Using Your Strengths in New Ways – 2

How to Use Your Character Strengths in New Ways – Part 2.

In your annual appraisal / personal development meeting, does your boss focus on how to use your strengths more effectively, or how to improve your weaknesses (or ‘development areas’ if you’re being PC)?

According to Positive Psychologists Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman, using your strengths every day is one of the most effective ways to increase your level of satisfaction. And according to Marcus Buckingham and the late Donald Clifton , authors of ‘Now Discover Your Strengths‘ it’s a tried and tested way to increase staff engagement, moral and motivation, as well as improve productivity and profitability. Seems to good to be true doesn’t it?

Well, hopefully you have found 30 minutes or so to fill in the VIA-IS online character strengths survey. This is a free strengths survey, from which you get immediate results in the form of a report listing the 24 character strengths in order. As we mentioned in previous posts, you can do the CliftonStrengthsFinder* survey online too, but it’s not free. We’ll discuss applications of the Clifton StrengthsFinder in other posts.

Having identified their strengths, many people think ‘What do I do with them now?’. in Wednesday’s post we looked at ways of applying Fairness, Kindness, Open-Mindedness, Curiosity, Love of Learning and Creativity day-to-day. In today’s post we look 5 new strengths:

i) Refrain from telling white lies to friends, including insincere compliments
ii) At the end of the day, identify something you did that was attempting to impress people, or put on a show. Resolve not to do it again
iii) Monitor yourself and make a list of every time you tell a lie. Try to make your list shorter everyday
iv) Think about your most important values and do something every day which is consistent with them
v) When explaining your motives to someone, do so in a genuine and honest way

i) Tell a boyfriend/girlfriend/sibling/parent that you love them
ii) Send a loved one a card/e-card to say you were thinking about them
iii) Give loved ones a big hug and a kiss
iv) Write a nice post-it to a colleague and leave it on their desk
v) Accept a compliment, just say “thank you”
vi) Do something with your kids that they really enjoy doing

i) Make someone laugh or smile every day
ii) Learn a joke and tell it to all your friends
iii) Watch a funny film
iv) Visit a Comedy Club
v) Learn a magic trick and perform it for all your friends
vi) Make fun of yourself, if only by saying, “there I go again”

i) Keep a journal and record something you saw during the day that was beautiful
ii) Go outside and take time to notice something of beauty
iii) Go to a museum or art gallery and find something that inspires you or touches you because of its beauty
iv) Attend a concert and savour the sound

i) Meet one new person every day at work – chat to the person next to you in the restaurant queue or at the coffee machine for example
ii) Encounter someone by themselves and by being friendly, include them in your group
iii) When someone at work annoys you, try to understand their motives and concerns
iv) Go into a new social situation and try to fit in – if you’re the boss, for example, join a group of your staff for lunch and focus on making them feel at ease.
v) Notice when a colleague does something that is difficult for them, and compliment them

These are just some examples of activities, you can of course adapt them to suit your circumstances. Try picking one and stick with it for a couple of weeks. If you find it isn’t working after a day or so, just try something else.

We’d love to hear your experience of using some of these activities in practice, so please send us your comments. We’ll cover the remaining Character Strengths in future posts.

NB Despite the name, the Clifton StrengthsFinder doesn’t actually tell you your strengths. It tells you your Top 5 categories of talent, which you can then develop into strengths by applying skill and knowledge.

Thanks to Professor Jonathan Haidt , author of The Happiness Hypothesis, and the students in his psychology class at the University of Virginia for many of the suggested activities.

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