An easier way to achieving success, happiness and meaning

Many people are very talented yet feeling unfulfilled. The truth is there is an easy way to turn this around.

But first, we need to understand why we spend our lifetime in studying, working, and doing the best we can, yet we still end up feeling unsatisfied. Sounds like a bad deal, right?

You see, ever since we were children, we had been taught to strive for better, and to be the best we can be.

There is nothing wrong with this notion except the way we were taught is mostly wrong.

Most of us were taught to live a life or have a career based on how others define success.

What we didn’t learn was that the easier way is actually to focus on how to maximise our own authentic strengths and genius. In other words, the journey begins with understanding what is the best in us first. 

Without that basic understanding, we will go through our career and life with little direction. Our strengths and our genius are our inner GPS and our own hidden success formula.

Without our own inner GPS, we will end up all over the place and likely waste our potential and then wonder why we are still not performing at our best, being as successful as we should be, and as happy as we should be, no matter how hard we try.

Many of us invest money and time in courses that are next best things but forget to do the most important education in life that is to discover our own hidden treasure, our own genius, and make the most of it.

We are very critical of ourselves, we spend a lot of time consciously or subconsciously in comparing ourselves with others, giving ourselves a hard time why we are not richer, smarter, more popular, successful, loving whatever, we are just never good enough to our own standards. We actually genuinely believe this is a good thing to push ourselves, and if we improve this and that, we can then be good enough and happy.

Therefore, the reason we are not happy is not because we have a bad job, bad boss or any other external factors.

Most of the time, it is simply because we are not satisfied with ourselves, we constantly seek external validation whether it is another promotion, another degree, or another award just like when we were little.

We can go about our life like this for a while, maybe 10, 15, 20 years, we will get exhausted if we keep doing this way, because the truth is that there will always be somebody who is smarter, richer, more popular than us, we can never catch up.

Truly successful and fulfilled people don’t run around trying to be better than others in this crazy rat race. They are self-assured and understand the only work they need to do as long as they are breathing and living on this planet - is to be their best selves.

Research over 300,000 people from Innermetrix shows that the most successful and fulfilled people are very self-aware of their strengths and their own genius, and only focusing on what is best in them and honing on them like you wouldn’t believe. They understand that the key to true success, happiness and fulfilment is to make the most of what they have already got.

Anthony Robins said from very early on in his career, he recognised that he was only good at a few things and he decided that’s all he needs to focus on and to become masterful in them.

Look at people like Richard Branson, you must wonder how could a human being is able to accomplish so much and genuinely enjoy his life.

It is clear that he regularly plays to his strengths, and he is having such a good time in sharing his strengths with the world – his entrepreneurship, his adventurous spirit, his zest, his mentoring and advising talent, these are all his strengths whether behavioural or psychological, and he uses them every day. And he does it through his genius, which is providing people with great and fun experiences in every business he operates in.

We all have a unique set of strengths and our own genius that nobody else has. 

So instead of wondering what else we can do to be better than somebody else, let's focus on what we have already got and how we can turn these hidden treasures into mastery and something useful. This is how we can make the most contribution and feel most fulfilled.

If we invest our lifetime on the things that are not our strengths, we are deliberately putting ourselves at the weakest starting point.

Once we understand what our strengths are, it could be a talent we have, it could be the way we think, it could be the way we solve a problem, we are now clear with where we should focus our time and energy on.

Life has this magical starting line.

It’s up to you where you want to start.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Yu Dan

A simple way to feel happy, engaged and energised at work - Starting Today

80% of people at corporations don’t feel fully engaged at work. There has been a lot of emphasis on what companies should be doing to change that.

However, I think every one of us can take part in this change, and we can start making the change within us today.

It is true that many people leave their jobs because of bad culture, management style, or inflexible work practice.

However, research also shows that one of the key reasons we are not fully engaged at work is because we don’t do what we do best every day. In fact, 9 out of 10 people based on Gallup research don’t feel that they get to use their natural strengths at work.

Most of us need three key primary elements to be in place for us to feel happy and engaged at work: Feeling competent, autonomy, and good relationships at work.

This is why people still don’t feel motivated with their work, even when they like the people they work with and have the flexibility at work. Fundamentally, feeling competent and accomplished based on our natural talents and strengths is the key to our fulfilment. 

I would argue that the autonomy and relationships are often out of our control, we cannot choose who is our co-worker, our manager, and how flexible the workplace is. We can help improve these elements, but largely they are out of our direct control.

One thing that we can make change is whether we can do what we do best every day, whether we understand what our natural strengths are and how we start making the use of them every day.

