Strengths and Positivity

StarLifeEDIT

October 30, 2015

Odd as it sounds, positivity seems cast in a negative light in our culture. At times it’s almost as if positivity and naïveté are being conflated—we see positivity being scoffed at as an unrealistic, even unsafe, attitude. We’ve all heard a version of this put-down, “Sure, you think that now, but wait till you get older.”

How is it that we’ve reached a place where “thinking positively” and “having a lack of experience” are synonymous?

Positivity is more than dawning rose-colored glasses. And, it is certainly not, for example, when a person stands in front of their house as it burns to the ground and says, “At least I have a place to warm my hands.”

No. That is insanity.

Instead, positivity, like all of the strengths, is about being able to see beyond the immediate circumstances—however difficult they may be—and understand that it has a greater meaning.

It is the ability to find new depths within a given situation. Positivity is about finding value and seeking purpose. It is a worldview that sees all of life as an opportunity for learning, growth, and personal evolution.

And, not just the fun stuff—all the stuff—is worthwhile from this perspective.

The presence of positive thinking signifies a sophisticated worldview, one in which there is an awareness that no situation is “all good” or “all bad”. That is, it is an awareness that the world isn’t black and white; instead, it is infinite shades of grey.

Within this spectrum, the strength of positivity can identify, hone in on, and mentally expand that which is valuable and productive.

It’s more than a mindset, it is a way of seeing and being seen in the world.

We don’t need to have positivity as number one on our list of strengths in order to practice its main principle. That is, we can all participate in the art of looking for and finding the value in each situation.

And, this doesn’t mean finding only the “happy parts” (because sometimes there are no “happy parts” to be found). Instead, when we focus on locating the meaningful parts we will never come up empty handed. From there we can always determine where the opportunities for growth are.

Positivity and those who practice it daily—those who live it—teach all of us about becoming the best versions of ourselves by revealing deeper layers of importance, significance, and relevance in situations that might feel overly complicated or impossible.

Those with positivity teach us how to value all of life, not just the “good” parts.

What is one new thing that I learned today?

What is a situation that I am viewing too narrowly? Is it all black and white? Where can I make room for greys?

Who is the most positive person in my life? Are they more productive than most? Are they someone who is committed to learning, growth, and personal evolution?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Wonder

WonderLife

October 28, 2015

Does wonder have a place in our day and age in our society?

If it does have a place, what is its purpose?  And, is it only reserved for some—that is, are only certain among us supposed to wonder?  Do we live in a culture where we are supposed to have an answer for everything?

While that might be interesting to ponder, for the sake of discussion, let’s say that, one, wonder does have its place in today’s world and that, two, anyone and everyone is allowed to wonder.

Which leaves us with this: What is the purpose of wonder, then?  And, has its purpose changed over time?

It seems reasonable that feelings of amazement and awe might serve a biological purpose.  After all, isn’t wonder a type of curiosity and doesn’t curiosity prompt exploration and experimentation—and aren’t those the two main drivers behind evolution?

We didn’t advance as a species by staying put and doing things the way they’ve always been done.  Could wonder be behind it all?

Imagine a time before technology, a time when nature may have relied on our sense of admiration to ensure that we—and all beings—intermingle and interact and evolve.  Without stopping to admire the flowers, would we really have remembered where the fruit trees were—seeing as they bloom just before the ripe season?  Without wonder would we have any ability to question, prepare, and adapt in new landscapes, inner and outer?

More than that, if necessity is the other of invention, isn’t wonderment the mother of innovation?  That is, aren’t new methodologies born out of a single question, “I wonder if…”

But, back to the main idea, what is its purpose today—and has it shifted over time?

We have smart devices now that can answer almost any question, it’s true.  Which might mean that we do, indeed, still wonder…but just not for very long.

Or…

Maybe technology actually allows for us to wonder more.  Maybe our phones encourage us to ask questions about our world and all that is contained in the cosmos.  Maybe the fact that we have answers readily available actually makes it convenient to wonder—who hasn’t gone down a rabbithole online, one where we start out researching a definition and (three hours later) find ourselves watching penguin videos on YouTube.

Like linking from one website to another, when it comes to that which engages our unique sense of wonder, one impulse leads to the next.  And, there is not right way or wrong way to do it.  We are each curious about different things for different reasons and we express that awe in different ways.

