Learning about yourself can make your life happier and healthier.
Is it possible to feel a consistent sense of accomplishment and know that your life's work fits hand in glove with your unique gifts and talents? It is your Heavenly Father's deep desire that you reach your full potential and be prosperous—and in more areas than just wealth (Luke:12:32; 3 John 2).
A vital key to soaring through life is to carefully and thoughtfully align your career with your natural aptitudes.
The right fit
You will spend most of your life working, getting ready for work, commuting and hanging up your work clothes. Spend is the operative term. You and I have only so much time, and time is not renewable. In fact, research has shown that the stress from an ill-fitting career can actually take years from your life.
"For more than 20 years, Rockport Institute has gathered empirical data showing that changing from an ill-fitting career to one that is fulfilling and that produces a lower stress level reduces colds, flu and other immune system disorders. Many studies have shown this to be accurate. A compromised immune system doesn't just expose you to a higher risk of colds and flu, it lowers your resistance all across the board, making you more susceptible to catching something that will kill you" (Rockportinstitute.com).
Conversely, those in suitable careers will be happier and healthier.
Our natural talents are hardwired genetically and are discernible through testing at about age 14. These same aptitudes will show up decades later. To know that human beings have different strengths from birth does not require rigorous research. Observing elementary kids at recess will do.
People are different
In school there are kids who from the earliest years feel comfortable telling everyone else what to do and where to go. Others have a knack for coming up with a new game or activity when one gets boring.
Some are always by themselves—quiet, pensive, observing everything, not participating directly. A few can follow instructions for approximately 3.7 seconds until they have to be off exploring, pushing the envelope, looking for new ways of challenging authority.
Some are very physical, always running, jumping, catching, throwing and competing. Others are very verbal, gathered in various little groups chatting, giggling and laughing. Sometimes there are a few classmates who simply sit on a bench and color or look at books.
The point is that each of us is unique and special, with custom wiring that our parents handed down to us without our permission. God gives His children gifts, physical and spiritual (Romans:12:6); and every human being is gifted and talented, but in different, beautiful ways. We no more choose our aptitudes than we do our natural hair color, eye color or dominant hand. All these factors are controlled by DNA. However, it is important to understand the difference between an aptitude, a skill and an interest.
Aptitudes and skills
An aptitude (sometimes called a talent or gift) refers to a natural, physical or mental ability to learn something or develop a skill with relative ease compared to someone who does not possess the same aptitude. Testing for aptitudes is helpful to predict future development. If you and I align our interests and skills with our aptitudes, we can more easily grow and produce at a high level in all areas of life with less friction. With an understanding of our aptitudes, life can be a smooth-flowing, natural, peaceful, fun and energizing process.
There are two major truths about aptitudes:
1. Having a gift does not guarantee you will become highly skilled. It still takes training, experience and work.
2. Not having a high level of natural aptitude does not mean you cannot develop a related skill. It will just take more effort and perhaps more stress. To reach your full potential requires intelligently bonding aptitudes with skill development through the pursuit of excellence.
An interest is something separate from an aptitude. We may have many interests that lie outside our aptitudes or skills. Experiences and influences may pique our curiosity and evoke an interest in something new. Having a variety of interests can make us wholesome, fascinating beings.
I am susceptible to developing instant, but fleeting, interest in the latest thing.
For example, not long after my wife Mary and I were first married we drove from Dallas down to the hill country in southwest Texas, where her two sisters and their husbands were on a hunting trip. I developed a sudden interest in hunting.
My interest was so keen that on the drive home I had to stop at a large sporting goods store and purchase a Buck hunting knife that was only slightly smaller than a bowie knife—which is only slightly smaller than a medieval sword!
However, my hunting phase was soon forgotten, and the knife became a relic of another passing interest.
Finding your place
It is very rare that human beings know from an early age what they will be great at. Most of us struggle to find our niche. It is not unusual for college students to change their majors a number of times before settling on a course of study. Most workers change their careers multiple times during life.
How can you discover your aptitudes? For most of us it requires testing. I suggest you seek the guidance of an experienced career counselor who can point you toward viable testing options. You can find a lot of free tests on the Internet, but many of these are worth what you pay for them—nothing. The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation is a reputable organization in the United States. Their testing services require an investment, but it is reasonable when you consider the value over a lifetime.
After you have combined testing with career counseling, seek a rich variety of experiences. Consider interning in different jobs. Find what gives you energy and passion. Toss out what you find boring and draining. Actively seek out mentors in areas where your aptitudes, interests and skills intersect.
Make good choices and avoid getting stuck. For example, running up debt can enslave you in a job you dislike because you are under intense pressure to pay the bills. In that position, taking the time to find your unique niche is a luxury you may not be able to afford.
I cannot overemphasize the need to use a variety of strategies to discover your unique gifts early in life. But it's never too late to make changes; it is simply more difficult the older we get.
You need to make smart choices early so that when you're old you can look back and say, "I have lived my life to the fullest; I have used my gifts completely; and I have spent myself making the world a better place— what a ride! " VT