Simply, strengths are the things that we do great naturally, things we feel like that we are born to do well. Often with no or little training, you just get them and do them exceptionally well, and you feel energised, happy and competent while you are using your strengths.

However, I find there are some misconceptions around the strength concept, and I would like to demystify it so it is easier for us to apply at work:

  • We don’t just have a few strengths. Each of us has at least 10-20 strengths
  • Strengths are not limited to just skillsets (e.g. writing, public speaking)
  • Strength is not the same as passion. You can have a passion but the passion may not align with your strength. People who pursue passion without the backup of strengths might find it difficult to sustain

Strength includes what you do and how you do it. So imagine you are good at following things:

  • What you do best naturally - writing, building relationships, creating new ideas, connecting dots etc.
  • How you get things done naturally – innovative, zestful, curious, creative etc.

So in an ideal world, your job should naturally include all of these elements so you feel like completely at home.

In reality, most of our jobs are not perfect, so it is up to you to know exactly what your natural strengths are and start to integrate them into your daily work.

The important thing is getting doing. You don’t have to use all your strengths once, even if you get to exercise 1 or 2 strengths a day, you will feel much more energised.

The danger would be if we don't use our natural strengths at work, we will feel like completely out of sync with our best version of ourselves, and feel no more joy at work. The greater danger is that if we don't master this skill, it is likely we will repeat our patterns when we move into a different job after the initial honeymoon stage wears off.

Let's start making the shift today:

  • So what are your top 10 strengths? If you don't know, how could you find out?
  • How can you start bringing your strengths to work and re-shape how you operate today?
  • If you have colleagues who are struggling today, how can you start sharing this concept with them so they can start re-energise their work?
  • If you are a leader, how can you help discover your team’s strengths so they can be more engaged at work?

What do you think? I would love to hear your comments.

Yu Dan

How Strength Approach changed my career and life 

In 2008, I hit the rock bottom. I was working as a Chief Marketing officer for a technology company but I just couldn’t go on anymore. I was so unhappy in my job that I started to become very sick.

I wanted to give it all up.

The guilt I felt was beyond what words could describe. The sacrifices my family and I had made over the years. The kids I had to raise, the mortgage I had to pay.

I had spent my lifetime to get here, and yet I was so unhappy. It felt completely illogical. I was just going to quit? Walk out of this path completely?

I felt weak. Giving up felt like a weakness.

But what is worse, having a well-paid job feeling miserable or giving myself a chance to start living again?

To climb back from rock bottom, I knew I had to do something completely differently. 

But I had a dilemma, I suddenly realised that I knew nothing about myself. I had no idea what my real talent was. 

Besides marketing jobs, I was practically unemployable.

I was able to list many things I was good at but had no interest in. Or the things I was interested in, I didn’t have the skill nor experience to make enough money to maintain my family obligation.

I was stuck!

But by then, I had become obsessed with finding the answer.

And I was determined to find it without turning my life upside down.

After a period of soul-searching, I finally came across an approach that ultimately changed my life, my career, and everything.

The Realise2 Strength Approach created by Dr Alex Linley has the notion that we could only sustain our success, happiness and performance if we live and work in accordance with our authentic strengths.

I found my answer. I found my zest back.

Basically, what I did in my entire career was wrong, which was why I ended up where I was.

I spent most my time doing the things that were not my natural strengths. I learned to be good at my job only through working hard.

When we don’t work from our natural strengths, we max out pretty quickly, no matter how hard we try, how smart we are, and how determined we might be. We will hit the ceiling.

To keep performance up, we work even harder only feel more exhausted, barely surviving. We then lose our confidence and feel burned out.

Instead of giving up on my career, I needed to give up my non-strengths and let my natural strengths in

Natural strengths are the things we are good at and come to us naturally. When we use them, we feel like we are in our element, work becomes interesting. When we don’t use them, we feel bored and get stuck in groundhog day.

This is why I felt unhappy because every day I turned up at work trying to be somebody I was not. I was good at what I did but most didn't come to me naturally. This is why I felt so unauthentic and it was exhausting.

But for a long time, I would not admit it to myself, scared that I would lose everything if I made any change. And I couldn’t imagine spending another 20 years starting from scratch in another field, even I fancy about them.

The truth is we can master things exceptionally fast if we use our natural strengths.

Research has shown when we work with our strengths, we learn things faster and more effortlessly.

I could relate to that. I spent 20 years in studying computers, I only achieved average competency, and I felt dumb most days.

Once I started learning strengths psychology, I thrived. Learning was easy for me and I got accepted into a Doctoral program within 12 months.

Do you know I did Excel training 5 times in my career and I still can barely do Macro, yet I didn’t have to learn how to coach, facilitate, or how to be strategic? They come to me naturally.

