how positive psychology can help you flourish in your work

02/25/2011

by carolyn mathews

The one aspect of positive psychology centers on the flourishing of people, organizations, and communities. Flourishing has several meanings, including to thrive, to prosper, and to be in a period of highest productivity. Yet many of us do not. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness, most of us aren’t flourishing. Lyubomirsky states, “Nationally representative samples of U.S. adults indicate that slightly more than half of us (54%) are ‘moderately mentally healthy yet not flourishing – that is, we lack great enthusiasm for life and are not actively and productively engaged with the world.’” In other words, too many of us languish – at work, at home, in life.

When we review the definition of flourishing and think about its advantages in the workplace, who wouldn’t want to flourish? We spend so many hours either traveling to and from work or being at work, it makes sense to make the most of that time. To help you find your passion, move from “all right” to “yeah, it’s Monday again!” and ultimately flourish, we offer three steps:

  1. Explore and identify your values
  2. Identify and develop your strengths
  3. Explore the “fit” of your work with who you are at this stage of life

Values: Each of these suggestions is important in and of itself, but the real power comes from how they link, like words in a crossword puzzle. Positive psychology has long considered the link between values and strengths. In fact, researchers Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, along with their colleagues, created the Values In Action (VIA) assessment. Their research defined six values that are acknowledged across cultures: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Love and Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Spirituality and Transcendence. Further, they identified 24 strengths that exemplify these virtues. You can learn more about values and personal strengths by going to www.viacharacter.com.

Strengths: Once you have identified your top five strengths (your signature strengths), think of ways you use them at work. Strengths are different than skills. Strengths are intrinsic to you, whereas skills can be learned. For example, you may be highly skilled at working miracles on spreadsheets. This skill may be related to one of your strengths (Love of learning), which in turn reflects the value of Knowledge and Wisdom. You can also find ways to strengthen your strengths. If you have the strength of leadership, but feel it is underused in your work, think of what you can do to further develop it.

Fit: Take time to think about your job description, how you spend your work days, and your stage of life. Is it a good fit? You can’t really change your stage of life, and you may not be able to make drastic changes to your job description, but you can alter how you go through your day. Sometimes, simply raising your awareness that much of what you do already is the result of using your strengths may increase your enthusiasm for what you do. It may be that later in life you place a higher premium on the strength of gratitude than you did 10 or 15 years ago. How can you work differently in a way that reflects this to make your work the best possible fit?

Using these tips can help you tip the balance from languishing to flourishing – in work and beyond – to help you live your life “north of neutral.”

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