If you checked the Work/Life calendar of events this summer, you may have seen ads to meet with me to discuss character strengths and how to incorporate them into your everyday. It’s been a pretty popular offering, and that’s really no surprise. Who doesn’t want to learn more about themselves and how to flourish and thrive? For these meetings, I’ve been using the tool of a survey offered free of charge online by the VIA Institute on Character. The survey ranks 24 character strengths in a certain order based on your answers.
What I appreciate about this list of 24 character strengths is that they are all inter-connected. Focusing on strengths provides a new way to re-frame old goals of self-development. It also helps us to see we are complex.
You can view the descriptions of all strengths on this page: https://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths
So what would the re-framing look like? How are we complex?
Take the character strength of Forgiveness. Say I’m having trouble forgiving someone. The usual thought is, “I need to be more forgiving.” But instead of looking at my ability to forgive as a deficit to be corrected, what if I explore the other strengths that can help to bolster and facilitate that act of forgiveness?
- How about Curiosity? Can I become curious about the situation? Why did they do that? What was their motivation? Why did I react the way I did? What would happen if I forgave them? If I didn’t?
I, like most people, would like to better incorporate the strengths of Kindness and Love into daily life. But rather than simply thinking, “I need to be more kind and loving”, instead I can incorporate other strengths.
- What about the strength of Creativity? Can I challenge myself to be more creative in the ways in which I show love and kindness? This presents a fun challenge versus a condemnation of character.
Perhaps Hope is a strength that seems to be weak these days. I may find myself functioning in a general state of pessimism.
- Sometimes, it takes Bravery to allow myself to be hopeful. Maybe we don’t want to set expectations too high for fear of disappointment. We can know deep down that either way we will be able to handle the outcome but even so it may feel scary or uncomfortable. We can tap into our strength of bravery – daring to expect good for ourselves. Perhaps we aren’t quite able to comfortably grasp that feeling of hope or bravery – but we could feel empowered by the strength of Perseverance; that we will continue going on and looking for what we need to one day embody hope.
It’s fun to take some time out for self-reflection. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the strengths we consistently apply. We also don’t always give ourselves permission to be complex and unique. So celebrate your strengths. Look for those small opportunities to let them shine and recognize them when you do.
I printed my results and have them posted on my bulletin board at my desk. When I need some inspiration, I look to see what strength I can try to practice. If I find I am struggling with a particular strength, there is usually another I can tap into.
Here’s to our strengths. Cheers.