In the early 2000s, scientists began to study character. A three-year project involving dozens of distinguished scientists devoted to studying character traits throughout history was launched.
This resulted in the VIA Classification of character strengths and virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) a classification of positive traits in human beings.
The VIA classification – 24 character strengths that fall under six broad categories of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance & transcendence – is used extensively in schools, workplaces and in therapeutic settings throughout the world.
You can take the survey now – VIA Character Strengths Survey – it’s free and takes only 15 minutes. You get the results immediately. More than 6 million people have undertaken the survey to date.
First of all, do not confuse character strengths with what you are good at, in terms of performance. People often remark that I am a great leader, or presenter or very personable. These may all be true, but they are not accurately referred to as my strengths.
My top five strengths are Curiosity, Social Intelligence, Humour, Honesty & Judgement.
That is to say, my effective leadership, presentations and friendly personality are a result of me applying these (and other) strengths to my work.
We all have strengths, in different measures and at different times. While spirituality is one of my lesser strengths, it does not mean I am not a spiritual person, nor that I can not call on that strength at times. It’s just not a trait I call on frequently to achieve success.
The science of strengths is fascinating, and there is now more than 30 years of research to support a strength-based approach to education. That’s not to say that we should overlook weaknesses, because attention given to these traits has helped us survive as a species.
But, in a world obsessed with fixing weaknesses, leveraging our strengths and focusing our attention on the positives can help people thrive, and not just survive.
There is SO much to learn in this space, and it is very exciting. Start with taking the VIA survey above, and then check out any schools or educational institutions in your local area that has adopted a ‘positive education’ approach and dive in.