We know that there’s no true secret to success in life; but we’re all searching for a way to make it happen. Success can be defined in many different ways; and it’s our personal value system that defines it for each one of us. However you define success, though, there are some things we know to be true:
One is that in order to be successful you have to work at it consistently; there is no quick and easy road. Another is the fact that opportunity plays a big role: it doesn’t matter how hard we work if there is nothing for us to capitalize on. (Often times these opportunities are hidden from our direct consciousness; but they are there nonetheless.)
The other big thing we need to be successful is the willingness and ability to focus on our strengths.
I think this is a tricky one because we’re not always taught to do this. As kids in school we were expected to become proficient in many different areas; whether we showed an aptitude for them or not. (Granted, I realize that a child needs to be exposed to a broad array of knowledge in order to function well in society – but why does he have to struggle year after year to learn something he’ll never use? Wouldn’t his time and energy be put to better use through learning and practicing in the areas of his strengths and talents?)
But that’s a philosophical discussion for another time. My point is that fostering success through focusing on our strengths doesn’t always come easily: we’re not always given the opportunity to learn to know our strengths so that we can act upon them.
So to help this process, here are five cues from the research of Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson for identifying your strengths or true talents (as found in their book, “Soar with Your Strengths”):
Yearning: Which types of activities are you naturally drawn toward?
Rapid Mastery/Quick Learning: Which types of activities do you seem to pick up quickly?
Flow: In which activities do the steps come to you naturally and automatically?
Glimpses of Excellence: What were you doing when you did something extremely well and asked yourself “How did I do that?”
Satisfaction: From which activities do you derive the greatest amount of pleasure?
Think about these questions seriously. Are these the things you’re focusing on in your work and/or life? Are you putting in the time needed to gain expertise in these areas? Would an increased focus on these things cause you to feel more contented, balanced, and successful?