What are character strengths?
The 24 character strengths, as a group, are a common language that describe what is best in human beings. They reflect our personal identity, produce positive outcomes for ourselves and others (e.g, well-being, positive relationships, achievements) and contribute to the collective good. It is
Science behind character strengths
Research has shown that less than 25% of US population is flourishing
One study found that those people who use their strengths a lot are 18 times more likely to be flourishing than those who do not use their strengths
Signature strengths use relates to progress on one’s goals and with satisfying one’s basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence
Strengths increase our effort and perseverance thereby boosting well-being
Strengths increase relationship satisfaction
Strengths help individuals overcome hedonic adaptation
Positive emotions and engagement explained the connection between character strengths use at work and productivity, organizational citizenship behavior and job satisfaction
The 24 Character Strengths
Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence (or Appreciation): refers to the ability to find, recognize and take pleasure in the existence of goodness in the physical and social worlds. Profound gratitude for both the beauties of creation and the powers of the natural world are evidence of this strength.
Bravery: Bravery is the ability to do what needs to be done, despite fear. Courage indicates a willingness to try. Courage is also wisdom: knowing when to act and when not to act
Creativity: Involves producing original ideas and behaviors that are adaptive, making a positive contribution to self and/or others. It is the ability to generate novel and adaptive ideas that positively affect our lives or the lives of the people around us
Curiosity: Involves the active recognition, pursuit and regulation of one’s experiences in response to challenging opportunities. Curiosity is the counter-motivation to anxiety. Curiosity is a mechanism that helps you create and discover meaning in your life I
Fairness: Tend to be committed to social justice, treating others with kindness, and making personal judgements about what is right that may not align with what others around them are doing. Fairness is one of the virtues most valued in our culture. Fairness assumes symmetry and evenness.
Forgiveness: This strength is invoked when a person is offended or damaged by a relationship partner. People strong in forgiveness believe that it is important to mend relationships with people that have betrayed them. Forgiveness is wise only if the relationship is safe and valuable to the victim
Gratitude: Comes from being aware that one has benefitted from the actions of others
Hope: Even in the face of setbacks, people with this strength will look forward to the next opportunity making plans to do better
Humility: Also known as modesty, is the ability to to forget oneself, to be content and out of the center of the stage. To assess one’s own mistakes and imperfections accurately. Also to put the needs of the group or others ahead of one’s own personal needs.
Humor: Includes a playful recognition and enjoyment of the incongruities of life. The ability to see the light side of situations. And the ability to make others smile and laugh
Integrity: This strength involves both truthfulness and taking responsibility for one’s actions, emotions and thoughts.
Kindness: Leads to the awareness of others and willingness to supply those needs without expecting a return
Leadership: Involves directing group activities toward collective success, creating good relationships, and preserving morale.
Love: Takes three main forms: love for those that care and protect us, love for those we protect and care for, and love for a partner where we both make each other feel special
Love of Learning: Having positive feeling in the process of acquiring skills , satisfying curiosity, building on existing knowledge and/or learning something completely new
Open-Mindedness: Is the willingness to search for evidence against one’s own personal beliefs, plans or goals to weight the fairness of both sides
Persistence: Continuing on despite boredom, frustration or setbacks. It can also mean avoiding the temptation to do something easier or more pleasurable.
Perspective: People with perspective and wisdom address important and difficult questions about the conduct and meaning of life.
Prudence: A cognitive orientation to the personal future, a form of practical reasoning and self- management that helps to achieve the individual’s long term goals effectively.
Self-Regulation: Refers to how a person exerts control over his or her own so as to pursue goals and live up to standards
Social Intelligence: Involves insights into one’s own motivations of others
Spirituality: People with this strength have beliefs about a higher purpose and meaning of the universe and how they fit in it.
Teamwork: Has a strong sense of duty and works for the good of the group rather for their personal gain. Is trustworthy and can pull their weight in projects
Zest: Feeling alive, vitality
The overuse and underuse of character strengths
Any of the 24 character strengths can be overused and underused
Overuse: Occurs when an individual puts forth their strength/s too strongly in a particular situation. For example: one of my top strengths is self-regulation but I have a tendency to overuse it and become more of a control factor. Another example is a person can express so much curiosity that they become nosy. Tip for overcoming strengths overuse is to consider a problem you are struggling with. Looking at it through a strengths overuse lens, what strengths are bringing forth too strongly, even a little bit, that is contributing to the problem?
Underuse: The underuse of any character strength is often a function of being on autopilot, lost in unawareness, going through the motions of life. For example: loss of courage in which the individual does not express who they are for fear of being judged or not accepted. Tips for overcoming strengths underuse is to keep a journal/log of strengths use during the week. This will help you become more mindful of underused and under acknowledged strengths.
Core strengths and the ranking
When taking the Character Strengths survey your answers will lead to your top 5 core strengths. Some teachers might say that top 3 are your core strengths and some may say that top 7 are your core strengths. I like to keep it in the middle with the top 5 core strengths. These are the strengths that you use most often. For example my top 5 are: Love, Gratitude, Self-Regulation, Love of Learning and Hope. This is not to say that number 22, 23, or 24 or my weaknesses. In fact, there are no weaknesses when it comes to this survey. Only strengths you do not use a lot, or at least at the time of taking the survey. For example, I usually have perseverance and show up a lot in my life, but at the time of taking the survey I felt as though I was not completing tasks as I should and seeing things through. However, there are days where I know I exhibit this strength as it could be one of my top core. Others such as Prudence are not what I see in myself a lot, so it makes sense.
Ways to implement your lower strengths daily
Speaking of lower strengths, there are ways you can implement your lower strengths either weekly or even daily. First commit to a strength and either write it on your calendar or a journal or set a reminder to pop up and be mindful to use it either in a conversation or in situations that come up in the day or week. How did it feel? Was it easy? Or do you have to practice more?
Strengths Spotting is great to bring out the best in others. Doesn’t it feel good to be recognized and valued when someone says they see leadership in you or that you have a great deal of kindness? When you strengths spot, you are really truly seeing that person for who they are and what their gifts are to this world. Try this when you are talking with someone. Listen and observe what they are saying or even doing. When you respond, say something like “wow, I see a lot of ____ in you, that’s great!” Be amazed at how they respond.
Take the VIA Character Strengths survey
All this talk about character strengths and now I know you are anxious to take the survey to find out your core strengths. Go to the VIA Institute on Character website for their free character strength survey. And keep your results handy and use them daily as you will see a shift in how your relationships with others and even yourself will change. Share this with your community, your colleagues, family, friends. It is a great tool to use when we want to reach our higher selves.
"Character Strengths Matter: How to Live A Full Life" by Shannon Polly, Mapp and Kathryn Britton Mapp
"Character Strengths Interventions" by Ryan M. Niemiec