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Your Best Day at Work (and How to Have More Like It)

Your Best Day at Work (and How to Have More Like It)

by Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • Emotionally rich experiences hint at your strengths
  • Your journey of self-discovery (and success) takes time, effort and focus
  • CliftonStrengths explains your natural talents and pathways to growth

Think about a great day you've recently had at work.

Maybe you closed a huge sale, putting you in line to be the highest-selling rep for the year, or maybe you started an important project with your best friend at work. It might have been checking every task off your extensive to-do list before noon or taking two hours to read a book from an expert in your field.

To have more days like that, you have to ask yourself why it was great.

But before you go any further, you should know that you're viewing that day through a narrow neurological lens.

Human brains limit our perspective so we're not overwhelmed with information -- and 90% of the information we process is visual anyway. On top of that, most of us aren't great at self-assessment.

We are pretty good at knowing and remembering the "what" of a great day: the sale and the status bump, the project and the friend, the quick sweep of the to-do list.

But the "why" of a great day is tougher to discern.

The secret to understanding it comes from Gallup's research on human nature: Anytime you have a great day at work, you were using your strengths to the hilt. So, when you learn to view your best days through the lens of strengths, you'll be able to have considerably more great days.

What Is the 'Why' Behind Your 'What'?

To start, you'll need to know your strengths. Gallup's CliftonStrengths assessment identifies our natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, categorized into 34 broad talent themes that explain our motivations. Those themes fall into four general domains: Relationship Building, Strategic Thinking, Executing and Influencing.

Most people usually have themes in multiple domains, although one domain is often dominant.

And when you're operating within your top strengths and domain -- as you might by nailing a sale and moving up a ranking, getting important things accomplished with a best friend, clearing your to-do list with hours to spare, or diving headfirst into a fascinating book -- everything is easier, more fun and far more emotionally gratifying.

That feeling is the "why" of every great day. It's easier to remember the "what," but the "why" is more important -- once you know why your day was great, you can replicate it.

You can deliberately look for more opportunities to use your strengths at work. The more you do, the more great days at work you'll have.

You'll be happier and healthier -- even more hopeful -- as well: Harvard School of Public Health researcher Laura Kubzansky's 20-year study found that "emotional vitality -- a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life … appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

Gallup also finds that people who report using their strengths "a lot" during the day say they have more energy and feel more well-rested, and they're three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life.

And employees who say they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day are 57% less likely to frequently experience burnout.

So, to have more best days, you must understand your strengths and how to use them at work every day.

But remember, there's an obstacle: your brain.

How to Get More of Your 'Why' in Your Day

Your brain is a thing of infinite marvels, magnificent and ineffably complex. But it's the last place you want to turn to for self-assessment. Our inborn neurological limitations mean we all need help figuring out the "why" of a best day.

The CliftonStrengths assessment jump-starts that process -- it shows you what you're working with -- and Gallup experts have published a vast library of strengths-specific advice to give you a deep understanding of your themes and how they operate.

Anytime you have a great day at work, you were using your strengths to the hilt. So, when you learn to view your best days through the lens of strengths, you'll be able to have considerably more great days.

Working through your "why" with a third party -- a strengths coach (your company might even have some coaches in-house) -- can enlighten you in startlingly detailed ways.

For instance, if your great day involved an important project with your best friend at work, it resonated because it was an important project with your best friend. If your best day included clearing your agenda by noon, it was memorable because you checked every task off an extensive list with hours to spare. Those qualifiers -- not the actual activity -- are key to your unique mix of strengths.

Guidance helps. So does telling others what you're up to -- collaboration expands your ability to find projects that align with your talents. If you don't work in a strengths-based organization, you might be met with confusion or skepticism. If so, make the business case for strengths.

Employees who say they use their strengths every day, Gallup data show, are:

  • 8% more productive
  • 15% less likely to quit their job
  • more likely to strongly agree that they like what they do each day
  • six times more likely to be engaged at work

Infinite Potential

Now, go back and think about that best day. The "why" might not be clear yet, but that's OK.

The important thing is knowing there is a "why." It's the loose end of the string that will lead you back to the source, your strengths.

When you get there, you'll find that you've begun an endless journey of development. That's a good thing -- when you begin to understand your strengths, you'll start seeing how they influence your life. You'll find more ways to use them. You'll see how powerful they can be. And you'll begin to understand how it can be that a brain with so many built-in limitations also has strengths with such infinite potential.

And when you ask yourself what made that day so great, you'll know exactly why it was -- and how to have a lot more days at work just like that one.

We study human strengths so you can discover yours.

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