Today we'll focus on the fifth pillar of Happiness, our Strengths.
We all have strengths that are essential to long-term well-being, a sense of identity and self-image. However, we are often more comfortable focusing on our weaknesses, so let's begin to switch our focus.
In a Positive Psychology exercise, students were asked to think of someone they knew and create two columns listing their strengths and weaknesses; interestingly, the positive column was significantly longer. When this was reversed and the students were asked to list their own strengths and weaknesses, the weaknesses list was much longer. We commonly focus on the negatives or weaknesses, on repeat, like a mantra.
In the ground breaking book by Martin Seligman "Authentic Happiness," he describes the three types of happiness we can experience, these are The Pleasant Life ( savouring day-to-day pleasures such as delicious food, companionship, nature's beauty, in other words enjoying the moment) and don't get me wrong this is a beautiful space to inhabit, but we can become stuck.
The Engaged Life (where through the discovery of our unique strengths, we can begin to use them creatively and become more engaged in what we do, and it's here we identify our leading strengths). Through this, we experience more Flow state. In fact, the Pleasant Life and the Engaged are not separate, they feed into each other.
The final, most profound kind of happiness is the Meaningful Life (this is where we gain a greater sense of fulfilment when we use these strengths for a greater purpose). In fact, the first two stages aren't separate. They're part of the Meaningful Life.
Over three years, Seligman investigated personal strengths and identified a list of 24 core strengths called character strengths, he found that they were evident across world cultures and human history and existed in most of us in varying degrees.
When we identify and understand our strengths, it yields profoundly positive benefits across our life. Research shows that knowing our strengths and how to harness them is equally important. Finding them works wonders for your self-esteem, negative self image and you feel more in balance with your life. Lastly, when you find your unique strength it affects your happiness, sense of self and productivity and you begin to appreciate things for what they are.
The 24 core strengths are grouped into six headings:
Wisdom (Creativity, Curiosity, Love of learning, Open-mindedness, Perspective).
Courage (Authenticity, Bravery, Persistence, Zest).
Humanity (Kindness, Love, Social intelligence).
Justice (Fairness, Leadership, Teamwork).
Temperance (Forgiveness, Modesty, Humility, Prudence, Self-regulation),
Transcendence (Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Religiousness/Spirituality).
Take a piece of paper and create two columns and write down your strengths and weaknesses.
Take a moment to think about your strengths - (Refer to the list above)
Work on two core strengths you admire.
Have you developed them entirely, or are they a work in progress?
How do they manifest in your daily life, at work and home?
What stage are you in of the three life stages?
Do you feel stuck? How could you harness these strengths more?