We are all born with, or have developed, talents and strengths that distinguish us from others. We simply do some things better than most other people do, and it is important to know what these things are and to lean in to them. Research shows that applying our strengths is connected to greater work satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. And using our strengths makes us happier and more successful, too.
You probably have a sense of what you do well, but a great place to dive deeper and crystallize what you do best is by taking the StrengthsFinder assessment. This costs $15 and requires about 30 minutes of your time – if you are serious about this self-discovery, it is a worthy investment.
Alternatively (or additionally), you can take the VIA Character Strengths survey (free with log-in) to discover your top strengths.
Taking one or both of these tests, along with your gut feel, will yield an excellent understanding of your signature strengths and how to leverage them.
It is through this process that I learned that some of my top strengths are my focus, determination, and analytical nature.
This might seem like an obvious one, and certainly unique to every individual. But even identifying personal interests can be tricky.
We’re often told to pursue our passions, but many people do not have pre-existing burning passions. The reality is that passion often doesn’t just exist – it needs to be developed.
Therefore, a better approach is to start by thinking about anything that you are interested in or enjoy doing (even remotely). Take the time to write these interest areas down, and then add to the list whenever something makes you happy, curious, or intrigued to learn more. Over time trends will appear and you will have a good sense for what you truly enjoy doing.
If you get stuck, start by designing what your perfect day would look like, from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep.
Even thinking about how you choose to spend your free Saturday afternoons gives a good indication of your interests.
I have discovered that I love reading and writing, especially about personal improvement and philosophies of life.
Now that your top strengths and interests have been identified, you are already light years ahead of most people. Uniting just those two forces, whether as a profession or hobby, can ignite your happiness and success. But to truly find your calling and purpose in life, it is important to leverage those areas for the greater good.
Hopefully you are one of the lucky ones already operating in your sweet spot. But if not, often just combining your strengths and interests will naturally unearth a path to help others. And perhaps by now you have already had some ‘a ha’ moments.
You don’t need to only consider major global issues – your family, community, school, city, company (or other group or organization that is important to you) are also in need of your unique contributions.
Don’t forget that people are in need of entertainment, humor, relaxation, education, beauty, social gathering, and other simple joys.
For example, if you’re a particularly patient person, and you enjoy spending time with children, you could focus your efforts on mentoring or coaching. Or maybe you’re a doctor with a passion for travel, so you seek out opportunities to volunteer your medical services abroad. Or perhaps you are great with numbers and interested in money markets, and therefore are well-suited to help people accumulate wealth and save for retirement.