Your Signature Strengths

A few years ago Martin Seligman (former President of the American Psychological Association and developer of positive psychology, a significant force in the current mental health environment) and Christopher Peterson came up with this notion of Signature Strengths – those qualities we are nstrengthsaturally drawn to and which are considered to be positive (and have for millennia).  There are 24 of these and it is possible to visit a web site and go through a 30 minute test that will give you a sense of your top signature strengths.  You can access this test here (scroll down to the VIA Survey of Character Strengths).    Seligman describes these different strengths so well in his book Authentic Happiness.  In a more detailed discussion, Seligman and Peterson in their book Character Strengths and Virtues (a book I purchased out of an excess of enthusiasm only to decide that the tome was helpful, but did not merit it’s size or price) break the 24 strengths into Six Categories: Wisdom and Knowledge; Courage; Humanity; Justice; Temperance and Transcendence.  What I particularly appreciated about this material is similar to the value I find in Myers-Briggs psychological type.  Many of us struggle with the belief that there is something about our basic nature that is inadequate.  We aren’t smart enough, or clever enough, or spiritual, empathic, mentally tough, athletic or social enough.  These products of “programing” we received from parental figures who, themselves, struggled with their own sense of defect and want,  leave us with an inflated sense of what is missing in our character and an altogether limited idea of our own personal assets.   The most successful, content people in the world have holes in their character and the most confused have great, though unmined, character strengths.  Recognizing, and playing to, those strengths is a key to life satisfaction, as Seligman teaches.  He suggests that we seek out work that allows us to exercise these strengths and indulge in recreation that lets us express them.  Great advice in my book.  I invite you to take the test linked above and explore it’s benefits.