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Finding Your Strengths

Hello loves! Sorry this is coming a day later than usual! I've spent most of the weekend and Monday studying for a final exam, but it's finally over and I have time to write again!

Which is the perfect segway into this week's topic: Finding Your Strengths.

This is the first step to unlocking your potential-- in your studies, job, relationships, and life as a whole!

(Before we get into it, I just want to reiterate that I am not a professional life coach or anything like that, and there are plenty of different ways to unlock your full potential and live the life you've always dreamed of, these are just the steps that work for me! That being said...)

Finding Your Strengths

I'm sure everyone has received advice that follows this line of thinking. Guidance counselors encourage students to choose a major that is one of their skills; athletes that have good hand-eye coordination are more likely to be sought after by baseball coaches instead of soccer coaches; even church leaders organize volunteers by their natural spiritual gifts.

And this is a good thing. Some people are born naturally gifted in certain areas versus others. Left-brained people are usually more adept in the analytical and logical fields, while right-brained people are usually thought to be more creative and expressive.

But I think the left/right brain sorting is a very crude, black-and-white way of viewing people. Personally, I believe everyone is a mix of both. Data-driven, numbers people can have a cool crochet hobby where they come up with the most imaginative designs. The creative, world-renowned artist might prefer doing their own taxes because it comes naturally to them (Personally I can't relate, but you get the idea).

But what does this have to do with finding your strengths? And are we ever going to get back to the studying example?

I'm so glad you asked because I'm about to explain both those things.

The important thing to remember with people being a wide mix of natural talents and interests is that sometimes those talents and interests clash. And it can feel like you have to choose one over the other. Especially for those who have developed their talents throughout their life, there may even be the added outside pressure of people in their social circle who are trying to tell them what to choose.

Take for example a student with an IQ of 190 (which, according to Google, is Sheldon Cooper-level smart). This student is a genius when it comes to understanding hard topics like biochemistry, physics, and every type of math (because all math is hard). There is a pressure-- unspoken or not-- on this student to apply for the top schools like MIT or the Ivy Leagues. Maybe a parent is telling them to work for NASA or a teacher says they should become a nuclear physicist. Seems like this student is really set with a lot of great options.

Except this student doesn't want to do any of those things. This student wants to become a dancer. We'll ignore if they're a good dancer or not because, with hard work and patience, I believe anybody (and I do mean anybody) can improve in their pursuits, whatever it may be. But just because this student wants to become a dancer, it doesn't mean they should. Likewise, just because this student seems naturally gifted to pursue the options listed above, it doesn't mean they should do that either.

Because honestly, what good is doing something you're 'naturally talented' at if it makes you miserable?

You could be the greatest at something in the entire galaxy, but when you inevitably burn out, you won't be accomplishing anything.

And that's what finding your strengths is really about.

Growing up I always loved reading and writing, was told I was good at it, and was told I was good at debating (whether this was just the nice version of telling a child that she was argumentative and annoying is something I won't try to think about), and I often wondered if I should go into law. It made sense and I had the natural ability for it, so I studied for the LSAT, talked to other lawyers, and even did a legal internship (which was so much fun I'd like to point out!)

But thank the Lord I didn't pursue it.

Because if my earlier experiences hadn't cemented my dislike of this career choice, this recent law class I took would have. From my brief foray into the potential law student world, I realized I didn't enjoy learning or writing legalize, having to take a neutral stance on topics I had strong opinions about, and I certainly didn't like the idea of being responsible for someone else's legal situation.

I have the highest respect for lawyers because even in my short glimpse, I can see how hard and complicated, and stressful of a job it is. I enjoyed my legal internship, and there are some aspects of the law that I do find interesting. But I also know I wouldn't want to do this for a full career, regardless of if it's 'in my strengths' or not.

Much like the Sheldon Cooper student example I mentioned above, I knew that law wouldn't be a good decision for me because it would only play to half my strengths, but not my interests.

To unlock the life you want, the job you want, you have to find something that plays to your natural gifts and your interests.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the saying "If you love what you do, then you won't work a day in your life." Growing up, my dad always told me and my sister this when it came to thinking about our futures. And yes, while I know every job, even a dream job, will have some hard, less than glamorous aspects to it, the overall idea of the saying is true.

To find your strength, find the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. What is the thing that will make you wake up and ready to start living? If it's two clashing things, how can you find something that lets you do both?

For the fictional student, maybe they become a lead researcher into how dancing can reduce stress; it allows them to use their naturally gifted mind while letting them be in an environment around their interest. Maybe there's an athlete who's also got a passion for art; they can design graphics for the team's social media accounts and create supportive banners that allow them to unleash their artistic side.

I've met a lot of people who find ways of combining their interests with their natural gifts, and they are the ones who truly embody the idea of doing what they love as work without working a day in their lives.

And I get it. Sometimes we have to take a job to pay the bills or register for a crap class to fill out a course requirement. We aren't always going to get the ultimate dream scenario.

That's when you have to intentionally make the time to continually grow your strengths.

People around the world are taking night classes so they can work towards the degree they want. Others are getting up before the sun and before class or a job to run up the steps Rocky-style as they train for the sport they love. Someone else is performing live music at a local coffee shop or bar after their 9-5 job because they want to pursue singing.

Whatever your strength is, there is time to feed it and grow it.

I believe we are all given natural gifts for a reason. I believe we are also given interests and dreams for a reason, regardless of if they overlap or not. What matters and will ultimately impact the type of life you live is what you do with those things.

The first step to unlocking your potential, then? Find your fire, your reason for being, your passion-- and that's how you'll find your Strength.

Love y'all!

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace"- 1 Peter 4:10

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