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Create a Habit to Find More Engagement

There is a famous quote: “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” But, how can we use this advice to help us with our day-to-day work tasks? I’ll tell you. Take one small act and turn it into a habit that allows us to use our character strengths. This new habit can change the way we feel at work, and we have the number to prove it.

Polls have shown that 87% of employees report that they are not engaged at work. And, there are many research studies on character strengths and work  that reveal employees who use their character strengths more at work are likely to be happier employees, more productive, and report their work is a calling in life. And, there are tested interventions with employees using the VIA Survey and their signature strengths .

Making a small change in your behavior sounds so straightforward. Yet many people are so overwhelmed at work that even when they understand how developing their strengths will make their job easier and more enjoyable, they lack the daily mental space and energy to start. Quite simply, it’s easy to get lost in autopilot mode and daily habits.

So, why not take advantage of our human nature to be habit-focused?

Research has shown that we can create positive habits or virtuous circles in which one positive can lead to another, for example mindful awareness (link is external) leading to strengths use which leads to deeper mindfulness and on to savvy strengths use.

Why not get your own virtuous circle started and create a positive habit?

Michelle McQuaid, the VIA Institute’s lead consultant for business practices, suggests a daily, 11-minute “busy-proof” habit. Here are the 3 steps:

  1. Cue: choose a 30 second cue
  2. Routine: create a 10 minute routine
  3. Reward: give yourself a 30 second reward

Example #1:

  1. Cue (for the character strength of humor): Turning on my computer to start my day.
  2. Routine: Watch 10 minutes of a funny video online
  3. Reward: Take my first sip of coffee

Example #2:

  1. Cue (for the character strength of appreciation of beauty): Walking my dog
  2. Routine: Take pictures and short videos of nature
  3. Reward: Either sit on a bench to savor 1 photo OR post a picture on Instagram.

People found this intervention to be practically useful and valuable. Therefore, in August 2015, McQuaid and the VIA Institute tested it on a larger scale by inviting employees around the world to take part in a Strengths Challenge. More than 2,000 people across 65 different countries created a one-week, 11-minute, character strength habit. Here are the results!

  • 41% improved their ability to name their own strengths.
  • 60% became better at setting weekly strength-based goals.
  • 41% improved their feeling of having the opportunity to do what they did best each day.
  • 39% improved the likelihood of having a meaningful strengths conversation with their supervisor.
  • 32% felt their organization was more committed to developing their strengths.
  • In summary, numerous additional benefits included: greater flourishing, engagement, and feeling valued, energized, and like they were making a difference.

The good news is this global strengths challenge will be offered free again, starting on February 8th 2016.  If you, or the people you work with, would like to try out this 11-minute strengths habit and bring your character strengths to work, go to

Create a Habit to Find More Engagement

Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D

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APA Reference
Niemiec, R. (2019). Create a Habit to Find More Engagement. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Mar 2019
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