‘Consider five personal character strengths’. This sentence alone left me blank when I first read it. I was very good at ruminating over my weaknesses and flaws (leading on from yesterday’s self-compassion), and even better at focusing on them regularly. My strengths, however, well that was a different matter. I wonder if it is a British thing; us Brits are so good at apologising, and not prone to blowing our own trumpets, that initially I felt this all very awkward. Anyway, what were ‘character strengths’ and why bother with them?
To answer the first question, our ‘signature strengths’ are our natural abilities in which we excel – that could be anything like humour, curiosity, social intelligence, a love of learning… the list is long! So why focus on them? Well research indicates that if we use these strengths regularly, and develop what we are good at, we will be our best and happiest selves, with less depression and stress, and more resilience, energy and self-esteem. One study (Seligman et al.) shows that those who completed the “use signature strengths in a new way” exercise daily for a whole week, not only had an increase in happiness levels and a decrease of depressive symptoms immediately after, but that this persisted for six months (the more so if they repeated the exercise regularly).
So go on, give it a go. If you are unsure about what your ‘personal character strengths’ might be, or even what actions you can take when you have written them down, you may want to refer to this document: http://tayyabrashid.com/pdf/via_strengths.pdf.
For me, it was more fun discovering them for myself, and I took a back-to-front approach. I looked at when I was the most happy in my life, and more often than not, it ended up being when I was using one of these so-called ‘signature strengths’. I then asked myself how I could use them more pro-actively on a daily basis.
If you prefer a simpler approach then you can do the VIA test here to discover your character strengths: https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register . My test (when I finally did it!) came out (in order) as honesty, kindness, leadership, love and judgement. All of which have led me to create the Happynesshub and to fulfill my dreams. It’s been a good while in the coming, but it started simply with me wondering what I am good at; and importantly, what makes my heart sing. The Happynesshub ticks all the boxes for me. What does it for you?
Please click here for further research on Use Your Strengths.