Continuing my insights from the series of Coursera classes on Positive Psychology (link here), this blog post will share more tools beyond Savoring (link here) and Cultivating Positive Emotions (link here).
Positive Practice Tool: Utilizing your Character Strengths
Utilizing your Character Strengths is a significant part of putting Positive Psychology into practice. By focusing on implementing your natural strengths, you are more likely to experience engagement & flow. This tool has been a challenging one for me to implement.
The VIA Strengths tool (link here) is recommended for identifying your signature strengths. After you have identified your strengths, it is recommended to write down your strength stories, times when you used your signature strengths. (That was relatively easy to do but all examples were from my work life.) It is also important to understand how to balance your strength and not over use it. (Every strength has a shadow side of over-use.) You are encouraged to brainstorm activities, projects, or situations where you can use your signature strengths.
I was slightly surprised with one of my signature strengths being creativity. I am certainly not an artist, nor have any of my crafting activities really come to fruition. I dabble but have not found anything extremely appealing to continue. Understanding that my creativity was about synthesizing information and finding frameworks has helped. And, it was also pointed out to me that doing crossword puzzles is actually a creative activity!
I am still trying to identify non-work related activities or projects that will utilize all my signature strengths. And since perseverance is one of those strengths, I will continue to put forth this effort, which brings me to the next tool.
Positive Practice Tool: Goal Setting
Goal Setting is another tool for putting Positive Psychology into practice. Goals – both setting them and achieving them – can give you a sense of purpose, can increase positive emotion (pride, joy), can add structure to your days, can teach you to strategize and prioritize, can keep you grounded in time of uncertainty, and can connect you to others (shared goals). So many positive aspects!
Often people in retirement don’t want to set goals as it feels too much like “work”. But with so many positive aspects to goal setting, it remains a key tool in happiness achievement.
Of course, your life goals will be unique to you, but an important thing to consider when setting goals is to make the goal intrinsic. That means that a goal nurtures your psychological needs of 1) autonomy (you need to feeling in control of the outcome), 2) competence (you have mastery or can gain it), and 3) relatedness (consider goals that support connection to others & belonging).
Life goals to maximize wellbeing are activity/experience based (not things) – supporting positivity practice #2: Invest in Experiences (link here to full list). Also, it is important to acknowledge current life situations when setting a goal. For me, as I think about goals for utilizing my signature strengths, that includes my physical limitations as I age, as well as the pandemic situation we are in right now.
A recent read of the book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway led to a Big AHA for me – Underlying my fear (my risk aversion) in activating some of my “life goals” is my lack of trust in myself, especially my physical capability. This awareness has made me start to look at how I can breakdown life goal activities into smaller, achievable steps, like increasing my physical strength capability.
Achievement of a goal can be as simple as checklists check offs! (I love my lists.) But I am also working on creating some more measurable goals around utilizing my signature strengths, activating my “someday I will” list (overcoming fears), and monitoring my successes in putting Positive Psychology into practice (increasing my sense of achievement).
Do you know your signature strengths? Are you setting life goals to maximize your wellbeing and increase your feeling of happiness at this point in your life?