There are a number of rather huge and prevailing myths about talents. The first myth about talents is that almost everyone assumes that it is great to have talents and that the more talents you have, the better. This seems obvious. Who wouldn’t want to have loads of talents and natural abilities, after all? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to play the piano beautifully, to learn to speak foreign languages easily, to be able to generate new ideas effortlessly, to be great at designing, drawing or remembering numbers? And yes, all of this is great, but there is a problem.
We assume that we can keep our talents and abilities up on a shelf and just get them down when we need to use them and then put them back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
If you have a hard-wired ability, then you need to use it. If you really are talented or gifted in multiple areas, you actually need to use all of your abilities and talents. You can’t just dust them off when you want. Well, you can, but the problem arises that the stronger a natural ability, the more you need to use it or you run the risk of feeling discontented.
Yes, you actually have to use all of your natural talents and abilities in order to feel fulfilled. You can’t just keep them on a shelf for future use without feeling some rankling discontent with life. That is the price you pay for your abilities—you have to use them to feel happy and fulfilled.
You might then wonder why not just use them then?
Unfortunately, most jobs require only one or two abilities. Very few careers are sufficiently varied and complex that they use more than that, given the specialized nature of modern careers and company structures. This is why the multi-talented folks are often job-hopping in the endless hunt for satisfaction. They sense, quite rightly, that there has to be more out there for them, but they may not know exactly what is lacking. They find a new job, and all is well for a time, as they enjoy using one of their many abilities. But after a time, they start to feel unhappy again as that rankling discontent comes back to haunt them. So they find another job and another…until their family urges them to stick to one thing and settle down in quiet misery. The end result can lead to depression. So this is pretty serious stuff.
If you have an ability, even if you aren’t aware of it, you must find a way to use it and express it or you will most likely feel unhappy at some level. We can get away without using those hidden abilities for a time, but by the age of 40 they start to press for satisfaction and funny enough, this is about the time that the mid-life crisis hits. People may end up throwing away their whole life in frustration and despair — quitting the job, getting divorced — when all they may have needed was to find out what hidden ability was begging for expression.
Which brings us to the second myth about talents: if we have a natural talent or ability, it will be obvious to everyone and easy to spot.
Ah, if only it were so easy! A few years ago I worked with a client making a mid-life career change. I took him through the various assessments in the Career Change Kit because he wasn’t happy in his career and felt unfulfilled. We discovered that he had hidden musical ability. How was it that he could get through 50 years of life without knowing that? He started to play the piano and six months later gave his first public concert! Only someone with real natural talent could learn to play the piano that quickly. And, even though he stayed in the same job, he no longer felt discontented. At long last, he had found his passion! Music was his hidden talent, and once he started practicing the piano daily, his angst disappeared.
The truth is we don’t always know what our talents are, as remarkable as that statement sounds. This is why I get my clients seeking a career change asking, “What should I do with my life? What would really make me happy and fulfilled?” to take the objective, scientific computerized online career assessment, The Highlands Ability Battery, which handily reveals your hard-wired brain abilities – the things your brain can do naturally and effortlessly.
The bottom line: if you aren’t expressing your talents in your career, you may feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
On the flip side, it is also handy to know what you are not good at so you know when to turn down a job offer or promotion or when to delegate that particular job, task or project.
The third big myth about talents and abilities is making the mistake of thinking, “If I can do it, so can you!”
This is a very common but entirely erroneous misconception. Our brains are not all the same and this hard-wiring settles in from the age of 14 or 15 and cannot be easily changed. You aren’t suddenly going to wake up one day with great spatial awareness if you don’t already have this ability.
One interior designer client had amazing spatial ability and could see a sofa three months after visiting someone’s house and say, “I’ve found your perfect sofa. Put it two inches to the left of the second window in your living room and it will fit.”
Not everyone has musical ability, as we all know, but did you know that some people can’t imagine things in three dimensions? Did you know that some people can’t remember a number to save their lives (like me!)? Did you know that some people can’t imagine what their life will look like in five years because they have a short time-frame and the most they can visualize into the future is about six months to a year at most?
You will find it easy to do what your brain is already wired to do while it might be downright impossible to do things that others find easy.
Some people can write quickly and easily because their brain is wired up to do that. Others may need more time to get their thoughts in order. It doesn’t mean that if you lack the natural ability you can’t learn it. With enough time and practice, you can become good at something, but it might feel like very hard work and you might not be able to do it quickly. When you have a natural talent for something that is when work can feel like play. It is fun and enjoyable to use our natural abilities. Knowing what they are may well be the ticket to finding your passion or calling in life.