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Month July 2014

{ 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!

Daniel Goldstein: Harness the Power of Belief & Imagination to Hack Your Decision-Making …*

Last week I posted a TED talk given by psychologist Dan Gilbert on why our day to day decision-making so often fails to facilitate our long-term goals. Gilbert makes the point that a major obstacle to aligning our present behaviors to the pursuit of our goals is that we tend to vastly underestimate how much we will change in the future, what he calls the “end of history illusion.” Yesterday I watched this talk from behavioral economist Daniel Goldstein which provides a very intriguing insight into how we might bridge the gap between our present and future selves: harnessing the power of our beliefs and imagination.

“There’s a philosopher, Derek Parfit, who said some words that were inspiring to my co-authors and I, he said that we might neglect our future selves because of some failure of belief or imagination. That is to say, we somehow might not believe that we’re going to get old, or we might not be able to imagine that we’re going to get old some day. On the one hand it sounds ridiculous, of course we know that we’re going to get old, but aren’t there things that we believe and don’t believe at the same time? So my co-authors and I have used computers—the greatest tool of our time, to assist people’s imagination and help them imagine what it might be like to go into the future.” – Daniel Goldstein

imagine, believe & rethink …

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 …* 

John Maeda: The Gift of Ideas, Is the Curse of Doing Nothing …*

Here’s a very important insight from rethinked …* favorite, John Maeda: the gift of ideas, is the curse of doing nothing.

The power of creativity amazes me. My once mentor Tadashi Sasaki told me while I was just starting out, “You have the gift.” I was surprised, “The gift?” Sasaki said, “Yes, the gift of creativity. Did you know it is also a curse?” I wasn’t sure what he meant until many years later. What Sasaki meant, I think, is that it is a real gift to think of all kinds of things you can possibly do. Unfortunately, it can be a curse because it prevents you from ever doing anything at all. You can get started on something, and then immediately derailed because you start to see something completely new elsewhere. And then when you branch off to that, you get off on another tangent. If you are not careful, all you leave is a massive trail of unfinished work with nothing to show for. So the gift of ideas, is the curse of doing nothing.

Whenever students start to think too much, I try to warn them not to think so much, and just do. I wish that was my own idea, but Horace came a long time before me. It is not easy to warn students that they are thinking too much. After all, we are taught in school that it is hard to think. The profession of professors exist because we are thought to be able to think a great deal. So why should the student not think? Maybe what I mean is that over-creative students should not think, because they already think too much. They can waste too much time in the fascinating world of thought. “Doing” is outright dirty in the land of pure academia. There is a saying that supports this mindset with negative connotations, “Those who do, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I would change this to, “Those who are young, should do. Those who teach, should do too.” Do not waste your precious gift while young and able. Do. And do not fear the curse of “the gift.”

What Maeda describes about ‘doing’ being a dirty word in the land of pure academia and the disconnect which that creates for students once they enter the “real” world is something which I and many of my friends have experienced first hand. My first couple years out of school, I learned that no matter how original and holistic your idea may be, if you can’t execute it, it is useless. How might we redress this overemphasis on thinking in schools and academia? How might we help students become fluent in both literacies of doing and thinking?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

think, do & rethink …

Source: The Gift (from ca 2000) | Laws of Simplicity

 

{ 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.

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished” – The Psychology of Your Future Self …*

Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our life is change.” – Dan Gilbert

In this short TED talk, psychologist Dan Gilbert examines some of the prevalent misconceptions that we have about change over time in our lives and which often lead to poor decision-making. Gilbert highlights what he calls the “end of history illusion,” which refers to the fact that people of all ages vastly underestimate how much change they will experience in the future.

All of us are walking around with an illusion, an illusion that history, our personal history, has just come to an end. That we have just recently become the people that we were always meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives. 

