Improve your life with these 3 ways to use your character strengths

Improve your life with these 3 ways to use your character strengths

If you’re anything like the majority of my coaching clients, you’re always looking for ways to make positive changes in your life.

Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality, so it makes sense to use them as much as possible.

Here are three ways to employ strengths to change your life for the better:

  1. Shore up weaknesses

You may be acutely aware of areas of weakness where you’re not so good at a skill or find something challenging. Identify one or more of your stronger strengths to bolster your performance in these areas.

For example – perhaps you’re not great at remembering upcoming events, but one of your signature strengths is Creativity, and another is Zest. (Your signature strengths are the top 5-7 strengths in your VIA ranking). You could use Creativity to brainstorm new ways of reminding yourself, and you could use Zest to inject some energy and enthusiasm into finding workable solutions for yourself.

2. Develop relationships

There are many ways to develop and improve relationships with others by using character strengths.

One way is to observe someone using one of their strengths and comment favourably upon it; this is known as strengths spotting.

For instance, if you notice someone coordinating with a group of people to get a job done, you could comment on how they employed their strength of Teamwork and say something about how valuable that quality is.

Sadly it is more common for humans to notice and pick up on errors and mistakes than to catch the positives. Making a point of remarking on someone’s strengths is an excellent way to help them feel seen and appreciated. You’ll generally find people respond well to their strengths being noticed, and will begin to notice yours in response. Everyone wins!

3. Overcome stressful situations

When irritated or stressed, you can learn to draw upon your strengths and turn around the feeling of helplessness or being stuck, which is often the default response to challenges if you have ADHD.

One way to do this is to bring to mind a past occasion when you faced and successfully overcame a problem or stressful situation.

Have a list of your 24 character strengths and their definitions in front of you, and pick out what it was inside of you that helped you deal with it. Was it your Bravery or Kindness? Was it Perseverance or Humour, maybe? Or perhaps it was a combination of Love, Fairness, and Perspective?

Write down or think about which strengths you used and how you used them to help you in that situation.

In the future, when facing an irritation or something stressful, you’ll be much better placed to draw on similar strengths to overcome difficult situations.

There are many ways you can bring strengths use into your daily life to build a more fulfilling and productive future. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to increase your awareness of and focus on your strengths, look out for my half-day strengths workshops, or consider one-to one coaching with me.

I’m coach Anna Schlapp, B.A., ACC, coaching people with ADHD and other co-occurring conditions for 8 years in the UK and worldwide. You can get in touch with me here

 

Looking for Something to Help You Through Tough Times? Your Strengths Are Always With You.

Looking for Something to Help You Through Tough Times? Your Strengths Are Always With You.

What do you always have with you to help you through the tough times no matter what? – Your character strengths.

What are character strengths?

There are many models or ways of looking at your strengths. In this piece I’ll be referring specifically to the field of character strengths that emerged from positive psychology research in the early 2000’s. Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality. In the VIA Character Strengths framework, there are 24 of them altogether. 

As I often remind my coaching clients, your strengths are always available to you. However they are often beneath conscious awareness. In other words you are already drawing on your strengths daily, probably without fully realising where or how you are doing so.

Character Strengths are about how you do something i.e. you approach an uncomfortable situation with your boss with courage (BRAVERY), you interact with your impulsive child with light heartedness. (HUMOUR)

 

Why are they important now?

We are all having to deal with a level of change, stress, and uncertainty enough to test anyone. Restrictions to the way we live our lives, not being able to meet in groups socially, having to stay in your home most of the time, home-schooling, the threat or reality of losing your job. Add the heartbreak and devastation when we lose loved ones, and the list of challenges goes on and on. Let’s face it, we need all the help and support we can get.

 

How can knowing your character strengths help you?

Becoming more versed in character strengths increases feelings of resourcefulness and capability.

Paying attention to your strengths reminds you of the goodness in you and all of us.

A strengths focus can help you relate more deeply to others and to yourself.

You can draw on your strengths when you face stressful or demanding situations.

 

How can they help right now in the tough time of the pandemic?

Learning more about strengths and their definitions makes it easier to recognise which constructive parts of yourself you use, and when. You’ll appreciate how strengths have helped you in many of your past experiences, positive and not so positive. With increased awareness, you’ll be able to intentionally bring forward strengths to bolster you when you are challenged or at a loss.

 

Here’s an exercise you can try for yourself:

If you’re unaware of your own character strengths then go to www.viacharacter.org and take their free assessment. Print off the list of your strengths and have it in front of you.

Now dig back into your past, and bring to mind an experience that really challenged you at the time. Look at the list of strengths to help you identify which ones you drew on.
How did you deal with it?                                                                          
What did you do that worked?                                                                       
Which of your strengths were involved when you overcame this situation?                            
Looking back, you likely utilized a combination of strengths. Notice where you were ingenious in this context. How does that change how you feel about your present circumstance?

Now make use of this information to devise solutions, move forward, and resolve your current challenges.