This is especially easy to observe from a strengths perspective.  The strengths remind us that there are, at minimum, 34 approaches to any situation.  Because we each have a specific profile of what we do best, we each have a particular style for interacting with the world.  What is a obstacle to one person is an opportunity to another.  Because of that fact, very rarely is there only one solution to any challenge or only one way to thrive.

If we can keep this perspective in mind, we can likely grow in our understanding of how dynamic the world around us is and see that it is literally abuzz with potential and growth.

What do we wonder about?  Has our sense of wonder changed over time?  What makes us stop and stare in awe and admiration?  How do we encourage new types of thinking and problem solving in our lives and in the world around us?  Do we have a situation in our lives that could use some outside perspective?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Discovery

DiscoveryLifeEDIT

October 26, 2015

In the last five years scientists discovered more than 200 new species of life in the Eastern Himalayas.  Among the animals found was a blue dwarf walking snakehead fish (say that five times really fast) which can survive for four days on land breathing air.  They also discovered a monkey with an upturned nose who sneezes uncontrollably when it rains.  Add to that 133 new plant species, 39 invertebrates, 25 other fish, one bird and a reptile and it’s beginning to look like a pretty busy time for discoveries.

While the Himalayas are, indeed, remote, they are still just one tiny part of the planet.  Which begs the questions: How much more is there to discover in our world?  After all, we have more footage of deep space than we do of our own deep seas.  Is it possible that we have all but scratched the surface?  So, really, if all of these animals have just been walking around, why are we only discovering them now?

The answer is, of course, related to our perspective.  Meaning, these are discoveries to us—those of us who are not living in the Himalayas—but they are surely not discoveries to those who are living there.

Imagine someone from Jupiter coming into our backyards and declaring that they discovered housecats, robins, and earthworms, simply because they’d never seen them before!

That is to say that outsiders—scientists—discovered these animals; the locals, however, were understandably unimpressed by their findings.

So, then, what truly is a discovery?  Are there various “versions” of discovery?  For example, things that no one has ever seen vs. things that are simply brand new to us.  Is one better, more extravagant and significant than the other?  Or, is a discovery a discovery?

What about when we think about ourselves?  Our lives?  Our paths?

Do we have areas within us that are like the Himalayas, places where diverse and vast qualities remain unseen and untapped?  Are some of these qualities known only to a few (the locals) and unknown to the rest of the world?

Could the world benefit from learning about these wildlife preserves within us?

And, really, what is left for us to discover about ourselves?  Can we continue to uncover new qualities about our inner-world at any age?

Is it possible for someone else to teach us about ourselves and to guide us into discoveries within us, things that only we could reveal with help?

If the strengths do anything consistently, they light the way.  Each strength is like a buoy in the waters of our lives—they rise and fall with the water regardless of the direction of the wind.  We can use our strengths to discover qualities of ourselves in all the realms—personal, interpersonal, social, civic, political, financial, and spiritual arenas.

But, what is the best way to access them?

. . .

What are five things that you are curious about?

Are these the same sorts of things that you were curious about as a child?

Are there explicit ways that this curiosity ties into your strengths?

If you are not curious about anything now, could you begin to consider things to be curious about as you go about your day?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Meaning

universelifeEDIT

October 23, 2015

When it comes to living life, what is the difference between having a meaning and having a purpose?

A quick look at their basic definitions tells us that they are about the same—having to do with “the reasons for things”.

But a dictionary and our own experience can produce important degrees of differences and interpretations.  That is, we can all probably understand that our life’s purpose and our life’s meaning are not always one in the same.  They are in fact, at once, intertwined and separate.

In some cases, we might say that the meaning of life is to find and have a purpose.  In other cases, we might say the opposite—that the purpose of life is to find and have a meaning.

Depending on the situation, it may even be counter-productive to seek a greater significance.

Imagine, for example, standing on the shore of a beautiful lake at sunset where the waters are lapping against the rocks as a breeze ruffles the dry grasses and the leaves above us.  It would be absurd to look at the waves and trees asking, “I wonder what they mean by moving like that?”  Or, “What is the purpose of this cool air?” Or, to point at the sand and sunlight asking, “What do you mean exactly?”

