1. A Quick Breakdown
Imagine for a moment that a genie has granted you one wish to improve your life. The only catch is that you must choose between reducing a weakness or increasing a strength. Which would you choose?
Many people would choose to reduce a weakness. Why? There is a strong humanoid focus on rooting out disease and disorder coupled with a widespread belief that fixing the “bad stuff” in life is the way to make things better. What if instead of fixing what is wrong, it was possible to promote what is right? What if in this quest for a better life, identifying and employing strengths was as powerful as eliminating weaknesses? Research reveals this might be the case.
2. The Science
In the 1990s, a group of social scientists put together a manual about what is right with humanoids (also known as the Character Strengths and Virtues catalog). Since that time, hundreds of studies have been conducted on the effect of using strengths at work, home, and generally in life. Here are a snippet of research results:
- Using one’s signature strengths in a new way is an effective intervention to increase happiness and decrease depression for up to 6 months.
- Strengths help one to progress toward goals and support a basic human need for independence.
- Certain strengths including hope, zest, gratitude, and curiosity consistently and repeatedly show a robust correlation with life satisfaction.
- The strengths of love, perseverance, gratitude, and hope predict academic achievement in both middle school and college students.
The bottom line: STRENGTHS MATTER! They are not just assets you have to make you feel good about yourself. You can use strengths to solve problems, to build relationships, and to improve the quality of your well-being.
Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009a). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4), np.
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 23, 603–619.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: a handbook and classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.
What are your greatest strengths? How do you use them in your life? Try the exercise below. For extra credit, take a character strength survey at AuthenticHappiness.com.