In an earlier post this week I discussed the Gallup poll findings on job satisfaction in the United States. Over 50% of those surveyed stated they were only somewhat satisfied or completely dissatisfied with their jobs. Now, job satisfaction is a complicated issue and there are a number of different factors that play into our individual ideal of what creates job satisfaction. When more than half of those surveyed admit they are not completely happy with their jobs, I think there is an underlying cause that we tend to ignore.
Many of us chose jobs that do not exploit our strengths or ignite our passions. Let’s face it, if you spend eight hours a day (or more) doing something that is not meaningful to you it is very difficult to be satisfied with, or fulfilled by, your job.
Why do so many of us chose jobs that are less than fulfilling if we have a choice? Very often it is because we are not really certain what our own character strengths really are. Nor have we taken the time to explore how we could actually weave those strengths into our work day. For Boomers, one reason for this self-limiting behavior can be traced back to the method of public education.
I do not mean to belittle public education by any means. I have the utmost respect for educators. My partner has made his career in primary education and now in higher education. I see first hand how hard teachers work everyday. But the style of education currently found in the classroom favors conformity. Each child may be different and have unique talents, but those talents may not fit into the curriculum required by the State. When those talents are not nurtured and developed, it is not so easy to find where our own true strengths lie.
Sir Ken Robinson, an international educationalist, says talent is like a natural resource. It is very valuable but is most often hidden under the surface and it takes time and skill to find it. He uses the example of Gillian Lynne, the famous dancer and choreographer of Cats. Gillian’s mother took her to a doctor because she was concerned that Gillian was underperforming in school. She was nervous, fidgety, and lacked focus. Today we would say she had ADHD. This doctor observed her for a while, then asked her mother to step out of the room with him for a consultation. As they left the room he turned on the radio. Gillian immediately began to move. The doctor turned to her mother and told her there was nothing wrong with her daughter. The answer was simple–she was a dancer. He advised her to enroll Gillian in dance lessons. Thankfully, she followed his advice and the world was graced with truly remarkable art and choreography.
What a waste it would have been if that natural resource had never been discovered or worse, Gillian had been medicated for ADHD as is so common today and her talent had been ignored.
Gillian’s story is a great example of what can happen when we do not try to force conformity onto our youth. Unfortunately, many of us design our lives by what we feel we should do. It starts early in the classroom and continues as we enter the workforce. We use a pre-designed template to decide what is important and then use that template to move forward. It doesn’t seem to matter if that plan utilizes our strengths. Imagine what would be possible if we chose a career based on what we loved–what moved us–rather than how much money we could make or what car we would be able to drive. I like to believe our world ( and our workplaces) would be a much happier place.
The good news is that the current methods of education are beginning to change, moving to a style that focuses more on individual strengths for faster development and achievement. For those of us who have past that stage of life, it still isn’t too late. With a little effort, we can discover our own strengths and talents. Some we can apply in the workplace. Some may require expression in a different venue, but we can still nurture our own personal development.
Regardless of how or where we chose to engage those strengths, the result is pretty remarkable. When we feel good about what we do–at work or at home–we are happier and more content. If we are more satisfied at work that feeling cannot help but carry over into our home life and vice versa. More satisfaction leads to more happiness which leads to better overall health and wellness.
Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a pretty good reason to spend some time learning how to define and engage our own strength characteristics.
Spend thirty minutes to discover how you can use your strengths to improve your life. Click here for a free thirty minute session and come away with a clear plan for greater satisfaction you can starting implementing today.