What are your character strengths?

Knowing your strengths – acknowledging them and using them – fulfils the Accomplishment part of Seligman’s “PERMA” model of happiness and wellbeing. (See my post from Monday.) You may think you know what you’re good at but “character strengths” aren’t necessarily what you automatically think of when you think of what you’re good at.

You can test them on the Authentic Happiness website. Scroll down to the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. There’s one for adults and one for children.

[Edited to add: this post was picked up very positively by the VIA Institute. The VIA Survey is also offered at their website, VIA Character. You might prefer to do the test there as they recently validated a briefer version of the assessment – 120-questions, as opposed to the 240 version. Also, VIA provides a variety of in-depth reports available for purchase after completing the survey, to help you learn more about how to apply character strengths and reap the benefits. I’m going to be testing one of these – I shall report!]

These are the 24 strengths being measured – though the words used are slightly different when you get your results:

  1. Creativity/Ingenuity
  2. Curiosity
  3. Critical thinking/Open-mindedness
  4. Love of learning
  5. Wisdom
  6. Bravery
  7. Perseverance/Diligence
  8. Honesty/Authenticity
  9. Enthusiasm
  10. Love
  11. Kindness
  12. Social intelligence/Social skills
  13. Teamwork
  14. Fairness
  15. Leadership
  16. Forgiveness
  17. Modesty
  18. Prudence/Discretion
  19. Self-control/Regulation
  20. Appreciation of beauty or excellence
  21. Gratitude
  22. Hope
  23. Playfulness/Humour
  24. Religiousness/Spirituality

You want to know what my top strengths are, don’t you? Well, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours… Mine are:

1. Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
“Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.”

2. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
“Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.”

3. Capacity to love and be loved
“You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.”

4. Zest, enthusiasm, and energy
“Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.”

5. Curiosity and interest in the world
“You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.”

In the spirit of valuing my character strengths, I will now take a bow. *takes a bow*

Wellbeing requires us to know our strengths, notice ourselves using them, and see how we can make our lives better by using them more. I’m also rather self-critical, though (which isn’t a character-strength), so I would tend to want to try to improve the things which came at the bottom of my list of strengths. Bravery… 🙁

And I guess that’s the question I want to ask: does wellbeing require us to ignore our weaknesses? Hmmm. Tricky.

What do you think? And do tell me your character strengths!

In my next post, I’ll show you something you can do with them, something that’s been shown to boost wellbeing.

 

14 Responses

    1. Morning, Cat! And by the way, you know how you weren’t able to comment recently? Well, there was a problem, but it’s all now sorted! Quite a few people had mentioned having various problems, not just with commenting, but the lovely people who manage my site worked their socks off – thanks, Andrew and Becca of Design for Writers! – and it’s sorted.

  1. Hi Nicola,
    I’m glad your website is doing well again.

    I think well-being requires us to concentrate on our strengths. Talent should be used!
    Our weaknesses will take care of themselves.

    My top 5 strengths are: 1, 3, 20, 23, 24.

    Oh, this may interest you: Twitter Fiction Festival 12-16 March, 2014. For pitches to become a featured storyteller the deadline is 5 February. Details at http://www.twitterfictionfestival.com/about

    Zoltan

  2. Although the results told me things I already knew, (For instance, I am not at all brave in unknown situations and have a very high score for love of learning), I felt it was easy to lie or be deluded. It also fits in with my basic personality type – which is introverted. I work best on my own and not in a team. It didn’t attach any importance to bodily health – either that of oneself or loved ones. To me this is crucial.

    1. Sally, hi. First re the lying or being deluded: two things. A) If you used the “brief” test, ie 24 questions, yes, naturally it’s easy to lie or be deluded. However, if you do the longer one (240 questions) it’s much harder, because such tests are designed to deal with that. B) This is, remember, part of a much wider raft of exercises and tests, which all involve self-reporting and pretty much the whole point is about your personal feelings about yourself/your life, which is part of “happiness”. It’s by definition less than objective. Personality tests rely on self-reporting, and scientists who work in this area, including Seligman, have to find ways to deal with it. They do this by asking many questions, so many that lying becomes hard. And self-defeating, anyway. Research methods in this field have come an enormous way since they began.

      Second, re the physical health, absolutely. But remember that this was about only one of the five PERMA aspects of wellbeing: Accomplishment. No one is suggesting that using your accomplishments or character strengths is enough to generate wellbeing. Ill-health or pain is bound to drag down “Positive emotion”, for example (the P of Perma).

      1. PS I’m also heavily introverted – and proud of it 🙂 Btw, I wasn’t quite sure what you meant when you said “It also fits in with my basic personality type…” – what does? You mean the results of your test? Absolutely, it would. Characters strengths and personality type are entwined.

  3. I don’t see why you’re not brave, Nicola.

    How many times did you get back on the horse that threw you? Haven’t you travelled over continents, fought dragons, written 90+ books? You’ve been through the wash-and-spin cycle loads of times and haven’t shrunk one bit.

    Please don’t believe everything those tests say, OK? Scientists are mere philosophers, you know that.

    Zoltan

  4. Thank you Nicola, very interesting taking the survey.
    For me, identified: Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness; Creativity, ingenuity, and originality; Caution, prudence, and discretion; Fairness, equity, and justice; Humor and playfulness
    I liked playfulness, but caution isn’t necessarily a strength as a writer. There are times we need to take risks.
    For me, wellbeing is about recognising weaknesses so that I can work around them and play to my strengths. Still working on it.

    1. Good point about caution perhaps needing to be lowered in our writing lives. (Ironically – we are effectively saying we should be cautious about caution!) Good luck with your boldness!

      1. To show your blog has practical impact: I just had an invite to run some training in South Africa. First thought was, eek, no way. Then thought about being bold. Don’t know if it will happen, but you’ve inspired me not to say no!

        1. Wow! Huge congratulations!

          I very nearly said, “Lucky you”, but it’s much more valuable to praise success based on your effort and the things you’ve done to get yourself to the place where someone asks you to SA to do what you’re good at. South Africa is fabulous. Have a great time!

          (PS Can I come with you?!)

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