The Performance Boost Of Your Strengths

Boost Strengths

Are you too optimistic?

Can you be?

Some studies claim that too much optimism can be dangerous and cause too risky behavior.

You can always find a study somewhere that will take the air out of your balloon.

So is the answer to be more pessimistic or more effectively optimistic?

How’s this?

Is it better to DownSpiral until you feel more negatively, find things wrong with most everything else in the process, and narrow your focus and your options?

Or claim that positive energy, and be more effectively and efficiently optimistic?

Pessimism or more negativity is not the answer. Your brain is more naturally optimistic than pessimistic; it’s necessary for evolution.

The answer to the research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you can be more effectively positive. You don’t have to check your optimism at the door in favor digging for a little pessimism.

You don’t have to move from safety to feeling threat to manage your optimism.

If you are building castles in the air, use the same creativity and imagination to put foundations underneath the ones that mean the most to you.

Pessimism narrows your options and full access to your strengths.

And here is the key issue: do you know what your strengths are?

Optimism, especially high levels of optimism that might have a tendency toward impulsiveness, need to be grounded in one of your positive strengths that provide a balance for you in your life.

And you can be sure they are there if you know your scientifically tested strengths.

Your strengths are your performance tools. You use them when you encounter challenges. They are like the fuel in your car. In certain situations, you may need to accelerate and use more fuel to increase your speed.

Brain MUSCLE

Your strengths provide you with that “performance boost” in any and every situation of your life.

How you regard your strengths and what you are willing to do with them is like the decision to eat or not eat good food. You can get by on the junk food of your weaknesses, but what builds your sense of self and very directly the happiness you experience, is your decision to flex the muscles of your strengths, to use them more and more, and to put yourself in situations where they are used.

Strengths move you toward life and aliveness. Playing to weaknesses moves you toward deterioration.

It starts with feeling disconnected and moves to feeling disengaged, disenchanted, unappreciated, unseen, unnoticed. Feeling unappreciated appears as the State of Mind of loneliness.

That’s usually the place where we start looking for someone else to fill the absence of ourselves that we have created.

When you engage your strengths in an UpSpiral of feeling good, you are meeting challenges head on, from the higher ground of your real self.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Dr. gloria wright

    Identifying and using our strengths is a tool to use in setting and accomplishing goals, moving through challenges and guiding us to areas where we can use our strengths. Playing to and enhancing our strengths is much more fruitful than trying to improve on our weaknesses.
    I still claim that negativity is a bad habit. It’s like incorrect English. If you grew up with it, are around people who don’t speak correctly, you are often not aware that you are doing it. Negativity is like that. If you sing in the “Ain’t It Awful, Poor me” choir, you won’t be aware of your negativity. If you want to speak correct English and/or live life in a positive frame, hang around people who model that for you.
    If you need to identify your strengths, you can take a free inventory on http://www.authentichappiness.org. You can also ask friends and family what your strengths are. Sometimes others can identify them easier than we can.
    It may be easier to focus on the negative, especially if you surround yourself with negative people, but easier doesn’t make it good for you. You can focus on your shortcomings and beat yourself up, but you’ll make more progress toward health and well-being if you focus on your strengths and exercise positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
    I often remember Og Mandino’s words of wisdom: “Make good habits and become slaves to them.” You would never leave the house without brushing your teeth. So how about going over what you are grateful for before you go to sleep and before you get up? Take a few minutes to exercise gratitude, love, joy, peace and hope every day. It’s a start and can become a good habit. Make it a habit to reflect on and use your strengths when slipping into negativity. Exercise Self-Compassion rather than self-criticism.

  • James Beeman

    Giving up one’s identify of ‘being a victim’ takes
    confidence and courage. Realizing that one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior
    are matters of choice is a powerful and freeing perspective. Understanding that
    each person has naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and
    responses – what Gallup calls “Strengths” – is key to unlocking one’s own
    potential and the potential of others.

    Essentially, in order to break the psychologically ingrained
    habit in others of believing that they are the victims in their own evolving
    life story, as NeuroPositive trainees and coaches, we must change our own view
    of what causes this internal drama and ask ourselves questions like, “What is
    the perpetrator really isn’t evil?”, “What if no outside myself can rescue me?”
    or “What if I’m not helpless? What are some options that come up for me to move
    forward in this or that situation?”

