Michelle McQuaid, MAPP '09,, is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher, and playful change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world, she's passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success. Michelle is currently completing her PhD in Appreciative Inquiry under the supervision of David Cooperrider. Website. Full bio. Her articles for Positive Psychology News are here.
As a positive psychology researcher and teacher, I work with people all over the world to find tested, practical ways they can feel more energized, engaged, and happy at work. What I’ve found is that most of these approaches can be applied in any workplace, but there’s one common obstacle that prevents most of us from making these changes.
We are “too busy” to start.
Most of us are flat out just trying to keep up. So finding the time, never mind the energy, to do things like developing our strengths each day at work is a genuine struggle no matter how much easier or more enjoyable it might make our jobs.
I get it. Despite my best intentions when I first discovered my strengths, I put my VIA Survey results in my desk drawer and did absolutely nothing with them. But as I continued to struggle to keep up with my job, eventually, in sheer desperation, I pulled my strengths back out and started looking for excuse-proof ways to draw upon them.
11 Minutes a Day
I discovered that developing my strengths didn’t need to take more than 11 minutes each day.
By harnessing my brain’s natural neurological habit loop, I was able to design a small daily habit to develop my strength of curiosity, something that had been missing in my job lately. The routine included the following:
- 30-second cue. I anchored my routine in the habit I already had of turning on my computer each morning.
- 10-minute routine: I read about one new idea I could apply in my work.
- 30-second reward: I celebrated what I’d done and shared what I’d learned with someone.
Finding that I could fit this in on even my busiest days, I started consistently developing my strength of curiosity. Before long it felt like I was flourishing, rather than just functioning, as I went about my work.
Approach Works for Others
Best of all, this approach seemed to work for others.
Having taught this approach in workshops over the past three years, anecdotal evidence suggested that a daily 11-minute strength habit finally got people past the “too busy” obstacle so they could feel more engaged and energized in their work. So in August 2015, with the support of Live Happy and the VIA Institute, we ran the first free one-week Strengths Challenge to see what impact a daily, 11-minute strengths habit might have for people. More than 2,000 people across 65 different countries joined us. Here’s what we found out.
- 41% improved their ability to name their strengths
- 60% became better at setting weekly strength-based goals
- 41% improved their feeling of having the opportunity to do what they did best each day at work.
Perhaps most importantly, 37% felt more engaged and energized in their work, and 38% now felt like they were flourishing at work.
Of course, this is not a randomized, placebo-controlled experiment, so we need to be careful of the conclusions we draw. That’s the next step, now that we have promising preliminary results.Daily Strength Habit
So could a small daily strength habit help you to flourish more at work?
- Which strength would you like to use more in your job? If you are not sure take the free VIA Survey to discover what you’re good at and actually enjoy doing.
- If you had the gift of using this strength for just 10 minutes each day at work what would you like to do more of?
- Now to make it easy to get your habit started each day, try to create a small cue that will trigger this routine. Try anchoring it to a habit you already have, such as travelling to work, turning on your computer, or packing up to go home.
- Finally, find a reward you can have for completing the behavior. For example, try a cup of coffee or tea, ticking it off a list, or sharing what you’ve done.
Join the Challenge, February 8-12
If you’d some help developing your strengths habit, then join us for the next free global Strengths Challenge running from February 8 until February 12 2016. Click on the link or the picture to register. You’ll be guided step-by-step through creating your own 11-minute habit, You’ll also be given free resources and access to online coaches to help you really put your strengths to work.
McQuaid, M. & Lawns, E. (2014). Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work.