Let's Get Ready for the Strengths Champion Challenge!

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Here at All Our Strengths we are getting ready for what we hope will become an annual event - the All Our Strengths Champion Challenge!

The goal of this challenge is to learn ways to become Strengths Champions in our own homes, schools, communities, and organizations….and in the process, to inspire others to do the same in their own corners of the world. 

A Strengths Champion uses their own strengths to help inspire, encourage, and cultivate the strengths in others.  A Strengths Champion helps transform a place or a group that they care about into a place where people's individual strengths are recognized and valued. This can be done in little ways such as simply naming the strengths you observe in the people around you and helping them see the ways their presence contributes to the larger group. Or it can be done in bigger ways such as hosting events and activities that help people to identify their strengths and learn ways to share them with others. Examples of these kinds activities could include hosting a Family Strengths Night, organizing a strengths book club, creating a strengths-based community service project, or sponsoring a strengths poster or video contest. The possibilities are as varied as our imaginations, but the singular purpose remains the same - finding fun and effective ways to increase people's awareness, appreciation, and usage of their strengths.

Throughout the coming months of the Strengths Champion Challenge, we will be sharing ideas for you to use in your own community as well as spotlighting the ideas that you share with us. We want to help you champion the strengths in your community and to help the Strengths Movement spread!

Remembering Lao Tzu's words that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," let's help each other start making the single, small steps that, together over time, will transform more of our schools, homes, organizations and communities into "places of strengths."

What's on Your "Love To Do" List for This Year?

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You probably already have some kind of To Do list, but perhaps what you really need at the beginning of this new year is a “Love To Do” List. When you combine your unique interests and passions with knowledge of your character strengths, you will find that you have many powerful ways to bring purpose, energy, and joy into your own life while also making a meaningful contribution to the world around you.

You can start off by using the free, scientifically-validated VIA Survey to help you identity your highest strengths out of a list of 24 character strengths that are valued in almost every culture. Your highest strengths are the ones that come most naturally to you and are a core part of your identity. These VIA strengths include qualities such as: LoveForgivenessLeadershipHumorBraveryCuriosity, and Creativity. There are youth and adult versions of the VIA Survey in multiple languages making it an excellent tool for individual use, as well as for use in families, schools, workplaces, and organizations of all kinds. 

Once you have taken the VIA Survey and have read through your results, go back through them and ask yourself this question about each one of your Top 5 to 7 strengths:  How do the things I most enjoy doing allow me to express this particular character strength? For instance, your love of reading could possibly reflect your strengths of Curiosity or Love of Learning.  Your love of playing team sports might be an expression of your character strengths of Teamwork, Zest, or evenBravery. The same activity that provides one person with an opportunity to express their strength of Kindness might inspire the strength of Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence in someone else.

Strive to connect each one of your signature strengths to at least one of your favorite activities. So for example, some of my highest VIA character strengths are Forgiveness,  Humor, Curiosity, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Love, Fairness, Perspective, and Love of Learning. Now take a look at a few of the items on my personal "love-to-do” list and see if you notice any connections:

I love:

  1. Reading to my daughter and using Google to find answers to all the interesting questions that she is always asking;
  2. Turning boring or dreaded tasks into challenges and games;
  3. Brightening up spaces and making them look happy and cheerful;
  4. Learning about other cultures and holidays;
  5. Planning festive, fun celebrations and activities that help build community;
  6. Discovering new books and ideas and researching anything that I am curious about….like strengths, for instance!
  7. Planning fun ways to teach children to understand and appreciate differences;
  8. Inspiring people to make positive changes in their lives or to work together towards a common goal or vision;
  9. Understanding the “big picture” when working on any project and helping people strategize about how to achieve important and meaningful goals;
  10. Helping find creative or novel solutions to community challenges;
  11. Helping to make things better in my neighborhood public schools;
  12. Helping someone new become a part of a group or helping someone feel at ease in a new environment;
  13. Connecting people to one another and helping them become friends;
  14. Building community in my neighborhood, at work, or really anywhere that I am;
  15. Making people smile, laugh, or feel good about themselves;
  16. Helping people feel hopeful and confident in their own abilities;
  17. Helping people to be more forgiving of themselves and others;
  18. Being in environments where I get to chit chat briefly with lots of different people;
  19. Creating opportunities to celebrate…and finding new things to celebrate every day;
  20. Coming up with fun ways to teach people how to understand and use their own strengths!