No.  The idea (and probably the “meaning”) of a scene like this is to do the opposite—to get lost in it, to take it all in, and to not think.  Right?

Riiiiiiight.  And, when it comes to our lives as a whole, which include relationships, dreams, responsibilities, perceptions, surprises, challenges, and, of course, the unknown—things are bound to get interesting.  Not only that, because no one else is us, things are bound to get personal.

Personal in the sense that we each ascribe significance to different things in different ways for different reasons.  For that reason alone, looking outside of ourselves for our purpose or for life’s “great meaning” might prove fruitless.

Okay…

So, looking in may be the better view.  And our strengths are the lamp posts lighting the way.  It’s one thing to know and understand what our strengths are.  It’s another thing to practice them, cultivate them, and share them.  It is only then that they become gifts.  Our strengths are indicators of what we were born to do.  We give the gifts of ourselves—and, because we are each unique, without us, our gifts would not exist.

That is, in a way, to say that we actually have a responsibility to grow in our strengths and to share them, because no one else (literally, no one else) is able to share them for us.

What value do we bring into the world?  Is that our meaning?  Is it our purpose?  Whose value can we acknowledge and affirm?  How are we unique from those in our circles?  How are we similar?  What is one change that we would like to make in our lives?  What is the first action that we could take toward that shift?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Laughter

BalloonLifeEDIT

October 21, 2015

Children laugh between 100 and 500 times each day, which amounts to laughing once every 2-9 minutes.  Adults, on the other hand, laugh about 11-21 times a day, which can be less than once per hour.

Any of us who have been in a room full of children versus a room full of adults understands this idea.  Kids laugh more than we do.  So, why does this matter?

Because laughter, in a literal sense, is medicine.  From a neurological, physiological, and medical perspective, a good laugh (or, even a fake laugh) produces biochemical and physical changes in the body.

A short list of which includes:

  • increased oxygen intake, which stimulates heart and lung function
  • increased release of endorphins and natural painkillers in the brain
  • activation of stress-release response, which produces euphoria
  • improved circulation—the vibrations produced by laughing massage the body’s circulatory system and infuse it with oxygen (imagine shaking a jar of water…see the bubbles?)
  • improved immune system—just as negative thoughts create chemical reactions in the body (like the release of cortisol), positive thoughts release neuropeptides, which raise the body’s ability to fight cellular stress and illness

More than all of this: Laughter is contagious.

Seriously, it is.  The actual sound of laughter, when it hits our eardrums, activates a part of the brain called the premotor cortex.  This triggers an involuntary movement of our facial muscles to correspond with the sound—specifically, the tightening of the lips, the opening of the jaw, and the raising of the eyebrows.  Researchers have found that the reason for this is simple: So that we are prepared to join in!

Like laughter, the strengths, too, trigger unconscious responses in others.  That is, when we are around others who are ‘in the zone’ we, understandably, admire it and seek it.

No?

Let’s consider a time—past or present—when we were around someone who was really, truly happy with their life and thriving (hopefully that is us!).  Did we not remark on their happiness and then consider some component of that in our lives?  Like, “How could I be like that?” or, even, “I wonder if I could ever be that happy with my life.”

In both cases, the person’s state inspired contemplation in us and an inward glance.  And, in that same way, the strengths are contagious.  No, it’s not in the sense that we could “catch” empathy or significance from someone.  Rather, more globally, when we are living in our strengths, we are being our true selves; and that is something that people notice.

When others see it in us it gives them the courage to see it in themselves and to be who they are also.  The way laughter can spread like a contagion from one side of the room to the other, the willingness to be who we truly are, too, can expand.

By focusing on our strengths we are likely concentrating on places within ourselves where we feel confidence and certitude, which over the long term translate to forward movement.  Others are attracted to that.  Even if others scoff or scorn the joys of others, the fact remains that we all seek fulfillment and joy—however it is that we define the terms.

So, how much do we laugh in a day?  What makes us laugh?  Can we observe the contagious nature of laughter and joy in our world?  What are we focusing on?  How could we add one laugh per hour to our days?  How has our sense of humor changed or stayed the same over time?  Are we grown up versions of our child-selves?  Are we…?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.