Psychological Character Strengths & Embracing One’s Potential

Have you ever heard of psychological character strengths by any chance?  This subject, within the field of Positive Psychology, is extremely meaningful and has been helpful to many people for over a decade.  It’s been researched by various psychologists in the past and present, and continues to be significantly relevant going forward in all sorts of ways.  As a person who aspires to become a professional of Positive Psychology, Coach, Educator, and Writer, all towards enhancing peoples’ lives and helping others access their potential, I love the value and meaningfulness of character strengths and their relationship towards uniquely identifying and acting upon what’s great about people.

Everyone has talents, skills, and abilities which are both natural and learned over the course of time and life experience.  What ultimately matters is awareness, understanding, and action for each and every one of us to lead lives in the direction we care about, embracing happiness, fulfillment, meaning, purpose and beyond.  No matter who you are, what job you have or don’t have, where you are located, or whether you have loved ones or colleagues/supporters in your life right now, everyone has their own unique capacity for growth and potentiality within them.  With time, effort and life experience, you can learn, grow, experience life to the fullest, achieve your goals and aspirations, and embrace bonds of friendship, collaboration, and beyond in your life going forward.

The first thing to figure out is who you truly are, what defines you, how are you unique (because trust me you are, because no two people are the same in this world), what are you passionate about/what excites and energizes you in life, and what you have to contribute to the world.  I know that looks like and sounds like a whole lot to engage in and learn about, but understand this: a) Simplify anything complex to its basic form(s) and solutions become realized, and b) It’s said that the hardest path is usually the most meaningful one.  Here’s my own life’s example: I’ve learned that I see/recognize meaning wherever I go and with whomever I come to know.  Whether this is a talent, skill, or ability, who knows?  I call it a talent/gift only because when I thought about it, I realized that that’s been a strong part of me for many years now and I honestly did not cultivate this about myself.  I can remember different acquaintances and friends over the years, which bit by bit increased over time, of whom I talked to, got to know, and just knew that they were amazingly unique in their own ways.  When I talk and get to know someone, in-person or online at first and they’re genuine, I can immediately see their greatness and potential.  As far as the particular person goes, the details are always based on the factors I mentioned above in the beginning of this paragraph, alongside the strengths they possess as well.  My hope, in terms of my own goals and aspirations, is to use that aspect of me among others, to help guide others and make meaningful impact in their lives.  What’s meaningful and infinitely interesting about human beings is that who we are and what we are capable of is powerful beyond measure.

So, getting back to Psychological Character Strengths, researchers have found and learned about 24 psychological character strengths which encompass human beings.  People generally have these strengths and they show in unique ways.  There’s a research institute called the Values In Action (VIA) Institute of Character, which has created a free survey called ViaMe! for anyone to take on their website, http://www.viacharacter.org, and it provides you with your character strengths profile.  That profile, which will be illuminating for you (trust me, I took it two and a half years ago, and even took it again recently to see how I’ve grown and changed since then), will rank you and your character strengths from highest to lowest.

The first five strengths that you’ll learn about from your profile are called your Signature Strengths; these are the ones you embody, enjoy and are excited to be a part of in many, if not all parts of your daily life.  The next 13 strengths on your list are called your Middle Strengths; these are still important for you in your daily life, they’re just not the ones you immediately use unless the situation calls for it, or you only use in one part of your life (at work, for example) compared to your first five strengths.  The last five strengths you’ll find out about are called your Lesser Strengths; these are the ones that aren’t as natural for you, take more time and energy for you to bring out of yourself in the moments of your life.  The great news is, with effort and life experience, you can actually raise your Lesser Strengths.  Here’s an example from my own life: When I first took the VIA Survey, Leadership was actually one of my Lesser Strengths; the truth is, I knew that about myself because I never saw myself or engaged in any situations/opportunities to be a Leader from my childhood onward.  Since then (Spring 2011), with time and life experience I came to realize what inspires me, how exactly I want to contribute to peoples’ lives and the world at large, and who I envision myself to be in the present and the future.  When I took the VIA Survey a second time, the day before my birthday this year in fact (late September), I found out that my character strength of Leadership amazingly rose to one of my Middle Strengths.  That was a wonderful, surreal moment for me; yet when I thought about it, I understood why because I knew that I’m not even the same person that I was two and a half years ago.  I’ve grown, developed and evolved into a better version of myself, embracing who I am, what I have to offer people and the world, and I want as many people as possible to experience the same in their own unique ways within their lives.

