Our guest author, Dr. Laura S. Brown, is a clinical psychologist and director of the Fremont Community Therapy Project. Some of her clients use personal marketing to reinforce the insights they discover in therapy.
Unlike much of the field of psychology that has traditionally attended to people’s distress and dysfunction, Positive Psychology focuses on helping people to identify their strengths, and grow past their challenges so as to achieve what its founder, psychology researcher Martin Seligman, calls “Authentic Happiness”.
The techniques of personal marketing have always seemed to me to be tailor-made for individuals trying to enhance their happiness in life. This article demonstrates how to use one of the main ideas of Positive Psychology — Signature Strengths — to generate ideas for ads designed to make you happier.
Signature Strengths – what’s that?
Seligman has identified 24 of what he calls “Signature Strengths.” A Signature Strength is a “strength of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting.” Examples of Signature Strengths are:
- Love of learning (my favorite)
- Prudence (not necessarily a strength of mine)
- Curiousity (yep, me again)
- Hope (not my strongest, but I try)
There’s a nice list of all 24 Signature Strengths with short descriptions at Goodlife Zen.
Take the test
The first step you’ll want to take in order to identify what your top strengths are, and which ones you could do better at, is to take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire (it’s about mid-way down the page). Unlike lots of online tests, this one was carefully developed based on research about people who embodied each of the 24 Strengths.
The test takes about half an hour to complete — well worth your time, because at the end you’ll have a rank-ordered list of your strengths, from strongest to least strong. I suggest that you print it out and save it to take again later, after you’ve done your personal marketing campaign, to measure the results.
You have to register for the site, but I promise that they won’t spam you. Or you can take a shorter version of this test in Marty’s book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
Develop your marketing campaign
Okay, now you’ve got your results in hand. You see that a character trait that you’d like to have more of is Play, but it’s only at about the middle of the range. So Play could be the target for your Authentic Happiness advertising campaign.
What can you do to advertise Play to yourself? Some ideas I’ve suggested to my therapy clients who are using personal marketing techniques:
- Think of people in your life who exemplify this trait. Take pictures of them if you don’t already have some. Make a slide-show of their pictures in your Google or Vista sidebar, or put their photo into your cell phone or computer wallpaper.
- Go to Serenitext and create text messages to send to yourself. You can get ideas about which messages will communicate which strengths to you by reading pages 140-158 of Authentic Happiness, where you’ll see self-statements that are associated with each strength. You can use those, make up some that are similar, or use some of the ones that Serenitext has in stock.
- Put yourself in the picture by Photoshopping a picture of your happy self into a group of playful people, pets, or kids, then put it on the refrigerator.
You get the idea. There are a wealth of personal marketing strategies you can employ to increase a strength from lower to higher on your list. Try this for a few weeks, and then re-take the test to measure concrete results from your campaign.
If you’d like to know more about Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman’s website is a great place to go. He has a number of different on-line tests, things to read, and information about Positive Psychology resources. You can also read his Authentic Happiness book to learn much more about the research that underlies this field of psychology.