How to discover your character strengths
Your character strengths are ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that come naturally to you and they can help you flourish in life.
According to the VIA (Values in Action) Institute on Character, there are 24 character strengths you already have in 6 different areas.
6 AREAS OF CHARACTER STRENGTHS
In the area of wisdom, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning and perspective.
In the area of courage, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: bravery, honesty, perseverance and zest.
In the area of humanity, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: kindness, love and social intelligence.
In the area of justice, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: fairness, leadership and teamwork.
In the area of temperance, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: forgiveness, humility, prudence and self-regulation.
In the area of transcendence, you have varying degrees of the character strengths: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor and spirituality.
Understanding your own character strengths can help you use them to your advantage and thrive in different areas of your life, from work to relationships (and more!). It can also be beneficial to know which of your character strengths are on the low side – you still have those strengths, but they aren’t as pronounced as other strengths. While your character strengths aren’t likely to change drastically, you can still work to improve the strengths which are important to you. For example, the character strength “gratitude” might be on the low side for you, but it’s something you would really love to cultivate. By keeping a gratitude journal, changing negative thought patterns and practicing gratitude in other meaningful ways, you can develop that character strength.
You might be wondering how you can discover more about your own character strengths? In the rest of this article, you’ll learn about five simple ways you can understand your character strengths more and start using them to your advantage.
1: Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey (it’s free!)
It only takes about 15 minutes to complete the free Character Strengths Survey created by the VIA Institute on Character. Through this simple self-assessment, you can learn all about your core characteristics. You’ll see the 24 character strengths ranked from highest to lowest based on your responses in the survey and you can then use this information to create goals, work in smarter ways, make meaningful changes in your life and choose how to grow and improve.
Keep in mind that your lower strengths aren’t weaknesses – they are strengths which take more effort for you to use because they don’t tend to feel natural to you.
You can even browse the VIA blog to find out more about your strengths and how to use them. Below, you’ll find some of our favourite articles from the blog.
In the comments section at the end of this article, we’d love to hear your number 1 strength!
Over at DG, some of our number 1 strengths are:
Rebecca Sparks – HOPE
Amy Caines – FAIRNESS
Rachael Kable – LOVE
Mishael Tereso – ZEST
2: Journal about each strength
Find a notebook and a pen, sit down and write about all 24 character strengths, one by one. You might like to write whatever comes to mind, rate each strength out of 10, describe occasions when you used different strengths, or identify how important each strength is to you.
Here is the list of character strengths with brief descriptions to help you get clear on what they actually mean.
- Creativity; Artistic achievement and creating thinking.
- Curiosity; Exploring and discovering.
- Judgment; Looking at all the evidence to make an informed decision and thinking things through.
- Love of learning; Wanting to systematically add to what you know.
- Perspective; Having different ways of making sense of the world and giving helpful advice to others.
- Bravery; Facing challenges, threat or pain.
- Honesty; Acting sincerely and taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings.
- Perseverance; Finishing what you start and enjoying the feeling of completing tasks.
- Zest; Approaching life with enthusiasm
- Kindness; Doing good deeds for others.
- Love; Being close to people and valuing meaningful relationships.
- Social intelligence; Knowing how to fit into social situations.
- Fairness; Giving everyone a fair chance.
- Leadership; Encouraging a group and taking initiative or responsibility.
- Teamwork; Working well as a member of a group or team.
- Forgiveness; Accepting others’ shortcomings and not being vengeful.
- Humility; Letting your accomplishments speak for themselves.
- Prudence; Being careful about the choices you make.
- Self-regulation; Being disciplined.
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence; Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence and skill.
- Gratitude; Being grateful for good things that happen.
- Hope; Expecting the best in the future.
- Humor; Seeing the light side and enjoying regular laughter and making other people smile.
- Spirituality; Knowing where you fit in the larger scheme of things.
3: Identify the strengths you know need improvement
It can also be helpful to identify which strengths mean a lot to you, but might need improvement. For example, you might realise that “zest” is really important to you and you’d like to bring more of it into your daily life.
You can then set goals based on creating more zest, for example:
- getting out of bed when you first wake up, rather than continually hitting the snooze button
- eating healthier foods so you can have more energy
- going on different adventures with excitement and enthusiasm
- spending more time with people who inspire and uplift you
Perhaps, creativity is a character strength that really resonates with you, but you don’t make time for creative activities. You might set the goal to take photos, knit, draw, paint, garden, or make a scrapbook for a few hours each week.
Maybe, kindness is a strength you’d really like to improve by volunteering your time to a cause you believe in.
There are many different ways you can boost your character strengths – it just takes a little time to figure out which ones are important to you and how you can incorporate them more into your life in meaningful ways.
It can also be important to know that you can express a strength too much. Below, you’ll find out how too much of a strength can actually be problematic!
Problems which can occur as a result of excessive character strengths…
- Creativity; spending less time on practical tasks
- Curiosity; prying and snooping
- Judgment; overly cynical and not spontaneous
- Love of learning; being a “know-it-all”
- Perspective; feeling superior to others or confusion from too many ideas
- Bravery; risk-taking and foolishness
- Honesty; righteousness and alienating other people
- Perseverance; obsession or pursuit of unachievable goals
- Zest; hyperactivity
- Kindness; intrusiveness and lack of healthy boundaries
- Love; emotional promiscuity or neediness
- Social intelligence; manipulating others because you can predict how they think and feel
- Fairness; detachment from emotions
- Leadership; bossiness
- Teamwork; mindless and automatic obedience
- Forgiveness; permissiveness and passiveness
- Humility; ignoring your achievements
- Prudence; less mindfulness and living in the now – too focused on the future
- Self-regulation; inhibition and denial of pleasure
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence; being a snob
- Gratitude; ingratiation
- Hope; having unrealistic expectations
- Humor; other people don’t take you seriously
- Spirituality; fanaticism
4: Create a “strengths wheel” every day for a week
To get an overall look at the strengths you use on a regular basis, try creating a “strengths wheel”. Get a notebook or a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Divide the circle into 24 sections, so it looks like a pizza with 24 slices. Label each section with a character strength.
At the end of the day, rate each character strength out of 10 based on how much you used it.
For example, if you made a big effort with your relationships and doing kind deeds for others, you might give the character strengths “love” and “kindness” a 10 out of 10 (and colour in the entire section of your strengths wheel).
If you persevered with a few tasks around your home, but didn’t quite get everything finished because you couldn’t really be bothered, then you might rate the character strength “perseverance” a 5 out of 10 (and colour in half of that section in your strengths wheel).
Continue rating all 24 of your character strengths and colouring in their sections on the wheel until you can see exactly which strengths you’ve been using and which ones you haven’t really been using.
Do this practice at the end of each day for a week, then reassess which character strengths are being used often and which ones you might like to improve.
This practice can also be a great way to identify which strengths are being used on different occasions and which situations which bring out the best in you. For example, on a work day you might realise that your strengths relating to teamwork, leadership and perseverance are used more regularly but when you work from home, those character strengths don’t get utilised as much. This might prompt you to actually spend more time in the workplace or set up a system where you can check in with your colleagues.
5: Ask 3 people you trust (and who know you well) to rate your character strengths
If you’re struggling to identify your own character strengths, make three lists of all 24 character strengths and give those lists to three people you trust who will be honest and fair. Ask them to rate your strengths out of 10 so you can see which of your character strengths are being conveyed and expressed to others.
Keep in mind that you might receive some feedback that appears wrong or negative, but try not to take it too personally! Other people can’t always see what you’re thinking and feeling and they won’t be there every moment of your life to witness all your actions and behaviours.
This activity is just to help you gain more awareness and understanding of which character strengths other people see in you.
Once you’ve received the three lists back, compare the answers and identify which strengths are commonly rated highly and which ones aren’t.
Even if you’ve taken the VIA Character Strengths Survey, this can still be a helpful activity to complete so you can see your character strengths from different perspectives.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about character strengths and how you can use them to your advantage!
Don’t forget to share your number one character strength in the comments below…