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.
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.
When our little girl was stricken with a debilitating stroke, we were devastated, as you might imagine. Having no family nearby, we relied on our good friends. They took over much of the care of our older daughter and gave my wife and me much-needed support. In particular, someone – I don’t remember who it was now – gave us some important advice. “You have to take care of yourselves,” he or she said, “if you are to give her the best care. You cannot care properly for your daughter if you let yourselves get run down.” We did small things, such as taking turns going outside for a short walk, trying to sleep when we could, and eating to keep up our strength. It wasn’t anything big, but it kept us going, kept us from collapsing in on ourselves. Outside of the medical help, it was the best advice we received.
“There is a candle in every soul / Some brightly burning, some dark and cold . . . Carry your candle, run to the darkness / Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn / Hold out your candle for all to see it / Take your candle, and go light your world.”
Chris Rice, “Go Light Your World”
In The Dark
I grew up in the country. Beyond our backyard was a pasture, then the woods. My brother, my cousins, and our friends liked to play in those woods. One evening after supper, we ran into the woods to play a game. We were having so much fun we lost track of time and didn’t realize that it was getting late. Before we knew it, night had fallen and we were in the dark. I began running, but of course I couldn’t see and ran smack into a tree! (I suppose you could say I couldn’t see the tree for the forest.) Fortunately for the rest of us, one of the guys had a flashlight. He turned it on and then we could see him. We all gathered around and he led us out of the woods, shining his flashlight . . . no more running into trees.
Simplifying your life doesn’t have to be complicated but it does require thought. In Keeping Life Simple, Karen Levine shares 7 guiding principles to help us have more time to do the things we love – and to figure out what those things are.
You Can’t Buy Peace Of Mind
It was Saturday morning and Kelly woke up in a foul mood. She was tired of juggling a demanding job, a house that was in constant disarray, and a husband and children that always seemed to need something – forms completed, lunches packed, arguments settled, and on and on.
Although she didn’t really need anything specific, she decided to give herself a break and go shopping; it seemed to be one of the few outlets available to her to make herself feel better. She left her husband in charge of the house and children and headed for the mall.
There are six facts about positivity — discovered through rigorous laboratory experiments — that can help you understand the importance and the pull of positive emotions. A thorough grasp of these facts starts you on an upward spiral.
We are living in dark times, some say, troubling times. But remember it isn’t the event that troubles us, makes us sad or angry or afraid; it’s our judgement of the event. For many of us, the world is a far different place than we’ve ever seen before. We could easily slip into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Some wisdom from neuroscientist and author Dr. Alex Korb might be helpful.
Consciously choosing the values you want to shape your life and then taking steps to base your actions on your values leads to joy, contentment, and feelings of well-being.
Facing A Choice
It was date night for Martha and her husband and she had been looking forward to it all week; an evening when they could pay attention to each other and re-connect. But at 4:00 PM, her boss came to her with a problem that needed her attention. If she resolved this issue, it would be a feather in her cap and add to her chances for a promotion.
David has the opportunity to take an online class, paid for by his company, that would improve a key skill. But the class is every Saturday morning for two months – the same time he usually reserves for his two young children.
Allen got a substantial raise. He is having a difficult time choosing between increasing his contribution to his retirement account or buying a new car he’s had his eye on for a while.
We are faced with decisions every day. And occasionally they are hard ones to make. It helps to consider our values when we make the hard choices. Thus it is useful to know what our values are.
Efficiency is “doing things right”. Effectiveness is “doing the right things”. Productivity entails both – doing the right thing in the right way. Excelerated Productivity comes when you improve both efficiency and effectiveness.
The Lioness And The Vixen
“A Lioness and a Vixen were talking together about their young, as mothers will, and saying how healthy and well-grown they were, and what beautiful coats they had, and how they were the image of their parents.
‘My litter of cubs is a joy to see,’ said the Fox; and then she added, rather maliciously, ‘But I notice you never have more than one.’
‘No,’ said the Lioness grimly, ‘but that one’s a lion.'” (1)
Becoming Effective And Efficient
This Aesop fable comes with the moral “quality over quantity”. (I leave it to you to decide if one lion has more “quality” than a litter of foxes.) But we can also read it in terms of efficiency – the lioness had only one baby – and effectiveness – that baby was a lion!
“Trying” to do is different than doing and different than not doing. Trying lets us off the hook – we don’t have to succeed and we don’t have to fail. We don’t have to really do anything. That is languishing, NOT flourishing.
Trying Or Doing?
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Once upon a time, as I attended a workshop, the presenter asked me to come up to the front of the room. She laid a pencil down on the table and said to me, “Try to pick that pencil up.”
I picked up the pencil. “No,” she said, “I said ‘Try to pick it up.’ Instead, you picked it up. Now, again – try to pick the pencil up.”
Our default behaviors are, by definition, those things we do without thinking about them. It’s a good idea to step back from time to time and examine your defaults. You may want to change some of your “settings”.
Default Settings – Making Life Easier
My phone is old by cell phone standards. But I still remember when I got it, trading in my old flip phone for a smart phone. And it was smart. The technician at the store took about 15 minutes to set it up and save all my contacts. He handed me the phone and it was ready to go. Such convenience.
Moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset helps you progress up the hierarchy of needs to self-actualization. You must experience having enough at the lower levels of physical and emotional needs in order to move to higher levels and towards self-actualization.
How Many Tomato Seeds?
The presenter at a conference held up a ripe red tomato. She asked the audience, “How many seeds are in this tomato?”
The participants imagined cutting open a tomato and tried to estimate the number of seeds inside. They began calling out answers. “500”, “700”, “1000”, “5000”, “10,000”.
Quietly, the presenter said: “There are enough. Enough to save for planting next year and enough to give to my neighbors so they can have tomatoes as well. Next year, they’ll have enough seeds to share with more people. And I will share with others, too. How many seeds are there? Enough.”