Are you playing to your strengths?
When we try to change our behaviour in any way, we rarely pay attention to how our individual strengths can influence our success. But, research is increasingly showing that ignoring these unique strengths could be a mistake. Paying attention to our own character strengths will not only benefit our overall wellbeing, but also help our attempts to incorporate new behaviours.
Chris Petersen and Martin Seligman, two psychologists at the forefront of the positive psychology movement, have discovered a total of 24 unique character strengths. Their research, and that of others, have repeatedly shown that when someone knows their strengths and looks for opportunities to use them, they feel better. For example, if gratitude is one of your top strengths, writing a thank-you letter to someone who has done something for you in the past would play to that strength and would likely increase your sense of wellbeing. You can take a free survey here to get to know your strengths. The results give you a full list of the 24 character strengths in rank order, with those at the top of the list being the strongest.
Just think about how that could influence your success when you’re trying to incorporate new behaviours like exercise. Lots of the time, people do specific exercises because they think that’s what they should be doing. But what if you use physical activity and exercise as a way of playing to your strengths? Let’s say that your main character strength is playfulness and humour. Doing all of your exercise on a treadmill is likely to be a drag rather than something you enjoy. Instead, find something that offers a chance to be playful. Maybe some dancing, or even breaking out some circus skills. If your top strengths are perseverance and self-control, it could be that the treadmill is the right activity for you. Find an activity that uses all of your strengths, and you’re onto a winner. Being physically active becomes a nourishing, energising, and rewarding experience, rather than something that you dread or actively avoid.
Every single person is different, and therefore every approach to exercise should be different. Experiment with it. Be curious. Find out what your strengths are and think about what you could be doing to incorporate them into your physical movement (or any other aspect of your life).
Know your strengths, and use them to your advantage!