This is why I didn’t become a doctor (and I’m grateful!) 💪
Have you ever persevered toward an exciting dream… and when you got there, it was totally different than what you expected?
Before I went to college, I had my mind made up about exactly what I’d study. No matter what, I’d be a pre-med major. This burning need to play a role in saving lives came from one of the biggest events in my life: When I was 13, I lost my dad suddenly to a massive heart attack.
Maybe, I thought, I could help other people and families have better outcomes.
But no matter what I did in college (and no matter how meaningful my mission was), math and science were a monumental struggle for me. Not just that, but I found it hard to engage in an excited way about what I was learning in those classes. Talk about a mismatch!
Now contrast that with how I felt in my writing, sociology, and humanities classes: I was lit up, excited, and capable. I felt alive. I’d even go so far as to say that in those classes, I was behaving like a leader.
In life, sometimes our ambitions don’t align with our strengths. Which doesn’t mean we should back away from challenges! But there’s a difference between pursuing a challenge and forcing ourselves through work that doesn’t bring us joy or build our confidence.
In my case, admitting there was a mismatch between my ambitions and strengths — and changing degree programs so I could pivot toward my strengths — built my confidence and happiness in ways I couldn’t have dreamed.
That’s not just a personal opinion. Gallup conducted a study on people who use their strengths every day and found that it affects their work performance and overall quality of life! They discovered that using strengths can lead to improved health and wellness: less worry, stress, anger, sadness and physical pain.
It also leads to more of the good stuff: positive emotions and increased energy. Additionally, the study showed that people who use their strengths and talents everyday are *six times* more likely to be engaged at work. Wow!
So how can you nurture your innate talents? Consider the three power strategies below to elevate your strengths and confidence!
Quick Confidence Tips to Nurture your Innate Strengths:
Mindset: Discover your strengths. Go ahead and grab a piece of paper right now. Make three columns. In each column write down a strength where you’ve gotten consistent recognition or praise. For example, maybe for you “client service” is one of your strengths. Now underneath that strength, jot down the events for which you received this praise. This gives you context. You might notice they were all high-pressure, high-stakes interactions with VIP clients. That gives you some specific clues about the power of your client service strength. If you haven’t already, review your list, noticing if any patterns emerge. Write down any notes at the bottom of your columns. Congrats! These are your strengths - keep adding to, and updating them, over time.
Embodied: Let yourself off the hook for your weaknesses. Repeat after me: “I do not need to be good at everything. I have limited time on this earth – I deserve to use my best strengths and gifts!” Mantras like this are one way to give yourself some peace and release the need to be (or appear) skilled at everything. You can even sit down and write out a letter of forgiveness to demonstrate that you don’t need to “correct” every weakness. Remember Albert Einstein’s quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Interpersonal: Advocate for your strengths with others. Nobody is going to matchmake every opportunity you’re offered to your strengths. That, my friend, is on you. So what can you do to fiercely advocate for your strengths? For a start, ask to be included on teams or projects that could really use your strengths. This goes along with proposing to spend more time with colleagues who share one of your strengths (or are even better than you at applying it). As you do this, it’s perfectly ok to steer people away from giving you work that centers on your weaknesses. Another powerful ongoing action you can take is to push for more training around your strengths. Remember, the best return on investment you’ll ever get is from the investment you make in yourself.
As you’ve probably realized by now, I did not become a doctor.
But I like to think I’ve made my dad proud in the career that I did choose, with the gifts I do have. I’m grateful to my younger self for trusting her excitement and joy and pursuing the classes that made her feel alive.
That self-trust built a strong foundation for the confidence I feel today. And playing to my strengths has been like a turbo engine, powering me to meet amazing people and have exciting experiences. How did you pivot in your career — and what did it mean to you? Let me know in the comments!