May 3, 2022

Ever since I heard about the Center for Positive Organizations my freshman year, I couldn’t wait to join their +LAB, a group of undergraduates and MBA’s who study positive organizational scholarship. This semester, I was lucky enough to learn about flourishing at work from Jane Dutton in her last class before fully retiring. A practitioner of action learning, Jane assigned us each a capstone project where we had to perform a self-intervention on some element of our wellbeing that was motivated by the POS principles we were engaging with.  


For my intervention, I focused on financial wellbeing, one of the five dimensions of wellbeing Gallup proposes. They define wellbeing as “effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.” Importantly, financial wellbeing doesn’t equate to income or net worth; instead, we need to look at people’s subjective perspective on their finances and what they personally would like to be able to do with their money. When I reflected on the roadblocks I face in terms of my financial wellbeing, I struggled with feeling like I lacked financial knowledge and feeling guilt and anxiety about spending money, as though I should be saving all my money for some future date for some perfectly justified purchase.  


I decided to utilize a strengths-based approach for my intervention particularly because of the rationale that one of the most effective ways to approach your problems is to “manage around your weaknesses by capitalizing on your strengths.” [1] For my intervention, I decided to focus on two of my signature strengths: kindness and curiosity. The VIA institute characterizes kindness as “generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruism, doing for others” and curiosity as “interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness to experience.” Strengths often function in tandem, so the actions I took definitely speak to multiple character strengths, but I chose them because of how they utilized kindness or curiosity in particular.  [2]


Originally, I was thinking I’d use each strength in a novel way each day to improve my financial wellbeing, but by day 4, I was already “catching up” on day 3, so that wasn’t going to be sustainable. I ended up pivoting to restructure my intervention with Jane’s concept of the Flourishing Triangle. According to Jane’s framework, the three main conditions that foster flourishing at work are positive emotions, positive meanings, and positive connections.


Positive Emotion:

The main positive emotions I sought to cultivate through my intervention were confidence, which I built by educating myself on financial basics, and self-compassion, where I treated myself with kindness by recognizing the anxieties money can trigger.  


Positive Connection:

In terms of positive connections, I primarily focused on my father, who has a great store of financial knowledge and experience. I initiated conversations about money where I approached them with kindness and curiosity.  


Positive Meaning:

I realized upon reflection how important gift-giving is for me and how the ability to be generous with my money is one of my indicators of financial wellbeing. As it turns out, buying things for others is the one way you can in essence “buy happiness”! 


This intervention has given me the basis for long lasting positive effects on my financial wellbeing. I’m more confident in my ability to seek out resources and be able to make prudent financial decisions. More importantly to me, though, I have a clearer understanding of what money means to me, as something that I am able to spend in ways that increase my wellbeing. After performing this intervention, I was able to make a personal decision that posed a significant cost, but offered me a profound increase in my overall wellbeing — and feel confident in and proud of my decision to do so!


[1] McQuaid, Michelle & Lawn, Erin. Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work, 2014.


[2] Niemiec, Ryan. Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Hogrefe Publishing, 2018.


Alicia Haun is a content marketing intern at Riverbank Consulting Group. Alicia is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she also works with the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. Alicia is passionate about the field of positive organizational psychology and looks forward to helping work become a place of flourishing. 

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