Category rethinked*annex

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Night …* – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Night ...* - Adopt or Rethink? | rethinked.org

{ THE EXERCISE }

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*

{ WHAT I LIKED }

I thoroughly enjoyed Gratitude Night. It reminded me a bit of the Have A Beautiful Day exercise in that it provided multiple opportunities to bask in positive emotions. First there was the preparation, figuring out whom I would pick gave me an opportunity to think about all the wonderful people I am lucky to have in my life. Once I had selected the recipient of my first Gratitude Night, I loved the experience of recalling moments with that person and reliving them in my head before writing them down on paper. Then there was the experience of reading out loud to the recipient of my gratitude night what I had written for her, which was immensely fulfilling. Finally, there was witnessing her gratitude for the event and an opportunity for us to reminisce together about all the wonderful moments we have shared.

 { FRICTION POINTS }

None.

 

{ NEXT STEPS }

I believe the important people in my life know that I love them–I’m not stingy with my I love yous. I’m also prompt in writing thank you notes and I like to think that I do not take for granted the kindness and generosity people show me. But when I think about it, I don’t generally express my gratitude on a grander magnitude to the important people in my life. Other than Mother & Father’s Day, I rarely tell those I love just how grateful I am for their presence in my life, how grateful I am for their lives, for them being who they are. I think we collectively lack a socially acceptable forum and language around which to share our gratitude for one another. A funny but telling anecdote reveals this lack: a couple of years ago, I had read about gratitude letters and had sent about seven of them to some of the people I love and am grateful for. My cousin, who was in her teens at the time, was very worried when she received hers and called her mom to ask if she thought I was suicidal. We all had a good laugh about her worry, but in a way it is rather sad when you think about it: someone sends you a letter to express how much you mean to them and how grateful they are for your presence in their life and the act is such an anomaly in your experience that you immediately deduce something must be wrong. I don’t think this is particular to my cousin, I can completely understand where she was coming from.

I will keep up gratitude night going forward. Perhaps my ‘recipients’ will be inspired to declare their gratitude for people in their own lives and slowly, together, we might make expressing gratitude the norm rather than an anomaly.

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience …*

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s 2004 TED talk – Flow: The Secret to Happiness

 

As I’m nearing the end of the Positive Psychology cycle of the rethinked*annex project, I have decided to include two additional ideas–flow and growth mindset–before moving on to the next and final cycle. Because the meaningful happy life is so deeply dependent on the successful and recurring deployment of one’s signature strengths in as many of life’s arenas as possible, I have decided to turn to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi‘s concept of flow for some additional guidance on how to nurture and cultivate my pursuit of what Seligman terms, “the gratifications.” And because the nurturing and deployment of strengths and skills can be so radically improved by the cultivation of a growth mindset, I have decided to reread Carol Dweck‘s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I’ll share a couple more interventions to experiment with based on these two ideas in the coming weeks.

For now, I invite you to watch Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk – Flow, the secret to happiness, in which he gives some context to his research around the core question of “what makes life worth living?” and gives an overview of the flow experience.

How Do You Cultivate Happiness & Well-Being In Your Life?

How Do You Cultivate Happiness & Well-Being In Your Life?  | rethinked.org

I haven’t yet had a chance to do the gratitude night exercise suggested by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness, so I have no Positive Psychology interventions to report on today. I thought I’d ask YOU about how you go about cultivating happiness and well-being in your daily life. What habits, actions, tools or mindsets have you tried and adopted to nurture and increase your well-being? How do you make yourself happy?

