I spent most of my teenage years trying to be somebody else.
There were always girls that were just a bit smarter, certainly a lot better looking, and somehow able to capture lots of attention with their wit and charm. Me? I was the “plain Jane” – a few pimples here and there, acceptable clothing, one who worked hard for grades, and one who always seemed to be on the “edges” of the “cool” group – never quite “making it” in.
Looking back, I now see how I wasted my high school years. There were talents and skills that I did not embrace and claim.
- I was a skilled an often creative writer – my teachers told me this
- I was a talented musician – a pianist, a singer, a harmonizer
- I was a socially conscious person – someone who saw inequality and wanted to address it
And yet, it took me until college to realize that I had gifts and, indeed, was a gift to society. I had things to offer.
What is Your Gift?
Many go through lives of what Thoreau called “quiet desperation.” They enter careers and take jobs that pay the bills but are just not fulfilling at a personal level. They then come to the end of their lives wondering, “What if I got it all wrong?” Many times they did, because they were focused on responsibilities and what others thought they should do. You can break this cycle now, and here’s how.
Go Back to Your Childhood
As a child, you were innocent, open to everything, and your mind was uncluttered with such thoughts as, “That’s not possible,” or “What will others think of me?” What are your best memories from that time? Did you love to write or tell stories? Did you love sports? Did you love getting friends together for special projects? Did you love to draw or sing?
I remember getting a group of neighborhood friends together and having a “carnival” in my parent’s backyard. We had games and cheap prizes, invited adults to come and sell the stuff they didn’t want anymore, etc. We took the profit and donated it to the local Muscular Dystrophy Association – that was the best summer ever. Maybe it was a hint.
When Do You Lose Track of Time?
We’ve all had this experience. We get busy with something and all of a sudden, we look up to see that we have been “at it” for several hours. That time lapse is the result of passion for something. What do you do when you lose track of time? This is a key clue to your “gift.
Ask Others What They See
Sometimes, we are so absorbed in our daily tasks and responsibilities that we do not even recognize what makes us unique, talented, or of great value to others. As close friends and family members what they honestly see as your talents and skills? You may be surprised.
- You are grinding away as an accountant. Others do not see you as the accountant. They see you as someone who loves the outdoors and who loves taking “novices” on fishing and camping trips and teaching them about the wonders of our environment.
- You are an English teacher because your mother was. Whenever you get the time, however, you are “entertaining” friends with your quick wit and hysterical stories. They all tell you that you should write comedy.
- You are a medical assistant in a doctor’s office. Your co-workers and patients see you as someone who takes a deep interest in the personal issues and problems of those around you. They think you belong in social work, not taking blood pressures and collecting urine samples.
Take Some Formal Assessments
You probably did this in high school. There were all sorts of “career exploration” surveys and questionnaires that pointed out potential careers for you. Take some now as an adult. There are several online, or you can visit a job coach and get more in-depth analyses. Here’s why these can be important.
- You will gain insight into the strengths, talents, and passions you have.
- You will learn what careers are open to you that relate to those strengths, talents and passions, and they may not be at all related to what you are doing now.
Back Away From Common Social/Work Relationships
We all get into ruts of the same relationships and the same activities over and over again. Maybe it’s time to do something different and broaden your “horizons.” Take a class; join a new club; meet different people engaged in careers and hobbies that are different from your secure groups.
For me, it was taking a course writing for profit. I had always loved writing, and maybe now was the time to find out if I had a “gift” for this. I discovered it was and left my position as an HR professional to write. I have never regretted the change.
Go Away By Yourself and Just “Be”
Take a long weekend; rent a cottage; camp or just go to a local hotel. Have some “alone” time to think about what makes you really happy. If you can discover what makes you truly happy, you will have discovered the “gift” that you can give to others.
Monitor the Media that You are Drawn To
What TV shows do you watch on a regular basis? Do you like political analysis shows? Do you like watching courtroom drama? Do you like those cooking or home re-modeling shows? Are there carryovers of those shows into what you read or what you follow online? These abiding interests are trying to tell you something. Look into careers that relate to these interests.
Make a Bucket List
You know what this is – a list of things you want to do before you die. When you list your “wants,” you should understand that these are your passions. Is there some place you want to go? Is there something you really want to learn? Start doing the things on that bucket list now – you may find your “calling” in the process.
Make a List of What You Find Easy to Do
Our “gifts” are usually manifested by means of those things that we find easy. Why? Because we love them so much we do not see them as hard work. We see them as pleasure or play. Anyone who sees his life’s work as pleasure or play has found his “gift.” If you find that it is easy to help your niece with her math homework, maybe it’s time to dump the job with the insurance agency and go into teaching or tutoring.
Some Final Thoughts
No one is suggesting that you immediately give up your “day job” and pursue your unique “gift.” However, if you do discover that gift, you owe it to yourself to pursue it, if only on a part-time basis for now. Your gift is what you have a passion for, what you lose track of time doing, and what you feel good about giving to someone else. That gift is uniquely yours – do not waste it!
By: Daniela McVicker