3 Ways to Leverage Your Strengths and Increase Happiness

Gain momentum in your personal and professional life

Posted May 07, 2019

Do you want to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

Capitalize on your strengths. Leverage your top character strengths not only to lead more effectively but to feel greater well-being in your life and work. 

Raw pixel from Pixabay
Source: Raw pixel from Pixabay

What are Character Strengths?

Your character strengths reflect your core personal identity and can bolster your thinking, feeling, meaning, and engagement. According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., (2011) founder of positive psychology, the 24 character strengths are the cornerstone of personal well-being and a flourishing life. These strengths are: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective, bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Know Your Top Strengths

To build greater momentum toward achieving your professional and personal goals, identify your top strengths and learn to use them more effectively. Building on our top (signature) strengths has been consistently shown to increase our happiness and improve work engagement, life satisfaction, and well-being (Niemiec, 2018). Using our strengths can increase our effectiveness across the domains of our lives, including work, school, community, relationships, and spirituality.

Strategy 1: Here are 4 steps identified by positive psychologist Ryan Niemiec, Ph.D., to help you identify and use your top strengths. These steps have been validated internationally with populations of children and adults:

  1. To boost your personal capital for life and leadership, identify your top strengths. Take the free VIA Survey, a quick (less than 15 minutes), self-assessment of your personal strengths. It’s highly evidence-based and has been taken by over 7 million people throughout the world. You can find the VIA at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey
  2. Look at your VIA findings, and as Dr. Niemiec suggests, ask yourself what strengths are most essential to who you are as an individual.
  3. Choose one of these strengths and find a way to use it in a new way each day for a week – at home or at work (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson (2005). 
  4. Notice how you feel and what thoughts and emotions emerge when you capitalize on this strength.

Strategy 2: Apply Your Top Character Strengths in Your Personal and Professional Life

Now figure out how to apply your top strengths to propel yourself toward your goals. Here are a few ways to use some of the 24 strengths:

Leadership – Developing and maintaining good relations among a group and engaging them toward accomplishment: 

  • Complement employees, colleagues, clients, family, and friends on a job well done – one-to-one, in a meeting, or by email.
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships by paying attention to your positivity ratio – share more positive than negative messages with people when you communicate (Cameron, 2012).
  • Create your own consultation team with co-workers or other professionals in your field, and offer each other moral support.
  • Assist a colleague, co-worker, or team member, who is struggling in the leadership process. 
  • Seek assistance and encouragement from others when you need it.

Perseverance – Staying on task toward what you start, despite challenges or obstacles:

  • Set a meaningful long-term goal for your professional or personal life.
  • On a daily or weekly basis, set small, manageable sub-goals to propel you toward this goal.
  • Track your progress on your calendar or computer. 
  • When something gets in the way, be adaptive. Figure out how to move past it to reach your goal.
  • Identify your most productive hours of the day. Work on your goal during those times.

Kindness – Caring about the needs of others and being willing to do a good deed without expecting a return:

  • Offer a kind word to people as you go through the day, for example, at home, the office, coffee shop, via email, at meetings, or while traveling.
  • Offer a small random act of kindness toward someone else – whether someone you know or a complete stranger.
  • Share something with another person or offer to help them if you know something they don’t know.
  • Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your progress and achievements. Take good care of yourself with nutritious foods, exercise, and enough sleep.

Strategy 3: Act As If

If, like many people, you have a negativity bias, focusing on areas of weakness rather than strengths, here’s a strategy recommended by Shannon Polly and Kathryn Britton in their book, Character Strengths Matter. “Act as if” to pull up strengths at the lower end of your VIA strengths ratings. You can pretend you have that lower strength as a top strength and act as if. Like an actor, practice positive outcomes and create new stories about how you utilize this strength to build momentum and positive engagement. This strategy can make a difference in personal and professional realms – in your leadership role at work and as a leader in your own life.

How will you leverage your character strengths to gain momentum and feel happier in your personal and professional life?

*This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.


Cameron, K. (2012). Positive Leadership: Strategies for extraordinary performance. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Peterson, C. & Seligman, E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Polly, S. & Britton, K. (2015) Character strengths matter: How to live a full life. Positive Psychology News, LLC., USA.

Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: NY: Atria Paperback.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.

The VIA classification of character strengths and virtues http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification