Posts tagged with ‘play to your strengths’

03 apr

The Gift of Choice

JayForteI believe the greatest gift we are given is the ability to invent our lives. We are given very specific qualities – evidenced by our DNA and hardwiring – that show up as our talents, strengths and passions. No two of us are exactly alike. We then must spend time to discover our qualities and determine how to use them to invent our best life.

I frequently say in both my writing and keynotes, “life is not a dress rehearsal; we have one shot at inventing and living the most extraordinary life possible.” And as I have been known to say to my kids, “If you are not living the best, most exceptional and greatest life for you – designed by you, and one that plays to your talents and passions – then you are squandering away the greatest gift you will ever receive.” Life – great. The ability to invent your life and make choices – priceless.

But making choices and decisions about life are not easy. It would be great, if when we were born, we received an owner’s manual that identified our talents, strengths and passions, and then provided instructions how to use them to live happy and successful (our definition of successful) lives. The manual doesn’t show up at birth; rather, we create it as we live.

Over time we are introduced to our unique selves through introspection and by connecting with others. We become aware of what makes us feel capable, happy, competent and successful. We learn about the areas that appeal to us, and those that do not add any value. The astute student of life makes great notes to be able to direct his life based on his ability to discover, understand and use his personal gifts. Some learn this more quickly than others.

Back as early as 350 BC, Plato offered wisdom in the phrase, “know yourself.” Most people consider this old thinking from older people, and discount its value. This phrase, however, is truly the key to a great life. It reminds us that our DNA – our hardwiring – is exclusive to each of us. The best way to live the most extraordinary life (and that also means work in a job that plays to your abilities) is to learn about the unique and distinct you. No one else can do this work for you; you have the greatest ability to understanding how you think, what you feel and what would make life great for you. You own this life. Its successes and failures. After all, it is based on the quality of the choices and decisions you make.

I see many people living other’s lives. Strong parents/families, years of traditions, personal biases and social stereotypes influence many of our decisions. We live according to what others say; we become who they say we should be. We miss or reject the opportunity to develop and invent our true lives. We let others make choices for us.

Knowing my personality, interests, values and passions, arms me with valuable and meaningful information to help me make good decisions for me. It allows me to assess my world, to find the work and life situations that need what I am good at, those that activate my passions and help me feel successful. It allows me to challenge others’ requirements about how I live my life. It allows me the ability to see that the best choices (for me) are my choices. I create the quality of my life. I choose how I respond.

Each day you have to get up and get on with life. Wouldn’t it be great if every day were a thrill? Wouldn’t it be great to choose what work you do, where you live, how you live and who you love? Instead, many are forced into required responses that do not allow for their unique and divinely-inspired gifts to be realized. We all lose in this.

To help you own and defend your choices, and invent your best life, try the following:

List what you are good at.

List what you love doing.

Be sure you know your world.

Then, identify the places in your world that allow you to use what you are good at and love to do. It may be in where you live, how you live and what you do for work. It may be in whom you connect with, whom you marry and what change you look to effect. It may be what message you communicate, what wisdom you have and how you can influence even just one life.

This approach helps you develop the best information for you; to help you find your place in your world. For example, if Emeril Lagasse were a busdriver, we would never know how exceptional he is as a chef. If Sandra Bullock were an operations manager, we would never know how exceptional she is as an actress. If you were a ______________(because others said you had to be, do, act or marry) we would never know _______________ about you. And what a waste – for you and for us.

I believe we direct and invent our world – it is not pre-defined. It is invented by those of us who inhabit it at this moment. We direct our history. Imagine the potential if each of us accessed our talents and passions and brought them fully to our world. Imagine the quality of our individual lives (a world each of us could be more capable, confident, secure and happy). Imagine the impact we could make on the world (using our best attributes to advance the quality of life and the life of planet).

I am not naïve; I am hopeful. I do the work I do to change how we think about ourselves. I do my work because I learned late in my life that I trusted others more than I trusted myself. I missed many years trying to be something and someone I was not meant to be. And when I had the courage and the wisdom to step up, know myself, know my world and make changes, my world doubled in value almost overnight. I started to see where I belonged, where my life was happier, more productive and more authentic. I wasn’t kept back because my world forced me. I was kept back because I was afraid to challenge what others said. I was kept back because I didn’t know myself. And when you don’t know yourself, you don’t value your talents and passions. Without this information I didn’t realize I had choices. I let others direct me. Not any longer. I now own my life.

I am aware I don’t get the missed time back. But I am also aware life is a process; we don’t have all the answers at once. I could not be here, in this moment, had I not been through what I have been through. I wish I had used my time better but I wasn’t ready – I just didn’t know I could choose. I do wish I were smarter or more informed earlier about this. And this has brought me to my current work – to accelerate the learning process of others – to encourage a modern version of “know yourself,” know your world and find your fit. Your life – your choice.

I know how quickly life goes by. And if we could know ourselves better earlier, we may be able to live happier and with more impact – earlier. And since we don’t get this time back, even one day that is better is worth the effort.

Your greatest gift is that you are given the ability to invent your life – that you get to choose for you. Commit the time to know yourself. Know your world. Then choose the best fit for you. Don’t wait. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. He is working on his new book, Work Strong, Live Stronger (Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World). He works to connect people to their talents and passions to live fired up! More information at

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Posted by Jay Forte on April 3rd, 2010 in Career, Family, General, Health, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Spirituality, Teens, Things We Love | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,