Using Our Talents & Interests to Live Our Best Life


To live a happy, fulfilled life at home and at work, we need to have something which absorbs us makes us feel complete. Something we can turn to, which fills any little ‘gaps’ in our lives. Something which fills us with joy and makes us lose track of time when we are busy at ‘it’. Something which, at times, fills our life with passion.

This ‘something’ usually comes in the shape of our TALENTS. It has been proven time and time again, in order to feel complete, we need to use the talents we have been given.

‘Talented people’ are often seen as rare and exotic, but with constant dedication and practice, the rest of us can at times astound ourselves.

For many people their interest and talents show up in the form of music, writing, all forms of art, crafting, sports, gardening, education, technology, numbers, interior designing, dance, cookery, medicine, human resources or caring professions, psychology, architecture, bird-watching, fashion etc.

The list is wide, varied and endless — and some people are lucky enough to have talents in more than one area.

For many people, though, it’s not as easy to identify a talent. We might have asked ourselves at different times, “What do I want to with the rest of my life?” “What is my true talent or passion in life?” or “What do I need to feel more complete?”

Interestingly, we can be good and talented at something, and get some enjoyment from doing it, but don’t feel that absolute joy. It is well worth exploring our other interests to find the one that does spark our utmost joy, that takes us out of ourselves and makes time fly. That intense feeling which takes our life to a whole other level.

This can be a passion that reaches the unbelievable heights of the great artists, or, more commonly, it can be something that that adds pleasure, satisfaction and contentment to every day. For some that might be mastering a new knitting pattern or completing a painting or planting a new area of the garden. All are equally valid in the sense of satisfaction and pleasure that they add to our own day and our own individual lives.

Spending time doing something we love is also very good for our mental health, and this topic is something we will go into in more detail in another blog post.

Many hugely successful people when asked what drives them in life, often say they were naturally drawn to something from an early age, which ended up being their life’s passion. There were clear indicators that they had a natural talent in that area, which parents, teachers and other people may have noticed. The more their interest in that area grew, and the more they practiced, they found it grew into something that totally absorbed them and that they ultimately became passionate about.

Some people discover talents later in life. They might try something new as a hobby at weekends when working, or take up a new activity when they retire. I know people who have become excellent artists after retirement and others who got great joy from learning to lay an instrument. We can learn new talents at any stage in life.


Discovering my Writing Talent

For me, writing was a great interest from a young age. Almost as soon as I could read, I started to imagine my own ideas for stories. When I became old enough to understand comics such as Bunty and Judy which had weekly serial stories, I would write my own version of what I thought would happen in the next edition. When a book was finished, I would spend ages imagining what happened to the characters after the author wrote The End.

At school, I loved writing short stories and essays, which served me well for English exams, as it took little effort to come up with something imaginative on the spot. I also won several prizes for essays, so it seemed my talent there was validated and I enjoyed it more than anything else. However, it never occurred to me that I could be an actual writer as I had no role models, and fiction novelists were not on the list of careers suggested by our school teachers. It seemed to be a remote, exotic lifestyle for authors like Enid Blyton whose characters owned islands with caves and made lemonade from real lemons, and did not sound like anyone I came across in the West of Scotland.

My burning ambition however, was to become a school teacher, which I happily did for 30+ years — and nothing would have swerved me away from it. Looking back, I had a great interest in the mechanics of reading and language, and also in history and integrated project work, and the teaching world combined all these. Most of the time I was absorbed in what I was teaching (and on occasions learning for myself at the same time!) and felt passionate about imparting that knowledge to my students.

It was when I was almost 40 that I came back to focus on my early interest in writing, and I joined a writing group. I loved writing pieces to bring in every week, and when I was working on them, the time flew as I was totally, passionately absorbed in it! This was a revelation to me, and I knew that I had found something that ‘completed me’ in a way nothing else had. Teaching, I loved, but most of the time it was about giving, whilst writing was about learning and receiving something for myself.

I started entering short story competitions and when I won a local then a national competition, I got the courage to move on to writing novels. After I was published, I was still absorbed in my teaching career and continued working in both those fields for around ten years. I also derived a great sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from both careers simultaneously.

For various reasons (mainly ageing and leaving space for a younger, more energetic teacher, which I once was!) the time came to retire from teaching, and that decision was made all the easier knowing I had my writing to fill any gaps I felt from leaving that long career.

As it happened, I discovered that my writing time expanded to fill any spare time I had, alongside other equally enjoyable and important areas in life such as family time, travelling, art, meeting up with friends, fashion etc etc. Interestingly, my first career in teaching has come full circle again — although narrowed down to one area — as I often give talks and workshops on writing.

I have a list of diverse interests and ambitions I still want to fulfill, places I want to see, things I want to experience — amongst them a Dawn Chorus Walk, a weekend in Brighton and the Chelsea Flower Show which always seem to come at the wrong time for me.

More than one Talent or Life Interest:

If we are lucky, we can easily have more than one interest or passion in life. There are plenty examples of multi-talented people in the public eyes such as Ronnie Wood with his second career as an artist, and David Walliams a best-selling author. It’s all about juggling the time to pursue as many passionate interests as possible.

We can’t have enough of the good things in life!

A point worth mentioning — we are often told that the ideal situation is to find a way to use our talents to make a living. That we should spend all our working hours doing only what we love. Whilst that would be wonderful living off the earnings from our talent it is not always viable for many reasons, and mortgages and bills still have to be paid. Believing that doing what you love is always followed by payment, can make us feel we have failed or somehow not measured up to the mark.

I have enjoyed many aspects of writing (and several years!) which were unpaid or voluntary.

It can also put a monetary value on the most important thing in life and something which cannot be bought — happiness! Just like love, we should be grateful to experience it. Life is meant to be enjoyed whether we are making money from our talents or not. Find what you love and do it as often as you can, and your time will be well spent.

At the end of the day, going to bed feeling contented and happy is the greatest gift of all!

Two takes on the same theme. Joint motivational blog for success at work and home by author Geraldine O’Neill and HR Consultant Anne Scally.