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.






Studying with ADHD: A Success Story

Studying with ADHD: a Success Story.

My coaching client was intelligent, creative, and committed to making the world a better place once he gained his degree. Just one thing was getting in his way; lack of understanding of how his ADHD traits were having an impact on his revision tactics for his end of year exams. ( “Revision” in the UK means “study” or “review” )

We started by precisely analysing his current approach to revision. He was certainly putting the hours in, yet no work was being done. Time was ticking by and this situation was beginning to undermine his self-esteem. His confidence in passing his exams was at a low ebb.

I started by asking him some clarifying questions, and these revealed that the environment he was attempting to study in played a big part in his difficulties both in getting started, and in maintaining focus. I discovered he was trying to study in the same environment where he lived, ate and spent time relaxing. I recommended he firstly try separating out his study area from his living area and see what happened as a result.

He agreed to check out this new strategy and came back next session full of enthusiasm at the insights he had gained. He realised as a result of this new awareness just what a key role environment did play in his ability to study and revise.

Knowing it wasn’t some kind of character flaw holding him back, but simply the way he was going about his revision, was a pivotal moment for this particular client.

 After a couple of weeks of experimentation, he came to the conclusion that trying to study in his flat was not going to work for him, and he took the decision to go to the library to revise.

From there I helped my client deepen his understanding of how his ADHD trait of distractibility was hampering his efforts. I was able to identify exactly which distractions were throwing him off course and when. I encouraged him to use his strength of creativity to come up with some solutions he would enjoy putting into practice. I was also able to help him see the benefit of taking regular breaks, to refresh and recharge.

Working together we came up with a plan that worked with his ADHD traits. We tailored it to his unique circumstances, course modules, and the time he had remaining to complete his studies and revision. Armed with this new information my client was able to go from hours spent sitting staring at his book bag, beating himself up for not revising day and night, to completing a realistic goal of several hours a day of revision.

He regained confidence and was filled with new hope as he understood that completing his revision in a timely manner was now within his grasp. He was able to pass his end of year exams with a better grade than expected and was excited to share the good news with me.

You can make your study and revision easier and more productive by paying attention to these factors:

  • Find a comfortable place to study that helps you feel like studying. Don’t try to study in the same place you live, eat, and relax.
  • Give yourself permission to take regular breaks from study. Set a timer if you need to.
  • Identify the things that distract you, then eliminate them so as to maximize focus and concentration.
  • Every person with ADHD is different. Notice what specific elements aid or hinder your own studying and make adjustments if needed.

Just a few changes to your environment and work habits will pay dividends in your ability to focus and concentrate. ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back from being an excellent student.

Anna Schlapp, AACC, ACC, is a certified ADHD Coach and author helping students acquire the life and study skills they need to successfully navigate university.

With 20 years’ experience in the fields of disability and education to draw on, coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of ADHD, Anna’s positive and strengths-focused approach has been supporting students to work with their ADHD, not against it, for over 4 years.

To find out how coaching can benefit you or a student in your life, contact me.