When we identify and use our strengths, we live a more meaningful, successful and happy life. Knowing our strengths — and how and when to use them — helps us show up as our best possible self.
It’s not a question of if but when life will throw challenges and struggles our way. Leading with our strengths can help us build our resilience — our ability to navigate those difficult times and even grow from them.
How can we cultivate these strengths? One way is to develop a growth mindset, a belief that change is possible. When we encounter failure, for example, a fixed mindset (the opposite of a growth mindset) simply responds with “I’m a failure.” A growth mindset — which can be learned — reminds us that bad things happen to everyone and encourages us to ask ourselves, “What can I discover from this, and how can I improve?” Taking some time in our busy days to focus on certain aspects of who we are and develop the strengths we have can have a lasting effect on our health and well-being.
“Doorway List” Exercise
The accompanying video (above) includes an exercise explaining how to create a list of your strengths to consider before walking through the “doorway” of any room, conversation or situation. This tool is a reminder to pause, take a breath and then choose what strengths will best serve you and those around you, allowing you to bring your best possible self.
Gaining Further Insight Into Your Strengths
The VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues, published in 2004 and developed by positive psychology researchers Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, is a classification system of 24 measurable character strengths and virtues. Its theory explains that every individual possesses all 24 character strengths to greater or lesser degrees. Research has shown that when people identify their top five strengths and learn to intentionally apply these strengths in their daily lives, they become stronger and more successful, reach their goals faster and develop better relationships. Take the free, 15-minute VIA strengths survey to discover how your individual strengths rank.
Resilience and Mindset: Writing Prompts
Writing is a practice that can help us bring clarity to our thoughts and feelings, find meaning in our experiences and gain perspective. Set a timer for between 10 and 20 minutes, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and write in response to one or both of the prompts below. When you’re finished writing, look over what you’ve written or wait a few hours and then give it a read. How did it feel to write down your thoughts? Did it bring any new insight?
- Think of one of the more difficult events of your life. How did you get through it? What did you learn about yourself? How could you use your strengths to handle it better today?
- Write about a time you went into a situation thinking it was a threat and then realized it was an opportunity. What made you change your way of thinking? What can you do to cultivate this growth mindset?
Caren Osten is a certified positive psychology coach and writer. She works with individuals and groups who seek to cultivate greater positivity, clarity and calm as they navigate life’s daily stresses, challenges and shifts. Osten leads workshops and speaks publicly, sharing the benefits, practices and science of optimism, self-compassion, mindfulness and resilience. A contributor to The New York Times, PsychologyToday.com, Mindful and other publications and websites, Osten writes about health, well-being, travel and education. Learn more about her work at www.carenosten.com and find her @carenosten on Twitter and Instagram.