CSV or What Makes Real Character?

I ran across this list on Facebook and because these individual character traits are all subjects that I love to explore in my blog, I thought I’d just put the entire list on here with reference to where you can find additional information about this movement toward creating a better life for everyone and how to “grow” a better person to live that life. There are two key points I want to make on this posting before I simply provide the info that I found below:

1) This is a major change in any standard psychologist’s perspective: from what is wrong with you to what is right with you. It is called Positive Psychology. And…

2) by focusing on how to develop and “grow” those positive human traits defined below, it can actually help people live happier and more fulfilling lives.

csv handbook“CSV is based on the book Character Strengths and Virtues by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman (2004), and is an attempt to present a measure of humanist ideals of virtue in an empirical, rigorously scientific manner.

In the same way that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used to assess and facilitate research on mental disorders, CSV is intended to provide a theoretical framework to assist in developing practical applications for positive psychology.[1] [quote taken from Wikipedia.]

“VIA Description of 24 Character Strengths for living a happy and fulfilling Life: VIA website     (VIA means “Value In Action”.)

http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths#nav )

Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and skillful use of knowledge.
1. Creativity & Imagination [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.
2. Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering.
3. Open-mindedness [holistic judgment, critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; weighing all evidence fairly.
4. Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally.
5. Holistic perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.

Strengths of Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external and internal.good character traits
6. Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular.
7. Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.
8. Integrity [authenticity, honesty]: Presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one’s feeling and actions.
9. Vitality [zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with optimism and energy; feeling alive and motivated.

Strengths of Humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve supporting and befriending others.
flute playing boy with waterbuffalo10. Love & Compassion: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. Empathic connections with all beings.
11. Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “niceness”]: Doing favors and good deeds for others.
12. Social intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself.

Strengths of Justice:  strengths that underlie healthy and harmonious community life.
13. Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group.
14. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others.
15. Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same maintain time good relations within the group.

Strengths of Temperance: strengths that protect against unhealthy excess and egotism.
16. Forgiveness and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.CSV book
17. Humility / Modesty: Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.
18. Prudence: Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.
19. Self-regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions (equanimity).

Strengths of Transcendence: strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning in life.
20. Appreciation of beauty and excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life.
21. Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
22Being Happy. Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.
23. Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side.
24. Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose, the meaning of life, and the meaning of the universe.”

What are your thoughts on the focus of Positive Psychology and these categories and definitions established at VIA?

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Solar Flares Create Undesirable Sizzle

flares in spaceSince it’s been raining here for about two weeks (probably related), it’s harder to notice the intensity of the sun, but when the clouds do part for a time we get glimpses of the awesome white-hot power blazing above us created by the solar storms this past month or so.

Even folks in the middle of Iowa this week are noticing the northern lights, and like Scott Kelly mentioned from the space station a few days ago: they were Kelly's northern lightsred—unreal!

So what is happening up there? Why so much hyper-magnetic, solar storm activity on the sun?

I can’t even begin to know that answer. But I do know what I’ve been feeling here on earth because of all that extra energy and electrical charge—I’m absolutely sizzling inside. I’ve even had to use some black tourmaline stones to pull the excess energy out of me over the last two nights just to get some sleep.

Here’s my advice for those who are presently suffering through tremendous tests of patience and personal demeanor:

If you want to save your relationships during these major solar storms affecting the earth over this week aclenched teethnd in the future, you better Super-glue your mouth shut now or be on guard that uncontainable nastiness will explode from between your pursed lips or clenched teeth at the slightest provocation, because everyone is feeling the power and strength of these high-charged particles around us.

Keep in mind that sometimes silence is golden.

But right now, it is absolutely necessary for your health and well-being.

Taking It As It Comes

tornado and farmIn the aftermath of severe storms, people gather together supporting one another, while they plan how to get on with their lives. Communities become like extended families of genuinely caring individuals who find a way to make life better for those in the greatest need of help.

