Using your character strengths to be more satisfied at work

I wanted to share with you a relatively easy way of feeling better at work. It’s simply by intelligently applying your character strengths – more effectively using what you naturally have within you! Let me explain a little more….

A quick look at character strengths
Character strengths are “positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings and behaviours” (Park et al., 2004) and are regarded as essential ingredients of a fulfilling and happy life (Peterson, 2006). The VIA Classification consists of 24 different character strengths, which we all have within us and can draw on to support us in all aspects of life. 
 
By implementing a character strengths approach, our main focus is on what’s right and what we do well, instead of spending time and energy ‘fixing’ our weaknesses, as studies have shown that this where we can experience the greatest positive impact. 
 
I work with the VIA Classification of character strengths as they are flexible, effective and impactful when professionally applied, and have been proven through many studies to contribute to flourishing. 

What are the benefits of applying character strengths at work?
When we consistently and intelligently apply our strengths at work, there’s evidence to show that we can experience improvements in:

  • job performance
  • productivity 
  • work satisfaction and meaningful work
  • employee engagement
  • job dedication 
  • interpersonal facilitation
  • performance ratings 

When I say intelligently, I mean that to really get the most benefit of applying your strengths, it’s important to know the best way in which to use them! For example to understand when to dial up a strength, such as bravery before a speech; or dial down a strength, for example creativity when you are required to closely follow processes. Or by seeking an evidence-based positive psychology intervention to develop your strengths in new and novel ways. 

So, which strengths are most impactful at work?

Numerous studies have found that when the character strengths of…

  • curiosity: “interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness to experience”
  • zest: “vitality, enthusiasm for life, vigour, energy, not doing things half-heartedly”
  • hope: “optimism, positive future-mindedness, expecting the best and working to achieve it”
  • gratitude: “thankful for the good, expressing thanks, feeling blessed”

… are consistently applied at work, then we can experience higher levels of satisfaction.
 
Here are some ideas of how you could apply each in the work setting:
 
Curiosity

  • ask ‘why’ questions more often, especially when making assumptions
  • be curious about a work task that you don’t like – find a new way to view it positively
  • challenge yourself to learn a new thing a day for a week

Zest

  • when you feel your energy lagging, instead of reaching for a sugary snack, get out and go for a short walk
  • express your energy and individuality by wearing colourful clothes
  • prepare yourself for new tasks at work by considering the positive aspects 

Hope

  • observe how hopeful colleagues overcome challenges
  • support someone who may be struggling by offering hopeful ideas and concrete actions they could take
  • set daily goals for what you’d like to achieve and identify 2-3 different ways you could reach these goals

Gratitude

  • explain why you are grateful to a colleague, either by what they have done or for a positive aspect of themselves and leave it on their desk in a note to surprise them
  • each evening, recall 3 good things that happened at work each day
  • start meetings by sharing successes

(Reference: Niemiec & McGrath, 2019; Niemiec, 2018: McQuaid & Lawn, 2014)
 
So, which of these 4 strengths will you be focusing on first?!

 

Why I do what I do: My journey to find work in which I can thrive

A few years ago, I was on the brink of a burnout.

… I was sick often and hadn’t been sleeping well for months.

… In the nights before work, it was not unusual for me to sleep for only 3-4 hours. I’d wake up and worry about everything.

… I was always depressed and anxious, often even the smallest worry would send me into a huge panic.

… I was unfocused and had lost all confidence in my abilities. This lack of confidence also impacted me outside work and I avoided social contact with friends.

(does any of this sound familiar?)

After failing to manage this on my own for months, I decided that I simply needed help and found a wonderful therapist. I had no idea how sick I was getting, but she assured me that we managed to catch my situation just before it descended into a full burnout, which would have taken months to recover from.

With therapy, I managed to pull myself out and develop strategies to prevent myself from getting to the brink of burnout again. And I never hesitate anymore to ask for help when I need it.

I also decided to share openly with my colleagues and friends what had happened. This was very hard! Mental health issues are still unfortunately seen as a weakness and I was already feeling so weak and a failure that I couldn’t manage the work I’d done for over 15 years!

Even though I’d never wish to go through this experience again, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons that have helped me both personally and professionally….

