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.