It’s a universal dream to do what we’re passionate about. The only problem with this aspiration is that sometimes the thing we most care about isn’t what we do best. As Gloria Steinem famously said, “We teach what we need to learn, and write what we need to know.”
Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean your dream is dead. It just means that you need to figure out how to bring that dream to fruition—using the skills you currently possess. Sure, your dream will be tweaked and altered. But, at the end of the day, you’ll still be able to do what you’re passionate about.
Here are four questions you should ask yourself to help make that happen:
1. What Skills Have Helped You Thrive?
During your childhood and college years, you’ve no doubt developed certain skills out of necessity. You probably come across obstacles throughout your life—and figured out a way to go over them. Think about situations that’ve challenged you: Is there a common thread among all of them? If so, that’s something that you’re good at. All you have to do now is figure out which field or position that skill is best suited for.
2. What Makes You Feel Strong?
Consider also your go-to task when you feel overloaded. When you are overwhelmed, you want to feel in control. To be in control, you do what makes you feel strong. As you identify and focus on what makes you feel strong, you can also expect to be happier, which makes you a better problem-solver in a wide range of circumstances.
3. What Made You Stand Out as a Child?
As children we do what we love to do—even if it makes us an oddity. When you look back on your childhood pastimes, you are likely to discover an innate talent. Is there something that made you peculiar when you were young? Could it actually be your superpower?
4. What Compliments Do You Tend to Ignore?
All too often, we’re oblivious to our strengths. When you do something reflexively well, it’s easy to overlook it. Keep your ears open for compliments that you habitually dismiss, not to be coy, but because this thing feels as natural as breathing. It may even be you’ve heard a compliment so many times, you are sick of it! Why can’t people praise you for the thing you’ve worked really, really hard to do well?
The tendency to deflect compliments around what you do well is understandable, but over the course of your career, it will leave you trading at a discount to what you are really worth. And in Asian cultures, it might make you feel uncomfortable as you brush it aside. So think it through. Are there compliments you repeatedly dismiss? Are any of your superpowers not on your resume?
There is no shortage of jobs that need to be done and problems to be solved, but there’s only one of you. Once you’ve homed in on your underlying assets or your core strengths, you can more easily identify your distinctive strengths—what you do well that others in your workplace do not. If you’re looking to be successful, look for problems you feel especially passionate about, then get to work, by playing to your distinctive strengths.
Check out my related post: How to deal with difficult bosses?