Signature Strengths: A source for satisfaction in your work

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On the importance of time away from the grind

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The idea of signature strengths was first introduced to me through the Science of Wellbeing course available on Coursera. Research has found that active use of your signature strengths has a non-trivial positive impact on our daily life. They are essentially character strengths that are most essential to who we are. There are 24 of them in total; you can find out your character strengths here.

Lavy & Littman-Ovadia (2017) found that people who used their signature strengths at work are considerably more productive and more satisfied with their job. If a top signature strength of yours is creativity, then leaning into it at work is found to increase in happiness at work as an index of productivity, organisational citizenship behaviour (volunteering for tasks or projects you are not contractually obligated for), and job satisfaction. Crucially, however, their research did not cover the effect of actively using strengths lower on your list of 24.

Harzer & Ruch (2012) looked more narrowly at the effect of signature strengths, specifically on how it contributes to people’s perception of their job as a calling. A threshold of active-use for four signature strengths was the cut off they found. More than four strengths high on their list of 24 regularly used correlated with an increase in overall happiness at work. This is measured as an index of job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning.

This is a handy insight for people managers of any kind as a strategy for individually engaging with team members. Moreover, it can serve as an effective filtering question for job-seekers deciding between multiple roles. It also offers solace for anyone feeling detached from their work, there is a way to find more satisfaction. Seligman (2004) outlined how use of our signature strengths should not be confined to the work context. The impact is the same when applied in your personal life. Whether it is through the hobbies you have, your social interactions, or you generally navigate the world.

My top 10 strengths are listed in Table 1 below, the closer to the top they are, the more accurate they are likely to be. I decided to take the test again six weeks later to see if any had changed – it happened to be a period of deep reflection while in quarantine in which my outlook on life evolved. I recommend that you do the same to validate the first time you took it wasn’t a fluke.

Strength RankingMarch 24May 16
4HopeAppreciation of Beauty & Excellence
9Appreciation of Beauty & ExcellenceTeamwork
Table 1. Signature Strengths across two months

At the risk of sounding like scammy, I recommend you try apply your signature strengths. For me, I practice fairness every time I read the news. I try have empathy for Trump and other leathers of the world, like Bolsonaro in Brazil. They could know something that I don’t, I try not to be quick to judge. It doesn’t mean I succeed, but I am trying. Anecdotally, I feel better for doing so, for at least trying. If you do happen to happen to give this a shot, let me know how you get on via my Twitter.


Seligman (2004). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Lavy & Littman-Ovadia (2017). My better self: Using strengths at work and work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior, and satisfaction. Journal of Career Development, 44(2) 95-109

Harzer & Ruch (2012). When the job is a calling: The role of applying one’s signature strengths at work. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7,362-371.

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