Use and Improve Your Abilities

Each of us has unique skills and abilities to contribute to humanity. Despite knowing this, it can be difficult to realize what those skills are and how to use them well. Whether you’re a numbers whiz, you do embroidery, or you excel socially, there are ways to put your skills to use and improve them along the way!


Realizing Your Skills

  1. Recognize your skills. You can have many types of skills and not even know it. Skills aren’t just knowledge, but are ways of relating to information and people. Skill types can include technical, transferable, and personal skills.[1] Technical skills are the “how-to’s”, such as fixing or creating things, and administering or following protocols, such as being a mechanic, nurse, artist, or racecar driver. Transferable skills are skills that can help in many situations, such as organization, customer service, teamwork, and leadership, and can be helpful across many professions or activities. Personal skills include being reliable, having initiative, listening to your gut/intuition, and being self-motivated.[1]
    • Reflect on your skills and recognize that you have many skills. Remember how your skills have helped you in the past (like planning a wedding or doing well in interviews) and brainstorm ways to use your skills in the future.
  2. Reflect on what makes you happy. There’s no use using and improving skills you don’t enjoy. Even if you have skills you excel in, don’t waste your time doing things that you don’t find fun. Remember that money cannot buy happiness.[2] Instead, think about things that make you happy.
    • Perhaps you get along with everyone, are naturally charismatic, and love to make friends. You may want to work in sales or do activities that involve lots of people, like coordinating volunteer opportunities. Or perhaps you enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together. Maybe you want to be a mechanic or have a hobby fixing old toys. These are skills you can use! By knowing what makes you happy, you can pursue areas in your life to activate your skills and be happy while doing it.
  3. Create goals. People who are goal-oriented tend to be happier and achieve more.[3] Think about what you want to develop and what fuels you to want to improve these skills. When creating goals, make sure they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timely.[4]
    • If your goal is to run, make it more specific by determining to run your first half marathon. Avoid general goals and be as specific as possible.
    • Make your goal measurable by setting dates and creating a timeframe. Pick a half marathon race in the future that will allow you to train and prepare for the race. Then create a training plan.
    • An achievable goal is one that challenges you, but is still within your grasp. Being the first person on Mars may be a bit of a stretch, but learning how to ride a motorcycle may be doable, even if you feel fearful.
    • By focusing on the result, you can stay motivated throughout the process. Think about the benefits of meeting your goal, and focus on the outcome of this goal.
    • A timely goal has an end date in mind. Instead of “I will hike”, a time-bound goal has an end date in mind, creating some sense of urgency, such as “I will hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos by August 16.”
    • For more information about goal setting, check out How to Set Goals.
  4. Pursue an education. A formal university education is well-respected by many and serves to give credibility in many fields. If you’d like to use and improve your skills in engineering, computers, foreign language, psychology, etc., obtaining formal education is a beneficial route to take, especially if you’d like to hold a job in one of these fields.
    • If you’re interested in pursuing knowledge and not a career, community colleges offer more affordable options and offer classes for many interests.
    • You can apprentice someone to learn specialized skills. You may want to be surf instructor but not know how to teach surfing. By apprenticing a surf teacher, you can learn the skills to teach.
  5. Make friends/network. Networking can be a beneficial business and personal skill. By having a network, you open yourself up to information, people, and power.[5] Find ways to meet other people in your field of interest, whether it be events, social media, or through friends of friends.
    • Join interest clubs or professional societies to help you meet people with similar interests or career paths.
    • Take advantage of any opportunity to meet others who share your interest. Ask them questions about how they improved their skills, how they achieved success, and any things to avoid or re-consider.
    • If you want to learn a skill, such as welding, take a class. A class offers an environment to meet other people with similar interests, and it may open doors to pursue more ways to improve this skill.

