Enhancing strengths

Developing Strengths

It seems harder to answer the question, “What are your strengths?”, than it is to answer “What are your weaknesses?” We tend to be more inclined to focus on the negative things about ourselves, our environment and the people around us. This exercise is all about focusing on your strengths. After practicing identifying and developing underlying strengths in yourself , you can approach your environment and the people around you in the same way, listening to detect underlying positive motivations, strength and virtues. Knowing our personal strengths is powerful knowledge, as it enables us to build on and nurture what we are good at.

Research has shown that being able to identify and make use of your strengths can improve your performance and life satisfaction. The building and enhancement of competence and character can prevent negative outcomes, and contributes to positive development and thriving.

Top achievers know their capabilities and set their goals above their current level of performance, whereas low achievers are unaware of their capabilities and often set unrealistically high goals. High-performing individuals build their lives around their talents and strengths; they learn to recognise them and develop them further.

What are strengths?

The following strengths will help you to begin thinking about your own abilities.

Pick one strength to work on – for the week in which you implement this strategy your task will be to use this strength in a new way at home, work, university etc. It should be an activity that you are not already doing.

The following are some ideas about how you can use your chosen strength:

Curiosity:

  • Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information daily, such as journalism, research teaching, etc.
  • Expand your knowledge in an area of interest through books, journals, magazines, TV, radio or internet, for half an hour, three times a week.
  • Attend a function/lecture/colloquium of a culture that differs from yours.
  • Find a person who shares your area of your interest and learn how he/she increases his/her expertise in that area.
  • Eat food of a different culture, explore its cultural context and become aware of your thoughts.

Creativity:

  • Create and refine at least one original idea weekly in an area of your interest.
  • Do at least one assignment weekly in a different and creative manner.
  • Write an article, essay, short story, poem, draw, or paint in relation to your passion once a week.
  • Offer at least one creative solution to challenges of a sibling or a friend.
  • Compile an original and practical list of solutions or tips that will address common challenges faced by you and your peers.

Open-mindedness

  • Identify reasons of your last three actions that you are not happy with (not following through with a goal) and brainstorm better alternative ideas for the future.
  • Ask a trusted and wise friend to critically appraise your judgment on your last three significant actions.
  • Play devil’s advocate on an issue that you have strong opinions about.
  • At least once a week, practice the common themes that exist across races and religions on an important issue.
  • Identify the last three actions for which you did not think your way through.

Love of learning:

  • Deliberately learn five new words, including their meaning and usage, at least twice a week.
  • Visit a new museum every month and write about new things learned.
  • Read a non-fiction book monthly on a topic you find absorbing and engaging.
  • Read and research about a topic by visiting the library at least once a week. Write one page of pragmatic ideas which can advance that field and discuss them with someone.
  • Converse with someone on a topic of mutual interest.

Bravery:

  • Resist social or peer pressure for noble values and causes in meaningful ways (write, speak out, participate in a protest, join an activist organization).
  • Speak up for or write about an unpopular idea in a group.
  • Take small, practical steps for a constructive social change.
  • Report an injustice, abuse, blatant unethical practice, or abuse of power or resources to appropriate authorities, even if the perpetrator is someone close to you.
  • Protect or stand up for someone (such as a younger sibling or a battered woman) who will not otherwise stand up for themselves.

Persistence:

  • Plan a big project and finish it ahead of time.
  • Select two activities that you find engaging and meaningful and give 100% to them.
  • Set five small goals weekly. Break them into practical steps, accomplish them on time, and monitor your progress from week to week.
  • Work harder than usual at your most important goal.
  • Select a role-model who exemplifies perseverance and determine how you can follow her/his footsteps.

Integrity:

  • Refrain from telling small, white lies to friends and family (including insincere compliments). If you do tell one, admit it and apologize right away.
  • Think of creative yet honest ways of relating to others.
  • Monitor every time you tell a lie, even if it is a small one. Try to make your list shorter every day.
  • Monitor to catch lies of omission (such as not volunteering important information when selling a used item) and think how would you feel if someone did the same to you.