All 24 psychological character strengths are placed in six different categories: a) Wisdom and Knowledge, b) Courage, c) Humanity, d) Justice, e) Temperance, and f) Transcendence.  Here’s the breakdown for you: a) Wisdom and Knowledge houses the strengths that you use when processing information and applying what you learn, b) Courage houses the strengths that you use via your emotions when it comes to willpower alongside seeking and achieving your goals when obstacles stand in your way, both out in the world and within yourself, c) Humanity houses the strengths that you use when it comes to forming and taking care of your relationships with other people in general, d) Justice houses the strengths that you use while being a productive member of society and/or living alongside other people within a community in generally conducive ways, e) Temperance houses the strengths that you use to protect yourself from being engulfed in so much, generally speaking, that you lose yourself in the process, or become a kind of person you don’t want to be, and f) Transcendence houses the strengths that you use when you want and seek meaning in your life, engage in embracing one’s higher calling, and/or connection to others and the world around you.

Here are the 24 psychological character strengths that have been found about, listed on the VIA Institute website and which are grouped under each of the above categories: a) Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment, Love of Learning, and Perspective (wisdom); b) Bravery (valor), Perseverance (persistence, industriousness), Honesty (authenticity, integrity), and Zest (vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy); c) Love, Kindness (generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “niceness”), and Social intelligence (emotional intelligence, personal intelligence); d) Teamwork (citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty), Fairness, and Leadership; e) Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence, and Self-Regulation (self-control); and f) Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence (awe, wonder, elevation), Gratitude, Hope (optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation), Humor (playfulness), and Spirituality (faith, purpose).

So, if anyone has their interest piqued and/or is interested in learning more about themselves and how they can use their own collection of psychological strengths, how about going to http://www.viacharacter.org or their short-cut website to get your character strengths profile, http://www.viame.org, fill out the survey for yourself and experience what can happen for you going forward?  I’d love to hear back from any and all of you about your thoughts, ideas, feedback, and/or insights about this post, my blog posts in general, about Character Strengths, Positive Psychology, and beyond!

“Living in every moment requires the inner realization that none are ordinary, everything changes, humor is the spice of life, and it all begins and ends with choice.”
-Michael Teferi

This quote came to me as I was in the middle of researching and reading about Mindfulness, various meaningful quotes, the benefits of Laughter (Humor) for the mind and body, and the power of Choice.

It’s easy to say that being mindful allows people to live in and appreciate the moments of their lives.  At the same time though, it’s important to understand that the drawback to focusing solely on Mindfulness is that one’s goals and aspirations for the future can inherently be pushed to the side, not focused on and achieved.  Therefore, use Mindfulness when necessary for one’s well-being.  The benefits of Mindfulness for people are meaningful without question; they’ve been thoroughly researched in Psychology and are available for people to learn about if interested.  Just know that Mindfulness alone has its drawbacks; learning that and many other things from my former George Mason University professor of Psychology and current supporter, Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., was pretty insightful.

In life, Change is inevitable.  As much as we all want and appreciate reliability and consistency in our lives, and with people for that matter, in some way, shape or form we ultimately learn that Change happens all the time.  In nature, we see it everyday, whether it be through the weather, time, or aging, for example.  What matters is that we appreciate the value and meaningfulness of our experiences, take stock and move forward with the confidence that even as Change occurs, there are things about ourselves and life that actually are reliable and consistent across time and experience.  Whether it be our equilibrium within the body, the sun, the moon, time, and yes aging, for example, these parts of life among others are known to us and experienced all the time.  We can live life to the fullest, going with the flow while staying grounded and moving forward with purpose.

I’m sure people have heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  Well it’s very true in that it’s been proven via research that our minds and bodies experience tremendous benefits from Humor.  Whether it be through the release of hormones such as endorphins, or reducing stress hormones such as cortisol, or increasing the number of cells producing antibodies thereby enhancing our immune systems, or as noticeable in our everyday lives as social connectedness (connecting and enjoying the fun times with friends, family, co-workers, etc.), we experience the benefits of Humor in our lives and it’s better to embrace such opportunities than to not seize and enjoy what’s available to us.

