“I get up every morning, and I look forward to helping people get into the right frame of mind so they can shine, no matter where they go or what they do. When I do that, I’m happy.” (Dr. Shine, from the book Shine by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell).
Wow, wouldn’t it be great to look forward to getting up and going to work every day? Well, this is the exact feeling you would have if you are using your strengths at work. You see, one of the hallmark features of strengths is that using them energises and inspires you, but also elevates those around you. So it makes sense that research shows that the people using their strengths at work are most likely the ones who are smiling. Quite simply, using your strengths makes you happy!
Dr. Hallowell in his book Shine recognises that selecting jobs to match a person’s strengths is the first pivotal step in getting people’s hearts and minds to light up. He likens working in the wrong job to marrying the wrong person – “it will involve lots of hard work but few happy days.”
So why do people select jobs where they are not using their strengths, and as a result make them feel unhappy and unfulfilled? It could be the attraction of prestige, pay, security, perks or peer pressure. However these are all external motivations driven by logical thoughts that “these will make me happy”. Unfortunately though their rewards are short lived, and in the process of pursuing these things we lose touch with the warm and wonderful feelings that come with doing things that are true to you – that are your authentic gifts and talents – your strengths.
So, the key step in being happy at work is selecting the work, or modifying it where possible to utilise your strengths.
“You have to find where you passion is (and) you should go do that because if you don’t, you’re going to be miserable. You have to find out what it is and then do it.” David Neeleman (founder of JetBlue Airways, as quoted in Shine p.48)
So how do we find out what our strengths are? Unfortunately we all don’t have access to the wonderful Dr. Shine, and we are not all blessed with enlightened managers who will help us find them. But the great news is there are plenty of tools out there that you can use that are reputable, effective and completely free of charge.
Something For You To Try
Take some time to begin the process of identifying your strengths. Here are two ideas but there will be many more to come. The message for you is to try whichever ones sit well, and feel right for you.
- Stop and Feel – We are so often told to stop and think about our work and our careers. But to find our strengths we need to stop and feel. For one week keep a journal about things that you did at work that made you feel energised and uplifted. Likewise, note those things that that made you feel heavy, and dull. This will help you to begin to identify those things you are both passionate about and like doing.
- Take a strengths questionnaire. There are many of these, but a great starting point is the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. This survey will take about ½ hour. You rate yourself against the 24 strengths of the survey to end up with a list of five signature strengths – those to pay attention to and find ways to use more often. Here is the link: www.viacharacter.org/SURVEYS.aspx. A great complement to the VIA questionnaire is the Authentic Happiness book by Martin Seligman. This will help you understand your strengths in greater detail.
If you do try any of these things, please let me know how they went. All feedback is very much appreciated.
- The Foundations of Happiness – www.howtobehappyatwork.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/the-foundations-of-happiness
- What does happiness feel like? – www.howtobehappyatwork.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/what-does-happiness-feel-like
- Dr. Shine – www.howtobehappyatwork.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/an-inspiration-dr-shine