“Challenges are what make life interesting and
overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
Joshua J. Marine
In the wake of the course correcting solar eclipse last week (catch up here), one thing is certain .... CHANGE. In some way, whether it’s large or small, conscious or sub-conscious, positive or negative, we have all had the opportunity to reflect on what brings true meaning and happiness to us.
For some, the eclipse period will have revealed ways to review personal priorities, start working in a new way or finally start a project that’s been close to the heart for years. For others change may have been imposed with jobs lost, loved ones departing or discovering that a friendship/partnership didn’t have their best interest at heart.
Whichever way the pendulum has swung for you, we are in the midst of a very potent period for change.
Exciting or challenging, we now have an opportunity to do things in a different way. In a more heartfelt way. In a way that connects to our Authentic Purpose. In a way that brings richer meaning to our everyday!
As an Holisitic Executive Coach specialising in Careers, I consider this great news. Especially the uncomfortable aspect of it. There are two key reasons for this:
1. Change can bring about an increased level of motivation to do things differently
With change or challenge, opportunity always follows. In fact, the more confronting the challenge, the greater the opportunity for transformation. The reason being, unless humans have cause to do things differently, they tend towards doing more of the same.
2. Change transcends all parts of life
When change happens in one part of our life it impacts another. For example, when we experience change in our health or relationships, invariably we gain a new perspective on our career.
I appreciate sharing my enthusiasm for the concept that "change always brings opportunity" is done so at the risk of sounding idealistic and overly optimistic. But the truth is, I AM OPTIMISTIC. And for good reason. After 17 years working as a coach, clients who have made the greatest advances have first had to confront significant professional and personal challenge.
THE FIRST STEP TO DEALING WITH CHALLENGE IS TAKING CONTROL.
When clients first contact me they are usually at some kind of breaking point. They've made a decision that they need to make a change but they have no idea where to start.
The first thing I do is equip clients with tools to enable them to TAKE CONTROL. When they feel in control of things, no matter how small, they are more readily able to rise above adversity and upset and move towards enriching career experiences.
When it comes to careers, one of the first steps I take to help clients take control is conduct a review of their strengths. I get them to think about what they CAN do! Once they are clear on what their primary strengths are, where they most enjoy using them and who they like using them with,.. they become empowered to consider career options beyond their current challenging circumstance.
ENTER MY PASSION FOR THE POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY MOVEMENT
Those of you who know me well recognise I have a passion for people and an avid curiosity to understand what makes people tick. It's always been "my thing" to identify unique traits in people and make the connections to their choice of career. You could say it's an intuitive thing for me. I can readily recognise career opportunities for people once I understand their strengths.
So it was with wild enthusiasm that I embraced the Positive Psychology movement whilst studying my Masters in Psychology of Coaching at Sydney University in 2003. It was still a very new subset of the Psychology profession but fast becoming a corner-stone of the coaching space with its novel approach.
Photo of Dr Martin Seligman, Father of Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology evolved from researching happiness - what it is and what leads to it.
It began as a new area of study in 1998 when the founding father Martin Seligman presented it as a theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. Prior to that, Psychology had become mitigative, focussing on repairing emotional disorders of the mind. Not surprising really as it’s growth had come about by supporting returned service men post WWI and WWII. In the wake of war, survival had been the focus.
Positive Psychology takes on more a constructive focus than traditional Psychology. Instead of fixing things that are wrong with people, it focusses on supporting people to lead happier, more fulfilled and enriching lives.
Through extensive research, Seligman found that the most satisfied, upbeat people were those who had discovered and exploited their unique combination of "signature strengths," such as humanity, love and persistence.
FIND OUT WHAT YOUR STRENGTHS ARE.... AND USE THEM
Personally, I have a strong work ethic. From a young age, I was taught by my parents, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
As I’ve grown older, gained experience as an employee, consultant and now business owner, I have realised the enormity of this sage advice. Only now, I understand that when we have the opportunity to do a job that’s aligned to our strengths, we will not only want to do it well, we’ll exceed in it. If a job’s not aligned to our strengths, we’ll struggle and likely delay doing it.
To create energetic, high performing workplaces, I believe organisational leaders need to focus on their employees' strengths. This needs to occur when hiring (choosing employees based on strengths fit to role criteria) and developing employees.
Research shows using strengths promotes confidence , reduces stress  and leads to greater goal attainment . They also are more readily able to adapt to and overcome challenging situations . Finally aligning the strengths of individuals and teams with the organisation's strategic objectives encourages collaboration positively impacts performance .
But even with all the supportive research and the best of intentions, leaders can’t be expected to just know what your strengths are or how you’d like to use them.
The key is YOU NEED to know what your top strengths are, pay attention to them and find ways to use them more often. In the words of Steve Jobs.....
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."
ACTIVITIES TO CONNECT TO YOUR STRENGTHS
There are a series of questionnaires available to take for free at University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website where Martin Seligman’s research is housed. You can access them here. Another way you can research your strengths is through Galup's StrengthsFinder here. Both of these tools are research based and have strong validity but ultimately the results are not based on actual workplace or life experiences.
To help my clients get clear on their strengths and how they shine at what they do, I often get them to conduct a STAR PROFILE (see activity outline below). The process involves connecting with and getting feedback from people who know you well both professionally, socially and personally.
The results can be profound for finding out what you're really good at, realising how you stand out from others in what you do and bolstering your sense of purposefulness.
Remember, with change, opportunity always awaits. Be sure to regularly engage your strengths and you’ll experience less stressful transitions through change and a greater level of purposefulness and joy from you work.
Wishing you a magical week ahead!
STAR PROFILE STEPS
1. Identify 10 - 20 people who know you really well and have seen you shine over the years. Choose a mix of professional (managers, peers, team members, industry associates, clients) and personal contacts.
2. Send them an email (or do over a coffee) to let them know you're working on identifying your key strengths. Ask if they can do the following for you.
Q1: What have been my greatest achievements?
Q2: What would you consider to be my top 3-5 strengths?
Q3: What makes me unique at what I do?
Q4: Career wise, if you could see me doing anything other than what I do today, what would it be?
3. When the feedback arrives back, look for patterns or common themes that appear in multiple responses. Make a list of the key strengths that come through for you and examples that support them.
4. Write out a personal STAR profile - who are you when you are putting your strengths into action? You can do this in a story telling mode or create a mind-map if you prefer.
5. List out things you can do on a weekly basis where you'll engage your strengths.
Once you've done this, we should chat. I know you'll have questions about how best to use these strengths to further your career; to overcome the current career challenge that you have.
You can be strategic about this and start moving towards a career that is both rewarding and fulfilling.
It's complimentary. 30-minutes to career clarity. Book in here on my calendar.
Govindji, R., & Linley, P.A. (2007). Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for strengths coaching and coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2(2), pp.143-153.
Wood, A.M. Linley, P.A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T.B., & Hurling, R. (2011). Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: A longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(1), pp.1519.
Linley, P.A., Nielsen, K.M., Gillett, R. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1):615.
Francis, S. (2013). Strengths use and self-concordance in difficult situations. Unpublished research report for Master of Business Coaching, University of Wollongong.
Linley, P.A. & Garcea, N. (2013, in press). Three types of hi-po and the Realise2 4M Model: Coaching at the intersection of strengths, strategy and situation. In Goldsmith, M., Lyons, L.S. and McArthur, S. (Eds), Coaching the Hi-Po Generation. San Francisco: Bass/Wiley.