Martin Seligman is the guy famous for working on the early positive psychology research i.e. what it takes for us to be happy and not just how to stop ourselves feeling depressed; he found that we have to actively work on both, if we want to be truly happy.
His latest research says that we need to use our signature strengths as much as possible in our daily life and then we'll achieve "flow" (where time stops for us) and we'll be the most content we can ever be.
It fits well with my view that, to be truly fulfilled, we should only focus on what we're good at and not on what we don't do so well (just let someone else, who's good at it, do that stuff). It's like being made to work extra hard at maths at school when all you want to do is be an artist. Why not work less on weaknesses and work harder on strengths? I say do the bare minimum of maths and do much more art! Less stress, more fun and more success.......
On Seligman's website are lots of interesting questionnaires relating to happiness that you can take for free. And you can save your results and retake the test again and again to see how you are changing your outlook on life over time.
If you don't already know your strengths, do the VIA signature strengths test on Seligman's site (register first and then you'll find it under "questionnaires") or else have a look on "Action For Happiness" which has a wonderful article about how to work out your strengths - click on "Where To Start" and take the survey.
Whichever test you take, I think the "Action For Happiness" instructions on how to use your results are the better ones to follow.
Anyway, I did Martin Seligman's signature strengths test and got the following top 5:
1. Industry, diligence and perseverance.
At first I was really disappointed with my number 1. "That's just REALLY BORING" I said to myself. But then I thought more about it and, although this is where my crazy, bad perfectionism used to be rooted, it is also where my ambition and success came from. I NEVER give up and that is my strength. It has also been cited as a key requirement for living a contented life, so maybe I am on the right track. However, all this persistence has to be tempered by my husband's realism - he will not continue flogging a dead horse (when I'd keep focused on the goal, never sidetracked, but also never looking sideways for a better way). Still, I'm at peace with this one now.
2. Love of learning
I can't quarrel with this one. I just love learning new things. It's my biggest passion. I need newness and this can be rather obsessive. I will read a book and underline lots of things to remember, but then I don't want to pick it up again to really, deeply understand what I've read. It's a battle for me to go back to something like that. So now I am learning to focus and dive deeper on learning. And forcing myself not buy a new book until I've done my learning on the last one........work in progress!
I also eventually realised that I love passing on what I've learnt on to others - hence why I started my practice. And this blog.
3. Fairness, equity and justice
I realised long ago that life is not fair; whoever said it would or should be anyway? It is what it is. So for me, this is about empowering others - I want to help those who can't help themselves and give them a chance to live an extraordinary life. I have supported charities such as "Free The Slaves" (did you know there are 27 million people in slavery in the world right now and these people free them, at great risk to themselves, and put them back on their feet?) and local animal shelters which underlines how important this is to me. Freedom is one of my key values.
4. Capacity to love and be loved
Enough said. Pretty important ...........
5. Forgiveness and mercy
Maslow said that all people are born good and it's life that turns some people bad. I believe this to be true. I tend to assume all people are just like me and it always surprises me when some people turn out to be less than honest. And then I still just try to see the world from the other person's point of view and not judge them. It's not always easy, but I'd rather be naive than become jaded and cynical. Some would see this as weak - I see it as keeping a positive outlook. Part of my persistent nature, I suppose - refusing to be changed by others.
I found this quite a revealing quiz to do, but even if you can't be bothered to fill out the long questionnaire (I think you need to rate high on the perseverance scale!), do check out the Action for Happiness website for many other fabulous tips on how to live a happy life.
It really is a goldmine.
I can recommend the Tony Hawks talk (he's the "hitching around Ireland with a fridge" comedian). It's long, but well worth every single minute - hilarious, heart-warming and with some deep insights about the meaning of life. I also recommend the talk by Oliver Burkeman.
Oops! My love of learning is keeping me up late again...............time for bed.
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