"Character strengths are the positive qualities individuals have—as reflected in their thoughts, feelings, and actions—that promote the well-being of themselves and others." (GGE)
Dr. Martin Seligman and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied world religions and philosophies while also interviewing individuals from around the world, looking for commonalities in virtue and character. The research team developed a classification system organizing 24 character strengths within six universal values.
Dr. Ryan Niemiec, the education director at the VIA Institute on Character, writes that Dr. Seligman "finalized his PERMA theory (Positive Psychology) by highlighting the most important part: the 24 character strengths underpin or serve as pathways to each area of wellbeing. Whereas any of the character strengths can conceivably serve as a route to any of the PERMA areas, some will be more dominant." ¹
Many practitioners add an H for health to form PERMAH.
Niemiec breaks down the strengths into three categories, pointing out that we exhibit many strengths, sometimes applying many in our daily lives.
Signature Strengths> Usually five in number, these are the strengths that "relate most to who you are as a person.” ² They are essential to the core of who you are. They are energizing, giving you a boost when in use. You find them effortless to use as they come to you naturally and with ease.
Phasic Strengths> These non-signature strengths come into play when a specific situation arises to engage them. It is often the case that you exhibit a phasic strength in a pronounced fashion.
Lower/Lessor Strengths> Do not let the tendency for negativity bias affect how you view your lower VIA survey character strengths. See all 24 strengths as your own, with some presenting more frequently.
You will notice that often you will engage several character strengths simultaneously. Just as engaging your strengths supports you, they support each other!
You can visit the VIA Institute of Character to take their character strength survey to learn how the character strengths are present within yourself.
Explore the other posts in our Wellness Series:
¹ “Chapter 2: Assess Your Strengths.” The Strengths-Based Workbook for Stress Relief: a Character Strengths Approach to Finding Calm in the Chaos of Daily Life, by Ryan M. Niemiec and Neal H. Mayerson, New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2019, p. 29.
² “Chapter 2: Assess Your Strengths.” The Strengths-Based Workbook for Stress Relief: a Character Strengths Approach to Finding Calm in the Chaos of Daily Life, by Ryan M. Niemiec and Neal H. Mayerson, New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2019, p. 45.