 

How that might work in practice;

During the first lockdown I was required to be available to supervise my daughter’s home-schooling. I had to completely change the way I worked and re-organise my hours to fit around her virtual lessons; and support her to access and stay focused on Zoom. I felt a sinking feeling of overwhelm and dread when the news first came, and wondered how on earth I would keep working and support my daughter. Then I remembered my character strengths.

I thought back to a previous occasion where I had felt challenged; each summer holiday when my daughter was much younger. Back then I had applied understanding and patience (PERSPECTIVE) (PERSEVERANCE) to both myself and my daughter.
I used my top strengths of ZEST & LOVE OF LEARNING, to devise new and exciting things we could both enjoy learning about and doing together.   I also planned so that each day we had at least one set activity to do. (PRUDENCE) 

To manage the current challenges of the lockdown, here’s how I used the strengths I had identified:

  • I planned each day in a very detailed way to coordinate our differing needs and Zoom times. (PRUDENCE)
  • I used BRAVERY to face the uncertainty of our situation. I applied PERSPECTIVE AND PERSEVERANCE to take the longer term view, and stick with important changes to our routines like hand washing.
  • When severely tested I reminded myself to appreciate how I love and am loved (LOVE), and how grateful I am for our health and our lives.(GRATITUDE)

 

How you can use your own strengths right now; 

When you next feel the weight of uncertainty or are confronted by some new obstacle, bring your character strengths to mind to remind you how capable you really are.

  • Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality.
  • You always have your character strengths within you to support and nourish you, on your journey through life.
  • Bringing character strengths into conscious awareness reminds us of the innate good in ourselves and others.
  • Character strengths provide personally relevant ways to boost your resources in life now and in the future.
  • They remind us that we can prevail when times are tough, and that we have much to be grateful for.

By familiarising yourself with character strengths you will have invaluable resources available to sustain you in particularly demanding times.

 

 

                                 

 

 

Too Many Commitments? Here’s How to Start Letting Go.

Too Many Commitments? Here’s How to Start Letting Go.

Are you overloaded with obligations, tasks or activities that take up all your time and energy but don’t pay the bills or provide for your family? That was my situation some years ago.

At that time I yearned to build a new career for myself, yet I just could not see how to make it happen.

My life was already jam-packed.

I had a life full of activities that interested me. I was committed to all sorts of meetings, to my daughter & school, various groups, and volunteering. There were my art classes, which were a social occasion as well as for creating. I wanted to continue my part-time job, the upkeep of various websites I had taken on, and regular committee meetings that involved organizing exhibitions. I just could not see how to progress.

 My time and energy, and the sheer numbers of hours in the day and days in the week were all used up.

If I stayed the way I was, I was well and truly stuck.

How did this come about?

Some of it came from others making requests of me, some I believe was led by interest and wanting to be a part of something, to belong. Opportunities would come up in my life, and I would say YES, just because I was interested, and if the truth were known, a little flattered to have been asked. Equally, I think I needed to prove myself somehow – like I can take all this stuff on and do an excellent job of it. I did want to find ways to contribute and to feel I was helping others by doing so. Some commitments were led by a love of learning and gave me a sense of moving forwards in my personal development. I increased my knowledge and built what I considered valuable transferable skills.

Yet however fascinating these were, they were not going to bring me the level of satisfaction I believed I would gain from pursuing a potential new career. I needed to find or create time for this somehow.

Talking to a coach was my turning point.

It took speaking to a coach who asked me what I could do without, to realize that I had to take something away to begin the new and shiny thing I wanted in my life, which mattered so much to me.

What happened? At first, I resisted and fought against the idea of letting anything go. I desperately wanted there to be a magical way to have it all. But then she coached me to put everything down on a piece of paper, every single commitment I had, and just look at it.

“I understand you’re enjoying all of these, and also that you are gaining something from each of them. If there was one that you could do without, which would it be?” She asked me.

I began to see the bigger picture.

As I looked at those words on the page, I plainly saw the amount of time each commitment took up, and where each might take me. The muddy water seemed to be clearing, and a pattern began to appear.

I knew building a new life for myself would require pulling back from giving so much time to others, and using that time to re-train for a new, rewarding career. I could continue living overcommitted and underpaid, or I could start saying no to others in the short term, so I could say yes to myself longer term.

I started to make changes.

I began to find ways to discontinue the activities which took all my time and attention, one by one, honourably, and over a period. By gradually reducing my obligations, I created the space for something new. A new career beckoned on the horizon. I took the invitation, and to date, I haven’t looked back.

If you’re overwhelmed by too many commitments to others, here’s what to do:

  • Recognise that if you keep on saying YES to everything that comes along, you will reach a point when you cannot take on any more.
  • Determine what or who you can say NO to, so you can say YES to yourself.
  • Write down every commitment you have on one piece of paper, so you can see the big picture more clearly.
  • Begin by choosing just one commitment to let go of. Then as you build up your “letting go“ muscle, see if you can find other commitments that would benefit you by being brought to a conclusion.

