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.
Picture of Jane Strunk Anderson from her web site, Strength Based Living
Be strong Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
Group of friends Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash