What are the best parts of your personality? Are you curious? Brave? Kind? Fair? Disciplined? Funny? How can you find out who you truly are, and use that understanding to better navigate your role as a Soldier, teammate, or leader—or as a friend, parent, or spouse?
“Sometimes we don't know who we are, or we lose our identity with wearing a uniform,” said Allison Jarrett, a 24-year military veteran and Director of Operations of Project Motivator (a collaboration of life coaches providing support for individuals to grow).
Character strengths—our positive personality traits—impact how we feel, think, and act. According to the VIA Institute on Character, knowing your character strengths helps you connect with people, overcome challenges, find success, and enjoy life. Scientists have identified 24 character strengths that fall under the categories of six virtues— wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.
Our character strengths are nurtured by a combination of our genetics, social influences, and the world around us. However, you don’t have to discover these strengths on your own. You can take the VIA assessment to help you determine what your character strengths are.
The VIA survey ranks our five highest strengths out of the 24 traits. These top strengths are referred to as our signature strengths.
“Your top-five character strengths are basically who you are without anybody even having to ask, and sometimes you don't even realize that until you take the assessment and figure out ‘these are the things that are important to me, these are things that I value, and this is why I respond or act the way that I do,’” Jarrett said.
Once you are able to identify your strengths you can use them more in your life, and learn to recognize the character strengths of others.
“Character strengths can show up in our behavior in different ways,” said Brittney Conway, Master Resilience Trainer–Performance Expert at the Fort Benning, Georgia, Ready and Resilient Performance Center. “We teach character strengths in our master resilience courses everyday … we have (participants) take the assessment and we talk about the profile that is generated. It's really cool to see how the strengths in someone’s profile translates into their actions. You'll see it in the decisions they make, the actions that they take and engage in on a daily basis.”
For example, during an interpersonal conflict between Soldiers, one party may use their signature character strength of bravery to start a tough conversation.
“Strengths can be leveraged in difficult times. It’s different compared to how we traditionally conceptualize bravery, which is usually downrange or on the battlefield, bravery can still be used in those interpersonal conflicts as well,” said Conway.
The best way to make the most of your signature strengths is to get creative about how you use them. Ruth Pearce, author, and coach at Project Motivator suggests, “if you think about how you use your top strengths day-to-day, (ask yourself) how do they show up? And then think of how could I use them differently … where's a different circumstance where I can really bring them forth? Or how can I apply that strength in a different way?”
If you usually use your signature strength of humor to connect with your Family after work, you could consider using it to diffuse a squabble between teammates at work and help refocus your team.
Or, if you’re a leader who is great at giving affirmations to your spouse, you could consider using that strength to empower your Soldiers. “The importance of connection on that level can really make or break a mission,” Conway said. Besides leveraging your signature character strengths, you can also strengthen your other character traits over time.
Strengths that are at the middle or lesser end of your strength profile might not feel as important, effortless, or energizing as your signature strengths. Sometimes they may play a supportive role in your life (sometimes they don’t) or they could be considered unrealized, not frequently used, or not as developed as your signature strengths.
You can build your middle strengths and lesser strengths by identifying a person who exemplifies those character strengths “to be able to see what behaviors go with someone using a particular strength … you can copy the behaviors and start to experience what it's like to engage that strength,” Pearce suggested.
However, the science of character strengths is about playing to your strengths. “One of the things that I think is really important to do, is to work with what you have … take your top strengths and really hone them to be the best they can be,” said Pearce.
For training on character strengths or to learn more, contact your nearest R2 Performance Center.
For a video on Character Strengths, visit the ARD social media page: https://www.facebook.com/ ArmyResilience/videos/1293022934383342/ or see our website: https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ard/R2/Character-Strengths.html.