Pathways to Wisdom

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about strengths. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

We discovered that there are a number of ways to think about and identify personal strengths. Having a common language for what is best within us is advantageous, because it gives us the ability to identify and intentionally develop our strengths. Last week, I introduced you to the VIA Character Strengths as a way to provide a common language for our journey together (1). 

It is important to remember that this model is intended to be a descriptive “manual of the sanities" (2). In other words, it is not prescriptive. All 24 character strengths matter, and we all have a tendency to use some more frequently than others. Think of it as your personal pathway to virtue (3).

And remember, the benefits we discussed, such as well-being (4), life satisfaction (5), and performance (6), come not merely from the identification of strengths, but from their active use and development (7)!  

I hope you took my invitation to think about the character strengths that played a role in your highlight story from the previous week and began to discover how those strengths have positively impacted your world more broadly. 

This week, we will begin to look at each core virtue in succession: Wisdom, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence, and Courage (1). We will think about each character strength individually, and I will offer potential ways to engage each strength. It is my hope that over the next six weeks you will discover and develop a character strength that serves as a personal pathway to each core virtue that feels both natural and energizing to you! 

So, let’s start with Wisdom - or the acquisition and use of knowledge. The VIA identifies Love of Learning, Perspective, Judgment, Creativity, and Curiosity as potential pathways to Wisdom. 

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the character strengths of Wisdom. 

Love of Learning is the enthusiastic study of new skills and topics. It has to do with the way you learn, and it has positive motivational consequences. Love of Learning is a cultivated interest that helps folks persist in the face of challenges that may arise during the course of formal and informal education in order to accumulate knowledge. If this feels like an authentic pathway to Wisdom for you, perhaps you would enjoy learning 5 new words this week, joining a book club, or visiting a museum? 

Love of Learning’s Motto: Learn something from every situation.

Do people often turn to you for advice? Perspective is often called wisdom, and it implies a broader sense of knowledge and judgement. It means that you have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to yourself and others. Perspective helps folks provide valuable support or counsel to others as it tunes them into the patterns in their lives and the world around them. If this resonates with you, perhaps you want to mentor someone, reflect on the moral implications of your actions, or spend time considering how your strengths impact those around you? 

Perspective’s Motto: Offer good advice. 

(And I would add the caveat - when it is asked for. Oh and don’t forget to include yourself as a potential recipient of your perspective!)

Judgment is also thought of as critical thinking and open mindedness in the VIA classification. This may seem counter intuitive at first, but judgement is not about judging yourself or others. Rather, this strength is about being able to see a situation from all sides and consider the evidence that supports and/or challenges your personal beliefs. It’s a way of counteracting personal bias. Judgement helps you weigh issues fairly and see things from different angles. If this feels like you, perhaps you want to play the devil’s advocate in a discussion about a topic on which you are passionate, identify an action that you were not pleased with and brainstorm alternative ideas/approaches for a better future, or write out a pro and con list the next time you approach an important decision?

Judgment’s Motto: Examine the details.

Creativity uses your originality to produce novel ideas that positively impact your world and those around you. It it both generative and adaptive. Creativity is not limited to artistic expression or scientific discovery. Instead it engages imagination in a new or surprising way to solve a challenge in front of you. If you would like to engage your creativity, perhaps you would enjoy brainstorming new ways to approach a daily task, reinventing your leftovers or the available ingredients in your fridge into a delight meal, or crafting a meaningful gift for someone special? 

Creativity’s Motto: Do things differently.

Curiosity is a generalized interest in the things going on in the world around you. It’s an approach to life that is open to experience and novelty seeking. Curiosity is a strength that drives people to explore and discover the boundaries of human knowledge. If this strikes a chord with you, it might be fun to dedicate some time this coming week to learning about something completely new to you. Perhaps by watching a TedTalk, reading an article, or trying a new restaurant that serves food from a different culture would offer you an opportunity to get curious, engage, and discover something new. 

Curiosity’s Motto: Ask questions - lots of them. 

So what’s your personal pathway to Wisdom? This week, I invite you to choose one of the above character strengths that feels authentic and energizing to you and actively develop your core virtue of wisdom. Take one of my suggestions or come up with a way to engage your chosen character strength on your own! Get specific and take action. Then, pay attention. When you are intentionally using your Love of Learning, Perspective, Judgement, Creativity, or Curiosity, ask yourself - 'How does it feel?'

I hope you enjoy engaging your personal pathway to Wisdom, and I look forward to seeing you next week as we engage and discover our personal pathways to Humanity. 

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Peterson C, Seligman M. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol 1). Oxford University Press; 2004.

2. Easterbrook G. I’m OK, you’re OK. The New Republic; 2001, 20-23.

3. Niemiec R. VIA Character Strengths: Research and Practice (The First 10 Years). Well-Being and Cultures: Perspectives from Positive Psychology; 2013, 11-29. 

4. Gander F, Proyer R, Ruch W, Wyss T. Strength-based positive interventions: further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies; 2012, 1-19.

5. Seligman M, Steen T, Park N, Peterson C. Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist; 2005, 60(5), 410-421.

6. Dubreuil P, Forest J, Courcy F. From strengths use to work performance: The role of harmonious passion, subjective vitality, and concentration. The Journal of Positive Psychology; 2014, 9(4), 335-349.

7. Hong Y, Chiu C, Dweck C, Lin D, Wan W. Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 1999, 77, 588–599.

8. Rashid T, Anjum A. 340 ways to use VIA character strengths. Unpublished manuscript; 2005.

9. Wedding D, Niemiec R. Positive psychology at the movies: Using films to build virtues and character strengths. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe; 2008.

* Special thanks to viacharacter.org for the Character Strength Mottos