When my son was young, he really struggled to concentrate in school. He didn’t have attention-deficit disorder, he just had a wandering mind. There was usually an adventure story happening in his head that was much more interesting than what was happening in class.
For years he received negative messages about himself, starting with the second-grade teacher who asked us to get him tested for ADD. He was told, in person and in report cards, by teachers and by us, that he’d do better if he would just focus and pay attention.
As he puts it, “I felt like there was something wrong with me.”
How Strengths Made A Difference
Once I started coaching and studying positive psychology, I began seeing Max’s behavior through the lens of character strengths, and something wonderful happened. Again I’ll let him tell you:
“The thing that made the difference was when my mom acknowledged that I was just very creative and had a huge imagination, rather than getting mad at how I wasn’t concentrating. I felt like my parents supported me rather than pushing me or judging me. I’ve really embraced my creativity and now I think it’s one of my strongest assets.”
We even found ways for Max to use his creativity to help him study, like making mind maps. We also identified teamwork as one of his top strengths and encouraged him to study, when appropriate, with other students and with tutors.
Max is looking at colleges this year and has decided to find one where he can explore all facets of his creativity, from music to drama, art and filmmaking. He hasn’t decided what he wants to do professionally but knows it will allow him to use and build his natural abilities to create and collaborate.
24 Ways to Acknowledge Strengths in Others
Acknowledging someone’s inner strengths is a great way to show that you see – and care about – who they are on the inside. I’ve created a ‘script’ of compliments for each of the 24 VIA character strengths that you can download and keep handy for whenever you want to build relationships in this meaningful way.
Please let me know if you use this and have an experience to share. I’d also love to hear about times when someone else noticed your inner strengths — what difference did it make in your life?