Being Happy at Work: The Secret is in Your Strengths

According to Deepak Chopra: most of us are fooled into believing that getting the next big thing is the answer to our happiness and yet studies continue to show it’s not about the external rather the internal. This means that we have to learn new ways to be happy. To emphasize this point further, Denier says, Money can’t buy you happiness, because happiness is not an “it.” Interestingly, Millennials don’t fall into this trap, they prefer to have experiences over things. They want work that has meaning and purpose and not just a paycheck. Furthermore, in 2016 Toy Fair trends show that Millennials want to go back to basics, play games by connecting face-to-face and spend quality time with friends and family. We can take a note about being happier from this generation.

Happiness is subjective and what works for you may or may not work for another which is why it’s so important to be aware of what makes you feel happy at work. Most people who are happy at work enjoy what they are doing and are using their strengths on the job. As a communication and workplace strategist, I define strengths not just your skills and competencies, although you certainly need those to get the job, rather strengths are what energize you, your internal motivators. This allows you not only to do your job, you feel energized by it which ultimately leads to sustained peak performance. Gallup research shows “People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job and three times more likely to be happier with their lives in general.”

In fact, “When Americans use their strengths more, they stress less,” according to Jim Asplund, Author of Embedding Strengths in Your Company’s DNA. He continues to say, “The more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.”

If you want to feel happier at work, find ways to utilize your natural strengths. When we are using our strengths, we are at our best. Ask yourself these questions. Be honest with yourself and commit to making one change that can positively impact your work life.

  1. Do you feel challenged in a positive way by interesting projects, work and life experiences? Happiness experts suggest that it’s necessary to have mental stimulation in your work life that energizes you. Are you using your strengths on the job? If not, how can you talk with your manager about your strengths – what energizes and what drains you? Discussing what energizes and drains us at work helps us clarify what makes us happy and productive. It gives meaning and purpose and allows us to contribute at a much higher level.
  2. Are you in good health? Many positive psychology experts connect health with your emotional well-being, suggesting that the better your general health is, the happier you may be. According to a white paper “Think Better Neuroscience: The Next Competitive Advantage, by Steelcase a research company, numerous studies have proven that movement boosts attention by pumping oxygen and fresh blood through the brain and triggering the release of enhancing hormones. While the physical and emotional benefits of movement are well-established, neuroscience has proven it also enhances cognition. So, take time out during your work-day or after work to do some form of exercise, it lowers stress levels, increases focus and generally boosts the serotonin in our brains making us feel happier.
  3. Do you find yourself complaining more often at work? Constant complainers are generally not happy people, and yet there is some benefit for the complainer. If you find yourself constantly complaining about your job, your boss, work environment etc., then it’s time to make some real changes. Being a victim or martyr does not make you happy – focusing on all the reasons why your job sucks, takes away from seeing what is good and right about your work. Most of us complain when we are exhausted, stressed, and drained…to combat this negative behaviors, lean into your strengths, take a break during your day or rediscover what brings you joy.

It’s up to each of us to be accountable for defining what happiness looks and feels like at work and then to take one brave step forward to making that change. Lastly, if you are still struggling, make a list of what you loved doing as a kid, what brings you joy and is considered priceless, like making a new friend, working on a detailed project, brainstorming ideas, learning something new, dreaming about the future, being a cheerleader, helping others, accomplishing a goal, or being the leader. Go ahead, try it, you might discover a few forgotten strengths – what makes you feel energized, motivated – that’s the happiness inside you that you didn’t know existed. Enjoy.

Michelle Burke is a Communication and Workplace Strategist, published Author, Consultant, Strengthscope Partner and Speaker. She is Co-founder and President of The Energy Catalyst Group dedicated to creating more positive and engaged workplaces. Her years’ experience working with Fortune 100, 500 companies, established her as a leading expert in bridging communication, gender and cultural gaps. Michelle consults with HR and leadership to focus on increasing individual, team and organizational energy. She collaborates with clients using her 3-A Model: Awareness, Accountability and (purposeful) Action and Energy Impact Model™. Clients include Stanford University, Visa, Sony, Disney, Receptos and Genentech. Michelle authored, The Valuable Office Professional, and was featured in Business Week’s Frontier Magazine, LA Times, SF Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Her articles have been in Training, HR, and Chief Learning Officer Magazines. She also co-created Personalogy®, Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling Card Games of 2015. Please connect with her [email protected]

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