I know you’ve had a night at the house with your homeboys or homegirls, maybe partaking in a glass of wine or two or some other adult beverage and rattling off philosophical ideas and theories about broad subjects including life, love, health, and wealth.  There’s nothing like a good back and forth with some good friends, am I right or what?

A lot of those discussions were most likely rooted in happiness. How to get more of it, how to keep it, and what to do with it once you’ve found it.

I’ve mentioned it in posts before but it bears a little repeating.

Happiness is like currency. It is the essence of life.

Somedays you have more of it, other days you don’t, you’re willing to trade or buy things for it and you probably have even given it up in exchange for something else. Usually that something else is thought to bring you even more happiness.

You may eat certain foods because they make you happy, buy certain items because you’re convinced they’ll make you happier, get into relationships because that’s what you need right now in order to become happier, and chase the green because if you only had more of it you could finally do all of the things you’ve wanted to do that will make you happier.

But all of those things are a means to an end. They provide you with brief spurts of happiness and in reality all of us need those little jolts of mojo from time to time, but in the long run that’s not what’s going to get it done.

All this leads us to is the bigger is better cycle with no consistency or clarity on what it is that actually provides us with consistent and long lasting positive emotions.

Virtue is the true path to happiness.

Great Justin, but what the heck is virtue?

Old school wisdom spitter Aristotle has said that, “A good life is one where you develop your strengths, realize your potential, and become what it is in your nature to become.” ~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis

Blaine Flower, author of Virtue and Psychology calls Virtues character strengths such as; generosity, loyalty, and honesty; that make it possible for people to pursue worthwhile goals.

I’ve talked about the integrity gap on this site before but finding virtue is in closing that integrity gap as much as possible.

Just as a refresher that gap is the distance between what you do and what you know to be true. It’s your ability to align your behaviors with your strengths and the things that are most important to you and then finding a way to do them consistently.

About a year ago I participated in Brain Johnson’s Optimal Living 101 course and one of the activities I was asked to do was to find my strengths.

I took the signature strengths test created by Martin Seligman and other researchers over at the authentic happiness site (I highly suggest you do the same) and discovered the following personal strengths.

  • Creativity
  • Persistance
  • Self-control
  • Vitality
  • Bravery
  • Optimism

Because these were my greatest strengths I wanted to know how I could live these as often as possible. How could I display these characteristics in the areas of life that were most important to me.

Shoot, now I had to figure out what is most important to me?

A few weeks ago I was at an event with James Franco and he was discussing the importance of defining the different roles you play in life. I had remembered hearing this somewhere before but I couldn’t place my finger on it.

I went home that night and shuffled through some notes of mine and found the life plan I had created based on Michael Hyatt’s life plan template.

The things that were most important to me were the current roles I was playing in my life.

You may play some if not all of the following:

  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Student
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Friend
  • Lover
  • Husband
  • Wife
  • Daughter
  • Son
  • Yourself (this is not selfish. If you can’t take care of yourself it will be damn hard to take care of others.)

I’m sure I am missing some as I bet there a few that are unique to you.

After you have become clear on the current roles you play it’s important to prioritize them in order of importance to you.

Before you automatically put yourself on the bottom of this list consider this for a second. If you play the role of a husband how are you going to be the best husband you can be if your own health is deteriorating? You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

  1. Purpose statement: What is your purpose for each role? I also like to find a powerful quote that goes well with how I define my purpose in each roles.
  2. The future as you see it: This is where you envision the best possible scenario of yourself in that role.
  3. Reality: Check in time. Where are you currently at in each of these roles? What gets measured gets managed and you have to have some sort of sense of where you are in order to know where and how far you have to go to get to that ideal visions of you in that role.
  4. What do you need to do: What are some commitments (behaviors) you need to start making TODAY that will help you bridge the gap between your current reality and the future as you see it?

How to display your strengths in your roles more often

1. Move away from having goals to being goals: Having goals are the desire to see a specific outcome. To lose so many pounds, to make so much money, to be with the love of your life. They don’t require you to do anything, there’s no action associated with them. With having goals you simply state them and hope that they come true. Their more likes wishes.

Being goals establish action. They force you to actually do something. In order to active your weight goals what do you have to do? You have to exercise consistently and eat more real food. In order to create more wealth what do you have to do? In order to find love you have to love more.

What areas in your life can you give more?

That’s where the next step comes in.

2. Create morning rituals surrounding your signature strengths: As the day progresses your willpower will drain and make it less likely that you do those behaviors that lead to the outcomes that you desire.

Your best course of action is to do the toughest things first. Setting aside time every morning to build consistency around your signature strengths is one way that you can build the habit of displaying those strengths everyday.

If you’re the creative type spending a few minutes writing, practicing your art, doing something creative for your spouse or coming up with unique and unusual ways to solve problems at work might be something you want to spend time doing when you first get up.

3. Discover the things that are working not what you think you should be doing: There is a movement happening that is really picking up steam lately. It’s called the quantified self movement in which you incorporate technology to acquire data about various aspects of your daily life.

  • Food consumed
  • Exercise
  • Daily activity
  • Mood
  • Sleep

And a host of other lifestyle variables. Some of the tracking can be done through wearing sensors like Fitbit, Jawbone, or using apps like Sleep Cycle and Moody Me.

What gets measured gets managed and if you are aware of what you are doing everyday you’ll have the ability to decipher if it is working for you or not. After that, you’ll have the ability and knowledge to make changes as necessary.

4. Start with the easiest first: When you establish changes that need to be made go with the easiest first in order to build momentum, confidence, and the habit.

If you are looking to be more active but have been sitting on the couch for the past three years walking may be easier then running. If you are trying to reduce stress taking a hot bath daily might be easier then starting a meditation habit.

And if all else fails

Simplify the heck out of everything. What is one big thing that you can start doing today that will have the most positive influence on the roles that you play? What is one big thing you can stop doing that creates the most stress, anxiety, and confusion?

It’s easy to get lost in this self discovery and constantly trying to figure yourself out. I’d say most of us already know who we are. We’re husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters, lovers, friends, caretakers, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and the list goes on.

I think most of us already know who we are. Now it’s just a matter of acting like it.

With gratitude.

Our personal strengths are part of what makes us unique as individuals, and part of the value we offer to the world around us. 10 Ways to Find Your Own Personal Strengths

Featured photo credit: Stephanie |Anabelrose Photography| via photopin cc

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