Vitality:

  • Rate your satisfaction with authentic, honest, and genuine deeds vs. inauthentic and less then honest actions.
  • Do something that you already do, but with more energy, including some creative and different elements. o Exercise at least 2-3 times a week, and notice how it affects your energy level.
  • Do a physical activity of your choice, one that you don’t “have to do” and that you are not told to do.
  • Improve your sleep hygiene by establishing regular sleep time, eating 3-4 hours before sleeping, avoiding doing any work in the bed, not taking caffeine late in the evening, etc. Notice changes in your energy level.
  • Think of ways to make an assignment exciting and engaging before you undertake it.

Fairness, Equity and Justice:

  • The next time you make a mistake, self-monitor to see whether you admit it.
  • The next time you present an argument, self-monitor to see whether you compromise fairness for social desirability.
  • Encourage equal participation of everyone, especially those who feel left out in a discussion/activity.
  • Self-monitor to see whether your judgments are affected by your personal likes and dislikes or are based on principles of justice and fairness.

Temperance

  • Recall and write about instances where you were unfair or could have been fairer. Consider how you could improve your future behavior.

Leadership:

  • Lead an activity, assignment or project and actively solicit opinions from group members.
  • Organize a family event that is intergenerational, including both young and old relatives.
  • Organize an event (surprise birthday party, shower, etc.) at your work that involves your colleagues. o Mentor a child in your neighborhood who would benefit from your skills.
  • Stand up for someone who is being treated unfairly.

Forgiveness and Mercy:

  • Remember times when you offended someone and were forgiven, then extend this gift to others.
  • Evaluate your emotions before and after forgiving someone.
  • Understand from the offender’s perspective why he/she offended you. Then assess whether your reaction is hurting you more than offender.
  • Make a list of individuals against whom you hold a grudge, then either meet them personally to discuss it or visualize whether bygones can be bygones.
  • Meet a person who offended you in the past, especially if he/she is a family member. Tell them that you have forgiven them, or just be kind in your interaction with them.

 Self-Regulation:

  • Set goals to improve your everyday living (e.g., room cleaning, laundry, doing dishes, cleaning your desk) and make sure you complete the tasks.
  • Monitor and eliminate distractions (phone, TV, computer) while focusing on a particular assignment.
  • Eliminate objects of temptation (dieting – don’t eat junk food; alcohol – don’t socialize in bars; smoking replace cigarettes with chewing gum; shopping – leave credit card or money at home) o Start a regular workout routine and make sure you stick to it.
  • Next time you get upset, try to control your emotions and focus on positive attributes.

Transcendence/Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence:

  • Notice at least one instance of natural beauty around you every day (sunrise, sunset, clouds, sunshine, snowfall, rainbows, trees, moving leaves, birds chirping, flowers, fruits and vegetables, etc).
  • Make your surroundings aesthetically beautiful.
  • Listen a piece of music or a watch a film and evaluate how it touches you aesthetically. o Visit a museum, pick a piece of art, and consider how it touches you aesthetically.
  • Write your aesthetic/artistic reactions to another person’s artistic expression.

Gratitude:

  • Consider how this statement describes your usual mental state: “A still mind sees what is good and present. An anxious mind sees what is negative and missing.” Still your mind for five minutes in the morning and in the evening.
  • Count three your blessings (good things that happened to you) before going to bed every day.
  • Express your gratitude to someone whom haven’t told before, preferably through a personal visit.
  • Every day, select one small yet important thing that you take for granted. Work on being mindful of this thing in the future.
  • Notice how many times you say thanks and whether you mean it every time.

Hope:

  • Recall a situation when you or someone close to you overcame a difficult obstacle and succeeded.
  • List all the bad things that happened to you, then find at least two positive for each.
  • Visualize where and what you want to be after one, five and ten years. Sketch a pathway that you can follow to get there.
  • Record your negative and positive thoughts and notice how they affect your future performance. o Read about someone who succeeded despite difficulties and setbacks.

Humour:

  • Bring smile to someone’s face every day through jokes, gestures, and playful activities. o Learn a new joke three times a week and tell them to friends.
  • Watch a sitcom, funny show/movie, or read a comic daily.
  • Cheer up a gloomy friend.
  • Find the fun and lighter side in most situations.