House of Gaia Opens the Positive Psychology Center
Individuals can discover their character strengths by taking a free personality survey at VIAcharacter.org just as Lulu Carter, founder of Naples nonprofit Bee Gaia, known by locals as The House of Gaia, did. An expert on happiness who studied at the Happiness Studies Academy, co-founded by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier, No Matter What: Cultivating Hope, Resilience, and Purpose in Hard Times, Carter has observed how character strengths play a significant role in the pursuit of happiness and peace of mind. The peace that Carter refers to, uses an acronym: P-positive E-energy A-activate C-constant E-elevation. "We can create and share peace with one another by sharing our strengths,” she says.
Carter, who recommends that her clients and participants at the center complete the character strengths survey, explains, “The VIA survey provides a wealth of personalized, in-depth information to help anyone understand their best qualities, including actionable tips on how to apply our strengths to find greater well-being. Character strengths are the positive parts of our personality that make us feel authentic and engaged. We possess all 24 character strengths in varying degrees. Research shows that understanding and applying our strengths can also help in boosting confidence, strengthening relationships, managing problems, reducing stress, accomplishing goals, building meaning and purpose, improving work performance, and increasing happiness.”
Character strengths—capabilities for thinking, feeling, willing and behaving—differ from strengths in our talents, skills, and values. They reflect what is best in us, and can be viewed as part of our positive identity. Talents are strengths that express our innate abilities, which typically have a strong biological component and may or may not be well-developed. Skills are strengths that are specific proficiencies developed through training, such as computer literacy.
Character strengths cut across all categories, including our interests, learning styles, resources and values, which are our enduring beliefs, principles or ideals of primary importance. “Looking retrospectively at our life and the choices we made, if we have identified our character strengths, we can see that they were the guideposts for our decisions. For example, my top character strengths are gratitude, creativity and spirituality. They were the foundation for the decisions I made in 2008 when founding and opening House of Gaia as a supportive learning community and social environment for children, teens, families, educators and individuals interested in learning about multimedia art, culture, language, well-being, environmentalism, global connectivity, community building and volunteerism,” explains Carter.
Carter’s same top character strengths are now guiding her as she reopens House of Gaia Community Center with a new curriculum that promotes happiness. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to apply what I know about the science of happiness and mindfulness to the real-time practice of creating programs for the first Positive Psychology Center in Southwest Florida,” she says.