“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
(about a 2.5 minute read)
Tomorrow (September 26, 2018) is Character Day! Character Day is the day people around the world link arms to celebrate what unites us as humans: our character strengths. As you can see, I’m celebrating early. In honor of Character Day, for two days, I’m offering half off my print book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best on Amazon.com. The price you see is the discounted price.
Readers tell me they’re giving it as gifts to friends and family; including it in work with coaching clients and in workshops; adding it to reading lists for courses they teach; and starting their own 30-day practice groups. Stock up and save while it’s half off!
On Character Day, hundreds of thousands of schools, workplaces, families, and individuals will be sharing the research and practice of character strengths. Thank you Let It Ripple Film Studio for launching Character Day in 2014! If you haven’t registered to participate in Character Day, no worries. There are many simple ways to celebrate character strengths. For instance:
Get and Share Resources
1. Watch the brief, inspirational video The Science of Character. If you’ve already seen it, share it and introduce others to the research and practice of character strengths.
2. Take the free VIA survey of character strengths or offer it to someone you know who hasn’t taken it.
3. Request these free discussion kits to use in your next character strengths discussions.
Boost Your Strengths Wisdom
4. To understand why strengths matter or when describing to someone else why they matter, access the hundreds of research findings on the VIA Institute on Character website. They’re organized into topics such as character strengths in the workplace, education, and relationships.
5. To learn more about a specific strength, go here and click on the strength.
6. Check out these books to expand your knowledge.
Practice and Have Fun With Character Strengths
7. Post your signature strengths (top 5 strengths) in a prominent place such as the refrigerator, the entryway to an office, or a journal. This will remind you of who you are when at your best. Better yet, if you’re part of a family, work team, or other group, post everyone’s strengths and notice how they bring goodness, meaning, and performance into each others’ lives.
8. Brighten someone else’s day by noticing and appreciating his or her strengths. Practice strengths-spotting your postal carrier, neighbor, barista, pharmacist, or anyone you encounter during the day.
9. Perform a random act of kindness. Clean the kitchen without being asked. Purchase a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Offer to carry someone else’s heavy bag.
10. Send a note or text of gratitude expressing thanks and praise to someone you appreciate.
There are virtually limitless ways to infuse strengths into whatever you do and wherever you go. Most importantly, you don’t need to wait for an annual event to celebrate character strengths. Just take a step!
May we celebrate character strengths today and every day.
Until next time,
Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
***half-off for two days – September 25 and September 26 – at Amazon.com***