Can you relate to this? Can you find your own examples? 

What I love most about the strength approach is how simple it is. I shaped my future roles so I got to spend 80-90% time in my strengths zone.

The renewed energy and passion helped me thrive in every area of life and attracted right opportunities. I was offered a senior coach role with Right Management, and a strategy consulting director role with Adobe which I loved very much, despite I had no experience in either field, all I had was my natural strengths.

You see, strength creates clarity, clarity creates confidence, and confidence is infectious. 

Many assume that they had to quit corporate altogether whenever they think of pursuing a satisfying career.

This is a missed opportunity.

Strength is like the muscle. If you don’t use it, it will get rusty. So challenge yourself to find creative ways to use strengths in your current job. If you don’t, even when you are ready to follow your passion, it is unlikely you will make it work.

If you still don’t feel the job is best suited after you have tried the strength approach, leave, but then you at least know which jobs you should pursue that would make the most of your strengths.

How many of us get excited when we begin a new job, only 6 months later, felt the same dreadful feeling? That is because we hadn’t learned how to use our strengths.

"what sets most successful people apart is their self-awareness and their ability to make the most of their authentic strengths." - Jay Niblick 

In most situations, it is our ability to make the most of our strengths will lead us to a meaningful and happy career. 

Strengths approach changed my career and life. The happiness, clarity, and confidence I felt were beyond what words could describe. I now teach people full time on how to use the strength approach to work towards a rewarding and meaningful career.

So I found my career path and purpose by giving up my non-strengths and letting my natural strengths shine.

What non-strengths can you give up today? So you can let some of your natural strengths start to shine? 

I would love to hear your stories.

Can we truly do what we love and make a great living out of it?

This is a question many of us have asked ourselves from time to time.

This is a question I asked myself for years as well until I found my answer 7 years ago.

Because ultimately, who wouldn't want to do what we love and get paid for our worth, so we can keep doing what we love?

I am a practical person so I don't feel we should do what we love while struggle financially.

Passion can die if we don’t get to make a living out of it. Unless you have lots of safety net and don’t ever need to make another cent for the rest of life, the financial reward needs to be good enough to keep us going.

And generally speaking, more financially comfortable we are, it is likely we are able to contribute more and serve more people who would benefit from our passion, our talent and our gift.

I also feel it would be a pity if we don’t ever use our passion and our gifts fully to serve the world. Most of us are here to do more than just cruise along.

I think we owe it to ourselves and to the world around us, to do something truly remarkable with our lives.

To turn our passion into a great living, we need to align it with two other crucial elements.

Passion is just a hobby if it has no value for others.

In fact, I would say it is indulging if all we want to pursue is to make ourselves happy. That obsession is quite exhausting too. Anyone who has cared for a child, an animal, or someone knows what a relief it is for once we don't only need to think about our own happiness.

If you can't figure out a way to use your passion to better other people's life, then park that passion and find another one that might have more meaning and value to it. 

The other element people overlook is our natural strengths.

To make a great living, you have got to do what you do best, meaning you need to align your passion with your natural strengths, your genius.

Every one of us has our own genius zone. There are areas we are just so naturally talented at and enjoy doing at the same time, there are things we do better than anybody else and we perhaps don't even know why and how we can take full advantage of it. We enjoy doing it so much that we can do it all day long and still feel pretty energised by end of the day.

I personally have many passion and interests in my life, but there are only a few passion I have that provide great value to others and are aligned with my Genius Zone.

In past 7 years, I used this principle and dramatically changed my life from a self-obsessed person to somebody who was able to use my passion and gifts more wisely for the benefits of others.

I was able to turn my passion into well-paid corporate leadership roles that were aligned with my strengths and profitable business ventures where I helped others create more meaningful and thriving life and career.

Most importantly, I love what I do and feel purposeful every day.

So yes it is absolutely possible to do what we love and make a great living out of it, but we must choose the passion that has huge value for others and is aligned with our strengths, our genius.

I call it Inner Genius.

And we must have the willingness and a plan to make it happen.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Yu Dan

Change our words, change our life

I love words. I love the way I can weave them together to share the stories and ideas that bring me joy. 

Words build bridges and create connections. Sadly, they can also put immovable and impenetrable barriers between people.

The most damaging words, I believe, are the harmful words we tell ourselves, based on our fears.

I’m talking about the things we tell ourselves which crush our confidence. Say, when we have a big dream, but the fear of not reaching it steps in, so we convince ourselves the situation we have settled for is the best thing for us.

Have you ever wondered how at one moment, you might feel you are ready to accomplish anything in the world, and very quickly, another side of you starts to tell you all the reasons why you couldn't, so you stay put? Do you find this cycle exhausting?

