How to Figure Out What You’re Good At (Not Just What You’re Passionate About)
Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be succeeding without struggles?
Someone starts a business and in six months, they are making profit. Someone else changes career and they seem to have made the best decision ever. Everything is working for them.
But what about you?
You may have tried you hand in a couple of things. Marketing, nursing, architecture, entrepreneurship or teaching.
Still, you didn’t manage much success.
You know you put in the hard work. Made the sacrifices. It just didn’t work out.
Is it a case of you not being the successful type?
Before you hit the road again on a new venture, take some time and learn an important lesson.
This lesson will save you from despair. You definitely have what it takes and can succeed just like those you envy. The only thing you have to do is know the right thing to do.
Everyone has the ability to succeed in life.
How you succeed is however different from how someone else succeeds.
This difference is what many people do not understand. They end up assuming that we are all the same and that we should succeed the same way.
This is why whenever there is a popular investment idea, everyone goes for it. The idea is generally assumed to be good for everyone
When you see someone succeed, it is their way of doing things that gives them an edge. That’s what guarantees them success.
Before copying them, realize that their way of doing things is very personal.
What does this mean?
People are different. They are actually unique. You can see this clearly when you consider your school days. There is a particular subject you always succeeded in. Others were very challenging. There is a sport you always played well. Maybe the team could not play without you.
There are things you can do very well naturally. There are others which you struggle doing.
In most cases, many people are engaging in what they struggle doing. Such struggles limit their productivity and often results in mediocrity. Yet the pursuit is for success.
Are you among these?
This article will help you get to the other side. If you are doing what you do well, then you will get better.
Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. – Gordon B. Hinckley
In all the things you do, whether voluntarily or out of obligation, there is some effort involved.
The amount of effort plays a big role in determining how far you go. Since there are rarely any straight paths in life, the crookedness of the paths has an impact on your success. This impact shows in two ways.
How far you go
Obstacles present challenges. Depending on how you look at them, challenges can be good or bad. If you often find yourself making excuses, then you see challenges as a bad thing.
If you enjoy adventure and tackling problems, then you see challenges as a good thing.
Because they enable you utilize and develop your creativity and resilience.
If you are doing what you are good at, you are more likely to see challenges as a good thing. They will be an adventure you are ready and willing to go on. This is primarily because you know you can handle them.
Deep inside you, you are sure that the challenge cannot take you down. This way, you boldly take it on anticipating your victory. You thus get the drive to proceed even when it seems difficult.
Though you can develop the right mindset to tackle challenges, nothing beats a natural solution.
For example, two people may be required to draw an airplane out of imagination. One person may have artistic talent while the other is good at making detailed comparisons.
If this is a contest, the one with an artistic talent will obviously win.
How fast you go
Anytime you start a new project, you will most likely be full of excitement and vigor. As time goes by, these start disappearing yet you need them to progress.
As the project continues, challenges show up. You are suddenly required to deal with an aspect of it that is too big for you. Maybe you lack the ability to hire a needed specialist for a specific task.
Being the project manager, you need to complete the project successfully. Maybe your team is becoming demoralized. Probably the project is taking too long to complete.
What do you do?
Can you rally your team to proceed? Can you come up with some ingenious ways of tackling the skills deficit? If you are struggling on the inside, then were you the right person for the position?
Remember those school days? The subjects you were good at? The sports you excelled in? That is where the answer lies.
There are specific things you can do very well while others, you will simply struggle. And as you struggle, there are those who are excelling in them. Yet you are competing against them. What are the chances that you will win?
For the sake of success in life, you need to focus on what you can do well. If there is something you are struggling with, just drop it. If you are employed and can’t just drop your duties, you can still do something. Do your job in such a way that you use your natural skills.
For example, are you good in math but working as a warehouse supervisor instead of accountant? You can get your juniors to arrange products in a way that makes it easy for you to count. Whenever a report is thus required, you spend less time counting.
Are you analytical but confined to doing sales because finding a data analyst’s job is hard?
You can use your analytical skills to assess the profitability of the clients you visit. Analyze your conversations with them. Which ones are likely to buy soonest?
Focus on those.
This will help you use your time better. Instead of visiting as many as ten clients a day, you can visit three and close the deal with two.
These are ways of using your inborn skills to make your work better. Do you have the opportunity to start afresh? Do you want to start a new business but are not sure what business to run? Your best bet is to do what you are good at.
Whether you know what you’re good at or not, you definitely have an idea about it. The problem is that you may not have taken the time to acknowledge and appreciate your natural abilities. When this is the case, you end up focusing on the strengths you can see in others. This promptly leads to comparisons.
Watch the below video to understand why comparing yourself to others is not a good idea.
In this article, you will learn how to figure out what you are good at. When you know this, then you are well on your way to success. First, some differences between what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT AND WHAT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT
For a better understanding of these differences, let’s look at what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about separately.
