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Engaging Activities to Help Others Apply Their Strengths

By VIA Institute on Character

6 Research-Based Activities to Help Others Apply their Strengths

While each of the 24 VIA strengths may have different applications to build them up, below are some exercises that can potentially help with any character strength. To help your clients, students or employees begin to take action with their strengths, suggest that they try one of these research-based activities:

Self-Monitoring -Self-monitor for the strength: observe yourself in various situations. Write down when you use the strength and when you don’t. Track what happens just before you use the strength, and how you feel and think while you use it. Track the circumstances in which you overuse the strength and when you forget about it or under-use it. For this exercise, some people carry a small notebook with them to track these various points. A simpler version is what has been done in research studies on kindness which is simply to write down the number of kind acts you perform each day.

Journaling -Write or journal about the strength. This is both an exploration activity but also might be an application activity. For several strengths, expressing the strength in a written letter (e.g., gratitude letter, forgiveness letter) has powerful internal and interpersonal benefits.

Strengths in New Ways -Use the strength in a new way. This is the classic strengths-building exercise shown in research studies. The premise is to take action with one of your top strengths by conceiving of one new way to use or express the strength each day. Typically, this strategy involves using curiosity as you seek novel and new ways to do things, creativity to generate new ideas each day, or perspective to see the bigger picture as to what might be both interesting and useful for you.

Strengths Paragons -Emulate a paragon, role model, or exemplar of a particular strength. Much of our learning occurs through observation. Practice acting or thinking the way a role model for one of your strengths would act or think. If you’re wanting to build up leadership and fairness, emulate the best qualities of Gandhi; if it’s bravery and honesty, turn to Atticus Finch; if it’s kindness and humility, turn to Mother Teresa. Keep in mind that often the most powerful role models are those in our daily life and those who have served as mentors to you.

Creating Habits -Practice using the strength. Make the strength a routine, simply part of your daily existence. Once the strength becomes habit, it will feel more like the real you.

Your Best Possible Self -Imagine using the strength in the future. If you want to build up the strength of perspective, image yourself at a time in the future in which you take the wider view of things, you see the bigger picture, you tap into your accumulated wisdom, you are able to gather wisdom from multiple source, and you offer sound advice to others in need.