Identifying your Character Strengths + Why Strengths Matter

Normally when I ask people what they're good at I get the same type of responses...

" I'm a good listener."

"I'm organized."

"I'm a good mom/dad"

"I'm a good cook."

This is usually after a long pause, a "hmmm," or "I'm not sure," and some encouragement. My experience has been that we are quick to come up with a list of weaknesses and hesitant when asked to share our strengths. 

I'm here to tell you that there is POWER in knowing your strengths. It's a power that takes a little bit of effort to achieve, because it's not something that we usually spend a lot of time thinking about. When I would start down the path towards figuring out what I'm good at, I usually came up with answers that were similar in style to the few I shared above. This was a great way to get started until I realized that beyond behavior based strengths, there was this idea of character strengths, which lie at the intersection of your thoughts, behavior, and feelings. Dr. Chris Peterson and Dr. Martin Seligman identified 24 core strengths that exist in all cultures.

"Strengths are things we do well, often, and with energy." Lea Waters, PhD

The VIA Institute on Character has taken these 24 character strengths and built a survey to help you determine to which degree they show up in your life. 

This survey can be found at the VIA Institute on Character site. Once you take the survey, a report will be generated which you can save and come back to at any point in the future. (I know some individuals who take it once a year to see if there are any changes.)

VIA reported my top five strengths as Gratitude, Kindness, Love, Creativity, and Curiosity. The Love one surprised me a bit (in a good way). Of course I have a lot of love for my family, friends, spouse, animals, fellow earthlings, but I never thought about it in terms of a character strength.

So why is knowing your strengths so important and why does it matter so much that we understand this part of ourselves? I like think of strengths as superpowers. They are the things we can dig deep down and use when a challenge comes up or if we feel like we've strayed from our goals. Strengths matter because we will achieve far greater progress and reward when focusing on improving the areas we are already excelling in, instead of focusing on trying so hard to improve our weaknesses.

Have you taken the VIA survey? What, if anything, surprised you?