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Finding Your Strengths

May 9


About This Episode

(Season 5, Episode 19)

Finding your character strengths can help improve your life and emotional well-being, as well as meet the challenges and difficulties you are facing.

Some frameworks and assessments for identifying our strengths focus on workplace performance, but Character Strengths can be applied to any situation, leading to positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment.

In this episode, Jessica Beckendorf tells us more about Character Strengths and guides us through a practice to help us find our strengths.



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Bob Bertsch: Finding your character strengths can help improve your life and emotional well-being, as well as meet the challenges and difficulties you are facing. Hi, everyone. This is Bob Bertsch, and welcome to this week’s Practicing Connection Practicast, where we highlight a specific practice you can use in your life and work. Some frameworks and assessments for identifying our strengths focus on workplace performance, but character strengths can be applied to really any situation, leading to positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. My Practicing Connection co-host, Jessica Beckendorf, will be guiding us through a practice connected to character strengths in just a few minutes. First, let’s learn more about them. Hi, Jessica. Can you help us understand what character strengths are?

Jessica Beckendorf: I will do my best. Yes, of course I can. Character strengths are the positive traits behind our thinking, feeling, and behaviors. They’re a reflection of who we are, and they produce positive results, both for ourselves and for others. They’re the traits that we possess, which contribute to the collective good, in other words. It’s a strengths-based approach, pun intended, to understanding what’s best about ourselves and what’s best about human beings in general.

The research on character strengths really took off in the 1990s to 2000s with researchers Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, who led 55 scientists on the collaborative development of the VIA Character Survey, which we’ll provide access to in the show notes. These scientists spoke to many thousands of people across the globe, even speaking with people in some of the most remote regions, in order to ensure that they captured the traits that would be recognized and understood by all.

What they found were a collection of 24 strengths that were organized into six virtues. There’s the virtue of wisdom, which includes the strengths of creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, and perspective. There’s the virtue of courage, which includes the strengths of bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest. The virtue of humanity, which includes the strengths of love, kindness, and social intelligence. Justice, which includes the strengths of teamwork, fairness, and leadership. The virtue of temperance, which includes forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation as strengths. The virtue of transcendence, which includes the strengths of appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.

Character strengths, the strengths themselves, are like the pathways to the virtues. I personally think that this is a great frame to reflect on our strengths. For example, if humor is one of your top strengths, how does your expression of it contribute to the virtue of transcendence? Thinking about and reflecting on that.

A quick note about character strengths before we move on to the next question. One of the most interesting things to me is that we don’t express a strength in isolation of our other strengths. Because of this, the same strength is going to show up differently in different people. Two people with the same strength are going to use it differently. I know I just said that two different ways, the same thing two different ways, and I did that on purpose because we want to organize people into neat little boxes. You really can’t do that with character strengths.

Bob: How can exploring our character strengths help us find meaning in our lives?

Jessica: On this very podcast, we have talked about how important knowing ourselves is to our own wellbeing, but also how knowing ourselves helps us to build relationships and contribute to collaborative work. Understanding our character strengths is one really excellent way of knowing ourselves and nurturing our character strengths is an excellent way of living authentically.

Leaning into the capacities, our character strengths, that come naturally to us and give us energy and doing it in a mindful way, meaning that we’re aware of our strengths and how we’re using them, is a really powerful way to find meaning day to day and even moment to moment. Leaning into our strengths and using them in different ways has also been linked to lasting positive impacts of feelings of happiness and our overall wellbeing.

Character strengths can help us see, appreciate, and be grateful for what is best in ourselves and others. When times are challenging, character strengths can help us focus on what’s right with us instead of engaging in loads and loads of self-criticism, which I have been guilty of.

Bob: I think, we both have been guilty of that over time. I’m sure many of our listeners as well. We mentioned before that character strengths are a little bit different than maybe some of the other strengths frameworks that we’ve been exposed to over the years. How are they different than strengths and other frameworks and assessments?

