What are your signature strengths?

Earlier this month in my post about being kind to others, I told you about The Science of Well-Being course being offered for free by Yale University. The instructor, Laurie Santos, provides several ideas for bringing more happiness to everyday life.


Today, I want to touch on another idea from the course – using your character strengths for greater joy in your life and work.


Get your top four character strengths by taking the online test available on the VIA Institute on Character website.* The test has 120 questions and takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can self-identify your top four strengths by reviewing the list of 24 character strengths.


One of my character strengths is Love of Learning, which “involves enthusiastically studying new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge. People with this strength enjoy the cognitive engagement of acquiring new skills or satisfying their curiosity, even when the material benefits of learning may not be immediately available.”


This is a characteristic that I’ve related to all of my life, but it’s been particularly powerful this year given I’ve found myself with extra time since I’m not commuting to teach yoga in studio, and not leading any retreats.


This year, I’ve taken multiple online courses to make me a better yoga teacher by adding to my knowledge of the human body, and diving deeper into yoga philosophy. Most recently, I’ve taken up Spanish language classes. I travel frequently, especially to Costa Rica, and want to be able to communicate more effectively in the local language.


Learning new things plants me firmly in the seat of a beginner, which is a wonderful place to be because it’s where the most growth can occur. In the words of Jonathan Lockwood Huie, “Bringing a childlike wonder and a beginner's mind to life maximizes both success and joy.”

Letting go of preconceived notions paves a path to understanding, which is of particular importance in today’s world. Learning about another’s circumstances can enlighten us to the world around us – the one that exists outside of our own bubble. Having an open mind allows us to evolve and change.


Find ways to use your character strengths in your life and work with the help of this resource by Tayyab Rashid & Afroze Anjum.


Side note – another of my top four character strengths is kindness, so it’s no wonder that I honed in on being kind to others as a way to bring more happiness to life while taking the course.


*VIA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world through supporting research, creating and validating surveys of character, and developing practical tools for individuals and practitioners. Your responses to questionnaires on the VIA’s website are entirely voluntary and will be used, anonymously, in ongoing research by The VIA Institute on Character, the creators of the questionnaires, and other researchers with VIA’s permission. More information regarding what information is collected, how it is used, and how it is shared can be found on the VIA’s Privacy Policy.



Today's recipient of my December of Giving donation is Innocence Project


I heard about this organization from the podcast In the Dark Season 2. This podcast, among others, opened my eyes to just how messed up the criminal justice system can be, and the issue of wrongful conviction.


Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.


To date, 375 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 21 who served time on death row. The Innocence Project’s policy priorities reflect the lessons learned from DNA exonerations. Their policy work addresses each of the contributors to wrongful convictions –eyewitness misidentification, misapplication of forensic science, false confessions, unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, and inadequate defense.

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