Last week we had a look at exactly what character strengths are, where they come from and how they are grouped and defined. This week, we’re having a look at how to put character strengths to use, so that we may reap the well-researched benefits – improving our resilience and overall wellbeing.
But first, please make sure you have taken the free survey on www.viacharacter.org in order to determine your top five character strengths. Write down your top five strengths in your diary, on your device or on a sticky note to put up by your desk or dresser.
1. Character Strength Reflections
Take some time to reflect on how you have used and developed your top five character strengths in the past. You may wish to do a deep dive and answer all these questions in one go, or you may wish to only answer one question per evening.
- When was the last time you remember using each of your top five strengths?
- Reflecting on the last 48 hours, which of your strengths have you recently used and how?
- Think about some of the trials, struggles or challenges you have experienced in your life and try to pinpoint which strength or combination of strengths you used to cope during and after these times.
- Take time to reflect on who or what experiences / circumstances prompted, sparked or developed your top character strengths.
2. Character Strength Plans
The focus here is on how you intend to consciously use your character strengths in the future.
- Focus on one character strength for a day / week at a time. Set the intention to use the strength as much as possible, notice opportunities to use it and notice it in others as well.
- Consider an issue or difficulty you are currently facing. When next you have the time to carefully consider the situation, try to imagine how you could use your set of top strengths to help you deal with or improve the situation. Some creative thinking can help you motivate yourself or make a mundane task far more enjoyable (for example).
3. Character Strengths in Others
A character strength focus does not only build our internal resources, but it can also help to strengthen our relationships with others – at work, in our social circles or at home.
- Take some time to think about what character strengths you notice in your friends, family members and co-workers. No need for them to take the test, simply note what you have noticed.
- Have a look at the list of all 24 character strengths. See if you can name one person (one for each strength) in your life who exudes this strength, who was possibly a mentor, example or role model to you in terms of this strength. If no one from your personal life comes to mind, feel free to expand to celebrities, gurus and leaders, current or from the past, who embody the strength.
- Set the intention to verbally acknowledge others’ strengths as you see them revealed. You could, for example, comment on a colleague’s “zest for life”, or your friend’s “wisdom” or “kindness”.
4. Character Strengths in the Family
Sharing thoughts and conversations about character strengths is a lovely way to bond as a family – celebrating the unique strengths each family member contributes. These strengths can also ease difficult conversations and be used as a problem solving tool which leaves parents and children feeling understood, valued and capable.
- Before the rest of the family take the survey (or you identify top strengths for younger kids), set aside time to chat about the strengths and what they each mean. For younger kids, you may wish to do this over a few days or even weeks – just getting familiar with the words. When discussing the strengths, work together to think of examples of people or even book or movie characters who display each strength.
- Also before taking the survey, take a turn per family member – The rest of the family group each share what they think the individual’s top character strengths are and why they say so. This is an amazing way to build positive identity and confidence in kids (not to mention the adults!)
- Have each member of the family take the strengths survey (www.viacharacter.org). For younger children who are not yet able to complete the form on their own, a parent can sit and go through the questions with the child, or, for even younger children, simply go through the list of strengths and identify 3 to 5 that you feel you can strongly identify in your child.
Next, create a Family Tree of Character Strengths (example below). You can even include grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins if you like!
- “How was your day?” hardly ever gets the descriptive and interactive response we would like it to. Change this question to one of the following to focus the attention on strengths and keep this approach front of mind:
- Which of your strengths did you use most today and how did you use them?
- Which character strengths did you see others use today and how were they used?
- Which strengths do you see in your teacher / colleague / friends / superior?
Creating the vocabulary to talk about and really think about character strengths can take time, but it is well worth the effort. Learning to notice, reflect on and deliberately put your character strengths to work is a very powerful way of “changing your lens” and consciously developing your, and your family’s, wellbeing.
Thank you for reading this post and for supporting me. Please feel free to share your top five character strengths in the comments section. These are all qualities worthy of being celebrated!