My 5 big lessons

  1. First, it does not need to get to the point of burnout in order to realise that something is wrong and needs to change. I know the warning signs and will take action when I need it. I will never hesitate to go back to therapy if needed, and I’m now always working with amazing coaches for different purposes and with their support can quite easily get unstuck and find new perspectives.
  2. The insights I’ve gained from coaching have helped me to see with absolute clarity that the work I was doing and the environment I was in were completely misaligned with my personality, strengths, values and interests. (In fact, my strengths were often criticised!). I was not living authentically! And now that I’ve reconnected with who I truly am, I make decisions so that I can live authentically every day.
  3. I learned through this process that living a life that is aligned with my values (one of which is authenticity) is not negotiable, it was critical for me to be open and honest about what I’d been going through. And I so absolutely didn’t want others to suffer like I did. If my story had just given one person awareness of the warning signs then it was absolutely worth me being vulnerable by sharing it. And I was so relieved and grateful to receive so much empathy and care (and hugs); but also very unnerved and very sad to hear about how many people had also suffered through something similar.
  4. Before I was able to find clarity with my therapist, it was very difficult to have a clearer perspective, more of a helicopter view, to see what was most important to me – my health and my family – not a job that made me fundamentally unhappy. I was so caught up in doing the ‘right’ thing, by being a good employee, pushing myself too hard, using the master degree that I had just completed and moving up the ladder in my long-standing career, that it completely clouded my view of what really matters.
  5. Another huge learning from my situation is that not all work situations and jobs are (always) suited for everyone (yes, even after 15 years in a career and recently completing a master degree in that field!)! Our passions, interests and life circumstances can change, and sometimes our work needs to change as a consequence. My husband shared an analogy with me at the time that a rabbit would thrive in a running race, but when in the water will never beat a fish! I was that rabbit in the water – I had no chance of thriving in my work environment.

So… I made the best (and only) decision possible. I left my well-paid career behind and retrained as a coach to help others who are also feeling unfulfilled and want more from their work.

So, this is my Why…

… My Why is to connect my clients back to who they truly are and support them to find jobs / careers and work environments that are aligned with their personality, strengths, values and interests… so that they can thrive at work.

I am a qualified & certified coach* and I use coaching and psychometric assessments to help my clients reconnect back with their authentic, true selves.

I now implement my natural strengths, personality, passion and interests every day in my work. I’m now the fish IN water! Exactly where I should be!

I’m committed to continuous learning to always be improving how I can support my clients. I’m working towards my MSc Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology (which I’m enjoying so much) to hone my coaching skills and help my clients integrate the latest evidence-based wellbeing practices to help them manage their feelings and stress.

Looking back on my experience, I can now see it with gratitude. I learned so so so much and have made many very positive changes as a result, including finding work that fundamentally helps others… which is totally aligned with my values, I absolutely love, and in which I can truly thrive.

How about you?

Have you experienced something similar?
Can you relate to the lessons I learned?
Is your work in alignment with your personal values?
What’s your Why?

*it is important to state that I’m not a therapist and I don’t work with serious mental health issues

 

Meaningful work: how clarifying your life purpose can lead to work you love

A client recently had a huge breakthrough in one of our sessions – she defined her life purpose. She said it was like fireworks going off!!!

Life purpose is essentially our why – it’s about who we are, our reason for being, the impact we have on our world – and why we do what we do. It may sound a little out there, but I can attest, that since I’ve worked out my purpose, making decisions has been much easier, as has finding the right work for me.

How to reveal your life purpose

Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to help work out what your life purpose is:

  • What’s been the main impact that you’ve had on people around you?
  • How have you contributed to your local community?
  • How have you helped others, and even changed their lives?
  • What’s your unique contribution to the world?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • Who do you really admire, and why?

To give you a little guidance, some examples are:

  • I ignite positive change in our world
  • I support others
  • I am a teacher of spiritual wisdom

A short disclaimer: this is not an easy task to achieve. I mean, it’s a pretty significant thing to understand why you exist! And the process can take some time, but it’s oh so worth it.

Connecting life purpose with meaningful work

Now that my client understands what we life purpose it, this knowledge will be like a guiding light to help her find a career with much more meaning than in the work she does now.

Over to you…

Does your work have meaning for you?
Is it aligned with your life purpose?
Do you know your life purpose?