Honesty. Loyalty. Perseverance. Creativity. Kindness. Wisdom. Courage. Fairness. These and sixteen other character strengths are valued in every culture in the world. We believe that you can get more satisfaction out of life if you identify which of these character strengths you have in abundance and then use them as much as possible in work, in hobbies, and with friends and family.
Exercises for Strength-Building
Below you will find one exercise or strategy for boosting or working with each of the 24 character strengths. Many of these are based in good research and for those which research is not available, the best practice from expert opinion is shared. This is a small sample of strategies and it will always be incumbent on the individual to stay current on the latest research around applying strategies and positive psychology interventions.
Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence:
Research has shown that keeping a beauty log can enhance an individual’s engagement with beauty around them. The key is raising one’s consciousness. When something beautiful is seen or felt, whether it is from nature, is human-made (e.g., artwork), or is the virtuous behaviour of others (i.e., moral beauty), writing down thoughts and feeling in a log or journal can increase awareness and deepen experiences.
Research is finding that one of the most common ways people can increase their bravery is to focus on the outcome of the courageous act. In other words, focusing on the beneficial outcome of a brave act rather than focusing on fears can increase the likelihood of acting bravely.
Practicing divergent thinking is one of the most important research-based interventions to boost creativity. When facing a problem, brainstorm multiple alternatives rather than one solution to the problem
Curiosity can be built by consciously paying attention to and tracking things in one’s daily environment that have not been noticed before or things about familiar people that have gone unnoticed. The key is to encourage being “actively curious,” asking lots of questions, and making new, mini discoveries. In a more formal way, an individual may take an approach of naming three novel features of any activity that they are doing.
Imagining the experiences and appreciating the differences of others can boost the strength of fairness. Perspective-taking, cultural awareness and sensitivity training, and role-playing are ways to develop a more “other-focused” perspective, particularly when facing complex moral dilemmas.
There are many ways to boost forgiveness. The following is one example of a five step process: Recall the hurt; empathize as best you can – see the situation from the other person’s point of view; consider forgiveness as an act of altruism by recalling the gratitude felt over being forgiven; commit to forgive over the long-run; hold on to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process that takes time and needs to be repeated and practiced.
Counting one’s blessings is one of the most widely researched interventions to boost gratitude. It involves reflecting on one’s day and tracking the good things that happened throughout the day. Often the approach is to write down three of these good things that occurred, why one is grateful for them, and what role one played in the experience.
Recognize the degree to which the individual alters or modifies one’s own opinions, feelings and behaviour based on what they think other people’s expectations are. Work to develop relationships in which they can be authentic.
One research-based strategy that has been shown to boost hope is the – “best possible self” exercise. Take a moment to imagine a future in which one is bringing one’s best self forward and everything is happening as one wishes. This should be visualized in a way that is pleasing and realistic. Then, consider the character strengths needed in order to make that image a reality.
Some research has found that keeping track of the humorous and funny things that happen each day is a way to boost this strength. Writing down three funny things that occurred throughout the course of the day can build awareness and increase the use of humour.
Seeking and considering other viewpoints is the cornerstone of open-mindedness. When one is having a discussion with a person with an opposing viewpoint, take an approach of asking at least one clarifying question. The approach should be one that involves “collecting information” rather than “evaluating information.”
Some research notes there are benefits of practicing several random acts of kindness all in one day. Look for opportunities to conduct random acts of kindness and consider how you might set a plan to mix up the variety of kind acts committed each week.
In addition to competently using one’s strengths, leadership requires highly developed organizational skills. This takes planning and goal setting. Consider ideas and opportunities in which the individual can practice taking a leadership role in activities, groups, or organizations, even if the task seems minor or trivial.
Lovingkindness meditation is an effective way to experience and boost the strength of love. This form of meditation provides a way to consciously tap into one’s inner resources of love through imagery and affirmative statements of one’s capacity for love and of the power and beneficial effects of love in the world. There are books and CD’s that can lead an individual through this meditative practice.
Love of Learning:
To build love of learning, it’s important to identify where the highest interests in learning are and then work to discover the preferred ways of learning about that subject; whether self-initiated, by reading, searching the internet, through a class, via hands-on experiences, peer learning groups, or by viewing video clips or documentaries. Pursue the learning of interest, systematically digging deeply into the material.
One intervention experts recommend is to look for humility/modesty exemplars among family, friends, philosophical lore, movies, or spiritual readings. Then create a “Hall of Humility” that is a listing of all of these findings and discuss how these learnings might be applied into daily life.
An intervention that has been shown to boost wisdom-related knowledge is to imagine having a conversation with a wise person about a problem. Imagine the full dialogue in terms of questions asked, responses given, the nuances of the discussion, and any advice that would be offered.
Re-framing setbacks or failures as learning opportunities and ideas for growth can boost the strength of perseverance. Setbacks can be viewed as providing useful information so that the individual can overcome obstacles, be less inclined to “give up,” and persist toward their goal.
Practice conducting cost-benefit analyses of problems. Write out the costs and benefits of taking a particular action and the costs and benefits of not doing that action (resulting in four quadrants).
Research has found that the best way to build this character strength is to exercise some area of discipline on a regular basis. Self-monitoring is one pathway. Consider a behaviour one wishes to change (e.g., eating more healthy, exercising more, managing finances better) and begin to track it with honest detail (e.g., keeping a food diary or an exercise log). Continue to closely monitor the behaviour while slowly making changes.
Consider who might be “a wise, spiritual role model.” Researchers describe this as taking an approach of “observational spiritual learning.” The model could be someone from a book or movie, someone in the public eye, or a person in one’s life. Reflect on how this person has conducted their life in a way that is spiritually-driven and meaning-filled.
Social intelligence can be cultivated through the practice of mindfulness, increasing awareness of the thoughts and feelings of one’s self and others. After one becomes aware of an emotion, the next step is to label it, and if appropriate, express it to another. It may be useful to consider how this has an impact on the social context.
In order to become a better team member, it is important to notice and express positive emotions (e.g., gratitude, joy, humour, hope) to other team members. In addition, it’s important to take an open-minded and curious stance in understanding others’ points of view as opposed to just advocating for one’s own.
Building zest involves increasing energy. While being mindful of what is manageable per one’s physical health status, find ways to increase daily movement, exercise, or activities to engage in. Wearing a pedometer is one way to measure activity and self-motivate toward increases in activity level. The first step is to get a baseline of the average amount of steps taken daily and then slowly work on incremental increases each week.