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Where to begin with this book ? It starts with a bang and then slowly burns and then overtakes almost every living thought you have about life and kids and education and challenges and successes and failures and what is important in life ? What do we want from our kids ? What do they want ? But then, I guess, I do have a habit of living and breathing and dreaming about the books that I read ! The title sucks you in and you think, “I must read this book”, but it’s the subtitle that is the true hero here: ‘Grit, Curiosity and the hidden power of Character.’ That is the game breaker for me, and the more I read the book, the more it became so blindingly obvious. That character (essentially non-cognitive skills as called by economists or personality traits as called by psychologists) is more indicative of the chances of success than IQ tests or other standardised testing and exams. Many scientists and others have attempted to define character and hence there are numerous definitions. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson wrote a handbook titled ‘Character Strengths and Virtues’ outlining in great detail their list of 24:

Wisdom and Knowledge (strengths that involve the acquisition and use of knowledge)

1. Creativity (personified for example by Albert Einstein,

2. Curiosity (eg, John C. Lilly),

3. Open-mindedness (eg, William James),

4. Love of learning (eg, Benjamin Franklin),

5. Perspective and wisdom (eg, Ann Landers)

Courage (strengths that allow one to accomplish goals in the face of opposition)

6. Bravery (eg, Ernest Shackleton),

7. Persistence (eg, John D. Rockefeller),

8. Integrity (eg, Sojourner Truth),

9. Vitality (eg, Dalai Lama)

Humanity (strengths of tending and befriending others)

10. Love (eg, Romeo & Juliet),

11. Kindness (eg, Cicely Saunders),

12. Social intelligence (eg, Oprah Winfey)

Justice (strengths that build healthy community)

13. Active citizenship/social responsibility/loyalty/teamwork (eg, Sam Nzima),

14. Fairness (eg, Mohandas Ghandi),

15. Leadership

Temperance (strengths that protect against excess)

16. Forgiveness/mercy (eg, Pope John Paul II),

17. Humility/modesty (eg, Bill W, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous),

18. Prudence (eg, Fred Soper),

19. Self regulation/control (eg, Jerry Rice)

Transendence (strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning)

20. Appreciation of beauty/excellence (eg, Walt Whitman),

21. Gratitude (eg, G.K. Chesterton),

22. Hope (eg, Martin Luther King Jr),

23. Humour/playfulness (eg, Mark Twain),

24. Spirituality/sense of purpose or coherence (eg, Albert Schweitzer)

I love this list and even just reading through it makes me appreciate the strengths inherent in each quality. Of course its very thorough and somewhat unwieldy as a practical and manageable system to be used for educational purposes. A more simpler set of just seven strengths were identified by Peterson that are more likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement, they are:

1. Grit   2. Self-control   3. Zest   4. Social intelligence   5. Gratitude   6. Optimism   7. Curiosity

This list is compact and also I found it to tie in well with The Resilience Project that have been working with the Level 3 students. They draw much of their work and inspiration from Seligman’s positive psychology work. I don’t believe this will be my last writing about this book, I hope that I will add to this post at a later date and reflect more on its value to my teaching and philosophy.

 

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