After conducting a workshop at the Maryland Head Start Association’s 2017 Spring Conference, I thought I’d share the core of the experience with you, as well.
I’ve done this workshop, Identifying and Claiming Your Strengths and Talents, many times and each time am impressed by what people uncover in the process.
Gary* used what he discovered to increase his confidence in his upcoming job interviews. He was able to clearly say what he brings to the table and why these employers should hire him.
Others have been struck by how powerful it is to notice that they’ve denied a strength or talent, not giving it the time and attention it needs to flourish and grow. This realization led Sarah,* a home schooler and community volunteer, to have a heart-to-heart with her children and her husband, letting them know she needed time to pursue her creative endeavors. To her pleased surprise, they were fully supportive and agreed to take on some of the tasks she had been doing to help her pursue her interests.
Tamara,* a corporate employee, remarked that the affirmative writing exercises were far more insight producing for her than were the several standardized assessments she’s recently taken during her search to re-define her career direction.
*Names changed to protect privacy
The Five Stages of Strength and Talent Development
Each of has unique gifts and talents (Capaccione & Van Pelt, 1996). These may be inborn or may be learned early in life. These may seem so easy and natural to us that we don’t recognize them as special gifts to ourselves and others. If we’re lucky, during our childhoods others appreciated our gifts and supported us in cultivating them. Some of us though, were discouraged from pursuing these interests. In that case, as adults we may find ourselves seeking ways to re-connect with our true selves, in order to find and to use our unique strengths and talents.
These five stages of strength and talent development can help us see how we can cultivate our strengths and talents:
- Inviting and invoking: Ask for a strength or talent we value, seek it through writing or visual arts.
- Identifying and clarifying the strength or talent: Name the strength or talent, for example, “creative problem solver” and then describe how that strength or talent is used in our lives.
- Claiming and receiving the strength or talent: Acknowledge to self and others that we possess this strength or talent and accept it as part of who we are.
- Honoring and practicing the strength or talent: We exercise the strength or talent to improve and strengthen it.
- Offering our strength or talent to the world: We find a place where our strength or talent is needed by the world, and where it can be nurtured and grow.
(Evans and Jooste, 2015)
The exercises that follow offer opportunities for inviting and invoking, identifying and clarifying and claiming and receiving our strengths and talents. The insights gained in doing them can show the way to honoring and practicing our strengths and talents, and offering them to the world.
For You to Try
1. Five things I love to do.
Set aside about fifteen minutes. You’ll need a blank piece of paper and might like to have some colored pens or pencils.
Trace your hand.
By each finger write a word, phrase, or sentence that describes something you love to do. Don’t think too hard, just write the first five things that occur to you.
For at least one of these five things, complete these sentences:
What do I love about _____________ ?
How is ___________ a gift I bring to others?
How is __________________ a gift to me?
If you complete this for two or more of the things you love, look for themes in your responses. Take some time to reflect on the thoughts and feelings that came up as you did this. Then go on to the writing prompts.
2. The prompts.
Set aside up to twenty minutes to write openly and honestly about your thoughts and feelings, using one or more of the following prompts. Choose the prompt that most captures your interest. If you don’t get finished in the time you have available, you can come back to it later. This writing is for you only, so you don’t have to worry about spelling, grammar or organization. You might find yourself wandering off the topic. Let your writing go where it will. That can be where the biggest discoveries come from!
If it might be uncomfortable to have anyone else read this writing, take steps to keep it private. If there’s someone you feel safe talking to about what you’ve learned, go ahead and do that. Speak with someone who you know you can trust, who will listen with interest and caring, and who you find to be a good thought partner. They might help you come up with some creative new ideas!
Ready? Here are the prompts!
1. What are your strengths and talents?
2. What strength or talent is ready to emerge, evolve or resurface?
3. How have you denied or hidden any strength/talent in the past?
4. How is your life and others’ lives impacted when you withhold your strength/talent?
5. What might living in this strength/talent look like?
6. What support from others do you need to develop your strength/talent?
7. What does your strength/talent need from you?
(Evans & Jooste, 2015)
Did this bring up insights, discoveries or questions? I’d be happy to hear from you! You can comment below, or contact me directly.
[This post was first published on 5-8-17, and revised 6-6-17]
Cappacione, L. & Van Pelt, P. (1996). Putting your talent to work. Identifying, cultivating & marketing your natural talents. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
Evans, J. and Jooste, K.(2015). Leading others in writing for health: A training for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and educators. Unpublished.