Previous: Promise Less, Do More
Everyone has talents and passions. You can have a talent for writing, painting, cooking, listening, driving, acting and the like. Unfortunately in our society talents and passions that make money are valued most. This is a shame, because many talents that don't make you money, can be valuable, not just for yourself, but also for the people around you. When you write poetry, read someone a book, or make music, you can make someone feel better.
Never too old ...
A lot of people stop developing themselves at an early age. They think the brain is at its top around the age of 25. Yes, memorising a list takes more effort at 40 than at 20. However, it's wrong to think it isn't possible to learn new things. The brain changes constantly. Reacting to the things you do, think and feel, the brain adapts all the time, and new brain cells are developed, new connections between brain cells are being made. By acting in a certain way, you can influence this process.
Practise every day memorising numbers, and you'll see it gets easier. There will be more brain activity in the hippocampus, a part of the forebrain, that belongs to the limbic system and plays major roles in short term memory and spatial navigation. The brain cells will be stimulated and new connections will be made. Memorising numbers will get easier. Compare this to rebuilding a sandy road to a highway. The latter will allow you to drive much faster, and it's more comfortable.
The same is true for playing the violin, learning a new language, or dealing with emotions: you're never too old to learn.
Develop your talents
In order to develop yourself, you will have to know what it is you'd like to learn. Some talents are obvious, yet not always. Someone with a talent for drawing, might not recognise their talent if they were told art isn't important. How can you know you've got a talent for playing the piano, if you've never ever played?
Perhaps your school grades have put you on the wrong track. Many people confuse good grades with talents. Perhaps the bad grades you got, gave you the idea you can't learn something new. It's a pity bad grades risk discouraging you.
Often there's an underlying problem. People differ in the way they learn things. It is commonly believed that most people favour some particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimuli or information. The way we learn things in general and the particular approach we adopt when dealing with problems is said to depend on a somewhat mysterious link between personality and cognition; this link is referred to as cognitive style. When cognitive styles are related to an educational context, they are generally referred to as learning styles, cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that are relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment. Over 80 learning style models have been proposed, each consisting of at least two different styles. Right now, let's stick to a two style model.
Field independence and field dependence
This person finds it relatively easy to detach an experienced (perceived) item from its given background.
The item is extractable because it is perceived as having a rudimentary meaning on its own; thus it can be moved out of its presented surroundings and into a comprehensive category system---for understanding (and "filing" in memory).
Tendency to show traits of introversion (the person's mental processing can be strongly activated by low-intensity stimulus; hence dislikes excessive input).
Tendency to be "reflective" and cautious in thinking task.
Any creativity or unconventionality would derive from individual's development of criteria on a rational basis.
Performs best on analytical language tasks (e.g. understanding and using correct syntactical structures; semantically ordered comprehension of words; phonetic articulation).
Favours material tending toward the abstract and impersonal; factual or analytical; useful; ideas.
Has affinity for methods which are: focused; systematic; sequential; cumulative.
Likely to set own learning goals and direct own learning; (but may well choose or prefer to use---for own purpose---an authoritative text or passive lecture situation.
"Left hemisphere strengths"
Greater tendency to experience self as a separate entity; with, also a great deal of internal differentiation and complexity.
Personal identity and social role to a large extent self-defined.
More tendency to be occupied with own thoughts and responses; relatively unaware of the subtle emotional content in interpersonal interactions.
Relatively less need to be with people.
Self-esteem not ultimately dependent upon the opinion of others.
This person experiences item as fused with its context; what is interesting is the impression of the whole.
Item is experienced and comprehended as part of an overall associational unity with concrete and personal interconnections; (item's storage in, and retrieval from, memory is via these often affectively-charged associations).
Tendency to show traits of extraversion (person's mental processing is activated by relatively higher-intensity stimulus; therefore likes rich, varied input.
Tendency to be "impulsive" in thinking tasks; "plays hunches".
Any creativity or unconventionality would derive from individual's imaginativeness or "lateral thinking".
Performs best on tasks calling for intuitive "feel" for language (e.g. expression; richness of lexical connotation; discourse; rhythm and intonation).
Prefers material which has a human, social content; or which has fantasy or humour; personal; musical, artistic.
Has affinity for methods in which various features are managed simultaneously; realistically; in significant context.
Less likely to direct own learning; may function well in quasi-autonomy (e.g. "guided discovery"); (but may well express preference for a formal, teacher dominated learning arrangement, as a compensation for own perceived deficiency in ability to structure.
"Right hemisphere strengths".
Tendency to experience and relate not as a completely differentiated "self but rather as---to a degree--- fused with group and with environment.
Greater tendency to defer to social group for identity and role-definition.
More other-oriented (e.g. looking at and scrutinizing other "faces; usually very aware of other" feelings in an interaction; sensitive to "cues".
Greater desire to be with people.
Learning performance much improved if group or authority figure give praise.
Back to talents
Many women have a field dependent learning style. This style isn't better nor worse than an independent learning style. The problem is that in many schools, an emphasis on the independent learning style is dominant. More abstract topics, like mathematics or chemistry, become even more difficult when they are taught to people with a dependent learning style as if everyone has an independent learning style.
If those topics were taught in a different way, people with a dependent learning style would perform better.
Don't go by school grades too much. Don't let grades discourage you and put you off. Let yourself be led by your heart, by things you enjoy. On the other hand, don't make things too difficult for yourself. Develop your talents, not the things you think you ought to be good at.
Once you've found something you're good at, or something that's challenging to you, you'll experience a happy feeling. It's possible you'll get into a situation called flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields. In retrospect people often describe this feeling as "everything fell into place" or "I experienced bliss".
Discovering your talents
Following tips can help you to discover and develop your talents.
Find an activity you really like. Ask yourself what you liked in the past. What did you like as a child? Perhaps you can keep a diary in which you write down the moments you felt happy. What were you doing at that moment? If you really don't know what you'd like, you might consider getting tested. Tests might show you your strengths and weaknesses, and which profession or activity might suit you best. Also ask family and friends what they think suits you, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Set goals. Developing your talents means you've got to set goals. You want to get better at something. Make your goal realistic and specific. Imagine what you're going to do, and when. Don't say "I am going to learn Spanish" but say "I am going to follow a Spanish language course in September at the Open University".
Challenge yourself. It's most motivating setting a goal that is just above the level you're sure you'll reach. If you go out running, make it your goal to run a couple of hundred metres (but not too many metres) more than yesterday. If you're writing a report, write a report about a topic you've never written about before, but not a totally unfamiliar topic. This way you'll expand your limits, but in a realistic way.
Follow a course. Perhaps it's necessary to follow a course in order to develop your talents. Try finding a course that fits your learning style.
Find partners. Partners who have the same goals, can help you overcome obstacles, motivate you and inspire you. It's nice to develop your talents in the company of others (working together, playing sports together, studying together, ... ).
Believe in yourself. It is easier to develop your talents if you feel confident about yourself and your skills. You won't have a fear of failure and it's easier to concentrate.
What do you want to achieve?
Research shows that if people write down their goals (I want to start my own company within the next two years, I want to learn to play the piano better within a year, ...), their success rate is higher. When you write down your goal, you connect yourself with this goal, and you'll be more motivated.
Write down which talents you want to develop and which goals you want to achieve. Don't forget to set a time period.
Then look at the obstacles, such as money, time, health problems, lack of energy, negative thoughts about yourself, lack of support or help, ... What is the biggest obstacle, and what can you do about it? Talk to people with the same goals, and learn from them.
Next: Promote Yourself