Let me know * 

{ rethinked*annex } Have a Beautiful Day …* – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Have a Beautiful Day ...* - Adopt or Rethink? | rethinked.org ( photograph: Elsa Fridman )

{ THE EXERCISE

I assign you (as I do my students) to have a beautiful day. Set aside a free day this month to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Pamper yourself. Design, in writing, what you will do from hour to hour. Use as many of the techniques above as you can. Do not let the bustle of life interfere, and carry out the plan. (111)

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ WHAT I LIKED

I have always loved surprises. In fact, I love them so much that when I was younger, I would give a portion of my allowance back to my mother and ask her to buy me a gift. The object mattered little, my immense pleasure in receiving the gift was the delight of discovering what my mother had selected. Now that I am older, I have wondered what it was about this notion of surprise that I loved so dearly. I think what it comes down to is being led on an experience by someone else. It is a tremendous gift–other people’s time and intent– and surprises comprise both of those variables. Someone else has taken the time to plan out a discovery, whether in the form of an object or experience, they believe will delight you. Sadly, it is something which occurs only very rarely in daily life. Perhaps we surprise a loved one on their birthday or a special occasion, but in the course of the everyday when do we lead other people on journeys we have created for them? Obviously, in the case of the Have A Beautiful Day exercise, there was little element of surprise, since I engineered the experience for myself but I found great pleasure and joy in creating, in a very intentional sort of way, a journey for myself.

I also appreciated how the exercise helped me achieve happiness in the past, present and future. Planning out my day allowed me to savor the anticipation of the pleasures, big and small, that I had planned for my beautiful day. I paid particular attention to the details–I planned the colors that would infuse my day–from my dress to my lipstick, to the color of the mug I would drink my coffee in–and reminisced about the memories and feeling tones that I associate with each of these colors. I thought very concretely about ways to bask in and savor the small, often overlooked, pleasures of each moment–I decided to wake up early, watch the sunrise, and enjoy the delicious feeling of getting back in bed. Having thought out in such detail these small variables allowed me to be more aware and appreciative of them as they occurred in the course of my beautiful day. I felt very present and aware of each moment.

My gratitude journaling practice (along with this post reflecting on the experience) helped me relive the best moments of the day and experience once more, retrospectively, the pleasures and happiness of my beautiful day.

{ FRICTION POINTS

None. I only wish I had made a habit of a monthly “Have A Beautiful Day” sooner. I also find it is a great loss we do not assign these types of exercises in schools alongside algebra problems and english essays. As my review of Positive Psychology has taught me, happiness is something to be nurtured and cultivated. There are tangible actions and habits to increase well-being. The Have a Beautiful Day is an easy and impactful way to start doing just that and it is adaptable to all age groups so why are we not teaching our students to do this?

{ NEXT STEPS } 

This is a keeper. I intend on setting aside one day each month to repeat the exercise and I urge you to try it out for yourself, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

*

{ rethinked*annex } VIA Survey of Character Strengths – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Character Strengths Survey - Adopt or Rethink?  | rethinked.org

Screen shot of my signature strengths from the VIA Survey of Character Strengths

{ THE EXERCISE

Head over to the Authentic Happiness website and under the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

{ UPDATE } It has just come to my attention that you can take a recently validated and briefer version of the VIA Survey of Character Strengths directly on the VIA Institute On Character websiteThe briefer version is now only 120-questions (as opposed to the 240 version found on the Authentic Happiness website). VIA provides a variety of in-depth reports available for purchase after completing the survey which aim to help the individual learn more about how to apply their character strengths to find more life fulfillment. I have not yet taken the updated version of the survey on the VIA website, but intend to do so in the near future and will report back on the experience once I do. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ WHAT I LIKED }

I’ve been thinking a lot about strengths and skills in the past few years and I have come to the conclusion that my highest strengths and deepest weaknesses stem from the same aptitudes. For example, I am a highly curious person, which in many ways is a great asset—I am deeply inquisitive about the world, ideas and people around me, I follow my questions through, I look up words I do not know when reading, even when I can still understand the meaning of a sentence, because I love learning new things, because I cannot resist the call of the unknown. At the same time, my curiosity can prove a serious handicap in some situations—when I have to finish a project or article on a deadline, for example. What I loved most about the character strengths survey is the way it attended to this duality and very deliberately highlighted the ways each strengths could be under or overused. For each of the top strengths, there is a two page report which covers the following rubrics:

  • What does research reveal about the benefits of this strength?
  • What does this mean about the individual?
  • Exploring the strength of [ the strength in question ]
  • Underuse of [ the strength in question ]
  • Novel ways to use [ the strength in question ]
  • Overuse of [ the strength in question ]

I really liked the Exploring the strengths of ____ rubric, which gave a series of questions/thinking prompts to further explore what that strength means to one on an individual level.

