Strengths in Sticky Situations

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about strengths. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we took our tool belt to work. Why? Whether you’re a student, a caretaker, or a professional, work tends to take up a large portion of our waking hours. I hope you took my invitation to engage your strengths at work in three new ways while targeting tasks that come up frequently. Aligning a strength to a frequent task creates opportunities to use your strengths in action. Over time, the task can serve as a reminder to engage your strengths tool belt, and that can have a lot of benefits. 

As we saw last week, the active use of character strengths at work is associated with increased energy levels (1), job satisfaction (2), overall life satisfaction (3), engagement (4), motivation to learn (5) proactive work behavior (4), productivity (6, 7), and performance (8)! Creativity (when measured as ideation) (9), intrinsic motivation (10) and concentration (11) also join the list of potential benefits due to the active use of personally authentic strengths!

Wow. That’s a lot of potential! 

I hope you joined me on the journey and took your tool belt to work last week. If so, what did you learn? Did you notice any particular benefits as you engaged your strengths at work? 

Personally, I found a renewed source of energy for and increased engagement in a task that is necessary, but not typically something I enjoy. While it is still not my favorite task, actively applying my strengths motivated me to buckle down and concentrate on learning a couple of new tools that will help make this task more efficient in the long-term. Super helpful!

Remember, different benefits arise in different situations and certain strengths are better suited to particular tasks. It’s not a one-sized-fits-all venture (12). It’s a personal journey. The development of character strengths is a highly contextual phenomenon that aligns with personal goals, interests, values, and situational factors (13). No one can take the journey for you, but your tool belt is there help. Reach for it regularly. It’s a powerful personal creation that represents your signature strengths or self-identified authentic pathways to virtue (14). 

This week, I want to continue to explore the many ways you can capitalize on your strengths and promote personal well-being by looking at strengths in sticky situations. 

Do you ever feel like this?

Life is does not always go as we would hope. Sometimes, things get sticky. Capitalizing on signature strengths can be particularly effective when the goal is to cultivate well-being (4) and performance (8) simultaneously. This combination can be especially useful when life gets challenging. In fact, the identification, use, and development of character strengths supports personal resilience (4, 15, 16, 17)! Why? The use of character strengths buffers against psychological vulnerabilities that decrease well-being and drain resilience (18, 19, 20). Further, the development and use of character strengths has the potential to increase resilience by enabling perseverance and well-being in moments of difficulty. 

This may be my favorite potential benefit of strengths yet! If you followed my blog during the first 12 weeks of the year, then you’ve already learned a lot about resilience. But for today, suffice it to say, that everyone encounters moments of adversity both large and small from time to time, so everyone needs resilience to recover, bounce back, and thrive in the face of adversity (21).

This week, I invite you to build resilience by engaging your strengths tool belt in sticky situations. The next three times you encounter a situation that is challenging or frustrating be it large or small, I invite you to do three things.

First, notice and check in. 

Ask yourself - What’s going on? What happened? How are you feeling?

  • If you feel angry, is there a value you hold dear being trespassed?
  • If you feel sad, do you feel like you lost something? 
  • If you feel anxiety, are you in danger?
  • If you feel guilt, did you cause harm?

Second, pause and get accurate.

  • Take a breath.
  • Open your perspective.
  • Is your appraisal of the situation accurate?
  • What if anything can you control?

Third, take out your tool belt and get creative.

What strength will be helpful in this particular moment? 

Not sure how to begin?

Here are some ideas to get your started:

  • Can use the common language of strengths to articulate what you value?
  • Create common ground in a relationship? 
  • Calm down? Refuel? Connect? 
  • Will a strength help motivate you?
  • Help you find courage to act?
  • Offer a different perspective? 
  • Show appreciation for something in the midst of difficulty? 
  • Examine how things can change for the better in the future?

Once you’ve identified a helpful path, engage your strengths to act in alignment with your values in a sticky situation and see what happens.

There are many ways your strengths can be helpful in sticky situations, so I encourage your to reach for your tool belt three times this week when things are tough. Bring your best into difficult moments, and cultivate resilience through strengths. 

I hope you accept this call to use your strengths in sticky situations, and I look forward to next week as we continue to develop our strengths! 

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


1. Linley P, Nielsen K, Gillett R, Biswas-Diener R. Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review. 2010; 5(1), 6-15.

2. Littman-Ovadia H, Davidovitch N. Effects of congruence and character-strength deployment on work adjustment and well-being. International Journal of Business and Social Science. 2010; 1(3), 138-146.

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

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. Sonnentag S. Recovery, work engagement, and proactive behavior: a new look at the interface between nonwork and work. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2003; 88(3), 518.

6. Clifton D, Harter J. Investing in strengths. In K. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 111-121). San Francisco, CA: Barrett-Koehler; 2003.

7. Zelenski J, Murphy S, Jenkins D. The happy-productive worker thesis revisited. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2008; 9(4), 521-537.

8. 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.

9. Avey J, Luthans F, Hannah S, Sweetman D, Peterson C. Impact of employees' character strengths of wisdom on stress and creative performance. Human Resource Management Journal. 2012; 22(2), 165-181.

10. Quinlan D, Swain N, Vella-Brodrick D. Character strengths interventions: Building on what we know for improved outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2012; 13(6), 1145-1163.

11. Duckworth A, Steen T, Seligman M. Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2005; 1, 629–651.

12. Linkins M, Niemiec R, Gillham J, Mayerson D. Through the lens of strength: A framework for educating the heart. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2015; 10(1), 64-68.

13. Biswas-Diener R, Kashdan T, Minhas G. A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2011; 6(2), 106-118.

14. Seligman M. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press; 2002.

15. Lester P, Harms P, Herian M, Krasikova D, Beal, S. The comprehensive soldier fitness program evaluation. Report 3: Longitudinal analysis of the impact of master resilience training on self-reported resilience and psychological health data. Anchorage, AK: TKC Global Solutions, LLC; 2011. 

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

17. Reivich K, Seligman M, McBride S. Master resilience training in the US Army. American Psychologist. 2011; 66(1), 25-34.

18. Hutu V, Hawley L. Psychological strengths and cognitive vulnerabilities: Are they two ends of the same continuum or do they have independent relationships with well-being and ill-being? Journal of Happiness Studies. 2010; 11, 71–93.

19. Park N, Peterson C. Methodological issues in positive psychology and the assessment of character strengths. In A. D. Ong & M. van Dulmen (Eds.), Handbook of methods in positive psychology (pp. 292-305). New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.

20. Park N, Peterson C. Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character. 2009; 10(4), n.p.

21. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.