28/04/2013: Gifted and Talented

We had a special program in my school for people who were considered ‘Gifted and Talented’. The chosen few who were selected to be in this group enjoyed the pleasure of attending classes that were designed to push them further and give them inside knowledge on good opportunities.

For those of us ‘regular folk’ who weren’t deemed ‘Gifted and Talented’ we just had to make do with the mediocre teaching and insight that not being part of this particular set had to offer.

I was reminded of this today after a discussion my family and I had about discovering and using our ‘gifts and talents’.

“What are your gifts and talents?”

We each took time to think about this question and my dad, mum and Sibling One named theirs and I  (finally, after three years of soul-searching) could now name some but Sibling Two came up stumped. I could identify with him.

What does it even mean? What are your gifts and talents? Does everyone have a gift and/or talent or, as it seemed in my school, was it the reserve of a select few?

The first place to start is to completely rethink the notion of ‘Gifted and Talented’ as a single entity. A gift is, in actual fact, different from a talent. Your ‘gift’ is the seed and basic ability you have to do something well and when that seed is nurtured and grown it becomes your ‘talent’. Everyone has gifts but not everyone is talented in the area of their gifts because they haven’t taken the time to nurture the seed and develop it.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I used to think that I didn’t have any special gifts or talents as there wasn’t that one thing I thought I was exceptionally good at and in a way this was true.  I had quite a few gifts but because I was comparing my seed/basic ability with the  fully fledge talents of other people I was getting frustrated.  I didn’t realise that the reason I was frustrated was that I hadn’t really taken the time to develop any of my gifts to a point where I would say I was talented.

Everyone is ‘gifted’ and can become ‘talented’ if they develop their gifts. The only problem is in figuring out what those gifts are.

Over the past couple of years I have discovered that the best way to identify a gift is to acknowledge the things you have a natural liking for, pick one or two and start to develop it. The more you develop it the better you will become and if it really is a gift the easier it should become.

I questioned Sibling Two along these lines and asked him whether he had even explored the areas he was interested in, to which he said “No”. He stated that he was waiting until he went to University and had the freedom to explore, to find out what he was good at (an excuse for continually playing X-box I think – he’s always had the freedom!) but why wait? Try as many things as you can, get writing, drawing, singing, debating, helping, planning, crafting, brainstorming now. I’ve realised that your talent could be the most obscure thing to you, like planning things or storytelling but if you don’t take time to asses and identify it, you will never know.

Sometimes the things you are good at, are hidden in your worst qualities. Sibling Two is great at arguing. He is able to refute a point emphatically and do so without getting worked up (but usually working the other person up to my  annoyance) and is also able to quickly find holes in an argument. If used in the right setting this would make him a great debater which could be used for law, politics, even negotiating business deals. He would obviously have to develop it and train himself in a way that ensures he doesn’t antagonise people but this, however crude, is a talent. He is also good at baking, drawing, writing and but if he doesn’t take the time to explore  and develop in these areas he would never know just how talented he is.

If you can’t see it, a great way to discover the things you’re good at is to ask other people what they think your best/strongest skills are – they see you from a different perspective so this might help. I would never had said I was a great storyteller but according to my friends the way I relate events that have happened to me is engaging, they feel like they were actually there with me, experiencing everything through my expressions and gestures and I just thought I was recounting a moment! So ask people – they might know and it’s a great place to start! (Admittedly this ‘gift’ of mine also has its pitfalls as I like to describe everything so take a long time to get to the point, but this is something I can work on).

A gift and talent is something you’re good at AND you enjoy doing/want to do. We can all develop skills but that doesn’t mean they are our talents. I have skills in analysing data and mathematical problem solving but they are not things I enjoy – they are just useful things I know how to do. Writing, however is a gift I want to develop, as is communicating, singing and working with children. The basis for a talent is always there but it has to be developed.  The people we see expressing their talents well, have usually taken time to develop their gift behind the scenes.

