What's In Your Toolbox?

We are all unique and have unique strengths. But what makes us truly powerful in our uniqueness are our talents and skills. First of all, let me define talents as they compare to skills and visa vera.

Talent: A talent is something that one is born being gifted at. For example, most people can’t compete with Michael Phelps’ body when it comes to swimming. He’s tall, has a huge wingspan, and can extend his feet more than most because he’s double-jointed. Some people are just born being a better fit for certain activities than other people. That being said, Michael Phelps would be a terrible horse jockey.

Skill: A skill is something that one gets better at through repetition and practice. Skills are worked at. A skill might be something like playing piano. While some people are more talented at music because they can hear pitch better, most of us simply have to practice every day and then we’ll be pretty good at playing piano.

Where talents and skills get interesting is where they intersect and combine with passions. This blog is about building your vocation.

The Toolbox

Imagine the toolbox as a metaphorical set of things that you can use to live. You put skills and talents in your toolbox. All the things you know how to do better than average can go in your tool box. Things like playing an instrument, being exceptionally good at running or writing, or being able to hold your breath for a minute can all go in. Everything about you goes in the toolbox.

Step One: Take Inventory – Find Your Tools

The first step of using your toolbox is to look inside and figure out what’s in there. This means reflecting on your talents and skills. It means thinking about the experiences you’ve had and the practice you’ve done to get where you are. Maybe you studied to become a yoga teacher or maybe you have been sailing in The Philippines. Whatever is in your toolbox is unique to you and only you can really know what it is. Take a few minutes to write down some of your talents, skills, and experiences. Answering the following questions can help:

  • What have you always felt naturally good at?
  • What have you spent your time learning about?
  • What have you done that most people haven’t?

Once you’ve answered these questions and you have a good list of practical talents, skills, and experiences, move to step two.

Step Two: Connect the Dots – Make a Blueprint

Now that you’ve taken inventory of your toolbox, it’s time to see what you want to build with them. Certain tools work better to build certain structures. Let’s take a few of my talents, skills, and experiences as an example.

  • Talent: I have always felt naturally good at understanding people’s emotions.
  • Skill: I have spent a lot of time learning how to talk to people in order to support their emotional wellbeing.
  • Experience: My parents separated when I was very young and I grew up with a challenging and painful family dynamic.

Looking at the combination of these things, one might say that a natural path forward would be for me to become a therapist who helps children navigate their parents’ separation. It’s likely that this occupation would suit me because I have the right tools for the job. I have a pretty good idea that this occupation would practically fit me well, so I can move it onto the table as a blueprint.

Step Three: Add In Passion – Personalize Your Blueprints

Step three is all about enhancing the blueprints made in step two with one’s passions. Let’s use myself as an example again.

So, I know that I have the right tools to be a therapist. Now what? What kind of therapist will I be? What kind of therapist would I enjoy being? How can I be different than other therapists? Let’s identify my passions so that we can see more fundamentally how everything fits together.

Quickly, let’s circle back around to our skills and talents before moving forward with examples of my passions. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the word passion. I’ve found that just thinking about things that I like to do works well enough. Even if one is talented at something or skilled at it, that doesn’t mean that it’s a passion. Or, maybe it was a passion when they were practicing and growing their skill, but now it’s not. Whatever the reason, just because something is in one’s toolbox, doesn’t meant that they have to use it. Passions are identifiable because we love to do them, and not for any other reason.

Okay, so identifying some passions. Some of mine are: writing, playing music, and being outdoors.

Now for the fun part: Enhancing! I’m going to take the role of therapist and then mix in as many passions as I can to the role to see what kind of therapist “Faolan” would be.

If I become a therapist, I might want to write books using my experience helping people to reach more people and spread messages about growth and positivity. Or maybe I should integrate music into my therapy practice. Maybe I should take people hiking when I’m talking to them so that they can experience nature while they share their stories. Perhaps I could integrate all three passions! Whatever, I end up doing, I now have a much more clear version of an occupation that fits me. I know how I could enjoy doing a job that I’m good at.

So, What?

What’s the biggest takeaway from all of this? I would say that it’s something really important. An ideal job for each person is a sum of their tools but loving the job that’s right for you is about making it your own. Not every carpenter carves their favorite animals into their work. Not every coder leaves jokes in their code. Loving your occupation by bringing your passions into it makes it a vocation. A vocation doesn’t simply fall out of the sky, it is created and discovered by growing out our set of tools and then building something we’re passionate about.

If you’re interested in working with me to develop your toolbox and work on building your vocation, please reach out here!

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