Research has shown that shifting our focus to building our character strengths boosts positivity and resilience. The truth is, we accomplish far more in life by building on our strengths than by focusing on our weaknesses. And we make our life journey more self-concordant with a strengths-focus, building our self-esteem along the way.
“Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence . . . One cannot build performance on weaknesses . . . it takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity, than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” Peter Drucker ‘The Practice of Management’
Want to work on your strengths?! Give yourself this awesome experience!
Well over 20 years ago, Dr Martin Seligman (deemed the ‘father’ of Positive Psychology) and his associates developed the VIA system (Values In Action) of Character Strengths. They selected 24 potential character strengths, and created a survey for any individual to complete to determine their character strength hierarchy. This survey has been used by over 2 million people. Would you like to take it and see how your strengths stack up?
Go to http://www.viacharacter.org You’ll set up an account (don’t worry, they won’t pester you with email or ask for money), and then take the survey (likely 5 – 10 minutes). Print out your results and see how true they are to your self-knowledge. (Note, even if you’ve done this survey in the past, do it again!)
For the month of October, let’s take on a One Month Challenge!
Pick one of your character strengths that you’d like to see more of – either one near the top that’s very much a signature strength of yours, or one further down the list that you’d like to grow. Start a new page in your journal with this strength at the top, and each day, find ways to focus on it. Put post-it notes on your mirror, computer screen, etc.
As you formulate a plan, think about what obstacles you need to get around, brainstorm ideas about how this strength could manifest. For example, if curiosity is your choice, go to a lecture or take a workshop on a topic you know nothing about; if kindness is the strength you want to increase, perform an anonymous favour for someone, and so on. You might be surprised by what happens!
One month, I chose INTEGRITY as my character strength challenge. I chose integrity thinking it would help me be on time more, be more prepared, think more before I spoke, keep confidences, be true to my word.
One day, as I was driving my usual route to the studio, I had a car accident, a ‘fender-bender’. And, it was my fault. The woman driving in front of me stopped to turn left, and I couldn’t slow down or avoid fast enough. When filling out the police accident report, I wrote something like ‘she stopped abruptly and didn’t have a signal on, but clearly it was my fault’. A couple of weeks later, the insurance company called to check up on what had happened, how was I feeling, etc. Suddenly, the agent stopped and then said “You’re that woman!”. I thought, oh boy, what now, insurance rates going up . . . Then she said ‘You’re the one who said you were at fault! NO-ONE ever admits that!
She curiously asked ‘Who are you, and what do you do?’ I said, ‘I’m a yoga teacher and I’m on a one-month challenge on Integrity.’
Be open to possibilities you cannot predict! And have fun, let me know how it’s going as you go through the month!