Identify Your Character Strengths and Use Them to Improve Your Life

In this article we give you some background information about character strengths and how they are related to mindfulness. At the end of this post you will also learn some easy tasks and exercises to practise this knowledge in real life.

What are character strengths and how can I use them?

In the VIA-IS system six virtues are defined. These can be observed in every culture and each period of history. However, virtues are difficult to measure scientifically, so tests work rather with the 24 character strengths building up these virtues. You might not possess all of these in your personality at a very high level, but four or five of them represent a significant level. These are core to your identity. 

If you are interested in this topic, then you are at the right place: our Ok-Key programme applies its own model based on this knowledge! If you regularly practise and use your strengths, you can develop them to a higher level; thus, you will experience more positive emotions and your sense of well-being will improve. Moreover, it does not only affect your life in a positive way, but it also boosts the happiness and well-being of those around you!

How are these related to mindfulness?

Mindfulness and character strengths are undeniably interrelated. As Ryan M. Niemiec writes in his book titled Mindfulness and character strengths, “The practice of mindfulness is strengths and the practice of strengths is mindfulness. They cannot be separated”. If we gain further knowledge about our strengths, we will get a better understanding of ourselves. As a result, we can make more out of our lives in various fields (work, relationships, education, etc.)

Character strengths are highly stable characteristic features but they can be improved if used consciously. Mindfulness is a way to discover and be aware of our strengths. If you find and improve your character strengths and practise mindfulness, the level of your personal well-being will increase, regardless of the external factors. The more you concentrate on the inside, harmonise with yourself, and the more conscious you are, the more you can exploit your strengths. 

How can this improve your life? Here are some useful exercises to help you.

The main focus of Mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP) is

  • to strengthen your mindfulness practice with your character strengths,
  • to enhance mindful strengths use, and
  • to find the balance not to overuse or underuse your strengths and to be sensitive to the context you are in.

You should imagine your strengths on a continuum where you can underuse them, use them at an optimal level, or overuse them. It depends on the situation, so you should pay attention to the situation itself as well as the motivation or intention. For example, the level of using your character strengths will determine whether you are brave or reckless, honest or inconsiderate in a specific situation.

Mindfulness-based strengths practice focuses on the following areas:

  • developing a character-based mentality,
  • recognising others’ strengths and improving considering them,
  • recognising our own strengths and improving considering them,
  • using and practising our strengths, and
  • recognising the strengths of our group and improving them.

As promised at the beginning of this article, here are some small tasks you can try:

1. Identify an ideal

As an introductory task, identify someone you respect, you look up to, and collect the characteristics/values of this person. After making a list of these characteristic features, start reflecting on what makes someone a good and exemplary person.

2. The story of your own strengths

Identify the thing or activity that makes you proud or for what you are praised. Something that fills you up with energy or makes you feel you gave your best in a situation. Analysing these stories will help you understand the situations where you feel good and what you are happy and energetic to talk about because these show your strengths.

3. Fill a VIA questionnaire to find out your strengths profile

You can find this questionnaire on the Internet. Keep in mind that everybody has all of these 24 strengths to a certain degree. We should find what characterises us the most.

4. 360-degree strength evaluation

In this case you get information about your strengths from people around you: choose five people from different fields of your life you know well (family members, schoolmates, friends, etc.) and ask them to identify your strengths based on the VIA system. Give them a list with the 24 character strengths and a short summary of them. Ask these people to give honest answers and name maximum five strengths which characterise you the most in their opinion. When the list is compiled, they might give examples of or mention specific situations when you showed these strengths. Finally, compare these lists with your own list of strengths, then think and talk about it.

After discovering your strengths, start to use them more frequently. For example, try new activities where you can practise them. These will make you feel more joyful and energetic. You will experience more success, subjective well-being and self-efficiency, enabling you to become happier. As a result, those important people around you will benefit from similar improvements too. 

Thank you for reading this article. Hopefully you have enjoyed it, and you will try these small tasks we mentioned and continue to understand yourself at a deeper level. Keep using our Ok-Key programme, so you can practise regularly. You know, consistency is the Key! Our app helps you practise mindfulness and improve yourself day by day.

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