Character Day is an annual event dedicated to the development of character strengths. Character strengths are 24 human traits like gratitude, leadership, and honesty that cultivate what is right and good in communities, schools, organizations, and families around the world. If you wish to cultivate greater happiness and success in your life, unleashing your character strengths is a pathway forward.
For instance, a participant in a group I taught recognized how she often overplayed her top strength appreciation of beauty and excellence. This overuse led to unrealistic expectations of her team and of herself. She had an “aha” moment when she realized how the unintentional overuse of this strength kept her moving toward self-defeating perfectionism rather than her own potential.
Over time, she learned to notice these situations, to pause, and to intentionally dial down this strength. She was then able to engage more useful strengths, like prudence, to carefully plan her next moves. As a result, she became even more productive and less stressed.
Join in the fun – it’s not too late!
It’s not too late to join the more than 200,000 groups from 125 countries and 50 states by creating your own Character Day event. You can participate as an individual, group, or organization. Get started here.
For another approach to joining in, below are 18 ways to celebrate Character Day. This list provides activities, links to resources, and ideas for spreading the news to others.
Introduce Yourself or Someone Else to Character Strengths
If you’ve already taken the survey within the past year, invite someone close to you to take it by forwarding the above link. Explain that their survey results reflect who they are and what they do when at their best.
Familiarize yourself with the science behind the character strengths framework by watching the inspirational 8-minute video The Science of Character.
Boost Your Awareness and Learning
Working with someone who has also taken the survey, share stories about the other’s strengths. Give examples of when he or she used them and why you appreciate them. This foundational practice called “strengths-spotting” provides a common language of what’s strong. It also boosts your ability to notice and appreciate strengths in action.
Spot strengths in someone who rubs you the wrong way. Notice how they, and you, respond differently to being noticed and valued for positive traits.
Notice the character strengths all around you, even in your favorite book, movie, or TV characters.
Dive into a character strength that resonates with you right now. See how it cultivates excellence, boosts relationships, or elevates meaning.
Learn more about who you are at your best by purchasing and reviewing a character strength report tailored to your unique profile.
Post your top 5 signature strengths at home or work in a visible spot as a conversation starter.
Lead with a bit of research when introducing character strengths to your boss, a client, or a family member. Check out the world’s largest database on character strengths to locate key findings about character strengths in the workplace or parenting, character strengths and achievement or wellness, and a variety of other topics.
View your team or family through a lens of strengths by creating a grid of everyone’s top 5 signature strengths. Simply list each character strength along the bottom of flip chart paper, give each person 5 sticky notes, ask them to place their sticky notes by each strength, and watch the group profile emerge. Notice what the resulting profile says about the group.
Choose one of 70 research-based activities from positive psychology’s only field guide for practitioners: Ryan’ Niemiec’s Character Strengths Interventions. Choose from among exercises that boost awareness and use, enhance meaning and engagement, build resilience and problem management, or elevate goal setting, achievement, or mindfulness. Try one yourself, then offer it to a friend, team member, or family member.
Character Day typically occurs near the end of September each year. If you’d like to know the actual date or be reminded about it next year, subscribe to my newsletter.
Really, though, every day is character day. You don’t need an annual event to spread the research and practice of character strengths. On any given day, simply choose one of the practices that resonates most.
Perhaps there are other practices you’ve tried yourself. If you’d like to offer them for publication, email me at Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com. I’ll include them with your name, if you agree, in my blog post next year.
In the meantime, enjoy Character Day, a global day of celebration of what’s best in you!
I recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime, 3-week trip to Australia. I traveled across the world to 1) share the preliminary results of a study that Dr. Karen S. Whelan-Berry and I are co-leading and 2) enjoy the culture and hospitality of our Aussie friends Down Under. I’ll share more about the study in a future blog post.