Finally, allow yourself to let go of what isn’t going to serve you long-term and create the space for what’s really important to you now.

Anna Schlapp, AACC, ACC, is a certified ADHD coach who specialises in creative solutions to triumph over the hurdles of ADHD. Anna helps those with challenges like over-commitment and overwhelm to understand what’s holding them back, and then co-create personalised blueprints for leading more amazing lives. Read more of Anna’s strategies for empowered productivity on her blog. To find out how Anna’s unique system can help you maximise your potential, ask about a complimentary coaching session.

Are Distractions Ruining Your Life? How to Fix What’s Wiping out Your Focus.

Are Distractions Ruining Your Life? How to Fix What’s Wiping out Your Focus.

What can you do to help yourself focus and be more productive when distractions keep getting in the way? Whether you find it practically impossible to concentrate in a busy environment, or you’re zoning out while listening to someone, distractions can rule your life and prevent you from doing and achieving the things you want to get done.

Everyone can get distracted at times, yet for people with ADHD “Distractibility” is one of the major symptoms, often affecting us continuously from morning to night. Knowing when, where, and how you’re getting distracted is a good starting point to doing something to improve your situation. Lists, charts, graphics, or voice recordings of your distractions are just some of the ways you could collect this information. 

Follow these pointers to create your unique Personal Distraction Profile:

When do you typically get distracted?

Is it when you are talking to someone and you start to follow a train of thought sparked off by something they said, pulling you away from what the person is saying? Perhaps it’s being in a noisy, busy environment at work when your concentration is broken by phones ringing, or people coming and going, and asking you things. Or maybe it’s when you start a domestic clear out, and you find so many interesting things that distract you. All of a sudden, hours have gone by, and nothing gets done.

So, identify when you get distracted and record the times you get pulled off focus.

Where are you most often distracted?

Is it at work, where the chairs are uncomfortable, so your back begins to ache, and the discomfort is hard to ignore? Or at home, where the thought of unpaid bills distracts you from the task in hand, and the dinner gets burned – again!

Perhaps you are out for a meal somewhere with friends, only the music and conversations together make it virtually impossible to hear what anyone is saying, so you spend the evening feeling isolated and on the edge of things.

Make a note of these places and add them to the record.

How do you get distracted?

We are all individuals, and one way to understand and identify your unique brand of distractions is knowing how you take in and then process information. You take in information through your senses. Depending on individual processing styles, one or more of your senses can be the source of many distractions.

It can be useful to divide distractions into two main categories; external and internal. Continue to add any more instances to the data you’re compiling about yourself.

 External distractions can be anything entering your field of awareness via your senses – this could be the regular five senses:

· hearing, 

· visual,

· tactile or felt,

· smell,

· taste.

In addition, some individuals are affected by:

· temperature changes or extremes,

· perception of where their body is in space,

· sense of balance.

People respond differently to these stimuli – some people will find the subtlest sounds or movements distracting, while others won’t even be aware of them. 

Then there are internal distractions. These can be things like:

· thoughts,

· feelings,

· emotions,

· images,

· memories etc.

Add this information to your Distractions Profile.

Now pinpoint any emerging patterns and consider how you could better manage them.

For instance, do sounds distract you and interrupt your train of thought when writing emails? You could try wearing ear defenders, moving to a quieter place, or changing the time of day you work on them, so that you are sure to be in a quiet environment.

 Or maybe it’s the visual distraction of other people around you, moving around or walking past that you find most distracting? Try working in a room on your own, using a screen, or turning your desk to face the wall.

Perhaps you are repeatedly distracted by memories that get triggered by seeing a place, person, or object? Before you know it, you are off down memory lane, and time is ticking by. Many of my clients have found Mindfulness practice can help with being more present. Over time, regular Mindfulness practice can reduce instances of getting lost in thoughts and emotions for long periods.

It’s worth bearing in mind that each type of distraction has its own solutions. Being more precise about what your distractions are will help you customize your responses with more success.

In summary, to build up your Personal Distraction Profile, identify and record:

· WHEN you get distracted.

· WHERE you get distracted.

· HOW you get distracted.

· your external distractions.

· your internal distractions.

Make additions to your profile whenever you find yourself pulled away from things, unproductive or overwhelmed, or when you find you’ve lost track of time.

The final step is to identify any recurring patterns, and think of some action(s) you could take based on your findings.

If you don’t feel up for doing this alone, why not ask for help from a trusted friend. Alternatively, you could engage a specialist in coping with distractions such as an ADHD Coach to assist you. 

Once you have identified your times, places and types of distraction you will be in a much stronger position. Then you can take positive action to reduce or eliminate them. Your focus and productivity will increase as a result!

 

Anna Schlapp, AACC, ACC, is a certified ADHD coach who specialises in creative solutions to triumph over the hurdles of ADHD. Anna helps those with challenges in focus and attention to co-create personalised blueprints for leading more amazing lives. Read more of Anna’s strategies for empowered productivity on her blog. To find out how Anna’s unique system can help you maximise your potential, ask about a complimentary coaching session.