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Day 17/07/2014

{ rethinked*annex } VIA Survey of Character Strengths – Adopt or Rethink?

{ rethinked*annex } Character Strengths Survey - Adopt or Rethink?  | rethinked.org

Screen shot of my signature strengths from the VIA Survey of Character Strengths

{ THE EXERCISE

Head over to the Authentic Happiness website and under the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

{ UPDATE } It has just come to my attention that you can take a recently validated and briefer version of the VIA Survey of Character Strengths directly on the VIA Institute On Character websiteThe briefer version is now only 120-questions (as opposed to the 240 version found on the Authentic Happiness website). VIA provides a variety of in-depth reports available for purchase after completing the survey which aim to help the individual learn more about how to apply their character strengths to find more life fulfillment. I have not yet taken the updated version of the survey on the VIA website, but intend to do so in the near future and will report back on the experience once I do. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

{ WHAT I LIKED }

I’ve been thinking a lot about strengths and skills in the past few years and I have come to the conclusion that my highest strengths and deepest weaknesses stem from the same aptitudes. For example, I am a highly curious person, which in many ways is a great asset—I am deeply inquisitive about the world, ideas and people around me, I follow my questions through, I look up words I do not know when reading, even when I can still understand the meaning of a sentence, because I love learning new things, because I cannot resist the call of the unknown. At the same time, my curiosity can prove a serious handicap in some situations—when I have to finish a project or article on a deadline, for example. What I loved most about the character strengths survey is the way it attended to this duality and very deliberately highlighted the ways each strengths could be under or overused. For each of the top strengths, there is a two page report which covers the following rubrics:

  • What does research reveal about the benefits of this strength?
  • What does this mean about the individual?
  • Exploring the strength of [ the strength in question ]
  • Underuse of [ the strength in question ]
  • Novel ways to use [ the strength in question ]
  • Overuse of [ the strength in question ]

I really liked the Exploring the strengths of ____ rubric, which gave a series of questions/thinking prompts to further explore what that strength means to one on an individual level.

{ FRICTION POINTS

One category I thought could use a bit of rethinking was the “Overuse of ___” For example, one of my signature strengths is ‘appreciation of beauty and excellence’ and this is the information that was provided in the Overuse of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence rubric:

A keen appreciation of beauty and of excellence-in performance, when overplayed, can result in perfectionism, snobbishness, and intolerance of others who do not share this appreciation. One may take offense when others threaten or disregard natural beauty, which may lead one to take an extreme position or stance. One’s personal and work relationships may suffer if one is overly critical of others who do not do things with as much care or as thoroughly as thought necessary. Additionally, personal achievements may be thwarted by one’s own perfectionist standards. Sometimes making commitments to new challenges may be avoided for fear of not being able to perform at a high enough level. Perfectionism can also interfere with decision-making if there is excessive worry about making exactly the right decision. To counteract these tendencies, self-compassion and compassion for others is helpful.

The description of the mismanagement of this strength really resonated with my experience. It felt surprisingly empowering to see that these negative patterns and behaviors which I have struggled with for so much of my life were just the mismanagement of an aptitude that could positively enhance my life, work and relationships. But ‘self-compassion’ and ‘compassion for others’ are really broad terms and can mean a great many things to different people. I wish the report had included some interventions for cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others, or at least some suggestions of curated resources to further explore how these strengths might be cultivated and deployed.

{ NEXT STEPS }

I would recommend taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, I’m a big believer in the value of self-reflection and self-knowledge and I found the survey and its accompanying report to be a powerful tool in that direction. For each of the top strengths, there was a bullet list of suggestions on how to optimize the cultivation and deployment of the strengths. I’ve put together all the suggested ways to use each of my signature strengths and I am now going to create a framework to ensure that I follow through on each of the suggestions. Design Thinking challenge ahead!

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