Surprisingly, I noticed a slight language barrier even though everyone spoke English. I was unfamiliar with certain pronunciations and colloquialisms, which impeded my ability to understand and navigate with ease. On the 15-hour plane ride home, I was thinking about how similar this is to the language of character strengths: building fluency is key. The rest of this article explores the notion of fluency and how to boost your strengths fluency. Strengths fluency is the ability to express oneself articulately through the 24 capacities known as character strengths. The rest of this article explores the notion of fluency and how to boost your strengths fluency, so you can apply greater clarity and confidence to the adventures in your life.
Fluency smooths the journey
No matter where I visited – Melbourne, Port Douglas, or Sydney – I found myself asking the locals to slow their speech or repeat things. I came to understand that:
g’day = hello mate = informal address for friends and strangers how ya goin’ = how are you? arvo = afternoon avo = avocado barbie = barbecue (a grill) hooroo = goodbye
Interestingly, they don’t pronounce the “r” sound like we do in Chicago, so the word for afternoon sounded like avocado. Also, I wondered about how to answer the question: How ya goin’? I didn’t know at first. They were extending hospitality and I didn’t feel comfortable returning it.
Although these barriers seemed minor, I began to notice my frustration lessen as my knowledge grew. I experienced the benefits of fluency: clarity, greater ability to navigate, confidence in getting around. All of which led to deeper enjoyment of the adventure. If you’ve ever been in a situation where your native language isn’t spoken, or even sounds different, you can probably relate.
Why character strengths fluency?
Character strengths fluency is about learning a universal language that describes the virtuous traits of humans around the world. In truth, the “virtuous person” doesn’t exist. This journey is about becoming more virtuous, not arriving at a virtuous pinnacle. In fact, someone who thinks they don’t need to strengthen their character strengths might be underusing humility!
Developing your strengths fluency is a worthy investment. Consider that:
Speaking about strengths articulately and engaging them effectively helps cultivate the things you may want more of, like positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. In particular, in a recent study teamwork, love, and kindness were most strongly linked to positive relationships; curiosity and perspective to meaning; perseverance, perspective, and zest to accomplishment. (Wagner, et al., 2019).
Being able to put other people’s strengths into words helps you become skilled at strengths-spotting, the practice of naming and openly appreciating strengths. Strengths-spotting helps others internalize what’s best within them. Imagine how this gift, so easy to give, can provide a boost to your children, friends, clients, or team members!
Whether you’ve studied the character strengths framework extensively or are just curious about it, boosting your character strengths fluency will help you:
Build your capacity to rise to challenges and pursue new adventures
Communicate using a positive lens and framework
Appreciate the best in others
Express the best in yourself more often
How to boost your strengths fluency
The approach to developing strengths fluency is similar to learning a foreign language:
Vocabulary – learn the character strengths names and their definitions
Syntax – choose the strengths needed for each situation you face
Practice – experiment with applying the strengths
Immersion – dive in to expand your level of skills and knowledge
This is a non-linear and iterative process.
5 steps you can take
Below are 5 of the many ways you can boost your strengths fluency. Depending on your current level, one might resonate more than the others.
Take, or retake, the free VIA survey. If you haven’t taken it within the past year, it’s good to update your results. Although you’re not likely to see your top strengths move to the bottom or vice versa, individual strengths do sometimes shift based on life circumstances.
To learn about other facets of character strengths, like turning strengths inward, understanding your strengths tendencies, or building team strengths, please feel free to contact me at Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com. We will clarify your interests and schedule time together.
Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach someone else. Share this work with others by inviting them to become more strength-based.
So how ya goin’? What resonates with you? Take a moment to consider how you will boost your strengths fluency in the global language of human virtue. Carve out some time to learn the vocabulary and syntax, to practice, and then immerse yourself in character strengths.
As for me, it’s arvo, and I haven’t had lunch yet. I have the fixings for avo toast, but I’m thinking I might throw a burger on the barbie. Hoo roo, mates!
NOTES Wagner, L., Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and PERMA: Investigating the relationships of character strengths with a multidimensional framework of well-being. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi:10.1007/s11482-018-9695-z
Do you know someone who feels depleted from the pace of daily life? Or someone curious about amping up their work or relationships? Is that person you?