What you are good at
The things you are good at are those which either require little extra effort or little training to do. These are those you easily excel in. These are things which when called upon to do, you will finish them quickly.
For example, since you’re good at math, you may be asked to assist the accountants. Your natural skills will enable you spot inconsistencies quickly. If some records do not match, it may not take you long to find out the reason.
For the analytical person, you may form part of the team doing a market research. When everyone is trying to piece the data together, you may quickly spot some trends. These will give you some market insights and enable you make projections.
Whatever you are good at, you rarely struggle doing it. You will also do it better than everyone else. Or at least be among the best.
Below are the ways in which what you’re good at stands out from what you’re passionate about.
Driven by natural ability
What you’re good at is completely dependent on your natural ability.
This may be anything from your genesto what you learned while you were young.
Whichever the case, you have developed a capacity to easily and quickly get the job done. While working at it, there will be very few obstacles which can stop you.
You may get stuck at some point but you will get a way through.
For example, you may be good at repairing car engines. Your dad may or may not have been a mechanic.
But since you have the skills and knowledge of an engine’s working, challenges won’t last long. An engine problem you have never encountered may take some time to figure out but will eventually get sorted.
Tied to knowledge
What you’re good at has a strong relationship with knowledge.
Even if your skill comes from your lineage, there is knowledge attached to it. For example, traditional medicine men normally picked one of their children to continue the work. It was not by chance however.
Among their children, one would show not only interest, but also a natural knowledge.
In some cases, it was considered superstitious.
A child would pick knowledge from his parents without being taught. It is such children that showed the greatest promise. When taught, they would always learn quickly.
Motivated by recognition or appreciation
Doing what you’re good at has a reward: recognition.
This is not a bad thing and you should not shun it. It is not necessarily seeking a selfish end.
When utilizing your natural skills, you automatically stand out. This is because when others would struggle to succeed, you are getting it easy.
There is simply no match for you. Deep inside, you will always have a sense of pride when you are the first to accomplish a task.
Not only do you feel proud of yourself, but you intrinsically want everyone to notice it. It is not a surprise if you come out shouting after beating others in an area you’re good at.
Note that seeking recognition or appreciation for what you do well is not a bad thing. It may be argued that you may become arrogant. The arrogance however is not automatic and can be prevented.
The natural sense of pride that comes with doing what you’re good at is good for you.
This is what builds your self-confidence. The more you do what you’re good at and celebrate yourself, the more confident you become in your abilities.
Self-confidence is a key ingredient for success. Self-confident people know what to go for and what to avoid. If they have to tackle something they are not good at, they will seek help.
Some people find it difficult to seek help.
According to them, it paints them in bad light—as weak.
However, these same people will rarely get the job done. If it’s done, it may not be done well or on time. This is also a sign of low self-confidence.
What you are passionate about
If you are passionate about something, then the need to do it consumes you. You burn with a desire to do it and do it well.
‘Well’ in this case it is not about meeting a high standard set by someone or a standards body. It is about helping bring about a needed change.
This is what passion is all about. It burns inside you and the result is a product or service which makes life easier for people.
At the heart of you doing what you’re passionate about, is other people. It is not about you. Of course you will benefit. But your greatest benefit is the joy of doing the work.
Whenever you are passionate about something, you connect with it beyond your mind. You don’t need to be very skilled to do it.
Whenever challenges come, passion helps you exercise creative thinking. You look at the situation as something that is limiting your ability to better people’s lives. For their sake, you will seek a solution and try out different things until you get a solution.
Some ways in which what you’re passionate about stands out from what you’re good at.
Driven by passion
Obviously, your passion is at the center of it.
Compared to what drives what you’re good at, passion goes deeper. Passion seeks to bring out the things which matter to you.
When you’re passionate about something, you may put in whatever sacrifice is necessary. Passion is very strong and once you set yourself on its path, the ‘small’ achievements are what keep you going.
Passion, when strictly pursued, can really eat into your personal life.
For example, if you are passionate about something that your friends are not, you may lose them. You may spend too much time in it that you no longer have time for social events.
The loss of friends should however not raise much alarm. You are likely to get new ones along the way.
Tied to the environment
What you’re passionate about will always have an emotional connection to it. It is this emotional connection that generates and sustains the passion for doing it.
This is the fuel that enables you to go the extra mile and make serious sacrifices.
Emotions are usually temporary.
However, passion does not end as quickly as emotions change. What you’re passionate about is tied to the environment.
It is the environment that inspires the emotion and passion. Environment here could be anything that surrounds you. You may be seeing a situation every morning from where you live.
If this situation inspires you to do something, then you will.
It may not be a physical situation but a thought that is always in your mind every morning. Thinking about it gives you joy and the prospect of its fulfillment gets you moving in the work.