In the Midwest (I’m in Iowa), many have had wind and hail damage this spring, with a few areas hit worse than others. We were lucky in our location and had only straight-line winds and golfball-sized hail requiring roof and siding replacements.

But a few miles to the east of us, barns and entire homes were obliterated by a tornado. It all depends on where the storm tracks as to who gets the worst damage, or who skates by with minimal affectation. Last year we were lucky and skated free when only two blocks away from us trees throughout town were downed and siding ripped from many homes—but we were NOT so lucky this year.

So I’m sensitive to the way life can suddenly change for anyone; and hochaos graphicw those changes can create havoc to habitual living, forcing change and complete start-overs in many lives. There is a Chinese ideogram that states: Crisis creates the opportunity for change, but some would call it a necessity for change.

To many, these are just the challenges that go with life in general no matter where you live. Challenge-wise you simply learn to take it as it comes. If you are knocked flat, you take a moment to get your breath back and then stand up again—brushing yourself off and getting on with your life. We all learn to do this, one way or another.

What I and those in my community are going through is pretty mild compared to the major devastation that many have endured over the last few years, and I am thankful to be sitting safely in my own home as I write this. The same cannot be said for everyone. So as challenges go, for us this one is minor compared to many.

But it only takes a few situations like these to discover how interdependent we all are on each other for support and encouragement when we need it. Many helping hands make short work of sorting through a field of debris, or removing the rubble from toppled buildings, including rescuing loved ones from beneath them.

Parkersberg tornado helpIn farm country as soon as the danger passes, dozens of trucks show up out of nowhere to areas of devastation, and people jump out with work clothes on to start the massive cleanup. Tables of food instantly arise from the suddenly cleared yard to feed the folks helping those who were unlucky enough to be in the path of destruction, but LUCKY enough to have friends and neighbors to help them through the bad times.

That’s just how it is—you help your neighbors and know that if it’s ever your time to need help, they will be there for you as well.

Wherever we live, that’s what we do as caring individuals—we do what we can to help others, knowing that if the time comes that we ever need the help, that same help will be available for us as well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You simply have to take life as it comes—good or bad, with gratitude and respect; and then you pay it forward in some possible way because some day you know that YOU might need others the way they presently need you. And that’s the beauty of it all.

Rejection Redux

Rejection is a little like Acid Reflux; …it just keeps coming back up, especially when you lie down at night and try to sleep.

pain of rejectionRejection is the sort of thing no one wants to experience even once, let alone again and again. But for some folks, feeling like no one wants any part of you may seem standard fare. And it doesn’t feel very good when that lump of humiliation sticks in your throat.

If this situation feels like you might own it, then there is the possibility that the word “seems” could mean there may be a perception problem in your social interactions—and perhaps you only “think” that others are rejecting you when actually most folks around us are so completely self-absorbed that if you aren’t a mirror or their iphone, you simply aren’t going to be seen by them no matter what you do.

Then there is the other evidential possibility that for some unknown (or even known) reason, you are being avoided and pushed aside like yesterday’s fashion. For that possibility, you may need a little more research on WHY this might be happening to you.

However, if it is in Junior High or even High School that these rejections are occurring, then being ostracized or avoided is not that unusual as during that time period everyone is trying to discover their own identity, and yet still fit in with similar-acting or -looking kids. Those in adolescence who fail to conform to the rules of “popularity” are often ridiculed or made to feel sub-human. That doesn’t make it right—it just makes it normal.

It was SO normal when I was a teen, that Janis Ian even wrote a song about it way back when that made her an easy million dollars if not more, over the years, called “At Seventeen.” She’s even on Wikipedia—check her out. I’ll put the lyrics on here and every time you think you’re being reduced to an afterthought by another whiney-voiced, snob sneering, “Who are you anyway?” then you just listen to Janis Ian’s song and think: “Yeah, and she made a wad out of that whole rejection-thing. She laughed all the way to the bank, and still IS laughing because Oldies stations are still playing the song once in awhile.”

In other words, Janis Ian made that nasty, humiliating, adolescent character-building, rejection-experience work for her. And so can you.

