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Making the Ordinary Extrordinary

Character Strengths in Action:

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

A Blog By Xena Wang

Time flies faster than we think. Stop, notice, and absorb everything around you. This is your call to search for the extraordinary in everyday moments.”

In my information sessions on essay writing, I tell students: you don’t need to have a one-of-a-kind experience to impress your reader. I share a tip given by a colleague at my institution’s writing center: make the ordinary extraordinary.

Instant gratification has consumed us: it’s become harder to wait for good things or slow down and smell the roses—which is even more necessary in our current mental health crisis.

When I took my first Values in Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths a few years ago, as I began to learn about positive psychology, I discovered my top strength out of 24 was appreciation of beauty and excellence. This made sense. I am a trained artist and spent my early career interning and working in museums, surrounded by some of the finest artists and artworks in the world.

My appreciation went beyond the visual arts. Upon further realization, I noticed that I saw beauty and excellence in other things: kids on the swing set laughing as their parents push them higher. Taylor Swift’s powerful vocals each night of her Eras tour. A colleague who extended help to another during a particularly stressful work period by taking on some responsibilities.

Fred Bryant, a psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago, and the late Joseph Veroff, professor emeritus of the University of Michigan, authored Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.  In it, they discuss how savoring can help us fully focus on experiences, like the mouthfeel of a decadent dessert or your loved one’s unique laugh. We can find beauty in experiences, enhance and preserve them, and rely upon them in challenging times. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself artistic or creative, you can still develop an appreciation (after all, who would determine whether an artwork is “good” if no one saw it?). Take a picture of an ordinary object, like your coffee cup. Why does it make you happy? Is it the design craftsmanship, like the printed logo or handle curve? Is it because it holds your cold brew that gives you the energy to make it through your day? Or maybe a loved one gave it to you. Train your eyes to see beauty in the mundane.

Time flies faster than we think. Stop, notice, and absorb everything around you. This is your call to search for the extraordinary in everyday moments.

We’d love to see your extraordinary! Snap and share on SeeingHappy!

Xena W

Xena (“Zenna”) Wang is an artist and museum enthusiast working in equity and access within higher education. As the Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator, she researches schools and non-profit organizations that also promote human flourishing for collaboration opportunities. Xena is an ardent supporter of “a picture’s worth 1000 words” and especially loves SeeingHappy’s collection of family and nature photos!

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