We started our three-part journey to the good life just a few weeks ago by learning how to ‘Stop’ and savor our everyday experiences and be more present.
This next part encourages us to ‘Drop’ the focus on what goes wrong in life, and instead to focus on what goes right in order to optimize ourselves, our relationships and our lives.
The Flourishing Self
There is no doubt that many of us spend time worrying about things we can’t control. We also tend to ruminate on our weaknesses and get down on ourselves for not being good enough at certain things. News flash: there will always be things we aren’t good at! What if instead of spending time and energy focusing on our deficits, we spent this time and energy focusing on our strengths? By investing in our natural talents, could we become the best versions of ourselves?
An article by Spreitzer in 2006 suggests that we have a lot more to gain by identifying what we do best and finding ways to organize our lives around these innate abilities and passions. Once we identify our strengths, it not only increases our self-awareness, but it also provides us with opportunities to build on our talents so that we can be authentically dedicated to recognizing our full potential over the course of our lives. Simply put, what we need to do is focus on our strengths and find ways to put them to use. (Not sure what your talents or strengths are? Search for an online tool such as Gallup StrengthsFinder.) As you reflect on yourself, think about what comes easily to you and energizes you. Typically, when engaging in a strength, time passes quickly and you feel strong. When are you at your best?
The Flourishing Relationship
Considering that the experiences we find to be the most enjoyable involve other people, it is not surprising that relationships contribute a great deal to our well-being and overall quality of life. It is safe to say that each of us yearns for a certain level of intimacy and has a desire to be close to others, whether it be through affection or simply shared fun. Here, positive psychology allows us to look at what goes right in relationships in order to develop stronger and healthier relationships.
According to an article published by Snyder and Lopez in 2007, a flourishing relationship is one that improves over time due to mutual efforts. Furthermore, it is not characterized only by attachment and love, but also by purposeful positive behaviors; it is this third component that sustains relationships and keeps them going. One of the main concepts that underlies this idea is something called minding. Through minding, two people in a relationship come to know each other’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and have a strong desire to learn about the other person instead of focusing on the self.
Another purposeful positive behavior that makes us feel valued in relationships is continually showing appreciation, acknowledging contributions, and expressing gratitude for the other person. Along with minding and appreciation comes the sharing of positive experiences and ensuring that we respond attentively and enthusiastically to others. At the end of the day, these behaviors are motivated by love and keep us feeling like a part of something greater than ourselves.
Your Daily Challenge
Have yourself and someone close to you take a strengths assessment individually. Share your results with each other and highlight times when you’ve seen each other’s strengths at play. Talk about ways to utilize your strengths more, and be sure to recognize each other when doing so. At the end of the week, jot down a sentence or two about when you felt at your best, and share your best moments with your friend or partner at the end of the week!
Now that we’ve stopped to savor experiences and dropped the focus on our weaknesses, it’s time to roll onward and upward to a life filled with challenge and growth. Stay tuned for part three of our journey to the good life!