A spot of self-analysis can help you be the best version of you.
Do you ever ask the question “Why is that person so good at that when I really struggle with it?” Or maybe it is “Why does that person struggle with something that I find to be easy and fun?”
Every day in our jobs or otherwise in our lives, there are things that each of us enjoys doing and things that we don’t… and they are different for each of us.
Or maybe it is that, while we might do the same tasks, we might go about them in different ways and some of us get more fulfilment from completing those tasks than others.
It isn’t just about the education, training and experience or the natural physical, social or intellectual capabilities that each of us has, albeit that they are important for each of us.
In the early 2000s, scientists started exploring what it is that helps people to be at their best. Fifty scientists, led by luminaries Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, looked across countries and cultures and thousands of people for those qualities that are universally considered to be the strongest parts of being human (summed up in The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality by Ryan M. Niemiec and Robert E. McGrath).
From that research, the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues was created. Since then, it has been used by millions of people and thousands of organisations to understand their ‘strengths DNA’ and leverage that knowledge to advantage in a myriad of ways.
What are character strengths?
Character strengths are basic elements of our identity and each of us is stronger in some strengths than others. It is when we are able to use the signature strengths that we are likely to be at our best in performance, in relationships and in personal wellbeing and happiness. Similarly, when we have to deploy our lesser strengths to perform a particular task, we can find that a struggle because it doesn’t come naturally to us and we have to work harder at it.
The VIA Classification comprises 24 character strengths grouped under six virtues as depicted in the graphic below.
To put some context to this for you, here is what each of these six virtues means:
- The Virtue of Wisdom is about knowledge and how we develop it and use it in our lives.
- The Virtue of Courage is about authenticity, being true to self and being enthusiastic and persistent in this regard.
- The Virtue of Humanity is about the heart and being aware of and respecting and loving others.
- The Virtue of Justice is about a fair go all round and leading by example in the pursuit of fairness and inclusion.
- The Virtue of Temperance is about being well grounded in our emotions and the way that we interact with others.
- The Virtue of Transcendence is about meaning in life and appreciation and gratitude for the good things and having a positive outlook.
When you look at this framework in those terms, you no doubt can start to see that you and others whom you know fit more readily with some of those virtues than with others.
Equally, you might start to see that the virtue profile that someone has may well account for the way that they behave in certain circumstances.
You can undertake a free 15-minute survey to identify your character strengths profile at www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register
Why might you want to do that?
I’ll tell you what doing this survey and understanding my character strengths profile has done for me:
- I have a much clearer sense of my own personal identity and how I can be at my best;
- I now know why it is that I struggle with some tasks and I can manage that better;
- I have improved my wellbeing by doing stuff that fits with my signature strengths every day;
- I have also been more mindful of and compassionate to myself when I have had to exercise my lesser strengths (and rewarded myself for getting through the struggle);
- I better understand how I can make my best contributions for others – essentially by being who I am and leveraging my signature strengths for their benefit;
- I am happier and more resilient.
Additionally, understanding the character strengths of others (clients, friends, colleagues, family) has helped me to better understand how I can best support them with my character strengths and draw on their character strengths in a positive way for themselves and others including me. We have done a team profile which we have found really valuable in determining how we best use our collective strengths to support each other and our clients.
That is why the practice of character strengths is such an essential element of positive psychology and a key ingredient in the consulting work that we do today.
If you haven’t done the VIA Character Strengths Survey, give it a go – there is only upside, and the results are private. Here is the link again www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register