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Take action to identify your gifts

This is an excerpt from Gifted by Robert J. Schinke.

Tap into your extraordinary gifts as often as you can ­every day. Your gifts extend beyond a single environment, such as your work or personal life. ­Every gift you hold, ­whether ingenuity, artistry, athleticism, critical thinking, or another talent, is a transferable skill you can bring to ­every minute of ­every day. In the world of science, researchers often ask ­whether skills or findings are transferable across environments, from one to another. With athletes, part of the responsibility of a motivational ­consultant is to encourage a transferability of skills so each performer is prepared to move from the ­junior ranks to the ­senior ranks, from the ­senior ranks to the world stage, and from the world stage to the next part of their lives—­whether as students, business professionals, physicians, musicians, or wherever they journey in their road map to a fulfilling life. When I retired from being an athlete, my gifts ­were two. First, I always saw prob­lems and their solutions in a dif­fer­ent way than many of my contemporaries. Where ­people attempted to solve prob­lems through conventional scientific theories and approaches that many ­others before them drew upon, I often considered unconventional approaches, such as ­those I would generate with my participants and clients beyond the university’s walls and conventions. Second, I was also resilient and able to shake off the discouraging words of naysayers. I had spent a childhood, youth, and young adulthood in school settings, playing sports and learning to be a social scientist, in other words, following my own path. I understood, based on the journey, the consequences of morph­ing into someone ­else’s version of person, athlete, and professional. ­Those possibilities ­were not for me. Your gifts are equally unique and transferable, and you are entitled to reach for them without explanation or apology. Your ­future is yours to forge, and its bounty is yours to harvest.

For the first step in this exercise, reflect upon your childhood and youth. First, find a quiet place where you ­will be uninterrupted. Stretch out and move ­until you are in a comfortable position, ­either reclining or lying down. Then begin rhythmic breathing, much as athletes would at the beginning of a ­mental warm-up before beginning their physical warm-up and much as you would before drifting off to sleep. Once you have established a good, deep, rhythmic breathing pattern, where your lungs are drawing full breaths of air, journey back using your memory bank to recall memories of your childhood and youth when you first noticed your special personal gift. My best friend (my wife) loved to draw. To this day she can draw with a flowing, light hand. She conjures up a perfect medley of colors in her drawings ­until they meld into beautiful artistry. My sibling was a creative writer. She could write poetry in primary school that I envy to this day. My grand­mother was a chef the likes of which I can only recall from my early childhood. She could create organic custards, ice creams, cured meats, and all sorts of delights. I try to put her gifts into words, but words cannot capture the level of excellence my tastebuds recollect.

Now back to you. Think about what your gift is and how you first discovered it. Think also about how you played with your gift and about how you and ­those nearby reveled in your excellence. When you see and feel the sensations associated with tapping into your gift, let your mind wander next to its status in terms of current opportunities where it can be applied, maybe even ­today. If you ­were an athlete and being an athlete brought you considerable enjoyment, health, and vibrancy, you can opt to revisit sports opportunities and find a parallel physical activity that matches your current time commitments, lifestyle, and demands. If your skill was public speaking, begin to search for opportunities where you can connect and inspire a group of ­people, such as in your workplace or in a volunteer ­organization.

Once you have a vision of how you wish to apply your gift in pre­sent life, write down what your skill is and your current vision of its potential application. Place the note on your refrigerator, with a second note placed on your work desk. The note should state, “I am . . .” The intention of the posting ­process is to remind you of your gift many times each day, while walking by and reaching for food or drink or when sitting down and working. ­After a few weeks of reflection, at most, sit down once more and develop a reasonable action plan and begin to put your gift into action. For a returning athletic pursuit, map out what equipment you need. Purchase equipment that excites you. If you are a runner, buy a new pair of flashy ­running shoes, comfortable ­running pants and shirt, and a ­running jacket. Next, set an activity calendar where you carve out time to reacquaint yourself with your gift, slowly but surely. A runner might then place ­running shoes at the door, just as a yoga enthusiast ­will ­either schedule virtual sessions into the day and have their yoga mat at the ready or engage a friend and go together to a yoga studio. A return to your gifts and how ­these are to be evoked needs to be, at first, a deliberate effort, ­until the gift is craved and automatically integrated into your daily life. Habits take time to form, so initially, ­every new be­hav­ior needs to be intentionally structured into your day. Then, be patient as you are challenged by the addition to your daily schedule. Remember, the application of your gifts must first smolder before they catch fire. Once a new application of your giftedness becomes routine, you ­will find it to be part of the evolving, next level, you. You might, at first, tap into your chosen gift—­for example, cooking. You can plan out a few special meals each week and commit to experimenting and learning one new cooking technique each month. The uptake of your gift serves two purposes. Immediately, it brings you back in touch with a forgotten passion. Your passion ­will then serve to help you recognize other potential gifts that are just waiting to be tapped, meaning actions that come naturally to you and often have been known to you as early as childhood.

More Excerpts From Gifted