Rather than just going through the motions, can we effectively employ knowledge relating to our unique character strengths to help us to thrive?
Considering the associated research, and our direct experience…YES!
Research has shown many positive benefits of using character strengths across physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual domains. These benefits have been especially noted within the business and education sectors.
Specific benefits of character strengths have been linked with each of the main elements of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. They have been associated with many other benefits that help people amplify the positive in their life, such as self-acceptance, autonomy, goal progress, physical health, resilience, and general mental fitness.
The latest research is showing that techniques for helping people boost their strengths, a key foundation to The Strengths Circuit program, can have important advantages over techniques that focus on correcting their deficits.
Firstly…check out your strengths.
Take 10 minutes, the best 10 minutes you’ll ever invest in yourself, to accurately identify your unique set of character strengths by undertaking the VIA Character Strengths Survey www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register, the only FREE, scientific strengths measure.
OK… let’s dive into the 7 benefits?
1. Strengths focussed goals
Character strengths can potentially play a big part in achieving goals! We all have big goals and small goals, short-term goals and longer-term goals. However, a plan of action is always required to reach any form of goal. Making big audacious goals usually becomes overwhelming, which sets us up for failure. However, by skilfully planning to achieve small associated incremental goals, the big goals can be achieved.
The VIA Institute on Character identify that: all too often we focus on planning the “what” (the tasks, the dates etc), and we forget the “who”. We forget to consider who we are, at our core, what attributes we have that will help us achieve a goal, and which attributes may create an obstacle.
How does using your top character strengths support this process? By considering your top 3-5-character strengths, and by applying these strengths skilfully within a supported structure, you can not only achieve your desired topic goals but you can realise many unexpected benefits to further applying your unique set of character strengths.
2. Career build with character strengths
It is not uncommon to hear the advice to play to your strengths or use your strengths more at work. Workplaces can be particularly challenging, demanding, and stressful. Researchers have found that you are more likely to have positive experiences at work if you are using at least FOUR of your signature strengths.
What can you do about it?
1 Take 10 minutes to complete the VIA Character Strengths Survey, to identify your top 3-5 strengths.
2 Take time to learn the nature of your top 3-5 strengths and how you can start to leverage them effectively at work.
3 Have self-awareness around your top 3-5 strengths and consider how you’re regularly using these strengths during a workday? Consciously aim to use each character strength daily and journal your experiences in order to skilfully record how you used them and what you consequently experienced.
3. Happy on strengths…
Time and time again, in both research and throughout our experience, specific, focussed strategies have proven successful in supporting client happiness. The following strategies are the most effective and well-known happiness boosters in positive psychology. Freely use them for your own joy!
- Reflect on your day – write down 3 things that went well and why they went well. This habitualises gratitude and increases the importance of good acts.
- Employ one of your top strengths in a new way each day for one week.
- Diarise your gratitude towards others, read this to them or give it to them if you want
- Practice mindfulness when walking, eating, listening, or breathing. Take a close-up of something of beauty each day and send it to a friend
- Set goals that are consistent with your life values. Consider what strengths can be effectively employed to support realising these goals
- Best Possible Self – image what this looks like in detail and consider what strengths you will need to exploit to realise this BPS
- The firing you – Think of a specific time when you were really feeling and operating at your best and feeling your authentic self. Write this story down and/or share this story with someone important in your life.
- Acts of loving kindness – within meditation, by generating positive emotions of love in the present moment, via loving imagery or positive statements.
- Count or pay forward – acts of kindness you perform each day. Notice when other people extend kindness to others
- Savouring the pleasurable experiences from each day for 2-3 minutes, which will allow you to maximise their positive effect.
4. Character filled life-change
Taking time to reflect on the defining moments in your life, times when a certain thing happened that changed your life trajectory, can greatly enhance your life. This could be a time where you have had to demonstrate either of the strengths of perseverance or hope for instance. The Defining Moments Exercise:
1 Defining moment – name one defining moment that has had a meaningful impact on you.
2 Character strengths – Which character strengths did you use in this situation and how did you express them?
3 Identity – how has this moment shaped who you are or contributed to your identity? How has it effected your view of yourself?
4 Courage, Wisdom, Humanity or other virtues – looking at the bigger picture, were you enacting virtues that helped you mobilise your strengths in that moment?
Increasing your savouring will promote the cherishing of impactful moments while enhancing your self-perception by promoting positive memory recall.
5. Siri doesn’t know this
New science has broken “the meaning of meaning” into three main types. This is the result of bringing together the key elements of meaning as discussed by philosophers, theologians, researchers, and other experts over the centuries (Martela & Steger, 2016). The three types of meaning that emerged are: Coherence, Significance, and Purpose.
