(quick “commercial” announcement: Ismini’s Series has me thinking a lot about Authentic and Lasting Happiness – and in an inspired conversation with Jeff Gignac I asked him if he could create a brain wave entrainment recording that would put people in the emotional state of Happiness. I am sure you will agree, when you check out what he has done, that he has taken my original request much, much further. When you finish this post be sure to check out: The Soul Enhancement Series
now – back to Ismini’s phenomenal article……)
WHAT ARE SIGNATURE STRENGTHS?
“I am going to discover my unique talents, and finding my unique talents, I am going to enjoy myself, because the process of enjoyment occurs when I go into timeless awareness. That’s when I’m in a state of bliss”. (The Law of Dharma, Deepak Chopra)
I used this excerpt from Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, because I believe that when he speaks of talents, he does not use the word in its strict sense, referring only to artistic talent, but in a wider sense that includes all our special abilities – our signature strengths. Signature strengths are not synonymous with talent; they are permanent positive personality traits. One major difference between talent and signature strengths is that the latter can be developed and built upon. Another major difference is that talent is something more or less innate, while signature strengths can be acquired.
Most of us do not possess all the signature strengths that I will be presenting in this and the next article and we do not have to! Most of us, however, possess some of these traits, and research findings point to this conclusion: people are happiest when they learn to consciously use their signature strengths in every day living. I would also like to stress that this presentation is not prescriptive, telling you who to be in order to be happy, but has the purpose of helping you locate your signature strengths and enhance them for your own personal joy and happiness.
It’s a hopeful, optimistic and empowering concept, I believe: it carries the message that the seeds, the potential for happiness and long-term satisfaction in our lives, lie within us. The exercise of our signature strengths leads to a deep and lasting sense of gratification, because they require our participation, involvement and ultimate growth, versus other simpler pleasures that more or less require getting things, or consuming things, or passively enjoying things. It’s the difference between entertainment and recreation. It’s the different kind of joy between having a drink and playing a good set of tennis. Both types of joy and pleasure have their place and purpose. Simply, the gratification we get out of exercising our signature strengths is of a deeper, and longer-lasting quality.
Moreover, it’s liberating in the sense that you do not need to espouse some philosophy new or old, you do not have to follow another’s path to happiness no matter how enthusiastic he/she is about his/her discovery, but carve out your own by following your heart, by paying attention to what makes YOU tick and cultivating it. That way, your happiness has YOUR signature on it!
HOW DO I IDENTIFY MY SIGNATURE STRENGTHS?
There are 24 signature strengths, that have been identified through the research conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman and his team, clusters of which serve 6 virtues, that all cultures, religions and traditions agree upon: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity and Love, Justice, Temperance, and finally Transcendence. In this article, I will discuss the first two virtues, and their corresponding signature strengths. As you read their description, you will know whether you possess each particular strength if, while you read them, you feel the following:
This is me – this is my element, it describes me completely. You feel you “own” it, and you celebrate it in yourself.
You get a sense of excitement when you are using it.
Learning and practicing the strength has felt and feels natural and easy for you. It flows so naturally out of you that it seems inevitable, or unstoppable.
You feel drawn to it, and therefore you continually look for ways to use it. You invent projects or actively seek opportunities that revolve around it.
You feel invigorated (rather than drained) while using it. You feel joy, zest, enthusiasm, even a quiet kind of ecstasy.
You can also rate yourself, on a scale from 1 to 5 as to how much this strength is really you. Your signature strengths will be the ones that get the highest scores. If on some strenghts you rate yourself as a 3 or 2, it doesn’t mean that you do not possess it, but that it is not a signature strength.
WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” Socrates
1. Curiosity/Interest in the world
If you possess this strength you are very open to new experiences and very flexible in your way of thinking. Things do not have to fit your preconceptions; you are open to and curious about new theories, new approaches, new developments in many fields. You are able to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity and in fact you like it, and are intrigued by it. Your curiosity may revolve around one specific field of knowledge, or may include many areas. You actively seek new information and new experiences. You are rarely bored.
2. Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether you are still in school, or you are learning on your own. You are attracted to any opportunity that allows you to learn something new: school, libraries, museums, field-trips, exhibitions, travel, etc. Perhaps, there are areas of knowledge that you are considered “the expert” by people in your environment. Your love of learning in those areas does not stem from external incentives – for example, developing a new skill for the sake of advancement in your job. You love learning for its own sake, and you are thrilled every time you learn something new.
3. Judgment/Critical Thinking/Open-mindedness
You enjoy thinking things through, and you never make snap judgments. You are able to sift information objectively and rationally, and rely on solid evidence to make your decisions. People can count on your rationality and objectivity and seek your advice when in need. You do not confuse your own wants and needs with the facts of the world. You are reality-oriented, stable in your views, yet flexible enough to change your mind in the face of new evidence or new information. You do not think in all-or-nothing terms. When making decisions you consider whether they are in the service not only of your good, but of others’ as well.
4. Ingenuity/Originality/Practical Intelligence/Street Smarts
You like to think of new ways of doing things. You are not content doing things the conventional way. You are very interested in finding novel, unusual ways of reaching your goals. When you are seeking a solution to a problem, you come up with many alternative solutions instead of just one. You make good use of your imagination; you are able to transfer knowledge, principles, paradigms from one area of study to another. You like setting challenging goals and taking calculated risks. You are decisive: you quickly find out what works and do it without hesitation. You often cut through the red tape and bend the rules to get the job done.
5. Social Intelligence/Personal Intelligence/Emotional Intelligence
You have good intuitive knowledge of self and others. You understand you own feelings and know how they affect your behavior. You have good emotional self-control. You are able to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, and take an active interest in their concerns. You are very attentive to emotional cues and you are a good listener. You immediately notice differences and changes in others with respect to their mood, temperament and motivations and you adapt your behavior according to these distinctions. You are able to fit in in any social situation. You are able to cultivate rapport and attunement with a broad variety of people. Your intuition has guided you to find your own niche – the appropriate environment for maximizing your skills and interests.
You are always able to look at things and see the big picture. You are able to integrate personal experience with knowledge and reach wise solutions to challenges. You are able to discern the core of problems, instead of getting side-tracked by unimportant details. People consider you a wise, knowledgeable, rational person and frequently seek your advice. You are good at mentoring and coaching others. Your actions are always guided by your moral values.
“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
7. Valor and Bravery
You do not shrink from threat, challenge, pain, or difficulty. You are able to look fear in the face and overcome it. You are one of those brave people who have learned to resist the behavioral response of flight whenever you experience fear. You remain composed, positive and unflappable even in trying moments. You display moral courage and are able to stand up for your ideals even though they may be unpopular or bring you ill fortune. You are assertive: you stand up for your beliefs despite criticism and stand up for your rights. You empower others by your example. You possess psychological courage, which includes the stoic attitude needed to face serious ordeals and persistent illness.
You always finish what you start. When you set a goal you persist until you find a way to achieve it. You enjoy taking on difficult projects and completing them. You are not daunted by obstacles or setbacks. You are good at setting realistic, attainable goals and focusing intently on them. You are dedicated, but flexible and not perfectionistic. You often pursue goals beyond what’s expected or required of you. You enjoy taking initiative and are not afraid of responsibility. You hold yourself accountable for meeting your objectives.
Most people develop instant trust when they meet you. You are honest, simple, straightforward and genuine in the expression of you feelings and reactions. Your life reflects your authenticity and genuineness. You are down to earth, without pretense, and very easy to approach. You never misrepresent yourself to cover up for your faults. You easily admit mistakes. You always keep your promises to yourself and others. You mean what you say and say what you mean.
How well have you done already? How many of these signature strengths do you identify with? Keep your score, until the next article with the rest of them. At the end, you’ll be amazed at how many channels you have available to you to express your authentic self and in that expression gain great joy and satisfaction.
Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Authentic Happiness
Daniel Goleman, Working With Emotional Intelligence
Ismini Apostoli is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, practicing in Greece and offering online services throughout the world. She is particularly interested in self- esteem, self-development and self-actualization and helping people uncover their special gifts and talents. You can find out more by visiting http://www.yourempowermenttherapist.com.