Articles in Strengths
What do seventeen of the top Positive Psychology leaders in the world have in common? They all enthusiastically endorse Character Strengths Matter. It’s that good, and it’s that important. Now I want to add my own endorsement.
Perhaps it is adversity itself, and the strengths that it builds. For adversity humbles us and reminds us of our limits and our rightful place in the universe. Adversity makes us grateful by preserving small anticipations and accepting the good we find without questioning it. Adversity gives us faith to rise above despair and in so doing, answer the call of the soul. The poor may not have the material riches we possess, but I can’t help wondering who is really the richer or poorer amongst us.
Two years ago, my two-year-old son suffered a severe scald burn covering 16 percent of his body. My unborn baby had a birth defect needing attention. In the year-and-a-half that followed, I saw my boys through four surgeries. I went through two surgeries myself after a complicated second trimester pregnancy loss. Seven particular tools from positive psychology helped me come through some very difficullt times. I believe I have experienced posttraumatic growth following these adversities, and Roepke and Seligman’s recent article helps me see why.
Savoring what we’ve accomplished helps us experience gratitude for the good things in our lives, which puts us in a better frame of mind than just grinding it out. Then we can invest in the six areas that we know have value for us in the long run. These areas fuel us with the sustenance we need to make life worth living. When we do that, we change our to-do’s into ta-da’s.
Sometimes our children do something totally unexpected and unacceptable. Then we try desperately to make sense of what happened by playing it over and over in our minds. We can hope for particular outcomes, but with that hope comes fear that it will not be so. Is the road to fearlessness found by giving up hope and letting go of dreams? But not to dream of their futures is an intolerable posture.
Throughout the World Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association, a dazzling array of new scientific breakthroughs and research set off fireworks to rival those of the Magic Kingdom. Martin Seligman challenged his own earlier research on learned helplessness. Tal Ben-Shahar invited us to focus on the growing tip as we work on positive change. Tom Rath reminded us of often neglected qualities that help us be fully charged.
“Always pursue the best in everything!”
You have surely heard this advice from a friend or from a motivational speaker. You may have even found it logical advice that deserves observance.
Yet is it really sound advice? Is it beneficial as a persistent life style?
As these thoughts and images flashed through my mind, I had a sudden surge of humility. The awareness that I did not have all the answers grounded me in my own limitations. The realization that she was not asking for my solutions but simply talking out loud to find her own solution made me question my role as a parent.
When I facilitate workshops on character strengths, I find that many people immediately focus on the bottom of their lists where their weakest strengths are. We are hardwired with a negativity bias, after all, and it is not a bad thing to want to improve. I frequently get asked, “How can I develop my strengths?” I respond, “Pretend that you have them. Act ‘as if’ you are kind, or forgiving, or curious.“
Get your Netflix queue ready. Fire up the On-Demand services of your cable TV. Because it’s time for an annual PPND tradition since 2009, the positive psychology movie awards! These awards go to films that offer some of the best portrayals of key themes in positive psychology. 2014 was a very strong year for positive psychology movies. Here are the winners: