I was giving a talk recently and as usual was emphasizing the importance of identifying your motivated skills or strengths when an academic in the audience alerted me to the research studies of Tom Rath and Jim Harter in their book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. In this they state that, “Career wellbeing might be one of the most important priorities to consider for maintaining good health over the years,”
It makes sense. At work, lower well-being usually means higher stress and anxiety. Higher stress and anxiety translate into higher cortisol levels in the body. Higher cortisol can lead to insomnia, increased appetite, weight gain, a weakened immune function, an impaired cardiovascular system, and accelerated brain cell loss. As if this weren’t enough, Rath and Harter also found that as engagement at work goes down, cholesterol and triglycerides tend to rise.
On the up side, and thank goodness for it, Rath and Harter’s research also shows that improving career well-being and engagement at work have all the opposite effects. They further report that people who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths at work are three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.
We know from positive psychology studies that this then relates to happiness which in turn relates to health which in turn relates to longevity. So important to know and use your strengths.
One reason that people choose a portfolio career is that it usually gives them greater opportunity to utilize more of their strengths than is possible in a single job. What we learn from this though is that whatever your chosen career pattern a vital first step is to identify your strengths. In our book we describe the best method of doing that using friends or colleagues and if that is not possible we give a questionnaire that will also provide you with a list. Both methods involve you defining at least 7 of your life achievements.
Make knowing your strengths your priority.