FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 10, 2016) -- Our individual experiences, beliefs and values are part of shaping every aspect of our personalities, and they have a great impact on the decisions we make. As each of us learns and grows, these factors lead us in developing our own unique character strengths -- the qualities that impact how we interact with others at work and in our personal lives.

On March 3, Civilian Employees from across the garrison attended a Character Strengths development class to learn more about recognizing their own strengths as well as the strengths of those around them.

The interactive class, taught by staff members from Fort Drum's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center, came about as a result of feedback from Civilian Employees who attended the Executive Resilience Performance Course and wanted further training on the subject, said Jeff Nelden, CSF2 Training Center manager.

"One of the comments we got from teaching the courses was that Civilians wanted training geared more toward them and the work they do," he said. "We went through the curriculum and selected content so that it would relate more directly to this audience."

Before attending the class, each participant completed an online survey. By answering a series of questions, individuals received a personalized character strength assessment.

Megan Helf, master resilience trainer performance expert with the CSF2 Training Center, said the top four or five character strengths identified in the survey are those that feel most natural to the individual.

"We call these top strengths 'signature strengths,'" she said. "We find that when people are using these strengths, they have more energy. They are more motivated to accomplish tasks and end up having more success as individuals and within a team environment. This leads to a sense of accomplishment and, ultimately, a higher level of happiness."

Helf said that sometimes individuals tend to focus on the weaknesses, rather than the strengths, that they perceive in themselves and those with whom they interact.

"The intent is to change their perspective and refresh the way they approach life," she said. "Identifying what is best in ourselves and others is not always a common practice. This shift from focusing on fixing weaknesses to shining light on what is right with us and those around us has profound benefits."

In a work environment, Nelden said this shift in focus can help individuals improve their productivity and level of self-satisfaction. It can also help them to appreciate the character strengths of their co-workers or subordinates and use these strengths to empower individuals and foster effective teamwork.

"Knowing the strengths of your co-workers can lead to a better understanding of their actions," he said. "It's also a way for supervisors to look at their folks and determine who is best suited for a task. When someone is interested in the work they are doing, they do a better job and (they) are happier at work and at home."

Recognizing the strengths of one's family and friends also can be extremely beneficial to all parties, Helf said.

"We are social beings," she said. "We all want to feel valued and important. People are most attracted to those who appreciate their character strengths. We are drawn to people who allow us to be ourselves."

Tessa Stokes, Logistics Readiness Center unit movement coordinator, said that she attended the class because she was looking for ways to better understand herself and others.

"The concept of positive psychology was new to me," she said. "I appreciate how we were introduced to the concept of focusing on and cultivating good character in ourselves and others at work and in our personal lives."

Stokes said the course gave her a new perspective in terms of the way she views herself and those around her.

"This training has changed the way I view others and (I) understand (that) we all have skills we can bring to the table," she said. "We are all built differently, and that is OK."

Noel Guerrrero, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security liaison officer, said that he enjoyed the interactive aspects of the course and he learned a lot about focusing on the strengths of his peers and subordinates, as well as his family members.

"The teachers didn't just teach, (they) involved us in class participation in groups," he said. "I absolutely plan to use what I learned -- in the workplace and in life outside the workplace."

Nelden said he hopes that Civilian Employees will continue to take advantage of the professional development opportunities offered through the CSF2 Training Center. The staff offers monthly courses, each related to a different skill.

Information about upcoming CSF2 professional development courses is disseminated, via email, by Fort Drum's Workforce Development staff members.