertise.
4. Keep a journal
Try writing down your thoughts every day for a week. Record your observations, instincts, feelings and revelations. Let your thoughts flow onto the page. Then come back after a week and re-read what you wrote. Your journal will begin to reveal patterns in your character that represent areas of interest, honest feelings, awareness of skills, and a natural connection to certain people, places and things.
Stream of conscious writing can be the most effective way to identify your talents. If you notice a lot of your thoughts circle back to one main idea, this could be your strongest talent or deepest desire. Use what you’ve discovered to create a list of your strengths and align them with a list of goals.
5. Think about what’s natural
Are there certain things you find really easy to do? Do you find yourself helping people with a particular task? It’s most likely because you’re an expert at it, whether you realize it or not. You might think talents are only something you love doing, but sometimes our talents are the things you don’t even think about. Your talent is simply something you do better than most. If there is anything that comes natural to you that doesn’t seem so natural to others, it’s a talent. This is why it’s important to take a long hard look at what you’re actually good at.
6. Count your accomplishments
What are you most proud of? Look back on your life and think about times where you really succeeded—whether it was a contest you won, an award you received, or positive feedback for something you did. This can indicate a talent you possess. It’s also good to think about the challenging times in your life and how you got through those tough situations. Times of trial often reveal our hidden skills and abilities.
7. Ask friends and family
One of the best ways to figure out what hidden talents you have is to talk to people who know you. We tend to overlook our skills and often miss out on what makes us great. Having an outside perspective can be highly valuable and revealing. Friends, family, and other trusted advisors have the unique vantage point of observing you in a way that you can’t observe yourself. Ask what they think makes you unique and what they think you excel at. Be sure to talk to people that know you well but also people who barely know you. Getting all perspectives can tell you even more about yourself.
Once you’ve identified your talent
Any skill you possess can be turned into a real talent if you take the time to develop it and experience all aspects of it. The more you explore a talent, the more you cultivate it. You can also learn to get the most out of your talent when you surround yourself with talented people. As the infamous Proverb says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You can even find a mentor to show you the ropes and coach you through developing your skill. Lastly: Practice. Practice. Practice. Even if you’re only half-good at a skill, hard work outshines ability every time.