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Put the Wind in Your Sails by Using Your Strengths

We all have strengths and weaknesses of character. For some people it’s natural and fulfilling to learn, be curious, and use creativity.

For others, they are prone to serving, being kind, and developing spiritually.

Positive psychologists call these attributes signature strengths, and they are what lead people to optimal functioning and performance.

Using our strengths energizes us, and generates enthusiasm and excitement. We will also be more alert and engaged in what we do.

Unfortunately many people aren’t prone to focus on and utilize their strengths. People are taught to improve at areas of weakness. We may be encouraged to work harder at things that are difficult, or feel that our weakness are where we need growth

We may not even be aware of our strengths.

Imagine going through your day constantly focusing on improving things that are difficult for you and don’t come easy. How frustrating would that be?

Now, imagine incorporating traits that are authentic to your nature, come natural, and give you a boost of energy throughout the day. How would this impact how you feel, perform, and work?

For instance, research has shown that when employees use their signature strengths at work they are more engaged, productive, and satisfied with what they’re doing.

So, what are your signature strengths?

Psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson developed a list of 6 core virtues, each of which has a list of subcategories resulting in 24 character strengths.

The virtues and strengths are listed and defined below. These are adapted from the Institute of Coaching.

1. Wisdom and knowledge: cognitive strengths related to accruing and using knowledge.

Creativity: thinking in novel, productive ways, with originality or ingenuity.

Curiosity: interest in experience for its own sake, openness to experience, finding things fascinating.

Open-mindedness: thinking things through, not jumping to conclusions, having good critical thinking and judgment.

Love of learning: enjoying learning and systematically organizing experience; also surfaces as love of teaching others.

Perspective: being able to make sense of the world to oneself and others, having wisdom.

2. Courage: emotional strengths that involve the will to accomplish goals in the face of external or internal opposition.

Bravery: not shrinking from challenge or pain; speaking up, standing up for convictions.

Persistence: finishing what you start and getting it out the door.

Integrity: presenting oneself in a genuine, honest way, taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.

Vitality: feeling alive and activated, with zest, vigor, and energy.

3. Humanity: interpersonal strengths, tending and befriending others.

Love: valuing close relations.

Kindness: doing good deeds for others, nurturance, compassion, and altruism.

Social intelligence: being aware of motives and feelings of others and oneself.

4. Justice: civic strengths that would foster healthy community life.

Citizenship: working well with a team, loyalty, social responsibility.

• Fairness: treating people equally, not swayed by personal feelings.

Leadership: encouraging your group to get things done while maintaining good relations.

5. Temperance: strengths that protect against excess.

Forgiveness and mercy: not being vengeful; giving others a second chance.

Humility: not seeking the spotlight; modesty.

Prudence: farsightedness; being careful about choices.

Self-regulation: controlling appetites and emotions.

6. Transcendence: strengths that provide meaning and connect with a larger universe.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence: notice and appreciation of nature, performance; able to experience awe and wonder.

Gratitude: being aware and thankful for the good things that happen and for life itself, accompanied by warm goodwill.

Hope and optimism: expecting the best and believing a good future is something you can help bring about.

Humor: playfulness, enjoying laughter, making people smile.

Spirituality: coherent beliefs about the higher purpose in life and connection to the purpose and meaning.

Do any of these stand out as your strengths? Consider what your top 5 strengths are and what you can do to incorporate these into your day.

For more clarity about your strengths, take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.

Find ways to use your strengths at work, with family, or during leisure time, and experience how this enhances your engagement and passion for life.

Photo credit: oddsock

Put the Wind in Your Sails by Using Your Strengths

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Put the Wind in Your Sails by Using Your Strengths. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from


Last updated: 9 Dec 2011
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