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When we first introduced the topic of resiliency, we discussed how it is both a reactive and active quality, a skill that helps you bounce back and reach out.
Today’s discussion will center on the active aspect of resiliency and the path to gaining the confidence to take risks and embrace change.
Anchoring Your Resiliency in Your Authentic Self
When your self-esteem and sense of self-worth is tied to other people, your job, or any other external factors, your confidence is subject to every wind of change and lacks real stability. Any time these external factors change, your happiness and confidence go with it. Your emotional fortitude goes up and down like a roller coaster.
Tying your self-concept to external factors also keeps you from embracing adventure and approaching the world like a courageous explorer. If you base your self-concept on external things, any changes in those things will throw you for a loop, create anxiety, and compel you to cling as tightly as you can to the status quo. You become desperate to keep your life just the way it is and can’t handle change. You avoid traveling, moving, changing jobs, and getting into relationships because these steps alter the environment on which you’ve based your self-concept, leaving you feeling lost and out of control.
The key to active resiliency is to build your self-concept not on a constructed self, but on an authentic self, not on external things, but on the inner, personal strengths that make you unique as a man. Your unique strengths are your special tools that will allow you to build a happy and fulfilling life. Understanding what tools you possess can give you the confidence that you’ll be able to face any challenge that comes your way. While we can’t predict the future, we can have confidence in our ability to deal with whatever happens.
Basing your self-concept on your personal strengths allows your resiliency to remain strong wherever your go and whatever happens to you.
Think of it this way, you can either live in a fort, with your only gun in the turret, or you can strap your arsenal to yourself and take it anywhere you go. The resilient man is the guerrilla warrior of life.
Finding Your Character Strengths
Those will some knowledge of psychology will probably be familiar with the “DSM”-the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM classifies and lists all the psychological disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
Drs. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson are pioneers in the field of positive psychology. Believing that the field of psychology had spent too much time focusing on mental sickness instead of mental health, the two set out to create a list not of human disorders but of human strengths. These doctors set out to find virtues which had been prized almost universally across time, religion, and culture.
Their research yielded 6 core virtues. Under these virtues they listed 24 character strengths associated with each one. The character strengths were the avenues to living and attaining that virtue. Let’s take a look at the list:
1. Wisdom and knowledge-cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge
- Love of learning
2. Courage-emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal
3. Humanity-interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others
- Social Intelligence
4. Justice-civic strengths that underlie healthy community life
5. Temperance-strengths that protect against excess
- Forgiveness and mercy
- Self-regulation (self-control)
6. Transcendence-strengths that forge connections to other people and the larger universe and provide meaning
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence (awe, wonder, elevation)
Before you proceed further, take 20 minutes to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, available free at authentichappiness.org under the heading “Engagement Questionnaires.”
Did you take the test? Good. Now look over the list of strengths given in your results.
No test is perfect, and the taker can bias the results by choosing answers that don’t describe themselves as much as they describe the person they wish they were. So you want to double-check that the strengths listed are the real you. Seligman and Peterson recommend that you evaluate the authenticity of each strength with this criteria:
- A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”).
- A feeling of excitement while displaying the strength, especially at first.
- A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced.
- A continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength.
- A sense of yearning to find ways to use it.
- A feeling of inevitability in using the strength, as if one cannot be stopped or dissuaded from its display.
- Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.
- Invigoration rather than exhaustion when using the strength.
- The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around the strength.
- Intrinsic motivation to use the strength.
If a strength meets several of this criteria then it is truly one of your signature strengths. Signature strengths are “strengths of character that a person owns, celebrates, and frequently exercises.” If a strength doesn’t meet any of those criteria, then they’re probably not one of your signature strengths.
Using Your Signature Strengths to Enhance Your Life and Resiliency
“Resiliency comes from a discovered self, not a constructed self. It comes from the gradual emergence of your unique, inborn abilities in a process called individuation. The better you become, the more unique you become as an individual-and it never ends.” -Dr. Al Siebert
Now that you know what your signature strengths are, you can use them to enhance your life in three ways:
1. Start basing your self-concept on your signature strengths, not on external things. This isn’t some banal self-esteem affirmation where everyone is special just because. Your signature strengths are the things that truly make you unique and give you something special to offer the world. Allow yourself to feel confident in what you have to offer people. As we discussed on Monday, we may never be superheroes in the traditional sense, but you should look at your signature strengths like your unique “superpowers” that you can use as a force of good in the world.
2. Embrace your signature strengths as the arsenal of tools you have to meet life’s challenges. Unlike external things, your signature strengths can go anywhere and help you in any situation. If you get divorced, let go from your job, or move to a new place, your signature strengths are hanging around your shoulders like a bandoleer, ready to be employed to build something new. You are the Rambo of resiliency.
3. Exercising your signature strengths wherever and whenever you can. The exercise of your signature strength is the path to true fulfillment, gratification, satisfaction, and happiness. Find ways to employ your signature strengths more often in your job, relationships, families, and faith. The more fulfilled you feel, the stronger you’ll feel as a man, and the easier it will become to take risks and brush off setbacks.
Read the Whole Series:
Part I – An Introduction
Part II – Avoiding Learned Helplessness and Changing Your Explanatory Style
Part III – Taking Control of Your Life
Part IV – Iceberg Ahead!
Part V – Recognizing and Utilizing Your Signature Strengths
Part VI – Quit Catastrophizing
Part VII – Building Your Children’s Resiliency
The Resiliency Advantage by Dr. Al Siebert
Character Strengths and Virtues by Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Christopher Peterson
Authentic Happiness by Dr. Martin Seligman