How Using Your Signature Strengths Contributes To Well-Being

You have the power to positively influence your well-being by focusing on your character strengths. Developing and using your Signature Strengths increases happiness, improves relationships, and builds resilience – the ability to recover quickly from setbacks when things don’t go as planned. Weaknesses need to be corrected focusing on weaknesses is the hard way to grow. Focus on using our strengths contributes to well-being and flourishing.

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A Balanced Approach To Using Character Strengths

Use your Signature Strengths to improve your life, building on positives and learning from the negatives but don’t neglect your other character strengths. If fact, you can use your signature strengths to practice and build up your lesser strengths to better use all of the strengths.

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character strengths

Strengths And Virtues

Signature Strengths are one of the foundational principles of positive psychology. Early proponents, including Martin Seligman, Chris Peterson, and others, combed through the wisdom literature of many of the world’s religions and philosophies. They identified six “virtues” that were common across all the cultures and thinking, ancient and modern, that they examined.

Then they identified 24 ways the six virtues are lived out. These they called strengths. We all embody all 24 of the strengths but we rely on and use our top 5 or 6 strengths more often and more naturally.

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Be More Of Who You Are

Everyone has a combination of character strengths, “core capacities” for human beings to grow and flourish. The combination of strengths and the ways they are used is unique to each individual. While you can’t be good at everything, you could be GREAT at one thing. Focus on developing and expanding your unique Signature Strengths

The Animal School [1]

Once upon a time, the animals decided they must make some adaptations to meet the challenges of a changing world. So they set up a school.

They developed a curriculum of climbing, flying, running, and swimming and declared that all animals must take all subjects.

The duck excelled at swimming. In fact, she was better than the instructor! However she was only fair at flying and her wobbly gait got her a D- in running. Because of her poor running grade, she had to do extra practice. She ran until she wore out her webbed feet and then she was only average in swimming. But average was OK so nobody worried. Except the duck.

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Strengths In Adversity

Drawing on character strengths, and especially our Signature Strengths, gives us tools to deal with adversity and grow, even thrive (i.e., become “antifragile”), from the process. Using strengths in adversity provides three distinct techniques to positively deal with set backs, glitches, and failure.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But it almost kills you.” ~ Conan O’Brien

Opportunity Or Adversity: A Good Time To Use Your Strengths

I typically think about using my Signature Strengths to enhance positive emotions and experiences. But in addition to using them when life is going well, a person can draw on Signature Strengths during the hard times and difficulties of life. In fact, using strengths in adversity may be one of the most beneficial ways to live from your Strengths.

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Develop Your “Weaker” Strengths

Use your Signature Strengths but don’t neglect your lesser strengths — there is potential for growth.

A Journaling Practice

Almost every morning, after I spend some minutes in meditation, I write in my journal. I list my “Eulogy Virtues” – the things I want to be remembered for. Next I write my “Valid Values” – my highest values and the ones I want to structure my life around. Then I write out my Signature Strengths – the character strengths that I scored highest for in the VIA Strengths Survey. Writing them down helps to imprint them in my conscious and subconscious mind. It helps me consider them as I plan my day.

This practice helps to make using my Signature Strengths almost automatic. However, while I want to make good use of these top character strengths, I don’t want to neglect the others that don’t come as naturally to me . . . especially when they could be beneficial in helping me grow and develop.

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Live From Your Strengths

“The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.” ~ Martin Seligman

Stuck!

When Shannon (*) and I met for our first coaching session, she was frustrated, stuck in place and spinning her wheels. When she was in college, she planned for a career with a non-profit organization, preferably one that worked with children. Now in the work force, Shannon worked as a clerk in a retail store. “I’m not doing the job I worked toward for years,” she told me. “I am doing something I don’t enjoy just to pay the bills. I’m just going through the motions and I am not making any real difference. I want to explore what I need to do to maybe find a different job.” Continue reading “Live From Your Strengths”

Get Unstuck!

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” ~ Ronald Reagan

The Way Things Were

Do you know where the term “status quo” comes from? It’s from the Latin phrase, “status quo ante bellum”, or “the state before the war”. This refers to the borders, property boundaries, and other evidence of ownership used to reinstate land when a nation was defeated in war. At times, we can feel defeated, overwhelmed by too much to do or entrenched in negative habits and thought patterns, beaten down by indecision or faced with changes that we feel have been thrust on us. Continue reading “Get Unstuck!”

Capacities Clamoring To Be Used

“The muscular person likes to use his muscles, indeed, has to use them in order to self-actualize, and to achieve the subjective feeling of harmonious, uninhibited, satisfying functioning which is so important an aspect of psychological health. People with intelligence must use their intelligence, people with eyes must use their eyes, people with the capacity to love have the impulse to love and the need to love in order to feel healthy. Capacities clamor to be used, and cease their clamor only when they are used sufficiently.” ~ Abraham Maslow  Toward a Psychology of Being

Capacities clamor to be used.

I read this quote from Abraham Maslow’s book in a recent +1 note from Brian Johnson. The capacities that “clamor to be used” remind me of the VIA Character strengths.

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Gratification

Want to go for a double win? Find activities that are both pleasurable AND gratifying.

Research from the field of positive psychology indicates that there are certain actions we can take to increase feelings of happiness and well-being. Happiness in the present moment is based on two distinct concepts: pleasures and gratifications. Continue reading “Gratification”

When a Strength is not a strength

Discovering and using your Signature Strengths is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

What Is A “Strength”?

The VIA Character Strengths originated from a group headed by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology and Dr. Chris Peterson, a distinguished researcher and scientist. The task they set for themselves was to define and classify human strengths, similar to the way the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies and defines mental disorders. They envisioned a method to identify the traits that enable people to flourish just as the DSM allowed professionals to identify the traits of mental disorders in order to treat them successfully. [Seligman] Continue reading “When a Strength is not a strength”