POWER UP: Strengthening Your Strengths is a 1.5-hour character strengths debrief session tailored to help you tune into your unique blend of character strengths. You’ll explore the question: How can my strengths empower me to meet challenges or lead a more robust life?
Move in a new direction! Character strengths are inherently part of being human, 24 positive traits like curiosity and teamwork, scientifically shown to be pathways to human flourishing. We all have them. Many of us are familiar with them but don’t fully understand how they can enliven us, help us emerge from challenges stronger, and build our capacity for new endeavors.
THIS WORK IS FOR EVERYONE!
Whether you’re facing a challenge or an opportunity, your character strengths can strengthen your capacity to meet life with energy and enthusiasm. Everyone can strengthen their strengths – the exhausted business professional, the college student finding his way, the person transitioning into a new role or life situation. Even people already familiar with their character strengths find new facets of themselves in this strengths-based session.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
Some strengths assessments zero in on what you do well in work or life. Others hone in on talents you have. In POWER UP: Strengthening Your Strengths, you’ll tap into 24 positive traits that help define who you are and what you do when at your best, joining over 7 million others on a similar path.
Your session will be tailored to your experiences, interests, and profile of strengths. During the session, you will:
Experience the difference between fixing weaknesses and building strengths
Become familiar with the science of character including what character strengths are, how they’re different from other types of strengths, and why they matter
Discover new insights about who you are, how you operate when at your best, and how to express your most authentic self more often, even when under stress
Understand how overusing and underusing your strengths can cause unintended negative consequences in relationships, and what to do about it
Decide how to take your strengths practice forward
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY
Some of my clients describe living more fully into their strengths as “living out loud” or “living in the zone.” Even those who feel attuned to their strengths come away from this session with new insights about their best, most authentic qualities, how to deploy them intentionally, and which strengths help them feel happy and successful. For instance, a client who recently completed POWER UP: Strengthening Your Strengths noticed that:
For years I’ve viewed myself as being too driven for my own good, depleting myself while striving for more and better. It didn’t occur to me that I was overusing my #1 strength appreciation of beauty and excellence. I can now appreciate the high level of excellence I bring to work and focus more on being fair and kind to myself, not putting so much pressure on myself.
GETTING STARTED IS EASY – CLAIM YOUR SPOT NOW FOR OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER!
Each session typically takes up to 1.5 hours and is conducted via Zoom video conferencing or by phone. The fee is $139 plus the cost of the report you choose at registration.
Positive Psychology highlights the importance of focusing on strengths. Lea Waters, professor at the University of Melbourne, defines strengths as what you do well and enjoy doing that benefits others. Anderson explains that character strengths are core capacities for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that can bring benefit to self and others.
Who is the author?
Jane Anderson has studied character strengths with the Wholebeing Institute and the VIA Institute on Character, and she has taught them in the Wholebeing Institute and to her clients. She is now running a 6-week program called Rise and Thrive in 2019. In her biography on the Strength Based Living site, she states:
“Sometimes it’s necessary to improve weaknesses and what’s wrong, but I find that as a society we’re good at focusing on the negative and less practiced at pursuing the positive. I hope to change that.”
She herself has worked her way through more than forty 30-day practices, by herself and with friends, so this format comes very naturally to her.
What is in the book?
Anderson invites you, the reader, to start by creating a personal strengths profile using the VIA Strengths Survey that is freely available online. With this profile in hand, Anderson’s book leads you through the following four-week practice:
Week 1: understanding your own strengths
Week 2: building relationships based on your strengths and spotting the strengths of others
Week 3: building competence in the use of your character strengths so that you don’t overuse, underuse, or misuse them
Week 4: perfecting your own development
Every activity or exercise is organized with a question and reflection format that allows you to evolve consciously your understanding of your own strengths and shows you ways to truly ignite your personal development. One of the wonderful things about this book is that each week closes with a summary of the week activities, and the last three days of the 30-day period are used to look towards creating your own future practice.
