It may be tempting to look at well-being without considering happiness, but both research and experience demonstrate a strong correlation. It only makes sense that we are much more likely to be happy if we are in good health, but what if happiness in and of itself actually contributes to better health? And what contribution do strengths play in all of this? Gallup research tells us that people who focus on strengths are three times more likely to report a high quality of life than those who do not. Focusing on our strengths makes us happier than focusing on our weaknesses. Perhaps this is a reason happiness leads to higher levels of well-being.
Imagine what happens if operating with your strengths, both in business and your personal life, has a direct impact on happiness and therefore well-being. If it could be diagrammed, it would be a full circle. Focus on strengths -- happier in life -- a higher quality of life and well-being -- deeper focus on strengths, and the cycle continues. How powerful would that be? Let’s start by exploring what it would look like if we were unhappy at work. The Mayo Clinic, in an article on work-life balance, said people who are unhappy at work experience fatigue, poor heath and lost time with family. It is almost impossible to think this type of work experience does not bleed over into all aspects of your life. Hours feel like days, and your misery at work keeps you from focusing on friends and family. See how it affects personal life? Unhappiness at work has an effect on your health. You simply cannot separate the two.
But what if the picture were different? Imagine you show up to work each day doing something you do best, working in a way that is true to your talent. Let’s say one of your top five themes is Competition and another is Woo. Every day you get to meet someone new, and you compete with yourself and others almost every day in a fun, energizing way. What if another one of your themes is Achiever? Every day you drive to achieve, setting the clock back to zero again tomorrow. Doesn’t this feel like a perfect fit? Think you would leave work energized and excited? Does this bleed over into home life again, but in a positive way this time? Likely this is a picture of a much happier person because they are utilizing their strengths.
Gallup research also shows us how much more productive and engaged people are who focus on strengths. I’d encourage you to consider this even beyond business metrics, into the most important metric, your health. In an article published in the Harvard School of Public Health, lead researcher Laura Kubzansky concluded from her 20-year study that individuals with “emotional vitality -- a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life….appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Strengths are not just a powerful business strategy. They are, in fact, a powerful life strategy!
So, what does this look like in real life? Consider my husband, John. John uses his strengths to drive his well-being, and I have done the same. John’s Maximizer drives him to truly be the best he can be. We can never be the wife, husband, mother, father, best friend or best employee without being mentally, spiritually and physically fit. For John, this means he makes sure to invest in his physical health. Combined with his Futuristic, the care he takes of his mind and body today fuels his visions of future hikes, business ventures and keynote speeches until forever. This cannot be done without total well-being. Thriving physically is essential for John to develop his talents into strengths, but it takes effort, discipline and determination. Our talents reach their greatest potential when we are physically and emotionally fit. And they are also the best clues to individualizing our plan to get to total well-being. A very healthy co-dependency.
The scientific correlation between happiness and well-being is picking up steam. When it comes to understanding the connections between performance and wellness, we are coming full circle. Today, look to your own top talents and ask yourself, “What do my themes need to lead me to greater happiness? How can my talents help me achieve better health?” The answers will not only help your bottom line; they’ll change your entire life.
Deb Cake Fortin is a successful corporate executive of more than 20 years and lifelong practitioner of holistic wellness. Her husband, John Gregory Vincent contributed to this blog and is a workplace consultant for Gallup. Together they are the co-authors of the holistic wellness blog www.my66days.com and the twitter feed @my66days that has more than 15,000 followers.
Deb's top 5 strengths are: Strategic | Maximizer | Arranger | Activator | Futuristic
John's top 5 strengths are: Arranger | Learner | Maximizer | Individualization | Futuristic