Strengths and Weaknesses fight for the balance!

Do you spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others? Are you focusing on what you don’t have or what you can’t do very well?

Let me first say if you answered yes, that is ok. We are wired to think negatively, research by the US National Science Foundation indicated that 80% of our thoughts are negative. While writing this I am already battling with an inner critic, “so what, no one wants to hear this shit”. My inner coach intervenes “maybe they do, what do you have to lose”.

Based on the environment we live in, there can be a growing emphasis for this negative bias to prevail, spending a disproportionate amount of time on our weaknesses. Focus our time on things we’re perceived to be not good at, particularly in the workplace. At home the comparison cycle kicks in through the lens of social media, our attention goes on the things that we don’t have, where our attention goes our energy follows.

If most of our attention is in this space, we can get stuck and neglect the resources we have, the strengths that we possess. This piece is not a comparison of strengths versus weaknesses but rather looking to balance the scale. Providing you with a healthier more sustainable approach, one which can accelerate your development in an authentic, energetic way.

I will provide you with a better understanding of what character strengths are! I will show you how you can discover your character strengths for free and practical ways to implement them into your routine, your colleagues and your team. If you’re a parent, a teacher, this is an opportunity to build a strong foundation with children. This is universal, a resource for everyone.

Defining what Strengths are

“…. a strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user and enables optimal functioning, development and performance”

Linley, 2018

Linley describes strengths as pre-existing, that they are already there, you might not be aware of them, but they are there, sometimes untapped. When you use your character strengths it gives you energy, it feels natural, it’s you at your very core.

When you’re deliberate in using your strengths, it promotes optimal functioning and enhanced wellbeing. Using your character strengths is a process that connects you with the present moment and fuels your action with passion. This is where intrinsic motivation lives, leading to a higher overall level of performance.

Strengths are not:

Sometimes it’s easy to interchange strengths with skills or talents. To be clear your character strengths are not skills, talents, or interests. Skills are specific competencies developed through training while talents are innate abilities that typically have a strong biological loading, sometimes trained sometimes not. Interests on the other hand can be an area that you are passionate about.

Strengths and Values:

Values and strengths are different concepts but are related. Values are the things that we consider important in our life. When we live our values, we experience life to be more meaningful. Strength as we mentioned is the personal characteristics that are engaging and energising. In essence, they concretize our values. I find this point quite powerful. Strengths enable us to live our values. Keep this in mind.

Values in Action (VIA)

There is one strength tool I will focus on which is the Values in Action Survey (VIA) developed by Christopher Peterson. The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a free self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes and provides an abundance of information to help you understand your best qualities. When you deliberately employ your strengths, numerous studies resulted in enhanced wellbeing and optimal performance levels, across cultures.

Why do I use the VIA Tool and why am I endorsing it over other tools?

  1. The VIA Survey and character strengths interventions are peer-reviewed. The VIA has withstood the criticisms and challenges of science from researchers across the globe and has benefitted from the observations of many academics around the world.
  2. It’s universally understood. These 24-character strengths are a “common language” —for communicating around our positive identity. They symbolize the core of who we are as individuals.
  3. I have used and continue to use the character strengths in my own life. I feel more engaged and energetic in what I do. My attention is on task, I am focused. The inner critic is under control. I am in the space between thoughts living in the present moment.
  4. Feedback from several of my clients has supported this. “I felt more purposeful, more deliberate in my actions”. “I feel like I could connect with my values every day”. “I have a greater sense of control and I can be myself”.
  5. It’s free to use. Yes, it’s free.
How can I discover my character strengths?

You can take the free, anonymous, assessment at the link below:

Character Strengths

or directly go to

On completion of the survey, the test will result in a list of the 24 strengths, organized in order from your greatest to your lesser strength. Your top 3-7 are regarded as your signature strengths and those character strengths that are most essential to who we are. They are the strengths that are more likely to matter most to you and provide you with energy and engagement when enacting them.

Benefits of using strengths:
  • Is concordant with one’s intrinsic interests and values
  • Perform at an optimal level
  • Can satisfy basic needs
  • Enhances wellbeing

The use of strengths can be beneficial at an individual and or organisational level. Leveraging our strengths contributes to individual growth, provides a sense of meaning, hope, can build relationships, and is a powerful source of motivation.

Now consider your strength to benefit others, enacting your strength of kindness to help someone in need. A coach, teacher, parent, manager using their social intelligence and leadership to create the environment for a group or individual to flourish.

Understanding the strengths of others and creatively leveraging a group of individuals into a cohesive team in the workplace or on the pitch.

Techniques to bring your strengths to life

Find the Golden Mean

A strength is a strength when it is used in its optimum form, finding the sweet spot, rather than misuse, overuse, or underuse. For example, overusing your strength of perseverance can lead to burnout. Underusing self-regulation and prudence might find you unorganised with a lack of structure and discipline in your day.

