G’day mates! How ya goin’?
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 gain meaningful insights from your survey results, register for my 1:1 session Power Up: Strengthening Your Strengths. It will take your fluency to a new level!
- To develop greater fluency around engaging strengths in balanced ways or managing over- and underuse, check out The Power Of Character Strengths. Or if you have my book 30 Days of Character Strengths, find the overuse/underuse grid on page 129 for a concise description of each strength.
- 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!
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.
You’ll work 1:1 with me, Jane S. Anderson, author of 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best and seasoned strengths practitioner. You can see me in action here, as I lead a debrief session with Rebecca Sparks, founder of The Daily Guru, a platform dedicated to the education and empowerment of women seeking more from life.
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 SEPTEMBER!
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.
Here’s how to get started:
- Take the free VIA survey here.
- Email me at Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com to register, choose your report, and schedule your session.
- Get ready to take a deeper dive into your character strengths.
Strengthen your strengths. Power yourself up. Act now.
This article authored by Rosalinda Ballesteros Valdes, director of the Institute for Wellbeing and Happiness at Universidad Tecmilenio, was originally published on PositivePsychologyNews.com on May 22, 2019.
Jane Strunk Anderson’s book, 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best lays out a month-long series of practices to help people intentionally develop their own character strengths. It can also be used by coaches or team leaders to help people work together to develop habits around character strengths.
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.
Anderson, J. S. (2018). 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best. Strength Based Living LLC.
Anderson, J. S. (2019). 3 key questions that shift you into strengths when you’re stressed. Strength Based Living blog.
Anderson, J. S. (ongoing). Strength Based Living web site. Subscribe to be informed when a new round of the Rise and Thrive class is scheduled.
Niemiec, R. M. & McGrath, R. E. (2019). The Power of Character Strengths. VIA Institute on Character.
Waters, L. (2017). The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish. New York: Avery.
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.
If you’re interested in taking a next step:
- Be sure you’ve taken the free VIA survey within the past year.
- Explore your unique profile of character strengths by scheduling a confidential debrief session with me (email Jane@StrengthBasedLiving.com).
- Check out my book 30 Days of Character Strengths, which was recently reviewed on Positive Psychology News Daily. (See the review here.)
R. M. (2014). Mindfulness
and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.
R. M. & McGrath R. E. (2019) The
power of character strengths: Appreciate and ignite your positive personality. VIA
Institute on Character.
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.
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
Dr. Karen S. Whelan-Berry
Chief Learning Officer, Wholebeing Institute
Signature Strengths: Bravery/Gratitude/Fairness/Kindness
“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,
the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
Small actions can have a large positive impact. Even in the face of something seemingly insurmountable. My colleagues and I refer to these as “2% actions.” When something feels insurmountable, thinking of a 2% action can boil the bigness down, leaving something actionable and less intimidating.
For example, one might think of elevating 2% more bravery when feeling anxious about taking a stand on an important issue. For one person, that 2% action might be making a phone call to connect with a like-minded friend. To another, it might look like attending a protest for the cause. Either way, that small action can be the difference between creating a positive ripple effect and maintaining the status quo.
Sometimes we have the good fortune of seeing and feeling the ripple effect.
A participant in one of my workshops turned kindness inward when struggling with the unexpected loss of a close family member. She gave herself the gift of a massage to help her relax during this difficult time. For some, this might be a weekly ritual; for her it was a 2% step. Something out-of-the-ordinary that she wouldn’t normally afford herself. She typically tended to other family members, helping them manage and deal with their struggles. By focusing on herself in this small way, she noticed that she was in dire need, and deserving, of tender loving care also.
This act of kindness was like a springboard to wiser self-care, which in turn is helping her move through her grief. By tending to her own needs, she says, she can be a better support for others and manage her work life and personal relationships more effectively. A small act of kindness turned inward created a ripple effect of resilience and strength.
Sometimes the ripple effect isn’t known for weeks, months, or even longer.
I was with a team of people getting ready to lead a webinar. There was a problem with the technology, so our technology liaison took the lead, demonstrating her command of the platform as she began troubleshooting. Most impressively, she maintained her cool as the webinar was scheduled to begin in four minutes, deftly getting us back up and running in five.
I quickly spotted and named her strengths of creativity, as she easily connected the dots of this unique situation; judgment, as her critical thinking helped analyze different solutions; and perseverance, as she continued methodically until the platform was running smoothly again. Others joined in the strengths-spotting.
