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Discover your personal character strengths and use them to help others

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Character strengths, called personal traits in the past, are individually unique strengths and virtues we all possess and apply in our lives each day. Drs. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, and Christopher Peterson, a professor at the University of Michigan and on the Positive Psychology Steering Committee, have studied and classified what we now recognize as personal character strengths. Of course, psychological science continues to study such constructs and as such the list could change.

To assist in identifying your personal character strengths go to www.viacharacter.org and take the scientifically validated 240-item questionnaire. The questionnaire takes about 15-20 minutes. Personal character strengths are grouped in six categories consisting of 24 strengths. The six groups include the following with examples of each group:
1. Strengths of wisdom and knowledge; curiosity, open-mindedness, perspective, creativity
2. Strengths of courage; bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality
3. Strengths of humanity; love, kindness, social intelligence
4. Strengths of justice; citizenship, fairness, leadership
5. Strengths of temperance; forgiveness and mercy, prudence, self-regulation, humility/modesty
6. Strengths of transcendence; gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality, appreciation of excellence and beauty

After you have identified your uniquely individual personal character strengths the application of them to help others is what this article is all about. It is well founded and understood by most of us that helping others not only helps them but makes us feel good about ourselves. For example, let’s say you have the strength of humanity meaning that you are strong at making friends and tending to them as appropriate. As such, you have a friend going through a difficult time. With humanity as one of your strengths you would offer love, kindness and social intelligence as it applies to your friend’s situation. To counteract any negative stressors you may feel in your efforts you could then apply your strength of transcendence. The strength of transcendence consists of the ability to make connections with the bigger picture/universe while simultaneously providing meaning that is important to you.

The magic of all this is that while feeling good about ourselves we have helped another human being. Life is too short. It pays off to help others made easier by applying our personal character strengths. Make 2014 the year that you use your personal character strengths to help others.

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