Jessica: I really appreciate this question because I’ve taught on character strengths as well as other strengths models. The thing I appreciate about character strengths is that they are the positive traits that make up being human. They resonate across cultures and geographies. I’ve noticed that some of the other models that I teach on, all of them very good, by the way, they’re just different and they have different focuses. Anyway, some of these models feel more like they were designed for improving productivity in American or European office teams.

That’s a perfectly fine use for strengths. It’s just a different purpose. To me, it doesn’t get to a person’s core the same way character strengths does. If authentic living, working and being is important to us, then let’s go for it with something like character strengths.

Bob: That sounds really awesome and I’m anxious to get into it a little bit. Could you walk us through the practices that you have to share with us today?

Jessica: Yes, of course. I brought two. The first one is a practice that’s used quite frequently. In fact, if you search for “You at your best,” you will find the Greater Good Science Center has a practice for it, VIA Character has a practice for it, and you’ll find all kinds of different versions of it. This is a really great activity to get started with identifying your strengths. You don’t even have to have taken an assessment to do this. You can just do it right now. You can do it right now as I speak.

For this, you’ll want to grab maybe a pen or pencil or paper, an app that you like to take notes in, just some sort of note taking device or devices, because I want you to write about a situation when you were at your best. This is a true story, not one that you’re making up. This is not thinking about what your ideal day would be if it were to happen. This is thinking in the past about a situation when you were at your best. Your performance was strong. Maybe you were thinking and feeling and acting at a high level. You really felt like your authentic self. You were being who you are.

Once you’ve written that out, I’m going to want you to go back to it, reread it, and circle the words and phrases that reflect character strengths. How many show up? Which ones are showing up? Are they strengths that you feel really connected to? Are they strengths that you felt like you needed to overcome that’s not easy for you to use? You might want to print a copy of the list of VIA strengths just to make this task a little bit easier, which we’ll link to in the show notes.

Write out that situation when you were at your best, and I want you to write in as much detail as possible. Reread and circle the words and phrases that reflect the strengths you see. This should help you begin to see where your strengths support your authenticity and how they show up in moments when you’re at your best.

The second practice I have for you is, if you’re curious, this is a bonus practice, take the free VIA Character Strengths Assessment at, and that’s You’ll be prompted to set up an account with them, just like we have to at pretty much every website we visit. After taking the assessment, you’ll notice that there’s a paid report you can get, but you really only need the free one for this exercise. It’s up to you.

Then when you get your report, reflect on your top seven, I would say, your top seven strengths, the middle 12 and the bottom five. Here are the questions that I would recommend you use when you reflect. What strikes you the most? I might even say what disappoints you the most?

There’s not a lot of disappointments so much when I have had people take this assessment. I have seen disappointments with other assessments I’ve had people take, but this one I haven’t seen quite so much. People often seem to think that it does reflect who they are. I will personally share that I was disappointed in some of those strengths that we have to use on a day-to-day basis like perseverance and prudence and self-regulation. Those are low on my list. [chuckles] I’ve been fighting it my whole life.

What strikes you the most? Does the report reflect the real you? What insights show up for you? What questions does it raise? As you read, do you find that you’re critical of the results? Which is what I just described to you. Do you find that you’re critical of the results or of yourself? Do you focus on what is strongest, or are you focusing on what’s low on the list? What’s less strong for you? Do you have a different reaction?

Bob: Thanks so much for sharing those with us today, Jessica.

Jessica: You’re welcome. I could talk about strengths all day long.

Bob: That’s it for this episode. Thanks for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, click the share button in your podcast app and share it with a friend or send them the link, We’ll be back next week with a practice for leaning into your character strengths. Until then, keep practicing.


Jessica: The Practicing Connection podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, U.S. Department of Defense under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.

[00:12:37] [END OF AUDIO]


May 9
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