What are your gifts and talents? Have you discovered them yet? If not, what one thing can you do today to identify your gifts and turn them into talents?

Good thing of the day: Good to surround yourself with creative people, good NWTV creative session.

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25/04/2013: The Power of No Power

When it all disappears what do you do?

We have a contractor in our house at the moment re-plastering the gaping holes created during the re-wiring of electricity in our house. As with last week, I was fortunate enough to draw the short straw and be stuck at home  to oversee the work. With this bag of good fortune also came an experience of a life time – time travel!

Time travel? Really? *deadpan face*

Well…no, not really, but it felt like time travel. I got to spend the day living without power.

Usually, if I am stuck at home, I can content myself with the knowledge that my trusty entertainment source  – aka my Macbook Pro – will be able to keep me occupied and out of harms way for at least a good 12 hours if not more (and when everything is set up – food to the right, drinks to the left – I really don’t need to move – oh well, except for bathroom breaks) but today I couldn’t.

The contractor came in early about 8am and gave me an hours notice to do all I wanted with any appliances – “I will be turning off all the power for the rest of the day” The rest of the day??? What am I going to do??? All the work that I had planned to do required an email here, a Google search there…With the power went the heating, the lights, my beloved internet, the hot water and (gasp) even the microwave!

How was I supposed to survive without these things?

What do I do? – Do I sleep?  Do I eat? – Oh hold on, I can’t cook because whatever I make has to be cold (oh no! Is there actually anything in the fridge? *runs to check* *slow motion*…Noooo!). Do I walk around the garden?  What did people do at home before all these things existed??

It was strange to be thrown, in my own home, into a situation where I had no idea what to do with myself. I felt completely devoid of use; a complete stranger in an unknown world. Ok, ok, I exaggerate, but how many times have we stopped to think about how much we rely on things like the internet, electricity, gas boilers, microwave ovens etc and take time to appreciate them? Rarely.

I think that this is because we don’t know what it is like to even be in a situation where we don’t have these things, so we have nothing to compare our daily existence to except for sympathetic musings on stories of the past: “Wow it must have been so hard to live without heating, I can just imagine what it’s like because it get so cold here i’m always freezing!” she says as she turns on her electric blanket.

Never having camped or trekked because of the non-outdoorsy life style that I live, I have rarely lived without the electrical joys of this world. The first time I truly had to go without power (or limited power as it were) was on my volunteer abroad trip early last year. I went to Portugal – a western, built up, should-be-sunny-and-warm, should-really-have-good-electricity-and-heating kind of country – where, to my surprise we were put up in an apartment with no heating (apparently three months of freezing cold is not enough to require central heating – even the Russian girl said she was freezing!), limited hot water, a broken TV, a washing machine that when you put it on the lights would go out, a cooker that only had one hob working and a bath and sink that wouldn’t drain and a fridge that stank propagating a foul smell every time you opened it. Also this apartment was overlooking an upmarket district! I could see the neighbour’s Porsche from my window! Ahh, good times

Now I know I shouldn’t be complaining at all. There are many people who live life without even one of what I described above (that one cooker hob would be  a godsend) so it was a good experience to have had and to learn from. I found that I could cope without all the things I take for granted (although I would prefer not to) and find ways to enjoy life (you can have a great party with just a phone and some Chip ‘n’ Dips!).

Today once again reminded me that I need to remember to be grateful for all the things I do have and encouraged me to have more times like this where you do away with all the gadgets and easy fix things we have and live a simple life. I decided that I would start today by reading. I got through many chapters (more than I read in the entire week last week), then I decided to organise my folders on my mac – get rid of useless files. This organising spread to area around the house – doing laundry. I did some singing practice which I haven’t done in a while,  I even got a nap in (something I hardly ever do because I feel I always need to browse the internet – waste of time). I neighbor-gazed out of the window imagining what it would be like to be one of our neighbours, live their life and have us as neighbours (weird I know, I hope they didn’t see me). I went out into the garden, which I also haven’t done in ages and admired the plants and trees, the view and took up some weed.

