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How to Assess Your Strengths: 5 Tactics for Self-Growth

Try these strategies to figure out what's best in you.

VIA Institute/DepositPhotos
Source: VIA Institute/DepositPhotos

What are your strengths? This can be a tricky considering there are many types of strengths we have. In terms of your very best strengths – those most core to who you are - there are many ways to figure this out for yourself (or help others figure out). Consider the 5 exercises below:

1.) Take the VIA Survey

The VIA Survey is the only free, valid test for character strengths and the results reveal an immediate rank-order listing of personality characteristics. After you take the test, review your results and consider the following:

  • Are the character strengths in my top 5-7 the real me? Do they describe who I am?
  • How are each of these top strengths true? What evidence do I have to support each of these strengths as a description of me?

2.) Self-nominate your strengths

If you don’t feel like making time to fill out the VIA Survey, take a look at this comprehensive list of character strengths found around the world.

  • Check off the strengths that you believe best describe who you are at your core.
  • Then, go through the list again and check off those strengths that you put into action (a lot) every day.
  • Are there any discrepancies? What action might you take to resolve one of these discrepancies?

For example, you might feel as if you are very creative but perhaps you don’t show that strength strongly at work or with your family. Or, you might believe that you bring humor and playfulness to your daily life with joke-telling and laughing a lot, but you don’t feel that strength is core to your identity.

3.) Monitor yourself for a day

Choose one ordinary day in your life. Go about your day as you typically do but with one change. Set an alarm or smart-phone alert to signal you every 30 minutes (or set it to go off at “random”). When you hear the alarm, pause, and ask yourself: “What character strength(s) was I just using?”

Keep a log for one day or a half-day to keep track of your findings. Write down the strengths you were using and how you were using them.

What stands out to you as you review your log? What patterns emerged?

4.) An instance of greatness

Our character strengths always emerge within our stories.

We all have times in our life when we have done something really well. In other words, we have all performed “better than ordinary” many times in our life. Write down one experience. What happened in the situation? What role did you play? What did you do that was particularly successful or useful to someone? After you write out this experience, go back and read through the story; as you read it through, circle the words or phrases that relate to the use of any of the 24 character strengths.

5.) Someone who “gets” you

Think about a time when someone shared something good about you and their observations surprised you…a time when this person really seemed to “get you” in a way that made you feel totally understood.

What did this person see in you? What did they “get” about you? What character strengths were they seeing? What impact did this have on you? This exercise allows you to spot strengths in yourself, but through the eyes of another.

When I lived in St. Louis, I went to breakfast once a month with a wise friend who was a 70-year-old nun named Sr. Marilyn. We had wonderful conversations about spirituality, living life fully, and expressing meaning and purpose in life. In each conversation, Sr. Marilyn found a way to comment on a positive quality I was expressing or that she had witnessed in me in the previous months. She was “seeing” me. These comments always addressed one or more of my signature strengths in some form (e.g., hope, love, fairness, perspective). I was often quite surprised when she made these observations about my character because she was framing it in her own way, from her vantage point.

To hear someone directly express such observations about you carries a unique weight in terms of validation of the behavioral aspects of your character.


VIA Institute:

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