10/09/2009 08:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Your Job Sucking the Life Out of You? (and what to do about it)


I love this little test of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert: When you go to a party and are around other people, do you gain energy or do you lose it? Extroverts gain it. They're magnetic. They suck up energy from those around them. Meanwhile, introverts lose it. They're the ones giving their energy so the extroverts can have more.

The same is true with Primary Colors (the intersection of your greatest strengths and passions). The energy that accompanies and grows from full engagement is the most important resource in the workplace-far more important than time. And unlike time, energy is expandable. Working in a job that leverages your Primary Color feeds your energy reserves. Working in a job that requires you to constantly correct your weaknesses in the pursuit of a goal you are not passionate about sucks your energy away. One makes you an extrovert in ways that go far beyond social skills; the other renders you an introvert in more settings than just looking at your shoes while you try to talk with someone.

Locating your Primary Color-finding the exact point of intersection of your strengths and weaknesses-puts your brain on overdrive. It opens up possibilities that have always been there for you but that also have long been hidden. In the light of your Primary Color, the future moves toward you as the status quo recedes into the background.

One of the themes that emerged time and again in my conversations with people who had made a leap in their lives was how simple the everyday tasks of work became. Turns out, there's a good reason for that. Aligning your central talent and passion inevitably increases the attention you pay to your work, and attention is, in a sense, its own reward.

In a 2005 article for the United Kingdom's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, physicist Henry Stapp and psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz showed that sustained concentrated attention on any particular mental experience-a thought, an insight, an image, even a fear-not only kept the brain circuitry involved open and alive but also eventually produced physical changes in the brain's structure. In effect, by increasing attention, you are creating brain architecture specifically suited to the challenges before you. Little wonder, then, that performance should grow dramatically.

The passion leads to deliberate practice; the practice strengthens talents; and the combination of passionate involvement and strengthened talents yields an energy flow that becomes the harbinger of ultimate success.

Is your current job sucking the life out of you? If so, there may be no clearer signal that your daily activities are not aligned with your unique strengths and passions. Talk with your supervisor. Find a way to begin to increase the percentage of time you spend on activities that leverage your primary color. Your performance will grow, your energy will grow and your company will benefit right along side you.

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