Character Strengths

Character strengths are positive traits that are valued in and of themselves by nearly all cultures. A handbook of the 24 character strengths was created by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, grouping them into six categories of virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity and love, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

As Seligman emphasizes in his book Flourish, character strengths underpin all five areas of well-being: positive emotion, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning. To acquire a strength takes effort and will. Our exercise of strengths can be beneficial and inspiring to other people, and cultural institutions are often designed to nurture strengths.

The VIA Institute on Character is a nonprofit formed in 2001 to study and promote character strengths. It offers a free survey that ranks your strengths, as well as reports, training, and speakers.

Once you’ve figured out your top strengths, positive psychologists often recommend figuring out your five “signature strengths.” According to Seligman, your top strengths also have to feel authentic and powerful to you; you have to delight in exercising them, and feel energized afterward. If one of your top strengths doesn’t fit those criteria, it’s not a “signature strength.”

The 24 character strengths

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.

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