What is the big deal about character strengths?

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Jan 21, 2019 • 

In 2004, something groundbreaking took place in the field of social sciences. For the first time in history, a cross-cultural language describing the best qualities in human beings was born – the VIA classification of strengths and virtues.

Enough scientific research has shown that recognizing, appreciating, and harnessing strengths in yourself and other people, is one of the most efficient and effective paths to a life of success and fulfillment. Yet, two thirds of people are unaware of their strengths.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology” and author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, distinguished scientist at the University of Michigan and author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, developed a 24 item VIA Classification of Strengths and Virtues. The VIA Survey is regarded as a central tool of positive psychology and has been used in hundreds of research studies and taken by over 5 million people in over 190 countries.

Peterson and Seligman identified six core virtues, and under each virtue they identified different strengths:  

  • Wisdom and Knowledge (the way we acquire and use knowledge)
    • creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective
  • Courage (emotional strengths)
    • bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest
  • Humanity (interpersonal strengths)
    • love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice (civic strengths)
    • teamwork, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance (strengths protecting against excess)
    • forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
  • Transcendence (strengths that provide meaning)
    • appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

What is a character strength?

Character strengths are positive human traits that influence human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, providing a sense of fulfillment and meaning.

What is a signature strength?

Signature strengths are individuals’ highest-ranked character strengths, those that they own, celebrate, and frequently exercise. Individuals typically have three to seven signature strengths.

Signature character strengths can foster health-related outcomes in your private life and at your workplace

Private Life

  • Life satisfaction and wellbeing through the five happiness strengths (curiosity, gratitude, hope, love, zest)
  • Effectiveness in coping with problems and difficulties
  • Improved social relationships

At the Workplace

  • Meaningfulness and productivity at work
  • Zest, hope, and social intelligence were strongly associated with job satisfaction
  • Self-regulation, zest, hope, love, honesty, and gratitude were associated with the perception of work as a calling
  • Higher engagement and meaning of work
  • Work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior, job satisfaction, engagement, positive affect
  • Perseverance, zest, and love of learning showed the numerically strongest relationships with career ambition
  • Hope, zest, bravery, and perspective lead to healthier work behavior
  • Reduced burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment)

To complete your strength survey, please follow the link:

https://www.viacharacter.org/www/

References

  • Huber, et al. Possession and Applicability of Signature Character Strengths: What Is Essential for Well-Being, Work Engagement, and Burnout? Applied Research in Quality of Life. January 2019.
  • Lavy, Shiri and Littman-Ovadia, Hadassah. My Better Self: Using Strengths at Work and Work Productivity, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and Satisfaction. Journal of Career Development 2017, Vol. 44(2) 95-109.
  • Littman-Ovadia, et al. When Theory and Research Collide: Examining Correlates of Signature Strengths Use at Work.  J Happiness Stud, 2016.
  • Niemiec, Ryan M. Character strengths interventions. Hogrefe Publishing. 2018.
  • Peterson, Christopher and Seligman, Martin. Character strengths and virtues: A Handbook and Classification. 1st Edition. Oxford University Press, 2004.

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