Unwrapping Your Gifts

We all have talent. But too often I meet people who don't know what their talent truly is. What their strengths are. What their abilities can really do. In short, their gifts are still wrapped. So let's unwrap our gifts and use what's in the box...so we can think outside it.

Finding Your Gifts

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a hobby that you enjoy, and if someone asks, you'd call yourself an "amateur" or say "its just a hobby". Maybe you have taken it to the next level and you've even competed...winning a trophy for creating culinary confections or a ribbon for your best black and white. Work is what you do. This is who you are.

Chances are your hobbies speak to your strengths, but have you thought much about how those strengths can translate to  your work?  If you're a great cook, that takes patience, preparation and exactitude. If you're a regular runner, that takes drive and determination. If you're great at Super Mario Brothers 3, that takes coordination and quick reactions (and a Nintendo).

For me, I enjoy public speaking, disc golf, iPhoneography, skiing and BBQ. These pastimes have taught me (and exploited my) boldness, confidence, accuracy, creativity and nuance.  I use these same skills in my job and have found ways to translate my personal passions into my professional power. You can do the same. What do your hobbies say about your strengths?

Unwrapping Your Box

To unlock your work talents, you must be self-aware enough to know your strengths. There are a number of personality tests that can tell you about your work "style" and where you are challenged, such as Myers-Briggs or Emergenetics, but there is only one I know that focuses exclusively on your strengths, and asks you to do the same. And in my opinion, strength is what you need to unwrap your gifts. 

I like Clifton StrengthsFinder which gives you insight into what you're good at, and how to apply it. The more we focus on what we're good at, instead of what we are not, the more we can enhance our skills, minimizing our weaknesses. You can use the tool to build teams with diverse abilities that play to each other's strengths, which can help compensate for your personal shortcomings and those of your team.

For example, my Clifton strengths are Strategic, Ideation, Futuristic, Command and Competition. These are mirrored by my hobbies, and the focus of my work style. I know I will never be the most empathetic person and my style can be brash. I like meetings to be direct, short and sweet, and light on banter. I like 90% answers, not 100% details. So I am careful to minimize situations where I end up in those situations.

On the upside, I am comfortable taking charge in a situation, I like to achieve and I challenge others to do that as well. I am great at being creative and strategic in charting a path forward, and I know how to inspire others to see a vision of what is possible. Sooo...accounting (my first professional job) is not a good fit. Neither is human resources. Nor risk management. Nor IT. I'm suited to education, facilitation, decision-making, strategy, innovation and implementation. And I have been very careful to choose career paths that use those skills...once I became aware of them.

Without knowing how you are strong, and how to use it, you can't be effective. And learning your business strengths can make you better at your hobbies! But how often do you think about your true strengths and how to use them? Chances are, not very often. But this is how we unwrap the box!

Getting Your Gift Out Of The Box

Now that you know what you enjoy doing, what skills are translatable, and what you are strong at, you have to work with it.  You have to practice using your strengths interchangeably.  I write as a creative outlet for my Ideation skill. I use my iPhoneography skills to improve my business write-ups and presentations.  I use my public speaking experience to help my facilitation efforts for strategic planning. I use my Strategic tendencies to make better shots in disc golf. I use my Command skills to own a stage when I'm public speaking.  And I use my barbecue skill to bribe people who crush it for me. Because BBQ is freaking awesome and people love great brisket. 

In short, you can use your hobbies to improve your work strengths and use your work strengths to improve your hobbies.

Playing With Your Gifts

Now don't forget to play with your gifts! This means exploring how your hobbies can improve your work life and how you can combine them. How can your work be more satisfying because it more closely resembles what you love to do?  How can your hobbies help you be better at your job?

So take a few minutes to chart out your hobbies, what they say about you, and learn more about your strengths. See if there are connections in those two that you can practice being better at or enjoying more. Explore with your gifts, unleash your dynamism--and then start playing!  

And please, like your mom told you, don't forget to share your toys. Help others in places where you know you can be a strong contributor. Don't keep your gifts to yourself, because the best solutions take all of us!  

And so I leave you with this punny thought: The best present--is to use your gifts. Team Us

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