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Get comfortable with your talents, because they won't change

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

From late puberty or early adulthood, talent is pretty much hard-wired within each one of us. It was formed by both nature (our DNA) and nurture (our upbringing).

Often, when I make the statement that “your natural talents do not change over time, once it is formed, which is in late childhood or early adulthood”, I get frowns and push-back to the statement. “Are you telling me that I do not change over time? That is absurd!” is a general response.

I am not saying that YOU do not change. Off course you do. I am saying that your natural talents – your “clear and definitive patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that can be productively applied” (to use the definition of Donald Clifton), do not change as you grow older. Actually, they become even stronger!

So, what is it then, that we perceive as “personal change and development over time” ?

Your values may change over time.

Those things in life that you value to be very important to you, to the point of it being a guide for decision making – those may change over time, and generally do. Values often change as our seasons in life changes. What you deemed to be extremely valuable and important at the age of eighteen, will not be nearly the same as what you deem to be extremely valuable and important at the age of forty-eight.

- The moment you decide to get married or commit to a life partner, your values change.

- The moment you have a child of your own and become a parent, your values change.

- The moment you are confronted with a terminal illness, your values change.

But, although being an important part of you, your values are not your talents.

Your interests, your likes and your dislikes may change over time.

Similar to values, your interests, likes and dislikes in life may change as you grow older. Experiences and exposure have a definite impact on your interests.

If I ask you if you love the ice cream, most of you will probably reply with a definite “Yes!”.

If, on the other hand, I ask you if you love the taste of the Vietnamese shellfish, you may reply with “I do not know. Never tasted it.”

Exactly. But also, you will agree that there may have been a time where you loved a specific taste or even a specific activity, and then things changed, and you do not like it anymore. Interests, likes and dislikes are changeable. But it is not the same as your talents.

Your abilities (skills) may change over time.

As you grow older, the things that you are capable to do, your skills and abilities, obviously change. You are probably much more skilled at driving a car at the age of forty-eight than you were at eighteen. Or, you may be much more capable and skilled at managing conflict as you gain more skill and experience with it, than you were when you were younger.

But again, your abilities and skills are not the same as your talents.

Your knowledge may change over time.

What you know at the age of forty-eight is much different than what you knew at the age of eighteen. Knowledge is gained over time, and knowledge definitely influences your decisions, actions, values and abilities.

But knowledge is not the same as your talents.

If you want to observe talents “running wild”, without the advantage of knowledge, skill and experience to guide it into well-managed strengths, just observe a teenager. Teenagers are “talent running wild”. They are driven by specific energy and needs that drive them towards specific activities and away from other activities, often not knowing why this happens. (No, I am not referring to specific physical needs and activities between teenage boys and girls here….)

At their age, teenagers lack the social intelligence, emotional intelligence, knowledge and skills to guide their talents at play. Their behaviour will (hopefully!) change over time, as the above elements are added. (Again relevant here, is the statement I repeat consistently throughout this book: “A well-managed talent becomes a strength, a mismanaged talent becomes a detriment.”) A persons unique drive from his/her talents – that will remain the same over time.

Your talents - the sustainable energy and need that feeds you from within and drives you in a specific direction of performance, does not change over time, although the awareness of it and the ability and skill to use it and manage it well may definitely change over time. Don't confuse a talent being developed with talent being changed.

For more on this and other related subjects, go check out my new book, "Launch your Brilliance"

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