What did I particularly enjoy?
The book is written from an easygoing and warm perspective. It has a good balance of explaining why the activities work to make you a better version of yourself with a very practical and simple daily exercise format. I especially liked having a 30-day format. When trying to create a habit, repetition is key. Although the book includes 30 different exercises, they are related and build on each other. That makes the book habit forming, especially if you go through it more than once. The book also leads to a beneficial change of mindset by shifting the focus from deficit improvement to boosting strengths.
Anderson proposes a progression in terms of the depth of the activities. The simpler ones are in the first week. More complex and reflective exercises are presented as the month advances. This is one of the specific things that I value about thinking about character strengths for a month: there is a start, a progression, and an end to the improvement plan.
Anderson’s book, besides helping you to understand your unique character strengths profile, also invites you to look at others through the lens of their unique strengths profiles. I could personally relate to one of the exercises where as a reader I was invited to look at conflict as a collision of strengths. If each of people in the conflict are using their strengths to determine their particular views of the situation, what would happen if I changed to use a different strength?
How did I use the book?
One thing that I did with a group of friends is that we all started with the activities at the same time. Then we had brief discussions on each of the exercises and shared our experiences. After finishing the 30 days, we realized that the book also allowed each of us to customize strengths practices to our own personalities.
By now I hope you are interested on the practice of knowing and also developing a strengths-based focus using the VIA Character Strengths classification. If so a copy of this book for yourself can be the perfect tool to begin and keep going. You might also want to subscribe to her Strength Based Living newsletter to get ongoing reminders to practice.
When it comes to our awareness of character strengths, we all have blind spots. Strengths-related blind spots can obscure your vision and prevent you from seeing positive facets of yourself and others.
In his book Mindfulness and Character Strengths, Ryan Niemiec talks about different kinds of blind spots. Three that seem to resonate most with my clients are highlighted below, plus ways to compensate and see beyond the blind spot. Which ones resonate with you?
Blindspot #1: Overuse of a strength How to compensate: Elevate a more helpful strength
Each of the 24 character strengths can be overused, but you’re most likely to slip into overdrive with your signature strengths. These top strengths tend to be expressed easily and naturally in most settings.
Strengths overuse is a case where more is not always better. The overuse of curiosity can seem intrusive. The overuse of hope can lead to unrealistic expectations. This overuse leads us down a path of frustration and conflict in relationships. In fact, you might consider that an overused strength isn’t even a strength anymore, as it no longer provides benefit to oneself or others.
For instance, when reflecting about an overused strength, a colleague thought of hope, her #1 character strength. She recalled a past romantic relationship when her boyfriend’s actions didn’t align with her beliefs about commitment and marriage. Being naturally optimistic, she focused on how much she enjoyed their time together. As these differences magnified over time, she maintained hope that things would work out. They didn’t.
Overuse of hope is akin to seeing things through rose-colored glasses, and perhaps not being grounded in reality. My colleague realized this overuse kept her in an untenable relationship.
To compensate for an overused strength, you can think about and elevate other strengths that might be more helpful. In this example, honesty to acknowledge the relationship difficulty. Bravery to initiate an honest conversation with her boyfriend. Any of the 24 might have assisted my colleague in seeing beyond the blind spot and managing through the difficulty supported by her other strengths.
Blindspot #2 – Lack of character strengths awareness How to compensate: Explore to widen your perspective
Neither you nor I have perfect awareness of our strengths. No one does. In fact, many of us have little awareness about what they are or why they matter. Unfortunately, this can prevent us from tapping into the energy and excellence derived from expressing strengths.
A workshop participant recently took the free VIA survey of character strengths for the first time. His top strengths resonated except for one: Leadership. He didn’t view leadership as a top strength or one in which he was particularly interested. It’s not uncommon to notice strengths that don’t resonate after taking the survey.