“At number oneSeventeen

I learned the truth at seventeen, That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles Who married young and then retired.
The valentines I never knew, The Friday night charades of youth,
Were spent on one more beautiful. At seventeen I learned the truth.

And those of us with ravaged faces Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home, Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say – Come dance with me, And murmured vague obscenities.
It isn’t all it seems, …at seventeen.

A brown-eyed girl in hand-me-downs,Whose name I never could pronounce
Said – Pity please the ones who serve They only get what they deserve.
The rich-relationed hometown queen, Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company And haven for the elderly.

So remember those who win the game Lose the love they sought to gain,
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity. Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment-due Exceeds accounts-received, at seventeen.

To those of us who knew the pain Of valentines that never came,
And those whose names were never called When choosing sides for basketball.
It was long ago and far away The world was younger than today,
When dreams were all they gave for free To ugly duckling girls like me.

We all play the game, and when we dare We cheat ourselves at solitaire.
Inventing lovers on the phone, Repenting other lives unknown,
That call and say – Come on, dance with me And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, …..at seventeen.”

Janis is now nearing retirement. I bet as she sits back and counts all her money, she thanks ALL THOSE happy faceJERKS she once knew in adolescence for that rich portfolio of song-writing material created back then.

Rejection is never fun, but it’s okay. It just makes it easier to see your own unique beauty.

Look at the smile on her face now.

So Many Questions

Seems like the older I get, the less I think I ever did know.

It isn’t that I’m losing knowledge along the way. It’s more so I’m realizing that those certainties I once felt about life in general, really weren’t. There are no genuine life certainties to be had; and life isn’t what it once seemed to be in the brashness of my youth. It’s just not that simple.

The sureties and certainties that we repeatedly tell ourselves ddelusionaily are often indicators of some deeply-guarded delusions created by the egoic mind. They are “deeply guarded” for a reason: we base every facet of our lives on those core beliefs—everything from WHAT we do, to HOW we do it, and most importantly to the WHY we do it aspect.

While this sounds a bit ridiculous to think that we are basing our lives on such serious inner fantasies, it actually means that to us they are NOT fantasies at all because we consider some of our deepest beliefs to be above intense inspection or reconsideration.

Those are the core beliefs that we aren’t going to change our opinions on without ample evidence to their flawed nature, because we’ve already invested far too much thought and emotion into them (as have our parents invested their time drilling them into us from infancy onwards).

We grew up believing in these things—being force-fed these things in some instances, and even now, those beliefs tend to bolster our mental concept of WHO we are as a person and WHAT we want (and deserve) from life—hence that’s why they are considered CORE beliefs.

To CHANGE a cobeliefsre belief is to create before us a sudden swampland-crossing where prior we had stood firmly anchored on solid psychological pavement. That fast-dissolving sense of inner solidity and environment framing, no matter how imperfect it may later be proven to be, made us sure of a purpose to our life and even provided us tangible future goals of creating a better life for ourselves and for our loved ones—i.e.: good jobs, lots of money, quick advancement, supportive families, the GOOD LIFE, etc..

You’ll recognize those swampland-crossings as unexpected illnesses, divorces, deaths, job losses, financial upheavals, addictions, assaults, betrayals, etc.—anything that suddenly shifts your perspective out of the “my life is flowing smoothly” steam of living and into sudden and complete chaos where firm-footings no longer exist.

That’s the point where your core beliefs come under the greatest inspection. If your beliefs help you through the toughest life issues without losing your sanity, they may be solid ones. If not, you will likely be searching for greater solace in a different belief system; and you’ll also be questioning whether your earlier beliefs were in fact, delusions—things you told yourself because that’s what you wanted to believe, NOT because they were true.

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself on this matter, but over the many decades of my own existence my personal beliefs have evolved—sometimes year-by-year. Learning to think for myself from college onwards was a major step in becoming my own person, rather than remaining the person that my parents or childhoquestionsod authorities tried to mold me into being.

