What is Strength, More Than Special Abilities?

Personal Strength Development Enhances Personal Growth

One of the most practical results of positive psychology’s research studies into human well-being has been the findings about personal strengths.

Termed “signature strengths” by positive psychologists, the use of personal strengths is linked to many aspects of well-being, such as happiness, creativity, and productivity.

What Is Strength?

A personal strength, or signature strength, is a special ability or skill with which one excels. Alex Linley, noted positive psychologist and author of Average to A+, describes a personal strength as “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development, and performance.”

A personal strength is unique in that it has apparently been pre-wired into the neural network. It can be recognized as something a person has been very good at since early childhood. People can fail to recognize a personal strength as such because it is an integral part of who they are. Since it comes easily to them and has been with them since childhood, personal strengths are often taken for granted, discounted as nothing special, unique, or valuable.

Positive psychologists regard personal strengths as a powerful human asset. According to Linley, “using strengths more is associated with significantly higher levels of happiness, well-being, and fulfillment, as well as a greater degree of authenticity and personal integration.”

Personal Strength Test

It is relatively easy to identify one’s personal strengths by filling out the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. Though not actually a strength test, this free questionnaire examines responses to questions in twenty-four areas of potential personal strength. The report, which is generated immediately, highlights the top five or six as signature strengths.

Though this questionnaire has been taken by over one million people across many cultures, and with high validity, one should always verify the signature strengths for themselves by reviewing them with close friends and family.

Strength Training for Personal Growth

Although personal strengths can’t be learned, they can be improved. As with muscle strength training, personal strength training involves frequent use of these special skills and abilities. Whereas strength training for muscles often involves some discomfort—no pain, no gain—expanding one’s use of personal strengths brings greater happiness and satisfaction.

One of positive psychology’s recommended happiness-increasing exercises is to regularly find ways to use personal strengths in brand new ways.

Personal Growth Using Strengths

A personal strength is a special skill, ability, or way of thinking that is somehow hard-wired into a person. Recognizing and fully utilizing one’s personal strengths can lead to greater happiness, fulfillment, and enhanced performance. The free VIA Questionnaire from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology web site is an easy way to identify one’s personal strengths.

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