You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

Margaret Young

FIERCELY ALIVE: What Will You Do?: 2.3.1

A Through Line to the Peak 

Once we see character strengths in ourselves and others, we can watch our world change for the better (see last two posts).   To continue to foster our strengths-based life, we can consciously apply our strengths in our lives.  On this journey, one of the first things we need to consider is strengths alignment.



A favorite experience of mine from our Mayerson Academy workshop series is when participants tell their stories of when they were at their best.  We ask them to talk about when in their recent histories were they firing on all engines? When did they feel most alive?  Of the thousands of stories we’ve had the privilege to hear, there are recurring themes.

      • I was acting freely for the sake of the work itself, not because of external motives.
      • I was really challenged to my limits, felt completely stretched, but at the same time, felt like I could do it.
      • Although I had never done it before, I was very clear about what I had to accomplish and that it was important to me.
      • I had the time and space to concentrate on doing my very best.

These statements rest on a foundation of strengths alignment – a match between the requirements of an activity with personal character strengths.  The result of this match is a feeling of authenticity, deep enjoyment and accomplishment. We can align our strengths to the profession we choose, the organization we join, the partner we select – every part of our lives – and create pinnacle experiences with more frequency.

Mark’s story below is a great example of strengths alignment.

I was hired to expand the reach of an organization.  The conventional path would have been to hit the road and schedule as many sales calls as possible.  I did some of that, but my greatest strengths don’t lie in social intelligence, love, and zest which that strategy clearly called for.  The alignment for me came when I saw my role as an author and a presenter, promoting the work in a different way – a way that allowed me to live my strengths of judgement, creativity, and honesty.  I am happy to say that the pause I took to seek alignment paid off — the organization has grown significantly as a result.

When it comes to fostering satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning in our work, it is the alignment of our character strengths that matters most, according to research from Claudia Harzer and Willibald Ruch.

Just as individuals can create their own alignment, leaders can support alignment for others by jointly unpacking the meaning of their organizational missions and visions and by encouraging colleagues to find the connections from those statements to their roles and to their character strengths.

An example might include an organization committed to serving as a bridge to change lives, families, and communities through education and job readiness, whose benefits administrator sees her strengths of prudence and judgement central to her role but also sees her strengths of hope and love as essential to the way she works with her colleagues and expresses their shared mission.

A clear through line from the heart of the organization to every individual’s strengths is the ultimate incentive.  It is undeniably powerful for building motivation, engagement, and performance. 

See here how we can also reinvent the tasks associated with our work to expand engagement and performance.