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Holiday Strengths

written by Amanda Horne 3 December 2009

Amanda Horne is an executive coach and facilitator whose business theme is "Thriving People and Workplaces." She is an Authentic Happiness Coaching graduate and a founding member of Positive Workplace International. Full bio.

Amanda's articles are here.

Your Holiday Strengths

Some people anticipate the holidays with excitement and enthusiasm. Some find it can be a stressful time with obligations to fulfil and busy schedules to juggle. Wherever you are along this continuum, a great question to ask yourself is: “How can I use my strengths this holiday season?”

I collaborated with Kathryn Britton and Senia Maymin (MAPP graduates and two of the dedicated editors of Positive Psychology News Daily) to ask this question of some of the leading figures in the Positive Psychology area. Some instead answered the question, “What one suggestion from one of your own books will be uppermost in your own mind during the holiday season?”

See below the inspiring responses, ending with some beautiful words from Marcial Losada.


Jane Dutton (Robert L. Kahn, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology University of Michigan)

“During the holiday season, take time to reflect what about your work do you most love and makes you most come to life. Use the beginning of the year to play with how to craft your job so that it cultivates the most life in you and in others. Experiment. Learn. Grow.”

Sonja Lyubomirsky (Professor, University of California, Riverside)

During the holiday season, I would encourage people to…

  • Focus less on materialistic goals (and, yes, I mean the buying and consuming of all those gifts, many of them useless) and more on intrinsic goals involving personal growth, connections with others, and contributing to family, community, and societyhere and now
  • Live in the here-and-now — that is, focus on, enjoy, and savor the moment instead of dwelling on what work you’re missing or the chores you have to do tomorrow
  • Work on appreciating what you have, even if it’s not very much; this is extremely difficult to do and requires lots of practice
  • Set at least one new, intrinsic, important, and meaningful life goal and begin the first baby step towards it
  • When you find yourself ruminating about problems or comparing yourself to others, shift your mindset, and distract, distract, distract
  • Work out as much as you can, doing whatever physical activity that “fits” you best

These are all things I try to do myself, though I am not always successful. This is because sustaining happiness takes work!

Ryan Niemiec (Education Director, VIA Institute on Character)

“I’ll practice using one of my lesser strengths, prudence, by planning and mapping out each morning how I will balance time with family, work, and writing projects for that particular day.”

Linda Parker (Senior Editor, VIA Institute on Character)

“I plan to use self-regulation, my No. 24 strength – to keep my food plan on track amid the holiday food fest, and more importantly, to stay patient with everyone around me.”


Neal Mayerson (Chairman of the VIA Institute on Character)

“I will be using my strength of persistence to get through end of year personnel reviews and compensation decisions and I will be using my creativity in my wood-sculpting hobby to totally unwind and replenish myself.”

Deb Pinger (Executive Director, VIA Institute on Character)

“Not a strength I can use at will, but one that defines my soul, I will appreciate all expressions of beauty and excellence with awe and gratitude.”

Fred Luthans (George Holmes Distinguished Professor, Department of Management University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

“I plan on enjoying the upcoming holiday season with family and friends by following our own advice of ‘receiving by giving’.”

IMG_0066Dianne Vella-Brodrick (Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine, at Monash University, Australia)

“I will use my strength of curiosity to ask those special to me to tell me about their best holiday season so far and why it was so special to them. By asking this question I will have invited these individuals to reminisce (savour) about a good time. Then I will use my strengths of creativity and love of learning to see what I can do to recreate, at least some of what was special about the holiday season they spoke about, for the upcoming season.”

Todd Kashdan (Associate Professor of Psychology, George Mason University)

“For all those family members that irritate me, I am going to use my curiosity and discover an entry point where I can feel love and compassion, and then they are going to be inundated with hugs and attention.”

Tal Ben-Shahar (Positive Psychology Lecturer at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania)

“I will use my love of learning to learn how to better use my love of learning….”

Christmas Cat

Robert Biswas-Diener, (Programme Director, Centre for Applied Positive Psychology; Part-time instructor at Portland State University)

“I think, to save money, I’ll be funny this holiday season: your laughter, my gift to you!”

Barry Schwartz (Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, Swarthmore College)

“I will be full of gratitude and will take pains to be a mega-satisficer (I know that’s not a strength, but if there is any time we need it, it’s during the holidays).”

Marcial Losada (founder and executive director of Meta Learning Consulting)

“Every holiday season and in other moments when I need to find my strength, I remember the beautiful country where I was born. Chile, as you know, is very long and very narrow (it seems you could walk on it with one foot in the Andes mountains and another by the shores of the South Pacific). I find my strength by saying this prayer that I wrote one day while I was contemplating the valleys from the top of the majestic mountains:

Chile, give me the heights of your mountains,
so that I don’t lose sight of what’s really important.
Give me the depth of your ocean,
so that I can get to the bottom of things.
Give me the transparency of your skies,
so that I don’t pretend to be more than I am.
Give me the directness of your people,
so that I don’t say more than is necessary.”

Kathryn, Senia and I wish you peace, health, happiness and joy.

Photos courtesy of Karen Horne.

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Louis Alloro 4 December 2009 - 3:49 pm

Thank you Amanda for your article. Very timely, too, as I prepare a NYC meetup for Saturday entitled: How to really find Joy in the Holiday Season (using PP).

Question for you: what are the suggestions from your own sage advice?

for a joyous season,

Amanda 6 December 2009 - 6:18 am

Hi Louis

So glad the timing worked well for you. How did your session go?
The idea for this article has been on my mind for well over a year, prompted by a situation which happened to me two years ago when I was invited to a Christmas function which I was not looking forward to, but could not decline (too long to explain why). I immediately asked myself “which of my top strengths can I use to get through this”, and the effect was immediate. It was not hard to think of something, and I not only looked forward to the event, I enjoyed it.
I don’t have advice for others, other than to do just as we suggest in the article: reflect on how you and others around you can use their strengths to enhance the holiday experience.

Great to hear from you

WJ 6 December 2009 - 3:56 pm

Amanda – of all the PP-ers I always find Sonja’s advise closet to the mark. I think its because she’s the only one who doesn’t seem obsessed by strengths

Senia 7 December 2009 - 2:49 am

The Marcial poem is absolutely beautiful.

Amanda 7 December 2009 - 7:41 am

Hi Wayne,
You wrote “of all the PP-ers I always find Sonja’s advice closest to the mark. I think its because she’s the only one who doesn’t seem obsessed by strengths”.

Your comment influenced me to think more deeply about my experience a couple of years ago. I realised that by asking myself “what strength can I use in this situation which is bothering me”, it led me to undertake both meaningful and engaging activities.

Thanks for the deeper reflection!

Lisa 8 December 2009 - 4:09 pm

Enjoyed the article-thanks for gathering the thoughts & ideas from leading PPers.

My blog: http://blog.healthpanda.com
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