What is it?

A free online questionnaire developed by the University of Pennsylvania.   The ranking of the strengths reflects your overall ratings of yourself on the 24 strengths in the survey, how much of each strength you possess. Your top five are the ones to pay attention to and find ways to use more often.

What people say

The VIA Character Strengths questionnaire is the positive psychology counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used in traditional psychology. Unlike the DSM, which scientifically categorizes human deficits and disorders, the VIA classifies positive human strengths.  Moreover, the VIA is centered on helping people recognize and build upon their strengths. –Wikipedia

What I loved

That it connects you to Aristotle, Buddha, and St. Augustine.  The list of 24 strengths were developed based on extensive research into major writings of religious and philosophical traditions.  The researchers found these strengths to be universal truths that are shared by all cultures dating back over 5,000 years.

Key takeaway

The research into happiness shows that if you can use your top five strengths every day, you will be happier.  Similarly, if you are living your life such that you are prevented from using your top five strengths, it is a source of unhappiness.

Best quote

Sociologists distinguish among a job, a career, and a calling. You do a job for the money, and when the money stops, you stop working. You pursue a career for the promotions, and when the promotions stop, topped out, you quit or become a time-serving husk. A calling, in contrast, is done for its own sake. You would do it anyway, with no pay and no promotions. ‘Try to stop me!’ is what your heart cries when you are thwarted. — Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

Why do it?

  • Delve deeper into your character to answer “what is my calling?”
  • Clarify your character strengths.
  • Get a big picture view of your place in the universe.
  • Jumpstart your work challenges by enhancing your natural character strengths
  • Get a clue why you are so unhappy in a job.
  • Check whether there are obstacles caused by your the “dark” side of your top strengths.

How my coach will use this

It’s free.  It’s good for personal growth.  It’s fun to take and compare to family or friends.  I don’t usually use this VIA questionnaire for executive coaching because I’ll be asked something like “How does my strength of loving and being loved fit into the workplace?”  A great sideline discussion is to examine the “dark” side of your strengths and pinpoint when that gets you into hot water.

Sample Result

Your Top Strength

Perspective wisdom –

Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.

Your Second Strength

Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith –

You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.

Strength #3

Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness –

You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.

Strength #4

Gratitude –

You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

Strength #5

Love of learning –

You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.