What if I told you that some of your most meaningful gifts remained unopened? What if I also told you that these gifts would serve as a key to future happiness and fulfillment? Finally, what if I told you that the only caveat to you receiving these gifts would be that you make a commitment to use them once they are open? Would you be interested? I’m hoping your answer is a resounding “yes”.
During the holiday season, it’s quite normal to think of a gift as something material in nature, which is wrapped in colorful paper and placed under a tree. While this kind of gift is certainly meaningful, the unopened gifts I’m referring to are far greater than anything you could purchase, wrap, and place under a tree. In fact, you already own them; you were born with them. The gifts I speak of are your God-given gifts, your innate talents that uniquely separate you from any other human being. Sadly, if we fail to open these gifts, they are essentially rendered useless or left under the tree, if you will.
Recent research in positive psychology has shown that everyone has a set of unique strengths, and that using them on a consistent basis leads to increased levels of happiness. Why is it then that many of these gifts remain unopen?
Throughout our lives we are inundated with messages of what we can or can’t do, or what we should or shouldn’t do, or what path we must or mustn’t follow. Having said this, it’s easy to accept these messages as the truth and live according to OPO’s (Other People’s Opinions), all the while repressing our strengths in an effort to “fit in”. The end result is that we miss opportunities to share our gifts and thus fail to experience increased levels of happiness.
Throughout my years as a teacher and a coach, I’ve witnessed countless individuals who seemed to have a general awareness of their natural gifts, yet failed to express them. Take, for example, the teenager who is a very talented artist, yet spends the majority of his time trying to be the next Lebron James. Or the twelve year-old girl, who is an extremely gifted writer, that doesn’t write on a consistent basis because of her addiction to social media. The list could on and on. The common theme in each of these examples is the presence of unique, God-given gifts that remain unopen or unused.
I invite you to begin this process of opening and using your own gifts. To begin, I encourage you to answer the following questions, which will hopefully serve as a foundation for personal growth.
What are your gifts?
I suspect you already have some insight with regard to your answer, but I invite you to take out a piece of paper and write down, in a non-judgmental way, all of the things that you are good at. Better yet, ask those who are closest to you. They might see strengths in you that you have failed to recognize.
For further exploration regarding your unique gifts, I encourage you to visit the homepage of Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, and participate in his free customized strength survey. (click here)
In addition, there is a wonderful book titled StrengthsFinder2.0 which gives you access to a personalized Strengths Insight Report, an Action-Planning Guide, and a web-based Strengths Community. (click here for more information)
How are you going to express your gifts?
Remember the commitment I mentioned at the beginning of this blog? It was a commitment to use your gifts once they are open. Whether it’s signing up for that acting class you’ve always wanted to take, creating the blog that you’ve secretly dreamed of writing, or singing in front of the mirror twice a day, any activity that enables you to express your gifts is an effective one.