He decided to explore leadership as a top strength. From Niemiec’s latest book The Power of Character Strengths, he learned the difference between “Big L” leadership – typically thought of as leadership demonstrated by corporate executives, politicians, and other high level personnel – and “small l” leadership – known as everyday leadership involving the guidance and growth of groups.
His awareness expanded as he noticed this strength in action in his life. He’s beginning to value this surprising aspect of himself and notice how it helps him succeed in his business, participate authentically in a group for small business owners, and rally his friends for dinner parties. As our workshop concluded, he noted these realizations as “best moments” and continued to see beyond the blind spot by exploring his unique expressions of leadership.
Blindspot #3: Undervaluing a strength How to compensate: Seek input from others
Character strengths expand our capacity to do and become more, filling us with positive energy and confidence. It’s not an exaggeration to label them as extraordinary capacities.
Unfortunately, we often take them for granted, especially signature strengths. For instance, if social intelligence is your top strength, you might believe that everyone is as empathic or intuitive about other people’s feelings as you are. If perseverance is your top strength, you might assume everyone is as naturally industrious as you are. It’s just not the case.
When we undervalue a signature strength, we potentially diminish our own value and fail to live into who we are and what we do when at our best. We also shortchange others by failing to recognize their unique contributions and potential.
As an example, kindness is a strength that others consistently see in me. They’ve shared examples of me going out of my way to be helpful and caring. Although I hear what they’re saying, kindness doesn’t resonate with me as much as other signature strengths do. In this sense, it’s my blind spot.
Nonetheless, their input has given me a new perspective on how I operate when at my best. As a result, the value I place on kindness as a top strength is growing as I tune into what trusted others see and value in me. It feels good to know that the kindness within can have a profoundly positive impact on someone.
Here’s the good news
No matter which form of strengths blindness might be at play in your life, through practice you can learn to compensate and experience a growing sense of harmony. Over time, you’ll find yourself living more fully into who you are and what you do when at your best. And helping others do the same.
WE HELD 5 GROUPS OF RISE AND THRIVE! REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED
For information about future workshops, please subscribe to my newsletter.
Rise and Thrive in 2019: A Strengths-Fueled Path
This time of year is the perfect time to set aside limitations and ignite your potential, by engaging your VIA character strengths. Character strengths are key building blocks to human flourishing. They can energize you in dark times and fuel your dreams. This course will help you blaze a strengths trail in 2019 as you explore and engage your unique blend of character strengths. Learn about other ways you’ll benefit here.
In this 6-week course, you’ll create an embodied strengths practice. Your participation includes:
Completing a daily character strengths practice using my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best as a guide.
Attending 6 weekly 1.5-hour workshops to connect, check in, and receive bonus content
Our work is evidence-based, so we’ll collect from you confidential pre- and post-course survey data about your perceived levels of happiness, self-compassion, confidence, and engagement with character strengths. We’ll also share a summary of what we learned from this data.
The workshops reflect the themes from the book:
Workshop 1: Introduction & Getting Started, plus pre-course surveys
Workshop 2: Exploring Your Best Self
Workshop 3: Connecting & Building Relationships
Workshop 4: Boosting Confidence & Competence
Workshop 5: Living Your Strengths
Workshop 6: Celebrating & Taking Your Practice Forward, plus post-course surveys
Providence, RI Group If you live or work in the Providence RI area, we have a new group starting on Wednesday, May 15 at the Jewish Community Center (JCC). Click here for details and to register. If you have questions, contact Karen Whelan-Berry at Karenwb@Wholebeinginstitute.com.
Virtual Groups Our 4th virtual group is currently in action! If you’re interested in possible future dates, please contact Jane S. Anderson at Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com.
Let’s individually and collectively blaze a character strengths-fueled trail in 2019. Hope to see you there!
Jane S. Anderson Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best President, Strength Based Living LLC
Signature Strengths: Creativity/Humor/Perspective/Honesty Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com
Dr. Karen S. Whelan-Berry
Chief Learning Officer, Wholebeing Institute
Signature Strengths: Bravery/Gratitude/Fairness/Kindness KarenWB@WholebeingInstitute.com