Tracking Down Happiness

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I ended up on an interesting website the other day after a marathon of TED talks. I took a Character Strengths Questionnaire after watching a talk by Martin Seligman, whom I was introduced to by the book, Learned Optimism. His book was a revolutionary read for me, as it made me realize I would create envy in the most die-hard pessimist. After reading this book and applying Seligman’s theory to my own way of thinking, I’ve gone from raging pessimist to hopeful optimist … or at least less raging pessimist.

Knowing how much I enjoy Seligman, I watched his TED talk and ended up at authentichappiness.org to take the Character Strengths Questionnaire, which revealed my Character Strengths:

  • Judgment, critical thinking, open-mindedness
  • Kindness and generosity
  • Love of learning
  • Fairness, equity, justice
  • Leadership

After you take the test, 24 total values are given, ranked from most to least. Among my lowest ranking strengths were modesty, faith, self-regulation and humor. My complete list of ranked strengths surprised me at first, and many things that were at the bottom of the list, I would have thrown on top without much thought. After expending some time and thought, it makes more sense than I originally realized. I won’t dive into my perception of the inner workings of my psyche for your sake, so don’t worry.

The purpose of this little exercise is to identify your strengths and find ways to work them into your daily life, so that you will ultimately find more happiness – since doing the things you are ‘good at’ will reap higher rewards than those you are less ‘good at’.

It had some other profound benefits for me as well though. Some of these questions really stuck out to me. Among them were:

I am always busy with something interesting.

Initial reaction: Hell no. I’m either working on something I have to work on, taking a break so I don’t think about something I’m supposed to be working on, or sleeping and dreaming about the things I’m supposed to be working on.

I am the most important person in someone’s life.

My initial thought: Of course.  Then … I’m not sure if anyone would label me as the most important person in their life, or if I can call anyone person the most important in mine. I have a lot of people I love, but the idea of choosing one as more important that anyone else? I’m still not sure. Maybe that’s reserved for people in love, or when those people have a baby and re-fall in love.

I can accept love from someone else.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem expressing my feelings. I shove it in your face. But, accepting love is a different story. This ended up toward the bottom of my strength list, based on this answer and those of similar questions. Accepting love from someone seems like such a primitive idea, and maybe it is something you’re innately given, and lose over time. I want to be able to take in all the love I can. I may have just forgotten how.

I have created something of beauty in the last year.

There has to be something … But I can’t come up with a single thing. That’s one of the first things on my newest bucket list (and not for the sole purpose of crossing it off the list). I want to make something I’m proud of – because I deserve to be proud of myself.

If you would have asked me 15 years ago where I would be today, I’d be a singer/songwriter/supermodel finishing up my first term as president. Biological factors and a short attention span have obviously led me on a different path, but I can’t help but miss the spirit I once had. Naivety is a beautiful thing.

A lot of these questions, and obviously the results to the questionnaire in all, were really positive for me. Sometimes seeing who we are on paper is the best way of recognizing who we’d rather be.  I did more than identify my strengths (and am currently on some kind of mission to put them into practice), but I was able to identify some areas that I did not even realize I was struggling in.

I hope you will take the time for a little reflection today. You don’t have to go this route if it doesn’t speak to you, but sit down with yourself for a few minutes. Check the path you’re on. Ask your past self if you lived up to your own standards. It’s never too late for a little modification.

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