In my last post, I wrote about something I’m learning in my Social Welfare Practice class called Strengths Perspective. In that post, I wrote about a gratitude journal to self. In this journal, we would write daily about one of our strengths for thirty days. If thirty days seemed a bit overwhelming, I suggested you do it for five days and then give yourself a break. If you’ve taken up this idea, and you get stuck, here’s one way to get unstuck.
Pay attention. Yes. Pay attention to all the little things you do and give yourself credit for them. When three-year-old Johnny asks you “why” for the thousandth time and you don’t snap at him. Count that as patience. Are you punctual when you’re arriving at work or another appointment? Consider it responsible. When a friend calls, and you give her your undivided attention, even if it’s just for fifteen or twenty minutes, count yourself as a good listener and friend. When your teenager isn’t being cooperative, and you choose to address it in a manner that’s advantageous to everyone instead of letting frustration and irritation make your decision, count it as maturity and long suffering. Maybe you’re a marvel at clipping coupons and saving money. That’s definitely the strength of resourcefulness.
A lot of what we do are things that aren’t necessarily fun or pleasant but they need to be done. Do you show up and do them anyway? Count it as a strength. Chances are, your strengths are showing up every darn day. You’re just not noticing them. So, pay attention to those things you do. The lunches you make. The appointments you keep. The lessons you teach. All of our strengths are there. They are just hidden in the mundane and daily tasks of life.
One day after a conversation with a friend who was going through some difficult things, it dawned on me for the first time that I can be completely present with someone. I could really hear other people. What a revelation to have at forty-nine! When I began to really internalize this as a strength, I found it gave me confidence as I go to school to enter a helping profession.
Does that mean I’m a perfect listener? Nope. Not by a long shot. But I’m not talking about perfection. I’m talking about strengths. So, don’t think you have to always respond well to your teenager’s lack of cooperation in order to consider long-suffering and maturity a strength. If you didn’t handle it well yesterday, but you did better today, consider it a strength. If it didn’t go so well today, but you know you’re capable of doing better tomorrow, it counts.
Then, write these things down. And someday, when you’re not feeling so strong, pull out your list and remember, you’ve got strength.
So, keep at it, and don’t be surprised if you’re surprised at what you find when you simply pay attention.