Everyone has unique personal strengths, but in fact it is quite common for people to not really know what their strengths are. It is therefore possible for some individuals to underplay their strengths, whilst others may have an over-inflated view of them. In the past there was the belief that in order to develop and grow we needed to concentrate on improving our weaknesses, but it has been shown recently that the greatest returns come from fostering and developing what we are already good at.
Vanessa King is the lead positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness, and she describes our strengths as being 'key positive characteristics of our personality influencing how we approach the world, what we think and feel, what we're most naturally motivated towards using and doing. They also connect to our values and what we find meaningful.'
At a recent Happy Cafe Ely meeting we followed three recommended steps to understanding and getting the most of our strengths:
1. Becoming aware There are a number of activities which can be used to assess your signature strengths, but we used a simplified version of the VIA Institute Signature Strengths questionnaire (a link to take this free online will be given below).
2. Review Having completed the survey, participants then looked at their top five strengths and discussed how these were currently being used in their lives, and also how they might have been used in the past.
3. Applying and developing Finding different ways to use our top strengths and in different parts of our lives can help us to live a happier, more fulfilling life. We discussed and suggested new ways in which each other's strengths could be applied and participants were encouraged to use one of their top strengths in a new way every day for a week, noting how this made them feel.
Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Character Strengths
This has been used by millions of people in over 190 countries and you can take the survey for free at www.viacharacter.org
340 ways to use VIA Character Strengths by Tayyab Rashid and Afroze Anjum is a document which can be accessed via the Action for Happiness website, www.actionforhappiness.org. It gives plenty of suggestions for maximising all of the 24 strengths identified in the VIA survey, including recommending films and pieces of music.