Words like “I can’t”, or “I’m not good/smart/brave/likeable enough” hold us captive and stop us from recognising our unique strengths, Inner Genius and authentic selves which are actually more amazing and valuable than many of our learned skills combined.

I recently met another lover of words, a Communications Director named Ros, who attended my Discover Your Inner Genius program.

Ros by any means was a brilliant and smart high-achiever. On the surface, things looked positive. She enjoyed many successes throughout her career and received high praise for her achievements. Yet she still had deep-seated self-doubts which held her back from having a more meaningful and joyful career and life. 

Ros held onto past experiences of rejection and exclusion as social proof of her worthlessness, rather than see it for what it was – a fleeting moment in her life and a lesson in resilience. 

This inner barrier was always there casting a shadow over her self-belief. She admitted she always trusted the negative, self-destructive words inside her head much more than any praise from her peers.

How often do we allow our past experiences to hold us back?

Being connected and gaining acceptance is hugely important to many of us. Rejection is one of the biggest fears, even for people at the pinnacle of their careers.

The fear of rejection is a powerful influencer. It leads us to judge ourselves by what others think, and strive for other people’s ambitions for us. 

Ros told me this fear went hand-in-hand with a fixed mindset. In her field of communications, she loved story-telling. “It’s funny, but I never realised my own fixed ideas and internal stories about being worthless were just so wrong. I needed to re-write them.” 

The words she told herself were fixed too: “I can’t”, “I’m the problem” or “it’s always the same”. Lately, it’s become “I’m too busy/I don’t have time”.

To avoid rejection and disconnection Ros became an over-functioning people-pleaser. All her focus, time and energy was about fulfilling everyone else’s needs and priorities.

“My biggest challenge was spending my time more wisely, focused on the things that really mattered to me.”

“The moment of clarity came when I realised it was the words and stories I was telling myself – not the work/life juggle – that prevented me doing the things which make me truly happy. I have all these strengths and yet I still believed I had to prove my worth and be all things to all people. I was crazy.”

“I’ve stopped listening to the negative self-talk and started to accept my strengths and gifts are unique and valuable. What a difference it’s made! I also know what words will deactivate the power of self-doubt so I can get on with creating the career and life I want."

Words have a powerful influence on our thought and behaviour. Choosing the right words makes a huge difference to our life.  

When we stop using the words that trapped us in an unhappy place and transform our mindset to appreciate our unique strengths and gifts, we will re-energise our career, life goals and relationships, creating daily happiness. Try it!

How have you used words to empower or disempower your career and life lately?

I would love to hear your comments.

Thanks, Yu Dan

Practical Tips to give you instant happiness and energy boost at work - Use your natural strengths more

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Feeling drained, tired, and bored is the no. 1 happiness and energy killer at work. I would like to share some quick tips which you can use straightaway.

First have a feel how you spend your time according to following two categories.

  • Draining Category - tasks that drain you

  • Energising Category – tasks that energise you

What’s your percentage for each category right now?

If you score 75%+ in Draining Category – You are in Danger Zone

What does this mean: You are likely spending majority of your time either in areas that are your weaknesses, or areas you appear to be good at but you are not really interested in, we call them Learned Behaviour. These are not your natural strengths and should be used in moderation or minimised.

What do you need to do: Modify how you work, otherwise you will burn out, or you are likely already burning out. Observe the tasks that give you more energy, and start to do more of them, especially make sure that you start and finish your day with the more energising tasks.

If you score 50%-75% in Draining Category – You are Drained

What does this mean: You are spending some time in your natural strengths zone, but you are still spending most of your time in the weakness and Learned Behaviour zones.

What do you need to do: Find ways to modify your current role so you get to use your natural strengths more often, also try to schedule an energising task in front of a draining task, or reward yourself with an energising task straight after a draining activity.

If you score 25%-50% in Draining Category – You are somewhat Energised

What does this mean: Well done, you are spending at least half the time in your natural strengths zone. However, you need to prevent these weaknesses and learned Behaviour from eating away your energy.

What do you need to do: Find creative ways to do more of the tasks that are energising, in fact, do more of them outside work to develop these natural strengths into mastery. The joy you get to exercise your natural strengths will give you the instant boost to your happiness and energy level.

If you score 0-25% in Draining Category – You are Energised

What does this mean: Congratulations! You are somebody who is living in your natural strengths zone most of time. However, don’t get carried away, there are opportunities for you to thrive at work even further.

Opportunities for you: We have many hidden strengths, so opportunities for you bunch is to discover these hidden strengths and start using them more often. More strengths you can uncover and use, more energised and happier you will feel both at work and in life.

Good luck, and let me know how you go :-)

Yu Dan