Character Strengths

The science is clear — knowing and using your strengths positively impacts wellbeing, job satisfaction, and relationships. Research indicates a three-pronged approach to character strengths is best: 1). Become aware, 2). Begin to explore, and 3). Bringing character strengths to the forefront of the classroom boosts learning and engagement. Continually find new ways to apply your strengths in order to thrive!

The Practice of Character Strengths: Unifying Definitions, Principles, and Exploration of What’s Soaring, Emerging, and Ripe with Potential in Science and in Practice
What Does a Strength-based Practice Look Like?

This paper offers seven characteristics and a definition for a character strengths-based practitioner. Niemiec et al also explore a variety of character strengths practices as well as research areas that are either soaring, emerging, or ripe with potential.

The Practice of Character Strengths: Unifying Definitions, Principles, and Exploration of What’s Soaring, Emerging, and Ripe with Potential in Science and in Practice

What does it mean to be “strengths-based” or to be a “strengths-based practitioner?” These are diffuse areas that are generic and ill-defined. Part of the confusion arises from the customary default of practitioners and leaders across many cultures to label anything positive or complimentary as “strengths-based,” whether that be an approach, a theoretical orientation, an intervention, or a company. Additional muddle is created by many researchers and practitioners not making distinctions between very different categories of “strength” in human beings – strengths of character, of talent/ability, of interest/passion, of skill/competency, to name a few. To add clarity and unification across professions, we offer seven characteristics and a comprehensive definition for a character strengths-based practitioner. We center on the type of strength referred to as character strengths and explore six guiding principles for understanding character strengths (e.g., character is plural; character is being and doing) and their practical corollaries. Reflecting this foundation and based on character strengths research, our longstanding work with strengths, discussions with practitioners across the globe, and a practitioner survey asking about strength practices (N = 113), we point out several character strengths practices or approaches we describe as soaring (e.g., explore and encourage signature strengths; practice strengths-spotting), emerging (e.g., the integration of mindfulness and character strengths), or ripe with potential (e.g., phasic strengths; the tempering effect; the towing effect). We use the same framework for describing general research domains. Some areas of research in character strengths are soaring with more than 25 studies (e.g., workplace/organizations), some are emerging with a handful of studies (e.g., health/medicine), and others are ripe with potential that have none or few studies yet opportunity looms large for integrating character science (e.g., peace/conflict studies). Using this framework, we seek to advance the exchange and collaboration between researcher and practitioner, as well as to advance the science and practice of character strengths.

Niemiec, R. M., & Pearce, R. (2021). The Practice of Character Strengths: Unifying Definitions, Principles, and Exploration of What’s Soaring, Emerging, and Ripe With Potential in Science and in Practice. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 590220.

Character Strengths and Intellectual and Developmental Disability: A Strengths Based Approach from Positive Psychology
Identifying Character Strengths in People with Disabilities

This paper provides an overview of the growing science of character strengths and explores why and how character strengths and a strengths-based perspective are relevant in the disability field. They offer key concepts, research findings, and interventions that provide a framework for the disability field to build on strengths of character and enhance quality of life outcomes.

Character Strengths and Intellectual and Developmental Disability: A Strengths Based Approach from Positive Psychology

There has been limited focus in the disability field on assessing and intervening to promote strengths of character. However, character strengths have received significant attention in the broader field of positive psychology. This paper provides an overview of the growing science of character strengths and explores why and how character strengths are relevant to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and a strengths based perspective in the disability field. We offer key concepts, research findings, and interventions from the science of character that can provide a framework for the intellectual and developmental disabilities field to begin to build on strengths of character to enhance the systems of supports and quality of life outcomes experienced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Niemiec, R.M.; Shogren, K.A.; Wehmeyer, M.L. (2017) Character strengths and intellectual and developmental disability: A strengths based approach from positive psychology. Educ. Train. Autism Dev. Disability. 52, 13–25.

Strengths of Character and Wellbeing
How Do Your Character Strengths Contribute to the Good Life?

Park et al investigated the relationship between various character strengths and life satisfaction among 5,299 adults. Strengths of hope, zest, gratitude, love, and curiosity were most strongly associated with life satisfaction, with appreciation of beauty, creativity, judgement, and love of learning being weakly associated with life satisfaction.

Strengths of Character and Wellbeing

We investigated the relationship between various character strengths and life satisfaction among 5,299 adults from three Internet samples using the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths. Consistently and robustly associated with life satisfaction were hope, zest, gratitude, love, and curiosity. Only weakly associated with life satisfaction, in contrast, were modesty and the intellectual strengths of appreciation of beauty, creativity, judgment, and love of learning. In general, the relationship between character strengths and life satisfaction was monotonic, indicating that excess on any one character strength does not diminish life satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of Character and Well-Being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603–619.