Your Character Strengths and ADD

Your Character Strengths and ADD
When I was studying to be a teacher, both in my undergraduate school and during my graduate classes, several of my instructors told us a fable about an animal school. It was originally written by George Reavis in the 1940s. Mr. Reavis was the Assistant Superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools. The story has been widely adapted and distributed.

At Mr. Reavis's Animal School, every animal, the ducks, rabbits, squirrels, and eagles, all had to master the same curriculum. Well, each animal had strengths. The ducks were good at swimming, but they had trouble with tree climbing. The rabbits had a lot of energy for running, and they were terrible at swimming. Squirrels could climb the classroom tree in a flash, however they had a hard time with flying. They wanted to do it from the top of the tree down, and their teachers insisted that they do it from the ground up. Eagles were a challenge for the teachers, since they insisted on doing everything the eagle way. They were given therapy for their "oppositional defiance."

All of the animals had to have remedial education to the point where their strengths were lost in the process. As people with Attention Deficit Disorder, many of us have had this philosophy foisted on us during our school years. Sometimes, we even buy into the idea of "correcting" all of the many things that are "wrong" with us, and we ignore the strengths that we have.

As a thinking and knowing individual, you are aware of many of your strengths. Would you be interested in more information about those strengths? Two positive psychologists, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, developed a tool to help people inventory their strengths. It is called the VIA (Values in Action) Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS), and can be taken for no cost online. The basic survey costs nothing and respondents are given a simple ranking of their strengths, based on answers to their survey questions. Of course, for a fee, the folks at Values in Action Institute will be happy to send you a more in-depth analysis.

What is the VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS)? The online version takes just a few minutes and asks 120 easy questions. The participants use a 5-point scale to answer each question, according to how well the statement describes them. The answers to the questions allow the survey to rank how your character strengths are distributed. I have included a link to the survey in the resources section at the end of this article.

Peterson and Seligman identified six domains that contain the twenty-four character strengths. Those domains are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Within wisdom are the strengths of creativity, curiosity, judgement, perspective, and love of learning. Contained in courage are bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest. Humanity has love, kindness, and social intelligence. Justice includes teamwork, fairness, and leadership. Temperance holds forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation. Finally, transcendence comprises gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. I found an excellent graphic that further explains each character strength. I have included a link to the graphic in the resources section of this article.

What do these strengths mean to you? I recommend taking the free version of the survey. Then, look at your top strengths to solve problems in your life. I would use the top 7-10 strengths, since these are where your gifts are concentrated.

For instance, I am still having trouble getting the motivation together to publish more books about Attention Deficit Disorder. They are written already. I just have to get them formatted and published. Sounds simple? The writing is already completed! Unfortunately, I have not been able to get started on this journey. A look at how my character strengths cluster gives a hint about why the writing is done, but the publishing isn't.

Here is how my strengths look. I have divided them into three groups according to where they fall. The ones on the top group show where my greatest strengths are. The ones on the bottom, not so much!

1-8 Creativity, Love of learning, Gratitude, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Love, Kindness, Curiosity,
9-16 Fairness, Judgment, Social Intelligence, Prudence, Honesty, Humor, Perspective, Spirituality, Bravery,
17-24 Hope, Zest, Perseverance, Humility, Forgiveness, Leadership, Self-Regulation, Teamwork

Back to my books. I need to harness my creativity, love of learning, and curiosity to build a framework to get these books published. Being afraid to fail and having little talent for self-regulation isn't serving me well!

I used to tell my students, "The world will beat you up enough; don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself. When that voice in your head starts talking to you, make sure that it says things that are positive and nice. Things like, 'I can do this,' and 'It might take a while, but I can learn this.' Tell yourself that even if you can't do it right away, you can do it. You don't need to be the very best at something; sometimes just doing it is what matters."

Learn and celebrate your strengths. Use a strengths-based approach to life and the challenges that it brings. Remember the moral of the Animal School, "When we try to make everybody the same, nobody is happy. People can get hurt and their very best gifts can go to waste."

VIA Institute on Character Home Page-Survey Link

Graphic of VIA Character Strengths

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This content was written by Connie Mistler Davidson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Mistler Davidson for details.