{ FRICTION POINTS

One category I thought could use a bit of rethinking was the “Overuse of ___” For example, one of my signature strengths is ‘appreciation of beauty and excellence’ and this is the information that was provided in the Overuse of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence rubric:

A keen appreciation of beauty and of excellence-in performance, when overplayed, can result in perfectionism, snobbishness, and intolerance of others who do not share this appreciation. One may take offense when others threaten or disregard natural beauty, which may lead one to take an extreme position or stance. One’s personal and work relationships may suffer if one is overly critical of others who do not do things with as much care or as thoroughly as thought necessary. Additionally, personal achievements may be thwarted by one’s own perfectionist standards. Sometimes making commitments to new challenges may be avoided for fear of not being able to perform at a high enough level. Perfectionism can also interfere with decision-making if there is excessive worry about making exactly the right decision. To counteract these tendencies, self-compassion and compassion for others is helpful.

The description of the mismanagement of this strength really resonated with my experience. It felt surprisingly empowering to see that these negative patterns and behaviors which I have struggled with for so much of my life were just the mismanagement of an aptitude that could positively enhance my life, work and relationships. But ‘self-compassion’ and ‘compassion for others’ are really broad terms and can mean a great many things to different people. I wish the report had included some interventions for cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others, or at least some suggestions of curated resources to further explore how these strengths might be cultivated and deployed.

{ NEXT STEPS }

I would recommend taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, I’m a big believer in the value of self-reflection and self-knowledge and I found the survey and its accompanying report to be a powerful tool in that direction. For each of the top strengths, there was a bullet list of suggestions on how to optimize the cultivation and deployment of the strengths. I’ve put together all the suggested ways to use each of my signature strengths and I am now going to create a framework to ensure that I follow through on each of the suggestions. Design Thinking challenge ahead!

Martin Seligman – An Overview of Positive Psychology …*

Taking a quick break from writing about my experiences with the Positive Psychology interventions given by Martin Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, to share this TED talk he gave in 2004, fittingly titled: The new era of positive psychology. In this talk, Seligman provides context for the development of Positive Psychology while sharing a compelling overview of many of the ideas discussed in his books.

watch, learn & rethink …* 

{ rethinked*annex } Using the ABCDE Model to Dispute Negative Beliefs – Adopt or Rethink ?

{ THE EXERCISE

During the next five adverse events you face in your daily life, listen closely for your beliefs, observe the consequences, and dispute your beliefs vigorously. Then observe the energy that occurs as you succeed in dealing with the negative beliefs. Record all of this. These five adverse events can be minor: the mail is late, your call isn’t returned, or the kid pumping your gas doesn’t wash the windshield. In each of these use the four techniques of self-disputation. (98)

Do it in your daily life over the next week. Don’t search out adversity, but as it comes along, tune in carefully to your internal dialogue. When you hear the negative beliefs, dispute them. Beat them into the ground, then record the ABCDE.

  • Adversity:
  • Belief:
  • Consequences:
  • Disputation:
  • Energization:

{ WHAT I LIKED

I found doing this exercise helped me shift from being the feeler of annoyance, anger, pessimism, etc. to being the examiner of these beliefs. Doing the exercise gave me the mental space to separate from the immediacy of the feelings and take a step back. This helped contain the feeling rather than letting it take over and color my entire experience. I found I recovered from whatever negative feeling I was experiencing much more quickly than when I let these feelings be unexamined.

