I recently had the opportunity to visit an extraordinary school for boys in San Francisco. The school is special for many reasons, but I will stick to just two here. First of all, with the leadership and staff commitment to the highest standards for teaching and learning, the boys consistently graduate at the top of the academic field in the city. While that would be enough for many, this group of students, parents, and educators are equally proud to say the boys are also consistently recognized for being good people.
It is not surprising that a school with these dual accomplishments would want to focus on character strengths for a prospective parent meeting. In fact, knowing, seeing, and applying character strengths delivers three types of outcomes – practical, common good, and development of the authentic self.
As many of us here at Mayerson Academy have previously noted, the practical outcomes related to knowing and using character strengths is varied and well-documented. Character strengths are associated with outcomes ranging from physical well-being to future well-being, to reducing anxiety and depression. Even more importantly in schools is the fact that knowing, talking about, and using signature character strengths encourages motivation, engagement, learning, and performance. Clearly, when we have the opportunity to utilize what is best in us, we produce the best outcomes for ourselves.
But where does the common good fit in? A significant component of character strengths is being able to recognize them in others. We call it strengths-spotting. When you know the language of character strengths and apply it by spotting the strengths in others something very interesting happens. Appreciating the strengths in others builds social bonds (Fagley, 2005) which deepen relationships; and, according to the longest running longitudinal study in psychology, relationships are the single most significant factor in personal well-being.
Furthermore, when we seek to bring out the best in others we actually benefit ourselves. According to Sonia Lyubmirsky, author of The How of Happiness, “helping someone else is a surefire strategy” for experiencing increased levels of happiness.
So, if you want to do well and good, it will be worth your while to learn all you can about character strengths.
And if you want a quick way to start your learning journey, check out our 5 to Thrive challenge.