Yesterday was a bad day. Not terrible, just one of those days when you feel off. I stared at my Bachelor’s thesis and couldn’t make sense of the statistics part. So of course, by the end of the day, I had discovered a new series on Amazon Prime (McMafia, terrible name, but two episodes in I can tell it’s dangerously good).
When I woke up today and thought about the day that lay ahead of me, a thought struck me: I think I’m bored out of my mind. Not depressed, not anxious, simply bored!
Boredom. How often do you experience boredom, do you think?
I’m having a hunch that it might be quite common in our daily lives. Now, of course, everyone hates being bored, but to me, it feels like boredom is my personal enemy. Why? Because one of my signature strengths is Ideation, meaning I get energized by ideas and need a lot of intellectual stimulation.
People with this strength need new ideas to thrive, to feel fascinated. A world without ideas is, well, a world of boredom to them. Throw into the mix that two of my other signature strengths are Love of Learning and Curiosity, and boredom is a recipe for emotional disaster.
Do you know your strengths? As in, did you get them tested?
Here’s what a signature strength is: It’s one of your top five strengths as measured by a psychological test, usually the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. When you think of your strengths you might think of something like “baking” or “illustrations”, but those aren’t strengths. Those are topics and interests your strengths can be applied to. Strengths are much broader than that, they are things like Curiosity, Zest, and Kindness. Here’s a full list of the 24 character strengths.
We usually can’t figure out what our strengths are on our own because we don’t realize when we’re using them. They come so naturally to us that we don’t think them to be a big deal. Whenever someone in my family gets the results of their strengths test, they usually shrug their shoulders and say: “My strengths are boring. Anyone could do this, that’s nothing special.”
But the truth is, not everyone can do what comes naturally to you. If you have a strength of Curiosity (me too!), then you’ll find it easy to find something new that interests you and to be an interested listener when people talk about a topic you don’t know anything about. Not everyone is like that – some people might find it easy to make the other person feel heard and appreciated or to make them laugh. Those are different strengths.
When you know your strengths, you can make small tweaks to your life that make all the difference in how energized and satisfied you feel.
When I’m not using my strengths I feel stagnant and depressed, like I’m not getting anywhere in life. It makes it hard to enjoy the small moments and makes me think that I need to be more disciplined. Then I look at the days and months stretching ahead of me and I feel utterly uninspired, thinking about how I’ll try to tie myself down to my desk to be a productivity robot.
I’m not exaggerating when I say not using your strengths makes me feel depressed – research has found a strong link between strengths underuse and depression and anxiety.
But when I give myself room to explore and be curious about new ideas and skills, my strengths of Curiosity, Ideation and Learning are satisfied and soon I catch myself thinking that life is so inspiring! So for me to be productive, I need to find something in my work that I can be fascinated by. This is universal – when we use our strengths, we find it easier to be productive and do great work.
But that’s not the only benefit of knowing and using your signature strengths. Here are a few more research-backed benefits of knowing and using your signature strengths:
Benefits of using your strengths
- Increased well-being and life satisfaction 1
- Less depression and anxiety 2
- Increased relationship satisfaction for couples who encourage each other to use their strengths 3
- Higher job satisfaction and productivity 4
How to discover your signature strengths
The easiest way of discovering your signature strengths is through an online test. It takes about 30 minutes and it’s free! All you have to do is create an account (you’ll be asked to do so right away when you click on the link below).
This test was developed by a team of researchers, so the results are valid and reliable, meaning that it’s truly able to measure your signature strengths (aka it doesn’t accidentally measure another personality trait or your mood) and the results stay the same over time. If you were to retake the strengths test in a year it would give you roughly the same results.
I’ve tested my strengths three times in the last five years and they’ve stayed the same – sometimes their order changes or #5 is replaced with something else, but my top strengths are always the same.
Discover your signature strengths with this free signature strengths test.
When you know your strengths and start applying them to your daily life, life becomes easier and more enjoyable. So what are you waiting for? :)
- Duan, W., & Bu, H. (2017). Randomized trial investigating of a single-session character-strength-based cognitive intervention on freshman’s adaptability. Research on Social Work Practice. DOI: 10.1177/1049731517699525
- Freidlin, P., Littman-Ovadia, H., & Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Positive psychopathology: Social anxiety via character strengths underuse and overuse. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 50-54. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.003
- Lavy, S., Littman-Ovadia, H., & Bareli, Y. (2014). My better half: Strengths endorsement and deployment in married couples. Journal of Family Issues. DOI: 10.1177/0192513X14550365.
- Lavy, S., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2016). My better self: Using strengths at work and work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior and satisfaction. Journal of Career Development, 1-15. DOI: 10.1177/0894845316634056