When we wake to news of terror and tragedy as we did on the weekend we have a choice in how we respond. We can be consumed by fear and anger; horrified by what has transpired and immobilised by the shared grief of millions. This is a natural response.
Or we can choose hope and gratitude.
Neither will change the situation in France, Beirut or Baghdad. Neither will wind back the clock to find another path, a parallel course in which everyone gets home safely.
One response will stop you in your tracks. It will lead you to doubt, to worry, to sadness and to fear. The other will help you grow.
I have been immersed in strengths research in recent days, as I put the final touches on my online course. I have been examining my daily tasks and considering those that give me energy and those that drain. I have pondered my ambivalence over tasks at which I excel but that leave me flat. I've been borne along through late nights and a hectic schedule by the energy of engaging my strengths of curiosity, creativity and love of learning as I read and design and write, develop ideas, read and write some more.
Strengths are our inner capacity for behaving, thinking and feeling in a particular way. Using our strengths feels authentic and invigorating. It's the feeling you get when you are so engrossed in an activity, idea or conversation that hours can pass yet you feel more energised at the end than when you began. When we use our strengths we function at our best.
One strength in particular - gratitude - is known to be a key predictor of well being. When we are thankful for all that is good in our world and we recognise that the source of this goodness is outside of ourselves, we are exercising this strength of gratitude. We feel happier, we experience contentment. Studies show that engaging in gratitude builds our resilience and helps us to cope better in times of crisis.
Gratitude is not one of my top strengths. It comes in at number 16 of 24 on my results of the VIA Strengths Survey (a self reflection and development questionnaire a little like the Myers-Briggs). But every strength can be developed. We can practice the skills and reap the benefits with awareness, dedication and a bit of practise.
Conscious gratitude is something that I have to work at, but the events of the weekend remind me of just how important that work is. Maybe if we all practised we could spread the strength of gratitude a little wider and make the world a more tolerant place?
My Gratitude Practise
I am thankful for;
- The safety of my community.
- The health and well being of my family.
- This reminder by Joshua Fields Millburn that we must do more than just change our profile pictures in the face of adversity.
- The French people who are lining up to give blood to help their fellow citizens.
- The services and charities who step in to help in response to terror attacks.
- Positive psychology researchers and others who are seeking to understand how to make the world a better place.
Do you know your strengths? Is gratitude one of them?
It's the day for #IBOT