“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” – Betty Bender
It’s Sunday night, and you’re tossing and turning in bed.
You can’t sleep as your thoughts bustle around the pending anguish of your coming work week.
The reality is you abhor your job, but can’t just quit.
You have bills to pay and no plan for what’s next.
So what can you do?
Well, thanks to positive psychology, there are ways to make your current job more fulfilling and gratifying.
Positive psychology is the study of optimal human functioning. Instead of studying mental illness, this field examines ways to improve well-being and happiness and how to apply these strategies in daily life.
If you’re far from having your dream career, here are some immediate ways to create more enjoyment and satisfaction.
1. Use your signature strengths
For some people it’s natural and fulfilling to learn, be curious, and use creativity.
For others, they are prone to kindness, gratitude, and developing spiritually.
Positive psychologists call these attributes signature strengths, and they are what lead people to optimal functioning and performance.
Using our strengths energizes us, and generates enthusiasm and enjoyment.
These strengths are organized into six common themes, or virtues, and include: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. From these six virtues derive the 24 character strengths. These came to be known as the VIA Classification of strengths and virtues.
The VIA classification of character strengths
Here’s a closer look at each virtue and the strengths.
Wisdom and Knowledge: Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment and Open-Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective
Courage: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest
Humanity: Capacity to Love and Be Loved, Kindness, Social Intelligence
Justice: Teamwork, Fairness, Leadership
Temperance: Forgiveness and Mercy, Modesty and Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation
Transcendence: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Religiousness and Spirituality
“The good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” – Martin Seligman
To get started:
Take the VIA Signature Strengths test.
Make a note of what your top five signature strengths are.
Think of one new way in which you’ll use your signature strengths during your work day, or how you can redesign your work to use your strengths more often.
Check out 340 ways to use signature strengths for ideas.
2. Get in the flow
You’ve probably heard people talk about being “in the zone” or having peak experiences.
This is a psychological state that Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, (I know it’s a long name) calls flow and it’s an important part of improving performance and work-satisfaction.
Flow is a state of being where we’re challenged and engaged in what we’re doing. A condition where we’re completely present and engrossed in the task at hand, and because of this time seems to fly by.
If you’re working a boring J.O.B. that isn’t challenging and doesn’t naturally spark your interest, moments of flow will be few and far between.
But, if you have some latitude to create new routines or get involved in different activities you can enhance your work engagement, and thus satisfaction.
Here are a few job specific ideas to create more flow:
- Match challenges of job to your skills.
- Set defined goals where your strengths can help improve the organizations mission.
- Create a system where you can have immediate feedback when possible.
- Take on an opportunity that is challenging but also enjoyable.
“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
3. Be a HERO – grow psychological capital
Another interesting positive psychology hack comes directly from the industrial-organizational world.
It’s the concept of psychological capital or Psycap, which is a term used to describe emotional resources that improve work related attitudes and performance.
The four main components of this concept can be remembered by the word HERO, which stands for: hope, self-efficacy, resiliency, and optimism.
Growing these traits helps us be more mentally tough and bolsters our immunity to cynicism, stress, and anxiety, thus increasing our job-satisfaction.
Here’s a breakdown of the concepts and how they can be cultivated.
Hope is persevering toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals in order to succeed. When we have hope we are able to solve problems and create solutions.
How to grow it: Set small daily goals that you know you can achieve. Achieving goals increases our sense of hope.
Self-efficacy is the confidence to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks. Without this sense of agency we’re going to feel stuck and discouraged.
How to grow it: Focus on progress instead of failure. List one problem you’re facing and how you can turn it into an inspiring challenge to overcome.
Resilience is the ability to sustain and bounce back from adversity. It’s the means to attain success despite being beset by problems.
How to grow it: Develop your ability to manage stress more effectively. Learn relaxation strategies and incorporate mini-breaks throughout your day so you can recharge.
Optimism is making a positive attribution about succeeding now and in the future. Things won’t always turn out well but having a positive outlook is a sure way to increase satisfaction.
How to grow it: Create an inspiring vision for your future and review it daily. Realize that your future can be different from your current situation.
4. Use PERMA to flourish at work
Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Flourish discusses how to increase our well-being through a model he calls PERMA, which stands for: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement.
Here’s a breakdown to help you incorporate these ideas into your work-life.
What emotions do you experience most often from your work? Many people are consumed with stress and anxiety and don’t have much opportunity for positive feelings.
Create opportunities where you can have more positive emotions during your work day. This may include amusement, creativity, interest, gratitude, or pride, just to name a few.
This is similar to Flow in terms of being absorbed in what we’re doing. It’s being challenged and engrossed in our work.
Are you mindless clicking buttons and doing paperwork, or are you in the moment and focused on the task at hand?
If you’re not engaged in your work explore ways to use your strengths and challenge yourself more often.
Do you have interesting co-workers? Do you work with someone you consider to be a best friend? Connecting with the people you work with and having meaningful interactions is another key to enhance work-satisfaction.
How can you grow your work relationships? Try having lunch with someone and get to know them better, or bring doughnuts as a kind gesture. Everyone likes doughnuts!
When what we do is meaningful, we tend to have a greater sense of fulfillment. Find ways to make a difference on a daily basis.
Tailor your job to the company mission statement. Dedicate more time to the aspects of your job you actually care about.
It feels great to accomplish our goals. A job where we aren’t achieving new goals quickly becomes mundane and aimless.
Focus your skills on specific tasks that will be rewarding to accomplish, and make note of your daily achievements.
You may not love your job, but you can at least find ways to like it.
Explore ways that you can implement some of these ideas into your job and you’ll see a positive impact on work-related performance and satisfaction.
Photo credit: rene.schlaefer