And for many of us, that’s what “coming into our own” is all about—finding our own way rather than being told which way to choose, or how to act, or who to wed, or what to do with our lives, etc. Moving out of our parents’ and authority figure’s shadows is the most important first step that many will make toward establishing their own sense of purpose and destiny.

That being said, there are only a few guideline questions I might suggest if you are searching for the right path for you:

  • Is it a path based on love and compassion for yourself, as well as for all others?
  • Is it a path that makes you feel happy about yourself and how you spend your time? (NO GUILT allowed on this path.)
  • Is it a path that nurtures you, and gives you a deeper sense of expansion and future possibilities in THIS world, not the next one?
  • Is it a path that allows you to grow and BE who you truly are?
  • Is it a path of FREEDOM—or are you forever tied to the expectations of others?

These are a few questions that I would have found helpful to me when I was in my early twenties trying to decide on my own path to take back then.

bike of freedomIf you are so inclined, you might try them on for size and see how they feel to you in YOUR life right now.

Life is amazingly short, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Find yourself (and your true calling) early and enjoy every moment of your life daily.

A Sense of Direction

compassA 360-degree pivoting-on-one-foot scan reveals a large problem: there are so many possibilities for forward movement and yet no idea which direction to choose.

Without some sense of purpose or a specific goal in mind, we may simply head out in the direction of least resistance or head in whatever direction the prevailing wind might be pushing us.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Perhaps it depends on the intention behind it.

As kids we often heard: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

At the time, I’m sure that many of us had an answer or two that might have changed from year to year or month to month, especially depending on who asked us the question and how important to us that person was—because for certain, we didn’t want to disappoint a parent or a respected authority figure—so our answers back then were often meant to impress others and create positive feedback for us.

kids drawingsTo be a child contemplating our future possibilities for personal success and communal respect without really knowing how easy or hard it might be to do the job, was a bit like making the child’s future decision on what felt momentarily intriguing and important for career prospects, but likely left us clueless on the details of how to get there.

So our childhood future-goals changed frequently and were often tried on like vacation outfits before packing for the trip. How does this look on me? How does it feel—too confining?—Too restrictive? Will I get oohs and ahhs from those who see me? Will I be the object of mass adoration; or will I get uggs and OMGs parading around in those duds—ridiculed and pointed at for wearing the wrong thing around others?

path availableThroughout our youth, schools tried to provide a structured environment with more “realistic” goals for our future, but depending on the “career possibilities range” made available to us back then, we often felt far more limited in possibilities than we did as kids with the whole wide world stretched out before us in every direction.

I am happy to see that many of today’s youth can truly feel the future is wide-open to their every inclination for personal besting, and that a 360-degree future-career possibility is within reach for most of them.

But disadvantaged youth in impoverished communities still might not feel that optimistic and buoyant about their futures. However, compared to what future prospects might have been for them 40-50 years ago, there is still a far greater range of opportunity and dream-scape available to reach toward with a little extra outside encouragement and obstacle clearing for them.

Helping kids find a sense of direction and feel a deeper purpose to their lives is important for an enlightened society—a community that cares about the strength and stability of its membership.

How we all meet the challenges of the future depends completely on the quality of the community members stepping forward to create that future.

Let’s help all children see thesmilesir true future possibilities and not be subject to what might seem easiest at the time, or leave them vulnerable to the strength of those prevailing wind gusts.

The Puzzle

I think I’ve mentioned somewhere long ago that I love putting together jigsaw puzzles—in fact, the more pieces, the better. This time of year when the snow is blowing hard and the “wind comes sweeping down the plain” as it does in Iowa, as well as Oklahoma, it provides a lot of reflection time while contemplating how many layers of clothing are necessary to simply go to the mailbox at around zero degrees.

So puzzles be my thing in the winter. They provide mental challenge and keep my fingers active searching for similarities in color, texture and shape. I think I have about 20 boxes of them now, and every winter I pull them all out, one by one, and obsess over them hour after hour until each is completed.

