At this point in the Coronavirus pandemic, the whole thing is starting to wear a little thin, right? We’ve been through the cycle of initial shock, taking various measures to keep ourselves and others safe, trying to stay productive and creative, and applying all the positive-thinking and actions we know can help. Yes, indeed, all of that does help…but, after more than a month of extreme lifestyle changes, I know many people are getting fed up.
I get it. I have definitely had my moments, too. Just yesterday, I found myself still in my jammies at 4 pm and wondering why I should even both to take a shower. The answer: I had to take my dogs for a walk before a conference call later that evening. Of course, I know that delaying that shower and working in my PJs all day was bad for my mental health…still, I did it…because, well, it was day 35 of lockdown, and I was feeling frustrated.
Maybe you’ve had similar experiences. Maybe you’re just trying to survive one day at a time because you’re home-schooling kids and still carrying a full workload. Maybe you don’t have any work to do, and you are done with all those extra house projects. Or, maybe you’re just having one of those days where you just don’t feel like being positive or doing much of anything.
I think we’ve all been there or we’re about to be there. But, ultimately, you know that this isn’t really you. Typically, you’re oozing positivity, you’ve got boundless energy, you’re inspiring others, and you’re tough. It’s just that, right now, it can be challenging to muster all that day after day while shouldering so much change and uncertainty. So, what do you do when this happens?
You call on your inner strengths.
Now, you might be wondering what the heck those might be or whether you even have any left. Good news — every single one of us has 24 character strengths that we can use at any given time. Sure, some may be more prevalent than others, but you still have all 24 at your disposal. And, you can activate them like special super-powers.
So, what are these 24 strengths? Well, I won’t go through all of them right now, but here are just a few examples. And you can check out the full list right here.
Creativity — thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; it can include artistic achievement, but it’s in no way limited to it.
Judgment — no, this doesn’t mean you’re really good at judging people. Instead, this is about critical thinking, thinking things through and examining them from all sides, weighing evidence, and not jumping to conclusions.
Kindness — doing favors and good deeds for others, helping them, and taking care of them.
Social Intelligence — being aware of your motives/feelings as well as those of others, knowing what to do in different social situations, understanding what makes people tick.
Okay, so now you have a sense of them, maybe you’re wondering, how do I know what my top strengths are, and how do I activate them in a way that’s going to help me? It’s really simple:
1. Take a short survey (10–15 mins) to identify your personal ranking of the 24 character strengths. You can do that for free right here: http://happinessatworknow.com/survey
2. Review your results. After you submit the survey responses, you will receive a free, personalized, rank-ordered list of your character strengths. The top 3–7 are your signature strengths — the strengths that are at the core of who you are. Look at these top strengths and see if you agree with the assessment. One way to do that is to ask yourself, is this strength essential to who I am? Is it effortless for me to use? And, does using this strength energize me? If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then these are for sure your signature strengths, your special superpowers. If not, look at some strengths further down the list and see if those feel more essential, effortless, and energizing to you.
3. Apply your strengths. Pick one of your signature strengths and start using it in a different way each day this week. Or, pick a different signature strength each day and use it in a different way. Think about how you can apply these strengths to your daily challenges right now. For example, two of my top strengths are gratitude and hope. Maybe it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be thankful or hopeful about right now. Yet, I can still use these strengths to do exactly that and find more joy and inner strength in my day. I can look for stories of the kind deeds that so many people are doing right now and feel hopeful about how our society can pull through this. Even though I might be fed up with Zoom meetings and being confined to the house, I can be grateful that technology exists to facilitate my work, and that I have a roof over my head. You get the point…
Now, we obviously, can’t use all of our strengths all of the time — we have to be thoughtful about when and how we’re using them. For example, using the strength of humor wouldn’t be particularly helpful when a friend or co-worker is grieving the loss of a loved one. Similarly, the strength of curiosity might come across as being too nosy in some contexts. So, as you start using your signature strengths in new ways, be mindful of when and to what extent you’re bringing them forth.
You might be thinking this is a nice exercise, but how the heck is it going to help me get through the rest of this pandemic? Great question, to which there are several answers. We know from oodles of research that becoming aware of and using our character strengths connects to an increase in:
· Job and life satisfaction
And, a decrease in:
· Depressive symptoms
I think we can agree that all of these outcomes are desirable at the best of times, but even more so right now.
Plus, here’s the best part — identifying and using your character strengths doesn’t just benefit you. It can benefit everyone around you. Have your family take the survey, have your team take the survey, have friends take the survey. Then, have a meeting to compare and discuss the results for everyone’s top strengths. This is fun, and it leads to greater understanding, communication, and cooperation in groups as people gain insight into each other’s strengths. And, again, we need more of all of that right now so we can continue to support one another.
Then, get to work on using your special super-powers in new ways that will revitalize you and your team. You’ve got this!
If you’ve got questions or you just want to share how you’ve been using your signature strengths, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org — I always love to hear from you. Plus, if you want me to address a specific topic in these posts, just let me know.
Also, if you want some simple practices that can increase positivity for you and your team, just download my book for free: 25 Tips for Leaders: How to Leverage the Science of Happiness to Increase Performance, Productivity, and Profitability.