All of us have gifts – strengths and abilities that are unique to us, in a combination that is equally unique.
One of the best things about the work I do is watching clients light up when they discover what their unique character strengths are and how they can use them to create a more fulfilling life personally and professionally. For some, this is the first time in their life that they have recognized certain traits and the part they play in their happiness and well-being.
Over the last couple of decades, Dr. Martin Seligman and other pioneers in the field of positive psychology came to identify 24 character strengths that we all possess in varying degrees. These strengths are valued globally and cross-culturally, and include such traits as kindness, capacity to love, spirituality and purpose, curiosity, creativity and love of learning.
One of the goals of positive psychology is to help individuals create more value and meaning in their lives by using the strengths that are distinctive to them. Research in positive psychology shows that when individuals employ those strengths that are native and natural to them, they are happier, more satisfied in their lives and work, and have better relationships.
Another way to look at these character strengths is that they are kind of your “superpowers,” that is you are more in your element, more “you” and in the flow of life when you are engaging them.
Think back to when you were a child. Is there something that you always loved doing, or that others praised you for – maybe your artistic ability, your compassion for others, sense of humor, or zest for life? Maybe you always loved to write and are a gifted communicator.
Becoming aware of your strengths and how to use them in your daily life can help you develop more self-confidence and have a greater impact in your work and on the world around you. The adage “What you focus on grows,” definitely applies here.
So how can you begin to identify and build on these so-called “signature strengths?” There are several ways.
One simple way is to ask your closest family and friends. Let them know that you are trying to discover what your strongest qualities are. Choose 5 – 10 people and ask them for their opinion. Write them down. You are likely to begin to see a pattern emerging with the same qualities showing up over and over. You may even get a surprise or two!
There are several popular strengths assessments you can purchase and take online as well, such as the Realise 2, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup), and others. The one I use the most is the Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths (VIA). The survey is free and takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes to complete.
Go to www.authentichappiness.com – Authentic Happiness is the homepage of Dr. Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Once you have completed the survey, you will receive your assessment of your 24 character strengths and their ranking.
You know yourself better than anyone, so use your own judgment. Ask yourself: Do these fit for me? How do I use these in my life? Is there a strength here that I could be using more to benefit myself and others?
I tell clients to take the top 5 and put them somewhere they will see them regularly. Become aware of when a particular strength might be helpful to use in a certain situation. The more you use your strengths, the more you will cultivate them as part of who you are. Who knows – you may end up discovering your own Superpowers.