This is a guest post from Dr. Art Lindsley of The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.
We are made with gifts and talents of different natures. To know and grow them, we need to examine ourselves with the Holy Spirit, biblical teaching, and a trusted community. Once we discern our gifts, how should we use them?
Our gifts and talents translate into activities and jobs that help us find fulfillment. God calls us to discern our gifts so that we can steward them well.
In my last post, I discussed the nature of gifts and how to think about them from a biblical perspective. With this understanding under your belt, you’re ready to dive into some practical exercises to determine what you enjoy doing and do well.
Step One: What’s Your Story?
The first step to discovering your strengths and unique design is to look back at stories from your own life of times when you did something well and enjoying doing it. It’s important to look at stories from your childhood and early adulthood, as well as later adult years. Choose up to ten stories or as few as three. Write down what you specifically did and why you enjoyed it.
Step Two: Analyze Your Stories
The next step is to further apply and evaluate these stories and come to conclusions about your particular gifts. It is important to remember that your gifts and talents will develop and become clearer over time. This exercise will help you discern them, but it may not clearly define them all in the ways you expect. In most cases, additional life experience will help sharpen your understanding of your gifts and talents.
Consider the following questions:
Role on a Team
In each instance, look for whether you did these things that you enjoy by yourself or with others. What was your relationship to a team? Do you like working by yourself? What role do you play on teams? Were you a participant or contributor, a key contributor, a leading key contributor, a team leader? What was the style of your leadership? Were you more of an influencer, encourager, delegator, visionary, or overseer of a large project? Do you choose leadership or do you like to be chosen for it?
What challenges or triggers motivate you? What turns on your ignition? These could be many things, including risk and adventure, projects, solving problems with things or people, excelling in chosen areas, or just completing a job.
What is your style of learning? Do you like to read, listen to podcasts, watch videos, learn by doing, or talk with others about ideas? Which one of your five senses is predominant, if any? Do you like to master knowledge or skills, or both? What subject matter consistently interests you? What are the core gifts you use to accomplish your goals? Which one or ones are most prominent?
As you review your life stories, what are the ends and purposes to which you strive? For example, how important is recognition or the response of others to what you do?
If you had to judge your desire to work with people, things, or ideas, what would it be? Rate your desires on a scale of 1-100.
Is your desire for relationships intensive or extensive? Extensive would be relationships with many people, though with less depth, while intensive means relationships with fewer people and more depth. Are you somewhere in between?
Step Three: Get Feedback from a Trusted Friend
Once you complete these exercises, read over your summaries carefully and try to discern and write down patterns you see. Share these stories with a trusted friend or mentor, allow them to ask you questions about the stories, and share what they observe. It would be helpful for them to read through the whole list, then go through each story one by one with you. Take notes on what they say.
Sometimes one of the stories stands out and connects several of your motivations. For instance, one woman I worked with on this calling exercise loved to play powder-puff football. Her favorite position was offensive guard. She wanted most to block for the quarterback and running backs so that they would shine. The rest of her stories fit within this example. She loved being the support or administrative staff for a boss she respected. She wanted to serve so that her boss would shine.
Another woman loved being center midfield on her soccer team. She loved playing both defense and offense running the field, giving verbal instruction to other players as to where they ought to be and giving passes to the forwards so that they could score. Her leadership in college had all these characteristics—being involved in all aspects of a project in the center of things, and delegating and helping others succeed.
Sports are often a good metaphor for how we work well. You can also consider group projects, clubs, community service events, or mission trips you have participated in.
For additional help, I recommend the following online assessment tests: MCORE, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and Myers-Briggs. The results from these tests can be compared with the work you’ve done on your own.
Remember, you are uniquely gifted with talents that help you find fulfillment and that bless others. These gifts can be applied in a number of different jobs or careers. Focus less on finding a specific career or job than on finding an environment in which you can regularly (not perfectly) use your gifts in the way God designed you. Perhaps it’s your current circumstances! Even unexpected gifts can transfer into unexpected jobs and roles in life. Be open!
This article is used with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). The original article appears here. IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Visit https://tifwe.org/