The SPIRE of Career Planning: How to Build Happiness and Optimism into Your Career Part 1

Career planning may feel daunting so here is something that can help to make the process feel fulfilling and motivating, build resilience and lead to greater optimism: The SPIRE model of happiness. Let’s explore the SPIRE of Career Planning!

Career Planning is a great way to clarify what you want to achieve professionally and how to get there.  My method for career planning is a three-part process:

  1. Positive Mindset through Flow;
  2. An Authenticity Set through Self-Assessment; and
  3. Powerful Goal Setting and Achievement.

Here’s how SPIRE can help.

The SPIRE Model of Happiness

The  SPIRE model of happiness is comprised of the following five elements:

S: spiritual wellbeing:

being mindful and feeling a sense of purpose

P: physical wellbeing:

committing to mental and physical health by exercising, eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest, and having physical touch.

I: intellectual wellbeing:

being open and curious and engaging in deep learning

R: relational wellbeing:

having quality relationships with others and with yourself

E: emotional wellbeing:

experiencing all emotions and then opening to the experience of pleasurable emotions

Using the SPIRE model gives us many ways to enhance our well-being. As such, happiness is multi-dimensional. And career planning can evoke all five of the SPIRE elements.

The SPIRE of Career Planning: Build a Positive Mindset through Flow

Let’s start the process by tapping into the positive mindset of Flow.

To do so, close your eyes, take a deep breath and call up an experience where you were doing something:

  • that you love,
  • where you were totally immersed in this activity and in the zone,
  • totally confident,
  • free of judgment,
  • feeling tremendous joy and
  • so absorbed in what you were doing that time was going by and you didn’t even notice it.

Chances are that you tapped into Flow, your level of optimal performance!  And by tapping into Flow, you are tapping into a positive mindset and enhancing your happiness.

Flow comes to us from the research the late psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi as described his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  Flow is closely connected to Happiness.  Csikszentmihalyi elaborates on the connection between Flow and Happiness in his TED Talk entitled Flow: The Secret to Happiness

Moreover, Flow has the capacity to invoke all five of the SPIRE elements:

Spiritual Wellbeing:

Flow involves doing something meaningful and staying grounded in the moment.

Physical wellbeing:

Your flow experience might involve activities that enhance our physical health which, through the mind-body connection, influences how we feel.

Intellectual wellbeing:

Flow is a deep learning experience where you strive to meet a challenge and your level of skill meets that challenge.

Relational wellbeing:

When flow involves interacting with others, it reflects your meaningful relationships and enhances the relationship with yourself.

Emotional wellbeing:

Flow feels good and brings on pleasurable emotions

No wonder we feel truly happy and fulfilled at Flow!

So tap into your Flow and embrace the positive mindset that Flow captures.

The SPIRE of Career Planning: Purpose, Values, Passions and Strengths

Successful career planning starts with a personal assessment of your purpose, values, passions, and strengths.  These tools will tell you what is important to you and will help you set inspirational career goals, focus your career search and evaluate your options.  Taken together, these four tools also invoke the SPIRE elements and lead to greater happiness.

  • Purpose:

Purpose is key to success and fulfillment.  Purpose is the intersection of your passions, your strengths, and your way of serving others.  It is how you contribute your best qualities to connect with the people you most care about and serve the world to make it a better place.

Knowing your purpose provides clarity for your career direction. It helps you identify what you want to achieve, a sense of direction for where to start and the motivation to make it happen. It also can inspire you to greater heights.

Moreover, purpose is essential to your well-being and happiness.  Under Tal Ben-Shahar’s SPIRE model of happiness, the first of the five components of well-being is spiritual well-being. A key principle of spiritual well-being is finding meaning and purpose in life.

To experience greater spiritual wellbeing, find your purpose by creating a Life Purpose Statement.

  • Values:

Values are your qualities of intrinsic worth and the principles that run your life. Core values help to define who you are. Values are closely linked to your purpose since they articulate what is truly important to you.  Values are thus closely tied to Spiritual Well-being since they too help you to find meaning and purpose in your career and in your life.  That’s why knowing your values is key to making smart career choices in your career plan.

Moroever, values can invoke Intellectual Well-being which means that you are

  • Curious and open to new experiences and
  • engaging in deep learning.

If you have a value around life-long learning (one of my top values!), challenge, excitement and/or discovery, you are probably enjoying the benefits of intellectual wellbeing as well!

In addition, if your values include relationship values like love, friendship, family, and community, this helps you to experience relational well-being. In fact, Relational Well-being is the single biggest predictor of happiness, according to the 8-decade Harvard Study of Adult Development.

Review my Values Assessment and then narrow your list to your top 5 values to find your values.

  • Passions

What do you love to do?

Your passions are another key element of successful career planning. It is incredibly motivating to have your work reflect what you love. Moreover, chances are that you will be more successful if you are able to able to find happiness in your life, including your work.

Passion underlies many aspects of a successful career.  Passion is at the heart of creative success. Creativity researcher and Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and leadership professor Colin Fisher observe that this passion drives creative people to pursue their work and become intrinsically motivated to create.

And when passion is combined with purpose, not only are you motivated to create success but you also connect with the greater world and create meaning in your life.

Passions also bring up several of the SPIRE elements:

  • When engaging in your passions feels meaningful and fulfilling, you experience spiritual well-being.
  • Moreover, if you love interacting with people, this helps you to experience relational wellbeing;
  • And if your passions involve deep learning and curiosity, they can also invoke Intellectual Welll-being.

To find your passions, think expansively about your passions to include:

  • The subjects that fascinate you
  • Your sense of mission
  • The way you interact with people
  • Your way of thinking
  • The process that you enjoy following to create success.
  • Strengths

Strengths are an essential element of career planning since they are the fuel that can energize you to achieve your career goals.  Using our strengths feels great!  It is, therefore no surprise that strengths are a major component of positive psychology, the science of what makes life worth living.  The strengths-based approach of positive psychology helps individuals to identify and focus on the positive aspects of their lives. In fact, research demonstrates that identifying and using your strengths enhances your capacity for greater well-being and happiness.

Because strengths energize your pursuit of meaningful purpose-driven goals,  strengths are closely connected to your life purpose and therefore help you to experience Spiritual Well-being.  In addition, depending on what categories your strengths fall into, strengths can reflect the other four elements of SPIRE:

Physical wellbeing:

When strengths motivate you to engage in physical activities, you have the potential to experience better mental health, thanks to the mind-body connection.

Intellectual wellbeing:

If you have thinking and/or learning strengths, using these strengths can build intellectual wellbeing.

Relational wellbeing:

If you have relationship-building strengths, this helps you build meaningful relationships with yourself and others

Emotional wellbeing:

Focusing on strengths feels good and brings on pleasurable emotions.

To find your strengths, take an assessment like Gallup’s Clifton Assessment or the free HIGH5 Strengths Test.


Now that you have embraced a positive mindset and have completed the assessments, you are ready to put these elements today and set and achieve meaningful career goals.  As such, we will then see how SPIRE can inspire a successful career journey. That’s the subject of our next post so stay tuned!