From 24-Carats to Five Stars: Your VIA Signature Strengths

star blossomHow are you using those VIA Character Strengths you uncovered after you read last week’s post?

Let me guess: you glanced at it, thought it was kind of interesting, and then filed it in the “I really should get back to this someday” part of your brain?

I so get that. If there were a Ph.D. in File It and Forget It, my having a doctorate would be a done deal.

Quick review: the VIA Survey of Character Strengths is an evidence-based tool that, when you take it and apply the results in your daily life, can help you create the kind of sustainable well-being that will help you build resilience, the ability to bend without breaking in the face of the inevitable small and not-so-small stresses of life, and to flourish, to continue to grow and develop throughout your years.

It’s based on research around the strengths of character recognized as morally valued by all cultures throughout recorded history: 24 ways of being that each of us possesses.

It’s quite the list.

Twenty-four of anything is way more than my brain can process. Yours, too, if you’re typical like me.

We typical folks, with our typical brains, can manage about five factoids at once.

How convenient, since we only need to deeply understand and consistently use about five of our VIA Character Strengths to win the well-being, resilience, flourishing trifecta.

Focus on the Right Five-ish

As long as we focus on the right five. Or so. Three or four is good, too. Six might even work.

Just make sure you pick the five or so Signature Strengths that are right for you.

I wonder if you downloaded your VIA results and, doing that typical thing again, glanced at the top few for a whole nanosecond before scrolling down to the bottom of the list? And then obsessing over it? Just a little?

Oh. I’m not very good at that. It’s a wonder I even have a job.

Yikes! That one’s at the bottom? I’ll never amount to anything.

I better get to work on overcoming my weaknesses, starting with #24.

Stop. Right. There.

You have all 24, remember? You’re not lacking in any of them.

And according to strengths theory, not to mention tons of research on the brain, focusing on what you think you’re lacking – those strengths at the bottom of you list – won’t help you feel better or do better. According to me and my years of trying to overcome perceived weaknesses, it’s not that much fun, either.

So before you close the file in despair over your perceived shortcomings, scroll back up and reread the top five.

That’s where you’ll find where you can really shine.

How to Discover Your Signature Strengths

Your Signature Strengths – the ones that will help you boost your well-being when you use them frequently and in new ways – are right there at the top of your results. You’ll probably connect deeply with about three, most likely from among those ranked in the top five. Don’t discount number six, or even seven, though, as long as they fit most of these criteria:

Signature Strengths feel authentic. They’re the ones that give you a sense of ownership, that make you think, “that is so me.”

You have a rapid learning curve when you use your Signature Strengths and it feels easy to continuously learn new ways to enact them.

There is a sense of yearning and inevitability around Signature Strengths, together with an intrinsic motivation to use them.

And, what may be the best part for those of us who already have fully-packed schedules – which would be, uh, everyone -using a Signature Strength, even when you might characterize the experience as “working hard,” feels invigorating rather than exhausting.


Who doesn’t want some of that?

Next week: Strengths Stories. Around a virtual campfire. BYOM. (As in marshamallows.)


Looking for some help connecting with your Signature Strengths and how to use them to navigate change? Let’s connect to talk about how I can help.

Photo by dmpop – Creative Commons Atrribution – Non-Commercial-ShareAlike
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