A couple of weeks ago I heard a fascinating talk about Positive Psychology and the impact it can have on happiness. One of its principles is that if we focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses – and when we're able to honour and use our innate strengths in our personal and professional lives – we'll all be a lot happier.
You may think that this sounds obvious, but think about the "real world" where it's often more common for people to pick up on other people's weaknesses and criticise them rather than encouraging their strengths. Come to think of it, how often do we beat ourselves up for not doing something well enough rather than patting ourselves on the back for doing a great job?
I loved this talk – it spoke to many of the principles that are dear to my heart – and so I thought I'd pass on some of the ideas and applications that came from it…
The Strength Story
Think of a time when you were absolutely at your best. Where were you? What were you doing? Who else was there? What strengths were you demonstrating? Recall this experience in as much detail as you can. Just doing this should have a positive impact, but you could take it further: Share it with a family member, friend or colleague and invite them to recall their experience too. You could write it down and keep it (perhaps re-read it if you're having an off day), or illustrate it and pin it up somewhere. Can you think of other ways to use this? With your children perhaps?
Focus on your Strengths
What would you say are your top five strengths? (If you're unsure there's an online assessment you can take which will give you a report of your Top Five Strengths. Choose one of the five and use it as your "theme for the week". If you encounter a problem or challenge, or if you have a tough decision to make, draw on that strength to help you handle it.
360 Degree Positive Feedback
This is my favourite. Apparently at the Positive Psychology offices they hold regular feedback sessions where each person is given positive feedback from everyone else in the room. Amongst other things they're told what everyone appreciates about them and what they've done really well in the last week. Just imagine what it would be like if this was done in offices all over the country? Wouldn't it be great? What could the effect be if we did regular positive feedback at home as well?
I appreciate that life can't always be as relentlessly upbeat as this, and that there can be a place for constructive negative feedback and improvement, but I'm a firm believer of how much happier we'd be if we made a conscious effort to focus on our own, and others' strengths.
© Annabel Sutton Coaching Tips 2009
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