Character Strengths Matter

How to Live a Full Life (Positive Psychology News)

This is a great introduction to the science of why character strengths matter along with some practical tools on how to go about using those strengths in service to our families and communities so we can experience a deeper sense of joyful flourishing. In this book, Shannon Polly and Kathryn Britton walk us through each of the 24 character strengths identified by the VIA Institute on Character that was created by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. In our Note, we take a quick look at all 24 virtues and explore some practical ways to apply them to our lives TODAY.


“How can you have a full life? A key step is to leverage your character strengths in service to yourself, your family, your workplace, your community, and your world.

Your first question may be, ‘What are character strengths?’ Borrowing from the words of Christopher Peterson in A Primer on Positive Psychology, we need a ‘vocabulary for speaking about the good life and an assessment strategy for investigating its components.’ Character strengths are the components of a good life. These are qualities valued across time, across nationalities, and across religions as elements of strong and virtuous behavior. They are qualities that we value in ourselves, our friends, our children, our colleagues, and our leaders. …

Your second question might then be, ‘Why do character strengths matter?’ When people are aware of their own character strengths, they use them more intentionally for their own benefit and for the benefit of the people around them. There is, for example, a well-studied exercise for improving well-being that involves using one’s signature strengths in novel ways. … Awareness of character strengths leads to greater energy and involvement in school, family, and work. Learning how to recognize and reflect back other people’s strengths makes us better parents, teachers, bosses, friends, and mentors. Having a language to talk about character strengths makes us more aware of what is strong and nourishing in each other.”

~ Shannon Polly & Kathryn H. Britton from Character Strengths Matter

This is a great introduction to the science of why character strengths matter along with some practical tools on how to go about using those strengths in service to our families and communities so we can experience a deeper sense of joyful flourishing.

Shannon Polly and Kathryn Britton are graduates of Martin Seligman’s Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania.

In this book, they walk us through each of the 24 character strengths identified by the VIA Institute on Character that was created by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. (As we’ve discussed, “VIA” is short for “Virtues in Action.”)

The book is endorsed by some of our favorite positive psychology luminaries including: Martin Seligman (see Notes on Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness and Flourish), Tal Ben-Shahar (Happier, The Pursuit of Perfect), Barbara Fredrickson (Love 2.0), Adam Grant (Originals), George Vaillant (Spiritual Evolution), Ed Diener (Happiness), and Ryan Niemiec (The Power of Character Strengths).

Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis) provides a particularly powerful rec: “This is among the best books in all of positive psychology. It takes one of the most important areas of research—the character strengths—and makes it as accessible, as practical, and as inspiring as could be. I particularly love that it is written for sharing. Every couple and family should have a copy. This will become my standard dinner party gift, instead of a bottle of wine.”

I especially love that last line about giving the gift of virtue in a book rather than wine in a bottle because we played on the idea of becoming “virtue connoisseurs” in Module I of our Mastery Series. Virtue-tasting parties for the win!!

If that sounds like your kind of fun, I think you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did! (Get it here.)

As you’d expect, the book is packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

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About the authors

Authors

Shannon M. Polly, MAPP, ACC

Expert on positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, executive presence; Facilitator and Coach; Taught resilience to U.S. Army Sergeants; Founder of Positive Business DC
Authors

Kathryn Britton, MAPP

Author, speaker, coach, and teacher, always looking for good ways to apply positive psychology in every day life.