What happens when we move from asking what’s wrong with people to asking what’s right with them?
This is the question psychologist began to ask 20 years ago. It led to the birth of the positive psychology movement.
Positive psychology focuses on what promotes healthy psychological functioning.
Much of the past 20 years of positive psychological research, has focused on the benefits of using our strengths. There is an overwhelming body of research that shows that people perform better and are happier when they use their strengths.
Using your signature strengths is a critical key to your success in all areas of your life.
Strengths combine your talent with increased skill, knowledge, and practice. When you bring that combination to a level of mastery, then you’re operating in your strength.
Identifying your natural talent and interest is only the first step of cultivating your strength. Once you identify your strength, you want to focus as much time and energy as possible in developing it.
Developing your strength allows you to excel in your personal and professional life.
That’s why I spend so much time helping my clients, friends and children to focusing on their strengths.
Focusing on your strength is the easiest and the best pathway to excellence.
So for me, one of my strengths is asking questions.
I have the ability to ask a question that would blow open the conversation. People start thinking about the topic in new and different ways. My questions unpack underlying assumptions. It often causes us to question and clarify our goals.
Now that’s a fabulous strength when used wisely. It serves me well when I’m coaching clients, teaching and in planning and strategizing committee work.
But there are some committees that don’t benefit from my strength. They don’t want to question our assumptions. They don’t want to rethink what we’ve done. The focus of this committee is to execute a pre-established plan. In those committees, my strength of asking questions could be seen as a hindrance.
Thus, I use my knowledge of my strengths to decide how I can add the most value to my organization. I choose to serve on committees that are developing programs that are evaluating a new strategic direction. Those are the kinds of opportunities where my strengths can really add value. I stay away from committees where that that’s not their agenda.
Once you are aware of your strengths, you can position yourself to add maximum value. Using yours strengths wisely will not help you do your work better. And it will allow your company and colleagues to get the most from your presence.
Organizing your work around your strengths helps you to be more productive and to enjoy your work more.
Companies that use a system of strength-based feedback are much more profitable, productive, and do a better job of retaining employees.
Most all companies give some kind of annual review. But when you combine that review with a strength based approach you find that feedback is much more useful and results in increased profit.
Strength-based feedback involves helping employees to identify their strengths. It also includes giving them regular feedback around how they exercise strengths. It also includes suggestions on how they might want to exercise their strengths new in better ways.
Companies that use strength-based feedback are 8.9% more profitable. They are also 12.9 % more productive.
Using your strengths in your in your workplace makes you more productive and helps your company make more money. Now who doesn’t like that?
Research also shows that companies using a strength based approach to feedback have much higher rates of employee retention. Employee turnover is lowered by 15 % , simply by encouraging employees to use their strengths.
Whether you are an employee, manager, or a business owner, there is tremendous value in knowing and using your signature strength.
Helping the other people that you work with know and use their strengths daily will take your company to a level of extraordinary success.
Signature strengths have shown to be helpful in treating depression; even among the populations that are hard to treat. Senior adults battling depression are a particularly difficult population to treat, but have shown great success with strength-based interventions.
In one study, researchers asked senior adults to identify their signature strengths. Then they were asked to use their signature strength in new ways.
The research results showed that those adults were much less depressed and reported feeling much happier as a result of the intervention.
It’s fabulous that we can get these kinds of results without needing to rely on any kind of medication or drugs.
Using your signature strength in new ways is an exercise you can easily do to get yourself out of those waves of depression and help increase your happiness.
We’ve also learned that signature strengths can help improve your physical health.
Research shows that when you can connect your exercise routine to your signature strength, you get much better results.
When trainers design a exercise routine that is tailored to tap into your signature strengths, people are able to stay with the exercise routine longer. Because they stay with their exercise routine longer, they experience better positive changes in their health and well-being.
Signature strengths help people enjoy exercising and make more progress.
Each of us is unique.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all health and wellness package for anyone. Yes, we all need certain kinds of activity on certain kinds of educational experiences. We all need certain kinds of work based experiences.
Finding ways to connect those health, educational, and work experiences to our signature strengths will allow us to get more out of those experiences.
There are two widely used psychological assessments to identify your strengths: Clifton Strengths Finder and Values In Action (VIA) survey.
The Clifton Strengths Finder gives you an assessment of the top 34 strength characteristics.
Many corporations use the Clifton Strengths Finder as one of their formal employee or leadership assessment. There are some colleges and universities who are also incorporating this assessment among their incoming students.
You can buy the book Strengths Finder to get a code for a strengths profile assessment.
Another common strengths assessment is using the Values In Action (VIA) survey.
While the Strengths Finder is focused on identifying the activities that you’re really good at, the VIA focuses on who you are and how you show up in the world. This measures how you how show your core values in life and work.
VIA is one of the few assessments that are culturally universal. The creators of the VIA studied the values promoted in various cultures and created measures to assess those positive values. VIA has 24 signature strengths, which are all positive cultural values.
People who take the VIA survey will receive a ranking of all 24 values. The top five strengths on your VIA assessment are your signature strengths.
Click here for your personal VIA signature strengths assessment. You will be able to take the VIA survey, receive a detailed report of your results and a free 20min consultation. Here was can discuss how to have your signature strengths work better for you.
Here is another resource for a quick and easy way to identify their strengths. Click here for my “Strength Spotting: your guide to expressing your best self”. This guide has over 200 strengths. It includes the strengths from the Clifton Strength Finder, the VIA survey as well as other strengths identified in research literature.
Whichever path you choose; you owe it to yourself to get clear on your strengths.
Once you know your strengths, the best thing you can do for yourself is commit to cultivating those strengths daily.
Your strengths are your key to winning in all areas of your life.
I’m curious to learn about your strengths.
List your strengths below and let me know how they support you in work and life.
You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out. How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?
What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?
Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.
My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.
First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.
Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.
If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.
Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.
In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.
Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:
“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”
In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.
In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.
Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.
We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.
Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.
Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.
This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.
When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:
“We never abuse what we mindfully love.”
Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:
When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.
Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.
Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.
Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.
For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.
Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well. What a double blessing!
I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.
You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.
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