All of a sudden, it got completely quiet. After a few seconds of silence, she thanked us for noticing her strengths. Months later, she emailed me to note the impact that moment still had on her, and how it shifted her view of herself and her work on a terribly difficult day.
Sometimes the ripple effect isn’t known at all.
A client wanted to informally introduce some of his newfound strengths wisdom to a few co-workers. They had expressed interest, so he asked them to take the free VIA survey of character strengths. He then offered to help them explore their strengths in a brief conversation together. They took the survey and commented on how interesting their results were, but none took him up on his offer. He felt it didn’t land with them at all and wondered why. He elevated his curiosity and asked them directly. In a nutshell, it wasn’t good timing. Not every pebble dropped will create an immediate ripple effect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. You just might not know about it.
Drop the pebble anyway.
Whether you’re struggling with what seems like an insurmountable obstacle in life or you wish to be a positive presence in the world, try taking a small 2% action such as turning a character strength inward, strengths-spotting someone close to you, or sharing your strengths wisdom. The ripple you create won’t always be known to you, but don’t let that deter you from dropping the pebble.
- Think of a time when someone – a teacher, parent, boss, or co-worker – noticed one of your gifts or strengths. What was the ripple effect from that moment? Have you expressed your gratitude to that person? If not, please consider whether/how you might do that.
- What 2% strength-based action might you take today to cultivate goodness within or around you?
Rise and Thrive in 2019: A Strengths-FueledPath
Interested in taking a deep dive into character strengths? Join us as we launch our 5th group of strengths enthusiasts developing a more meaningful awareness of their character strengths and spreading their wisdom to family, team members, clients, and friends. Our next group begins Tuesday, April 30. For details, click here.
It’s a new season – time to try a science-based approach to happiness and success!
Join us as we explore VIA character strengths, key building blocks to flourishing!
If you’re ready to put a pause on limitations and practice harnessing what’s best within you, you are going to love this program. Join two seasoned facilitators, author Jane S. Anderson and Dr. Karen S. Whelan-Berry, in early 2019 as they join forces to offer a unique, one-time-only learning experience designed to help you create an embodied VIA character strengths practice.
How You Will Benefit
Individuals over 18 who are either new to VIA character strengths or seasoned practitioners can benefit from a VIA character strengths practice. As a participant, you will:
- Discover a meaningful awareness of who you are and how you contribute in the world.
- Develop your character strengths fluency to acknowledge and amplify others.
- Engage your character strengths in balanced ways, to boost happiness and success.
- Practice managing overuse and underuse, potential sources of conflicts in relationships.
- Use a lens of character strengths to view yourself and others kindly and accurately.
- Apply character strengths to daily routines, challenges, and goals.
- Prepare to take your practice forward.
How We’ll Work Together
Join us in this intensive 6-week course, where you’ll be exposed to many facets of character strengths in a condensed time frame. You’ll also answer the important questions: how does a daily character strengths practice impact your happiness and success, self-compassion, and engagement with character strengths?
You’ll receive your own copy of the book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best, a resource endorsed by positive psychology experts like Tal Ben-Shahar, Ryan M. Niemiec, and Margarita Tarragona. This workbook, which includes daily activities, examples, and reflection prompts, will guide your daily practice.
We’ll also be working together in small groups beginning in late January to mid-February 2019, meeting either in person or online six times in weekly sessions of 1.5 hours. This will be your opportunity to check in and receive bonus content. The introductory fee for this workshop is $45, which includes your copy of 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best.
Our work is evidence-based, so we’ll gather pre- and post- workshop survey data and feedback from participants. We’ll also share a summary of what we learned. This program is available to a limited number of people, so remember, when opportunity knocks, open the door!
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER, GO HERE.
Stay in the Loop
If you already subscribe to the Strength Based Living newsletter, you’ll get the latest news about workshop dates, locations, and more. If not, join our community by subscribing below.
Jane S. Anderson, author of 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
President, Strength Based Living LLC
Signature Strengths: Creativity/Humor/Perspective/Honesty
Dr. Karen S. Whelan-Berry
Chief Learning Officer, Wholebeing Institute
Signature Strengths: Bravery/Gratitude/Fairness/Kindness
Whether you’re stretching outside your comfort zone to reach toward a dream, navigating a challenging conversation, or simply going about your daily routine, your day is likely filled with stressors. We all have them, but we don’t always respond in productive ways. If you could be at your best, how might you respond differently? Find out by asking 3 key questions that can shift you into strengths when you’re stressed. Grounding yourself in your character strengths can help you feel more balanced, authentic, and confident.
3 Key Questions
Question #1: Who am I in the face of this situation?
