With everything going on in the US and around the world, one thing has become crystal clear to me: our character strengths are more essential than ever before.
Can you imagine what daily life might be like if each of us, including world leaders and politicians, consistently elevated his or her signature strengths? Especially in the most contentious of times? Based on decades of research, I can realistically imagine creative problem solving, collaboration, more physical and mental health, meaning, and joy – the things many of us need more of right now.
The practice below focuses on one slice of this big, complex pie. It highlights a recent article by strengths experts Tayyab Rashid and one of VIA's Senior Scientists Robert E. McGrath. It describes at length how character strengths can enhance our ability to feel good and function well, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article is an important resource for you as a leader, parent, or strengths enthusiast because it offers 101 actionable practices you can easily integrate into your daily routines and share with your team or family. The post below provides the context you need to focus on strengths and build well-being each day. All you have to do is carve out a few minutes daily to experiment and share.
How Can Strengths Help?
Public health measures such as face coverings and physical distancing aren’t the only measures that can help us navigate this prolonged pandemic. Focusing on character strengths can help soften intense emotions, like the fear and anger that often accompany this unnatural state of physical distance. It helps us reframe challenges using a positive lens of strengths. This not only allows us to shift away from what isn’t working, but it provides the tools that allow us to build what works – systems and practices that help us through the crises we face.
Integrating your character strengths in small doses, in things you’re already doing, can help you right now through hardships brought about by political, economic, and daily life challenges. Whether you’re a parent confronted with your kids’ remote learning challenges, a business leader struggling to keep your doors open, or an unemployed or underemployed individual seeking income, applying your character strengths even in small doses daily can help you cope with stress, reframe challenges, boost your mental and physical health, connect meaningfully with others, and build hopeful and positive futures.
I love to experiment with character strengths and encourage my clients to do the same. Here are 101 actions you can immediately experiment with, beginning on page 127 of the article. They’re categorized based on the results you desire; whether you’re seeking to manage stress, stay healthy, or grow personally (see below for examples).
Try #97. Spending so much time at home will inevitably present a simple problem you suddenly find difficult to solve. Check in with your feelings. If you’re feeling anxious, take a break if the problem isn’t urgent. Do something to generate positive emotions – take a movement break, call a friend, put a few pieces in the puzzle. Then return to the problem with a fresh perspective and greater likelihood of solving the problem (social intelligence and judgment).
Try #43. Fight cabin fever by getting into action. Run, hike, climb, do a few yoga poses. (zest, creativity, self-regulation). Or #44 – one of my favorites. Stop eating before you are full, especially with the holidays approaching. (self-regulation, prudence)
If you haven’t identified your unique blend of character strengths, or if you wish to update your results, take the free character strengths survey to discover where your strengths currently reside. Make sure to keep your results handy when you attempt this practice!
Experiment on your own or with your family, team, or a group of friends. The steps below will guide you.
- Each day for the next week, decide whether you wish to: manage your stress, boost your health, grow or build skills, boost a connection, or support a social cause. Why did you choose this goal?
- Next, choose one of the practices and put it into action. Feel free to choose different practices each day or stay with one. However you feel moved.
Complete this reflection to gain some perspective.
I chose this activity because _____. As I completed it, I noticed that ________.
Did you realize or learn something? Feel a sense of pride or accomplishment? Take a brave step toward something meaningful?
May you feel confident returning to your strengths again and again, no matter what is happening around or within you.