Focusing on our strong points and our talents can be very helpful especially in helping us to choose work that engages and fulfills us. Young people who are academically talented may unbeknownst to themselves be using their strengths but teenagers who do not seem to keep up with the curriculum offered may be left behind. It has been shown that there are a number of ways of learning which are not facilitated within mainstream schooling. A person who may be musically, creatively or socially gifted may feel put down by their inability to engage with a curriculum that is mainly build around intellectual ability rather than human life skills.
Martin Seligman is a psychologist who brought a significant boost to positive psychology in 1998 when he initiated a study of the Values in Action that was agreed upon cross-culturally and by most religions. He and other researchers gathered a list of 124 strengths which were divided into six groups in order to simplify our understanding. The groups agreed upon were:
WISDOM & KNOWLEDGE: Being open-minded, seeing the bigger picture, love of learning, creative and original, curious and able to make good judgements.
COURAGE: Having enthusiasm, being honest, being persistent, being brave and full of energy.
LOVE & HUMANITY: Socially Intelligent, tuned into other people's feelings, generosity, able to love and be loved.
JUSTICE: Standing up for others, a good team worker, able to motivate and organise other people.
TEMPERANCE: Able to forgive, to have self-discipline, not taking harmful risks, humble and modest
TRANSCENDENCE: Able to be grateful, recognise beauty, having a sense of purpose, having hope, optimism and a sense of humour
Reading through this list of Values in Action (VIA Strengths) can be helpful in realising that there is more to life than having a prestigeous job in society. The list shows how every type of quality is needed to make the world a balanced and encouraging place to live. If this list appeals to you, you might like to answer a questionnaire which is used to help people discover what is called one's Signiture Strengths: the strengths that are intertwined in one's personality: AuthenticHappiness.
Positive Psychology is still a young research field which is slowly gathering more evidence. It is not very easy to get accurate information about what makes people well and happy and every person is different and might change their way of thinking and feeling for a number of reasons. However, there is evidence to support the idea that people in education find it beneficial to discover where their strengths lie as an aid to choosing a way forward which is in line with what is meaningful, interesting and absorbing.
MAKING USE OF A STRENGTH
Research shows that people who have discovered their strength and make a daily or weekly effort to use this strength in a new way increase their happiness considerably over a lasting period of time. That is why it might be well worth becoming more self-aware in this area. In a way it links up with the research on gratitude which shows that the rememberances of good events increases our happiness and actually thanking somebody and showing our gratitude to others is a way out of negative pre-occupations.