Many people work in jobs they don’t much like. They fell into the role by accident, or got stuck at a position somewhere along the way to their childhood dreams. How can you transform the mundane while you work towards creating a more fulfilling life for yourself? By tuning into your strengths, and starting to use these wherever you find yourself.
Playing to your strengths means finding ways to use the best aspects of yourself no matter what situation you are in. Our strengths are characteristics of ourselves that we enjoy using and that we are ‘good at’ using. Often when we look to improve ourselves or our lives, we think we need to improve our weaknesses - those aspects of ourselves that are not so developed. We think that being better at time management, or more outgoing, is the key to changing our lives. But positive psychology research has found that, in terms of investing resources (e.g. your time and money), you get a much better return by investing in what you’re already good at. While you need to be careful that a weakness doesn’t derail your strengths (e.g. you’re so socially awkward you can’t speak up in an interview), don’t put undue attention on them. At best, most weaknesses can be improved to average. If you put that energy into an area of strength for you, you have the chance to become truly awesome in that area– and you can use this awesomeness to specialise in a job/ business where other people do the jobs that you’re not good at.
Remember, strengths are characteristics that we experience success with when we express them. Success feels good! It makes sense to use them as much as possible. That way we maximise our ability to feel successful and as such, that we are living a purposeful life.
So how does this apply to your boring job?
1. Work out what you’re good at – your strengths (see last week’s post ‘What are my gifts?’ for ideas).
2. Become even better at it – find ways to practice your strengths while working (and while playing too!).
3. Use the power of your improved strengths to slowly move towards the job/life you want – or to transform the one you already have.
A good verbal communicator might start a social club (which the boss joins, and sees how well he organises people, and eventually moves him from admin to the HR department)
A good written communicator starts up a company newsletter – she sells it to her boss as ‘team-building’, but it’s also a chance to practice her writing skills on the job.
Someone who loves to solve problems sees all the inefficiencies in their current factory job, and instead of stewing on how poorly run the place is, finds a way to get management to take the suggestions on board (and lowers their workload as a result).
An environmentally conscious employee knows the company could be recycling and isn’t. She looks into it, and finds she can save the company money with this option too. She convinces the company and then promotes the change in her local paper – winning her some contracting work on the side doing the same thing for other companies.
A bored receptionist uses her down-time to hone her drawing skills.
A frustrated retail assistant uses her position to network with her customers until she meets someone who can better use her programming skills.
A calm and patient executive uses her stressful work environment to find the most effective techniques to teach in her weekend meditation retreats.
Some things might involve taking on extra work, and sometimes you’ll just be able to reinvent a current responsibility. Even if more effort is required, you’ll gain energy and momentum by using your strengths – and this will sustain you through the extra effort required. Plus, the payoff is increased life satisfaction on a daily basis. Once you start to feel better, the sense of achievement will encourage you to make more and more changes.
There many ways to increase your satisfaction at home and at work – the hard part is doing the creative thinking to find them. A useful exercise can be to imagine your life/work now as 0, and your ideal life as 100. What steps do you need to take to get from 0, just up to 1? What little bits of your ideal life can you bring into your world now? Once you’ve got those, then work on getting to 2. Going from 0 to 100 is unrealistic, and thinking you can magically step into your dream life without going through the steps in between stops you from getting started on taking action today.
What one strength can you use more of today, in just one situation, to make your life just that little bit better?
Use this question, and implement your answer on a daily basis, and you can transform your boring job/ life into one that you love.
Would you like personalised help to discover how to use your strengths in your life? Contact me on 0421 720 635 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.