Using Your Skills

  1. Utilize your resources. You may love to sing, but be unsure how to use that skill. Maybe you are interested in writing but can’t seem to find a way to engage this skill. Connect with people who may be able to help you find ways to use your skills. Ask friends, family, co-workers, and people your spiritual community about ways to open up your skills. Some community colleges offer career aptitude tests. While you may (or may not) use it to work toward your career, these tests can help you define your strengths and weaknesses.
    • By asking around, you may find that your church would love for you to sing at services. You may find that you can write for your local newspaper or submit stories for local publications. Don’t be afraid to ask!
  2. Transfer your abilities. Perhaps you want to change careers but fear not having experience in the new field. Maybe you want to head back to work after being a stay-at-home mom, but feel like you have nothing to offer. Think about what skills you do have, and hype those skills up! For instance, a stay-at-home mom may have excellent organization skills, time management skills, taking charge, remaining calm under pressure, and the ability to multi-task.[6] You can always learn knowledge, but value the skills you have and make them known!
    • Practice the role tree exercise: Think about the roles you currently have in your life or have previously had, and write the skills that go along with those roles. See which skills overlap, which are most enjoyable, and which skills aid you the most in moving forward.[7]
  3. Volunteer. One way to use your skills is through volunteering. Lots of great non-government organizations exist that do good for the community. Volunteering is an excellent way to discover your skills, too! Additionally, volunteering connects you with other people and can advance your skills. Volunteering is good for your mind and body, giving you a sense of purpose and increasing confidence.[8]
    • Start volunteering at an animal shelter. You may realize you love working with animals.
    • Some people volunteer with at-risk children and recognize a passion to help these kids succeed.
    • Maybe you are interested in behind-the-scenes work, and choose to volunteer as a light and sound manager of a local play.
  4. Contribute to your community. In addition to volunteering, being an active participant in your community can be fulfilling and useful.[8] You can work or volunteer for your community center, serve on local government, or participate in a church or religious setting, based on the skills you want to use or develop.
    • If you love design, create flyers for the community center; if you love singing, sing at your church. There are lots of ways to use your skills!
  5. Pursue a career. If you are passionate and want to surround your life with your favorite activity, make a career out of it. Many artists know that the artist’s lifestyle can be difficult, but choose to pursue it anyway because they cannot imagine doing anything else. Once your livelihood depends on using and improving your skills, you may find new ways to approach problems and different ways to creatively use your skills.
    • If you’re creative, pursue a career in acting, singing, dancing, or art. Or if you love working with your hands, consider becoming an electrician or builder. If you love flowers, become a florist.

Improving Your Skills

  1. Engage in leadership. Pursue opportunities to lead using your skills. Being a leader creates value in the skills you’ve developed and authority in your knowledge and experience. If people look up to you as a leader, they may expect you to be an expert, to make decisions, and to handle difficult situations. Having these roles can help you approach things in different ways and consider things in a new perspective.[9] If you have an idea, don’t wait for someone else to step up, go do it!
    • Offer to oversee volunteer opportunities or organize a toy drive for children. You can step up at work and take on additional responsibilities or create new programs.
  2. Be a mentor. Mentoring someone else who shares your interests is a great way to approach your interests in a new way. You now have a role as a teacher and guide, which means you have opportunities to creatively approach learning in new ways.[9]
    • Knowing that others are watching you or looking up to you can push you to do great work.
  3. Engage in some friendly competition. Feeling competitive is both natural and healthy. Competition can also help us grow.[10] Engage in some friendly competition with someone else who shares your skills.
    • Compete to sell the most paintings in a month or create the most original designs.
    • Find a business competitor and ask if there’s interest for a short-term competition.
  4. Balance criticism. It’s easy to forget all the overwhelming positive feedback when you receive one negative comment. Keep in mind your passion for using your skills, and keep trying. Approach criticism as constructive, listen to what is said, don’t be defensive, and realize that failure always accompanies risk.[11]
    • Realize that sometimes people are just mean. Take negative feedback with a grain of salt, see what can be improved, and move on.
  5. Join an organization. This can be a great way to network and to keep up-to-date in your field. Whether it’s a professional organization or a hobby convention, joining with other people in a formal setting can help you improve your skills or keep them sharp.
    • Attend workshops or lectures provided by the organization. Immerse yourself with the culture.
  6. Be persistent. You may experience temporary lulls in productivity, or feel like your work has become stagnant. Don’t give up. Find creative ways to approach your difficulties, then keep going. Do it, master it, then improve it.

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Sources and Citations