{ FRICTION POINTS }

This was most likely due to the fact that I was in a bad mood already whenever I did the exercise, but I found it a bit annoying. I feel very lucky that the five adverse events I encountered in the week when I was doing the exercise were utterly minor annoyances which made the process of reflecting on each of them feel a bit like overkill. I could see this being a useful tool for bigger issues. In the chapter where Seligman explains the ABCDE model he takes as his example a couple having a communication breakdown that is leading to problems in their marriage. I think this would be the type of context where this exercise would be most useful, when one is struggling to see someone else’s perspective, or when one feels one’s own perspective is being ignored or misunderstood. While I will not continue to do the ABCDE model on a frequent basis, I would like to retain aspects of this exercise and I would likely do it the next time I run into adverse events that are a bit more high stakes than the minute annoyances of daily life. I really enjoyed the mental space it created to help me examine and feel my feelings without passing judgment. I would love to find a way to keep that going in the future.

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Journaling – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Gratitude Journaling - Adopt or Rethink? | rethinked.org

On a recent trip to Canada, our hostel had a gratitude board, you all were on my mind …*

{ THE EXERCISE }

Set aside five free minutes each night for the next two weeks, preferably right before brushing your teeth for bed. Then think back over the previous twenty-four hours and write down, on separate lines, up to five things in your life you are grateful or thankful for. – Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness 

{ WHAT I LIKED }

I found the most valuable aspect of nightly gratitude journaling was the way it shifted my focus and helped me zoom in on the positive in my life while teaching me to be more aware of the present moment. When I first began my gratitude journaling practice, I would sit with my journal at night, mentally going through the day, figuring out what I would include in my list. As time went on, I found myself thinking ahead during the day and noting the positive moments as they occurred. It helped me be more present and more aware of the small, often under-appreciated and fleeting good moments that occur throughout the day. It also helped me practice savoring, which enhances the experience of the pleasures in one’s life. Not only was I appreciative of all the good things going on, but each night I now had the opportunity to revisit them and bask in the feeling they produced.

One unexpected consequence of the gratitude journaling was that it made me feel more secure. I think I’ve mentioned several times here on the blog that I am a highly anxious person and at different times in my life I have found it extremely difficult to manage my anxiety. I’m in a good place right now but my baseline anxiety level is still much higher than most people I know. I found myself much more relaxed the longer I’d been journaling. There is something reassuring and calming about collecting all the things that went right, that made me feel good and connected each day.

{ FRICTION POINTS }

I’ve been playing around with lots of different tools, systems and interventions in the course of my rethinked*annex project and I have come to learn that the single most important aspect of taking a proactive approach to tweaking one’s daily life is creating as seamless as possible a framework to implement the interventions and to follow through. The nightly practice of gratitude journaling was a bit hard to instill. Seligman suggests doing it right before you brush your teeth. The issue is that most days I live my life as an eight-year-old playing a video game. You know that weird little side dance they do when they really have to pee but can’t peel themselves away from their game long enough to go to the bathroom? That’s pretty much me every day. Most evenings I’m writing, reading or spending time with friends until it’s way past my goal bed time and when I finally notice the time, I’m running around trying to quickly get myself to bed. Seligman suggests setting aside just five minutes to do the exercise but I didn’t want to be rushed which would make the exercise feel like trying to quickly finish math homework at the beginning of class. I’m still trying to figure out how to make this work and ensure that I am consistent with the gratitude journaling. I do find that as time goes on and I become more aware of the intrinsic benefits of the practice, it does become easier for me to allocate some of my precious and scant getting ready for bed time.

