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?!

 

Newsletters

Every couple of weeks, I share short and sweet tips and insights from my work as a leadership & career coach and a student of positive and coaching psychology, as well as exclusive special offers on my products.

If you’d like to subscribe to receive all future newsletters, please click here and you’ll receive a gift from me5 Simple Ways to Integrate Positivity into your Work Day. Otherwise here are previous newsletters for you to enjoy and benefit from!

 

 

March 2019

Productivity, focus and authentic happiness

February 2019

Spotlight on positive emotions

January 2019

Highlights, boosting strengths and positive futures

December 2018

My best self, more optimism and finishing 2018 on a very positive note

November 2018

Your best self, optimism and doing more of what you love at work

Successes, more strengths and a positive psychology exercise for you

October 2018

Innovation, engagement and gratitude

Kindness, excitement and a special offer

September 2018

More habits, more strengths, a celebration and a gift

R U OK, bad habits and 3 good things

August 2018

Positive Psychology, personal branding and nap pods

July 2018

Values, good deeds and celebrations

June 2018

Strengths, intuition and little brothers

Positively thriving at work

 

My experience with 2 positive psychology interventions

As my coaching is based on positive psychology, I often assign positive psychology interventions (PPIs) to my clients. They are science-based exercises that I use to support my clients to use their positive emotions and strengths to improve their wellbeing.

I’ve just finalised my uni module – Perspectives on Wellbeing – and my task for the assessment was to measure aspects of my wellbeing, try 2 different PPIs to see for myself how they work, then when appropriate, measure the aspects again afterwards to see if there has been any impact after the intervention.

So, to help you better understand how it is to actually do a PPI, I thought to share with you the experiences that I had.

‘Best Possible Self’ (BPS) PPI

The intervention
Simply plan some quiet time and think about your life over the next 5 years. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of all of your life dreams. 
 
Now spend 15-20 minutes writing about what you imagined, for 4 days in a row.

My experiences
I have already experienced visualising my preferred future, and therefore found this intervention pretty straightforward. I did however find it challenging to do the exercise without any clear structure or detailed instructions, so I found that I had to set my own structure – I set my visualisation to be for in 5 year’s time and main themes of content did emerge eg. work, family, study, etc. 
 
After completing the intervention, the aspects of my life which are most important to me were very obvious and a natural prioritisation of actions I can take to meet my goals also became clear. I noticed that my mood was much more positive, which lasted a couple of weeks! And I felt overall much happier. I also started to see my challenges with a more positive and hopeful perspective and as a result have felt an increase in my optimism. 
 
To prove the positive impact, I had measured my optimism levels before and after the intervention on a research-based scale, and my score had more than doubled after the 4thday!
 
So because of these really positive results, that only require a relatively small time investment, this is definitely an intervention that I’ll repeat when I feel that my optimism levels are getting a little low.

‘Boost a Lower Strength’ PPI

The intervention
Start with doing the VIA Character Strengths assessment, choose one of your lower strengths that you feel you’d enjoy to work on, think about 7 different activities you can do over a week to boost it (the VIA website has some good tips to get you started), and get going! I’d advise you to journal about the effects to capture the positive changes. 

My experiences
 If you’ve been reading my newsletters or you are one of clients you’ll know how important I believe it is to be working with our strengths! Actually using the VIA Character Strengths assessment and developing specific strategies to utilise strengths is what I recommend for all of my clients because it can result in: increased happiness; improved physical health; reduced depression; reduced stress levels; goal attainment and academic accomplishment; increased productivity and engagement at work; etc…. So many wonderful and scientifically proven benefits of working with our strengths. 
 
For this assessment I chose the character strength of zest, which is defined by Niemiec as “vitality, energy, vigor, enthusiasm for life” and is “a dynamic strength that is directly related to physical and psychological wellness. This strength has the strongest ties to overall life satisfaction and a life of engagement.” (VIA website)
 
The PPI is simply to apply a lower strength in a different way each day for a week. This intervention challenged me to consider what zest meant to me, and how I can best apply it in a way that benefits me and suits my lifestyle. I therefore planned a few days of exercise activities that I hadn’t tried before (yoga, longer and more complicated HIIT sessions) as well as attending an Oktoberfest party, cooking, and taking a midday nap (yes, a nap has been shown to increase vitality!).
 
I found this PPI attractive as it is simple, requires creativity to select the actions to be completed and can be applied to any of the lower strengths. This simplicity and flexibility also makes it attractive to use with clients, which I propose when it’s appropriate for the individual. 
 
I very much enjoyed this PPI, and I appreciated the accountability it gave me to persist in doing something with zest each day, as I have observed in winter that I can experience a low mood and tend to avoid doing activities that increase my energy. After the week, I noticed that I had much more energy, felt more vital and I even wore coloured clothes more often. I also felt I could concentrate better, I was more positive and capable of handling my challenges. In terms of relationships, I felt more appreciated, connected to others and more willing to be social. I also felt my self-esteem improved. Sounds pretty good, right?! These boosts to my wellbeing are reflected in research that has already been conducted.
 
A very positive side effect of this week-long PPI is that it has now evolved into a consistent exercise programme. I still exercise most days of the week with high levels of motivation and I feel awful when I haven’t worked out! Which motivates me to be consistent. 

Overall impact of the PPIs

The combination of increasing my optimism from the first PPI and developing a lesser strength, has resulted in me feeling more positive, energetic and engaged in working towards my goals. In general, I feel like much more is possible in my life than just a few weeks ago.
 
Would you like to try these for yourself?

I’d love to hear about your experiences if you decide to do these PPIs, please don’t hesitate to share them with me!
 

 

What are positive psychology interventions, and how do I use them with my clients?

According to my lecturers from the University of East London, Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) are ‘theoretically-grounded and empirically-validated instructions, activities, and recommendations that are designed to enhance well-being’. So, they are essentially science-based exercises that practitioners, such as coaches or therapist, use with clients to support them to use their positive emotions and strengths to improve their wellbeing. They are usually simple to do and can be continued long after the coaching relationship has ended, as a kind of self-coaching practice.

Many wonderful benefits

Implementing PPIs has been shown by studies to improve:

  • wellbeing
  • happiness
  • performance
  • relationships
  • work outcomes
  • health

PPIs in practice

As I particularly focus on wellbeing with my clients and I apply evidence-based practices in my work, PPIs are an essential part of my coaching practice.

When starting to work with a new client, I always tell them that the more they put into their coaching, the more they will get out of it. And that I will therefore almost always give them ‘homework’ exercises to do between sessions to cement any new awareness they’ve gained, as well as to accelerate their progress towards their goals. Which I’ve found (until now, as long as I don’t use the word ’homework’!) that it’s very well accepted!

I choose the PPIs based on what my clients want to change – is it their optimism levels, overall mood or perhaps they want to improve an aspect of their performance at work. I’ll also consider their individual goals and preferred learning style and discuss my proposed PPI with them. After they’ve done the PPI exercise, we’ll debrief and they’ll share their learnings with me.

Try for yourself…

If you’re curious about trying out a PPI for yourself, why not try the ‘Best Possible Self’ exercise…

Simply plan some quiet time and think about your life over the next 5 years. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of all of your life dreams.
Now spend 15-20 minutes writing about what you imagined, for 4 days in a row.

Or of course please get in touch at hello@kellycampino.com and we can have a chat about it in a complimentary consultation.