Strengths and Happiness Part 2: The SPIRE of Strengths

How do you feel when you are doing something that you are really good at and that you love?

Probably pretty terrific!

That’s because you are using your strengths: the talents that energize you.  Research from positive psychology demonstrates that identifying and using your strengths enhances your capacity for greater well-being and happiness. Strengths connect closely to Tal Ben-Shahar’s research-based SPIRE model of whole-person well-being. Let’s explore strengths and SPIRE to learn what the science of happiness tells us about why using our strengths makes us feel so good. In other words, the relationship between strengths and SPIRE.

The SPIRE Model of Happiness

SPIRE is a holistic model consisting of five elements that, together, contribute to happiness and well-being:

S: spiritual well-being
P: physical well-being
I: intellectual well-being
R: relational well-being
E: emotional well-being

Happiness is thus multi-dimensional. When we cultivate each of the five SPIRE elements, we reach our highest potential. All are essential.  We can choose which elements resonate most powerfully for us,  making sure that we also spend time and energy cultivating the rest.

Here’s how using our strengths taps into each of the five SPIRE elements.

Gallup’s Clifton Strengths

For starters, you need to know your strengths! One excellent assessment is  Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Assessment. This assessment identifies the natural talents that help you perform at your best.

Clifton Strengths fall into one of four domains:

  • Executing (“E”) strengths help you make things happen.
  • Influencing (“I”) strengths help you take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard.
  • Relationship Building (“R”) strengths help you build strong relationships.
  • Strategic Thinking (“S”) strengths help you learn, absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions.

My top five Clifton Strengths fall into the following three domains:

  1. Strategic (S)
  2. Individualization (R)
  3. Learner (S)
  4. Positivity (R)
  5. Maximizer (I)

Thus, I have 2 Strategic Thinking strengths, 2 Relationship-Building Strengths, and 1 Influencing strength.

Strengths and SPIRE

Allow me to share how my strengths connect to the five SPIRE elements and contribute to my overall well-being and happiness.

  • Spiritual Well-being

Spiritual well-being means that we have a sense of purpose to which we commit.

Last time, I discussed how strengths contribute to our spiritual well-being by helping us live our purpose.   In fact, using our strengths helps us to achieve meaningful goals that allow us to exemplify our purpose.  My meaningful goal is to spread greater happiness and fulfillment to leaders in the performing arts. In working towards this goal, I am using all five of my Clifton Strengths. And doing so allows me to live my purpose

“to expertly, passionately, and generously inspire and empower joy and flow so that together, we spread creativity and happiness throughout the world.”

Using my strengths to work toward my purpose is inherently fulfilling and feels deeply satisfying!

  • Physical Well-being

Physical well-being means that we commit to our mental and physical health by exercising, eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest, and having physical touch, like five hugs a day! If you are athletically inclined, you undoubtedly use these strengths to keep you physically and mentally strong.

While I am not a natural athlete, I love to exercise, and it has been a part of my weekly health routine for many years.  Moreover, these days, my physical well-being is very much on my mind.  I am recovering from knee surgery and have a rigorous daily exercise routine.  Some days, these exercises are the last thing I want to do! However, I use my maximizer strengths to motivate me to go from “good to great”.   My positivity strength also gives me optimism that I will improve. In fact, I see the results as I grow stronger and healthier each week. Eventually, I hope to engage in activities that I had to give up because of my knee issues.  The bonus is that I feel great after doing my exercises!

  • Intellectual well-being

The third SPIRE element of Intellectual well-being means that you are open and curious and engage in deep learning.  This corresponds to the Clifton Strategic Thinking domain.   My two Strategic Thinking strengths are Strategic and Learner.  Both of these strengths involve my spiritual well-being and my sense of purpose.  In addition, I use my Strategic strengths to further my intellectual well-being of curiosity and deep learning:

  • I journal every day to reflect on my life and put together ideas;
  • I read professional journals and articles because I am curious to know more about the science of happiness;
  • I read literary fiction because it is my passion and allows me to engage in deep learning through the characters and themes of these works;
  • I blog and write to clarify my own thinking and share my ideas;
  • I keep up with my knowledge of French through the Duolingo app; and
  • I play the piano and exercise one of my multiple intelligences of musical ability.

In engaging in these activities, I experience feelings that range from gratitude and fulfillment to joy and inspiration!

  • Relational well-being

Relational well-being under the SPIRE model means that you cultivate meaningful relationships with others. In fact, having quality relationships with others is the single biggest predictor of happiness, according to the 8-decade Harvard Study of Adult Development.  The results of the study are discussed in the recently published book, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study on Happiness by the director of the study, Dr. Robert Waldinger, and his colleague Marc Schulz.

Using our strengths can help to build quality relationships. In fact, Relationship-Building is one of the four Clifton Strengths domains.  I use my two relationship-building strengths –Individualization and Positivity—on a daily basis.  They come into play when I coach, teach, lead a webinar, spend time with family and friends, meet new people, or run a meeting. I tailor each of my interactions to the individuals or groups with whom I am dealing.  Moreover, I strive to bring a sense of optimism and positivity when I spend time with others. And spending time with my friends, family members, clients, and colleagues makes me feel happy, motivated, inspired, and energized!

  • Emotional well-being

The fifth and final SPIRE element of emotional well-being encapsulates how we feel about ourselves and our lives. Experiencing positive, pleasurable emotions is at the heart of emotional well-being.  No wonder strengths involve emotional well-being because using our strengths helps us to feel good!

For starters, strengths fuel your confidence.  That’s because they represent the things at which we excel that also energize us and are enjoyable.  It’s not surprising that using your strengths touches on many aspects of well-being.  In fact,  Gallup’s research demonstrates applying your strengths makes you:

  • more energetic, well-rested, and happy;
  • more likely to achieve your goals;
  • have higher levels of confidence and self-awareness;
  • six times more likely to be engaged and productive at work;
  • less likely to experience negative emotions like worry, sadness, and stress; and
  • three times as likely to report an excellent quality of life.

Writing this blog makes me feel happy because it reminds me of how I use my strengths. I also feel energized, engaged, and grateful that I can share this information with you. My wish for you is to play to your strengths in all aspects of your life so that you can experience greater happiness and fulfillment!

Action Steps:

  1. Take Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Assessment to identify your strengths.
  2. Journal about how often and how well you use each of your strengths.
  3. Make a plan to use your strengths on a daily basis.
  4. Redesign your week so that you are playing to your strengths.
  5. Reflect on how you feel when you use your strengths.