VIA Character Strengths

In recent years, psychology has branched out from its historical focus on mental illness and pathology, and directed significant research towards the things that make humans flourish. Research by the Values in Action (VIA) Institute has led to the development of a framework of Character Strengths and Virtues. Under this framework, Character Strengths refer to traits which are consistently considered positive across a wide variety of cultures, and across the span of recorded history. Virtues are a way to group Character Strengths into common themes – for example Love, Kindness and Social Intelligence are all Character Strengths which fall under the Virtue of Humanity.

There are 24 Character Strengths in the VIA Classification, which occupy 6 Virtue categories. Everybody possesses all 24 Character Strengths, what varies is the strength with which each one is expressed, and the order in which they are ranked. It is not a case of strengths versus ‘weaknesses’, rather one of ‘highly expressed strengths’ and ‘lower expressed strengths’. An individual’s top 5-7 Character Strengths are considered to be their Signature Strengths, and represent the areas where the most benefit can be gained from deliberate practice.

The VIA Institute has developed a free, scientifically validated assessment tool to help individuals identify their unique ranking of Character Strengths.

The VIA Classification of Character Strengths differs from other popular strengths frameworks in several key areas. Most notably, it is supported by peer-reviewed scientific research; the classification and the research supporting it are available in the public domain; the strengths are valid across cultures and generations; and it applies across an individual’s whole life instead of a single area such as career or relationships.

Research has shown that using Character Strengths improves goal progress and achievement (Linley, 2010). Some of the other benefits of using one’s Character Strengths include improved happiness, confidence, resilience and job performance (CAPP, 2010).

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