Then I make myself wait at least a day after puzzle completion before I crumple the pieces all together again, stuff them back into their plastic bag until next winter, and pull out another one to start. (My thing must be in the challenge, rather than the completion. I don’t linger long on accomplishments.)

I view thisIMG_5089 dismantling aspect as similar to the Tibetan Monks creating their multi-colored sand paintings. If you’ve never witnessed that amazing process of creation and dissipation, it is well worth your time.

After the monk’s reverent acknowledgement of their sand-mandala’s completion, and after adequate “beauty and unity” contemplation time, the monks then ceremoniously gather all the brightly-colored sands into a single cDSC_0167ontainer and bless the local rivers with the sand mixture that had once been their total focus and purpose for being, during those awesome hours of unified cDSC_0186reation.

Likewise, I always bless the large, plastic storage box beneath my card table with mine, at least until next year.

Why I’m mentioning this puzzle fixation again is that yesterday as I’m nearing the “last hundred pieces” point (meaning 9/10ths of puzzle completed), I was looking at the remaining vacant space in the puzzle frame and eyeing the pieces remaining to be appropriately relocated into the picture, and thinking “If Life is metaphor, what is the metaphor that I am displaying here in what I am doing?”

It was easily seen that I had left the most “difficult to determine differences” (3D) section of the puzzle to the last where there were fewer pieces to choose from, which meant greater likelihood of success in selection.

At this point, my eyes were tiring and with fewer pieces on the table, I switched to a comparison strategy with the remaining shapes—which means I put all the pieces with knobs at top and bottom, on one side of the table, and the pieces with knobs at the sides on the other. Then I lined them up in columns so my eyes could more quickly slide down each column looking for tell-tale differences in knob size and location on the piece.

Depending on the puzzle design, some have only two basic shapes: knobs at top and bottom, or knobs at the sides. Other puzzles designers have the most contorted, no-two-shapes-the-same thing going that make this type of categorizing impossible, but this puzzle allowed for comparison columns. That was my end-strategy for completion.

“How does this apply to your life?” my mind kept prodding. “What is YOUR end-strategy for completion?” (Oh, now THAT put a different twist to that life-as-metaphor-thing, didn’t it? Yes.)

My end-strategy for completion as demonstrated by this metaphorical puzzle presently under my nose:

  • Subtlety….it’s about subtle differences now—about detail and finesse—the aspects you might have overlooked before when there was too many choices.
  • Now I looked for subtle color hues and picture clarity or fuzziness per piece—individual distinction and color blends.
  • I simplified the selection comparison process—to be easier on the eyes and mind.
  • I had a specific area left to finish, so I narrowed my focus and attention to further sub-dividing the section left to work into even smaller areas until one area was completed, then I moved to another section and did the same. (That “sub-dividing and conquering” thing.)
  • I also savored the selection of the last ten pieces because I knew that what was left was the end of my time with this puzzle, so I carefully scanned the choices before reaching for a possibility. I’m more selective of friends now as well.

As I now stare down at the completed puzzle—a white-ish Bavarian castle surrounded in fall foliage, backdropped by blue mountains and baby-blue sky with puffy white clouds—all 18” x 23” of it, I think of what my friend said when she saw me about midway into it: “Why are you doing that one? It’s not very pretty. It doesn’t look very fun to do.”

And I think, well, once I start a puzzle I don’t quit until I’ve finished it. Maybe that IS the metaphor of my life here. It may not be very pretty or much fun, but it’s mine—it’s MY puzzle.

It’s really not the end-point that matters in life, since the end is pre-determined for all of us. What matters most in life is in how well we face each challenge along the way, and how we make all those seemingly-random pieces of our life fit together into a coherent picture by the end.

Life for all of us is a challenge to be accepted, deciphered and made sense of in the best way that we can.

We frame our lives in the context of not-so-random pieces brought together for a purpose. The challenge for us is in determining that IMG_5049purpose before we complete the puzzle. Hopefully we all can do that—make some sense of our own puzzles before the end. I hope you can. I’m still working on mine.

Photos by Angel Lyle, Davenport, Iowa