Want to boost your mood and confidence? Time to focus on what's right about you!
I used to be afraid to express the "real" me. As I shared in a TEDx talk recently, I denied my deepest dreams the right to exist, and as a result, suffered with depression for over a decade. Then, about 10 years ago I was introduced to the wonderful world of positive psychology. I love it because this branch of psychology shifts the focus from what's "wrong" in humans to the positive qualities that help us flourish and thrive.
Being a bit of a nerd, I love that, as a science, positive psychology has validated a number of surveys, questionnaires and most importantly practices proven to lead to greater wellbeing and life satisfaction. I've put these practices to the test with my clients and in my own life, and I've recovered from my sad moods and moved into new heights of creativity! No drugs, no weirdo fuss. It all came from focusing on my natural strengths!
What are your greatest strengths?
If I were working with you one-on-one, as a starting point, we would identify your strengths -- the qualities that allow you to perform well or at your personal best. I know that if we take your strengths and talents to organize your whole life -- work, play and relationships -- in such a way that you utilize your strengths regularly and often you will experience greater life satisfaction. Also, using strengths in times of adversity or conflict can also help you better cope with the situation and progress on to a resolution.
How many times have you done things out of obligation? When we consciously choose our activities -- and our words, as Anna Kunnecke points out in this great post -- we gain more power over our own lives. It's about putting your values into practice -- in both word and deed. As I shared in my TEDx talk, walking my talk is what gave me back the power to become who I really am.
Your Values in Action
For over a decade the VIA (Values in Action) Institute has studied and assisted people in identifying and using strengths. Their research has uncovered the 24 character traits seen in human beings across cultures and time which are universal to the human experience. These strengths are values you embody that help make you who you are -- they are within you and are generally stable over time. It is widely recognized that focusing and building on such your strengths, rather than your weaknesses, can make for a happier, meaningful life in which you are engaged and living more optimally. It certainly worked for this former NFL player.
There is a free Web-based assessment tools to discover your strengths. You can take the free VIA here.
Here are the 24 traits they've defined.
- Creativity (originality, ingenuity): Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.
- Curiosity (interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience): Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering
- Open-mindedness (judgment, critical thinking): Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; weighing all evidence fairly.
- Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally.
- Perspective (wisdom): Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people
- Bravery (valor): Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular.
- Persistence (perseverance, industriousness): Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.
- Integrity (authenticity, honesty): Presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one's feeling and actions
- Vitality (zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy): Approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated
- Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.
- Kindness (generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"): Doing favors and good deeds for others.
- Social intelligence (emotional intelligence, personal intelligence): Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself.
- Citizenship (social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork): Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group.
- Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others.
- Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same maintain time good relations within the group.
- Forgiveness and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
- Humility / Modesty: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.
- Prudence: Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.
- Self-regulation (self-control): Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions.
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence (awe, wonder, elevation): Appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life.
- Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
- Hope (optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation): Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.
- Humor (playfulness): Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side.
- Spirituality (religiousness, faith, purpose): Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose, the meaning of life, and the meaning of the universe.
One of my highest values is integrity. As I shared in a recent post, it is a noble trait, to be sure. It can also get me into trouble, however. (You can also listen to my challenge with it on my podcast. Our strengths can enhance our life, but there can be a dark side to them as well. Have you seen this in your own life?
It's Your Turn!
Your assignment is to identify your top five strengths. Next you will utilize two of your strengths in ways you have not done before daily for a two-week period. And, imagine the benefits they would enjoy if they utilized these strengths.
Studies have shown that after this exercise, participants were more likely to report harmonious passion and engagement in life. Furthermore, this passion was associated with wellbeing and satisfaction with life. By just being more of who you already are, you will experience more joy. Cool, right?
Self-awareness, the first step of becoming who you really are, is at the heart of true self-love. Why not break free from conformity and be express the authentic YOU, after all, you are a unique gift to the world!
I welcome your comments and feedback.
All my best to you,