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Character Strengths Series: Routes to a Happy & Meaningful Life

Character Strengths Series: Routes to a Happy & Meaningful Life

Building a Strengths Video Library

The pioneers of Positive Psychology worked for several years to develop a classification of Core Virtues that are commonly valued among most people in the world, not just our Western Society. These virtues were then subwwwded into 24 character strengths that form the path or route to each of the virtues. For example, the strength of Kindness is a route to the virtue of Humanity and the strength of Gratitude helps us towards the virtue of Transcendence, which connects us to the larger universe and provides meaning in our lives. Living up to these virtues paves the way for a happy and meaningful life.

If you want to learn more about what Character Strengths are and how to benefit from discovering and becoming aligned with them, please read this post for starters: Harnessing Your Unique Strengths. If you want to discover your strengths, you can click here to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.

Following this post, which provides a brief overview, I will publish one post for each of the core virtues and will include a video about a person (or group) who lives and breathes the strengths associated with it. If I’m lucky I’ll find one video for each strength but it’s proving to be more challenging and time intensive than I thought. The first video, however, is below. (If anyone wants to help by suggesting youtube videos or the like, please post them in the comments section. Thanks in advance!)

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, a founding father of Positive Psychology, “we can become lastingly happier by using our signature strengths more often and in new ways.”

Why Strengths Matter

Our society often stresses importance on our weaknesses or faults instead of what’s strong and good within us. We focus on who we’ve been at our worst and not who we can be at our best. Sure, it’s important to address certain areas that if not improved could yield negative consequences but there’s a limit to how much that really advances us and brings us happiness. We would do much better to take stock of our strengths and learn how to apply them in new ways into our lives, which will make us happier, more fulfilled, more energized and more resilient. If we take this approach, and climb the upward spiral of increasing happiness and fulfillment, we will actually be better able to manage any weaknesses or stressors in our lives than if we only looked at weaknesses alone.

So, as the VIA® Institute on Character says, taking a strengths based approach to living and working “takes the focus off of what’s wrong and shifts it to what’s strong! ”

Imagine the possibilities that will open up to you if you identify ways of being that a) are natural to you and b) being that way is uplifting, engaging and meaningful to you.

My hope or intention of doing this video series is that you will find something that resonates strongly within you and it inspires you in some meaningful way to embrace that strength and use it in your life more often and in different ways so you reap the meaningful benefits that come from it. My belief is that if something you see resonates within you, then that strength may be one of your Signature Strengths. Where possible, I will also post a few movie or book titles that match the strengths and hope they too inspire you and help you live from your Strengths.

The VIA Classification of Character Strengths:

Wisdom and Knowledge – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

  • Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
  • Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
  • Judgment [critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly
  • Love of Learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
  • Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people

Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

  • Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it
  • Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks
  • Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions
  • Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated

Humanity – Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

  • Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people
  • Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “niceness”]: Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
  • Social Intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick

Justice – Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

  • Teamwork [citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share
  • Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
  • Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done, and at the same time maintaining good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.

Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess

  • Forgiveness: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
  • Humility:  Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is
  • Prudence: Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
  • Self-Regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions

Transcendence – Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
  • Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks
  • Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
  • Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
  • Spirituality [faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort

© 2004-2012 VIA® Institute on Character; All Rights Reserved

Positive Psychology Pioneer Martin Seligman on Strengths

Here’s the first video to tee up the series – it’s an interview with none other than the Pioneer of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman.


Someone Who Found Himself and Recreated His Life

Here’s one more video to show you how discovering and connecting with your strengths can change your life for the better.


Click here for the next post in the series – Wisdom Strengths



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  1. Dave

    The road to happiness is not easy to reach without being positive. It is nice to be guided by an expert especially during the tough times.

    • Guy Reichard

      Thanks for your comment Dave – true indeed!

      Look for the good!



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