Early on in life, we start to hear about the dichotomy of strength and weakness. While there is a time and place to focus on both, research in the field of positive psychology teaches us about the immense power of knowing, focusing on, and developing our strengths.
Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson, authors of Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, define strength as, “a combination of talents (naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feeling, and behavior), knowledge (facts and lessons learned), and skills (the steps of an activity).”
But you can break it down even further. Once you recognize the categories of strengths –– its many hues, so to speak –– you can start noticing strengths in yourself and others and even begin to blend your strengths to elevate your contributions, increase your engagement, and improve your well-being.
Researchers debate on how to separate or combine categories of strengths. And while there is quite a bit of overlap, there is also value in their distinctions, particularly when it comes to helping us recognize and enhance our strengths.
It’s easy to limit our perception of strengths and associate it with something that is “natural,” but that can create false limitations. The truth is, with effort, dedication, and a willingness to learn, you can cultivate and develop your many strengths.
First, identify your personal strengths. Need some motivation? Research suggests that if you’re able to pinpoint and use those strengths every day, it increases levels of happiness.
Once you’ve identified your strengths, focus on developing and blending them. Just remember, you can “overuse” them. For example, forgiveness is a strength but, if overused, it can lead to repeating patterns and mistakes that don’t serve you. If this was one of your strengths, and you found yourself leaning in too far, you might want to try and blend it with another strength –– an aptitude for confidence or self-love, maybe? Or perhaps you’re a talented public speaker… You could turn all of your experiences, both good and bad, with forgiveness into motivation for others.
Consider taking a broad and multidimensional approach to strengths, focusing on how it can help you be the best version of yourself. The more you live and work in alignment with its different types –– personality, character, values, talents/skills, interests/passions –– and the better you become at navigating its pits and peaks, the more fulfilled and energetic you will be.