Fine tuning strengths to find flow.
According to Alex Linley (2008), "...a strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, [it] enables optimal functionning, development and performance."
Take the musicians in the photo, they had talent, you can't hear them but I was there, and their voices, the music, and the energy they expended, created a synchronicity and sound that held you captive. I think it is fair to say that the two men were using their talents (what they do well), along with their interests (what they enjoy doing) and their skills (their mastery of actions). This combination not only created a harmony in their music, but it no doubt created a harmony within them too, harmony and positive energy which was then exchanged with all those that were passing by. This is a great example of how strengths can work to not only make you feel good, but to make others feel good too. Why? Because when we use our strengths we encounter what Csikszentmihalyi calls 'flow', a natural process that occurs when the actions we take are in congruence with our goals and strengths, we both consciously and unconsciously can spend hours doing what we do, gaining energy instead of losing it. Using our strengths indeed attracts energy, we feel good about ourselves and we build on this momentum by using them more, thus creating a positive upward spiral.
Alternatively, it is easy to see why people sometimes describe themselves as being "stuck in a rut". I love the visual representation of these words: stuck, flow, stuck, flow. People who have become stuck are generally used to the same habits and are no longer in tune with what makes them flow and feel good. They are literally stuck in a repetitive cycle which drains energy and gives the feeling of not moving anywhere, physically or emotionally. Stuckness is a symptom of not using strengths and not being connected to what you can and should do well.
How can you move from being 'stuck' to flowing?
Start by thinking back to a time when you were really engrossed in something that you were doing.
Think about it, where were you, what were you doing, who were you with?
For example you may have been reading a great book, developing a new project at work, or helping a friend to paint their shed? Whatever the moment was, think about it, dwell in it, and then re-create it in some way by doing something similar.
Remember that your strengths are what you do well, what you enjoy doing, and what you can master, not only that they are your character strengths too, when we can combine all of these strengths we can bring energy and flow to our lives and to the lives of others. Thinking back to the musicians in the photo, I might suggest that they were using character strengths of creativity, curiousity, bravery, zest and maybe even some humour, they certainly inspired in me appreciation of excellence, zest and gratitude.
There are 24 character strengths, do you know yours and how to use them to create flow and positive energy in your life? For more information or to arrange a coaching consultation email: firstname.lastname@example.org