What Are Character Strengths?

What Are Character Strengths?

August 1, 2021

Positive psychology is a movement within psychology that concerns itself with promoting the positive aspects of human functioning, such as positive emotions and experiences, and human strengths and potentials. Researchers and scholars who support positive psychology are interested in the factors, processes and conditions which lead to happiness, flourishing and fulfilment. Understanding and developing one’s character strengths has been deemed one of the key approaches to achieve this goal. Other known evidence-based positive psychology approaches feature savouring of positive experiences, gratitude reflection and expression, enhancing task engagement and flow experience, facilitating the construction of meaning in life, and forging and maintaining warm and caring relationships. Angela Duckworth, well known for her research on grit and how it can predict success, says grit is part of the larger roadmap of “character.” She defines character in three parts:  strengths of heart (interpersonal), strengths of will (intrapersonal) and strengths of mind (intellectual),

As an organizing principle, strengths of heart, such as gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people. Strengths of will, such as grit and self-control, enable achievement. Strengths of mind, such as curiosity, enable independent thinking. Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths like self-control, curiosity, and gratitude are critically important to social and emotional well-being, physical health, and achievement. To be truly successful in life, one needs to develop character strengths in each of these three dimensions. For example, we need strengths of will (grit and growth mindset) to do things and accomplish our goals. Our strengths of heart (gratitude, emotional and social intelligence) can help us be a generous and effective collaborator. And our strengths of mind (curiosity and zest) can help us to be more creative and innovative.

The Values In Action (VIA) Classification of 24 Character Strengths and Virtues as advocated by Peterson and Seligman (2004) are as follows:

  • Appreciation of beauty: You recognize beauty and excellence, and it awes you.
  • Citizenship: You work well in a group and respect your team members and leaders.
  • Curiosity: You are open to new experiences and thrive in situations of uncertainty. You aren’t easily bored.
  • Fairness: You have a strong sense of morality and believe in treating people equally, without regard for your feelings or prejudices.
  • Forgiveness: You forgive and give people second chances. You aren’t vengeful and don’t hold a grudge.
  • Gratitude: You’re thankful for other people and circumstances. You don’t take things for granted.
  • Humility: You’re modest and don’t seek attention. You don’t see your accomplishments as special.
  • Humor: You’re funny, and you enjoy making others laugh.
  • Ingenuity: You are creative and street smart. If you want something, you’ll find unique and original ways to get it.
  • Integrity: You are honest and transparent in word and in actions.
  • Judgment: You think critically and are open-minded to different perspectives. You can weigh facts objectively, without your feelings getting in the way.
  • Kindness: You enjoy making others happy, even if you don’t know them well.
  • Leadership: You successfully organize activities and treat group members equally.
  • Love of Learning: You are the type of person who loves school, reading, and museums. You’re probably an expert in something, just because you love it.
  • Loving and Being Loved: You have strong relationships, where you can accept and give love.
  • Optimism: You have hope and expect good things, so you plan for a happy future.
  • Perseverance: You’re industrious, finishing what you start. You meet or exceed expectations, but don’t give yourself unattainable goals.
  • Perspective: You are wise, and people come to you for advice.
  • Prudence: You think long-term, weigh your options, and exercise caution.
  • Self-control: You can regulate not only your actions but also your emotions.
  • Social Intelligence: You are aware of the feelings and motivations of others and of yourself, and you can use that information to handle social situations well.
  • Spirituality: You have strong beliefs and a sense of purpose. You understand your place in something larger, whether it’s religious or not.
  • Valor: Despite fear, you can face difficult physical and emotional challenges.
  • Zest: You feel passion, inspiration, and energy when embarking on a new day or new activity.

The content above is summarized from some of the feature articles on this website.

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