Blogs and Stories

Using strengths for positive change

Author: Peter Maguire
Published On: February 25, 2021

Do you ever ask the question “Why is that person so good at that when I really struggle with it?” Or maybe it is “Why does that person struggle with something that I find to be easy and fun?”

Every day in our jobs or otherwise in our lives, there are things that each of us enjoys doing and things that we don’t ….. and they are different for each of us. Or maybe it is that, while we might do the same tasks, we might go about them in different ways and some of us get more fulfilment from completing those tasks than others.

Why is that?

It isn’t just about the education, training and experience or the natural physical, social or intellectual capabilities that each of us has, albeit that they are important for each of us.

In the early 2000s, scientists started exploring what it is that helps people to be at their best. 50 scientists led by luminaries Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman looked across countries and cultures and thousands of people for those qualities that are universally considered to be the strongest parts of being human (Refer: “The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality” by Ryan M. Niemiec & Robert E. McGrath). From that research, the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues was created.

Character strengths are basic elements of our identity and each of us is stronger in some strengths than others. It is when we are able to use the signature strengths that we are likely to be at our best in performance, in relationships and in personal wellbeing and happiness. Similarly, when we have to deploy our lesser strengths to perform a particular task, we can find that a struggle because it doesn’t come naturally to us and we have to work harder at it.

The VIA Classification comprises 24 character strengths grouped under 6 virtues as depicted in the graphic below.

You can undertake a free survey to identify your character strengths profile at

Why might you want to do that?

I’ll tell you what doing this survey and understanding my character strengths profile has done for me:

  • I have a much clearer sense of my own personal identity and how I can be at my best
  • I now know why it is that I struggle with some tasks and I can manage that better
  • I have improved my wellbeing by doing stuff that fits with my signature strengths every day
  • I have also been more mindful of and compassionate to myself when I have had to exercise my lesser strengths (and rewarded myself for getting through the struggle)
  • I better understand how I can make my best contributions for others – essentially by being who I am and leveraging my signature strengths for their benefit
  • I am happier and more resilient

Additionally, understanding the character strengths of others (clients, friends, colleagues, family) has helped me to better understand how I can best support them with my character strengths and draw on their character strengths in a positive way for themselves and others including me.

That is why the practice of character strengths is such an essential element of positive psychology and a key ingredient in the consulting work that we do today.

If you haven’t done the VIA Character Strengths Survey, give it a go – there is only upside. Here is the link again



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