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Which Character Strengths Are Helping You Survive?

New research explores the character strengths helping us survive the pandemic.

Chris Titze/Adobe Stock
Source: Chris Titze/Adobe Stock

Is self-control helping you get through the pandemic? What about courage, humor, or kindness? Have you noticed a particular character strength showing up in your life that you didn't realize you had? Or perhaps it's the other way around: Maybe there's a strength you've noticed in a friend that you wish you had more of yourself?

Philosophers have long studied character strengths and virtues. In modern times they've been the subject of research by psychologists, especially humanistic, transpersonal, and positive psychologists. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues studied all major religions and philosophical traditions and found that the same six virtues (i.e., wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence) were shared across the majority of cultures. Research revealed that these virtues are made up of 24 character strengths:

Everyone possesses all 24 character strengths in different degrees, so each person has a truly unique character profile. Each character strength falls under one of these six broad virtue categories, which are universal across cultures and nations.1

The highly individual nature of our character strengths means that what we might think is helping someone get through the pandemic (for example, courage) might actually be something else entirely (for example, humor). To learn more about the character strengths and virtues we're using to get through this difficult time, I’ve designed a short survey based upon the positive psychology model. You can help us learn more by adding your voice. Your answers are completely anonymous and cannot be traced back to you.

Around the world we are witnessing an outpouring of courage from people of all walks of life: doctors, nurses, first responders, people keeping food banks open, stocking shelves, packing orders, delivering packages, and more. We’re witnessing people coming up with unique ways to inspire each other and the world at large: individuals playing instruments from their rooftops, singing from their windows, offering free performances online, applauding health care workers, and much more. We’re also seeing people all over the world engaging in self-discipline as they shelter-in-place to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19.

In the years to come, we will look back at this time as a turning point in our lives and the world at large. Although we don't know what the future holds, we know that challenges such as this shape who we are and who we become. Character strengths help us cope with stress and life challenges, support happiness, and enable us to sustain healthy relationships. By participating in this research, you are helping us learn more about the character strengths and virtues that support us during challenging times. We can use the findings to inform education policy, mental health and well-being protocols, leadership training, and more. If you would like to help us spread the word, please share the following link with your network: Take the survey here.


1. VIA Institute on Character: Research based on the work of Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, Copyright 2004-2020, VIA Institute on Character.