January 2013

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.


This year, resolve to expand on your existing strengths.

As we look back at the end of the year, as always, our hopes for growth and achievement in the coming year start to take shape. For many, the idea of bringing about change in the coming year is exciting, and making New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to start the year off right.

Research conducted on success rates of New Year’s resolutions show that 60% of resolutions are unsuccessful, with 30% of individuals giving up after just two weeks (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). With the excitement of the New Year and the prospect of self-improvement on the horizon, people often set goals for themselves that are either unrealistic or impractical. Setting high expectations and wanting to create change can be exciting, but can often be the cause of failed resolutions (Norcross et al., 2002).

For individuals hoping to create lasting change with a New Year’s resolution, certain factors have been shown to predict positive rates of success. People who explicitly plan specific resolutions have a higher success rate. Other tips for triumph include:

  • Make a plan. A resolution is not a wish, it is a goal. Treat it as such by putting structure around it.
  • Anticipate setbacks. Thinking through slip-ups in advance is part of a well-thought out plan. Nobody is perfect, so expect to struggle.
  • Don’t take on too much. Many people make three or more resolutions, making it more difficult to succeed. Pick one resolution that is meaningful to you and tackle that first.
  • Set up a support system. Use the people in your life to facilitate your success – after all, they want to see you thrive!

Remember, any resolution that you make is going to take effort. The amount of effort you’ll need to put in depends on how attainable your goal is. Try to remain focused on the positive impact that sticking to your resolution will have. Remember what John Burroughs said: “For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.” (Work In Progress, n.d.).

Harness Your Strengths

If you’re seeking to improve your quality of life in the New Year, look no further than the qualities and strengths you already possess! Research in positive psychology suggests favorable behavior change is the result of performing activities that are congruent with your existing strengths and talents. This means that if you wish to see something change for the better, you are more likely to elicit that change by utilizing the strengths you already possess to reach your goal (Lopez, 2006). The first step in this process is identifying what strengths are unique to you. Numerous assessments have been created to help individuals identify their strongest characteristics. StrengthsQuest, an online strengths assessment, is an available option that does just that.

StrengthQuest is a self-report assessment used by over 600 schools and universities to help students identify individual strengths and talents. Instead of focusing on weaknesses and challenges, StrengthsQuest provides students with valuable insight into qualities that are and have been instrumental in their success. By highlighting and developing strengths, students are better able to be more productive, goal-directed, and self-confident (Who Uses Strengths Quest, n.d.).

After answering a series of questions relating to preference and personality, students are provided with their results in the form of their top five strengths, along with a detailed write up to better understand the strengths listed. Examples of the 34 strengths measured in the test include intellect, discipline, communication, achiever, analytical, and connectedness. StrengthsQuests aims to equip students with information about themselves that can help inform important career and life decisions.

In a study conducted 75 days following completing StrengthsQuest, students reported that they were more productive, made better choices in their lives, and felt more self-confident as a result of learning about their own strengths (Strengths and Career Planning, n.d.). StrengthsQuest may be particularly useful for students who are unsure of what career path to take. By gaining valuable insight into their talents, students can brainstorm career options that would allow them to do what they do best. Using StrengthsQuest to develop a career path means going in a direction that is a good fit for individual talents. StrengthsQuest can be accessed online and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

From graduation to retirement, the average American spends over 90,000 hours at work (It’s a Question of Fit, n.d.). Because we spend so much of our lives working, having a job that is rewarding is more imperative than ever. More than having a rewarding job, it is vital that we choose a job that is a good fit. Entering into a career that is a good fit is less about being the best at what you do and more about navigating a career that allows you to grow into your own potential. A rewarding career is one that helps you to grow into the very best of who you already are (Strengths and Career Planning, n.d.).

Finding a career that fits means:

  • You actually get paid to do the things you love and are good at.
  • Your natural talents are what drive your work, making for a more rewarding career.
  • Work doesn’t seem like work!

