Find your strengths, put them to work and you are going to be happier, more motivated and increase your performance.
Too many people hate their jobs, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a problem. Even if you quite like your role, there is always room for improvement. You spend most of your day at work, you chose a career, and you should enjoy it not just work to pay the bills. Of course, paying the bills is important but what if I told you, that it is possible to enjoy what you do to make a living? Sounds unbelievable? It’s not. There is a way you can make work a little bit easier and more enjoyable, which will work even if you already love what you do.
Can you name your strengths? People usually struggle, we can’t help it, most of us think it’s an arrogant thing to do. But you should not be modest in this case. In August I took part in the 2015 Strengths Challenge designed to help people develop their strengths. It’s based on positive psychology so the focus is on personal growth and development, rather than finding and fixing ‘failures’. Everybody is a unique character and has different interests, skills, and of course, strengths. The key to living a happy work-life is to find things you are good at, those qualities that are distinctive to the individual, and use them. There are scientifically proven benefits of putting your strengths to work, here are 5 from the official site of the Challenge:By strengths we mean something you are good at and enjoy. This description is from Michelle McQuaid’s book, Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized and Happy at Work. She and her team are the developers of the 2015 Strengths Challenge. You can have different kind of strengths, these could be good skills, talents, values. “So how can I discover my strengths?” you may ask. The first step in the challenge is to identify your strengths. Strengths are stable, yet we use different strengths and skills in different situations. You can easily build up your character strengths profile, discover what it is you’re actually good at and enjoy doing using the VIA survey.
The VIA Inventory of Strengths is a psychological assessment tool designed to identify an individual’s strengths profile. It’s a free survey with 240 questions and the assessment ranks the 24 strengths in the order if their relevance for you.
Once you are familiar with your strengths you can start the challenge. It’s an 11-minute daily exercise to develop a strengths habit. Our habits run on the simple loop of cue – routine – reward. Everybody has 11 minutes a day to spare; and you can take that time to develop your strengths and turn a job into more than just a chore.
Pick one of the top five strengths from your VIA survey results that you want to improve. I took part in the challenge and chose my strength of creativity to develop further. Some people say you have to born as a creative person. I don’t believe in this, in my opinion you can improve your creativity just like any other skill.
In the 11-minute exercise, in the first thirty seconds you cue the habit. A cue can be almost anything, such as a special time of the day, a visual trigger or a significant place. My cue was my lunch break, after I finished my meal. (And the same period when I practiced it at home on my days off.)
Then you start to practice your strength for ten minutes. You have to come up with an idea that you think could be useful to improve your chosen strength. I decided that I would learn about different kind of projects on craft websites like Weheartit or Pinterest and watch tutorial videos of DIY projects on YouTube. Sometimes I was an eager-beaver and spent more than ten minutes with the practice. I think you just have to find a way to make that 10-minute practice fun. Find your spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down – as that wise woman, Mary Poppins said.
The final thirty seconds of the exercise are the most fun part, when you reward your behaviour. The treat can be emotional or physical, anything that produces a natural rush of the feel-good chemical dopamine. You deserve a nice latté or a short CandyCrush session. My reward was ten minutes of group messaging with friends.
And that’s all, the eleven minutes are done. Based on scientific research. Easy. Fun. I feel more creative at work and enjoy challenges that require creativity. If you are intrigued you don’t have to wait till next year to start the challenge, you know the secret and can start right now. For guidance keep your eyes peeled for the 2016 Strengths Challenge.