What are Character Strengths?

In the early 2000s, a 3-year project began with 55 distinguished scientists undertaking a comprehensive study of character traits throughout history and across cultures, countries, religions, and societies.  They did this to add balance to the focus on "what's wrong" of traditional psychology.  This new positive psychology focuses on studying "what's right"...what makes people flourish

Character strengths are:

  • A list of 24 inner traits (NOT talents or skills) found in all people across cultures, religions, countries, and even remote tribes

  • Our Character Strengths are what's strong in each of us and we can learn to tap into our strongest, or top strengths.​

  • Character Strengths are descriptive, not prescriptive - meaning they describe how you tend to lead with certain strengths, and you use other strengths less often but they are still within you.  We all have "go-to" strengths which, if focused upon, can help us reach and exceed our potential.  

  • The VIA (Values in Action) Institute on Character www.viacharacter.org is the nonprofit organization which offers the VIA Character Survey as well as resources for people to learn to apply their top strengths to flourish.  To date,  over 7,686,742 across the world have taken the survey, which helps inform continuing research and the development of new approaches in positive psychology.  

You are unique - there are over 5.1 million possible Top 5 combinations of character strengths (Niemiec, 2018)

Traditional Therapy

  • Deficit-based

  • Tends to focus on what's wrong

  • Reactive

  • Can be labeling (Stigma)

  • Need referral (self, company)

Positive Psychology

  • Strengths-based

  • Focused on what's strong 

  • Preventative and proactive

  • Inclusive:  character strengths training at work or school