There is an old saying that ‘misery loves company’. This is something I’ve observed in too many organisations. I think that it’s better to flip it on its head and argue that ‘happiness loves company’.
In pursuit of a balanced, happy life, once you’ve become aware of your character strengths, it’s a great idea to explore them further, especially those top five ‘signature’ strengths. How are they related to your past achievements, your happiness, your challenges and difficulties? Most importantly, how are they connected to your relationships?
Exploring your character strengths in this way allows you to understand your identity: what Wilf Jarvis calls your ‘who-ness’. A lot of the tests out there try and identify your ‘what-ness’. You need to think about how your strengths have shaped you? How will they continue to positively shape you in the future?
The best way I know to approach this is as a ‘reflective practitioner’. This approach was created by Donald Schon and involves regularly reflecting on what you have done to learn from your past actions and to improve on them. For me and many others this involves journaling, based on discussion with others, self-observation and observation of others, coupled to solitary reflection. Using your character strengths give this type of reflection great structure.
Dr Ryan Niemiec of the VIA Institute on Character recommends asking a series of questions as you explore your strengths:
When you consider time when you were successful, what strengths were you using? How did each of your signature strengths come into play?
How do you express each of your signature strengths every day?
When you imagine the best possible future for yourself, what strengths will you need to bring forth to get there? What might you need to do differently?
When you think of a time when you were anxious, depressed or highly stressed, which strengths did you (or could you) use to move forward?
Consider your past or current mentors (or role models). What strengths did they embody? How did they express them? What strengths did they see in you?
Remember, to identify your strengths you can take the VIA Survey. Its free and so are your results.