Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do in life from the time they’re in diapers.
There are people who were always going to be doctors, people whose athletic skills destined them for the Big Leagues, people who always knew they wanted to study spiders, fish, the economy, etc.
If you’re over 30 and you still don’t know what you want to do “when you grow up,” here are a few tidbits to consider.
We all have aptitudes. These are inborn abilities that are never gained or lost — things we’re automatically good at without even trying.
Four examples of aptitudes are
- manual dexterity (think of Martha Stewart effortlessly decorating cupcakes)
- inductive reasoning (a boon to anyone who diagnoses anything, from doctors to plumbers to exterminators)
- visuo-spatial ability (high in folks who think parallel parking is fun)
- throwing parties (this is not really an aptitude; I’m just checking to see if you’re paying attention.)
There are many different aptitudes, and each of us has a unique (or nearly so) aptitude profile. Some people are high in this and low in that, others are the opposite, or high in both, or low in both, and there are many points along the various scales.
It seems to me that some of these inborn talents are easier to spot than others.
1. and 3. above, for example, could easily become obvious to anyone who’s paying attention to your strengths… especially if they know what to look for.
You’re naturally drawn to activities that utilize your aptitudes, so if you’re high in aptitudes 1. and 3., you’ll likely be into knitting or pottery or something that requires fiddling with your hands, and you’ll enjoy maneuvering vehicles, boxes, furniture and other objects through space.
But what if you’re very high in reasoning skills? That’s harder to spot, especially in children. Your mental gymnastics may be attributed to personality or general intelligence rather than a specific aptitude for reasoning.
So if you’re still not sure what you’re born to do, think about aptitudes with mental, rather than physical, manifestations. For example:
- Ideaphoria – the ability to generate many ideas in a short time
- Deductive reasoning – you can readily derive a conclusion that’s necessarily true from given facts
- Pattern (or design) memory – the ability to remember and recreate an image
- Memory for words and numbers – two different aptitudes, both useful in certain contexts
- Subjectivity/objectivity – do you think differently from other people (handy for problem-solving) or would you win at Family Feud because you think like the average person (useful in social occupations)?
The above list isn’t exhaustive. It’s just to give you an idea of what might be some of your hidden assets. How can you combine these with your interests to create work you love?
If you’re my age (29 forever) you probably already have a good idea what your aptitudes are. Still, you might enjoy having them tested. It’s expensive, but the good news is that since aptitudes don’t change throughout your lifespan, you only have to be tested once!
About Aptitude Testing
If “aptitude testing” takes place exclusively online, it’s not true aptitude testing. Do it in person to get the most accurate results.
I had my aptitudes tested by the oldest aptitude testing center in the country, the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF), in 2001 when I quit my job as a TV producer to pursue counseling and teaching.
The process was fun and easy, especially since there was nothing to study ahead of time, and no way to get a wrong answer. Strictly speaking, it’s aptitude assessing, not aptitude testing.
I discovered that I’m basically not-good in three dimensions. Fortunately, there’s a whole wide world of social and intellectual pursuits that don’t require me to master Zumba or fit large objects through narrow doorways.
I have no affiliation with the JOCRF and do not receive kickbacks for advertising for them. As a one-time customer, I recommend them highly if you want to get tested.
One more word about finding your passion…
If you find you have *too many aptitudes* (yes, this can be a problem), self-employment might satisfy you more than any job anyone could ever give you, especially if you have a good vocabulary. The latter is found to correlate with success in pretty much every field.
Here in Portland I teach a free class called Do the Work You Were Born to Do, in which I discuss aptitudes and how to marry them to interests to find or create work you love.
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