As we search for ways to increase our chances for success and career fulfillment, society and the media steep us all in the makeover movement, preaching at every turn that we are not good enough. Like crawling caterpillars, we are in desperate need of some remarkable transformation. (“And just by fortunate chance,” we are assured, “we happen to have your transformation kit for sale right here!”)
Ironically, much of the makeover impetus comes from the popularization of business concepts. The attempt to re-form human beings into more acceptable or better versions of themselves comes straight from Marketing 101: “We’ve got to make you a salable commodity.”
Well, I have good news. You, as you are, already possess all the tools you need for a fulfilling career. Your true essence is not something to be steered away from; to the contrary, it is the launching point from which your road to success and fulfillment takes off. It is your ultimate competitive edge. Identifying your positive attributes is the first step, and from that step you can build toward success and fulfillment as you learn to cultivate those attributes and share them with the rest of us.
Identifying Your Virtues
So let us get started identifying your own personal positive attributes. First, begin with your personal instincts and values. Despite all of the pressures around us each day, almost all of us believe in bringing our true good nature to the surface. What is special about your good nature? Think about what makes you feel good, what makes you happy. As the renowned movie director Frank Capra said, “The world cannot fall apart as long as we see the rainbow, feel the rain, and hear the laugh of a child.” What kinds of things make you feel alive? What makes you feel a full participant in the great and varied world around you?
Take some time to think seriously about what your best attributes are. Do this thinking in a setting where you can concentrate: your favorite chair, your desk at home or school, a library, a long walk, or perhaps a comfortable coffee shop. Be very basic and make a list. It may be helpful to group by categories:
- Talents: Innate endowments, things you seem to have the knack for, such as swift reflexes, mental agility, a good memory, or ease with languages.
- Gifts: Natural qualities you were born with, such as a pleasing appearance or a pleasant demeanor.
- Elements of Character: You may have the quality of patience, or of persistence, or perhaps instead you are curious and restless. Each element holds value. Integrity, compassion, ambition; all are aspects of your own true self that feed into your virtues.
- Abilities: The power to perform certain things well, whether natural or acquired. An ability to crunch numbers with accuracy, the ability to sense opportunities (or difficulties), the ability to comprehend important facts, etc., any and all of the personal abilities that you recall helping you in the past.
- Skills: The mastery of specific tasks that you may have gained by learning, aided, perhaps, by some degree of talent, or acquired by dint of sheer practice. A facility with numbers may have led you to study and develop accounting skills; you may have acquired fluency in languages other than your own.
The above categories overlap, of course, but that is fine; the goal is to get as comprehensive a list as possible. Feel free to create your own additional categories, as the goal here is to identify, to unearth and recognize all that you conceivably have to offer. All of these resources and personal assets feed into and constitute your unique career strengths. These are defined as the attributes you have which are possibilities for cultivation and which you can share.
If your attempt at this list-making exercise is not coming easily, or if you feel you have other attributes but they are not coming to mind, try putting yourself in the imaginary scenarios below. They may tease out some additions:
- You have landed alone in a vast, unknown, and unpeopled forest. What personal powers and abilities would you call upon as your first line of survival?
- You find yourself in a strange, foreign land, and must go about seeking employment there. What skills would you present to people in order to get a job?
- Recall the last two compliments you received. What were you doing and for what were you specifically praised?
- Mine your memory. Delving back from your youth to the present, what projects, tasks, and encounters did you work on in which success just seemed to come naturally?
Create your personal list—from this you will cultivate the most positive and beneficial attributes that you will share widely to achieve success and fulfillment.