Using Our Signature Strengths in a New Way

Last week, our whole school community, Positive Education activity involved identifying our signature strengths. We asked several of our friends or family to identify the strengths that ‘summed us up’ for them, from the list of 24 strengths provided. We also did this for ourselves and then took the VIA strengths test on the Authentic Happiness website.

If you haven’t yet done the VIA character strengths test, the website is www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/

Research in Positive Psychology suggests that there are (at least) 24 strengths and virtues that are recognized in most cultures. We all have all 24 strengths within us to varying degrees, however within this set we have a characteristic set of strengths and virtues; things that we are 'good' or 'strong' on. These are known as our signature strengths.

The VIA character strengths test identifies our top five strengths, however we may or may not feel they are our signature strengths. To be a signature strength, a strength will have the following hallmarks:

  • A sense of ownership or authenticity (this is the real me)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly initially
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first consciously practised
  • A sense of yearning to find new ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (can’t help it)
  • Invigoration or a sense of being energised while using it, rather than exhaustion
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy, while using it

Research in positive psychology has shown that we can get more satisfaction out of life, if we identify which of the character strengths we have in abundance and then use them as much as possible; in school, in hobbies and with family and friends.

Given that signature strengths feel natural, meaningful and energising, it makes sense that regularly looking for new ways to use them will enhance well being. While we can always be on the lookout for new ways to put our signature strengths into action, it can be valuable to intentionally devise new ways to use them. The new way may be in a new setting or with a new person.

Parent Information - Positive Education @ EBPS

This week’s activity involves planning new ways to use one of our signature strengths and following that through into action.

  • Identify the signature strength we wish to work with.
  • Brainstorm four new ways to use our chosen signature strength
  • Create four designated times over the next two weeks in which to put our plan into action
  • Notice how we feel when putting our signature strength into action

The following table might help in planning a meaningful, new way to use each character strength and to set a date to action each step.

Signature strength:

Action Date        |        New way to use my signature strength
____________________________________________________

                            |
____________________________________________________

For example, if your chosen signature strength is curiosity you might

  • Borrow a book from your local library on a topic that interests you,
  • Seek out an expert on that topic and ask questions
  • Do an internet search for related information
  • Discuss your topic with another interested person

The VIA website also has a character strengths test designed for children. You may be interested to either, do this yourself with your child in mind or, if your child is old enough, have them complete the questions.

You may be interested in watching this short youtube video called, ‘Animal School.’ It can be found here. This video observes what happens when we focus too much on weaknesses and don’t include our strengths. It is very lovely, as well as insightful.

Look for the Positive Psychology exercise in our next newsletter!
Enjoy your strengths, enjoy the strengths within others, enjoy life!