Discover Character Strengths Involved in a Habit Change
Character strengths are the building blocks of positive psychology approaches (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Instead of focusing on one’s shortcomings and dysfunction, an awareness is cultivated of using and developing their strengths to stimulate the helpful behavior and attitude required for productive change (Niemiec, 2017).
Although others also count, the character strengths of creativity, perseverance, forgiveness, self-regulation, and hope play a determining role in successful and sustainable habit change.
#1 - Hope
Firstly, the motivation to pursue a habit change is inherently based on hope, and optimistic future-mindedness that provides sufficient incentive and expectation of a reward to invest effort in achieving it.
#2 – Perseverance
By definition, habits are routines or patterns of behavior that are ingrained and difficult to change. Most often, they are attached to their own incentives, such as avoiding discomfort or pain, seeking distraction, and looking for external validation. Therefore, success requires perseverance and the ability to moderate and control one’s impulses and emotions (self-regulation).
Persistence in overcoming obstacles and restarting after failures is the mainstay of any worthwhile change process, while resisting the urge to give up and revert back to one’s old ways.
#3 - Forgiveness
Acceptance and forgiveness of one’s weaknesses is vital when facing and managing setbacks, relapses, and sticking points. Without the capacity of self-forgiveness, building and sustaining new habits is onerous and less likely to succeed. In other words, self-forgiveness gives us the capacity to pick ourselves up, face criticism, and defy the odds.
#4 - Creativity
While other character strengths may also play a role in building healthy habits such as perspective, honesty, zest, kindness, gratitude, and social intelligence, the fourth and final strength highlighted here as integral to most instances of personal change is creativity. This means to be adaptive and inventive when identifying and trying new solutions to old, established problems, like unhelpful habits. By seeing and doing things in different ways, one can circumvent or break through sticking points and blocks and “trick” the mind to adopt the new habit more readily.
By doing a few simple exercises every day, a person can develop the character strengths that will enable them to form and sustain habits more successfully. Research has shown that regular practice of just one activity from the list per character strength will have a significant impact on each character strength, with an amplified effect on habit formation.
Write your successful movie script – Imagine yourself exactly where you want to be in 10 years, engage all your sense, and write about your experiences.
Curtail news intake – Minimize distraction and negative influences to create a quiet and constructive space of possibilities.
Visualize your successes – Picture achieving something you have dreamed of for a long time, how it will feel at that moment, and how your life will change as a result.
Read about a role model – Choose a real, historical or contemporary person who you have admired and followed. Learn about their strengths, habits, and values, and apply as much as you can to your own life.
Learn to make positive self-appraisals – The most common self-limiting beliefs that are holding us back from developing positive habits that lead us to our dreams are that we are not deserving, worthy, or capable of success and happiness. Practice being kinder and more appreciative to yourself, and acknowledge your strengths.
Repeat positive affirmations – Write short, powerful statements that articulate your vision and strengths and repeat them out loud often.
Write down your positive qualities – Self-forgiveness is the mainstay of compassion for others and for finding the strength to pursue positive change. Don’t beat yourself down but focus on your strengths and opportunities.
Put yourself in another’s shoes – The difference between sympathy and empathy is the vantage point. In empathy, we are able to sit with the other person and engage with them at their bottom while shining the light up.
Do compassion-focused appraisals – Don’t judge yourself and others but employ unconditional acceptance from a place of compassion and understanding.
Put time aside for creative activities – Don’t just hurry from one routine or established task to another from one day to the next. Make space for something you may have wanted to do for a while but didn’t have the opportunity, patience, or courage to try.
Expand your knowledge in a new area – Make it a goal to learn something new every day, not just in your established areas of expertise, but in something peripheral or brand new.
Explore new things in your current environment – Your surroundings are full of gems that you probably never notice. Engage mindfully with your environment and use all your senses to create new experiences, insights, and connections.
If you do some of these things for a few weeks, you are highly likely to notice the positive change in your character strengths of Hope, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Creativity. Together, in harmony, your ability to introduce and sustain new habits will also increase and you will be more adaptive and resilient to changing external demands.
Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Harrington, S., Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Character strengths in the United Kingdom: The VIA Inventory of Strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 341-351. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2006.12.004
McGrath, R. E. (2014). Character strengths in 75 nations. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407–424. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.888580
Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character strength interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.
Swart, J. (2020). What do the character strengths of coaching students tell us? Wisdom Magazine, 2. Retrieved from URL.
Why a Self-Audit of Your Life is Important?
A self-audit starts with the circle of life. The purpose is to establish where you are right now in every area of your life, what you value most, and where you want to be. When you understand and address an area that needs a major change, it means you have identified a desired outcome or goal in that area.
We often audit work performance or expenses, but how often do we audit our life?
A life audit is carried out by The Wheel of Life exercise. It is a very common and effective technique used by professionals to help get a “helicopter view” of life areas. The Wheel of Life is also an effective tool to change habits. It also helps to overcome problems of stress by addressing the imbalances in a person’s life.
The eight most common main areas of life are:-
Family and friends – the relationship you have and the quality and quantity of time you spend with members of your family and extended family.
Business and career – Anything related to your career, profession, business, education, and professional vision and purpose.
Health – A broad category that includes eating, fitness, pain and disease, injuries, and mental health; anything related to your body or mentality.
Finances – Anything related to your wealth, financial situation, money matters, and attitudes and beliefs about money.
Romance – The relationships you have or want to have with romantic partners.
Personal development/growth – It is about who you are, your relationship with yourself, where you see yourself in the future, and what you need to get there. It also involves your sense of guilt or fear or purpose.
Fun and recreation – Leisure activities you do to enjoy life.
Physical environment – How you perceive and experience your living, work, and other spaces that you spend time in.
All these life areas are highly interconnected. Problems in one area can spill over and affect others. For example, when having family issues, such as a struggling relationship with a spouse, it could affect one’s work, self-esteem, time, energy and relationships with their friends, with stress and health again going hand-in-hand.
Having this in mind, go over the different areas of your life listed above and determine where you are on a scale of 1 to 10. Your first number represents your current assessment of the time and attention spent on the particular area. The second number indicates the time and attention you ideally want to spend on the same life area in the future.
The difference in the numbers implies the gap that is a gauge of the priority for change in a specific area to ensure that underlying concerns and considerations are addressed and not symptoms.
Ammentorp, J., Uhrenfeldt, L., Angel, F., Ehrensvärd, M., Carlsen, E. B., and Kofoed, P. (2013). Can life coaching improve health outcomes? – A systematic review of intervention studies. BMC Health Services Research, 13, 428-439. DOI: 10.1186/1472- 6963-13-428 Byrne, U. (2005).
Wheel of Life: Effective steps for stress management. Business Information Review, 22(2), 123-130. DOI: 10.1177/0266382105054770 Santos, H. D. P., Molin, G. P. D., Pinheiro, J., and Vieira, R. (2017).
Wheel of Life, an initial investigation: Topic-related polarity visualization in personal stories. Proceedings of Symposium in Information and Human Language Technology. Uberlandia, MG, Brazil, October 2–5, 2017