How to Use Your Character Strengths in New Ways - Part 1
Have you completed the VIA-IS online character strengths survey yet? We find it an excellent starting point for coaching conversations since many people are completely unaware of their strengths, so it can be an instant confidence boost, as well as providing insight into where to make changes to increase overall life/job satisfaction.
Having identified their strengths, many people think 'What now?' so in this post we look at new ways of applying strengths day-to-day. We start with the most common top strengths shown in the UK (Linley et al 2007):
Women: 1.Fairness 2.Kindness 3.Open-mindedness 4.Curiosity and 5. Love of Learning
Men: 1.Open-mindedness 2.Fairness 3.Curiosity & joint 4th Love of Learning and Creativity
i) Act as a mediator - stay impartial in a disagreement between friends/colleagues despite your beliefs
ii) Allow someone to say their piece without interupting them
iii) Notice when you treat someone based on a stereotype or pre-conception: resolve not to do it again.
iv) At least once a day, admit a mistake and take responsibility for it
v) At least once a day, give due credit to a colleague you don't particularly like
i) Every day, pick something you believe strongly, and think about how you might be wrong
ii) Play devil's advocate - discuss a work-related issue or business problem from the side opposite to your personal views
iii) Go to lunch with a colleague who is different to you in some way
iv) Go to a multi-cultural event or to a different church/religious event
KINDNESS / GENEROSITY:
i) Do a random act of kindness every day. Make it anonymous if possible.
ii) Send an e-card to a different friend each day
iii) Pick up the whole bill when you are out with friends
iv) Ring a friend/family member/colleague specifically to find out how they are. Ask them how their day was and actually listen to the answer before telling them about your own day.
v) When driving, give way to pedestrians; when walking, give way to cars
CURIOSITY / INTEREST IN THE WORLD:
i) At lunch, eat something new that you never otherwise would have tried
ii) Ask questions in a meeting (if you don't usually), or find a work-related online forum (such as the CIPDs) and ask questions there
iii) Travel to work by a different route
iv) Go to your local library and pick and interesting-looking book - spend 20 minutes skimming it
v) Read an interesting article in your professional/trade magazine
vi) Go to a meeting or lecture on a topic you know nothing about
LOVE OF LEARNING:
i) Read a different newspaper to the one you would usually read
ii) Find a mentor in a different department at work and set up a regular meeting
iii) Think of an area of the business where you know very little and find a colleague who is prepared to help you learn about it
iv) Take up a new hobby
v) Watch your children playing and reflect on how one learns through play
vi) Find a colleague at work who has a skill you want to learn and model them
i) Keep a journal or work on a picture or a poem
ii) Find a new word everyday and use it creatively every day
iii) Pick one object in your office and think of new uses for it
iv) Wear a new combination of clothes/ shirt & tie to the ones you usually pick
v) Enrol in a pottery or painting class
These are just some examples of activities you can try, you don't have to do them all! In fact, it's recommended that you pick one activity and stick with it for a couple of weeks. And if you find after a couple of days that it's not working for you, switch to something else.
We'll cover the remaining 18 VIA strengths in subsequent posts. In the meantime, we're always looking for new ways to apply strengths in practice, so please send us your comments.
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.