By Regina Perez, MAC
Often in life, we tend to focus on what we’re doing wrong instead of what we’re doing right. We ask each other questions such as, “What is your greatest weakness?” in job interviews. We often set goals for ourselves that are more focused on kicking bad habits than adopting healthy ones. We tend to criticize ourselves for mistakes we make instead of celebrating our successes and personal strengths.
However, the recent development of positive psychology seeks to address this imbalance by focusing more on the positive side of human functioning. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman said, “The intent is to have a more complete and balanced scientific understanding of the human experience—the peaks, the valleys, and everything in between.” In particular, positive psychology focuses on character strengths, which are the virtues we possess that can help us live a more fulfilling life.
By focusing on what you’re doing well, it allows you to feel more empowered. This is a key idea around developing our strengths. When we focus on something that we are good at, we will feel better equipped to tackle our problems and we are able to make our lives more rewarding.
6 character strengths:
Character strengths can fall into 6 different categories. These characters are described as fulfilling and inherently moral and valuable.
- Wisdom: This category includes creativity, a love of learning, curiosity, having a wise perspective, and thinking through things carefully.
- Courage: This category includes honesty, bravery, approaching things with zest and energy, and persevering when things get tough.
- Humanity: These are the strengths that foster our connections with others: kindness, social intelligence, and love.
- Justice: These strengths are leadership ability, trying to treat others fairly, and working well with others.
- Temperance: These strengths are humility, a willingness to forgive others, cautiousness, and self-control.
- Transcendence: These strengths are gratitude, hope, spirituality, appreciating beauty, and valuing humor.
Being able to understand and utilize these character strengths are a key component to living a satisfying life.
Playing to our strengths
- Recognize our strengths
- Recognize others’ strengths
- Consider context when using our strengths
- Viewing our strengths as flexible
- Exploring psychotherapy
Boost your positivity
Sometimes we just need to get our minds open and ready to think more positively. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What positive qualities do you have?
- What strengths do you have?
- What are you grateful for?
- What do you have to look forward to (or what can you create so you do have things to look forward to)?
If you tend to focus on things that aren’t going well, you’re not alone. It’s a common tendency to focus on the areas where we worry we aren’t doing as well. However, researchers have found that we can benefit from working to nurture our character strengths. When we focus on the areas where we’re doing well and create opportunities to use these character strengths in our daily lives.