What are your greatest strengths, natural gifts, or most effortless activities?
I’ve been asking myself this question because I’m considering a big work-related change. What I’ve discovered is that, while understanding one’s strengths is certainly a practical thing to do, it’s also really energizing! It’s like gifting myself with a big heart-warming dose of appreciation.
And who doesn’t love to feel appreciated?
Understanding your strengths is energizing!
So whether you’re looking for something new, totally in love with your career, or somewhere in between, I encourage you to spend some time exploring your greatest skills. It will boost your confidence and provide everyday clarity about how to spend your time.
A definition: Zone of Genius
In The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, Gay Hendricks presents the idea of a Zone of Genius. In this zone, you’re doing activities you love and are uniquely suited to do. The idea? Maximize how much time you spend here, and you’ll maximize both your impact and joy.
Look for its essence
One challenge to pinpointing your genius-level activities is that your perspective may be limited by your past experiences. If you haven’t tried something, you don’t yet know if you’re good at it, yeah?
So, the key for this to be most effective is to drill down to the essence of the activities you’ve loved.
Uncover the essence of the activities you’ve most enjoyed doing.
Here’s one way to do just that.
How to find your unique strengths
1) Write down every activity you can think of that fits these 2 criteria:
- It could be considered work. Maybe you’ve never been paid to do it and haven’t been trained professionally, but could it be considered work? For instance, photography: yes. Napping: probably not.
- It’s something you super love doing. Maybe it doesn’t seem like work to you because you can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored. Maybe it’s something you can spend a tiny amount of time on but get major results in return.
2) Read through your list and star the ones that feel energizing. Here, you’re beginning to separate the things you’re good at from the things you were born to do.
For example, I enjoyed editing a friend’s blog post recently, so it made my first list. But unlike some of the other activities, it wasn’t something I’d enjoy doing for hours.
3) Now, drive down to the essence of each starred activity. Hendricks recommends the following prompts to do so: I’m at my best when (activity.) When I’m doing that, the exact thing I’m doing is (deeper level.) And when I’m doing that, the thing I love most about it is (deeper aspect of the activity.)
For example, here’s one of mine:
I’m at my best when I’m connecting with people and hearing their story, motivations, and dreams.
When I’m connecting with people and hearing their story, motivations, and dreams, the exact thing I’m doing is finding out what motivates/drives them emotionally.
When I’m finding out what emotionally drives someone, what I love most about it is envisioning/embodying exciting future possibilities.
Once I got to that depth, I couldn’t help but smile. I’m not quite sure where it falls in the world of work, but it’s true: I have a nearly magical ability to hear someone’s story and then see an amazing future and feel the associated excited energy in my body!
As you work through these steps, you might notice unrelated activities that share the same essence. For example, at the heart of one-on-one coaching and working with others to define software requirements (two activities I enjoy), I found the genius activity of finding the root cause of a problem.
Do more of what you *really* love
If you’re looking for more confidence, career clarity, or both, I highly encourage you to carve out a couple of sacred hours. Get your favorite journal, make your favorite drink, put on your favorite comfy pants, and dive in.
Then, once you’re more clear about your greatest talents, see how you can spend 1% more of your time using them. 🙂