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Strengths + Passion = Happiness

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

I enjoy bringing my strengths to my work. I express my curiosity as I open up each new e-mail message, I express hope as I help clients work through struggles, and I express love (warmth and genuineness) with my colleagues as we discuss new ideas and process daily work happenings. This fills me with a greater passion and commitment to my work.

How about you? Do you express your highest character strengths each day at your job?

The research has been clear: Find ways to use your signature strengths and you will reap the benefits. One such benefit is greater happiness. And when you bring forth your best strengths at work, you have more positive work experiences, work satisfaction increases, and your engagement gets a boost too.

But why? Why is the use of signature strengths linked with greater happiness?

Previous research has explained this connection by finding that when we tap into our most natural and energizing internal qualities we meet our basic psychological needs and we reach our goals.

New research from Jacques Forest and his colleagues in Canada adds to this explanation. They found that signature strength use led to increases in harmonious passion. This means that when people express their strengths they are expressing a sense of who they are in a balanced way that is freely chosen and personally important in their life. This then leads to greater happiness for that person.

Whether you are a teacher, a garbage collector, an accountant, a homemaker, or an office manager, finding ways to align your character strengths with your work each day has a positive impact.

What strengths exercises did Forest have his subjects do? Here are the steps:

  1. First, the subjects described in detail what it looked like when they were working at their best. They noted how their signature strengths were involved and how they felt before and after using their signature strengths as well as how they felt in the moment.
  2. The subjects were then invited to use two of their signature strengths in new ways at their current job for two weeks.
  3. Finally, the subjects reflected on the positive consequences of using their signature strengths in their current job.

Easy enough, right? Sometimes it’s the easiest things, when applied the right way, that make the biggest impact.

How about you? Apply these three steps above to your current work. This will help you tap into your natural passion and enthusiasm and unleash it into the world.

Dive Deeper with a VIA Report

After you complete the VIA Survey, learn how to activate your character strengths to improve relationships, boost confidence, manage challenges and live a happier life with a personalized VIA Report.


Forest, J., Mageau, G. V. A., Crevier-Braud, L., Bergeron, L., Dubreuil, P., & Lavigne, G. V. L. (2012). Harmonious passion as an explanation of the relation between signature strengths’ use and well-being at work: Test of an intervention program. Human Relations, 65(9), 1233-1252.

Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 6-15.