(about a 5 minute read)
There is a palpable shift in focus from what’s wrong to what’s strong in parenting, schools, teams, organizations, leadership approaches, learning processes, social work, coaching, therapy, and countless other arenas. Each time we engage our strengths, we boost our capacity for excellence and goodness. Each time we appreciate someone else’s strengths, we create a ripple effect of goodness that blesses us with meaning, happiness, and success. Many institutions in our society are becoming strength-based.
What is “becoming strength-based?”
My definition of “becoming strength-based” is shifting from a deficit, problem-oriented perspective to a positive one. I don’t mean to imply you should ignore or avoid problems or negative experiences but that you should also cultivate what’s strong with intention and purpose. It also means noticing when you’re at your best and building on the strengths that contribute to those best moments.
6 Actions You Can Take Right Now
Below are 6 actions you can take right now to become more strength-based. You won’t need buy-in or approval from management, family members, or friends. Just begin.
- Notice where you are on the strengths journey, and know that becoming strength-based is a learning process, not an event. Start wherever you are, and advance from there. If you find it difficult to name your strengths, take the free VIA survey to identify them. If you can easily name your strengths, explore different facets of them. If you’ve already explored your strengths, begin to apply them in new ways or settings. Learn about overusing and underusing strengths, turning them inward, and engaging them optimally. Experiment in relationships, at home, and at work. Notice where your strengths make the strongest contribution. If you’re interested, my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best can guide you through these discoveries.
- Offer the free VIA survey to those around you who are open to it. Having a common language will help you communicate easily about what’s going well and how your unique strengths contribute to success and happiness. I work with character strengths because research shows that they are foundational to human flourishing.
- Develop your strengths fluency by noticing, naming, and appreciating strengths in action. This foundational process is called strengths-spotting. Begin a strengths-spotting practice around the family dinner table. Send a daily strengths-spotting email to someone you respect or feel close to. Challenge yourself to notice someone’s strengths in action as they unfold in real time.
- Align your strengths with the activities you do each day, even those you find mundane. Express Gratitude to your work team in staff meetings. Explore relevant topics using your Curiosity. Add a touch of Humor to doing the laundry. If you’re not sure how to accomplish this last one, ask someone high in Creativity for assistance!
- If you’re in a leadership role, create opportunities for those you serve to engage their top strengths. If you’re a teacher, help the disruptive student cultivate his Creativity to boost engagement. If you’re a manager, pass the leadership baton to a team member high in Prudence to lead the planning session. If you’re a parent, help your child express Zest with vigorous physical activities after sitting all day in school.
- Whether you’re in a formal leadership role or not, become a role model for strengths. Don’t just teach others about their strengths, make sure you’re living yours. Being able to draw on your own experiences inspires others.
No matter where you are on life’s journey, you can probably benefit from becoming more strength-based. Try one or all six actions. Notice how your efforts cultivate excellence and goodness. Share your wisdom with others.
Until next time,
Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author of 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
(available on Amazon.com)