GG: When I visited you last summer and you were so gracious to offer me bed and breakfast, etc. during my Idaho Signing Trip, I became aware you are possessed with more talents than the average person dreams of: You are an accomplished speaker (EFY, keynote presenter, workshop facilitator, etc.), you are a musical composer, arranger and piano recording artist, you sing (and have done so professionally), you are a published author with books targeted for youth, you are a weekly Meridian columnist, and you understand and use the cyber world for public relations and are able to teach others how to stage PR campaigns. You are a professional creativity consultant. I’m sure I’ve missed something. What is it?
C.S.: Well, for a time I did professional theater … and loved it, I might add. But truly the most meaningful activity of any has been to be a wife and a mother. THAT I’ve found to be the most challenging, yet rewarding experience of them all.
GG: How do you decide which gift to focus on with your limited time when you have three very active children?
C.S.: That "limited time" question is one we all face, isn’t it—for each child of God has unique talents and they are meant to be used. How do we then engage in the gifts God has given us, yet not short-change our family? I’ve struggled with this. There was a time when my kids were living off of pizza nightly. It had gotten so regular the Domino’s delivery boy knew my family and I had my 16-digit driver’s license number memorized to write those dinner checks!
I don’t think the answer to limited time comes easily. Yet I’ve discovered that if you’re NOT using your gifts, there is an inescapable awareness that travels incessantly with you. I really do believe we promised to do certain things once we arrived here on earth. I believe it is why we each have unique talents so we can first bless our family and then mankind.
For me now those “Domino days” are long gone. I wish they’d never existed. At one point, I chose to quit everything that didn’t pertain to my children. But I had a potent dream that showed me I was to focus on both family and talents. So I’ve since discovered the answer to “limited time” (for me, at least). I now “create” early in the morning before the demands of the day heat up. As a result, I feel a sense of peaceful “discharge” that lasts throughout each day. I’m able fully to focus on my children during the remaining hours and make far more nutritious meals. It has been a tremendously freeing experience!
You asked which gift I focus on and how do I figure that out? It’s usually determined by which deadline I face! But I’m learning to wrest some of that back into personal choice.
One of the other most impactful things I’ve done is to allow joy a presence in my life. I used to feel guilty when I felt joy. Call me whacked, but I struggled for some time to allow a lightness of spirit into my life, especially during the use of my talents. I think, though, there is a surprising amount of people who also struggle with this.
Yet the good news of the gospel really is in knowing Christ paid for us and that we are allowed to feel lightness of spirit. Joy usually comes while serving others. The more I’ve spent time reading my scriptures, the more 2 Nephi 2 (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/2/25#25) has hit home. It’s helped me realize God gives gifts SO we can serve others, whether that’s making a delicious chicken soup for someone ill or writing a transcendent symphony. It is urgent we each develop our own talents and use them to brighten an ever-darkening world. It is a truth: the world needs your talents to lift and renew hope.
GG: What is your favorite gift or talent?
C.S.: Wow, what delightfully tough questions! That’s akin to asking which child is the favorite? For me, though, I do love being able to create a mood in a room through my music. I love being able to weave a fabric of sound that moves in and through all present, making us one in the moment. I also love doing the same on stage as an actress, creating little segments of space that escape time’s clutches and live on for months, if not years. Yet I love presenting through either written word or keynote speeches, probably for the same reason. I guess in summary, each gift when used to broaden a life, or to enlarge hope, is the same: it’s being used to renew those who may have lost faith.
GG: How did you discover how gifted you were?
C.S.: Hmmm, I’m not sure if I can answer that. Simply for the reason I never felt I was gifted. I do remember singing at the top of my lungs when I was five while on a swing in my backyard. Pity the neighbors as I toyed with composing (at full voice) to express my feelings for the day! It was during that season in my life I discovered I expressed myself better through art than simply by living like other kids. I often felt lonely; losing myself through creating or reading the dictionary or writing radio plays brought comfort. I think it’s that early loneliness that helps me understand on a deep level the loneliness, longing, or “lostness” that others feel. The arts became my early playground, even while my friends were getting healthy by jumping from jungle gyms! But am I really gifted? Not sure about that. I sometimes think “gifted is as gifted does.” :0)
GG: What advice can you give other people about discovering their gifts/talents?
C.S.: Ahh, this is a subject I really love. I’ve always felt more “juice” helping others develop their gifts (no matter how latent or undiscovered) than helping myself. It is why I opened my consulting business at MakeYourLifeSomethingBeautiful.com. I just really thrill to help others discover their potential … to help them find why they’ve been sent to earth “for a time such as this”. In truth, it is precisely that phrase from Esther 4:14 http://scriptures.lds.org/en/esth/4/14#14 that drives me to do what I do when coaching other people. I want them to discover why they’ve been placed on this earth, at this time, in the family they have. There is a reason and I love helping others find it.
GG: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
C.S.: Yes, yes, yes! I wish I had understood several things MUCH earlier: that none of us are meant to replicate another’s talents or life. We are here to stand for who we uniquely are. I wish I’d understood I didn’t need to apologize for who I was. I wish I’d learned to love myself earlier. I wish I’d learned it is alright simply to be me and to create what *I* was meant to create, instead of feeling so lost. It’s why I now seek to help others find a short cut to their dreams. I took an awfully long way around!
GG: Once someone has discovered they have a particular ability, how do they go about developing it in this busy world? Do they have an obligation to try to do this?
C.S.: You ask such wise questions, GG! Discovering gifts is a multi-layered process. And that process is found in one word: DO. You must get out there and DO things to discover #1 where your joy is found, and #2 what interests you enough to keep working at it. One of my students discovered an immense talent with guitar. But as I told her, without effort her talent still would remain hidden.
One of the best indicators of a God-given gift is the feeling of joy. Do you feel joyful doing it? Do you feel a sense of time fading away during the activity? If so, you may very well have found an activity that is your “Esther 4:14” purpose (or at least one of them).
As to whether or not people have an obligation to develop and use their talents to bless others, this is between each person and God. But can you imagine returning home to those heavenly halls, not having used one gift to uplift another during your sojourn on this earth? Esther experienced a newly found gift of courage; what will yours or any of ours be? We can only know by seeking.
I think therein lies the answer whether or not to get busy—in balanced fashion—discovering, developing and using talents. When we move into the higher mode expressed in the thought, “Each One Reach One,” I feel this is when the true essence of 2 Nephi 2:25 is discovered.
Editor’s Note:. To learn more how you too can develop your unique set of gifts, visit http://www.MakeYourLifeSomethingBeautiful.com.