What happens when we focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses?
This is one of the foundational questions in positive psychology. Positive psychology looks at resources, health and well-being rather than traditional psychology’s focus on weaknesses and mental disorders. This part of psychology studies what gives us happy and meaningful lives.
In the early 2000s, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman led several researchers in a project over 3 years. The aim of the project was to find out which traits people universally and throughout history have regarded as positive. The work resulted in a classification of 24 character strengths, grouped into six “virtues”. These 24 strengths are valued and understood across cultures.
At the VIA Institute on Character you can take a survey related to the classification. VIA Institute on Character It has been taken over by over 8 million people from every country in the world. You then get a strength profile, where your best strengths (signature strengths) are at the top.
Why are strengths important?
Well, because research shows that when people identify and develop their strengths, this has a number of positive effects, including increased well-being, commitment, achievements and strengthened relationships.
A number of methods have been developed based on this. Common to these methods, often called strength-based approaches, is that they’re based on the principle that we all have the strengths, resources, and ability to overcome adversity.
Strength-based approaches tend to be based on the following 9 principles 4 :
Since we started mentoring programs, Catalysts has been working to promote the strengths of our participants. We see that a focus on strengths creates energy and a sense of accomplishment which in turn creates well-being 5. Using your strengths is meaningful and engaging, and it provides motivation and increases the belief that you can achieve the goals you set.