Character is something I think a lot about. Every month I try to focus on developing or improving at least one character trait. Usually, self-discipline is involved, and usually, I fail at increasing my level. I feel like my character makes or breaks my relationships, career, happiness, and more. It’s important to me to not just want to be a good person with good character traits but BE a good person with balanced character traits.
The other day I was taking a class by Brian Johnson in Optimize, and he talked about how he writes down his character traits in his journal every morning to remind himself of them and reflect on them. He mentioned the VIA Institute on Character, so I paused the class and headed over and took the survey to get to know my strengths.
Because personal development has been my focus for so long, I’m always focused on my weaknesses and how I can improve them, but I like the idea of focusing on my strengths and letting them shine in my life.
Turns out I had taken the survey way back in 2014! I didn’t even remember.
You can retake the survey as much as you want.
I took it on the 20th, and when I saw the results, I thought I would go through it again with more thought to my answers. I pretty much got the same results.
My Top 5 Character Strengths
It’s very interesting to reflect on these character strengths that I don’t normally give much attention to. I value them, but I don’t focus on them because I’m always focused on improving my weakness.
1. Appreciation of Beauty And Excellence
I didn’t even think this was a character strength, but this totally describes me.
I appreciate the beauty in the small things – things that most people don’t see. The night sky, the small flower on the side of the road, the way the trees line up down a street, perfectly cut grass, and the way the water comes up over the rocks in a river.
I love being in nature. My perfect day is spent in nature – anywhere, as it’s all so beautiful and calming to me.
But I also appreciate the beauty in interactions and people.
- I cry in appreciation when I see someone helping someone else out.
- I admire someone who can put together an awesome business and succeed.
- I love watching people use their talents for work and fun.
- I value the creation of things and enjoy watching the process.
I’m emotional. I react to commercials with tears and people’s small wins with joy.
It makes sense that this is my top character strength.
2. Social Intelligence
This is a character trait that I knew I was strong in. Not so much in my teens, but I have been since my early twenties. I am aware of what motivates me and other people, and I’ve always been able to interact with people positively based on that knowledge… if I want to.
In fact, I think this is why people are drawn to me. No matter where I go, people come up to me, talk to me, or just stay close to me. Through my social intelligence, there must be some sort of vibe I send off where other people think I’m relatable or personable.
I’m able to diffuse situations and create peace because I can understand where people are coming from, and (if I’m not in a shitty mood) I can use that knowledge to make everyone feel good, including myself.
This is another character strength that I’ve had since my early twenties. I have never liked lying. It eats me up and makes me feel horrible.
I can remember when I decided that I was no longer going to lie or twist the truth. It was when someone asked me to go out to a horror movie. I hated horror movies, but I pretended to like them because everyone else did. They made me feel horrible for weeks on end because I had (and still do have) a hell of an imagination and would scare myself have to death every night.
I told them I didn’t like horror movies and didn’t want to go. And it felt good. And from there, I just stopped lying about everything because it felt good.
While it’s important, to be honest with others, it’s also been important for me to be honest with myself. It’s allowed me to take the path I’ve taken.
For instance, instead of staying at a job I hate for life, I was able to admit that I wanted something more and then go after it. It would be painful to still be there knowing that’s not what I want at all.
Authenticity is so important to me.
This has come from practice. I’ve talked about how gratitude is the one thing every personal development course or book has in common. It’s just always drilled into my head, so it makes sense that it’s one of my top character strengths.
I do have a knack for being grateful in tough situations. In fact, it’s always how I pull myself out of a funk. I start listing off the reasons that I have to be happy and before long, I’ve moved up the emotional scale to a place that feels better.
According to the VIA Character report I bought, gratitude affects immune functioning. I didn’t know what. With all my health problems lately, it gives me a reason to strengthen this character strength even more.
My fifth top character strength is kindness. This is definitely something I strive for, likely because of all my other top character strengths.
I can see the value in other people with my appreciation for beauty.
I can understand where people are coming from with my social intelligence.
I can’t lie to myself when I see that someone needs help or a kind word.
And I’m grateful for what I have and want other people to feel that same kind of gratitude.
The whole random acts of kindness thing makes sense to me and I try to do it as often as possible.
I Bought The Report From The VIA Institute For My Character Strengths
For $19 USD you can buy a report that includes your top 5 strengths and how to improve your life with them. Or you can buy a report that explores all the strengths and how to maximize them for well-being. I chose the latter one. It cost $49 USD.
Focusing on my character strengths is exciting to me. It’s not something I’ve done in a while, so when I saw that the report could help me use my character strengths to my advantage, I bought it for ideas and inspiration.
The Report Starts With Your Top Character Strengths
First, the report goes over your top strengths and lists out what they are, what they mean about you, and the benefits of having them.
The report gives you an idea of how to use your signature strengths more and in new ways because you can be happier and decrease depression by doing so.
Reflecting on that, I figured this is probably why Brian Johnson writes them down daily in his morning journal routine. It helps him keep his strengths in mind and find ways to use them throughout the day.
Then The Report Focuses On Your Middle Strengths
According to the VIA Institute on Character, your middle strengths could be classified as ‘somewhat like you’. Some of them may be strong and some of them not so much. These are the strengths that are available to you when you need them.
This is interesting to me because my love of learning likely used to be in my top 5, but it has gone down a few notches in the last year. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on this site, but when I got out of college, I still wrote essays on certain topics and books. I loved learning. Then I jumped into personal development, which is what led me to this site, and continued to love learning. I’ve come to a point where I’ve learned a lot and I’m more interested in hardcore implementing than learning. Although, I still love to learn.
In any case, the report simply explains what the character traits look like and how to use your supportive strengths.
Then The Report Focuses On Your Lesser Strengths
The VIA Institute on Character says that these are the strengths that don’t come naturally.
Yeah, this sounds about right.
My zest has gone out the window thanks to a bunch of different factors – and these factors have affected my ability to forgive.
I’m also holding onto my grievances pretty tightly, especially with one aspect of my affiliate business.
A company that I work with continuously does things that make me disappointed and upset. Not with their products, but with their affiliate program. I tend to focus on the company in my affiliate business because I love their products, but, reflecting on these lesser strengths, I can see that my interaction with this affiliate team and program is causing a lot of the problems.
- I have no zest because they drain me, and I don’t look forward to working with them. I used to wake up with excitement.
- I’m becoming bitter and can’t let things go because I feel like they screw me over continuously and they don’t explain themselves when they do.
- I don’t have a lot of passion to do what I need to do because I don’t want to work with them.
They have taken a lot of the fun out of my business, and it affects my relationship with other companies. My frustration, disappointment, and resentment need to go.
In any case, the VIA Institute on Character does not call these weaknesses. They call these lesser strengths. They are strengths that need work or need more value placed on them. The report tells you how to boost these lesser strengths.
The Next Section In The Report
The rest of the report covers things, such as:
- Underusing character strengths.
- Overusing character strengths.
- How your character strengths cumulate into virtues, including your strongest virtue (mine is humanity).
- How to boost virtues using your character strengths.
- How to pursue happiness with your strengths.
And then you are invited to continue the journey through their course or book.
I’m Liking My Insights So Far
For me, I’m going to stop trying to build up self-discipline for a bit and instead work on the character strength of zest. I think it will bring up the rest of my strengths slightly and impact every area of my life positively, including getting things done. Plus, it’s one of the happiness strengths, so I really want to increase that strength.
I like The Total 24 Report. But you don’t need to purchase anything if you don’t want to. You can take the survey and find out your top 5 strengths, which you can then use however you want. You do need to create an account so they can access your results whenever you want… including, seven years later after you forgot about them!