Targeting Character Strengths

In our last Character Strengths article, we talked about building our character literacy and helping young people to see they had key positive qualities they could utilise to solve problems. This is a strategy that can help to build tremendous resilience and self-confidence.  It also builds connection and helps young people feel seen and appreciated as their own unique selves. And who doesn’t long for that?

Once they become accustomed to this language and idea, we can begin to ask them which strengths might be needed to achieve a certain outcome.  Which character strengths assist to create a dynamic performance? Which assist us to take on feedback and improve a piece of work?

When asking them to do a task or solve a problem (academic or personal) suggest that they draw upon certain relevant strengths (remember we have them all).  You might ask them to draw upon their Perseverance, their Judgement, their Curiosity or Creativity in a task situation.  On the sporting field you could suggest they draw upon Leadership or Teamwork. Interpersonal issues may be solved more easily by drawing upon Fairness, Kindness, Perspective and Honesty.

It is important to remember that even though we have key signature strengths that we pull out most readily, the truth is that we possess all of these Character Strengths – and as such, we can draw on any of them.  We may even choose to target some to draw on more readily, and to make it a signature strength.

A young person may be interested in targeting the strengths of Humour, Bravery or Social Intelligence in order to grow into the kind of person they want to be.  Indeed, these are strengths that are exciting and dynamic – an easy sell.

But what about the quieter strengths of Perspective, Love of Learning and Self-Regulation?  While not as exciting to list amongst your signature strengths (although two of these are in mine!), these are great strengths to focus on during your schooling – strengths that will help you achieve academic growth and success.

And while Leadership is also a wonderful character strength – if you are a leader or want to show leadership, developing strengths such as Kindness, Teamwork and Judgement will make you a better leader, able to make better decisions and better care for those on your team.

If you are working with an older teenager, having a conversation about targeting a strength to work on to achieve goals can be very empowering, as they stop seeing those goals as difficult, and simply see them as end products of characteristics they can further develop.

If you are working with a younger person, you might like to research the strengths and help them develop those that you feel may help them further develop as people.  If you are curious and want to try one out, remember that Creativity is a strength that will become increasingly important in workplaces of the future. It’s also a really fun one to work on.

There are loads of resources on the VIA website if you decide you want to assist a young person to develop their strengths – or if you want to target one yourself!  You might even be interested in this read, which encourages you to try two new ways to activate each of the strengths.


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