Many of us are blind to our best qualities. When asked to name our strengths, we often come up empty-handed or we say something that isn't very meaningful. What we tend to miss is to label our most core qualities - our strengths of character.
Sometimes it is easier to "see" our core qualities by looking at ourselves from a different angle.
What are your passions? What activities do you like that are effortless and give you a sense of freedom to do? Biking, cooking, playing basketball, talking with your best friend, eating at a new restaurant? And on and on. It's probably very easy for you to construct such a list. Consider what character strengths you are using with each activity (e.g., curiosity when trying a new food, social intelligence when talking with a friend, self-regulation when playing basketball, etc.)
New research is backing up this approach. Research from Jacques Forest and his colleagues in Canada found that signature strength use led to increases in harmonious passion. This means that when people express their strengths they are expressing a sense of who they are in a balanced way that is freely chosen and personally important in their life. This then leads to greater happiness for that person.
Previous research has been clear: Find ways to use your signature strengths and you will reap the benefits. One such benefit is greater happiness. And when you bring forth your best strengths at work, you have more positive work experiences, work satisfaction increases, and your engagement gets a boost too.
But why? Why is the use of signature strengths linked with greater happiness? In addition to the link with passion, other research has explained this connection by finding that when we tap into our most natural and energizing internal qualities we meet our basic psychological needs and we reach our goals.
The main message: Whether you are a teacher, a garbage collector, a homemaker, an accountant, or an office manager, finding ways to align your character strengths with your work each day has a positive impact.
Here are the steps of the strengths exercises that Forest had his subjects take:
1.) First, the subjects described in detail what it looked like when they were working at their best. They noted how their signature strengths were involved and how they felt before and after using their signature strengths as well as how they felt in the moment.
2.) The subjects were then invited to use two of their signature strengths in new ways at their current job for two weeks.
3.) Finally, the subjects reflected on the positive consequences of using their signature strengths in their current job.
Easy enough, right? Sometimes it’s the easiest things, when applied the right way, that make the biggest impact.
How about you? Apply these three steps above to your current work. This will help you tap into your natural passion and enthusiasm and unleash it into the world.
Forest, J., Mageau, G. V. A., Crevier-Braud, L., Bergeron, L., Dubreuil, P., & Lavigne, G. V. L. (2012). Harmonious passion as an explanation of the relation between signature strengths’ use and well-being at work: Test of an intervention program. Human Relations, 65(9), 1233-1252.
Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 6-15.
Learn more about the VIA Institute on Character.
Take the VIA Survey of strengths (this free, validated survey is now only half as long!)
Learn more through an educational course on character strengths.