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The X files hold the key; the truth is out there, especially when it comes to discovering your own strengths.

Identify your strengths; it’s that what everybody needs to be able to do these days? It’s all over LinkedIn, in articles, self-help books and every leadership course you’ll ever go on. It’ll help you to “Screw Work Let’s Play” or “Find your Niche in 60 minutes or less“ or “Go Put your Strengths to Work”. We’ve all seen those types of articles, been given the task and tried to do it.

And it’s hard, isn’t it?

You see the talents and skills we are best at are rarely the ones we can identify in ourselves. You might know you’re a pretty good teacher; your pupils get good grades, colleagues like you, and parents respect you. But what exactly do you do that makes you such a good teacher? What’s the difference that makes the difference?

Our uniqueness is something we can rarely see for ourselves, no matter how good we are at self-assessment. And let’s face it – we’re not good at it at all. Who holds their hand up and says, “Yes, I’m brilliant at empathy”.

When we become really good at something we become unconsciously competent. We do it without even thinking; we perform it automatically, we are in flow.

Your unique talent or strength is the one you are unconsciously competent at - you don’t know just how good you are at it because you are so good, it's second nature. Try asking a top class athlete how they perform their best skill. They won’t be able to tell you the specifics and will probably say something like, “I just do it”.

Here’s the point; there are aspects of our personalities we are unaware of, which others can see, but we cannot. Our unique ‘strengths’ are included in these.

So next time you’re asked to identify your strengths, here’s how you could do it.

1. Pay attention to what others ask you to do. Why? Because this is what they value you for. Do they value you for your thinking, your opinion or some practical skill?

2. Look at your recommendations on LinkedIn. The pattern shows clearly what others value – in other words, what you are good at. This pattern is uniquely yours – your strength combination.

3. Read what others have written about you - professional testimonials, Twitter recommendations, and ‘customer’ feedback. There’s often a glaringly obvious theme when others describe the impact you have. Look for the words and phrases they use.

What all this boils down to is this. When you want to identify your strengths you can do it the difficult way and wrestle with a torturous self-assessment.

Or you can pay attention to what all the external evidence is telling you.

Because when it comes to identifying your strengths, it’s just as Fox Mulder said, “The truth is out there.”

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