As Gilbert demonstrates with various studies, this disconnect between how much we predict we will change and how much we actually do change touches upon nearly all aspects of our lives–from our personality, our values to our preferences. I really enjoyed this talk and its deeply growth mindset oriented message. When change is the only constant in human experience, when we can accept that we are never fully “finished,” it frees us to embrace the learning process, to admit that we are not who we strive to be…yet. And in striving to bridge that yet, we are able to keep learning and growing throughout our lives, each day becoming slightly fuller and richer versions of ourselves.

embrace change & rethink …

Dan Gilbert: The Psychology of Your Future Self

{ 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 …*

{ discover } the { diversity } of culture and experience in the world around you: an 18 mile walk around Manhattan…*

Living in Manhattan, I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of life surrounding me. Walking down the streets or riding the subway, there are so many different types of people living very different lives, often loudly enough for a passerby like myself to hear an interesting snippet of a story or a quarrel between friends.

I LOVE walking around the city, and on my usual trek to and from Columbia from the upper west side, I generally see a lot of young families with toddlers and dogs (80s), pieces of a vibrant Jewish community (90s, 100s), students (110s), and the Harlem African American community if I venture into the 120s.

However, yesterday I decided to venture out of my little bubble and walk the entirety of manhattan, top to bottom. The entire trip took about 7 hours and was about 18 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 2.04.10 PM

We began on 225th street in the Bronx, cross a bridge into Manhattan, and then walked along the Harlem River in Washington Heights for a bit. We then went south through Harlem, through Central Park to the Upper East Side, over to the east River, down through the East Village and the LES, cut through Chinatown, and finally ended in Battery Park, high-fiving the Staten Island Ferry building to finish our 18 mile, 7+ hour trek through the city.

Walking through Manhattan, we really got a great snapshot of the wonderful diversity of culture and community that exists — from the churchgoers in Harlem, to the little girl in a cinderella dress on the Upper East side, to the European couple kissing on a bridge in Central Park, to the men playing chess in the village. Luckily, my walking buddy grew up in Manhattan so I got to hear a lot about his old stomping grounds as a child as well.  I ended my day in the Puerto Rican/Dominican community in Bushwick for a BBQ with friends.

…*

Having grown up in a very homogenous upper-middle class White neighborhood on Long Island, followed by an equally homogenous 4-year college experience in upstate New York, I love that my life in NYC has a diversity of culture, community, and thought. I actually studied race and intergroup contact in college, and there are so many countless benefits to having more intergroup experiences in your life. However, it would be easy to live in the comfortably bubble of the upper west side if I allowed myself to do so. Studies have shown that majority groups tend to seek out one another. Many of us harbor unconscious intergroup anxiety and prejudice due to our upbringings, and it take courage and awareness to challenge that and actively experience a more diverse day-to-day life. I challenge you to seek diversity in your own world and break out of your comfort zone.

“Nothing in this process is ever wasted” – The Key to Transforming Yourself …*

“The way to transform yourself is through your work. Now I know this runs counter to our prevailing cultural prejudices. Work is too ugly, too boring, too banal. Self-transformation, we think, comes through a spiritual journey; therapy; a guru who tells us what to do; intense group experiences and social experiences and drugs. But most of these are ways of running away from ourselves and relieving our chronic boredom. They’re not connected to process and so any changes that occur don’t last. Instead, through our work, we can actually connect to who we are instead of running away. And by entering that slow organic process, we can actually change ourselves from the inside out in a way that’s very real and very lasting. This process involves a journey of self-discovery that can be seen as quite spiritual, if you like. And, at the end of this process we contribute something unique and meaningful to our culture through our work, which is hardly ugly, boring, or banal.” – Robert Greene

Happy Independence Day! As we gather with friends and family to celebrate, I thought I would share author Robert Greene’s TEDx talk for a bit of weekend inspiration. In this talk Greene examines the key to transforming yourself in a lasting and authentic fashion (and you know how much we value processes of change and transformational moments here at rethinked * ) Greene’s talk, while not necessarily providing any groundbreaking new insights on processes of self-transformation, is a well articulated and welcome reminder of many truths most of us know and understand–achievement takes a lot of (often behind-the-scenes) work; embrace a growth-mindset; we can often only connect the dots of our lives in retrospect; follow the sparks of energy and passion in your life–but which we too often lose touch with in the hustle and bustle of daily life and fail to enact. I hope this will help refresh your commitment to living authentic and meaningful lives.

