What do you really love to do? I mean REALLY love?

If you’re anything like me, that question provokes thoughts, not necessarily of roles or positions, but of specific moments. Moments in time where you felt alive. Experiences that you would love to relive again. Tasks where time seemed nonexistent. Hours past as minutes.

This is an idea that I’m processing currently. Most of the time people introduce ideas once they are solidified in their mind. That’s not the case here. I’m still marinating, but here is where I am (at least right now…).

The strengths movement ushered in by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton has brought questions like this to the surface more now than ever. It’s an important question for us each to answer. Finding our sweet spot makes us both happier and more productive, which benefits both our organization and us. We should be more successful working out of something we love. Eventually, we might even find the perfect seat on Jim Collin’s Good to Great bus. Feels like we are building to an inspirational “never work another day in your life” quote, huh?

But how do you discover what you really love to do? Most people consider positions, roles, or jobs they enjoyed, but what you LOVE to do might not necessarily be defined by a position, role, or job. Obviously, this can make identifying your sweet spot difficult. When we attempt to define what we love to do by only evaluating roles we’ve had in the past, we can miss out on great opportunities that may come in the future. We become narrowly focused. Industry focused. Job-type focused.

Here is an example from my own life:

I love preaching. The Sunday’s I preach are always highlight Sunday’s for me. I wake up more excited. I’m actually excited all week. I feel better — mentally and physically. My wit is quicker. I’m sharper. More focused. AND… people seem to enjoy me preaching. Our church consistently comments positively on my preaching and asks when I’m preaching again (we’re primarily a video venue, hence I only preach about 12-15 times a year). So it would be easy for me to believe a seat on a preaching bus is one of my unique abilities. Therefore, it would be logical to conclude the next step in my career is to leave the role of Campus Pastor and take on a Teaching Pastor or Senior Pastor role. After all, that’s what I love to do.

But, what if my unique ability isn’t to preach? What if preaching is only an execution of an ability, and the ability is what makes me unique (i.e., not the preaching – execution of skill vs. skill itself). My point: It stands to reason identifying the skill, ability, and passion below the surface of the task might uncover what we really LOVE to do even more than the task itself.

Back to my example. After much introspection, I’ve learned what I love more than anything is finding creative solutions to problems. I’ve always been drawn toward creative endeavors. I was even voted “Most Creative” in high school. I was a newspaper cartoonist in college. And now I love preaching. What’s the common thread? Not a specific role or industry (obviously), but a passion, skill, and unique ability: Creative problem solver. Problem solving is ultimately what preaching is about. Great preachers are able to take Scripture, evaluate, analyze, and discover interesting angles, and wrap it around an easy, yet powerful application. Do you know what that takes? The skill of problem solving. Sure, it takes other skills and even some education, but at the core of great preaching is great problem solving.

In hindsight, problem solving is something that I’ve always loved. I worked in the marketplace as a business consultant for a decade before ministry. My first church staff position was running a middle school ministry in a church plant, which was a problem to solve. My first lead pastor role was at Watermarke Church (where I serve now), a church in need of a significant turn-around. Another massive problem to solve. I often spend time now with church leaders talking shop and helping them solve their problems. I love it! Every position in my life, from cartoonist to consultant to church cultural architect, has been based on one thing: creative problem solving.

What I’ve learned is when it comes to discovering unique abilities, skills, and passions, we can’t only pay attention to jobs we loved. Jobs are executions of what God has uniquely made us to do. It’s the skills that made us successful in those jobs. And discovering our underlying abilities opens up a wealth of possible (job, role, position) opportunities.

How do you identify the unique you hiding behind your non-unique job? Start the way I did: Introspection, questions, and attention.


1. What do I LOVE to do?

Start broad. When do I lose track of time? What have been my favorite jobs? Most of us start here, but most of us end here, as well. This is a necessary starting place, but if this is the only question we ask ourselves, we will not discover our underlying unique abilities.

Write down your answers. Be as specific as you can. But then ask…

2. WHY do I love to do it?

What is the real driving force behind this passion? The success? What was it about that job or task that fueled and filled me? Under every job is an innate ability, and identifying the core ability is important.

3. What are the common threads?

Are there any specific skills or abilities that have made me successful in different jobs, roles, or even careers? This is key. Most of us have been successful in different jobs, with many of them being very diverse, and there is often a common thread.

For example: What does having a successful syndicated cartoon, consulting position, business, middle school ministry, and now church have in common? On the surface, nothing, but digging deeper… creative problem solving!


1. What makes me awesome?

This is one of the most awkward and rewarding questions you will ever ask. And if you’re a “words of affirmation” persons, you’ll love it!

This question helps unearth what we often can’t see ourselves. Recently, our Leadership Team at Watermarke asked our peers, direct reports, and boss this exact question. The question was a little awkward, but the feedback was priceless.

Ask the people around you what makes you awesome, then get your pen and just listen. You are awesome at something – it’s time you learned what.

2. Pay attention to compliments.

This might be the best advice on discovering unique abilities I’ve ever received. We often blow off complements and pay deep attention to critiques. But paying attention to compliments is a GREAT way to discover what makes you uniquely you. Of course, you’ll need to listen for a while (and your mom’s answer doesn’t count), but over time, compliments will trend and you will learn a ton.

Imagine the possibilities that could open to us all if we could identify what truly makes us unique rather than sticking with jobs and industries where we have seen some success?

What makes you unique? Even better, what makes you awesome? That’s an answer worth receiving and embracing!

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