    This then enables us as coaches to be able to educate and
    guide clients to see this perspective and help the client connect the dots in
    their own life. In other words, when we can help our clients look at their
    drama differently and they realize that they can choose how they attach meaning
    to different situations in their life, it changes how they live, make
    decisions, and respond to challenges and opportunities in their life. Getting
    out of problem-solving mode and into possibility-generating mode is a critical
    place for us to travel to and reside as we work with clients and differentiates
    the coaching profession from therapy or consulting.

    However, ‘The Performance Boost Of Your Strengths’ is about
    more than simply giving up being a victim. It’s about taking on the role of
    victor. It’s about choosing to think in an UpSpiral, feel more positive on the
    Emotional Scale, and leveraging one’s Strengths when obstacles arise. It’s
    about building a new pattern. It’s about building resilency in all areas of
    life – the mental, emotional, and actionable grit that launches enables one to
    live the well-lived life.

  • Audrey Sloofman

    I was raised by “experts” to be a victim. I believed my life would get better and that I would be happier if I could only feel my negative feelings authentically enough, get to the bottom of the source of my suffering, and perhaps find someone outside of myself to “save me.” None of those things worked. Gratefully I have been shown that developing my ability to focus on what is possible, what I am learning, what I am grateful for, what is working in the face of any challenge is a much more helpful and empowering way to operate in life. My life and my happiness are MUCH better as a result.

    Having taken the VIA Survey of Character Strengths however, I was little confused by the premise of this article. My top strength came up as “forgiveness and mercy”. I stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship for 20 years as a result of this strength, but then again, I was in a victim’s mindset. This strength has allowed me to move on with great clarity and tremendous growth. I have great compassion and forgiveness for the man I married as I see his suffering. I am also glad that my other strengths are available to help me continue to move on.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Identifying and using our strengths is a tool to use in setting and accomplishing goals, moving through challenges and guiding us to areas where we can use our strengths. Playing to and enhancing our strengths is much more fruitful than trying to improve on our weaknesses.
    I still claim that negativity is a bad habit. It’s like incorrect English. If you grew up with it, are around people who don’t speak correctly, you are often not aware that you are doing it. Negativity is like that. If you sing in the “Ain’t It Awful, Poor me” choir, you won’t be aware of your negativity. If you want to speak correct English and/or live life in a positive frame, hang around people who model that for you.
    If you need to identify your strengths, you can take a free inventory on http://www.authentichappiness.org. You can also ask friends and family what your strengths are. Sometimes others can identify them easier than we can.
    It may be easier to focus on the negative, especially if you surround yourself with negative people, but easier doesn’t make it good for you. You can focus on your shortcomings and beat yourself up, but you’ll make more progress toward health and well-being if you focus on your strengths and exercise positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
    I often remember Og Mandino’s words of wisdom: “Make good habits and become slaves to them.” You would never leave the house without brushing your teeth. So how about going over what you are grateful for before you go to sleep and before you get up? Take a few minutes to exercise gratitude, love, joy, peace and hope every day. It’s a start and can become a good habit. Make it a habit to reflect on and use your strengths when slipping into negativity. Exercise Self-Compassion rather than self-criticism.

  • Sandra Lintz

    When I was in high school it was expected that boys were going to grow up to have careers in science, medicine and engineering, and girls could be homemakers, nurses and teachers. It didn’t matter what strengths an individual had, the road was already paved and you were half way down it at seventeen. Stereotypes have taken many people down a road of frustration. Now, much of society is more open to letting individuals find their way to what is good for them but we are not taught nor shown our strengths. Instead, we are taught that we should diligently work to improve our imperfections and eliminate our weaknesses to find success in this world.

    Today’s positive psychology acknowledges that people do have strengths which can lead them to excellence rather than training and trying to be a master of innate weaknesses. Our attention to people’s strengths could go much further to improve our quality of life.

    Unfortunately parents tend to target a student’s low grades and push for improvement. Supervisors identify areas needing improvement and push for more productivity, ignoring the value of an employee’s innate strengths. What is missing? Positive focus.

