One of the most useful and widely used Positive Psychology strategies for promoting wellbeing is to identify and draw upon our signature character strengths, which relate to our enduring key virtues. These character strengths are the kind of virtues which are recognised by all cultures.
There is an accessible scientific method of identifying signature character strengths which involves completing a Character Strengths Survey. It takes about 45 minutes to complete. This is obtained by accessing the Authentic Happiness website of Martin Seligman at http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx. It is also the first link on the links page of our website at useful links.
There are also briefer separate versions of the test for adults and youth, called the VIA Survey, that only take 15 minutes. These can be accessed at https://www.viacharacter.org.
When we act on our most developed, or signature, character strengths to address challenges or goals we are more likely to be engaged, effective and to find satisfaction in what we are doing.
The steps are:
- Access the Authentic Happiness website
- Click on the login tab and complete relevant details to register
- Choose “Questionnaires” and click on the VIA Survey of Character Strengths
- Complete the questionnaire (it takes about 45 minutes)
- Print off the findings (Click “Show More” to get your full list of 24 character strengths in order)
Then – consider your top five (and especially your top two) signature strengths
Do these fit with your expectations?
Have people previously remarked that you have these characteristics?
When you have been “at your best”, were these strengths on display or helping you to achieve goals?
When you act on these strengths do you tend to feel more assured or confident?
How might you draw on these strengths further?
What are some ways you could use your top strengths in a new way?
Are there further ways you can use your top two strengths in combination, perhaps to deal with a challenging situation, or an opportunity?
We can be prone to overusing our top strengths in some situations. Are you perhaps overusing your top strength at times? How might you curb that tendency?
How might you bolster your lowest one or two strengths? Sometimes we can draw on our top strength whilst bolstering our lowest strength to help address a challenge in a more effective way.
You can also listen to our podcast, Lockdown: Character strengths and silver linings, to get ideas on how to apply character strengths in the COVID era.
Further information on the relevance of and ways of using our signature character strengths is detailed in Martin Seligman’s book, “Flourish”.