Or, to put it another way, do you know what your “thing” is?
Your thing, or your bent, is something you could apply anywhere in life. Typically, it transcends arena, but you would especially use it at work, since you spend so many hours there.
Clients have shared things like:
- “I innovate”
- “I refine”
- “I make things right”
- “I bring order out of chaos”
Do you see how any of those things could apply anywhere in life? Do you see how someone could be innovative at work but also at home--planning meals, parenting, etc?
That is what you are looking for.
Is there something stirring in you now that you think may be your thing? Maybe you are still not sure.
I ask my clients three different questions to help them discover their thing:
- What have your greatest accomplishments had in common? What have you been known for?
If you can’t think of what to list as your greatest accomplishments, then start by telling yourself your own story and see what stands out as the greatest accomplishments or something you were known for. Let me tell you a little bit of my story to help you see how I discovered what my thing is, and maybe that will help you discover yours.
I was the little kid who knew everyone’s secrets. Two friends would be at odds with each other, and both would talk to me without ever knowing that the other was doing the same thing.
I went to the second largest high school in the country, Brooklyn Tech. There were so many students that when we walked the stage to get our diplomas at graduation, some of my friends and I remarked that we had never seen some of the people on stage before.
Somehow at school my name got around as the guy you talk to if you are having girlfriend/boyfriend problems or “parent issues."
My mother, who is a surgeon but goes by her last name Paoli, used to jokingly answer our home telephone line by saying, “Dr. Bailey’s line," then hand me the phone.
Everyone knew that I was going to be a therapist (no one knew what coaching was back then).
When I started heading in the therapy direction, my parents encouraged me to go into business. I did.
Throughout my time working for a stockbroker (who eventually became a venture capitalist), writing business plans, and being a financial consultant, clients would say things like, “You know you sound like a therapist”; “You ask questions like a therapist”; “Are you sure you are not a therapist?”
Eventually I became a therapist, but despite really enjoying therapy, I missed the business world. My wife started saying things like, “It’s a shame you have this expensive business degree but use it only for your business."
Then she read an article on coaching and exclaimed, “Ryan this is you!!! This is so you!!! You’ve got to read it!”
Since a lot of my therapist friends at that time pooh-poohed the idea of coaching, I did not read it.
But my wife persisted over the next few days until I finally relented and read it.
I’m glad I did, because she was right again. It was me.
I immediately bought a book on coaching, then hired my own coach, got trained, and began calling counseling clients whom I had not seen in years. Since many of them were executives, I added executive coaching to my list of services.
When I looked at my biggest successes in counseling and executive coaching, what they had in common was that I “got to the heart” and worked at that level.
- What have others told you that you did to achieve the greatest home runs?
To gain confirmation on the “getting to the heart” thing, I contacted clients who had experienced home runs and asked them, “What did I do that most helped you to have the home run you experienced during our time together?”
The vast majority said some version of, “You got to the heart.”
I could have just started with this step if I would have thought of it. But the home runs were in seemingly different areas (i.e. porn addiction recovery, marriage counseling, leadership development, high performance team formation, etc.).
What about you? What’s your story? What does it reveal about what your “thing” is?
- What natural gifts do you have that have always been better than average and make you feel alive when you use them?
A third way you can discover your "thing" is to ask, “What have I always done at a better than average level?” See if any of those gifts can be applied across your life.
With some of them you may have to look deeper.
For example, I had a client who was in his 50’s, who said, among other things, that he was always able to hit a great forehand. When we analyzed what he did to hit that great forehand consistently, and what he experienced while hitting the best forehands, he described how he would get into a zone where the court would look huge so it felt like he could not miss.
We then worked on ways for him to get in that zone more often.
The more he got into the flow of that zone in any area of life, the better he did.
So he became intentional about “getting into the zone”.
Once you discover what your thing is, use it intentionally in any and every area of life. The more you do that, the more you stay in your strike zone.
The more you stay in your strike zone, the more you will see your “thing” as a gift.
The humility that comes from seeing that brings real contentment and a desire to use your gift as much as possible for the greatest ends.
You will also experience more confidence, more meaning, and even taste joy.
Finally, you will also notice that your gift can be improved and grown. Making small incremental progress brings a sense of true enjoyment.
When team members discover what their thing is and directly apply it to their role, their engagement goes up, camaraderie increases, and they become much more helpful to their fellow team members.
As a final thought, make sure you can explain what your “thing” is in less than seven words (preferably four or less). You will love the clarity that comes from that exercise.
Chew On This:
- What would be different about your life if you discovered what your “thing” is and constantly used it at work?
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.