Live, appreciate your strong suits
By Jacquelyn Ferguson, MS
Dr. Martin Seligman, University of PA author of “Authentic Happiness” and a Positive Psychology pioneer, says happiness is strongly enhanced by three factors:
* Feeling better about your past;
* Thinking more optimistically about your future;
* Experiencing more contentment in the present.
To be happier in the moment Seligman advises you to avoid shortcuts to happiness: sensory experiences accompanied by strong emotions (ecstasy, orgasm, thrills, delight,) like eating hot fudge sundaes, having sex, or watching spectator sports. These pleasures give you upticks in happiness but fade quickly.
It’s much better to seek gratifications, which are activities you do for the sake of doing them. They involve thinking and require stretching your skills to improve.
Gratifications will bring you greater ongoing happiness when they are an expression of your signature strengths. (Take Seligman’s VIA Strengths Survey @ www.authentichappiness.org to discover your own.) All of these strengths are very positive. Living your life expressing your top five or so makes you much happier – so much so that you can stop focusing on fixing what’s supposedly wrong with you. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? These strengths include:
Wisdom and Knowledge: Courage:
Love of learning Perseverance
Humanity and Love: Justice:
Self-control Appreciation of beauty
For example, my top five strengths identified by taking his assessment two years ago and again recently, are:
These strengths have strongly influenced my choices, thereby my happiness.
- Integrity: Hopefully those who know me well would say that I have integrity. Just a small example is that lying is virtually impossible for me. I also deliver what I promise, etc.
- Curiosity: I love my work and have great curiosity in all the workshop and speech topics I present (not to mention this column.) In fact, I won’t present topics that don’t interest me.
* Zest: Researching areas that fascinate me gives me great zest or energy and passion for presenting information to others.
- Loving: I’m fortunate to have a wonderful husband and great friends and family. Throughout my entire life I’ve had abundant loving relationships.
- Gratitude: All of my life I’ve been a very grateful person, which is an effective buffer against depression, according to Seligman.
- I truly have a great life; and not because of money or possessions nor quick pleasures – although I do love watching MN Vikings’ games. My happiness and contentment come from living what is to me an interesting life; one of my own choosing and designing, therefore authentic.
Identify your own signature strengths by taking Seligman’s assessment, then figure out how you already live these and consciously appreciate that. Seek even greater happiness by looking for additional ways to express your strengths. If authentic happiness is your goal, living your strengths is your strategy.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.