The Power of Character Strengths with Bilal Ghalib

Take the character strengths assessment here.

One fundamental belief I have is in the goodness of people. Why then are there so many broken systems and challenges due to human behavior? I believe a part of the answer comes from a lack of understanding of our values and a process of living them “out loud”. In this second open house event of Bloom’s Lebanon Accelerator Program, I attempted to create an engaging and interactive workshop that shines a light on the fundamental reason why we do things, and how that relates to our values and signature strengths. Hopefully, with a deeper touchpoint on our values we can identify how our character strengths, which are essentially our values transformed into action,  can bring us to life and animate our personal and professional growth. 

One insight I hope to explore with our work at Bloom is the potential to take the most beautiful parts of humanity into the world through social entrepreneurship. Transforming people’s lives, economies and communities for the better. 

Why Do Character Strengths Matter?

Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality that make you feel authentic and engaged, they’re your values brought to life! The research behind the strengths comes from a cross-cultural analysis done by Christopher Peterson from the University of Michigan as a part of the early developments of the Positive Psychology Project. Positive Psychology attempts to identify the aspects that make life worth living, rather than diagnosing and treating psychological ailments.
We all possess all 24 character strengths in different degrees, giving you a unique character strengths profile. Research shows that understanding and applying your strengths can help:
– Increase Wellbeing
– Reduce Chances of Burnout at Work
– Strengthen Relationships
– Manage Problems
– Reduce Stress
– Accomplish Goals
– Build Meaning and Purpose

To start understanding the importance of intention setting I started with asking myself and the crew why we were all here… Why am I doing what I’m doing? 

The participants were invited to different breakout rooms and paired up at random in order to discuss the reason behind any specific decision they made. The idea was to help people connect and realize that any time we do anything, we express our needs and our values, whether we realize it or not.

Why are you reading this blog post right now? Perhaps you’re seeking information on Bloom’s programming, and why are you interested in the Accelerator? Perhaps you’re looking to grow your business. Why… why… at the end you will realize that there is a single point where you can no longer ask why about any more. Various philosophers discuss their own monisms. 

“The world is the will to power and nothing besides!” – Nietzsche
“The problem of anxiety is the nodal point of many important issues. By solving this issue you can reveal the whole mental life of a human” – Freud
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle.

What is our destination?

Martin Sligman from the school of Positive Psychology proposes that life and purpose can not be boiled down to a “single answer” – that people’s last “why” might land in one of five categories described in the PERMA-V framework:

Don’t relate to some? That is one of the beautiful perspectives of the PERMA framework. People are born with different set points, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t known to be an exuberant happy personality, yet I do not believe that he saw his life as any less meaningful. This makes room for diversity in goals and aims and leads to diversity in values expressed in action. Lincoln may have been connected more with the possibility of finding wellbeing and a life worth living through the dimension of meaning and pursued that with his work. Someone like Tony Hawk, a skateboarder, may be less focused on meaning, and finds his path pursuing engagement, that moment of flow as he zooms down the halfpipe! 

This brings a beauty in our diversity and behaviors and by knowing more about what lies behind our decisions, the final why exposing our values, and our values touching one of the PERMA elements we can fit like puzzle pieces building a beautiful and diverse world. 

Entrepreneurship requires all sorts of people with different motivators and paths to wellbeing. Some find engagement getting into the zone with their design skills, others care deeply about relationships and work on building a customer pipeline. Sometimes I believe the directionality may be reversed. People with higher positive emotions which shine through the Character Strength of Zest are often able to motivate others, and give compelling presentations. 

I hope this model explains the importance of understanding our character strengths as well as that of our team. How together we can work together in a common vehicle sharing a common goal of helping ourselves and others through our work.

How do we use our character strengths to do good?

Doing good is really hard. What exactly is goodness? I believe that once an action is put forth into the world, it’s out of our hands and there may be some negative consequences even to the most pure of intentions. This is why we’ve been working on developing a living model for self, team and organizational reflection built on four pillars. 

Bloom’s 4 Pillar Framework For Personal, Team, and Professional Growth:

Business & Social Impact, Specialized Skills, Universal Skills and the one we’ve been discussing today Wellbeing & Motivation. These pillars represent what we’ve been working on at Bloom, whether it’s with our team, our community, or our ecosystem.

Which of the values in action do we have? Not sure? You can check it out here by registering your interest here and then filling out the assessment form. You’ll receive a list of your 10 main character strengths. Can you identify which values are pointing towards which parts of the PERMA model? 

How do we use our signature strengths to better our lives?

We live in VUCA times.

When the world is shaken, we get an opportunity to grow and learn from what’s going on. The future is not written yet, and we make decisions every single second of every single day. 

So, what character strengths bring us to life? Why do we want to be kind? Why do we want to express love? Why are we curious? Natural-born leaders? This rock-solid foundation is what we can build our lives around, and even our businesses. More meaning leads to more engagement. Meaning, when we connect with things that we relate to, are good at naturally, and care about, it brings us to life.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

That’s where you’ll be able to give your all. Knowing yourself and your values is powerful. That’s where self-doubt ends, and self-acceptance begins. The latter paired up with the appreciation for differences is one of the biggest acts of kindness and love. It’s a way to play your part in the orchestra and still appreciate the other performers. To develop teamwork and mutuality in our effort as social entrepreneurs. 

It takes all sorts. Rather than focusing on the places that would be a challenge for us to bring forward in our life, the idea is to go with your momentum. It’s about doing more of what works. It’s about knowing who you are and applying that. Focus on what comes most naturally and find the others and elevate them to play their parts when you find a shared vehicle and goal.

Why are signature strengths so important for entrepreneurs?

What traits are correlated to entrepreneurial success? According to some preliminary studies by Peter Worrell while at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Positive Psychology, he demonstrated that there appears to be evidence that certain strengths are correlated with entrepreneurial success as measured by longevity of business and financial success, they are: Zest, Gratitude, Leadership, Fairness, Authenticity. We at Bloom are continuing to explore these connections within our programs and will share the knowledge as it’s growing.

These Character Strengths seem to be helpful for entrepreneurs – yet they don’t have to all be the same person. The idea isn’t to try to grow in all of these dimensions but to partially think about “who do we need in the team? Who is the missing puzzle piece that will better our business as a whole?” 

That’s something we’ve been exploring at Bloom. We are led by a team made of kindness, curiosity, love for knowledge, leadership, love, humor, fairness, and much more. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of my day is seeing how a group of people from diverse backgrounds (Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, the USA…) are growing closer together and supporting each other. 

Grasp what is working and take it to places that need more light

Let’s say that one of your top strengths is bravery. How do I bring bravery to those parts of life that don’t come so naturally? Bring more of what’s been working to places where there is a gap. 

Basically, it’s like spreading butter across the toast! 

Bloom is about learning by doing, cultivating habits, developing our character and destiny in a positive way. When we do it together as a team, we watch our thoughts in a safe space and we are seeing each other articulate who we want to be, completing and bettering our big Bloom puzzle and we hope to help social entrepreneurs who want to do the same! A tight-knit team full of passion is a force to be reckoned with!

Here’s the deck, in case you’d like to go through it! I hope you enjoyed these questions and resources. Did you use them to get a step closer to your ideal destination? I honestly would love to hear from you. 

Yours in growth,

Bilal Ghalib