I’m trying to convince a friend of mine to get a dog. A puppy, actually, as I know of one needing a home. Puppies are hard work (not dissimilar to children), but the rewards make it worthwhile (ditto). My friend fits the Perfect Puppy Owner criteria: he’s single, well groomed, caring, kind, loves animals, and is a keen athlete. Did you notice I said the word ‘single’ first? That’s because I bet he won’t be single for much longer if he’s seen walking the streets of his neighbourhood, or frolicking in the park with his puppy. Puppies – and dogs – are Love Magnets… which is a nice segue into this week’s strength: Love.
‘The capacity to love and be loved’ is not one of my top strengths, but it’s high enough that I notice it, cultivate it and acknowledge it.
There are many kinds of love – like snowflakes – so forgive me if I generalise and say there are three kinds of love: love where we are cared for, love where we care for someone else, and romantic love. I’m not going talk about romantic love, as most of us would be familiar with its benefits (emotional, physical, sexual, procreation-al etc), but I will, however, briefly elaborate on the first two:
1) The kind of love when we are cared for.
As primates, we have a need to belong. And belonging means we are cared for by another. It counts if we show up or not, and if we don’t, we are missed, we are noticed. In other words, we matter; we are cared about, and therefore we know we will be cared for. Those who care for us are our safety net. They are our footings, our buttresses. Our safe harbour. Our lean-to.
2) The kind of love when we care for someone else
In return for being cared for, as a natural response, we care for someone else. Caring for others takes us outside of our self; our gaze is toward another. We hold their best interests alongside our own, and sometimes even ahead of our own. Caring for someone we love gives us purpose, cultivates compassion, and allows us to practice kindness.
No wonder married/partnered people live longer. (Research tells us so)
So: back to the puppy. If we want to experience more love in our life, and we don’t have a special someone to do that with, a pet is a good first step. If you’re not a dog person, get a cat. If you don’t like cats, get a kitten (by the time it’s grown up, you’ll love it!). Or perhaps a rabbit. Or a ferret. Or a rat.
From puppies, rats and ferrets to love in leadership. Yes, there is a link!
Martin Seligman (the ‘father of positive psychology’) conducted the Signature Strength survey amongst 40,000 US Drill Sergeants, and surprisingly, the most predominant Signature Strength was ‘The capacity to love and to be loved.’ When I first heard this I was flabbergasted (as were the researchers), but it actually makes a lot of sense.
Those with a propensity towards the strength of love make great leaders, and are drawn towards leadership roles. Why? Because they care deeply about those under their guard. Can you imagine how beneficial this knowledge would be to corporations in general? There may be employees out there with a top strength of love who are champing at the bit to take on more leadership roles. This knowledge has the potential to translate into satisfied, compassionate and caring leaders who are constantly looking out for the well-being of those who work with or for them. (Perhaps the ones that make the most effective leaders are those with the strength of love, as opposed to those who go into leadership for other reasons?)
And by the way: I’m also in the know about one AFL Captain who has Love and the Capacity to Be Loved as his top Signature Strength. There’s real Aussie proof for you. He’s a great leader, and holds the welfare of his team in his heart. He inspires, he takes charge, is both strong and flexible in his approach. A perfect match for captaincy.
I’m telling you all this to shed light on the diversity, the power and the relevance of the strength of love, and to show you how it can show up in your life and in the lives of others.
So if you 1) need more love in your life, or 2) want to give more love or 3) a combination of both 1 and 2, then here’s some good medicine: buy a puppy or lead a team.
Perhaps the Beatles weren’t far off when they said, ‘Love is all you need’.
PS Check out the link below! It’s a great song and clip that goes well with this week’s blog topic.