When I look at the items on my “Love-To-Do” list, not only do I see all my highest strengths shining through bright and clear, but I also see a powerful collection of ways that I can be really helpful to others simply by doing some of the things I really enjoy. I might not be good at everything (and seriously, name one person who is…), but I can really shine when you need someone to help build relationships in a community…or to come up with a fun, creative way to accomplish a goal…or to help people feel energized and hopeful about collaborating and working together. 

It’s absolutely okay if you are not good at or even interested in any of the things on my Love-To-Do List. You have strengths and talents in some areas where I really struggle to perform well…and that is exactly why we need each other.  There is always something that you love to do that someone in the world struggles with or could really use some help getting done. Always. 

It was Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman, the esteemed theologian, civil rights activist, and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said:

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

So my hope for you this year is that you will take the good Rev. Dr. Thurman’s words of wisdom to heart and come alive with your character strengths today. Start by creating and following through on your own  “Love To Do” List. You could use the joy and energy…and the world sure could use your strengths! 

A Shortcut "Life Hack" for Finding Your Purpose

Consider for a moment the possibility that your personal strengths are not just one of life's cruel jokes, but rather the very gifts that you have been put here on Earth to share.  You weren't given these gifts to be frustrated by them, but rather to use them to make things better for yourself and the people around you.

Just as a fish is supposed to swim and a rose is supposed to bloom, let's assume that your purpose is also ultimately about doing the things that you are naturally good at for the benefit of yourself and others. So for the time being, instead of wasting any more time anxiously wondering, questioning, or doubting what you should really be doing with your life, try this shortcut or "life hack" for living out your purpose today:

Effective immediately, your purpose is to use your strengths to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

So what does this really mean?  First it means getting to know your own strengths.  What natural talents do you have that are both energizing to you and beneficial to the people around you?  If you can't name your own strengths easily, using an assessment like the VIA Character Strengths Survey is a great place to start. Once you have the results from your assessment, spend some time figuring out exactly how you prefer to utilize your signature strengths in your daily life. Spy on yourself.  How do you already enjoy using your strengths? Do you naturally enjoy connecting people to each other or doing research on topics that interest you? Perhaps you enjoy making other people feel appreciated or you lose track of time while creating new ways of doing things?  Be specific in naming things that you like to do that involve your strengths.

Second, once you are clear on the types of things you love to do with your strengths, begin to act on the assumption that you should be offering your strengths for the benefit of yourself and others in all the places you spend your valuable time.  Your strengths are how you add value and make a contribution, so make a personal vow to look for ways to share them in every aspect of your life.  How can you use your strengths to make a positive contribution at work, at school, in your neighborhood, and with your family and friends?  How can you help wherever you are? Don't wait to be asked. Sharing your strengths is living out your purpose.  You will feel great when you see yourself making a difference for others by sharing your talents and doing the things that you love. Also, try making a list of all the main areas of your life and then figure out how your strengths and passions could be helpful to others in each of those areas.

Once you a) know your strengths, b) understand the ways you most enjoy using them, and c) have a sense of how they could help in all of the places where you are already spending your time, then the right time to start sharing your strengths is now...as in immediately...as in  "Why haven't you started already?"  Soon you won't be wondering what to do with your life because you will be so busy doing it.

The world is always, always, always in need of people who are willing to share their strengths, so here's to you and your new life of purpose!