Lessons from the Character Lab

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” At Alaka’i O Kaua’i, our goal is to make this vision a reality. Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths like self-control, curiosity, and gratitude are critically important to social and emotional well-being, physical health, and achievement.

We incorporate the strengths, skills, and mindsets from Character Lab, an organization founded by Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. These traits, which include optimism, curiosity, purpose, grit, growth mindset, self control, gratitude, and social intelligence, are broken down into strengths of mind, strengths of heart, and strengths of will:

In the same month that we celebrate Thanksgiving, our school has chosen to focus on Gratitude.

Why does gratitude matter?

When you feel gratitude, you feel a sense of abundance. When you express gratitude — especially when it’s heartfelt — you strengthen your relationships with others. Grateful people are happier and more fulfilled. And gratitude leads you to be nicer to other people — more cooperative, patient, and trusting.

How do I encourage gratitude at home?

Model it. Talk about the good things that happen to you: “I love this gorgeous spring day!” Reframe difficulties by highlighting positive aspects: “Work has been stressful lately, but I’m grateful that my boss trusts me with important responsibilities.”

Celebrate it. Acknowledge when someone demonstrates gratitude: “It makes me feel really great when you thank me for what I am doing.” Display thank-you notes you’ve received where others can see them. Post Three Good Things on social media.

Enable it. Keep stationary handy for writing thank-you notes. At dinner, make it a habit to begin by sharing one good thing that happened that day. Establish a birthday ritual to write notes of appreciation.