What are your key strengths?

The authentic happiness website which has been created by the positive psychology programme at University of Pennsylvania has some outstanding tools and surveys that anyone can take for free. One of my favourites is the key strength survey.

Key strengths are 24 abilities or capacities that each of us exhibit to a different degree. There is a huge value to the individual in knowing what they have to offer. And in the spirit of positive psychology, to focus on identifying strengths. By using the strengths we already naturally have from day to day, we become more effective in our lives and more aware of everything we have to offer to ourselves and those around us.

I took the test myself last summer.¬† My results are below. So while I know that hard work and self control are not my greatest qualities, when I look at the list of strengths that are ranked above those two, I have to say this really chimes in with my core values and beliefs. Curiosity, Creativity, Love of Learning and Appreciation are truly what I am about. That justice and fairness came second was a slight surprise, but a moment’s reflection reminds me, yes, I really care about equality and I’m proud if that is reflected in what I do.

That kind of reflection and self knowledge really accelerates empowerment and building self esteem. If we know what he have to offer, we can focus on offering it, valuing it and valuing ourselves.

Here are my results in full.

Your Top Strength
Curiosity and interest in the world
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.
Your Second Strength
Fairness, equity, and justice
Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.
Your Third Strength
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
Your Fourth Strength
Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
Your Fifth Strength
Appreciation of beauty and excellence
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.
Perspective (wisdom)
Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.
Capacity to love and be loved
You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.
Humor and playfulness
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.
Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.
Forgiveness and mercy
You forgive those who have done you wrong. You always give people a second chance. Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge.
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.
Bravery and valor
You are a courageous person who does not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right even if there is opposition. You act on your convictions.
Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty
You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group.
You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.
Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.
Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness
You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.
Kindness and generosity
You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.
Social intelligence
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.
Zest, enthusiasm, and energy
Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.
Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a “real” person.
Modesty and humility
You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty.
Caution, prudence, and discretion
You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.
Self-control and self-regulation
You self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa.
Industry, diligence, and perseverance
You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you “get it out the door” in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.

The benefits – why use positive psychology in schools

Martin Seligman in this interview gives the clear rationale for the use of positive psychology in schools

“If you teach people early in life … can you prevent many of the ills of life – depression, anxiety, anger?”

“When we teach teachers these techniques they embed them in what they teach and the students do better.”

See the whole interview with Martin Seligman and the Dalai Lama here:

For a more detailed and scholarly outline of the benefits and rationale for positive education, Seligman has also written this article:

Click to access positiveeducationarticle2009.pdf

Introducing Positive Psychology

The two TED talks below introduced me to positive psychology and started me thinking about the application of positive psychology in schools. For anyone wanting to find out more about positive psychology and the potential it offers, this is a great place to start.

Martin Seligman is recognised as a founding father of positive psychology and is an inspiring speaker and author. I wholeheartedly recommend his books, especially flourish and learned optimism.

Shaun Achor’s talk is awesome, funny and gets to the heart of why positive psychology is far more important than just a warm fuzzy feelgood time out. As he points out, happiness gives us an advantage.



Inspiration and Great Work

I was inspired to create this blog after enrolling on the Great Work MBA curated by Micheal Bungay Stanier. Micheal has written about and is a facilitator in how to do more Great Work.

Within a few moments I recognised that this is the great work that I have been dreaming of, working towards and that flows out of my life experience. The whole concept of Great Work is a part of where I would hope that students would be moving towards as a result of some positive psychology input.

Great Work is what inspires you, the work that has meaning¬† and impact for you. It’s a subjective idea, we all have our own Great Work and we get to define that for ourselves. Good work is your job description or your studies. Great Work is the stuff you want to do, the contribution you want and need to make in the world.

Great work already happens in schools, whenever a student is inspired to go beyond what is asked of them, when they choose to take a lead, organise an event or a trip, take an initiative for charity, learn more about a subject they care about, or help the people around them succeed.

We often give students these opportunities, but how much more valuable is it when the opportunities are created by the students themselves. When they come to us with a proposal or a dream. This is precious learning, the possibility that I can initiate something, take action and make it happen. To be able to birth my dream, be it small or large, into reality. Young people need to experience themselves as agents, as capable and as the author of their own story.

Thank you to Micheal and all his speakers. And watch this space for more dreams being born into reality.

Why positive psychology matters in schools

ImageAs a working teacher and someone who has been fascinated, inspired and supported by the human potential movement, I am looking for ways to bring that same support to the young people I teach. This blog is about my journey to find ways to bring the tools of positive psychology into the classroom and into the lives of my students.

Positive psychology has been around for about 15 years. It deals with those aspects of psychology that relate to wellbeing, positive emotion, fulfillment, meaning and success. What is great is that these areas have been and continue to be the subject of rigorous scientific research, meaning that we are beginning to develop a technology that can address these areas.

If you ask most parents what they want for their kids, of course they want good jobs, success, material possessions and the rest. But above all they want them to be happy – to have a good life, good friends, fulfilling jobs and to be able to navigate the difficult times without being defeated.

Positive psychology offers the tools, the knowledge and the skillset to allow young people to find their own sources of joy, wonder, fulfillment, purpose and meaning. We can and should make this available to them. The benefits are clear – happier and more fulfilled individuals create a happier and more vibrant community. This will benefit schools in the short run and the whole of society in the long run. Students learn more when they are happy and fulfilled, when they are valued and when they value others, when they are encouraged to develop courage, confidence, focus, resilience, adaptability and to access their passion and their unique perspective.

Our society needs more people who understand how to take risks, who are ready to make a significant contribution to the world, who can speak up for themselves and can bring their perspective to the table. In a world that is more connected and changing faster than ever, we need people who are rooted in a value system, confident in their ability to make a difference, and open to speak, listen and participate in politics, business and life.

Lets start to develop those people, in our schools, now.