Step 1: Learn Strengths

One of most powerful results of completing the PSN process is that it makes you stronger. How?

Think of strength in terms of breaking pencils. We can easily break one pencil. Now, try it with six pencils. It takes a lot of strength to break six at a time if you can do it. Each time a pencil is added, it becomes harder to break. So too is it when we navigate life with our PSN team of support. Alone, in isolation, whether it’s a fragile but not yet broken spirit, a trying physical disability, a full plate of responsibilities or too many disruptive life events, alone and isolated weakens us. Like a single pencil, we can brake easily, especially if there’s a crack in our spirit. But when surrounded by the strength of our PSN team, or adding your strength to another’s PSN, we won’t break when the going gets tough. Our strength is limited until we combine ours with the strength of others. With each additional PSN team member, strength multiplies.

But first, we need to make sure we have or acquire the skills and attributes that allow us to be supported by others and that we have the skills and attributes to be a valued part of another’s PSN team.

Whether we are looking to build our personal strength and resilience or using our strengths to help others navigate their adversities, here are some ‘strength’ qualities, skills and attributes. They will enhance mental and emotional well-being and are vital to forging sustainable, supporting and strength building relationships.


Being grateful for the little things as well as big things in life is a character trait that provides us with strength. Supportive people are far more willing to help when they know their giving is appreciated and valued. A warm, heartfelt “thank you” goes a long ways toward establishing trust too.

FYI: When someone is expressing their gratitude, instead of saying it was nothing, thank them for it or simply say you’re welcome. Receiving gratitude well is as important as expressing it well.

Kindness / Compassion

A little goes a long way. If we slow down, observe others and our surroundings, we can find something nice to say or we can do something unexpected for another that makes your day a better day and also the receiver of your kindness and compassion. It is always appropriate and usually remembered. Being known as a kind and compassionate person adds to our mental and emotional strength. Again, it helps establish trust and a willingness to reach out to you when in need.

FYI: Kindness and compassion are gifts shared by all, giver and receiver alike. We never know how our kind words or kind deeds will impact another’s life. When compassion and kindness are not returned by the receiver, that’s okay, it will be received from someone else. Give kindness and compassion with no expectation of it being returned by the receiver.


Optimism is a strength and is identified as the primary basis for resilience. Optimism is the belief that somehow it will work out; there are solutions to problems; tomorrow will be better than today; mistakes and failures are learning opportunities. Optimism is being able and willing to see the possibilities, and willingness to see circumstances and problems as just obstacles to be overcome. Optimism, when balanced with trust of intuition and an ability to assess what is going on, is not blind faith or “Pollyanna”. It’s just smart.

FYI: When we are struggling with holding on to optimism or needing solutions to difficult problems, it’s time to ask for help. Optimism attracts far more helpful people than pessimism.


Courage is a strength defined as an attitude of facing and dealing with anything difficult or painful and not withdrawing or retreating from it. It takes courage to move beyond our comfort zone. Moving beyond our fears can be countered by working through them by acquiring the skills covered in this section and in the sections on Asking for Help, Building Resilience and Supporting Others. For some, courage is acquired by having a supportive team cheering you on. Courage, too, can be very contagious when two or more commit to facing and dealing with difficult or painful circumstances in their lives.

FYI: To build courage, observe how others do it and practice with small acts of courage first, then tackle bigger needs for acts of courage. Feel the accomplishment of moving outside your comfort zone. It will motivate you to keep building courage. Always ask if you need help from your PSN team when you need encouragement and support.


Integrity is a cornerstone of trustworthiness. It can be hard to practice, though doing so simplifies and strengthens all areas of our life and the relationships we value. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but it is the most rewarding in the long term. Our reputation as trustworthy is the gateway to strong and sustainable relationships. Figuring out who we are, what we stand for, and knowing how to demonstrate integrity in the world gives us more security in asking for help and setting limits without hurting others.

FYI: A good question to ask ourselves: is what we want and expect from others what we are willing to expect from ourselves and willing to give to others? There is no substitute for being known as a person of integrity. Doors open and opportunities will follow which enhances our strength and builds resilience.


Creativity is called for in times of need or want. Creativity is a strength and it’s linked to optimism. When the obvious won’t work, it’s time to get creative. Some are better at it than others but with practice we discover looking for and trying creative solutions can be fun. One way to practice creative is to try new ways to do routine tasks. Or, when a problem surfaces, yours or someone else’s think of solutions outside the box. Be open to and look at other possible ways to reach good outcomes. Having a sense of humor smooths the bumps, raises the spirits, heals and increases the chances of engaging others toward desirable goals. An aspect of strength is being willing to consider and try other ideas and welcome input.

FYI: A fun way to learn and practice creativity is to encourage and watch a child or a dog attempt to get something they really want. Kids don’t know it can’t be done and neither does a dog. They know if they keep at it, get really creative, they’ll succeed. If kids and dogs can do it, so can we.

Personal Responsibility

When we think of character traits we admire in people, it is the knowledge that these people will take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. They don’t blame others or get defensive. They own up to their shortcomings or mistakes, fix what they can and move on. Strength is a by-product from taking personal responsibility. People are attracted to, admire and respect and are willing to support others they trust and know are trustworthy enough to take responsibility. We each have personal responsibility for our lives. This responsibility is enhanced when we include others and invoke the power of a team. It does take courage to be vulnerable, have integrity, state our own limits and include others; but doing so doesn’t mean giving up our own responsibility. On the contrary, it is a powerful way to exercise it.

FYI: Most conflicts arise from one or both parties unwilling to take personal responsibility for their actions and attitudes. Next time someone accuses you of something you did, said or thought, and it is true, own it. In many cases, ‘yup, I did’ stops the conflict. Next step is to make whatever went wrong, right. Ask for help if you don’t know what to do.


Change is inevitable. What may have worked ten years ago, may not work today. The way it was is no longer; we have to adapt and be willing to be open to change and know that our way is not necessarily the best or only way. Others may have new or more effective ways to accomplish steps toward our vision of success and our hoped-for outcomes. It is powerful. It builds your strength by others knowing you’re open to learning, gaining wisdom and knowledge from others, and being willing to explore and try new and different.

FYI: When we attempt to hold on to rigid and inflexible, a good question to ask ourselves is does it really matter in the end? Some things will but most will not. Strength is also letting go of ‘my way is the only way’.

Emotion Management/Control

Yes, managing or controlling emotions is a strength – a very important one. We admire and respect people who, when under pressure, can speak and act responsibly and appropriately. It’s not that they don’t have feelings; it’s that they have learned to manage them well. Follow the steps to managing emotions in the section on Resilience or Asking for Help.

FYI: Heightened or out of control emotions hijacks our ability to think, use logic and be rational. We don’t think when our emotions are in control. When asked: “What were you thinking?” “I wasn’t” is the right answer when emotions are over the top.

You matter. Give yourself the best chance with success by developing skills and attributes that make give you strength in all aspects of life.


The first step in creating your safety net is to take an inventory of your unique talents, relationships, and specific personal needs.

Download: Helping - What Can I Offer to Do?

Download: Receiving Help - What I Might Want and/or Need?

Download: Attributes and Skills Worksheet