This question speaks to how you’re feeling, thinking, or acting in the moment. Are you feeling calm and in control? Frustrated and impatient? Are your actions helping or hurting the situation? Your answer might be a gut reaction about who you are in that moment. It might not feel good.
Question #2: Who do I wish to be?
This question reflects the desire for a different response or outcome. We can’t be someone else, but we can often call forth our best more strongly. Reflecting on who you are when at your best and what you’re hoping to accomplish can help you frame an answer to this question.
Question #3: How can my character strengths help me right now?
This question creates a bridge from where you are to where you’d like to be, using your character strengths.
An example from my life is that, like 75% of Americans, I suffer from glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. I don’t experience a full-on panic attack, but I do feel lingering anxiety in the pit of my stomach. In these moments, I’m not in my best frame of mind. Once I get 5 minutes into the presentation, I’m fine. But sometimes 5 minutes is all you get to make an impression. I want it to be a good one.
Of course, preparing well in advance helps me feel less anxious. So does meditating and getting enough rest. Shifting into my strengths is also a go-to strategy. Below, I walk you through my answers to the 3 questions as I prepare for a presentation or workshop, which is when my anxiety typically begins.
Answer to Question #1: Who am I in the face of this situation?
I am a seasoned facilitator who feels anxious before a presentation. I’m also someone who loves to share wisdom with others and help them live into their strengths. But I sometimes withdraw when feeling strained or nervous, which hurts my ability to connect with people.
Answer to Question #2: Who do I wish to be?
I wish to exude a sense of calmness, create an exceptional learning experience, and navigate unanticipated challenges with grace and humility.
Answer to Question #3: How can my character strengths help me right now?
Perspective, one of my top strengths, kicks in naturally to help me think about what went well in prior presentations, notice how I managed challenges, and remember what I learned. Prudence, a lower strength, helps me plan what I might do differently next time. Elevating Humor, my #2 strength, almost always puts a smile on my face.
These strengths provide a springboard to help me feel confident. My anxiety lessens as the positive energy flows from engaging my strengths. You might say my preparation process has become strengths-based.
This process was so helpful to me that I posted these answers in my office as a reminder to shift into my strengths. If you had a fear of speaking, you’d probably use other character strengths. Perhaps Social Intelligence to focus on your audience or Creativity to brainstorm your own strategies for managing pre-presentation anxiety.
Give it a try!
Answering these questions can be difficult in the moment. Doing so in hindsight is much easier, so you could start by reflecting on a situation from the past. Try it, and remember that whatever the stressor, your 24 character strengths are capacities available to serve you and those around you.
Rise and Thrive in 2019!
Do you know anyone navigating a life transition, striving to achieve a difficult goal, or simply interested in infusing their work or life with strengths? If so, please invite them to rise and thrive with other strengths enthusiasts from around the world. Virtual groups for Rise and Thrive in 2019: A Strengths-Fueled Path begin February 19. They’re filling now, so don’t delay! For details, go here.
“On Monday, don’t tell me how much you enjoyed
our time together. Tell me what you’re doing differently.”
This is a quotation from the late Peter Drucker, known as the father of modern management and advisor to corporate executives, government officials, and non-profit leaders. During his later years of life, he invited his proteges to his home to spend the weekend talking about leadership and business. When their time together concluded, he challenged them to put what they discussed into action.
Can you imagine having the privilege of spending a weekend picking the brain of the legendary Peter Drucker? No matter what role you’re currently in – leader, team member, volunteer, all of the above – you’d need to be doing something differently and not just thinking about how much you learned.
It’s not easy to do things differently, even when change is for the good. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, improve a relationship, or create another positive change that sticks, you know what I mean.
Consider your strengths. Are you living into yours? Before you answer, know that about 2/3 of us don’t have a meaningful awareness of our strengths, much less live into these capacities. Still, even those with a strengths awareness often don’t give strengths the attention they deserve. Certainly I’m guilty of that from time to time.
Why Don’t We Give Strengths the Attention They Deserve?
There are many reasons. Too often, we work at improving weaknesses rather than building strengths. From another perspective, we’ve been taught that focusing on strengths is boastful or immodest. Perhaps we dismiss strengths as ordinary rather than extraordinary capacities that can help us feel confident, competent, and unique.
A coaching client’s top four signature strengths are Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Bravery, Honesty, and Love of Learning. She viewed these strengths as ordinary. Everyone has these, she would say.
