Cat Lamb  


One of the first and most comprehensive research projects in the field of Positive Psychology has been the development of a cross-cultural common language that describes the best qualities of a human being. The VIA classification of Character Strengths, led by Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson, draws on the work compiled by a team of over 50 researchers. This study of the human character is considered by many to be one of the most significant contributions to psychology in the last century.
Largely through the VIA survey, the VIA Institute continues to drive research projects and add to this science of character. Through their research, it has been discovered that the use and knowledge of Character Strengths boosts wellbeing, improves relationships, fosters resilience, and creates supportive strong communities.

You might be familiar with the survey, it is one of the most thoroughly validated studies of character in the world, with over 200 published peer-reviewed journal articles related to its findings. The survey focuses on not what we like, but what we do – it is through the use of our strengths that we move towards flourishing.
Here are some ideas for how you might build an awareness of Character Strengths in your workplace, your classroom and at home:


1. In the workplace

Awareness of your strengths in the workplace can boost wellbeing by 8%. Moreover, using your strengths in the workplace can boost wellbeing by 18%. Knowing this, how can you support yourself to use your strengths more? 

  • One of the simplest ways is to remind yourself of what your strengths are and spot yourself using them; set one as your computer password, write them down once a day and reflect on how you have used them that day
  • Make a plan to use one of your Signature Strengths in a new way every day of the week. Research has shown that doing so has an encouraging, long-lasting, positive impact on wellbeing levels.
  • Make a display of your team’s Signature Strengths in your office, or start a team meeting with spotting a strength in each of your colleagues.


2. In your classroom

Researchers have found that students who complete Character Strengths activities at school report a boost in wellbeing. We talk to many schools that work with students younger than 10-years-old that are interested in having their students complete the Character Strengths survey. While there is not a measure that is appropriate for these younger children, there are many ways you can help them learn about and identify Character Strengths in themselves and others. A key idea is that each of us have all 24 of the Character Strengths and we use them in a number of different ways. In working with our students we do not mould them to fit a certain profile, instead we encourage their Signature Strengths to grow. Here are some ideas to this in your classroom:

  • As a teacher, providing opportunities for your students to use their Signature Strengths could be part of your planning. The use of our Signature Strengths is not only effortless but also energising; it is worth considering, how might energising your students throughout their day increase their levels of engagement in your classroom
  • Start your reports or parent teacher meetings with one of your students’ strengths.
  • List a strength for each of the students in the class roll, and let them know when you see them using a strength.


3. At home

A fun activity can be to go through the list of 24 Character Strengths with a partner or family member and try to identify their Signature Strengths. Whilst it might be easy to recognise the strengths in the people we spend the most time with, we rarely spend time articulating these to them. 

For those with children, Lea Waters has recently published a book called ‘The Strengths Switch,’ which identifies and explains strategies for strengths-based parenting. She encourages parents to focus on fostering their children’s strengths, rather than ‘rectifying’ their weaknesses.

What are your favourite activities for identifying and using strengths in your workplace, home, or classroom? We would love to hear your ideas!