What are Character Strengths?
Character strengths describe what is best in human beings. They represent the greatest potential within us for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that are morally valued. Character strengths are not fixed, but malleable, they can be learned and acquired through practice. They can also be influenced, by yourself or others, and by the current situation that you find yourself in. Using these highly valued traits more consistently can bring about several positive life outcomes.
Knowing and using your Character Strengths will help you:
Define your Identity: Your positive traits, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
Find ways to improve your choices everyday
Flourish with PERMA – Positive emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment
The Trans-theoretical Model (The Stages of Change)
Who Classified the 24 Character Strengths?
The Values in Action Institute (VIA) has identified 24 character strengths that lead to a flourishing life. The VIA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world, through surveys, research and practical tools for both individuals and wellness practitioners. The word “via” in Latin, means “the way” or “by means of,” and represents the bridge between science and practice, and provides the way to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
With positive psychology founders Martin Seligman, Mihai Csikszentmihalyi, and Christopher Peterson, the VIA Institute set out to define “what is good in a human being” based on their findings. Their research produced the Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (CSV). The handbook is seen as a counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used in traditional psychology to identify and classify psychiatric disorders and abnormalities of human behavior. While traditional psychology tends to focus on distress, illness, and dysfunction, positive psychology is focused on optimum functioning, satisfaction, happiness, and wellbeing.
This positive psychology handbook is not intended to replace the approach of traditional psychology but to provide balance, to focus on what is strong - not just what is wrong. Prior to it’s development, there was no common language for researchers and practitioners to study the various human strengths that help people to grow and thrive. Today the Character Strengths and Virtues Handbook has created a way for researchers to systematically name, define and group the 24 character strengths within 6 virtues, from empirically-based measurements of each character strength. The research has led to the creation of several strengths-based assessments and evidence-based interventions and the explosion of the field of positive psychology. Positive psychology is now used throughout the world for improved health and wellbeing and increased performance-based activities at work, school, and in the community.
What is a Virtue?
Throughout history moral philosophers and religious thinkers have sought to define the key characteristics of virtuous human behavior, that lead to optimal living. As the VIA scientists began to study all the great works across different religions, philosophies, and regions of the globe, they summarized their findings of virtue into six broad categories: Wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. A virtue is a natural quality within yourself that can help you navigate the best course of action and direction in life.
In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle defined a virtue as the point between deficiency and excess, the golden mean between two opposite extremes of a trait. It is a representation of your personal excellence, doing your best "at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue." (en.wikipedia.org)
As Aristotle stated we should strive for "highest good in all matters of action" what he called eudaimonia, or a happy life, more accurately translated as "flourishing." In this way you are being your best self, and most authentic to your path or purpose.
The six universal virtues help you to know what kind of person you want to be, and the kind of values and character strengths you want to possess. Virtues are expressed by your character strengths, in your ways of thinking, feeling and acting that benefit you and the community. Virtues can counteract certain aspects of your identity - your beliefs, desires, temptations and motivations that need to be re-channeled into something more useful or good. All of the virtues are integrated into the different stages of ARIA.
How to use the 24 Character strengths within ARIA
When it comes to human strengths, The CSV handbook for evaluating psychological strengths is the industry standard, and the ARIA framework incorporates the 24 character strengths and 6 virtues within the stages of personal change and development.
Each of the four stages of ARIA contains six of the 24 character strengths from the positive psychology strengths-based system. Those six character strengths are further subdivided into two groups of three. The first set of three corresponds with the exploratory component of the ARIA phase, while the second set of three corresponds with a regulatory component of the phase - which we fondly refer to as the “gut check.”
Taking Awareness as an example, the first three character strengths, Curiosity, Creativity and Love of Learning, are focused on exploration. They address the questions “What do I want, wish, or hope for?” The other three character strengths of this stage, Judgment, Perspective, and Spirituality/Purpose, help you gain greater Acceptance of the current situation. Do you want a promotion at work, but are lacking the skills required? Judgment and perspective will help see this more clearly. Do you want to become more motivated? Spirituality/Purpose can help you connect this hope to your higher values, which will help you into the commitment stages of change. Once you identify a challenge or issue you want to change in Awareness/Acceptance, go beyond “your comfort zone” with confidence as you explore each of the areas outlined in ARIA - the stages of change and development.
Awareness: What do I want, wish or hope for?
Curiosity, Creativity, Love of Learning
Acceptance: What is happening now, what do I believe, what is my calling
Judgment, Perspective, Spirituality/Purpose
Resilience: What are my resources? How can I show up at my best?
Perseverance, Zest, Bravery
Resistance: What am I doing that is hindering or helping my progress?
Prudence, Self-Regulation, Forgiveness
Inspiration: What is possible? What is my motivation for change?
Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Hope, Humor
Intention: What am I willing to commit to and plan for?
Kindness, Gratitude, Love
Action: What specific action can I take?
Teamwork, Leadership, Social Intelligence
Accountability: How will I measure and learn from this action?
Humility, Honesty, Fairness
ARIA Reflects Areté
The Greek word Areté translates as “virtue” or “excellence” - it means to live as the best version of yourself at any given moment. To live with Areté is synonymous with ARIA. Using a combination of behavioral techniques and character strengths, ARIA helps you act with Areté as you identify new choices and behaviors that represent your best virtues and your best efforts.
Character Strengths Inventory
The Values in Action (VIA) Inventory of Strengths is a free online survey to identify your unique character strengths. Currently over 11 million users have taken the survey, in 37 different languages across the globe. It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and provides a summary of your ranked character strengths. After taking the survey, you can download your profile so you can it within the ARIA stages of change. A more in-depth report of your character strengths is also available with purchase.