“He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW (Nietzsche)”.
I have asked my ten-year-old daughter recently: “What is your purpose in life?” She gave me such a prompt, clear, and meaningful answer, which amazed me. Even for adults, it is often not easy to answer this question spontaneously.
However, why is this question important? The question is important because people who live a meaningful life benefit from it in different areas. They are not only happier (Debate et al., 1993) and more engaged at work (Bonebright et al., 2000), but also have overall greater well-being (Bonebright et al., 2000), life satisfaction (Chamberlain & Zika, 1988), and control over their lives (Ryff, 1989). Moreover, finding meaning at work reduces stress and depression, while also contributing to less staff turnover, more work satisfaction, and more experiences of fulfillment (Chen, 2007). Yet, how can we create meaning in life?
Understanding our Perspectives
Firstly, it is crucial to understand and be aware of how we look at things and situations individually. The same situation can be fine for somebody, whereas it is an absolute disaster for somebody else. Meanwhile, meaning can be found anywhere, even if it seems mundane: It all depends on our perspectives. Similarly, the same work can be a Calling (i.e., finding meaning at work) for one person and a Job (i.e., working based on solely financial motivation) for another (Wrzesniewski et al., 1997). Therefore, after having understood our perspectives about things and situations, the second step to create meaning in our life is by understanding strengths.
While strengths in general are one’s talents, abilities, and skills, character strengths are morally and universally valued capacities that produce positive effects when we express them (The Positivity Institute, 2020). Apart from strengths in general and character strengths, signature strengths exist, which are one of the great discoveries in Positive Psychology (an umbrella term for theories and research about what makes life most worth living) (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Signature strengths are the core of who we are as human beings and the strengths that energize us when we use them. They are the strengths that are very easy and natural to express. If people can identify and use them in a new way every day, it contributes to them being happier, less depressed, and having work satisfaction (Niemiec, VIA Institute on Character, 2013). However, how can you identify your strengths?
How can you identify your strengths to find meaning in business and private life?
Finding out your constellation of strengths in general, character strengths, and signature strengths is possible based on different approaches. I support my clients with various effective strategies, such as:
- By applying my knowledge of strengths to evaluate and assess their strengths.
- By consciously encouraging them to use their strengths both at work and in private life, to enhance their performance, well-being, and energy and to live a flourishing life (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
- By showing them how they can look at other people’s strengths through a lens and thus develop positive relationships with them.
- By also using scientific surveys, such as the VIA-IS, a scientific survey of character and signature strengths.
More specifically, we make “job crafting” based on their strengths, be it for an existing or new task. Briefly defined, “job crafting” refers to work-related changes and improvements in tasks and work-associated aspects, which contribute to several positive outcomes, such as work satisfaction, commitment, happiness, performance, and mobility to new roles (Wrzesniewski, 2014). Consequently, by finding out their strengths, they learn how to use them more deliberately, thus finding more purpose and meaning in their lives, both in a professional context, but also in private life.
In sum, finding out your strengths in general, character strengths, and signature strengths is crucial as the basis for a meaningful and purposeful life. Being confronted with a challenging situation as we face it at the moment with COVID-19 makes it even more obvious who and what is important for us in our life. By building our strengths, we can bring meaning into our life and support others with it as well. Especially in the current situation, we become aware that we are only strong as a community and that we can only defend ourselves against the virus with joint strength and our behaviour. Therefore, the question: Do you use your strengths sufficiently and have found meaning in life?
“Watch your thoughts: they become words
Watch your words: they become actions
Watch your actions: they become habits
Watch your habits: they become your character
Watch your character: it becomes your destiny”