{ NEXT STEPS }

I will continue with this practice, it requires nothing more than a pen and piece of paper, takes very little time and effort and so far has had some big payoffs–I feel happier, more grateful and I think it is coming through in my relationships and letting the people I love and value sense what our relationships mean to me. Overall, I would definitely recommend this.

practice gratitude & rethink …*

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being …*

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being ...* | rethinked.org

Over the last several weeks I have been exploring and writing about the field of Positive Psychology. In many of my posts, I shared small and easily implementable interventions suggested by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness to translate the findings of Positive Psychology into tangible benefits in your daily life. I have been experimenting with most of these in my own life over the past few weeks and starting next week, I will share my discoveries, insights and opinions about the benefits of each of these interventions. In the meantime, I’ve assembled all of the exercises in one place in case you want to try them for yourself.

rethink & design your well-being …*

1. GRATITUDE NIGHT 

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)

2. GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Set aside five free minutes each night for the next two weeks, preferably right before brushing your teeth for bed. Prepare a pad with one page for each of the next fourteen days. The first night take the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the General Happiness Scale and score them. Then think back over the previous twenty-four hours and write down, on separate lines, up to five things in your life you are grateful or thankful for. Common examples include “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “God for giving me determination,” “wonderful parents,” “robust good health, and the “Rolling Stones” (or some other artistic inspiration). Repeat the Life Satisfaction and General Happiness Scales on the final night, two weeks after you start, and compare your scores to the first night’s scores. If this worked for you, incorporate it into your nightly routine. (75)

3. REACH – PRACTICE FORGIVENESS 

R stands for recall the hurt, in as objective a way as you can. Do not think of the other person as evil. Do not wallow in self-pity. Take deep, slow and calming breaths as you visualize the event. (79)

E stands for empathize. Try to understand from the perpetrator’s point of view why this person hurt you. This is not easy, but make up a plausible story that the transgressor might tell if challenged to explain. To help you do this, remember the following:

  • When others feel their survival is threatened, they will hurt innocents.
  • People who attack others are themselves usually in a state of fear, worry, and hurt.
  • The situation a person finds himself in, and not his underlying personality, can lead to hurting.
  • People often don’t think when they hurt others; they just lash out. (80)

A stands for giving the altruistic gift of forgiveness, another difficult step. First recall a time you transgressed, felt guilty, and were forgiven. This was a gift you were given by another person because you needed it, and you were grateful for this gift. Giving this gift usually makes us feel better. But we do not give this gift out of self-interest. Rather, we give it because it is for the trespasser’s own good. Tell yourself you can rise above hurt and vengeance. If you give the gift grudgingly, however, it will not set you free. (80)

C stands for commit yourself to forgive publicly. In Worthington’s groups, his clients write a “certificate of forgiveness,” write a letter of forgiveness to the offender, write it in their diary, write a poem or song, or tell a trusted friend what they have done. These are all contracts of forgiveness that lead to the final step. (81)

H stands for hold onto forgiveness. This is another difficult step, because memories of the event will surely recur. Forgiveness is not erasure; rather, it is a change in the tag lines that a memory carries. It is important to realize that the memories do not mean unforgiveness. Don’t dwell vengefully on the memories, and don’t wallow in them. Remind yourself that you have forgiven and read the documents you composed. (81)

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*

4. DISPUTING PESSIMISTIC BELIEFS ABOUT SETBACKS USING THE ABCDE MODEL

During the next five adverse events you face in your daily life, listen closely for your beliefs, observe the consequences, and dispute your beliefs vigorously. Then observe the energy that occurs as you succeed in dealing with the negative beliefs. Record all of this. These five adverse events can be minor: the mail is late, your call isn’t returned, or the kid pumping your gas doesn’t wash the windshield. In each of these use the four techniques of self-disputation. (98)

Do it in your daily life over the next week. Don’t search out adversity, but as it comes along, tune in carefully to your internal dialogue. When you hear the negative beliefs, dispute them. Beat them into the ground, then record the ABCDE.

