People whose jobs allowed them to use their signature strengths — those qualities they were uniquely best at, the talents that set them apart from others — were consistently happier:
We hypothesized that the amount of positive experiences at work (job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, meaning) is a function of the extent to which the situational circumstances at the workplace allow for the application of an individual’s signature character strengths. For the description of the individual a reliable and valid instrument already exists, but not for the environment. Hence, the newly developed Applicability of Character Strengths Rating Scales (ACS-RS) with information on its reliability and validity were also presented. A sample of 1,111 adults filled in the ACS-RS and measures for possession of character strengths and positive experiences at work. The ACS-RS was reliable by means of internal consistency and inter-rater reliability. It proved to be valid in several ways being sensitive to: (a) the differences in the applicability of trait-relevant behavior in formal versus informal situations by showing higher applicability of the character strengths in the latter; (b) the differences between traits regarding their applicability across situations; (c) people’s disposition to choose situations fitting their dispositions by showing positive relationships between the degree of possession and applicability. Moreover, correlations between applicability of strengths and positive experiences increased with the individual centrality of the strengths. The more signature strengths were applied at the workplace, the higher the positive experiences at work. This study showed that character strengths matter in vocational environments irrespective of their content. Strengths-congruent activities at the workplace are important for positive experiences at work like job satisfaction and experiencing pleasure, engagement, and meaning fostered by one’s job.
Source: “The Application of Signature Character Strengths and Positive Experiences at Work” from Journal of Happiness Studies, June 2012
So how can you put this to use? Via UPenn happiness expert Martin Seligman’s book, Authentic Happiness:
- Identify your signature strengths. (You can take a test to determine yours here.)
- Choose work that lets you use them every day.
- Recraft your present work to use your signature strengths more.
- If you are the employer, choose employees whose signature strengths mesh with the work they will do. If you are a manager, make room to allow employees to recraft the work within the bounds of your goals.
You can also use it in your personal life. Doing this can increase happiness for months:
When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full months later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.