- Coherence – is about making sense of things or looking for patterns to make life more predictable. For example, as you look at the life you have lived so far, how do you make sense of the good things? Why have they occurred?
Using your strengths to build coherence: Use the strength of perspective to help you step back and take in the wider view of your life, so you don’t get lost in details and stressors. Judgment can be employed to analyse your beliefs about the world and the people in it and curiosity to question and explore your life meaning.
- Significance – is about feeling that you matter and that life matters. It means to not only sense and know the value of your life but to feel that appreciation for yourself, others, and the world in a deep way.
Using your strengths to build significance: You may have previously turned to your heart-based character strengths of love, gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness. Acknowledge which character strengths that you value most. Consider the importance of your character strengths throughout your life (past, present, future).
- Purpose – is about having important life goals and working to achieve them.
Using your strengths to build purpose: considering one of your most meaningful life goals, which strengths will be the pathway to these goals. For example, perhaps kindness is your pathway to your goal of being more charitable or perseverance is your key pathway to that certification in becoming a helping professional.
Explore how you can use your character strengths for the highest good.
6. Tune in to your strengths
When you understand your unique set of character strengths you can start to really tune in to how you can make a difference through finding your true, value driven, calling.
Creativity – the world may need your ideas, your strategies, your best coping tools. Curiosity – the world needs you to talk curiously, with interest, to those around you, to let them express themselves and release their burdens. Judgment – the world needs your ways of thinking rationally and balanced, showing the many voices in our heads that can counterbalance the inner voices of panic and anxiety. Love of learning – the world needs you to keep learning and growing in new ways, so you can pass on this knowledge and feel good about your day or week. Perspective – the world needs your sound advice, a glimpse of the bigger picture amidst the scary details. Bravery – the world needs your bravery—the courage to help someone you’ve never helped, the courage to dust off the strengths you’ve allowed to erode, the courage to see the world anew despite fear.
Character strengths are critical right now in this world. They are not a trivial thing, they are tough-loaded, resilience-based, and crucial at times of adversity.
7. Parenting the strengths
What is the “strengths reality” you have been potentially missing? Understanding a child’s character strengths (strengths-based parenting) can empower you to consciously reframe situations and behaviours so a new, positive perspective can be established. This is a highly effective approach when you inevitably experience stress as a parent (or teacher). Reframing situations can be as simple as asking yourself: Is there another way I might look at this situation, in the context of character strengths?
Flipping your perception – Sometimes this effective reframing simply involves replacing one word in your thought process. A stubborn child becomes a perseverant child. Your distractible son (male student) becomes your highly curious son. Your wild and hyperactive daughter (female student) becomes your zestful daughter.
An exercise in strengths-based parenting: Pick any worrying or frustrating behaviour you are witnessing in your child, or any issue or struggle you are having with them. So…put on your strengths goggles and take a fresh look at the situation. What character strengths is your child imperfectly using? Be careful to not narrow your attention when you get upset or anxious as this can cause us to miss a substantial portion of reality.
Recapping – Firstly: Be mindfully aware to consider how you react when your child (a student) does something you don’t like. Next: Pause and reframe when you get frustrated with your child’s behaviour and consider the positive, character strengths based alternative that they may be demonstrating? Finally: Be acutely aware of your own values as you need to be mindful of whether you are perpetuating a negative bias from your parents, for instance. Most of all, a knowledge of character strengths can enable you to enjoy more positive, skilful relationships with your child or student.
Action items for achieving these outcomes
Signature strengths (Top 3-5 strengths) are an individual’s strongest or most prominent character strengths. Ultimately, these are the strengths that you need to be aware of in yourself and others. Three key features of signature strengths (3 E’s) are:
Essential: the strength feels essential to who a person is. Effortless: when enacted, the behaviour associated with these strengths feels natural and effortless. Energizing: using the strength uplifts you and leaves you feeling happy and ready to take on more.
We must be careful to notice our own, and other people’s, best strengths so we can find ways to let them loose in our lives.
Take the first step in enjoying these outcomes!
At Get Mentally Fit, many of our Programs and Services are directly informed by the fundamental concepts of positive psychology, including character strengths. We highly value identifying a client’s character strengths, which allows us to skillfully support them to realise desirable, positive change. Having facilities to establish and sustain a dialogue around character strengths affords us the luxury of customising the outcomes of a client’s Program or Service. Contact us to enquire into how we can support you to reliably measure, and skilfully enhance, your current mental fitness.