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When It Comes To Using Your Strengths, What Are You Hoping For?

January 31, 2014 by ·

Michelle McQuaid, best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and playful change activator, shares why your hope strength matters and tips for exercising it.

Incredibly it’s estimated two-thirds of the population have no idea what their strengths are.  That sounds like a lot, but when I walk into most organizations and ask people to share what it is they do best and actually enjoy doing, the number of people left scratching their heads suggests this number might be conservative.

hope plays a central role in driving persistence, motivation, goal setting and innovationGladly thanks to tools like the VIA Survey helping people discover their strengths has become much easier.  This simple act alone has been found to boost productivity and confidence.

Teaching them how to apply their strengths however, particularly for generic roles, can be a little more complicated especially with heightened expectations of a better way to work.

This is why I like to move them from wishing about what might be, to hoping for what will be.

Why does hope matter?

The problem with a wish is it makes us passive and less likely to reach our goals.  For example, researchers have found eighty-nine per cent of people believe the future will be better than the present, but only fifty per cent of us believe we can make it so.   Yet scientists are adamant both beliefs are required in order for us to ignite enough hope to move us from where we are to where we want to go.

The work of your head and your heart, Professor Rick Snyder and his colleagues found hope requires three elements:

  • Goal Thinking – Having clearly conceptualized goals that excite you and fill your mind with pictures of the future.
  • Pathways Thinking – The ability to seek out and identify multiple pathways to your goals, pick the most appropriate routes for your situation, and monitor your progress over time.
  • Agency Thinking – The ability to motivate yourself and to build capacity for persistence and long-term effort in the face of obstacles.

 How can you create strength-based hopes?

One of my favorite approaches to help turn their wishes about using their strengths more at work into hopes is created by Dr. Shane Lopez and it’s called a Hope Map.


1. Take a piece of paper and place it horizontally on your desk.

2.  Then fold it into three sections and open it up once more.

3.  On the far right third of the page write the heading ‘Goals’.  Then note down below a goal you’re hoping to achieve around the use of your strengths more at work.

4.  On the far left third of the page write the heading ‘Pathways’.  Try to note down at least three different pathways you’ll need to initiate to reach your goal.   You might identify how specific strengths or cluster of strengths will make these pathways easier.

5.  In the middle third of the page write the heading ‘Obstacles’.  Try to note down at least one obstacle for each of the pathways you’ve identified.  One of the things researchers have uncovered about achieving our goals is we’re more likely to succeed when we plan for possible obstacles at the outset.  This way they don’t send us into such a loop.
Around the edges of your page note down what you can do to maintain your motivation and will power to complete the pathways and achieve your goal.  How will you make the journey enjoyable? Who will encourage you?  How will you measure your progress?

Once your map is complete your hopes are clear and you’re ready to get on with it.

When it comes to our work researchers have found hope plays a central role in driving persistence, motivation, goal setting and innovation.  In fact, other things being equal, hope has been found to lead to a 14% bump in productivity.

To put that into context, it means hope is worth about an hour a day – so completing a strengths hope map is actually likely to save you time in the long run.

Given that research suggests no other workplace measure – including job satisfaction, company commitment and confidence to do the job – counts more than hope in determining whether we’ll show up, surely it’s worth a try.

So when it comes to using your strengths more at work, what are you hoping for?




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