Get to Know Your Strengths

Tom Rath, a global practice leader at Gallup and best-selling author, discusses the importance of
focusing on developing strengths rather than shortcomings.

The first step toward utilizing your strengths is to learn what comes naturally to you. Once you have identified your individual strengths, think about careers that will allow you to access and play on your strengths. Once you have some ideas, contact Ashford University Career Services to discuss possible career options. Through Career Services, students can:

  • Search for jobs
  • Get help with resume writing
  • Prepare for interviewing
  • Match degrees to potential careers

Identifying your strengths prior to talking to Career Services will give direction to the feedback you receive, resulting in a more productive meeting. Start the conversation!

New Year, Stronger You!

When the start of the New Year rolls around, you will inevitably be faced with preparing for the year ahead. Resolutions are fun to make because it is exciting to think of a new and improved you; however, you might be better suited to succeed in making positive changes if you can do so with your own strengths at center stage. By adapting what you hope to improve in a way that uses your strengths, you are more likely to be successful, and the pains it may take to get there will seem far less. Go ahead, put your strengths to work for you and become a better, stronger you!

Ashford University Student Spotlight - Eddie Henderson
Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science
Paraeducator, Grades K-5

Since coming to Ashford, I have stopped wondering what would or could have happened and now live a more realistic goal-driven life.”

Eddie Henderson is a 47-year-old single father of two daughters living in a small town outside of Wichita, KS called Maize, known for its abundance of cornfields. Eddie dropped out of high school his junior year to start working, but earned his GED in his mid-20s and has worked in many industries since then. Most recently, before attending Ashford University, he was working in construction as a drywall laborer.

Maize is also known locally for something other than corn. “A lot of families have moved to Maize just so they can have their children attend Maize schools. This is why I moved here as well.” Eddie’s oldest daughter, 13, was born with velo-cardio-facial syndrome, a genetic issue dealing with the 22nd chromosome. “Maize has an awesome special education department and they have done an amazing job working with her.”

Witnessing this process made Eddie realize that he also wanted to pursue teaching – something he felt could provide a better life for his own children. “The only way I was going to get a better job was to pursue a higher education, but I really did not know if a 47-year-old single dad had any business starting college. Luckily, my Admissions Counselor Aundrea Winters listened to my doubts and fears, and she supplied me with the positive reinforcement to take a chance and pursue the college degree I had always wanted.”

Just three classes into his program, Eddie gained the confidence to apply to work at the local elementary school as a paraeducator for grades K-5. Shortly after, Aundrea reported, “Recently I received a call from Eddie with some very exciting news. He got the job and starts his new career in a few days! He had no previous professional teaching experience, but his education resonated strongly.”

Along with this dramatic career leap, Eddie has gained a whole new outlook on life. “Being at Ashford has given me self-confidence that I have lacked in the past. I would have never considered applying for the job as a paraeducator had I not first started attending classes at Ashford. I can now see that dreams are only dreams; goals are something a person has to work toward. Since coming to Ashford, I have stopped wondering what would or could have happened and now live a more realistic goal-driven life. There are no goals that I cannot reach as long as I am willing to work toward them.” We congratulate Eddie, and look forward to seeing how his new career path unfolds!


Lopez, S. (2006). Positive psychology and higher education. Retrieved from Gallup database.

Norcross, J., Myrkalo, M., & Blagys, M. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of new year’s resolvers and non-resolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Volume 58, (Issue 4).

Scivicque, C. (October 19th, 2012) Work in Progress: 8 reasons your new year’s resolutions don’t stick (and what to do different next time). Forbes. Retrieved October 25, 2012 from http://www.forbes.com.

Who Uses StrengthsQuest. Retrieved October 31, 2012 from http://www.strengthsquest.com.

Strengths and Career Planning. Retrieved October 31, 2012 from http://www.strengthsquest.com.

It’s a Question of Fit. Retrieved October 30, 2012 from http://www.strengthsquest.com.