What led to the development of Character Strengths and Virtues?
What are Character Strengths and Virtues?
NOTE: Each character strength is linked to its according page on the VIA Institute on Character website where you will find a more in-depth explanation of the strength and ideas for how to apply the strength in your everyday life.
What is the difference between a talent and a strength?
One of the biggest differences between talents and strengths is that talents are innate and cannot be acquired. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviour that can be applied productively. On the other hand, strengths are developed through deliberate practice and can be willfully acquired. Another primary difference is that strengths are inherently moral (i.e. good), whereas talents can be good or bad (i.e. neutral).
What is a Strengths-based Approach?
Taking a strengths approach involves finding a balance between what is right and what is wrong. A helpful analogy involves thinking of yourself (or your life) as being a sailboat, with the sails representing your strengths and holes in the boat representing your weaknesses. Solely focusing on weakness would patch up the holes in your boat without raising the sails. This approach prevents the boat from sinking, but also fails to move the boat forward. Alternatively, only focusing on strengths is like raising the boat’s sails without patching its holes – an equally ineffective strategy. A strengths-based approach is a successful sailing strategy, where you raise the sails and patch the holes. Contrary to what many people think, a strengths-based approach does not ignore weaknesses. Instead it simply emphasizes that, in order to flourish, you need to recognize and utilize strengths in addition to addressing weaknesses.
Why should I take a Strengths-based Approach?
- Focusing on strengths helps you amplify and grow the positive – specific benefits of character strengths have been linked to each of the main elements of wellbeing (positive emotions, engagement, meaning, relationships, and accomplishment) and are present across all four facets of health (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual).
- Focusing on strengths helps you learn from and reframe the negative – negative experiences are necessary for personal growth but the negativity bias (the tendency for negative experiences to stick like glue and positive experiences to wash away) prevents constructive learning. Focusing on strengths creates greater balance and reminds you of your ability to face adversity, manage distress, and experience growth.
How do I take a Strengths-based Approach?
In the article, “Principles of Strength-Based Practice”, Dr. Wayne Hammond identifies nine core principles for guiding and implementing a strength-based approach:
- Everyone has potential: It is your unique strengths and capabilities (not your limitations) that define who you are and what you can accomplish.
- What you see is what you get: Where you focus your attention and what you choose to see influences who you are and eventually becomes reality (focus on strengths and choose to see challenges as learning opportunities).
- Watch your language: The language you use creates your world and shapes the world of people around you.
- Change is inevitable: Accept change as part of a natural evolutionary process.
- Authentic relationships: Genuine, bidirectional and unconditional support is fundamental for positive change.
- Write your own story: When you own your story, you can write the ending.
- Start where you are: Take small steps towards a dream by building upon what you already know.
- Run a marathon, not a sprint: Capacity building is a life-long, dynamic journey that requires dedication and deliberate practice.
- It takes a village to raise a child: Collaboration is essential and must be an inclusive, participatory process, where diversity is valued.
Where can I learn more?
What will students learn?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…
- Clearly describe what a character strength is and identify the 24 different character strengths
- Understand the importance of a strengths-based approach
- Recognize their signature strengths and how to apply these strengths to everyday life
- Support each other by spotting and encouraging strengths
Hammond, W. (2010). Principles of strength-based practice. Resiliency Initiatives, 12(2), 1-7.
Niemiec, R. (2019, March 24). Research Points to Two Main Reasons to Focus on Strengths. VIA Institute on Character.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford University Press and American Psychological Association. VIA Institute on Character (n.d.). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification.
Waters, L. (2019, May 13). Why It’s Important to See and Nurture the Best In Your Child. VIA Institute on Character.