“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Since I became a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, my appointments with clients and students have started with their StrengthsFinder results and why they want to do what they have decided to do. All too often I meet with people who see someone rich, happy, and successful and infer that this is more about what he or she is doing professionally than about the individual. Frequently, they assume that because struggling financially is unpleasant, they will find happiness as they earn more money. As it turns out, the assumption is only true to a point. After around $75,000, more money won’t help you become happier, and yet, so many people keep struggling to earn more and more, with the hope that this time, it will make them happy. After all, insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcomes. Remarkably, many people in the world live their entire lives believing that the pursuit of happiness equals the pursuit of material wealth..
I would argue that to be happy, particularly in a professional context, you must know what it looks like for you to be in the zone or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would call it, the Flow. What does it look like for you to be doing your best work? When in recent memory do you remember truly excelling at what you were doing? How were you doing it? What was unique about the way you were doing it? How did you use what was best about you to dominate something that was equally challenging? According to Csikszentmihalyi:
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” (1990, p. 3)
Don Clifton would have qualified this experience as simultaneously using all of your dominant talent themes. Not only is there a unique way for each of us to cultivate joy in how we do what we do, but there is actually a handy assessment that you can take to figure out what talents you have that can be leveraged to get you there.
Additionally, Csikszentmihalyi specifies that to achieve this state of Flow, what you do must be worthwhile to you. This means that you must also know what you care enough about to put your time and energy into. Knowing this, and knowing how you can do your best work, will set you on the path to realizing your full potential. The world certainly needs heroes, and it would be better off with heroes that know what superpowers lie dormant within them.