The science of strengths

The extensively researched VIA Character Strengths survey presents twenty-four strengths tested by Dr Martin Seligman and Dr Chris Peterson, advocating it as unique strength spotting tool. I feel the use of this questionnaire is best suited within the educational, healthcare, social care, mental illness and counselling sector. Thus, allowing the identification and characterization of strengths in a more humanistic and people orientated manner. The science behind defining strengths as a measurable humanistic virtue, is a much-applauded concept. I have been captured by the simplicity of the VIA Character Strengths survey assessment tool and yet its profound humanistic value of nurturing our strengths into the virtues such as wisdom, knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence is a great accomplishment for optimal functioning for human beings.

Why strengths?

What is the purpose of knowing your strengths and how do we benefit from knowing our strengths? Martin Seligman states that the benefits of using your strengths as our “Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” ~ Martin Seligman (2002, p. 263). He profoundly advocates the use of signature strengths as a footstep towards attaining a pleasant life, the good life and the meaningful life, all compulsory components of authentic true happiness. Why are virtuous strengths important? Well they are behaviours which are considered high in morality and as humans evolves, I feel the need to evolve emotionally is an evolutionary adaptive technique which has become more apparent within the following educational, social, healthcare, mental illness and counselling sectors, which are constantly dealing with people orientated issues.

Collaborative professional development of practitioners

I feel practitioners within these sectors would benefit by the strength spotting and characterization of strengths into the six virtues, as they provide a firm understanding of highly commendable human behaviour. For example, I feel teachers could benefit by conducting the VIA youth survey at the beginning of an academic year to establish the classes characteristic strengths and to look at other countries performing well in education such as Singapore to incorporate combined good virtues within lesson planning would optimally benefit the whole schools academic performance. Furthermore, counselling practitioners using a cognitive- behavioural therapy approach could really benefit from identifying a client’s character strengths as a complimentary approach to improve a client’s present state of mind.

What is next for strengths?

I feel the collaboration of strengths with other complimentary practices is a positive change for the area of growth strength research. As psychologists, such as Dr Ryan M. Niemiec, state that mindfulness and the implementation of signature character strengths (top five strengths) nourishes the individual’s ability to counterbalance growth mindset and practical wisdom in situations. I feel more collaborative research needs to be explored if we are to reach an optimal flourishing state of functioning with the implementation of our strengths.

I do hope that future research concentrates on additional complimentary successful practices such as NLP practices in collaboration with character strengths. Furthermore, if brain imaging practices are implemented on individuals utilising character strengths over a duration of time would be interesting to see if any brain changes can be detected among strength users and non-strength users, shedding some biological light on optimal functioning within human’s beings.

Access strengths survey
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K. E. (2006). Practical wisdom: Aristotle meets positive psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 377–395.

About the author: Fizza Shah is a Bucks New University Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) student.


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