How to Create More Fulfillment and Happiness in the Workplace
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
We’ve all had those days at work where everything seems to be going our way.
The presentation that you creatively drafted and led was executed on all cylinders. Your team's ability to have humor in their working relationships made what was supposed to be a stressful turnaround into a seamless one. Best of all, your courage in delivering the challenging messages to your client made your presentation even more rewarding. The honesty in the feedback received was just the icing on top.
High fives all around.
You’re feeling really good, like the way Serena Williams feels after she returns a cross court service point and yells out her passionate scream of ‘Come On!’.
Come to think of it, you’re not just feeling really good, you’re feeling fulfilled. That sense of fulfillment is at an all-time high and you’ll likely be carrying that momentum into the next task at hand.
Ever wonder how and why we endure professional (and personal) moments where our passionate energy is surging, we feel alive, and our fulfillment for that work leads to a rewarding feeling?
Most likely, you were playing to your top character strengths, the traits that are used to best exemplify when you’re at your best and feel your best, which in turn drives optimal energy performance. Not the ‘I just drank a Red Bull' energy, but the rewarding energy you feel after doing something well that encompasses your body and mind.
As it turns out, there is a real science behind performing at and feeling your best. It’s called Positive Psychology and it’s the study of what is right with people and focuses on when people are at their best.
Positive Psychology Defined
According to Psychology Today, Positive Psychology looks at what is right with people and focuses on when people are their best. It’s not the focus of the positive at the expense of the negative as this science still recognizes negative emotions, failures, and problems as important aspects of life. As a science, Positive Psychology is concerned with evidence, measurement, testing and focuses on promoting superior functioning and ultimately performing at your best through character strengths.
Character strengths, as mentioned above, are the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel, and behave.
The italicized words in the scenario above are examples of character strengths that you may even embody: Creativity, Leadership, Honesty, Bravery.
They are different than your other personal strengths, such as your unique skills, talents, interests and resources, because they reflect the "real" you - who you are at your core. These strengths are the key to you being your ‘best self’. Think of them as the traits that really light your fire in your personal and professional life.
When people talk about strengths or about a situation in which they used their strengths, they tend to come alive, become increasingly animated, more physically communicative, and more alert and excited. Energy is a hallmark feature of strengths and fundamental to identifying them.
Think through a situation where you really excelled and I’m sure some of those traits will come to life.
How to Identify your Character Strengths
Aside from some coaching-based exercises like the sentence above, I recommend taking a Character Strength Survey through the VIA Character Institute to identify your character strengths. On their website, they have a free 10-minute assessment that generates your 24-character strengths in ranked order.
Once completed, you’ll have a complete list of those character strengths, what they mean, and how to interpret them. You can even pay an additional fee for further insight (though that may not be needed).
Think of your top 5-10 character strengths as the main muscles that you have developed and flexed over your lifetime, while the last 5-10 as more undeveloped muscles. While they may be at the bottom of the list, it doesn’t mean that they’re a weakness, it merely means that you may use those character strengths less in your day to day and may be less comfortable using and flexing them when needed. If you’re looking for a way to further flex those ranked character strengths, click here.
How to Use Character Strengths: Creating Awareness
One goal both personally and professionally should be your ability to maximize how often and when you can use your character strengths. Moreover, the more you’re aware of what your strengths are and the more you can use them for different scenarios, the more you’ll find situations that should feel more fulfilling in nature.
Almost all professionals that I’ve worked with in the past who have faced some sort of unhappiness / lack of fulfillment in their jobs were amazed when they found that their current role exemplified almost none of their top 5-10-character traits. That in itself is can be a recipe for disaster and could give you a one-way ticket to a job that lacks motivation and/or engagement.
Here’s an example of how this played out for me during my time as a consultant.
My number one trait is Fairness and being part of a global management consulting company, I found myself being exposed to a number of politically complex situations that didn’t go my way and that felt ‘unfair’. The further I advanced with my career and the more these situations occurred, the greater the challenge that I felt in trying to bring my most authentic self to the workplace with the passionate energy required to serve my clients. Retroactively speaking, had I been aware of this character strength, finding another working environment that promoted a ‘fairer’ professional culture would have likely been a better fit for my own workplace happiness. Personally speaking, my Fairness character strength is now used to empower me in personal situations, whether it be splitting dinners or something else.
Other Ways to Drive Your Fulfillment
Here are some other tips and tricks for how you can maximize your character strengths:
Identify future initiatives or roles you can take on that play to your top 10 (whether that be more creative strategic work, a leadership role, a mentorship position)
When searching for a new job, be sure to cross reference that role with your character strengths to see how many of your character strengths match up to that role. If your top 10 may not be in that role, expect that new role to be a little bit uncomfortable at first, as you’ll be flexing muscles that are used less
Share your character strengths with your colleagues, managers, and even those in your personal lives. The more those around you know of your character strengths, the better they can support and empower you in your day to day
Cross reference your character strengths with your company’s culture / environment or a future workplace environment. Remember that sometimes it’s not just the work that you do that can bring out the best in you, but also that environment that you work in that shares similar values and perspectives
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.
There is no better gift that you can give yourself than that around personal development – specifically for topics related to Positive Psychology – and especially during this extended period of quarantine time. When it comes to our career and our lives, wouldn’t it make the most sense to maximize our time working to the character traits that will drive the most amount of fulfillment and enable us to be our best?
Want to chat more about your character strengths and how you can make your career and life more fulfilling? Let’s chat!