Several years ago, I received some constructive feedback that on occasion I was misusing my strength of humour to the detriment of others. This was quickly backed up with more evidence on the day of my grandad’s funeral, my mother kindly warned me in advance not to make any jokes at the church. Until this point, I was displaying several natural biases that I really knew myself, however, this intervention by a few people close to me gave me a fresh perspective. I now find that combining my strength of humour with social intelligence hits the sweet spot.

Fixed or Growth Mindset

A fixed mindset towards strengths A growth mindset towards strengths
just having a strength will create great outcomes, regardless of effort strengths are ‘just the beginning’ of personal growth
setbacks in an area of strength “prove” the lack of a strength setbacks in an area of strength “prove” that a strength can be developed more
it is important to perform well to appear talented it is important to learn to better employ one’s strengths

If you want to truly unlock your potential adopt a growth mindset towards your strengths, they are potentials for excellence. If your mindset is fixed you may view that your strengths are fixed and cannot be developed. Your shortcomings can be blamed on not being good enough, so we stop there, no room for improvement in the strengths department!

With a growth mindset, the view is that these strengths are malleable, they can be developed through effort. When things don’t go right it’s an opportunity to learn from the situation and adapt. Developing your unique character strengths can promote joy and enhance self-efficacy. We also need to be realistic here, we all have a ceiling, but if you feel you have reached the ceiling, try creating a loft!

Teach your kids about effort and persistence

Knowing your strengths is one thing, but it will always be an action that drives you forward. Effort, effort effort…. which will soon feel effortless.

If you have kids, nieces, nephews, learn to praise the effort they make rather than the achievement. This will nurture a growth mindset from an early age, the focus will be on the process rather than the outcome and allow them to tap into and harness their character strengths.

Particularly on the tough days when things don’t appear so great when your kids don’t feel so good about themselves. Every day they might be going to school when they don’t feel like it, they are developing their strengths of courage and perseverance. There is a great opportunity to build their awareness around this. Imagine being able to give your kids a leg up here, in the moments when they might feel most low.

Optimise strength use:

Optimal strength use necessitates deliberate effort and time investment. Research has shown that strengths can be trained and developed intentionally. Growing strengths means increasing not only the regularity of strength but also the variety in which the strength is applied. If strengths are not trained, their prospective effect on well-being remains limited.

Think about a child that is highly creative but the environment they operate in is not exposing activities that call upon creativity. It would not be surprising that the child does not develop the skills and experience to maximise their creative side.

Strengths spotting that drives inspiration:

Sometimes we can be drawn to people and inspired by their work. They are possibly optimising their core character strengths, strengths we notice that reside within us.

For example, two of my core character strengths are hope and kindness, I would be drawn to people who have mastery in this area. I know how challenging it is to create a vision when there appears to be no light. The extraordinary effort to bring a team, a group, or a family forward during times of transformation. At the same time making sure safety of all, is paramount.

Because I am aware of the effort, the time and the frustration that goes into this I am inspired by the success of others who employ these strengths.

Strengths in the workplace!

The effects of strengths have been most thoroughly researched in the context of work. In essence, these studies show that people who make use of their strengths more often report elevated levels of work engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

A leader who combines their signature strength of honesty to provide constructive feedback to their team might combine this with kindness and social intelligence to temper the feedback so as not to be hurtful in delivery.

When you’re confronted with a challenge in the work domain, your character strengths can contribute to resilience and serve to temper aggressive and avoidant behaviours (fight-flight-freeze). Combining your strength of bravery (Courage) with creativity to adapt to the situation can move you forward.

People operating from their character strengths have been found to perform better and stay with their business longer. Further studies have addressed the value of certain strengths, such as zest, curiosity, hope, and gratitude, in the workplace. Applying these strengths has been found to promote work satisfaction as well as healthy and ambitious work behaviour.

Finally, have fun with your strengths!

Picture a guy at a bar with his best mates, dressed in a white sleeveless t-shirt and rocking a pink tutu. Half wolverine, half ballerina, let’s call him “Wolverina”. He is being his authentic self, swimming in positive emotions, connected socially and living his signature strengths of humour, creativity, and social intelligence. This person who will remain nameless will appear every Halloween thoroughly engaged and on task.

Call to action!

If you feel discovering your character strengths would have been helpful when you were younger, that’s ok. It’s also still helpful now. What’s stopping you?

What’s your superpower, what’s your Wolverina!


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Moore, C (2021, April 04). The VIA Survey: 31 Ways to Recognize Your Strengths and Act on Them.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing.

Park, N. & Peterson, C. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4), np.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive Psychology interventions: a randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths-vs. a lesser strengths- intervention. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 456. https://doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456.

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