Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Identify Your Greatest Strengths and Virtues

In the most recent post, we looked at three questions that every trader needs to ask themselves to ensure that they are making the most of their work--and their personal life.  The key idea is that peak performance requires something more than simply correcting our mistakes and minimizing our weaknesses.  To be at our best--at work, in relationships--we must play to our strengths and find outlets for our virtues.

But if we've been problem focused, how can we look at ourselves afresh and identify our greatest strengths and virtues?  

Here is a simple but powerful exercise in self-discovery:

Write down 10 of the happiest, most fulfilling, and most satisfying events of your life to date.  These can be drawn from your work, your relationships, your personal interests, your past, or your more recent experience.  The list should capture the true highlights of your life:  meaningful experiences, rewarding accomplishments, positive and memorable occasions.  

Once you have generated the list of 10, next to each one write down the strengths associated with each from the list of 24 below.  Each experience may encompass more than one strength.

1)  Zest - approaching life with a high degree of energy and enthusiasm;
2)  Grit - persistence in the face of challenge
3)  Self Control - displaying unusual discipline and self mastery
4)  Social Intelligence - displaying particular sensitivity to the needs and feelings of self and others  
5)  Gratitude - being thankful for what you have
6)  Love - being close to others
7)  Hope - having optimism about the future and working toward it
8)  Humor - being able to laugh and enjoy oneself
9)  Creativity - generating new and valuable ways to think about and do things
10)  Curiosity - being interested in something for its own sake and delving into it
11)  Open Mindedness - approaching experience in an accepting way, viewing it from all sides
12)  Love of Learning - mastering a new area of knowledge or skill
13)  Wisdom - providing deep and valuable perspective to others
14)  Bravery - standing up for what is right, willingness to face threats
15)  Integrity - speaking up for and acting upon your values
16)  Kindness - doing good things for others and caring for them
17)  Citizenship - working effectively as part of a team or community
18)  Fairness - treating others equally
19)  Leadership - providing direction and support for a group to which you belong
20)  Forgiveness - accepting the shortcomings of others and forgiving their wrongdoings
21)  Modesty - allowing one's actions to speak for themselves without self-aggrandizement
22)  Prudence - exercising restraint and discretion about one's choices without taking undue risks
23)  Appreciation of Beauty - noticing and valuing beauty and excellence
24)  Spirituality - holding and acting upon beliefs about higher purpose and meaning in life

For some of your top ten life experiences, multiple strengths will be apparent.  Others may dominantly tap one or two strengths.  As you survey the strengths attached to each of your peak life experiences, be particularly attentive to the items that recur.  These are your signature strengths--the ones most consistently associated with your happiness, success, and fulfillment.

Once you've identified your core strengths, you can then ask yourself:

*  How consistently am I tapping into these strengths in my work?
*  How consistently am I tapping into these strengths in my trading?
*  How consistently do my relationships tap into these strengths?
*  How many of my top strengths find an active outlet each week in my life?

It is not uncommon that people find that they are spending a relatively small proportion of their time activating the virtues and strengths that have provided them with their best life experiences.  That is an important reason why so many people feel disengaged at work; why so many friendships and romantic relationships become stale; and why our trading fails to get to that next level.

Sometimes the answer is to approach work, relationships, and trading differently--in ways that better play to our strengths.

Sometimes the answer is to rethink our work, relationships, and trading altogether.

We spend a great deal of time climbing the ladder of success.  Make sure that ladder is leaning against the right building.

Further Reading:  Positive Psychology and Trading Psychology Podcast