The MPS Process

Discovering Work That You Love

Woman Happy at Work

Discover work that you love.

© iStockphoto/laflor

Think back to a time when you worked on a project that you really enjoyed.

Chances are, the people were great, the work was meaningful, it brought you pleasure, and it challenged you enough to make you feel that you'd accomplished something really worthwhile.

When a project resonates with us like this, we put forth our very best effort. Why? Because doing work like this is pure joy. In fact, it hardly seems like work at all!

When we work on these projects regularly, we're happy, we're productive, we're optimistic, and we're deeply engaged in what we're doing. So, how can you target projects that will give you this type of engagement?

One way of doing this is to use the Meaning, Pleasure, Strengths (MPS) Process. In this article, we'll discuss what MPS is, and we'll see how you can use it to increase the proportion of rewarding work that you do.

About the Tool

The MPS Process was created by Harvard professor and best-selling author, Dr Tal Ben-Shahar, and was published in his book, "Happier." The model develops ideas from positive psychologist, Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Dr Csikszentmihalyi's groundbreaking work was on the concept of "flow  ." When we do work that is both meaningful and challenging, we slip into flow, losing track of time and our sense of self as we focus solely on the task at hand. This can be enormously enjoyable and satisfying.

Dr Ben-Shahar adapted this concept and created the MPS Process as a way for us to seek out jobs, projects, and tasks that challenge and engage us.

With the MPS Process, you ask yourself three crucial questions:

  1. What gives me meaning?
  2. What gives me pleasure?
  3. What are my strengths?

From "Happier" by Tal Ben-Shahar. © 2007 McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

When we regularly do work that combines these three elements, we're much more likely to achieve flow and be happy in our careers.

Note:

The MPS Process prompts you to look deeply at what brings you meaning and pleasure. It also encourages you to understand and get to know your strengths.

For this reason, it might be best to spend several days thinking about the questions below, before answering them fully. You might also find it helpful to read about the PERMA Model  , which helps you define what true happiness means for you.

How to Use the Tool

Step 1: Answer the MPS Questions

The first step in using the tool is to answer the three key questions:

  1. What gives me meaning?
  2. What gives me pleasure?
  3. What are my strengths?

As we mentioned above, it's often helpful to take your time here. There are also many resources that you can use to dive deeper into these fundamental questions.

To help discover what gives you meaning, start by defining your values  . These are the guiding principles that shape your behavior and judgments. Often, working on projects that align with your values helps to bring meaning to what you do.

Values can only be a part of what you find meaningful. For instance, you might find meaning through helping others, teaching a new skill, or coaching someone through a crisis. So, think back to other tasks and projects that made you feel good. What were you doing during those times? What was it about those projects that made you feel good?

Next, write down the things that bring you pleasure. These don't have to be work-related; you can also list hobbies, interests, and anything that brings you joy or contentment. For instance, you may include reading, teaching others, traveling, or meeting new people.

Last, list your strengths. This can be difficult, since many of us take our strengths for granted (they come so easily!) You might have strengths that you don't even realize are strengths, such as empathy, a positive attitude, or the ability to learn things quickly.

If you're not sure about your strengths, ask your boss, colleagues, or family members what they think your strengths are. You can also do a Personal SWOT Analysis  , or you can use the StrengthsFinder Assessment   to help uncover your biggest strengths.

Step Two: Find Overlap

Next, look at your answers in each area and explore elements that are common to each category, or that overlap in some way. These overlapping answers offer valuable insights into the tasks that you'll find most rewarding and engaging.

For example, you might have listed the following in your answers:

Meaning Pleasure Strengths
Making people happy. Helping others. Problem solving.

These three answers clearly overlap with each other, and from this, you may conclude that you want to focus on tasks or projects that help people solve their problems.

Tip 1:

Don't rush this step – at first glance, it may not be obvious which of your answers overlap.

Tip 2:

Ideally, you'll have answers that overlap in all three areas, but you may also uncover engaging and rewarding work with elements that overlap in only two.

Step 3: Shape Your Job or Career

You can now use your answers from step 2 as a guide for shaping your current role, or to find a career that you find engaging. Put simply, you want to work on projects and tasks that, in some way, incorporate elements that overlap. This is how you'll get job satisfaction  .

You can do this in your current role by using job crafting  . This is where you reshape your job to fit you better. For instance, are there any projects that you want to be responsible for, but aren't? Can you do your current work in a way that you'll find more engaging? Or could you do some of your boss's tasks in these areas? There are endless ways that you can reshape your role to fit you better.

You can also use your findings if you want to get a promotion  , or if you're exploring possible career options.

Example

Ellen has just answered the questions in step 1 of the MPS Process. Here are the answers she came up with.

Meaning Pleasure Strengths

Helping team members who are struggling with their work.

Teaching others new skills.

Working through difficult problems.

Classical music.

Running.

Meeting new people.

Reading.

Being organized.

Helping others.

Solving problems.

Being empathic.

Staying calm in a crisis.

After comparing each list, Ellen can see that she has overlaps between helping team members, helping others, and being empathic.

Ellen decides to craft her current role so she can incorporate these elements into her job. She approaches her manager and offers to coach and mentor less-experienced team members. She meets them on a regular basis, and helps them overcome their challenges and problems, many of which Ellen experienced earlier in her career.

Tip 1:

You can also use tools such as Schein's Career Anchors   and Holland's Codes   to get an insight into the roles and types of work that are best for you.

Tip 2:

You can use the MPS Process with your team when allocating tasks and projects, and when helping them with career development. However, this might not be suitable in all situations, so use your best judgment here.

Key Points

The MPS Process was developed by Dr Tal Ben-Shahar, best-selling author of the book "Happier."

MPS stands for Meaning, Pleasure, and Strengths, and it gives you a useful insight into what truly makes you happy. This, in turn, helps you find tasks and projects that are engaging and rewarding.

To use the MPS Process, think about what gives you meaning and pleasure, and analyze your strengths. Then identify elements that overlap in these three areas.

You can then shape your job or career to incorporate the elements that overlap the most.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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