17 May Living Strong – March 2021 Empowerment Speaker Series
“Your relationship with yourself is the most important human relationship you will ever have.”
These powerful words come from Jennifer Keitt, CEO of The Keitt Institute and the eighth speaker in EHN’s Empowerment Speaker Series.
On March 17, 2021, Keitt led a webinar focused on the concept of Living Strong, a process that requires individuals to identify and harness their unique strengths.
Founded by Keitt and her daughter Morgan Holmes, The Keitt Institute is a teaching, research, and empowerment non-profit specializing in helping people master their emotional intelligence.
“We base everything on social and emotional learning,” Keitt said. “Why? Because emotions rule the world…Your emotional wellbeing is the driver for the success and the thriving in your life.”
Keitt uses a strengths-based approach to help individuals develop their self-awareness, a key component of emotional wellbeing. Prior to the webinar, participants were asked to take the VIA Character Strengths Assessment, a free online questionnaire that evaluates the degree to which respondents demonstrate 24 different character strengths. Keitt defined character strengths as basic elements of our identity that represent the core of who we are.
“When you know your top five signature strengths, then you can begin to thrive,” she said.
The 24 VIA Character Strengths are divided into six categories or “buckets.” They are:
- Wisdom Strengths — How we gather and use knowledge
- Courage Strengths — How we face adversity
- Humanity Strengths — How we handle one-on-one relationships
- Justice Strengths — How we handle groups of people or community
- Temperance Strengths — How we protect against excess
- Transcendence Strengths — How we connect to the larger meaning in life
Each bucket consists of several distinct traits that everyone possesses to varying degrees. Keitt emphasized that there is no right or wrong when it comes to discovering your “top five.” An increased sense of self-awareness simply allows individuals to pursue opportunities that play to their strengths while simultaneously identifying areas for improvement and/or additional support.
During the webinar, Keitt talked about each bucket in turn and asked participants to share which buckets their signature strengths fell into. She then led the group through a series of exercises that included writing strength affirmations based on their results. Because two of Keitt’s signature strengths fall into the Transcendence bucket, one of her affirmations was, “I am transcendent. I connect my life to the bigger meaning in this universe.”
“We want to make sure that every single day we are saying these things to ourselves,” Keitt said. “Not out of a false sense of security, but out of the strength, the core, the real, of who we are. Every single day. You want to build confidence? Confidence is not something that is built from the outside in. It is built from the inside out. Affirm yourself every single day.”
She then shared seven practical ways to use your top five strengths on a daily basis.
- Build relationships with your partner
Keitt suggested having your partner take the VIA Character Strengths Assessment. Sit down with them and compare your results. Seeing how your strengths line up with your partner’s can facilitate growth and lead to happier and more successful relationships.
- Use your strengths to solve your life problems
A method Keitt calls the “if, then” technique can help individuals use their best qualities to their advantage. “If you know you’re going to be faced with adversity, you can use your strengths to understand how you’re going to tackle that problem,” she said. “For example, if you know you have a bill due at the end of the month and you have more month left than money, which strength can you begin to use tonight to tackle that problem? Could it be your kindness? Your creativity? Could it be that you use your strength of temperance so you’re not overspending?”
- Build confidence
In addition to writing daily strength affirmations, Keitt encouraged participants to reflect on times when their signature strengths were on full display. “Recall in your mind on a daily basis a time when you used any of your strengths. Think about how it made you feel, and that will help to build your confidence.”
- Become more self-aware
“Now that you have your top five strengths, you can begin to explore who you really are through a brand new lens,” Keitt said. “When I discovered my strengths, I realized that when I use creativity to plan an event like this, my confidence goes through the roof.” Knowing yourself on a deeper level allows you to quite literally play to your strengths.
- Build your relationship with your children
To illustrate the benefit of using a strengths-based approach with your kids, Keitt shared an example from her own life. “When my daughter and I began to teach together on a regular basis, especially the character strengths, we learned so much about why it was so tough growing up together—why we had those rough teenage years. Because her number one strength is honesty, and I thought honesty was rudeness! It’s not rudeness when you’re just telling the truth. I didn’t know that. Being aware of your children’s strengths will take your relationship with them to the next level. You can also use your own strengths to bolster your parenting.” Keitt noted that kids can take the VIA Character Strengths Assessment, too.
- Discover new ways to grow and develop
Keitt urged participants to think about how they can continue using their signature strengths in the future. “How are you going to grow and develop? How are you going to use your strengths in new and exciting ways?” she asked. “If gratitude is your top strength, what are you going to be grateful for tomorrow beyond what you are grateful for today? How are you going to teach someone else gratitude? These are powerful ways we can grow and develop as human beings.”
- Affirm and show compassion for yourself
“This is by far one of the most strategic things that we can do in order to Live Strong,” Keitt said. “I’ve got to be able to say to myself, ‘Jennifer, it’s okay. It’s okay that you blew it or you missed it or life was bad for a really long time.’ Because I can affirm myself, and now I know that I have qualities that will help me thrive in life.”
- Build relationships with your partner
In addition to these seven helpful practices, Keitt urged her listeners to start keeping a gratitude journal. “Every evening starting tonight, I want you to think of at least one thing, if not three things, that have gone well,” she said. “Begin to practice gratitude, even if it’s not in your top five strengths.”
Her parting message was a reminder to honor yourself and your abilities. “You and I must always remember from this moment forward just how awesome we are,” she said.
To take the VIA Character Strengths Assessment and discover your signature strengths, click here.
To learn more about Jennifer Keitt and the wonderful work being done at The Keitt Institute, click here.
For up-to-date information on our upcoming speaker series schedule, please visit our website at https://www.empowerhernetwork.org/speakerseries/
Mackenzie McDonald earned her B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of San Diego. Her professional experience in journalism, marketing, and social media includes working for a women-led apparel company and writing for her local online newspaper. She is deeply passionate about the work Empower Her Network is doing and is thrilled to be a member of EHN’s Marketing Committee.