How Playing to Your Strengths Will Help You Find Happiness

We are told over and over again that to be happy, we need to figure out what we love to do and integrate those activities into our personal and professional lives. In other words, we need to follow our passion.

The problem for many of us is that we never took the time to figure out what it is that we really love to do. Well, this is a problem that is easy to solve, as finding our passion/purpose/happiness just means playing to our strengths. Once we can align our strengths with our job, our job will take on new meaning and provide us with the purpose that we need to live a fulfilling life.

Martin Seligman’s 24 Signature Strengths can help point us in the right direction. Seligman is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the field of positive psychology. He has identified 24 different characteristics that we all possess to one degree or another.

Read through the list, and, as you do, jot down the two or three that you identify with most:

Love of Learning: You love learning new things and find opportunities to learn no matter where you go or what you do.

Bravery: You don’t shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right, even if you encounter opposition, and you act on convictions even if they are unpopular.

Vitality: You approach life with zest, enthusiasm, and energy. For you, life is an adventure, and you make the most of it.

Leadership: You excel at encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence: You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and skilled performance in all domains of life.

Humor: You like to laugh and tease, and you try to see the light side of all situations.

Creativity: You are always thinking of new ways to do things, and you are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Curiosity: You find subjects and topics fascinating, and you love exploring and discovering.

Open-mindedness: You tend to think things through and examine them from all sides. You don’t jump to conclusions and are able to change your mind in light of evidence.

Perspective: You are able to provide wise counsel to others. You have ways of looking at the world that make sense to yourself and to other people.

Persistence: You work hard to finish what you start. No matter what the project is, you get it done.

Integrity: You are an honest person who not only speaks the true but also lives your life in a genuine and authentic way.

Love: You value close relations with others. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.

Kindness: You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor.

Social Intelligence: You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know how to fit in in different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.

Fairness: You treat everyone fairly and do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about others.

Gratitude: You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. You always take the time to express your thanks.

Hope: You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.

Spirituality: You have strong and coherent beliefs about your higher purpose and meaning of the universe.

Forgiveness and mercy: You forgive those who have done you wrong. Your guiding principle is mercy, not revenge.

Self-regulation: You regulate what you feel and what you do.

Citizenship: You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate.

Humility/Modesty: You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special.

Prudence: You are a careful person. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

Now that you have a list of your two or three strengths, how can you make the most of them at work? If you feel your job is not aligned with your strengths, what job is? How can you transition into it, whether it’s inside our outside your current company or organization?  There might also be ways you can begin to volunteer to share your passions with others.

Put together a plan that details the steps you need to take. Set a timeline, and stick to it. (And don’t forget that if you get stuck, a coach can help keep you on track!)

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