I know when I am being creative (creativity is one of my top strengths), I am at my best and I feel my best. Yet in the chaos that is life, I often don’t make time for those crucial creative moments. I know what I need to do and I still can never seem to make the time or be intentional about using and building my strengths. I struggle with creating habits and routines that meaningfully incorporate my strengths. Luckily, I have some help in figuring out what this could look like.
Through work in partnership with Northern Kentucky University to build a culture focused on wellbeing, I get to observe the journey to meaningfully incorporate character strengths into the work lives of individuals across the university. Most recently, the Administration and Finance Department at the University held a Holiday Breakfast, celebrating the department’s and individuals’ accomplishments. The Breakfast also seamlessly integrated character strengths into the celebration, lending me great insight on what it looks like to intentionally apply character strengths.
Incorporate strengths into existing habits/routines
Instead of creating new tasks around using character strengths, its easier- and more effective- to incorporate them into existing pieces of work. The Holiday Breakfast is something the Administration and Finance Department do annually, but this year they centered the celebration around strengths. This made the highlighting and use of strengths feel relevant as it was in a familiar context, rather than a separate training or event. For example, the department recognizes individuals every year for an Outstanding Service Award and in addition to the regular nomination narrative, this year the winners’ strengths were also recognized. Finding small ways to incorporate strengths into things you were already going to do is a great way to ensure it will actually get done. If it is a separate item on the to do list, it can easily get pushed off to another day, week, or month.
Make strengths fun
If I think something is fun, I am much more likely to do it and remember it. The Administration and Finance Department embodied this idea with their extremely clever and very fun strengths song that department leaders sang in front of the 400+ attendees. The song highlighted all 24 strengths, sung to the tune of My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music. It was a great way to make the strengths fun and approachable to participants as well as memorable (I still can’t stop singing it in my head!).
Sometimes you just need a little reminder when trying to create a new habit or incorporate a new idea. Its just so easy to forget to tap into your strengths and do things they way you always have. At the Holiday Breakfast, the Administration and Finance Department were very thoughtful in helping individuals leave with little reminders that would help them remember to use their strengths after the celebration was over. Each table had pencils with different character strengths engraved on them. Individuals were encouraged to beg, barter, and steal with other tables in order to end up with 1 or 2 pencils that had one of their top strengths on it. This was intended to be a small reminder in their everyday work to use their strengths.
Tapping into your strengths to accomplish something seems so natural, yet being intentional about using and applying your strengths everyday can still be a challenge. As you think about ways to be intentional about your own strengths, I hope these insights from the amazing work happening at NKU can help guide you to success.