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I’m a bit of a “strengths” junkie. I study character strengths. I read about them, e-mail about them, teach and write about them, and study them. It seems that I’m thinking about character strengths much of the time – which one’s I’m using, how strengths work together, how they can hurt me, and how they can help me be my best.

So, it was no surprise when my mind started rattling off the character strengths I was using while playing online chess.

[Disclaimer: I’m not a good chess player. A couple decades ago I learned the rules but have played only a handful of times, with exception of my binge into online chess a month ago.]

In recent online games, I found myself have thoughts like the following:

  • Interesting, I wonder why my opponent made that last move? (curiosity).
  • Hold back. Play some good defense for the next couple of moves (prudence).
  • I need to come up with a new line of attack here….something my opponent will not be expecting (creativity).
  • Whoops, I completely missed the fact that since my opponent moved a particular piece it enabled another piece to move too (underuse of judgment/critical thinking).
  • There is a human being on the other end of this technology interchange. So, be nice. Don’t be a sore loser (kindness).
  • See the board. Step back and look at all the pieces at once. Look for patterns. Who’s controlling the center? Which pieces are most and least developed? (perspective).

And on and on. I could likely give examples for each of the 24 character strengths. This can be taken another level up and the myriad of strengths combinations can be considered. For example, I now routinely tell myself that with every move in chess I need to simultaneously deploy judgment and perspective – keeping a view of the board-as-a-whole as well as the minutia of details and possible moves each piece can potentially make. Add a sense of prudent caution and adventurous curiosity and creativity and you have a nice recipe of strengths being concocted!

What’s my chess record as I consciously deploy these strength constellations? I don’t know exactly, but it is above .500.

Tentative conclusions:

  • Character strengths are capacities within us, waiting for us to deploy them.
  • There is the potential to bring your strengths into any situation.
  • By being mindful of the strengths you’re using in a given situation, you give yourself the opportunity to perform better.

Learn more about strengths:

To measure your character strengths and discover your signature strengths, go to www.viame.org

To apply character strengths in your practice and life, go to www.viapros.org

Creative Commons License photo credit: KrisFricke