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How well do you really know yourself? Do you know your strengths? The combination of talents which is the core of your individuality?

When your abilities are really being used in your life and work, you're fulfilled. Happy. You have an enthusiasm and dynamism which is attractive and inspirational to others. You go to work with excited anticipation, not a leaden heart.

When they aren't, you're bored, frustrated, dulled and deadened, maybe feeling life is pointless and purposeless. You're one of the 80% of people who, research suggests, find work is unsatisfying. You don't feel stretched, challenged or appreciated.

So how do you find your personal strengths? You may feel you don't have any. You're just not that good at anything. Maybe so, if you're thinking of things like knowing a foreign language or playing the violin. But these are skills, not talents. The strengths I'm talking about are things which may not be easily described, which you may not have thought of as talents at all.

For instance, you may have good empathy, the ability to sense other people's emotions and understand their point of view. You could be a great arranger and organiser. You could be good at bargaining and making deals. You could be driven by the need to find out why things happen. You could be fascinated by ideas or collecting facts. You could be brilliant at seeing the big picture. You could be great at communicating. You

could have a talent for forming deep and lasting friendships, or for building up a good support network. You could be thrilled by learning. Or by helping others.

Some new research* has identified 34 strengths like these, powerful attributes which express themselves in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, there'll be four or five main ones which come together to give us our personal constellation of talents.

These talents can be hard to identify because they aren't things apart from ourselves, like speaking French or being able to ski. Almost, they are us. And because our personal talents come so naturally, we tend not to value them. We take them for granted. There's so little work, effort, learning involved that we feel they're things everyone can do.

In fact, you probably really admire other people's talents -- which you don't have -- and simply fail to recognise your own. Others may see your strong points much more clearly than you do.

Almost any strong character trait you have is a talent. Are you competitive, persistent, responsible, witty, caring, inquisitive, meticulous? What are the adjectives family and friends would use about you? These are talents and abilities which could and should be used.

Negatives can be positively used as well. Roger was a car mechanic who was obsessional about checking he had used the right spare parts and done everything correctly. Treatment stopped him checking 20 times and encouraged him to develop an excellent system for ensuring everything was correctly done. His obsessional tendency became a strength.

Everyone knew that when he fixed a car, it stayed fixed. He was happy and so were his customers.

Look at your yearnings, activities you have always been drawn to from childhood, even if you've never had time or opportunity to express them.

What activities or skills have you learned very easily and naturally, with enjoyment? For example, the world famous artist Matisse never painted till his mother gave him a paintbox when he was 21.

What things give you a real sense of inner satisfaction and achievement, make you feel fulfilled?

What do friends, family, colleagues compliment you for, or take for granted you'll do well?

Looking back, remember some moments when you felt most yourself, most alive.

What are the things you get completely absorbed in, so that you lose track of time?A friend told me that when he was at university, planning an academic career, he yawned and clockwatched his way through various holiday jobs. Then he took temporary work in a film studio. On his first day, just when he became aware he was so hungry he thought it must be lunchtime, he saw that in fact everyone was going home. Time had flown, and he had found his lifetime career in a completely unexpected area.

What should you do about your weaknesses? Well, don't feel you "should" be able to do something or other. Don't worry about what people expect of you. Stand back from your weaknesses and don't identify with them. If they get in the way of your life or your talents, work out how to cope with them, manage them or delegate them. Or (very liberating) just stop doing them!

There's a great American expression, "I don't do something-or-other."

No excuses, explanations, or apologies. You just don't do it.

The important thing is, don't try to work on a weakness in the hope it'll turn into a talent. It won't. We tend to spend too much time and effort trying to be what we aren't. It's easy to think that the way forward is to work on our failings, brushing up the things we're not good at. Both school and work push us into this thinking, emphasising remedial classes and training to sharpen up weak areas, describing these as "challenges" or "opportunities for growth". We feel we need to be 'well-rounded'.

But the people you've heard of -- celebrities, achievers, artists, discoverers, creators -- are often not that well-rounded. Instead, they're exceptional in one main arena, and who knows or cares if they're hopeless at putting up shelves, can't add up, hit a ball or make friends easily -- because their energy and focus has flowed into their natural talents.

The real opportunities for growth come from working with the strengths you have got, not the ones you haven't. From identifying your talents and developing a lifestyle and work style which uses them to the maximum. So put the effort where it will really be rewarded ? in developing and training your strengths.

A problem can be if you need to feel you've fought yourself, and won.

It's not a success if it hasn't been a struggle. I know someone whose life has been blighted by something his mother taught him, and no-one has ever been able to unteach him since: nothing is achieved without hard work, nothing that comes easily is worth doing. So of course he's backed off from the things he can do easily and well, because they don't feel like work. He's turned away from his talents and wasted a lifetime battering away at things which don't come naturally to him.

It takes courage to fully acknowledge who you really are, not who you, your family, school, friends, colleagues think you are or should be. It takes courage to accept that there are talents you have and talents you don't have. It can take courage to stop spending time trying to strengthen your weaknesses and instead focus on perfecting your talents.

But that is the way forward for each of us. Giving time to your weaknesses can bring you up to average. Give the same time and effort to developing your talents, and you'll be exceptional !

By JANE FIRBANK

Shared on the Rigveda Yahoo group

From India, Gurgaon
JANE FIRBANK comments are excellent and form the basis of the method we use to hire successful employees. The same approach is used to help career seekers select the best path for their strengths. Stop by my free download web page
<link no longer exists - removed>
and download "Free Download No. 7: Book Review "First break all the rules..." The authors do a good job of explaining strengths.

From United States, Chelsea
Don’t be afraid of pressure. Remember that Pressure is what turns a lump of coal into a diamond.
From India, Madras
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