What are Your Signature Strengths?
On your journey to optimal health, how will you use your signature strengths?
What are your signature strengths? Research has found that only about one-third of the population has an active awareness of their strengths. However, when you discover your greatest strengths, then you can use them as a resource to face life’s challenges, work toward goals, and feel more fulfilled both personally and professionally.
What are Signature Strengths?
Positive psychologists Peterson and Seligman (2004) identified 24 character strengths, which they grouped into six large categories called virtues. Everyone possesses all 24 character strengths in varying degrees, so each person has a truly unique character strengths profile. Your signature strengths represent your top five strengths, which are thought to interact with each other to influence your presence in the world.
To discover your signature strengths, visit the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Center and take either the Full VIA Survey of Character Strengths or the Brief Strengths Test. While you’re there, check out the other positive psychology questionnaires on topics such as life satisfaction, stress and empathy, grit, gratitude, and authentic happiness.
Here’s a brief summary of the 6 virtues and 24 character strengths as detailed by Peterson and Seligman. Which strengths ring true for you?
Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge:
- Creativity (originality, ingenuity): Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
- Curiosity (interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience): Taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
- Open-mindedness (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 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
- Persistence (perseverance, industriousness): Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; taking pleasure in completing tasks
- Integrity (authenticity, honesty): Speaking the truth and more broadly, presenting oneself in a genuine way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.
- Vitality (zest, 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 caring and supporting 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): 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:
- Citizenship (social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork): 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 equality 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 while 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 and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
- Humility/modesty: Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlight
- 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 and purpose:
- Appreciation of beauty and excellence (awe, wonder, elevation): Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art, to mathematics and science, and 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, religiousness): 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
Signature Strengths and Health and Wellness
A number of studies show that character strengths are associated with health and wellness as well as health behaviors. For example, Proyer and colleagues found that characters strengths predict feeling healthy, leading an active way of life (e.g., zest), the pursuit of enjoyable activities, healthy eating, watching one’s food, and physical fitness. Although self-regulation had the highest associations overall, curiosity, appreciation of beauty/excellence, gratitude, hope, and humor were also strong predictors of health behaviors.
In sum, life is fraught with challenges and change can be difficult. Thankfully, knowing and applying your signature strengths can prove a powerful resource during such times. How will you use your signature strengths to promote your health and wellness goals?
If you’d like help planning the next leg of your wellness journey, give me a call or send me an email. I’ll work with you to connect your signature strengths to your wellness goals so you successfully arrive at your destination. Along the way, I’ll be there to encourage your efforts, to celebrate your progress, and to troubleshoot your breakdowns. Read testimonials from satisfied clients.
Be well and enjoy!
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2013). What good are character strengths beyond subjective well-being? The contribution of the good character on self-reported health-oriented behavior, physical fitness, and the subjective health status. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 222–232. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.777767