reflect, follow the sparks, embrace the process & rethink …

The Key To Transforming Yourself – Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton

We humans tend to fixate on what we can see with our eyes. It is the most animal part of our nature. When we look at the changes and transformations in other people’s lives, we see the good luck that someone had in meeting a person like Yost, with all of the right connections and the funding. We see the book or the project that brings them money and the attention. In other words, we see the visible signs of opportunity and success. But we are grasping at an illusion. What really allows for such dramatic changes are the things that occur on the inside of a person and are completely invisible—the slow accumulation of knowledge and skills; the incremental improvements in work habits and the ability to withstand criticism. Any change in people’s fortune is merely the visible manifestation of that deep preparation over time. By essentially ignoring this internal invisible aspect, we fail to change anything fundamental within ourselves. And so in a few years time, we reach our limits yet again, we grow frustrated, we crave change, we grab at something quick and superficial and we remain prisoners forever of these recurring patterns in our lives. The answer, the key, to the ability to transform ourselves is actually insanely simple: to reverse this perspective. Stop fixating on what other people are saying and doing, on the money, the connections, the outward appearance of things. Instead, look inward. Focus on the smaller, internal changes that lay the groundwork for a much larger change in fortune.

*

Here’s how this would work in your own life. Consider the fact that each and everyone of you is fundamentally unique, one of a kind–your DNA, the particular configuration of your brain, your life experiences. In early childhood, this uniqueness manifested itself by the fact that you felt particularly drawn to certain subjects and activities. What I call in my book, Mastery, “primal inclinations.” You cannot rationally explain why you felt so drawn to words, or to music, or to particular questions about the world around you, or to social dynamics. As you get older, you often lose contact with these inclinations. You listen to parents who urge you to follow a particular career path; you listen to teachers and alcoholic magazine editors who tell you what you’re good and bad at; you listen to friends who tell you what’s cool and not cool. At a certain point, you can almost become a stranger to yourself and so you enter career paths that are not suited to you—emotionally and intellectually. Your life’s task, as I call it, is to return to those inclinations and to that uniqueness that marked each and everyone of you at birth. At whatever age you find yourself, you must reflect back on those earliest inclinations, you must look at those subjects in the present that continue to spark that childlike intense curiosity in you. And you must look at those subjects and activities that you’ve been forced to do over the past few years that repel you, that have no emotional resonance. Based on these reflections, you determine a direction you must take—writing, or music, or a particular branch of science, or a form of business, or public service. You now have a loose overall framework within you which can explore and find those angles and positions that suit you best. You listen closely to yourself, to your internal radar. Some parts of that framework, for me, journalism and Hollywood, do not feel right, and so you move on, slowly narrowing your path, all the while accumulating skills. Most people want simple, direct, straight-lined paths to the perfect position and to success, but instead you must welcome wrong turns and mistakes, they make you aware of your flaws, they widen your experiences, they toughen you up. If you come to this process at a later age, you must cultivate a new set of skills that suit this change in direction you’ll be taking, and find a way to blend them with your previous skills. Nothing in this process is ever wasted. In any event, the goal that you are after is learning and the acquisition of skills, not a fat paycheck. Now, look at what happens to you as you adopt this very different and internally driven mindset. Because you are headed in a direction that resonates with you personally and emotionally, the hours of practice and study do not seem so burdensome, you can sustain your attention and your interest for much longer periods of time. What excites you is the learning process itself, overcoming obstacles, increasing your skill level. You are immersed in the present instead of constantly obsessing over the future and so you pay greater attention to the work itself and to the people around you, developing patience and social intelligence. Without forcing the issue, a point is reached in which you are thoroughly prepared from within. The slightest opportunity that comes your way you will now exploit. In fact, you will draw opportunities to you because people will sense how prepared you are.

* 

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 …*

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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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