Not a particularly inspiring collection of activities but ones, nonetheless, that enabled me to work without distractions, with a calmer mind, focusing on what I was doing and getting it finished rather than yielding to the erratic nature of working with multiple tabs open, microwave buzzers enticing you and harbouring the stress of not being able to complete it all due to lack of concentration. So today I discovered the simple life – there is power in having no power.

(At the end of it all, I realised that I could have used my phone for all my internet needs, but shhh! Don’t tell me that or it will ruin my whole ‘back to the 1900’s experience)

Good thing of the day: Grateful for the things I’ve taken for granted and I’m learning to develop a more resourceful mind so that I can do a lot with a little.

20/04/2014: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

I was having a ‘search-for-the-random-song-playing-in-my-head’ moment when I came across this advert on YouTube. I usually skip the adverts as much as possible but this one caught my eye and I had to watch it in full:

Dove have recently launched the ‘Real Beauty Sketches‘ campaign to show women that ‘You are more beautiful than you think‘ .

I know that this is a beauty brand, so there is going to be some element of selling here, but even so, the fact that they would create an advert like this, is amazing. I love these types of campaigns regardless of the underlying advertising, because I know that even if it only happens to one person, somebody could be touched and their outlook on life changed forever.

It was fascinating to see just how different the images that were created from the women’s own descriptions of themselves were, compared to those created from another person’s description. Dove’s research found that ‘only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful‘. This is such as tiny percentage!

Intent focus on all the negatives, rather than habitual celebration of all the positive aspects of yourself, can really affect your outlook on life, including: your attitude, the way you carry yourself and the way you interact with others. The opinion’s of others, magazines, the media and the value that society or culture places on certain looks and attributes can be damaging to one’s self-esteem if you don’t meet all the criteria. We then put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to conform to that image, instead of appreciating what is good about ourselves and the uniqueness we have to offer. This campaign was really eye-opening. How do you see yourself? What do you focus on? What image would you have had drawn?

Personally, I haven’t really had too much of an issue with my appearance – I’m not a model but I think I’m attractive enough. Yes, there are areas I could improve, but I’m not hung up on them as I know that despite my flaws (of which there are many!) I have good features too and so does everyone else. I know that this type of thinking can be hard for many, many people and it can be a battle getting to that point (I’m quite sure that were it not for the positive people around me who have always taught me to appreciate my good qualities, I may not be here either – I mean, there was that period where I hated my legs…but now I love I’m ok with them!). Through my constant observation of people (a daily commute has its uses!) I have found that when you look at another person, you’re more likely to notice and focus on their perfections – that great smile or those lovely eyes – and glance over their flaws. If this is what you do, wouldn’t it be the same for others?

Flaws are there, there’s no denying it, and some people’s flaws are more prominent than others. However, when you look at a person, although you may take note of their flaws, those flaws diminish in comparison to their beauty especially if the person is confident and shining (from within).

One person I love to watch and hear from is Nick Vujicic (watch his story here). He is a man of character with a great personality and good looks (also recently married and had his first child). If he can live with confidence, charisma and no arms and legs, then why do we let things get us down?

We should not let others validate us but should do so ourselves, even if we have to do it a little at a time. Challenge: Each day this week look for one thing you like about yourself and celebrate it!

So, the next time you start to be down on yourself or get hung up with your flaws, remember the Dove advert and remember that other people don’t see you that way. Observe yourself through ‘beauty goggles’ – find your good points and highlight those. You are more beautiful than you think.

Also, here’s another little commercial to tickle your noggin’: ‘Fotoshop by Adobe’

(Please note this is not a real commercial) “This commercial isn’t real, neither are society’s standards of beautyJesse Rosten, creator of ‘Fotoshop by Adobe’.

What do you think of the Dove advert? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Good thing of the day: Spontaneous catch up with old friends. Always the best!