“Herein is my formulation of the good life: using your signature strengths everyday in the main realms of your life to bring abundant gratification and authentic happiness.” – Martin Seligman
Want to increase your life satisfaction instantly? Play your strengths. Using what positive psychologist Martin Seligman calls “signature strengths” in all domains of your life can tremendously enhance your degree of happiness and fulfillment. “Signature strength”s are our best, immediate resources for high level performance. In multiple studies, research has shown a direct relationship between the engagement of a person’s character strengths and his/her effectiveness, as well as happiness, in both life and work. The more we play to and come from our strengths, the more powerful and happy our lives will be.
In order to fully engage our character strengths to live our best lives, it helps to know what they are. The purpose of the Signature Strengths Exercise is to encourage you to own your signature strengths by defining them and finding more frequent uses for them. A signature strength has the following hallmarks:
- A sense of ownership and authenticity (this is the real me)
- A feeling of excitement while displaying it
- A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
- A sense of yearning to find new ways to use it
- A feeling of inevitability in using the strength
- Invigoration rather than exhaustion while using the strength
- The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it
The Values-In-Action (VIA) Signature Strengths Questionnaire is one of the most popular surveys in the world and is available (for FREE!) through the University of Pennsylvania (http://www.authentichappiness.com). To date over 1.8 million people have registered on the website and taken the tests and between 500 – 1,500 new people register every day. This model identifies 24 character strengths, grouped into six large categories called virtues that consistently emerge across history and culture. The virtues are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. On the website, results from the survey are immediately generated with a report that identifies a person’s character strengths in rank order (from 1 to 24). The top five strengths are called “signature strengths,” which interact with each other and most influence a person’s presence in the world.
Here’s my challenge to YOU: Take the strengths survey. As you complete the questionnaire, pay most attention to the rank order of your strengths. Were there any surprises for you? After you have completed this test, perform the following exercise: Leave a comment on this post below with one of your signature strengths and one new way you will use it at work, at home, or a leisure this week. For example:
- If your signature strength is creativity, you may choose to set aside two hours one evening to begin working on a screenplay
- If you identify self-control as a signature strength, you may choose to workout at the gym rather than watch T.V.
- If your strength is appreciation of beauty and excellence, you might take a longer, more beautiful route home from work, even though it adds twenty minutes more to your commute.
Whats my #1 signature strength? GRATITUDE. My new way to use it is to write one sincere thank you letter every day this week. Oh yeah and to express my deepest gratitude to all of YOU for being a loving community of support from which we can all grow stronger lives.
Looking forward to hearing your signature strength and seeing you continue on towards success. Onward and UPWARD!
gratitude and love,
For your reference, the following is a summary organizing the 24 character strengths [Peterson and Seligman (2004)] that encompass who we are and how we show up in the world):
I. Wisdom and Knowledge
Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge.
1. Creativity[Originality,Ingenuity] Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it.
2. Curiosity[Interest,Novelty-Seeking,Openness to Experience] Taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering.
3. Open-Mindedness[Judgment,CriticalThinking] Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.
4. Love of Learning. Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; (obviously related to strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows.)
5. Perspective [Wisdom]Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.
Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal.
6. Bravery [Valor] Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right, even if there is opposition; acting on convictions, even if unpopular; (includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.)
7. Persistence [Perseverance, Industriousness] Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks.
8. Integrity [Authenticity, Honesty] Speaking the truth and, more broadly, presenting oneself in a genuine way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.
9. Vitality [Zest, Enthusiasm, Vigor, Energy] Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.
Interpersonal strengths that involve “feeling” and “befriending” others.
10. Love Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people.
11. Kindness [Generosity, Nurturance, Care, Compassion, Altruistic Love, “Niceness”] Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.
12. Social Intelligence [Emotional Intelligence, Personal Intelligence] Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.
Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life.
13. Citizenship [Social Responsibility, Loyalty, Teamwork] Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share.
14. Fairness. Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
15. Leadership. Encouraging a group, of which one is a member, to get things done, and at the same time, maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.
Strengths that protect against excess.
16. Forgiveness and Mercy. Forgiving those who have done wrong; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.
17. Humility/Modesty. Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlight.
18. Prudence. Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.
19. Self-Regulation [Self-Control] Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.
Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning.
20. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [Awe, Wonder, Elevation] Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art, to mathematics & science, and to everyday experience.
21. Gratitude. Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
22. Hope [Optimism, Future-Mindedness, Future Orientation]. Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.
23. Humor [Playfulness] Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.
24. Spirituality [Faith, Purpose, Religiousness] Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.
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