A Series of Practices to Cultivate Strength and Resilience – Amplify a Signature Strength

“You can’t be anything you want to be —
but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.”

– Tom Rath, bestselling author and 
expert on strengths in the workplace

In a recent spring-cleaning project, I discovered a bin in the back corner of my basement. It held my high school yearbooks from decades ago. Feeling nostalgic, I picked one up and flipped through the colorful markings and handwritten notes left by my classmates.

Throughout the stories of misadventures, brief confessions of feelings, and bursts of teen-aged wisdom, I noticed one predominant theme: Never change.

“Stay who you are honeybuns,” said one. “You’re so fun – stay that way,” said another. 

Never change? Really?!

It turns out, this is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. 

The Inspiration

We often hear that one of the only constants in life is change. Through the ups and downs of my life – navigating single parenthood, overcoming cancer, and transitioning into a new career – I have found this to be true.

However, we can choose to keep what’s best within us the same, and even develop those qualities. Then, “never change” truly is great advice. We know this to be true from research about signature strengths in the field of positive psychology.  

Signature strengths are personality traits that reflect what’s best within you. Research shows that people who focus on their signature strengths are more likely to flourish in their work; have less stress, anxiety and depression; have more confidence; and experience more positive outcomes in virtually every facet of life.

So, what are your best traits? If you aren’t aware of your unique signature strengths, I invite you to discover them by taking the character strengths survey. Your signature strengths will be in the top 5-7 of your results.

I find it ironic that during my high school years, when everything seemed to be changing, my classmates and I urged each other to stay the same. Many yearbook comments reflected my signature strengths, which I lean on every day to face daily challenges and opportunities.

For example: 

“You were a great listener when I had problems with my love life.” (Perspective)

“No, seriously you are…always fun to be around.” (Humor)

And a favorite: “…your personality is a rare, but good one.”

That last comment was a testament to how a friend appreciated my uniqueness. It made me laugh out loud! 

You don’t need to make yourself over to transform your work or life. By focusing on your signature strengths, you can not only grow and change but also live more deeply into who you are. In Tom Rath’s words, “…you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.”

So, never change? Absolutely!

The Practice

Try living into a top signature strength by following these two simple steps:

  1. Develop an awareness of your signature strengths, and
  2. Practice engaging them with intention.

This practice will help you accomplish both. 

I invite you to choose one signature strength. If you wish to skip taking the survey at this time, choose one strength from the graphic below that resonates with you. 

Practice using the strength you’ve chosen in a new way. If you’re unsure how to think about this, consult this character strengths resource from the University of Toronto and select the strength you chose. 

To challenge yourself, try engaging this strength in a new way each day for the next week to help you relax and de-stress, achieve a meaningful goal, overcome an obstacle to a goal, or make a deeper connection with someone important. 

If you get stuck, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I love helping people live into their signature strengths!

The Reflection

When using my signature strength of _______, I noticed that _______.

Take your time with this reflection. Perhaps journal about it or talk it through with someone you trust. You might notice that you felt more confident or energized, had an “aha” moment about an obstacle you faced or approached a situation or person with a different perspective. 

Just notice what happens when you engage a signature strength, and feel free to try this practice with other signature strengths.

May you live into who you are when at your best, today and every day. 

Warmly,
Jane

A Series of Practices to Cultivate Strength and Resilience – A Spoonful of Humor

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Broken pencil.
Broken pencil who?
Never mind, it’s pointless!

Not everyone likes a corny knock-knock joke, but I do. Whether you prefer playfulness, cleverness, or full-on belly laughing, we can all probably use a spoonful of humor to provide levity right now.

It’s easy to forget to laugh and have fun when what’s happening around and within us is so serious. Each of us is facing our own bundle of inconveniences, losses, and sacrifices. Humor can provide a brief, but necessary, respite from these stressors.

There are potentially infinite ways to cultivate humor. And great news: You don’t have to be a stand-up comic to appreciate and share humor.

The Inspiration

Over the past few weeks, the character strength humor, the human capacity for laughter and playfulness, has been coming up often in my personal and professional conversations.  For instance, I recently hosted a virtual family Zoom birthday party for my younger sister. One highlight was the guest appearance by Tito, the rescued cow, from Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary. Tito was invited by my older sister as a surprise. We were told his appearance is a way to change up the flow of Zoom calls. It did! It was very “amooooooosing!” Perhaps even “moooooving.” 

Humor can help us shift from tension to relaxation. Our personal experiences, along with research, support this. Here’s a great article from the Mayo Clinic about the benefits of humor. It mentions that humor:

  • Lowers the stress response, depression, and anxiety
  • Helps relieve pain
  • Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
  • Boosts our ability to cope

As long as it isn’t at the expense of others or ill-timed, humor is a strength that can be practiced and developed. However, situations that end in hurt feelings or insult may be due to the overuse of humor. We each have our own sensitivities, so when we’re with others it’s important to engage in humor judiciously, based on knowledge of the situation and the audience involved.

When you pause in your day for a coffee or water break, think about adding a spoonful of humor. Although this practice is not a substitute for professional medical care, it might be just the right prescription for your body and mind right now.

The Practice

Below are a few things you can do to bring more humor into your life. Of course, you can also play with your own ideas. Humor is contagious, so think about sharing a spoonful with others for multiples of fun!

  1. Try laughter yoga. Whether you’re genuinely laughing or just making laughter sounds, your body is getting the same health benefits.
  2. Watch and share funny videos. I’ve shared these laughing quadruplets many times, and they never fail to amuse.
  3. Find and share the jokes you enjoy. Google “funny jokes” and you’ll find thousands of sources. You’ll have to find the sources that resonate with you.
  4. Have a conversation using different voices or accents.
  5. Watch improv. I love the zany antics in Whose Line Is It Anyway? Notice the overuse of humor toward the end.

The Reflection

Adding a bit more humor into my day _____________________. 

My reflection, for example, is:

Adding a bit more humor into my day provided much-needed lightness and the sense that I could breathe fully for the first time in a while.

Take your time with this reflection. You might wish to journal or speak with a trusted friend about it. Feel free to let your thoughts flow, free of self-judgment.

Try a spoonful of humor. It might be just what the doctor ordered!