Turning Your Strengths Into Your Brand – and Into Flow, or Happiness, in Your Work and Life
Flow is: where you want to be. The psychological state of Flow is what we mean when we say we are “in the zone”. We become absorbed
in our activity. We may lose track of time, and time may fly. We experience what we are doing as fulfilling and rewarding in and of itself. And it’s in FLOW that we do our best work, are most likely to get noticed, promoted, attract the attention of potential business partners, and more.
Flow ‘n’ Go: We now know that people can access the flow state by exercising their strengths – which are created by a combination of natural gifts and passion – in the service of meaningful (i.e., rewarding) and challenging activity. That means that you can be happiest in life and work by finding ways to use your strengths as often as possible. You will then be working with passion. You will feel good, competent, even a sense of mastery. You will feel clarity, confidence, and serenity. Because you love what you are doing, you will get better at it. Others will take notice. Promotions, bonuses, increased income, business success, and recognition may all follow.
I haven’t stopped being amazed at how empowered, clear, and confident people can start to feel once they really begin to explore their strengths. Here’s just one example:
The homework is coming along nicely, although I underestimated the time required to really think through past work experiences in terms of your STARM framework. When you’re in the middle of [a work experience] you just get it done, often based on instinct. Examining a work event retrospectively can be challenging because I have to figure out what strength(s) played a part in the success.
I can say that the StrengthsFinder and Authentic Happiness tests are giving me a different perspective on my current work. I am now understanding why some activities are exciting while others are boring.
Knowing where my strengths lie provides me with more confidence to say “this is the best solution because I’ve thought through it and analyzed all reasonable options”. It’s not like I wasn’t confident before, but I would tend to sometimes understate the degree of confidence that I had in my opinion.
Expression of Strengths (or Passions, or Values) => Happiness and Brand
The first step in developing both your path to Flow and your personal brand (similar to what used to be called reputation) is to learn what your differentiating strengths are – what separates you from other people. In marketing, we talk about “product differentiation” and “competitive advantage” – and that’s exactly what your branding is going to be about.
The inexpensive and remarkably accurate StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment was created by the Gallup organization to tell you just that. Taken by over 7 million people to date, it offers powerful insights into what you simply can do better than other people. My clients have found it very accurate. I also encourage you to take the VIA Strengths (Values in Action) assessment. Created at the University of Pennsylvania by the team of Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology, the VIA assessment defines strengths in broader, less work-focused terms than the StrengthsFinder, but it’s no less useful to you, and it’s been around a lot longer.
Branding is Self-Understanding
Your strengths will form the basis of your personal story and brand (in LinkedIn, your resume and cover letter, elevator pitch, and interview strategy), as well as how you make decisions about careers, relationships, and spending your time most enjoyably and productively.
So it’s not enough just to know the names of your strengths. You need to have an intimate understanding of them. How to talk about them – and yourself – should be on the tip of your tongue, ready to be drawn upon when the unexpected strikes, when you are communicating with someone who could be helpful. You need to be able to talk about how you have exercised your strengths in your life. You also want to think of the strengths as being your passions and values, which will add a powerful element of passion and expertise to your conversations about yourself. Finally, the strengths are the basis of the talking points that you’ll use in formal (e.g., interviews) and informal (e.g., networking, elevator pitches) conversations.
 To learn more about the fascinating science of Flow, see Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (“cheeks-sent-me-high”) or his shorter work, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.
This is not atypical: “This was a great assignment. I didn’t realize that I’ve been exercising the same strengths in different ways for my entire life. I can see a very clear pattern that started when I was very young. This was so interesting.”