Most people are their own biggest critics. They spend large portions of their day looking out for what they did wrong. They then spend hours rumination over these perceived weaknesses. Research, though, shows that focus and acting on your strengths can make you significantly happier.
One study had participants take an online test to identify their top 5 “Signature Strengths.” Participants were instructed to use one of these strengths in a new and different way, every day for a week. If one of your strengths was curiosity, for example, you might read a new book on the first day and take a new route to school on the second. The researchers found that using signature strengths caused happiness to increase, and remain at an elevated level at the 1 month, 3 month and 6 month follow ups (see below).
An additional study found that people who are able to use their strengths at work experienced more pleasure, engagement and meaning and were more likely to be satisfied with their job. So, focusing on your strengths can make you happier both in the job and outside it!
This doesn’t mean you should ignore your weaknesses altogether, but it does show that focusing more on your strengths is likely to make you happier. To get started, take the “VIA Survey of Character Strengths” on this page from the University of Pennsylvania (takes 20-30 minutes). If you’re pressed for time, you can take the “Brief Strengths Test” on the same page (takes <5 minutes). After you determine your top 5 strengths, commit to using one in a different way every day for the next week. After that, keep putting into practice your other top strengths. Let us know how it goes!