Born this Way?


When Corrie was in elementary school, she played softball for her local rec team. She started as pitcher, but soon the coach needed to move her to outfield. Corrie was dissatisfied and frustrated with this move. She knew that moving to the outfield position would no longer allow her to be the center of the field or the center of attention from the stands. This event so irritated her that she quit the team. Guess what strength is in her Top 5? Significance.

An innate talent is defined as a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively or unproductively applied. The Clifton StrengthsFinder gives a language for the 34 talents that could make someone successful; but are we born with these talents or are they developed over time?

For example, when my husband was 14 years old, he worked full-time at a gas station. His family was very poor and he had to work to survive. It’s not a surprise that Self-Assurance is in his Top 5. Could this talent have been developed over time because of his family of origin?

How about the talent of Developer? Did any of your daughters set up a teaching area with her baby dolls or stuffed animals? Did she put them around desks and try to teach them a concept? Could she have been born with this talent? Or perhaps, could the talent have developed during high school when your son was taking a Teacher Cadet class and discovered he was very patient with the inexperienced?

We often ask through coaching, “Can you tell me the earliest time you remember having this talent?” and amazingly, some can recall their strength as early as 5 years old. Other times, individuals recall a very formative time in middle school or high school when this talent was developed.

I often see the talent of Communication at a young age. These children love acting out plays in front of others, enter speaking competitions, and are the last to leave an event, because they are busy talking to their friends. They also are flamboyant story tellers.  This seems like a talent that kids might be born with.

With the theme of Empathy, could it be that for some reason at a young age, they had to learn to be socially intuitive? Could this be why they can pick up on the feelings and frustrations of others without even knowing the person? “Reading the room” has always been easy for them. Were they born with this talent or did it develop over time due to necessity?

I would venture to say that while it might be fun to analyze the notion of nature vs. nurture in talents, I feel that some other real and important questions should be asked. The underlying questions help us to really dive down deep into the core of our person and the meaning behind the talent. These questions then allow you to “turn up” or “turn down” this talent in a healthy and productive way:

  • How do I process the feelings of others while separating what I am concerned about from what I am responsible for? (EMPATHY)
  • How do I become a person who actively listens rather than focuses on my response? (COMMUNICATION)
  • Why is corrective criticism so hard to swallow? (RESPONSIBILITY)
  • Does the person I am talking to want my advice or just to share in their experience? (DEVELOPER)
  • Are my ideas the only right ones or could someone else have a better way of doing things? (SELF-ASSURANCE)
  • How am I not allowing other leaders to rise up when I lead every project? (SIGNIFICANCE)
  • Why do I need to win every argument? (COMPETITION)
  • How is my positive attitude causing me to pull away from negative people? (POSITIVITY)
  • Why does someone else’s approval matter so much to me? (ACHIEVER)
  • How is my confidence in my own intelligence causing others to feel that I am not approachable? (INPUT)
  • How does my lack of passion and emotion affect those around me that want to feel loved? (ANALYTICAL)

I truly believe that to grow into a healthy person, leader, parent, or co-worker we must get to the root of our behavior. This often begins with being self-aware enough to name our talents and then courageous enough to ask what our motives are.

Please contact me by replying to this email if you would like to further dive into the WHY of your behavior. I may not have the answer, but I do have a lot of questions.