When you consider the things you are passionate about, you will discover a connection to an environment.
On the contrary, what you’re good at doesn’t need an environmental connection tied to it. It is the achievement through what you’re good at that may bring about an emotion such as joy.
The emotion comes afterwards whereas for your passion, the main emotion comes before.
Motivated by need for change
Doing what you’re passionate about is about making a change.
Someone’s life will be positively impacted whenever you do what you’re passionate about. Apart from having an emotional connection, passion also has a deeper need it seeks to satisfy.
The environment provides the situation which stirs an emotional connection. The emotion then moves you to want to see a change.
For example, your neighborhood may be full of street families. Every morning when you look outside your bedroom window, you see one.
When driving to the store, you see another one. On your way to work, you see some three families out in the cold.
When your internal systems recognize that this is not an ideal situation, you see the need for change.
You however do not shrug it off.
Unlike many others, you don’t say that it’s the government’s job.
This situation gets your full attention and you decide to act. You do not have the capacity to house them or even give them food. But you start with a small gesture anyway.
Gradually, you include them in your monthly budget and soon decide to use your garage to house one family. When you see this family out of the street, you get a sense of fulfillment. You feel satisfied that you have made a difference in the world.
It may not be a big one but it’s something. Remember, passion brings a sense of fulfillment while skills bring a sense of pride.
With these differences, it is clear that these two, passion and skills are distinct. They can also work together.
For example, you may be naturally skilled in the technical aspects of electricity. This may cause you to study electronics in college and specialize in micro-chips.
Looking at the current technology, you may notice a weakness in today’s microchips. Despite their advancement, they may not be handling security properly.
Since you have witnessed hackers defrauding innocent people, you may decide to do something about it. You can use your knowledge to invent a chip which has a unique way of preventing identity theft.
This way, you will have combined what you’re good at with what you’re passionate about.
You are good at electronics and passionate about reducing crime. In such combinations, your passion will be utilizing your skills.
This is how some not-for-profit organizations begin. Their staff are highly-skilled and use their prowess to give services to the general community.
FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
Let’s look at how to figure out what you’re good at. Note that this is not something new you’re bringing into yourself.
It is inside you only that you probably never paid much attention to it. Start by watching the below video for a brief introduction to what you’re good at.
Check your personality
Your personality is probably the best place to get answers from. It is thus a good place to start. As much as there are a number of personalities, your personality is unique to you.
There is no personality which is made up of only one trait. There are always several traits. Some will manifest more strongly than others. It is the special combination of these traits that make you unique.
Every personality has strengths and weaknesses. Since the interest is in knowing what you’re good at, your focus should be on your strengths.
There is a free personality test here which can even tell you which career options would be best for you. This can paint a good picture for you.
Your personality is determined partly by your genes and partly by your upbringing. In psychological circles, these factors are known as nature and nurture.
Nature is your genetic makeup whereas nurture is your learned tendencies. Nature is what you picked from your parents. It can be easily seen as flowing in the family as a strength. Nurture on the other hand, shows what you picked up when growing up.
An example of nature may be you coming from a family of great football players or marathon runners. An example of nurture may be your response to bullies. Are you afraid of them? Would you rather negotiate with them or fight back?
Your personality is a reflection of you. When you know your personality’s strengths, consider them as the basis of what you’re good at. If one of your strengths is making friends easily, then you might be good in communication.
This opens you up to careers or entrepreneurship along the lines of sales and marketing. If one of you strengths is being detailed, then you could be a researcher or data analyst.
Note that strengths may also come out as weaknesses. For example, the ability to make friends easily could also mean that you talk more about yourself. This could further mean that you are not a good listener. It is therefore important that you see these as strengths which need some pruning for better results.
Take an aptitude test
Aptitude tests are a handy tool for employers during the hiring process. They use them to test the natural abilities of the candidates. This enables them know who is strongest for the position to be filled. Many websites offer free aptitude tests for practicing purposes.
They help candidates improve themselves for specific positions. You can use one of these to know what you’re good at. There is one available here and it gives you possible careers to choose from.
Since there are more job seekers than available jobs, many people end up practicing for several positions. The intentions are good enough—increasing their chances at being selected by the panel. Aren’t they searching for a job anyway?
If you do this, then you must take care to keep up with what you practiced for. Otherwise, a problem may arise when a challenging situation comes up while at the job. It will no longer be a test but a reality.
For example, you may have wanted a managerial position and gotten it. Your natural abilities could have been towards finances i.e. you’re good with numbers.
If you only practised with the tests for this job, then you may soon disappoint your boss. You may be unable to deal with situations requiring you to make tough decisions.
Therefore, as you take the aptitude test, ensure you don’t get tempted into pursuing what you want. Remember that you’re seeking to know what you’re naturally good at. So answer the questions honestly.