Through our work together, she stopped thinking casually about her strengths and started using them intentionally. In job interviews, for example, she realized she could express Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence to set a high bar for herself, Bravery and Honesty to offer bold yet authentic examples of who she is and how she contributes at work, and Love of Learning to demonstrate how quickly she learns in areas beyond her expertise. She practiced engaging these same strengths in other ways in different parts of her life.
Lasting Change Through Strengths
Over time, she began to view her strengths as unique and extraordinary. Her confidence grew. She leaned on her strengths more often in her personal and professional lives. Ultimately, she couldn’t imagine what life would be like or what she would be like if these strengths didn’t exist.
I shared the quote about Peter Drucker. As we wrapped up, she eagerly named these positive changes. Most notably, she appreciated and expressed her strengths in more situations and in new ways. My client was not only thinking differently, she was doing things differently. Using a lens of strengths helped lead her to satisfying work and other positive outcomes.
It turns out that we can’t wish or hope our way to better outcomes. We need to do something differently.
What Will You Do Differently in 2019?
No matter where you are on your strengths journey, consider blazing a new trail in 2019. Join us in early 2019 for a one-time-only learning opportunity to soar with your strengths within a like-minded community of strengths enthusiasts. Bring your colleagues, loved ones, or friends. Learn more here.
Until next time,
Jane S. Anderson
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
President, Strength Based Living
Are you thriving? How would you know?
Thriving can mean different things to different people. You might thrive when the pressure is on to finish a project. Your friend might thrive when he can plan ahead and finish with time to spare. According to a 2017 article on the science of human thriving, thriving has many facets and may be different from person to person. The authors noted there isn’t a consensus on the definition of thriving within the scientific community. Instead, they offered their definition as the combined experience of development and success.
Based on this definition, I can think of examples of thriving from my life. For instance, after I completed my MBA more than 30 years ago, I changed jobs and received a pay raise commensurate with the market value at that time. I felt challenged as I applied what I learned at work. The challenge plus salary increase were meaningful rewards as I built my career.
If you’re doing challenging work that has the right amount of stretch, enjoyment, and success, you might feel like you’re thriving. On the other hand, if you’re coasting and doing well but not particularly enjoying it, you’re probably not thriving. If you feel depleted and the work doesn’t fit your talents and strengths, you’re clearly not thriving.
From another perspective, you might notice that some parts of your life are thriving while others aren’t. For instance, perhaps you’re in a great relationship, but you feel lethargic about where you can contribute the most. Or maybe you feel energized about work, but you seek a meaningful relationship.
The Good News: Thriving Enablers + Character Strengths
The good news is that there are seven personal variables that can enable thriving. The even better news is that you can focus on and improve these variables. Your character strengths, 24 human capacities that amplify what’s best within you, like Curiosity, Fairness, and Leadership, can play a central role.
Positive psychology expert Ryan Niemiec makes the connection in a November 2017 blog post. Below is a summary of the thriving enablers, in bold, and the role played by character strengths, capitalized:
1. Psychological Resilience – All 24 character strengths, from Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence to Zest, can boost your resilience.
2. Motivation – Your signature strengths (top strengths) can enliven you to take action in your relationships, work, and play.
3. Proactive Personality – Bravery and Perseverance help you seek out challenges and overcome obstacles.
The other 4 thriving enablers include Knowledge & Learning (assisted by Creativity, Curiosity, Love of Learning, and Perspective), Social Competence (Social Intelligence, Love and Kindness, Leadership and Teamwork, and Fairness), Positive Perspective (Hope), and Religiosity and Spirituality (Gratitude and Spirituality).
In other words, there’s yet another reason, among hundreds of research-based reasons, why you should practice and share your strengths wisdom with others: they’re key ingredients to human thriving. If you’d like to learn more about your character strengths or sharpen your character strengths skills, take a look at the sneak preview of what’s coming up for you in 2019.
Sneak Preview of 2019
We’re going to be part of a study beginning in early 2019, and you’re invited to join in! This could be the inspiring opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Instead of wrestling with new year’s resolutions, why not kick off the new year with an investment in your personal or professional growth? The 6-week program is based on Jane S. Anderson’s book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best, a workbook endorsed by positive psychology experts Tal Ben-Shahar, Ryan Niemiec, Margarita Tarragona, and others. To receive information and updates, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter at www.StrengthBasedLiving.com.
Brown, D. J., Arnold, R., Fletcher, D., & Standage, M. (2017). Human thriving A conceptual debate and literature review. European Psychologist, 22(3), 167–179. DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000294
Niemiec, R. M., (2017, November 8). Seven Pathways to Thriving. Psychology Today Online. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201711/seven-pathways-thriving