I had a very interesting experience as I was studying for a positive psychology exam. It was interesting because what I was studying was actually happening to me as I studied – very meta.
So, I thought it would be useful to make a quick video and post it to the blog as I thought it might help other people understand something quite important about the use of strengths.
Strengths, or more specifically, character strengths, are very important concepts in positive psychology.
Character strengths are traits that we really value and that, if we can, we use frequently. The Centre for Applied Positive Psychology provides a definition of strengths that I like:
“Strengths are our pre-existing patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that are authentic and energising and which lead to our best performance.”
Examples of strengths are: leadership, love, honesty, courage, hope, zest, gratitude or curiosity.
We all have certain strengths that are more dominant for us than others. These are our top strengths or signature strengths.
No individual strengths or combinations of strengths are better than others. They are all good. They are just different for all of us.
But the particular strength that was really come up for me as I was studying was, unsurprisingly, ‘love of learning’.
This is one of my signature strengths and it’s been so noticeable as I was going working that I was completely enthused and energised by what I was doing.
Now, very often when we study it’s not that inspiring. It can be a real slog. But it’s clear that the value of this strength for me was really coming out at this time.
In fact, it is interesting to make a comparison with some other work that I had to do at the same time, which wasn’t really a learning exercise for me and not really something that I was massively engaged in or intrinsically motivated to complete.
The difference in the way that I related to that work and the way that it made me feel when compared to my studying was just immense.
The studying was energizing and enjoyable and it filled me with positive emotions. The other work, in contrast was a struggle and I really had to force myself to get up early in the morning to to push through it. Although, it’s worth noting that when I did beat the procrastination and did the work, I did manage to get some positive energy from it.
So, it is very useful for all of us to identify what our strengths are. You can do that by going, for example, at www.viacharacter.org and taking the strength test there.
You’ll get a list of your strengths in the order in which they are most powerful for you. So your top strengths, or signature strengths, will operate for you in the way that love of learning does for me.
Once you’ve identified your strengths you can think about ways that they are already impacting your life.
Then, you can try to maximize your opportunities to use them for your benefit and for the benefit of others around you.