"Who you are now is who you've always been. You didn't wake up today as somebody else. You are a single, talented, rare, unrepeatable human being. There is something at your core that's unique to you, that always has been and always will be. This is the through-line of your personal essence, the chiming chord of your unique existence. It has carried you through every day of the year, every year of your life, and it is what will sustain you now. The you who has always been you has been preparing for this moment. The power that is in you will rise to this occasion. You are equal to it with your gifts.

"In hard times, especially, we tend to forget this. I've been flabbergasted, over the many years I've worked with people, by how often they seem to feel that the person they are now is a completely different person from the one they were as a child. It's as if they think Person A, the adult, is completely distinct and separate from Person C, the child. And that, as a consequence, none of the talents, responses, and ingenuity of that child — as well as none of the sorrows, difficulties, and challenges — still belong to them.

"This isn't the case, of course. Because just as your spinal cord runs all the way through your spine, collecting all your snowy white vertebrae together into a single beautiful curved line, there is a through-line of giftedness, a unique and powerful way of responding, that runs throughout your life. Certain things that were true of you at age seven, fourteen, and twenty-one are still true, no matter how much life may be rocking and rolling around you.

"Just as a zebra can never become a giraffe, in an essential way you always remain who you always were. And although you may go through a number of dramatic changes in your lifetime — move from one city to another, quit smoking, get sober, get married after years of being an independent cuss of a single person (or, perhaps, get divorced after a thirty-year marriage) — there's a distinctive chord of responsiveness to who you are. It runs through your life like the melodic theme in a symphony, and no matter how radically your circumstances change, its singular melody can still be heard.

"This chord that runs through you is what I call your Signature Strength. It is the unique stronghold of your personal power. How you have always used it is one of the things that uniquely defines you, and in times of crisis, it is what will carry you through.

"On an emotional level, your Signature Strength is made of your talents and the positive adaptive mechanisms through which you respond creatively to life. Unlike defaults, which are frequently unconscious and often have a self-destructive component, your Signature Strength is the power you bring to solving the riddles of life. It is through using our strengths over time that each of us becomes more and more highly developed as the unique individuals we are. All of our life experiences, especially the difficult ones, are given to us so that, experience by experience, we can further define and refine ourselves. This is the life journey of our personalities.

"But on a spiritual level, too, our difficulties have meaning. We are asked to go through them so that our souls can expand their capacity to love. This is the essence of spiritual growth. Our souls, the divine eternal essence in each of us, have arranged exactly the experiences that will cause us to challenge our prejudices, open our hearts, and expand the reach of our compassion."