People in our environment have the tendency to tell us what our weaknesses are, and what we need to improve ourselves. However, often we already know what our faults are, and such a conversation gives us an unpleasant and uneasy feeling. Science says that it is therefore a good idea to talk about our virtues and character strengths instead of our weaknesses.
Virtues and character strengths
Virtues and character strengths are an expression of personal characteristics or personality that are considered moral goodness. This means that virtues and character strengths help people to do what is good and to avoid what is bad. Living a virtuous life and using your character strengths ensure that your own well-being and that of the people around us improves.
Peterson and Seligman (2004) have done extensive research into these virtues and character strengths and they distinguish six broad categories of virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. The psychological ingredients of these six virtues are the character strengths. These become visible when someone shows certain behavior that others can recognize. For me, that means that other people can also see that I am a grateful person, consider me wise and know that I appreciate beauty.
If you know what your strengths are, you can use them more often. People who use their character strengths in daily life feel happier. Paying attention to the character strengths at work also bears fruit. Researchers have discovered that you are more likely to have positive experiences at work if you use at least four of your character strengths. And it is very inspiring and useful to work with children on their character strengths. Children say that they feel happier and more resilient, and parents tell that the parent-child relationship has been strengthened because of their awareness of character strengths.
You can fill out the Values in Action Strengths Inventory yourself and discover your own character strengths. This questionnaire has 120 statements and at the end you will see your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a coach or do you want to work with character strengths in your own? Then the card game of which you see several cards above, these are in Dutch but also in Englis available, is highly recommended! This card game can be purchased via Amazon. There is also a worldwide Virtues project. This is an international initiative to apply virtues and character strengths, such as honesty, patience and respect, in daily life. Please, leave your character strengths in a comment below and share your experiences with character strengths with us!
Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken is founder and ceo of the Thriving Human Science Center. She graduated in lifespan psychology, received a PhD in positive psychology, and she became an expert in gratitude and mental health. She is a scientific researcher who writes and talks about human thriving in general and gratitude specifically. In 2019, she wrote a book Een zoektocht naar dankbaarheid which is available through her personal website