A good way doing it is buy not thinking too much about the choices given. Just pick what comes natural to you. You will have the opportunity to improve yourself.
This method relies on what other people think about you. Ensure you ask the people who you know genuinely love you.
Explain to them what you intend to achieve and let them be sincere with you.
You can pick some friends to participate in this as well as family members. Some questions to ask may include:
What strengths have you seen in me?
Since these people have lived with you and know you they have seen you exhibit some traits. Whether good or bad, they have seen more about you than you may realize.
In this case, you are only interested in the good. When answering this question, they should be as precise as possible. Ways of improving can come later.
What have I helped you achieve in the past?
The answer to this question will be a clear indication of what you are good at. The reason is because it builds on your strengths. Whatever strength that was not mentioned in the first question will come out here. This is where you look for patterns.
If two or more people mention similar things, then you have what you are looking for. For example, there may be a couple of situations you helped resolve.
Though different, the context may have been the same. Situations like advising someone when they could not make a car purchase decision. Advising another when choosing a neighborhood to move into. Helping a relative find some information online.
These could point to your ability to research and critically analyze data. It is this that enabled you find the correct information online. It also enabled you know the best car given the specifications and needs of your relative.
What do you think I can do well in?
This question is an indirect way of asking someone what he thinks you are good at.
The beauty of using it is that it pushes for the truth without strongly asking for it. It thus denies the person the opportunity to tell you something good which may not be true.
In most cases, we tell our friends nice things so as not to hurt them. When this is at the expense of improving them, then it does more harm than good. Still this is a common human behavior. This question will help you deal with that.
The answer you receive will be based on the strengths you friends have seen in you. As they attempt to match you to a great career, they will seek to convince you of your abilities.
And if you find it difficult seeing their point, just politely ask them to explain further. At the end of the day, you will sit and judge for yourself.
If you notice that they struggled explaining some things, just ignore those ones. If they mentioned something you never thought about but it makes sense, consider it.
What compliments do you receive?
All throughout life, you have received many compliments. Check these out more closely. This is about complements of jobs well done. You may have performed well due to your ingenuity or natural prowess. Try to remember what the compliments focused on.
What exactly did the individual people talk about? Did they mention the speed at which you delivered? The accuracy of the information you presented? The depth of knowledge you showed? These are the signs of areas you can perform best in.
These compliments can help you see that you have most likely been receiving more jobs along specific lines. You may have been your boss’ go-to person for reports. You may be the one called upon to handle difficult customers.
You may have been called back from leave to assist manage an urgent project. These are the non-verbal cues for you that you are good at something.
What were your childhood successes?
Your childhood has more to tell than the games which resulted in the scars you have. It is in your childhood that you tried almost everything.
Some of the things you tried, you actually did well without putting much thought to them.
Naturally, every human is born with certain skills which easily show. It’s as though those skills long to be recognized and allowed to work.
For example, you may have looked at a small boy playing with the lego toys. Checking what he has made or asking him, he says it’s a car. Though it may not resemble anything on the road, you can tell where the boy’s imagination lies.
Similarly, there are things you used to do when you were a child. These can also point you into the direction of what you can naturally do well.
Since some of these things may not be easy to remember, engage your parents. If they are not available, you can check with your siblings or relatives. Childhood friends can also help you remember some of them. These may pass as mere hobbies for that period in time but they probably weren’t.
They showed what your mind was interested in doing. If you for example loved making cars, then designing cars and other equipment may be easy for you.
It is such things that hint at careers in graphics design and architecture. In the different engineering fields, you may do well as a designer of the items to be made.
You may stand out from others because of your keenness to detail. This will ensure that your designs are well thought out.
Also, it may be easy for you to come up with improved versions of existing models. This comes in handy when for example designing environment-friendly cars.
What are your values?
What is it that makes you want to be like the person you admire? What makes you want to partner with someone for a project or business?
Your values can also tell you what you might be good at. You will always gravitate towards the things you value. For example, you may value friendships.
This will make you have a tendency to move towards groups of people. Valuing friendships means you value people. It also means that you care about their welfare.
In the groups therefore, you will be keen to ensure friendships are built and sustained. You may then be having natural mediating skills to help with conflict resolution. You may also have a very natural skill for customer care services.
Figuring out what you are good at is the first step towards success. Differentiating what you’re good at from what you’re passionate about helps you know what to focus on. Focusing on what your passionate about gives you satisfaction in bringing change to other people’s lives.
On the other hand, focusing on what you’re good at leads you to achieve personal goals.
The greatest importance in knowing your natural skills is that you stop competing with others on their terms. Once you know your strengths and focus on them, no competition will unsettle you.
You will have an easier time maneuvering around obstacles as creativity flows naturally.
More than that, if you need to increase your knowledge, you won’t find learning to be difficult.
With less struggling and your efforts directed at the job, success becomes easier than you thought.