The freedom of choice is powerful beyond measure.  When we realize that a great deal of our lives can be enhanced based on our choices, we understand that by knowing ourselves (i.e., our strengths, weaknesses, drives, motivations, traits/attributes, meaning and purpose) and deciding to choose to move forward in the direction we care about, we are able to enjoy our lives more fully, embracing opportunities both within our ourselves (growth and potential) and out in the world around us.  For years now, I have strongly believed in the power of Choice and am actively seeking the enhancement of peoples’ lives and achievement of their true potential.  In the end, everyone has their own life to lead, their own chosen paths, yet nobody in the world lives in a vacuum; I consider this a mixture of individual and mutual responsibility and I both enjoy and look forward to seeing people happy, driven, passionate, determined and moving forward with purpose in their lives.

How do you enjoy the moments of your life?  What do you do about and how do you perceive life’s changes?  How do you embrace your freedom of choice and move forward with purpose?  Please share any thoughts, ideas and/or experiences of your own.  Thank you in advance!

“Try to be as open-minded towards others and yourself as you can because you’ll never be able to truly live life otherwise.”
– Michael Teferi

This quote was actually my choice towards what I came up with for my senior year quote in my high school yearbook.  I’ve always valued, appreciated and embodied the meaningfulness of open-mindedness.  You never know what you’ll find, what you’ll learn, or who you’ll befriend/work with if not for embracing open-mindedness; otherwise, instead of embracing opportunity, you may be rejecting more than you realize.

How has being open-minded towards others and/or yourself been meaningful for you?  Please share any thoughts, ideas and/or experiences of your own.  Thank you in advance!

Wisdom of the movie: “Patch Adams” (Starring Robin Williams)

I am reminded of one of my favorite parts in the movie, Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams. Have you ever seen it?  If you haven’t, check it out; it’s based on a true story by the way!  I own it and it’s one of my favorite movies, for many reasons.

There’s a scene in which Robin Williams’ character (Patch–his nickname and movie namesake) is talking to one of the other patients inside a mental institution (Robin Williams’ character volunteered himself into the institution) and they have a pretty unique conversation.  Skipping some of the details…the man asks Patch how many fingers he is holding up.  The man has his hand up with fingers spread in front of Patch’s face.  Patch thinks the man’s being silly and doesn’t take him seriously at first.  Patch then answers ‘correctly’ by saying five (it may have been four fingers, don’t quote me).  Then, the man tells Patch he’s wrong.  He tells Patch to see through/see beyond the fingers, to look past them (something to that effect).  Afterwards, the movie shows Patch’s vision start to blur as he looks past the man’s fingers to the point where he counts eight (or ten) fingers total and answers as such to the man’s question.  Finally, the man laughs in agreement and affirms Patch in response.  Ultimately, what Patch learns from the man is: Don’t focus on the problem. If you’re focused on the problem, you can’t see the solution.

Have you ever noticed in your own life the difficulties inherent of focusing on the problem and not the solution?  On the other hand, have you ever noticed the benefits and meaningfulness inherent of finding solutions to problems via focusing on the solutions?  Please share any thoughts, ideas and/or experiences of your own.  Thank you in advance!

Life, Leadership, Potentiality and Connectedness

Growing up, I honestly never thought of myself as a leader.  In a way, I was a follower starting at an early age in elementary school who eventually came upon his own journey of self-discovery and learned more about himself, other people and life than he ever expected.  At this point in my life, I feel and believe that I’m a truly enhanced version of myself leaps and bounds compared to how I used to be; at the same time though, I know I have so much more growth and potential beyond who I am today.  I am reminded of one of my personal philosophies, pertaining to humanity as well as life itself: Humanity/Our lives are not static; people have the ability and capability to grow, develop and change, to become better versions of themselves.  Life is all about change; The weather, the seasons, time, age, you name it.  Even so, there are many things about people and life that are reliable, consistent.  If every person and life itself were static, there would be no growth, no experience.  The way I see it, everything has meaning in some way, shape or form.  You could say that I see/recognize meaning wherever I go and from whomever I come to know.