Developing strengths to achieve meaningful goals is the heart of life coaching. According to the Values in Action Institute on Character, signature character strengths come naturally to us and energize us.
Studies show that using our signature strengths contributes to well-being because our strengths help us make progress toward our goals and meet our basic needs for independence, relationship, and competence.
This article highlights the latest findings on strength-based approaches to life satisfaction and strength-building exercises.
Three Strengths Paths to Life Satisfaction
The VIA character strengths most associated with life satisfaction are hope, zest, gratitude, curiosity, and love. They, and others, align with three orientations to life:
Pleasure. The character strengths most associated with the pleasure route are humor, zest, hope, social intelligence, and love.
Engagement. The character strengths most associated with the engagement route are zest, curiosity, hope, perseverance, and perspective.
Meaning. The character strengths most associated with the meaning route are religiousness, gratitude, hope, zest, and curiosity.
The Strength of Hope
Hope contributes to transcendence—the ability to forge and appreciate connections to the larger universe and create meaning. Hope is goal-directed thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Definition: Optimism, future-mindedness, orientation toward the future; expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it: believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.
Key to cultivating hope is our perception of our ability to create goals, develop plans to reach them, and maintain the energy and motivation to follow through. Furthermore, it helps to interpret events as external, unstable, and specific rather than internal, stable, and global—i.e. “That was a tough situation.” versus “I always mess things up.”
How to Increase Your Use of Hope
Write/talk out as many routes to a goal as possible.
Imagine a movie that features your goal. Picture yourself overcoming the obstacles, developing pathways around and through problems. At times, you might rewind and choose a different pathway.
Write/talk about good and bad events. Write about why good events will last and spread. Write about why bad events will pass and why they are limited to their effect. Evaluate your contribution versus the circumstances.
Visualize and write/talk about your best possible self.
Write/talk about how hope contributes to pleasure, engagement, and meaning in your life.
Write/talk about someone who is a paragon of hope to you. Who is it? How does this person model this strength? What effect does it have on you?
Further Explore Your Strengths
Get your Strengths Profile and three coaching sessions: Access your strengths inventory, discover your motivations, and test new strategies.
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Niemiec, R., (2009) VIA Intensive: Strengths: Character Strengths and Virtues in Practice. Cincinnati: VIA Institute on Character.
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Ruch, W. (2009). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction in twenty-seven nations. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(4), 273-279.
Peterson, C., Park, N., Hall, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2009). Zest and work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 161-172.
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Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004) Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.