Recently, I became aware of using my strength of “Awe” (Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence) in a novel way. I was tagged to participate in a seven-day Challenge on Nature Photography. I woke up the first morning and, each day for the seven days, began the day thinking what might be my photo for the day. I was stepping outdoors with an eye for the unusual yet everyday beauty. My excitement grew each day with beauty I could capture and share with others. I was noticing everything and photographing ordinary moments, then delighting in choosing one to post onto Social Media.
We all have strengths — our own configuration — that allows us to be individuals. In fact, there are a number of online sites you can visit and take their survey. My favorite is http://www.viacharacter.org.
VIA stands for ‘virtues in action’ and came about as a result of a group of scientists over a three year period who studied cultures around the world and found what was considered the six most important virtues and within them, the 24 strengths that all people possess to varying degrees.
A short questionnaire will compile your strengths profile with the top five or six being your character (or signature) strengths. These virtues, expressed through our strengths, are who we are in the world. By consciously and mindfully using our strengths in different ways or noticing when we are expressing them in our life, our lives become richer and more fun.
When I learned my profile of strengths, I wasn’t surprised by my top five because it is how I live in the world. What I am learning is that by intentionally expressing them, my life is more meaningful and rewarding. I’ve also learned to focus on strengths that I don’t use as often (or, initially thought I wasn’t good at) and find ways to creatively use them as well as notice them in others. Knowing my personal profile of strengths has become a set of lanterns in my life that I can more consciously use especially during challenging times.
A question I am asked often is, “Can I change my strengths profile?” Yes, you can. Though our top five or six tend to be somewhat consistent because they more closely align with who we are and how we live in the world. Why would you want to change those? I’ve taken the online questionnaire several times and find some strengths do move up the list or trade places with another strength. A friend of mine told me that the strength of ‘Love of Learning’ moved higher on her list when she returned to school. So, yes, our profile can change depending on what we are focusing on in our life.
A practice I like to do is to use a top strength to explore a strength less used in my life. For example, curiosity is a top strength for me while teamwork is not one I use often. When the opportunity came along for me to work with a team working on a common goal, I used my curiosity to explore me working with the team. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me. I imagine if I were to re-visit the questionnaire, now, teamwork might be higher on my list because I’ve consciously focused on it as more a part of my life experience.
In my workshops, I teach virtues and strengths as a way to expand an understanding of who my students are as well as acknowledging what they are good at in their day-to-day. We are often, quite honestly, too focused on what may not be a top strength. Many us look to what’s wrong and ignore what is good which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. When we look to what we are good at and what our natural strengths are, life becomes more satisfying and fun.
Using my strength of awe in my 7-day photo challenge was most rewarding as each day I could offer beauty and joy in a time of conflict around the world. What strength can you use to expand your life and those around you?