President's Blog

A well-being university

I’ve learned from my wife, from Prof. Nance Lucas, and from other colleagues at our Center for the Advancement of Well-Being that using one’s strengths is critical for one’s well-being.  Not surprisingly, when we put our strengths to work we feel fulfilled and have more fun, we increase our chances of success at whatever it is we do,  and we enhance our self-confidence.

Obviously, before you can focus on your strengths, you need to know what they are.  And while some of us may have a good sense of what it is we’re good at, it’s not a bad idea to use a good assessment tool to validate our intuitions.  As it turns out, we have such a tool available free of charge for Mason students, faculty and staff: the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment.  So I went ahead and did mine.

Here’s what I learned about myself.

  • Apparently, I am “fascinated by ideas and delight in finding out why things are the way they are”. (check!)
  • “I like to think”. (No argument there).
  • “I love to peer over the horizon to see visions of what could be”. (You betcha).
  • “I am drawn to the process of learning”. (Pretty much as long as I can remember!).
  • “I am inquisitive and find the world exciting because of its infinite variety and complexity. (Right again. When I learn about our faculty’s research, I’m astounded at how much we know and yet how much we still have to discover).

This last summer, Prof. Lucas sent me a copy of “How Full Is Your Bucket?”, the book all incoming first-year students received a at orientation as part of the Mason Reads program.  As I read the book and went through the report from my StrengthsFinder assessment, many aspects of my career became much clearer: the times when I did great and the times when I didn’t do so well could be explained by how well the position I was in allowed me to put my strengths to work.

Well-being is not a feel-good buzzword that we throw around lightly, but a central element of what we do. Our mission is not just to prepare our students for successful careers, but to prepare them to live meaningful lives.  That’s why we have set as one of our goals to become a “well-being university”.   Well-being is in part about determining what interests and motivates each of us and how we can feed and tap into our interests and strengths to lead lives of deeper meaning.  If you haven’t taken your StrengthsFinder yet, I strongly recommend it as a perfect way to start!

By the way, “Bucket” co-author Tom Rath, who has written a number of bestsellers, will speak  at Mason on Oct. 28 at the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax Campus. We’re delighted to have him. Program times are 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The events are free but require tickets.

I hope to see you there. Let’s thrive together.