Monday, March 22, 2010

Character Strengths: What are Your Top Three?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the science of happiness and positive psychology. I attended a lecture by Christopher Maxwell entitled, Building on Your Strengths: Lessons from Positive Psychology. Prior to attending the lecture, I completed a survey that identified my character strengths. Take the Via Institute on Character survey of character strengths test here. The test is long, but well worth the time. It is the world's most scientifically validated tool for measuring character strengths.

At the end, you receive a summary of your 24 character strengths in top-down order. Although there were few surprises in my summary, it was a fun test to take and I recommend this assessment to learn more about your strengths (if only so you can respond to that dreaded interview question about strengths/weaknesses) .

The Positive Psychology research suggests that focusing on our strengths, helps us not only endure/survive, but to flourish. That seems like common sense. But is it realistic to be positive all the time?

Well, of course not. In fact, according to Barbara Fredrickson, negative emotions help to promote survival. Fredrickson has conducted extensive research on this subject and suggests that you need a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions to reach a state of flourishing mental health. You can take a positivity ratio test to find your ratio for the day. Today, my ratio is 3:7. Clearly, I'm not flourishing at this moment and can benefit from building on my strengths.

How do you emphasize and build upon your character strengths? Did your top character strengths surprise you?

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