The key to fulfillment, life coaches believe, is to recognize and make the most of your “core strengths.” If you figure out what you are best at, and take advantage of these skills, a rewarding life will follow.

Everyone has a range of abilities, but the things that we do just because we are good at them, or because other people value them, may not be the things that make us happy. These strengths are simply a means to an end. True fulfilment comes from building our lives on our core strengths, the ones we most enjoy using.

But how do we start to identify these specific abilities among all the tasks we complete every day? One good way is to ask yourself a series of open-ended questions, such as:

  • What do I love doing?
  • What am I often complimented for?
  • When am I happiest and most “in the moment”?
  • What makes me unique, in each area of life?
  • Try finishing these sentences: “I am really good at…”, “I find it easy to…”, “Faced with a challenge, the way I approach it is…”, “The talents that I use are…”

It may also be illuminating to ask your friends, family and colleagues where they believe your strengths lie. They may think you already know, so have not mentioned it before. Ask them: “What do you value most about me?” “What is the most interesting thing about me?” “What do you think my strengths are?”

The answers to these questions will give you a good idea of where your core strengths and passions lie. These skills can be practical, such as computer literacy, or less tangible, such as the ability to make people laugh. You can then focus your attention on the results, the core strengths that make you unique and can help you achieve great success and fulfilment.

The Three Realms of Core Strengths

Core strengths generally fall into the three key areas of play, personal and work. But of these, the personal area is fundamental. It might include optimism, generosity, energy, empathy, or honesty. These comprise the background of every activity you undertake.

The work area does not simply include paid employment, but all purposeful activity such as money management, housekeeping, or volunteer work. Strengths in this area may include organization and planning, time management, leadership or problem-solving.

In the play area, your strengths may include sporting talents, creative abilities, competitiveness, or social factors such as being a great host and putting people at their ease, or allowing others to open up and share their problems.

Look for common themes across the areas of your life. Doing so, you may also identify some weaknesses. An awareness of these also is valuable, but for the time being just focus on the positive aspects, those that give you pleasure. To be truly happy, life coaches recommend that your top qualities are reflected and developed across your working life and leisure time.

Closing the Gaps

Successful people exploit their strengths and avoid putting pressure on their weaknesses. But how best to bring your core strengths to the forefront of your life? A career change is one way, but there are less radical changes you can make too:

  • When possible, say no to tasks that do not play to your strengths. Your weaknesses are somebody else’s talents.
  • Take a step to bring one of your personal strengths to work or play. For example, your family life may benefit from some of the cheerfulness you show at work.
  • Keep taking small steps until there are fewer discrepancies.
  • Let go of activities you don’t enjoy. Anything which you approach with a feeling of dread, after a long period of procrastination, is not playing to your core strengths, so delegate when you can.
  • Aim to spend the majority of your time on core strengths.
  • Cultivate relationships with those who support you, show curiosity, and make you feel “fired up.”
  • Choose one of your top talents and extend it right out of your comfort zone. For example, if you love to entertain and have a friend who loves planning, how about organizing a large charity dinner?

The price to pay for wasting and ignoring your talents usually is a life of frustration, regret and missed opportunity. One such life is described with terrifying accuracy in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Remains of the Day, a motivating read if you should need one.

Your talents are unique — nothing can take them away. But they will fade with time if they are ignored. The more you choose to honor and develop your special gifts, the more you enhance every aspect of your own life as well as the lives of the people around you.

References and other resources

First Class Coach

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. 2005: Faber and Faber.

Finding a Life Coach