  • Adversity:
  • Belief:
  • Consequences:
  • Disputation:
  • Energization:

(100)

Cultivating Optimism & Hope to Enhance Well-Being, Performance & Positive Emotions About the Future …*

5. HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY – AN INTERVENTION FOR ENHANCING THE PLEASURES

I assign you (as I do my students) to have a beautiful day. Set aside a free day this month to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Pamper yourself. Design, in writing, what you will do from hour to hour. Use as many of the techniques above as you can. Do not let the bustle of life interfere, and carry out the plan. (111)

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …*

6. IDENTIFY YOUR HIGHEST, WEAKEST & SIGNATURE STRENGTHS

Head over to the Authentic Happiness website, and under, the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Strengths Survey. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test, I did it and thought it was worth it. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life ...*  | rethinked.org

“Herein is my formulation of the good life: Using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of your life to bring abundant gratification and authentic happiness.” -Martin Seligman, 161

Last week we looked at the idea set forth by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness, that engaging in experiences that produce flow may be a way to build psychological capital. You might recall that achieving flow depends on several factors, key among which, the matching of a challenge to engage your unique and personal strengths. Today, let’s look at what Positive Psychology has to say about these strengths –how we identify, cultivate and exercise them.

CREATING A TAXONOMY OF CHARACTER STRENGTHS 

Given the importance of deploying one’s character strengths in as many situations as possible throughout life to live fully and authentically, Seligman identified the need to create a comprehensive taxonomy of good character. He assembled a team and together they started poring through hundred of ancient texts from various times and cultures -“we read Aristotle and Plato, Aquinas and Augustine, the Old Testament and the Talmud, Confucius, Buddha, Lao-Tze, Bushido (the samurai code), the Koran, Benjamin Franklin, and the Upanishads–some two hundred virtue catalogues in all.” (132) What they found were some ubiquitous virtues, valued across time and culture. These virtues, of which there are six, are: wisdom and knowledge; courage; love and humanity; justice; temperance; spirituality and transcendence. (133) Seligman and his team use the word ubiquitous rather than universal because there are some rare exceptions.

It is true that very rare exceptions can be found; the Ik, for example, do not appear to value kindness. Hence we call the strengths ubiquitous rather than universal and it is important that examples of the anthropological veto (“Well, the Ik don’t have it”) are rare and glaring. This means that quite a few of the strengths endorsed by contemporary Americans are not on our list: good looks, wealth, competitiveness, self-esteem, celebrity, uniqueness and the like. These strengths are certainly worthy of study, but they are not my immediate priority. My motive for this criterion is that I want my formulations of the good life to apply just as well to Japanese and to Iranians as to Americans. (140)

Of course, all of these virtues can mean many different things to different people and there are many ways of achieving them. Since Positive Psychology is based on empirical and scientific study, Seligman and his team had to push further and establish a system by which to identify the measurable and acquirable routes one takes to achieve the virtues–the strengths of character.

To be a virtuous person is to display, by acts of will, all or at least most of the six ubiquitous virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. There are several distinct routes to each of these six. For example, one can display the virtue of justice by acts of good citizenship, fairness, loyalty and teamwork, or humane leadership. I call these routes strengths, and unlike the abstract virtues, each of these strengths is measurable and acquirable. (137)

SOME COMPONENTS OF STRENGTHS

The first step then in creating a taxonomy of good character is to define the characteristics of the strengths. Seligman starts by highlighting the difference between strengths and talents:

Strengths, such as integrity, valor, originality, and kindness, are not the same thing as talents, such as perfect pitch, facial beauty, or lighting-fast sprinting speed. They are both topics of Positive Psychology and while they have many similarities, one clear difference is that strengths are moral traits, while talents are nonmoral. In addition, although the line is fuzzy, talents generally are not as buildable as strengths. True, you can improve your time in the hundred-meter dash by raising your rump higher in the starting position, you can wear makeup that makes you look prettier, or you can listen to a great deal of classical music and learn to guess the pitch correctly more often. I believe that these are only small improvements, though, augmenting a talent that already exists. Valor, originality, fairness and kindness, in contrast, can be built on even frail foundations, and I believe that with enough practice, persistence, good teaching and dedication, they can take root and flourish. (134)

