One of the surest ways to gain in subjective wellbeing - AKA Happiness- is to practice your particular character strengths on a regular basis (Achor, 2010) .
Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson developed a Character Strengths and Virtues framework that identifies six classes of virtue (i.e., "core virtues"), made up of twenty-four measurable "character strengths". A handy infographic below provides a good summary:
You may know your own particular strengths, but I love taking self-assessment surveys, so I just completed the renowned VIA Survey of Character Strengths on the University of Pennsylvania department of Psychology's Authentic Happiness website. The 240 questions, took me about an hour. The results are obviously worthwhile, but the test itself was also interesting, as it also revealed some not-so-strengths that I wasn't aware of.
In-case you're interested (hi, Ma!), here are my results...
Your Top Strength
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
Your Second Strength
Capacity to love and be loved
You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.
Humor and playfulness
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.
Zest, enthusiasm, and energy
Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.
Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
I was initially surprised, but on reflection, these make SO much sense for me.
Developing my Character
The thing about character is that it's not a fixed state. We are all predisposed to certain strengths, but with practice we shape and develop our character strengths. This has been my primary practice for 2016.
Inspired by Tiffany Shlain's Science of Character short film and resources, I have been focusing on a particular character strength every week. Practices for this have included identifying the focus value for the week (for example, Integrity), and then keeping a daily journal about my success in practicing that value.
I have found that a week's dedicated practice is more valuable than just having a list of things I value. Through the week I become increasingly mindful of the value, and I deepen my understanding of it as it applies to me and my world.
So here's the take-out challenge, if you want to join me on this fulfilling journey of character development:
- Choose a focus value for the coming week: Have a look at the 24 character strengths, and identify ONE for the coming week that you'd like to work on (if you want an easy feel-good week, do the character strengths survey, then maybe start with something you're already good at)
- Declare your intent to practice: Post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your blog, wherever suits you. If you post on your social media, write #characterscience with your post, so you can find and encourage other people who are doing the experiment with us.
- Practice! Start every day for the coming 7 days with a reflection on the practice of your value. You can journal about it (like I do), meditate on it, draw it, photograph it, paint it - whatever works for you.
- Share the love. Lastly, if you enjoy and get value from this exercise, induct someone else into the #characterscience movement.