Finding meaning and happiness in life is largely an issue of aligning life to utilize personal skills and personality strengths.
The research of positive psychology — the study of human well-being — provides effective tools and processes to use in personal growth and career development planning.
Personal Growth and Development with Strengths described many of the benefits of building on strengths and summarized the twenty-four personal strengths defined by the VIA Institute on Character.
What is the VIA Institute on Character?
The VIA Institute on Character is a non-profit with a mission of “advancing the scientific understanding of the personality traits that are the building blocks for individual and societal flourishing.”
The Institute maintains an online library of books and published articles from positive psychology research, many of which are written for the layperson.
A New Research View on Personal Strengths
Positive psychology researcher and entrepreneur Alex Linley, Ph.D. is a creative and influential resource on defining and utilizing one’s strengths. Linley’s Average to A+ (CAPP Press, 2008) is an excellent resource on personal strengths for the layperson. Linley explains that strengths are pre-existing abilities and characteristics that come naturally and are energizing when used.
Linley’s Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) in Coventry, UK is extending positive psychology’s characterization of strengths. CAPP has defined sixty personal and personality strengths for individuals.
Some of these relate to the twenty-four strengths defined by the VIA Institute, but Capp’s definitions extend to additional areas of human personality and skill.
Some examples of CAPP’s strengths definitions include:
- Change Agent – Energized by change, able to see the benefits of change, and love to be involved with change.
- Moral Compass – Having an extremely strong ethical code, aware of the difference between right and wrong, and always acting in accordance with what is believed to be right.
- Compassion – Having an open heart, caring about people, and wanting the best for everyone.
How to Discover Personal Strengths
There are several options available for determining personal and personality strengths for personal and career development. These include:
- Register at the VIA Institute on Character (no charge) and take the VIA Questionnaire.
- Register at the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology and take the Realise2 Questionnaire.
- Self reflection.
- Enlist a coach trained in application of character strengths in personal and career development planning.
Resources of the VIA Institute on Character
The VIA Institute on Character requires registration, which is free, but does ask for certain personal demographics used for research purposes and to personalize reports.
The Institute provides a free version of the VIA Questionnaire, with a report identifying the top five or six personal strengths – termed signature strengths. The report compares one’s strengths with people of similar demographics (age, occupation, geography).
A more complete and personalized report is available for a fee, which is currently $40 for non-students, $20 for students. A sample report is available for review on the Institute’s website.
Resources of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP)
CAPP’s Realise2 assessment provides a personalized analysis of responses to its questionnaire in four areas: Realized Strengths, Unrealized Strengths, Learned Behaviors, and Weaknesses.
This report currently costs 15 GPB (pounds sterling), currently about $24 USD. A sample of this report is available at CAPP’s website.
Self Reflection to Determine Personal Strengths
CAPP’s Alex Linley provides a list of ten areas of self reflection that can lead to insight on personal and personality strengths:
- Childhood Memories – What was done as a child that is still done now – but most likely much better? Strengths often have deep roots in the early years.
- Energy – What activities give an energetic buzz when doing them? These activities are very likely calling on core strengths.
- Authenticity – When do you feel most like the “real you?” The chances are that strengths are being used in some way.
- Ease – What activities come naturally and at which you excel without even trying? These are characteristics of using strengths.
- Attention – To what do you naturally give attention? You’re more likely to focus on things that are playing to your strengths.
- Rapid Learning – What new things have been picked up quickly, learning them almost effortlessly? Rapid learning often indicates underlying strengths.
- Motivation – What motivates you? When you find activities that you do simply for the love of doing them, they are likely to be using strengths.
- Voice – Monitor tone of voice and emotion. A shift in passion, energy and engagement will indicate conversation is focused on a strength.
- Word and Phrases – Listen to the words being used. The phrases “I love to…” or “it’s just great when…,” indicate discussion is pointing toward a strength.
- To-do Lists – The things that always seem to get done without having to be written on a to-do list often reveal an underlying strength.
Utilize a Personal Coach
A personal coach can be helpful in guiding the personal reflection of strengths, interpreting the reports provided by the VIA Institute and CAPP, and in helping you integrate this new information into personal growth and career development planning.
Build on Strengths for Career Development
Personal growth programs and career development planning can readily build upon personal and personality strengths when one takes advantage of the resources outlined in this article.