Strengths are voluntary and involve choices about when to use them and whether to keep building them, but also whether to acquire them in the first place. Meanwhile, talents are relatively automatic, involve some choices, but only of those of whether to burnish it and where to employ it. Seligman then highlights eight additional criterion by which to identify strengths:

  1. Strengths are traits (137)
  2. Strengths are valued in their own right (137)
  3. Strengths are what parents wish for their newborns (137)
  4. Onlookers of strengths being displayed are often elevated and inspired rather than envious or jealous (138)
  5. The culture supports strengths by providing institutions, rituals, role models, parables, maxims and children’s stories. (138)
  6. Role models and paragons in the culture compellingly illustrate a strength or virtue. (138)
  7. Some of the strengths have prodigies, youngsters who display them early on and amazingly well. (138)
  8. Conversely, there exist idiots (from the Greek, for not socialized) with respect to a strength. (139)
  9. The strengths are ubiquitous. (139)

EXERCISE: IDENTIFY YOUR HIGHEST, WEAKEST & SIGNATURE STRENGTHS

My favorite positive “intervention” is merely to ask you to take the VIA Strengths Survey, then think about which of these strengths are the ones you own and how you might use them every day. Quite astonishingly, your own ingenuity and your desire to lead the good life often take over from there, even if I step aside. (137) 

Head over to the Authentic Happiness website and under the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test, I did it and thought it was worth it. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

THE VIRTUES & CHARACTER STRENGTHS – A BRIEF OVERVIEW

{ WISDOM & KNOWLEDGE }

The first virtue cluster is wisdom. I have arranged the six routes to displaying wisdom and its necessary antecedent, knowledge, from the most developmentally basic (curiosity) up to the most mature (perspective). (140) 

  • Curiosity / Interest in the world
  • Love of Learning
  • Judgement / Critical Thinking / Open-Mindedness
  • Ingenuity / Originality / Practical Intelligence / Street Smarts
  • Social Intelligence / Personal Intelligence / Emotional Intelligence
  • Perspective

{ COURAGE }

The strengths that make up courage reflect the open-eyed exercise of will toward the worthy ends that are not certain of attainment. To qualify as courage, such acts must be done in the face of strong adversity. This virtue is universally admired, and every culture has heroes who exemplify this virtue. I include valor, perseverance, and integrity as three ubiquitous routes to this virtue. (145)

  • Valor & Bravery
  • Perseverance / Industry / Diligence
  • Integrity / Genuineness / Honesty

{ HUMANITY & LOVE }

The strengths here are displayed in positive social interaction with other people: friends, acquaintances, family members and also strangers. (148)

  • Kindness & Generosity
  • Loving & Allowing Oneself to Be Loved

{ JUSTICE }

These strengths show up in civic activities. They go beyond your one-on-one relationships to how you relate to larger groups, such as your family, your community, the nation, and the world. (149)

  • Citizenship / Duty / Teamwork / Loyalty
  • Fairness & Equity
  • Leadership

{ TEMPERANCE } 

As a core virtue, temperance refers to the appropriate and moderate expression of your appetites and wants. The temperate person does not suppress motives, but waits for opportunities to satisfy them so that harm in not done to self or others. (152)

  • Self-Control
  • Prudence / Discretion / Caution
  • Humility & Modesty

TRANSCENDENCE

I use “transcendence” for the final cluster of strengths. This term is not popular throughout history—“spirituality” is the label of choice—but I wanted to avoid confusion between one of the specific strengths, spirituality, with the nonreligious strengths in this cluster, like enthusiasm and gratitude. By transcendence, I mean emotional strengths that reach outside and beyond you to connect you to something larger and more permanent: to other people, to the future, to evolution, to the divine, or to the universe. (154)

  • Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope / Optimism / Future-Mindedness
  • Spirituality / Sense of Purpose / Faith / Religiousness
  • Forgiveness & Mercy
  • Playfulness & Humor
  • Zest / Passion / Enthusiasm

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

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