    When I was young, working in a traditionally male field and new to the workforce I used to employ a shift of focus, asking myself what would a man do in a circumstance I was facing. Taking that pause and wondering how else I might look at things broadened my insight and options. Recently I’ve been presented with the idea of using my strengths as a lens to once again shift focus and seek new insights and options. A conscious shift to strengths is not something I’ve ever done. To shift my focus in this way requires an awareness of my strengths. Just like we’ve found it easy to ask what’s wrong and we’ve been accustomed to seeing our weaknesses and working to eliminate them we are now capitalizing upon our strengths. The “What’s wrong? Let’s fix it!” themes have taken many people down a road of frustration.

    We have learned to change our focus from the negative towards positivity and now we are looking at changing our focus from weaknesses to strengths. It’s been shown that people who engage their strengths are happier in their careers, productive, have quality relationships and better health. Looking at things through the lenses of strengths results in 20/20 vision. The outlook is very promising.

  • jeris hollander

    It is surprising to me that the research study referenced here uses the words “risky” and “dangerous” in association with positive emotion. There is a wide array of data indicating that leaning into consistent stress, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions can have an extremely detrimental impact on our physical health, in addition to decreasing psychological well being. Our thoughts and emotions are directly linked to biochemical reactions in our brain and throughout our nervous system. One such example is the adrenal hormone, cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone.” Stress, anger, anxiety and fear all play a role in contributing to increased levels of cortisol, which has been shown the have a multitude of negative physical effects such as lowered immune function, increased risk of heart disease, higher blood pressure, and weight gain, just to name a few. Based on evidence of the physiological impact of negative emotions, it seems apparent to me that consistently engaging in the pessimistic or negative state of mind is what should be deemed “risky” and “dangerous.”

    Dr. Larkin sums it up perfectly in this quote, “strengths move you toward life and aliveness. Playing to weaknesses moves you toward deterioration.” This is true for both our bodies and our minds. If we neglect a muscle for too long it will atrophy. If we exercise to build the muscle, it will grow stronger. Optimizing the functionality of the brain by way of healthy mental activity is no different from the basic principles of achieving a healthy body through physical activity and exercise.

    When we play to our strengths and maintain a steady upspiral, we see our lives from a broader perspective, the bigger picture. We then are able to view our challenges as opportunities, inspiring us to implement and act upon our strengths in any given situation. It is rare that our best decisions come from a place of pessimism or victimization. To the contrary, when we are focusing on our strengths, broadening our perspective, feeling hope, gratitude, love, peace and joy, we are able to see our lives with more clarity and through the lens of our true and highest selves.

  • Jodi Ana

    My top strength is Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith. My spirituality is what has gotten me through my darkest moments in life. There have been times where I was so miserable that I wanted to ‘check out’ of life, because everything felt so hopeless. I didn’t really want to die.. I just didn’t want to be so unhappy and miserable and I didn’t know how to find my way out of that misery back then. My connection to my Spirit and All That Is, is what showed me the way out of my misery.. and it’s the only reason I am alive today.

    Having come from a background filled with a multitude of trauma, I was able to draw on this strength to propel me forward each day. Being connected to Spirit/divine and getting that constant and consistent feedback from the Universe helped me to be able to view my life from a completely different perspective. I was able to go from seeing myself as a helpless victim of abuse, to seeing myself as a beacon for others who have been through the same or similar circumstances.

    It took many years and a lot of relentless prayer before I came to the wisdom and realization that there is a divine gift in each of these traumatic experiences from my life, that are jewels I can use for the Greater Good. These jewels are the positive side of some very negative experiences. Keeping my focus on these jewels (playing to my strengths) makes it easier to cope and understand the perceived cruelties of the world. It has also given me a way of operating through life from a completely different lens and perspective. Had I not been able to make this shift in consciousness then, quite sadly, I probably would have taken my own life. I was just THAT miserable.

    Now those ‘jewels’ guide my life and, as a coach and mentor, I get to use these experience (and my awakening process) to help guide others out of their own misery and into a life of freedom and happiness. It is such a great honor. Where I once struggled just to want to continue living, now I feel so much gratitude for every day, that sometimes it overflows in the form of tears – GOOD tears. That humbling type of gratitude that is so sacred words can’t do it justice. I would say that’s a HUGE performance boost!! 😀

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute