By Ruth O’Neil
As Catholics, we believe that every person is unique and made in the image and likeness of God. He created each of us for a specific purpose in this world, and much of our life’s journey should be seeking to discover His will for us. As we read in the talents parable of Matthew 25:14-18, God grants us different talents, or gifts, and expects something from us in return.
“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”
How can we be sure that we’re one of those first two servants and not the one burying our treasure out of fear? What do we need to focus on to be our best? Think about it like this … on the scale of optimal living and success, strong areas weigh more than weak areas. When you add to either one of them, they will grow in proportion to what is already there.
Focusing on where you are weak will add to and improve your weak areas only in proportion to what is there. Sure, you will improve in those areas but to what expense? We only have so many hours in a day to devote to development and growth!
Focusing on where you are strong will add to and improve what you are already strong in! Adding to and building on your existing strengths is like the “fast pass” to excellence and expertise. It’s a way that we can use our natural, God-given talents to serve Him in this world, not to mention a way to maximize our growth potential and live our optimal life while we’re here on earth.
Spot your areas of strength, your God-given talents, by considering the five “I’s”:
Look at past experiences or relationships. When did you make a difference in some way (small or large)? What was that difference? What did you do to make that difference? How did you do it? What was it about you that made the difference? What made you feel strong? What did others notice? What was important about that? What results did it produce? What was the impact on you? What was the impact on others?
An innate talent is that God-given gift—a way of being or doing that is so natural you don’t remember a time when you weren’t like that. You might say it’s almost like an instinct. (“It’s what I’ve always done” Or “It’s the way I am”). What are those ways of being that you consider your default way of being? What activities do you naturally gravitate toward? What activities make you lose all sense of time? What do others notice in you as a natural ability or talent? (“Oh! You’re a natural!”)
We have a natural curiosity and interest in areas we are strong in. It’s natural to feel a “yearning” that draws us in a particular direction. You may feel that God is calling you in a particular direction. The cool thing is that our neural networks are more receptive to information and skills in our areas of strength, which lead us to quicker learning, expertise and mastery! This natural interest and ability facilitates quick growth and expansion in a way that makes us unique and unrepeatable.
Inspired and Infused
Activities or relationships that inspire, energize and make you feel fulfilled are another way God may be calling you to a particular responsibility. These activities tend to be those that you feel you just can’t do without. In fact, you might even feel like you “need” this for fulfillment. Ask yourself: What do you look forward to? What are you willing to spend your time, energy and money on? What activities are you energized by? What relationships fulfill you? What about those activities or relationships is energizing and fulfilling?
Take some time to think about your life in light of the 5 I’s. Most importantly, bring these to prayer, listen to God’s direction, work through the list of questions, and identify your areas of strength. Remember, while striving to grow, improve and develop ourselves is a noble endeavor, it’s choosing to focus on your areas of strength—the talents that God has already given you—that will help you live your best life and one that is in accord with His will.