Using your strengths to get through life’s challenges

Student smiling whilst conversing with someone

Everyone has character traits that they are strong in. Identifying your strengths can help you more easily navigate challenging times. There are many schools of thought that suggest that knowing what your strengths are can help you feel more prepared to navigate the ups and downs of life.

So how do you find out what your strengths are?

What are strengths? Strengths are character traits and virtues you are particularly competent in and can include things like perspective, honesty, perseverance, leadership, to name just a few. You can brainstorm your own list of strengths or use an online test like the one at the Via Institute on Character to figure out what your strengths are. Once you’ve got a list, focus on the top six strengths you’ve identified.

Okay, now that I know what my strengths are, how can that help me?

Think of an upcoming challenge you are facing. How could you use your strengths to help you get through that challenge? Knowing what our strengths are can help us lean on known strategies when times get tough. Having an idea of what we are strong at can give us a toolbox of strategies to draw from. Take a moment to remember how you’ve used your strengths to face challenges in the past.

For example, say you are feeling overwhelmed going into exams. Take a look at your top six strengths. Perhaps one of your strengths is perspective and you know that friends come to you for advice and value your wisdom. You can flip this experience around to your own situation. Think about what you would tell a friend who told you they were in a similar situation? Ask yourself how you will feel about this situation in 24 hours, 2 days, and 2 weeks from now.

Or maybe one of your strengths is perseverance. Using your perseverance in the exam example, you might decide you need to organize yourself in order to get everything done. You could use a bullet journal or an online organizational tool like Trello to break your work into tasks.

Set SMART goals

No matter what strengths you pick, use SMART goals to make yourself a plan for how you will get through your upcoming challenge. SMART goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, you could set a goal to use your strength of perspective by reflecting on your challenges in a journal until exams are over.

Sources and further reading:

The VIA Character Institute Survey

Structured Debriefing of the VIA Character Strengths Profile (Video)

SMART Goals: How to Make your Goals Achievable

Resiliency Initiatives: A Strengths-Based Perspective (PDF)

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