When my niece was in 5th grade, her teacher gave the class an assignment to write about something they were passionate about.  Chloe chose chocolate as her muse and wrote a piece that made my own mouth water.  

In an effort to encourage her interest, I praised her work.  “Maybe you’d like to be a baker or a chocolatier someday”, I said.  

Her response was lackluster.  “I dunno.  Maybe,” she shrugged.  

Hours later I thought “…Or maybe she should pursue writing.”  

Finding your unique gifts

Sometimes our unique gifts are right under our noses, but we don’t see them right away.  Indeed, finding what is ours alone—that particular combination of our talents, personality, and experiences, is a lifelong process.   You are never too old to start.  

Knowing your unique gifts is part of self-mastery.   And that has to do with steering your life, knowing yourself deeply, and using that knowledge to make changes that help you grow.  

It’s heady stuff, but if you would like to use your time on this earth towards your own growth and making an impact on the world around you in your career and beyond, it’s a concept worth exploring.

That’s because you cannot come anywhere close to self-mastery without the expression of your unique gifts.  And, of course, you can’t express them if you’re not sure what they are.

I have had my own struggles with the idea that I might be in possession of unique gifts, and so if you feel overwhelmed by the weight of identifying yours, I get it.  

Start here.

If finding your unique gifts sounds like a heavy lift, start here:

1)    Ask 5 friends how they would describe your best qualities.  Compare responses and take note of similarities or even exact matches.

When I did this, multiple friends of mine used the word “witty”.  I wasn’t surprised to see something related to humor, but I was surprised that multiple people would choose that particular word.  But it started to make sense when I began to notice other language-related gifts of mine in action.  Ultimately, wit is the intersection of humor and language.  (And yes, I do feel pressured right now to come up with something funnier to say about that but I will just let it go.)

2)    Look for moments of flow.  Can you remember any time recently when you were so absorbed in your work or the task in front of you that you lost track of time?  What themes cut across those instances?  

3)    Experiment.  If you aren’t in love with your work, or you have never experienced flow that you are aware of, start experimenting with new activities.  Try new things. Look for those moments where you feel elevated, and absorbed in what you are doing.

4)    Spend time alone, connecting yourself with the world around you.  

Get out of “get things done” mode and take time to create, connect with nature, or experience the world around you.  Listen to music, go for a walk, take some photographs, or go to a museum.  Just do it by yourself and don’t stow anyone away with you in the form of a smartphone.  

5)    Remain open to what your moments of brilliance are telling you about your gifts. 

When you feel that exhilaration of really nailing something, take note.  What was it that felt so good?  What about you made that uniquely possible?  And remember the story about my niece.   Sometimes the true gift is under the wraps of something else entirely.

All of this is not about pumping up your ego.  It is about getting clear about what is uniquely yours so that you can express it more readily through your day-to-day work, and ultimately towards self-mastery.

Wendy Hultmark, ACC, CPC, is a coach who helps women in leadership own their story and write the next chapter. Visit www.wendyhultmark.com for more information.