Clearly and accurately identify your talents by looking at your top-of-mind reactions, yearnings, rapid learnings and satisfactions.

Have you ever found yourself in a job that didn't use any of your strengths? If you did get back into a position that used your strengths, it is likely because you acknowledged your talents and refocused your life around them. If you're still off your "strength path," the key to getting back on is to identify your talents and find ways to use them. Clearly and accurately identify your talents by looking at your top-of-mind reactions, yearnings, rapid learnings and satisfactions.

Top-of-mind reactions

Monitor your spontaneous, top-of-mind reactions. Observe the way you react in situations you encounter. While reactions under extreme stress reveal dominant talents, thousands of situations in your daily life provoke revealing reactions.

Think of a recent party. Did you spend the majority of the time with people you knew or didn't know? If you were drawn to those you didn't know, you may be a natural extrovert. If you hung out with your closest friends, your natural desire to deepen existing relationships may be one of your leading talents.

Think about the last time you had to make a decision with limited facts. Did you relish in the uncertainty, believing that any movement, even the wrong way, would lead to a clearer action? If so, you may have a natural tendency toward action in the face of ambiguity. However, if you tried to delay the action until more facts were available, you may have a strong analytical persuasion.

Top-of-mind reactions imply distinct patterns of behavior, offering clues to your talents. These reactions provide the clearest trace of your talents.

Yearnings

Yearnings reveal the presence of talent, especially when felt in early life. At an early age, did you find yourself drawn to certain activities and repelled by others? Childhood passions are created by various connections in the brain. Weaker connections have weaker pull, while the strongest connections are irresistible. They have a magnetic influence, pulling you and igniting a yearning. Yearnings reflect the physical reality that some of your mental connections are stronger than others. No matter how repressed the yearnings are, they will keep calling you.

Rapid learning

Rapid learning offers another trace of your talents. In some cases, a talent doesn't present itself through a yearning; it is silent. To discover a silent talent, something needs to spark it. Once it has been ignited, the speed at which you learn a new skill provides the tell-tale sign of the talent's presence and power.

When learning a new skill because of a new job, challenge or environment, have you ever found that your brain seems to light up as if all the switches were flicked "on"? When this happens, the steps of learning the new skill fly by, and you quickly lose the awkwardness of being a beginner. Instead, you assume the grace of a pro. If a new skill, be it selling, presenting, educating or coaching, becomes natural, look deeper. You will be able to identify the talents that made it possible.

Satisfactions

Satisfactions provide the final talent clue. If it feels good when you perform an activity, there's a good chance you're using a talent. You either feel it or you don't. Identify positive activities that seem to bring you psychological strength and satisfaction. Then, look deeper. For instance, if you've had a satisfaction at work due to overcoming an obstacle, challenge yourself to identify what specifically gave you the satisfaction. Did you appease an angry member? Did you develop and implement a creative and effective marketing program with a decreased budget? Did you increase new member sales without undercutting prices and in light of a downswing in the economy? Pay close attention to the situations that bring you satisfaction. Identify them, and you will be well on your way to pinpointing your talents.

Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning and satisfactions will help you uncover your talents or traces of your talents. Take a moment periodically to listen for these clues. Once you've identified your natural talents, they will become your strengths.

REFERENCEBuckingham, M., and D. Clifton. Now, Discover Your Strengths. The Free Press: New York, N.Y., 2001