VIA Blog - Stories to inspire and resources to motivate.

To Maximize Your Strengths, Start An 11-Minute Habit

October 7, 2013 by ·

We want to thank Michelle McQuaid, best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and playful change activator, for sharing this guest post.


quote about strengths by Michelle McQuaid “Now I’ve discovered my strengths, what am I meant to do with them?” is a question I’m often asked.

Having used the VIA Survey to help thousands of people around the world discover when they’re at their best at work, I find plenty of people left scratching their heads wondering what to do about it.

I mean just how do you use a strength like love in the workplace without being fired for it?

You can imagine their surprise when they think back on the times they’ve been most engaged and energized at work, only to discover their VIA strengths starring them in the face during these moments.  This is where they’ve been.

You can also imagine their hope when they try to visualize what they might achieve over the next year at work, if they could use their strengths to create more of these high-point moments.  This is where they want to be.

At the end of a training session however I’ve discovered there’s one exercise that makes truly makes the difference to people walking out of the room and putting their strengths into action.

It turns out the creation of a strength based, daily habit is what helps to take them from where they are to where they want to be.

To ensure even the busiest executives can find time in their day to have at least one strength-fueled moment I suggest people try starting with an 11-minute habit.

Why 11 minutes?

Based on the latest scientific research around habits try the following:

30 seconds to activate the habit –  Make it easy to get started.  Anchor it to a habit you already have, embed it in your environment, use a “when/then” statement to prime your brain and maximize your self-regulation by starting early in the day.

10 minutes to practice –  Spend at least ten minutes using your strength to complete a task.

30 seconds to celebrate – The habit will stick faster if you celebrate what you’ve just done by checking it off the list or sharing the good news with someone.

For example, one of my top strengths is curiosity and I know my best days are when I get to learn something new.

My 11 minute daily strength habit looks like this:

quote about success by Michelle McQuaidWhen I get turn on my computer, then I will spend ten minutes using my strength of curiosity to explore the latest research in positive psychology and share what I’ve learnt with one person.

I started this habit when I found myself stuck in a job I loathed.  Incredibly finding just 11 minutes a day to truly perform at my best – even though it wasn’t technically in my job description – was instrumental in eventually being promoted to the job I dreamed of and later going on to launch my own business.

And I could share story after story of people I’ve taught this simple practice to who have found the small change has created significant shifts in their work and life in general.

So if you were given the gift of 11 minutes a day just to fully engage your strengths and shine, how would you choose to spend it?

Not sure where to start, you can find a host of practical, playful ways to use your strengths at work in this great guide: 340 Ways To Use Your Strengths.


About Michelle McQuaid:

Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and playful change activator.  An honorary fellow at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education, her work has been featured in Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Boss Magazine, The Age, Women’s Agenda, Wellbeing Magazine and more.

She holds a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently completing her PhD in Appreciative Inquiry under the supervision of David Cooperrider.





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