Our Unknown Skill Sets: How to Discover Your Thinking Talents

thinking talentsIt’s been shown time and again that as a species, our attention is continually directed toward what is wrong with ourselves and others, rather than what’s right. Most people can immediately rattle off a laundry list of everything that’s wrong with them, but they struggle to identify the positive attributes and the value of their hidden thinking talents.

What are “thinking” talents? Those are the talents and skills you might not know you have until you really think about it!

With self-criticism as the norm, identifying and placing a value on your hidden talents can admittedly be a huge challenge.

For instance, a client of mine recently discovered that humor was a strong talent of his. But then shrugged and said, “What good is humor, and what’s it got to do with my capabilities anyhow? People think I’m a wise-ass. Humor just gets in the way.”

I had to paint the picture of how his consistent use of humor was a leadership quality. I pointed out that led to exceptional morale amongst his team, even in a challenging business environment.

How to Discover Your Thinking Talents

So what is one of the simplest ways to discover your thinking talents?

Look at your shadow side. You know, the often-criticized, and untrained aspects that characteristically show up in an un-constructive way. This happens quite often, especially when a person is stressed or challenged. For example:

  • “I am always so uptight about details!”
  • “There I go again, being co-dependent.”

When the shadow attribute is recognized, you can learn to work with it. You can polish and adjust it the way you would a rough diamond. Finally, you’ll allow the light to shine through.

Consider these examples:

  • Sarah was told since childhood that she was impatient. She finally discovered that what was driving her was the thinking talent of Get to Action, used in excess.
  • For years, Josh thought of himself as a loner. Then, he discovered that, in fact, his behavior was driven by the talent of Thinking Alone.
  • Grace always adored being the center of attention at the office, but her friends described her as narcissistic. In fact, the thinking talent driving her behavior was Standing Out. Which, when used well, won her several salesperson of the year awards.

All good examples of criticism turned to a positive attribute. And all it tool was a little thinking.

A Walk on the Shadow Side

What about yours? Look at the list of shadow attributes below that correspond to each of the thinking talents and consider which apply to you.


thinking talents


To transform a shadow attribute and use it positively, you need to name it, contain it, and aim it. Name it by identifying the thinking talent that it’s associated with; contain it by using it knowingly and wisely; aim it by engaging it on behalf of your goals. Repeat this practice with each of your shadow attributes, and you’ll identify your own thinking talent.

Every thinking talent also represents a particular need. When it is unmet, you can feel frustrated and misunderstood. When that need is recognized, the talent’s potential can be realized and contribute to your understanding.

My client Sheena, whose talent is Optimism, was trying to deal with a pessimistic new co-worker named Paul. She had been trying to cheer him up every morning before team meetings. But she was draining all her energy trying to buoy someone who likely needed another kind of mentoring. I helped her recognize that her optimism needed to be valued. So, she asked another team member to talk through Paul’s concerns and help him evaluate them.

For Future Consideration

Understanding what you actually need can be liberating and exhilarating. In the future, if you have a breakthrough or an experience that makes you feel fully alive, take a minute and reflect on which of your thinking talents you have just used. Pay attention how these different talents show up for you in different domains of your life—work, exercise, family, interests.

This increased awareness will help you better engage each thinking talent when you are relating to someone who thinks differently than you.


For this post, we’d like to thank our friends at Levo.





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