Put Your Strengths to a Good Use

Put Your Strengths to a Good Use

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Remember the parable of the talents? The father in the parable was pleased with the son who put his talents to good use.

According to contemporary positive psychology, too, when you consistently utilize your talents and strengths over time, your efforts are most likely to please others and provide you personal satisfaction and happiness, as well.

There are certain strengths and virtues that are universally praised and encouraged by ancient and contemporary religions, philosophies and cultures of both East and West. "Character" used to be a big value once upon a time. Character with certain strengths and values was supposed to be behind great and wonderful things accomplished by people.

Psychologist Martin Seligman analyzed the personal strengths and virtues extolled in ancient and contemporary religions and philosophies around the world. He found remarkable agreement across the millennia and across the oceans regarding precisely what those strengths and virtues are.

Here are the six "core virtues" identified by Seligman in Authentic Happiness: 1) wisdom and knowledge; 2) courage; 3) love and humanity; 4) justice; 50 temperance and 6) spirituality and transcendence.

A core virtue sits at the fulcrum of several individual strengths. For example, the core virtue, "courage," contains such individual strengths as "valor and bravery," "perseverance and diligence," and "integrity and honesty."

Sometimes, we don't really know what our strengths are until we are challenged by certain circumstances and events. At other times, we don't maximize our strengths until something happens to light a fire under us. Let's refer to them as "trial strengths."

Perseverance, courage, honesty and patience are examples of trial strengths. They corroborate the saying, "when things get tough, the tough get going."

Some of the strengths, notably kindness, loyalty, curiosity, or spirituality, don't necessarily require a challenge in order to surface or grow in our lives. These are "all-season" strengths that are self-initiated and seem to be based on our value system and unique personal experiences.

Some of the strengths are natural to us. As we look back, we can remember that we demonstrated those strengths pretty early on in our lives. There are, of course, exceptions because a unique and highly significant personal event can cause total personal transformation in an individual.

Part of the "know thyself" process is to know what your natural strengths are. Success and personal satisfaction comes from further developing your natural strengths. For example, in my case, one of my natural strengths is helping people. I do this by way of counseling and self-help writing. Whenever I put this natural strength to work, I feel invigorated and fulfilled.

Everybody should make a conscious choice between pursuing a "life of pleasure" and a "life of values." What do you want for yourself? Pursuit of values will eventually lead to happiness. But, pursuit of pleasure can be tricky and blow up in one's face because it's not always easy to realize when one has stepped onto a slippery slope.

Living a life of values is like working on solid ground. The ground may be initially hard to dig, but if you dig, sow seed and water it, plants shall one day grow.

Utilizing your strengths on a daily basis at home, work and in the community is like sowing seeds in the ground and watering them.

Recognize your strengths and employ them every day and every opportunity you get at home, work or in the community. You will experience greater energy and satisfaction. When you put your strengths to work in your workplace, you are likely to feel invigorated, cheerful and positive about life even at the end of the day.

To take the opposite example, say you are working hard and using some kind of strengths, but they are not really your natural strengths. Your work is likely to amount to "grunt work" and you are likely to feel drained at the end of the day.

In the last century, the topic of character was kept at bay by scientists and educators and even by caregivers, because the topic was "value laden." But, the fact remains that it's impossible to live a good life without values.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 
Posted October 2002


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