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What has Talent got to do with Happiness?

Submitted by on Monday, 16 February 2009No Comment

Happiness is back in vogue.

It has taken some time to happen, two and a half millennia in fact, but the pursuit the Ancient Greek philosophers said was central to human existence had been largely forgotten among the ranks of academia and the general public alike – until recently.

Bestselling books by Tal Ben-Shahar and Martin Seligman have put Happiness firmly back on the agenda. A BBC series late last year on the subject was also a big hit among viewers. Self-help books have for a long time been telling us about ‘The ten best ways to…’ but this is different. The movement taking place now is deeper, and includes top academics who, pointing to research, tell us that the conscious pursuit of Happiness really can change our lives for the better.

The momentum is building. The UN is rolling out a statistic to track happiness which it wants to be regarded with the same level of seriousness as GDP. Harvard’s most highly-enrolled course last year was, yes you guessed it… Happiness.

So what has happiness to do with talent?

Quite a lot. In Tal Ben Shahar’s book he quotes an experiment where one group of employees were paid to do nothing, and another group were not paid but were given a fulfilling task to do. After a period of time, the first group of employees were the ones who wanted to leave their jobs.

Based on his studies into the subject, Shahar gives us a simple definition of happiness which is the sum of meaning and pleasure. We are happiest, he tells us, when the two coincide.

The Talent-Task Connection

When I do talent feedback sessions with clients, the source of greatest unhappiness in work is when there is a disconnect between what that client does, day in day out, for his or her chosen profession, and that person’s talents.

I call this ‘the Talent-Task’ connection. It is critical. Though don’t just take my word for it – there is research out there which supports this view.

Gallup first of all undertook research involving over 100,000 employees in 36 different companies worldwide and discovered that the number one driver to employee engagement (read ‘happiness on the job’) was being given ‘the opportunity to do what one does best every day’.

‘Where your talents and the need of the world cross, there lies your vocation.’


The Corporate Leadership Council also undertook a separate study which discovered more or less the same thing: the number one driver to engagement was the ability to work to one’s strengths.

At the same time, the Gallup study discovered that only 18% of people were finding this opportunity in their current jobs.

‘Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.’

Pablo Picasso

Which takes us back to talent. Because if you achieve the ‘talent-task’ connection, the likelihood is that you’ll be happy with your job.

The problem is that when we go through school, there is no formal process for discovering our talents, and, as noted in a previous post here, most people do not even know what their talents really are.

The only structured method we know that offers this is that offered by Highlands – and it is dynamite! Why not visit their website here to find out more.

In future posts, we’ll look at how to make this connection and how and why this can lead to an ‘increase in happiness’.


Talent Technologies :: Taking your Talent to a Higher Level


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