Strength date is a concept in psychology whereby a person explores the signature strength of significant person in his/her life and they pursue an activity in the structure of a date.1 Recently I took the opportunity of unfolding my signature strength and that of my mother’s. The experience produced more than I had expected and we were both rewarded with restoration of bounding emotions while allowing new ones to emerge. This date was primarily to express gratitude for her exceptional caring attitude towards me and my daughter. It was demonstrated through an act of kindness.
My daily routine consists of attending Command and Staff College, working tirelessly to obtain a Master’s degree at night school and raising a 4 year old child. Many times it felt very exhausting. I never fully explained this complicated routine to my mother, but I guess she imaged what this was all about and took some time off of her busy schedule and money from her savings to fly over from Spain to be with me.
The visit could not have been at a better time because it was during the time when I was preparing my thesis. For me this was the most difficult period of my year’s study. It ignited the act of kindness signature strength in me as I observed the expression of it within her character. As a token of appreciation to her relentless devotion and sacrifice of supporting me, now and ever since I was born I motivated to take her out on a strength date in demonstrating my signature ‘Acts of Kindness’ strength. It was phenomenal.
We visited a Spanish restaurant, which was her loved best. I allowed her to select the meal she desired to eat that evening. Interestingly, the service was excellent as if everyone was demonstrating their acts of kindness signature strength too. Towards the end of the meal, I surprised her with a gift of her most cherished bible verse printed in Spanish. It was handcrafted and framed adding some sentimental value to the gesture.
My mother cried incessantly as if she did not know how to respond appropriately to this unexpected flow of kindness from a daughter she cherished. She just could not refrain from thanking me during the rest of the dinner, rest of the night and following days. I kept the energy flowing by joyfully injecting, ‘you are welcomed. It is, but a small token of my appreciation for you have done for me.’
It was an impacting learning experience for me. I noticed that since this interaction there is a greater bounding between my mother and me as if a fresh flood of love has flowed into the relationship. The connecting is as never before. Communication channels between us flung wide open. Many issues she was reluctant to share with me previously became conversational during our daily interactions.
Words are inexplicable to describe the tremendous impact this simple act of kindness made in the lives of both of us, especially, me the respondent to years of kindness from a loving devoted mother. Greater yet this learning experience has set the pace as to how my 4 year old daughter, Olivia, will respond to me as she grows older. Even though sending my mom mother’s day tokens might have been appreciative, this gesture was remarkable. Importantly, I learnt how a simple surprise act of kindness can go a very far way into strengthening relationships.2
Definitely, while this has been perceived an awesome demonstration of kindness by my mom, during the process, I was preoccupied with how she would react to me giving a gift containing her favorite bible verse in Spanish as a token. The dinner I know that she will appreciate. However, I was so delighted when the glow of her countenance ignited the room. While she was fumbling to find words of gratitude in explaining her excitement, I was captured in the silence of amazement, which made me momentarily unconscious of my surrounding merely focusing on her gleeful out-burst, ‘Oh! Thank you! Thank you!” pulling the token close to her chest.
I was joyful, excited and tremendously overwhelmed at her reaction that I suddenly became so full. The desert portion of the dinner I just could not touch even though, I love sweets. I was forced to reflect that people are motivated to use strength in response to how they feel from within. As such, since no one had to persuade me to offer this token of appreciation, I felt that it was coming from deep within my spirit as an attribute of my being. Precisely, using signature strength in new ways increases happiness, decreases stress and enables one to live a more fulfilling life. This was no better way for me to demonstrate this strength importantly, towards a loved one as my mother.
Consequently, there are many tips to share with someone desiring to demonstrate these skills that they can make the experience just as rewarding or more. Always begin by clarifying both your intention and expectation. It is essential to align these with your true self, and that of the person to whom the kindness is extended. It means being comfortable with whatever is planned. In my case somehow I knew that my mom would welcome a delicious Spanish dinner. There was something else I wanted to add because there was still a void regarding my fulfillment in executing this act of kindness.
Deep, within I felt that there was more in me to give. This went well because; I knew her favorite bible verse. She speaks Spanish fluently as her first language and it appeared to be ideal act of kindness congruent to her signature strength. Therefore, an important tip is being in alignment with the other person’s signature strength. The activity must provide energy for both people. Once feelings of it being difficult surfaces and obstacles begin to manifest maybe it is not the perfect way of demonstrating this act of kindness.
Besides, try to make the date as personal as possible. Involving other people makes it a party and not a date. Sentiments are to be expresses between the tows individuals. Taking another person along on the date can filter expressions. When two touch and agree, there are lasting outcomes as in the case of my mother and me. Distinctly, the bounding which emerged from this strength date is immeasurable in context of the gesture extended through a dinner and Spanish bible verse plaque.
- Fredrickson, B.L. The Value of Positive Emotions: The Emerging Science of Positive Psychology is Coming to Understand Why it’s Good to Feel Good (American Scientist, 2003) 91, 330-335.
- Lyubomirsky, S. Investing in social connections. In The How of Happiness. (New York Penguin Press, 2008), 125 -149