Some people describe character strengths as superpowers. The challenge is: how can you engage your superpowers in meaningful ways? The practice below offers an activity you can try in a personal or professional setting, no cape required.

The Inspiration

I recently had the honor of presenting a webinar entitled How to Use Your Character Strengths Like Superpowers. I highlighted how character strengths can help us navigate daily trials, triumphs, and everything in between. If you’d like to view the presentation, I invite you to click here for the recording.

The webinar was hosted by Happify Health, an organization that offers tools and resources to enhance peoples’ well-being. I love the word “happify” because, even though it can’t be found in the dictionary, it turns “happy” – a state of being that many people find elusive or confusing – into a verb that we can all relate to.

For instance, I “happified” my stressful schedule today by taking periodic humor breaks. Humor is one of my signature strengths, and I like to periodically get out of my office chair, breathe, move around, and do something that makes me smile or laugh.

During the webinar, I offered an activity published by Dr. Ryan Nieimiec on the VIA Institute of Character’s website. His article is entitled Well-Being, Adversity, and You. Below are a few highlights:

  • Recent studies show how character strengths can not only enhance well-being, but also help us navigate adversity.

  • In the “enhancing well-being” column, character strengths have been linked to positive relationships, effectiveness in the classroom and workplace, spirituality, and other positive outcomes we seek.

  • In the “navigating adversity” column, character strengths have been linked to helping with resilience, reducing stress and anxiety, coping with losses and COVID, handling challenges in the classroom, dealing with emotional exhaustion at work, and managing other common struggles.

During the webinar, I asked participants to choose one of these outcomes, select a signature strength that could become a pathway, and identify one small step they could take to put that strength into action. Shelby E., one of the webinar hosts and participants, bravely turned on her video and shared her example.

Shelby chose “boosting family connections” and came up with a beautiful array of steps she could take by engaging her signature strength gratitude. After the webinar, she shared the following feedback:

“I exercised my signature strength of gratitude. I decided I would take the time to creatively reach out to a family member… in a meaningful way (beyond a text message) to let them know I was thinking about them, and to express my appreciation for our closeness despite living far away from one another. I enjoy utilizing voice notes (texts that are sent as voice recordings) simply because I enjoy receiving them… the more I send, the more it inspires others to return the favor—not to mention it’s enjoyable to hear others’ voices in the middle of the day… when work or circumstance might not allow the time for a lengthy phone call.”

What happened as a result of putting her signature strength of gratitude into action? She connected with a cousin, whose life had taken a different direction from hers. She explained how they shared “…indulgent, real-time conversation around recent books we’ve enjoyed, professional pursuits and personal discoveries.”

Shelby commented how tiny, generous, shared thoughts can lead to big discoveries, epiphanies, inspiration, and meaningful moments. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Our plates are full to overflowing with the struggles, triumphs, and everyday routines of daily life. If you can use a dose of superpowers to navigate a struggle, make progress toward a triumph, or simply get through your day, I encourage you to try the practice below. Notice how activating one of your superpowers deliberately and effectively makes a meaningful difference in your work or life.

The Practice

  1. Go to the article Well-Being, Adversity, and You, and look through the list of positive outcomes. What resonates? Select one you’d like to work on in the upcoming week.

  2. Choose a signature strength that can help you reach that outcome. If you need a reminder of the 24 character strengths, click on this link. Even better, discover or re-discover your superpowers by taking the free character strengths assessment.

  3. Next, identify one small step you can take to put that strength into action, and take it.

  4. Continue taking small steps. As you progress, notice how your strengths naturally empower you to reach your chosen outcome.

The Reflection

By taking one small strength-based step forward, I experienced  ________________.

Did you experience moments of kindness toward yourself when suffering through the loss of a loved one? A surge in engagement at work due to your love of learning/bringing new knowledge to the table? What was helpful for you?

You don’t need to be a superhero, but you do have superhero powers to help you navigate life. May you deliberately engage your character strengths to navigate life’s struggles and invite new possibilities.