According to a survey held in the late 2000s, where the researchers tested various participants from diverse backgrounds based on the number of signature strengths the participants used in their job throughout the day. The idea is you could use one of your signature strengths, like say you have a love of learning, maybe you’re using that one, you have creativity, you’d have other things.
And so, what they find is that they’re tracking the number of strengths individuals are using on the X-axis, and on the Y-axis, all kinds of scores about positive affect and productivity on the job. And what they find is: as the number of signature strengths participants use goes up, so, too, does all your reports of positive affect. They also found that there seems to be the sweet spot and using four of your highest seven strengths for whatever reason.
Seems like if you can kind of put them together and this nice little note of a bunch of strengths that once, it gives you this big boost. And so, the neat thing is not only to do this increase positive experiences at work, but if you use some fancy statistical techniques, known as mediation models, you can find that not only does using your strengths increase your positive experiences at work, but both using your strengths and those positive experiences tend to contribute to you think your job is a calling.
The idea is, the more and more signature strengths you use, typically, this awesome point around four, the more likely it is that you call your job not a job but a calling. And so, if you want to find a job that’s a calling, it might not be a particular thing. It might just be finding ways to use multiple of your signature strengths at once, which is kind of cool.
Merely using these things (signature strengths) is kind of making you feel like that’s your dream job, which is pretty cool. And so, that is one thing that I think we don’t think about often when we’re looking through a job.
What we want to do to get the job that’s our dream job that’s going to give us positive affect, job satisfaction, and so on, is just pick one in which we can use our signature strengths.
How to Use Your Signature Strengths?
And the cool thing is, you guys have seen from using your signature strengths and thinking about them is that there are lots of different ways we can use them and lots of possible jobs in which we can do that. So, it buys us a certain amount of flexibility to think about how we’re using them.
- So that’s factor one that seems like is the thing that makes your job feel meaningful.
- The second thing that seems to increase satisfaction on the job is finding jobs that give us what I’m going to call flow.
You can calculate your signature strengths here: To identify your strengths, take the free, online, research-based character strengths survey by the VIA Institute on Character.
What is Flow?
And flow comes from a concept invented by the positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and he has a fantastic book on flow, which he refers to as the optimal experience.
So what is flow? Some of you might be able to guess from the term. But it’s this idea that we have this mental state in which you’re performing an activity where you are fully immersed, where you feel energized, focused, you’re fully involved, and you’re enjoying it as you go. It’s like being in the zone. It’s like this period where you’re so losing track of time in this deep enjoyment of something.
And so, some of you who participate in sports activities might experience flow there, particularly, if you’re an expert in some of these things. So if you ever went on a ski trip before, I hope you experienced flow maybe when you’re skiing if things were going well, maybe not if things weren’t going well.
This is the thing that athletes report experiencing when they’re at peak performance and performing super well. Musicians can talk about this, but this is also the kind of thing that we experience when we are working sometimes, and the work that we’re doing is just like feeling on. Like we’re losing track of time. It just feels really good.
And so, researchers have tried to document what are some of the features of the flow. And it’s hard because it’s this esoteric thing you kind of know it when you’re feeling it.
Quick Question: How many of you feel like you’ve felt flow in something that you’ve done in your life? – I am sure a lot of you have. So, here are some features of it.
Features of Flow:
- It feels like you’re doing something that’s challenging, so your attention is engaged, but it seems manageable.
- It’s not kind of stressing you out, you’re just doing it at your peak level.
- It also seems like you’re just really, really focused on concentrating on the activity.
- You’re incredibly in the moment.
- The activity is also in it, intrinsically rewarding.
- You’re not doing it to get some grade or get some performance.
- You’re just loving it while you’re doing it.
- You have this feeling of serenity when you’re in that moment.
- You can even lose a sense of self-consciousness.
- And, you often lose track of time passing.
So, you do this activity for a while, and then you realize, “Whoops, two hours went by. What’s going on?” And that means that sometimes when you’re doing this, you can lose awareness of your physical needs. So, you come up for air, and you’re like, “Gosh, I haven’t eaten or gone to the bathroom in like forever. I should deal with that.” But the most important thing is that you have this complete focus on the activity itself like you’re completely in the moment. And so, this is flow.