Finding my strength with the VIA character survey

Posted by in Life

Have you ever wondered what’s best in you? Where your strength resides? What you could build upon, and what you could work on, in order to be more fulfilled with your life? I have. And since I came back from WDS, I’ve been on a quest for meaning. So, following a suggestion from Jonathan Fields, in this book How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, I decided to take the VIA character survey.

VIA character survey, what’s that?

Created under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology” and author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, the VIA Survey has been used in hundreds of research studies and taken by over 5 million people in over 190 countries.

The survey takes approximately 15-minutes and is composed of a series of statements where you’re rating yourself between “that’s totally me” and “that’s not me at all”. To be honest, I answered several with the “neutral” option because my position could go from one end to the other depending on context.

I have previously established, using Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz that I’m a Questionner. So, of course, my reaction to some of the VIA statements was “well, it depends, what is the context?” Overall, I tried to be as honest as possible, either by taking a “most of the time” approach or by going “neutral” when I really couldn’t answer without more information.

Once the survey completed, the VIA will provide you with a list of 24 character strengths, ranked in order of importance in you.

You want to know the results? I know you do…

I was, actually, first taken aback by the results; my number one strength being…

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

Find beauty in nature, art, ideas, and people.

Having “Appreciation of beauty and excellence” as my main strength felt very useless… I wish I could have had “Leadership” or “Fairness”, or even “Social Intelligence” (this one would have fitted nicely with my career in marketing…) But no… My strength is to be a passive observer, full of appreciation for what others do.

I wasn’t as surprised by my second stronger strength…

Curiosity
Ask Questions, Lots of Them.

At least I’m consistent… Then…

Love of Learning
Learn something from every situation.

Creativity
Do Things in a Different Way.

Zest

When in doubt, take action!

When you look at it globally, the portrait is pretty spot on. Turns out three out of five of my first results are falling into the Wisdom virtue category, one under Transcendance and one under Courage.

I’m starting to see a pattern here and if I’m going back to my first choice of career as a journalist, it was a lot of interviewing, researching, testing… Is that is still somewhere, ready to resurge? Maybe.

It’s good to look at what I’m good at [insert self pat on the back here] but it is also interesting to observe what I’m not so good at and how I can improve on these points:

  • Judgement
  • Bravery
  • Self-regulation
  • Teamwork
  • Spirituality

I was quite surprised that “Self regulation” is so low on the list. I always thought of myself as a very disciplined person. Bottom two are no surprise at all…

With the description of each strength, the VIA character survey provides ways to improve on them. One way being a list of movies to watch. I love the idea that movies can help develop a strength. According to the site, “movies are an art-form highly suited for inspiring character strengths and helping in the discovery, understanding and exploration of these positive aspects in human beings.”

I’m sold. Sign-me-up!

And I, immediately, find myself making a list of one movie to watch (or re-watch) per strength I need to develop. Turns out, I’m having a hard time picking a movie from the list in the “Bravery” category. I’m already feeling a lot of empathy for the characters in the choices they’re making. They have United 93 on the list, which scares the crap out of me. Don’t know if I’m strong enough and definitely not brave enough… As for Twilight for “Self Regulation”… seriously?

Ok not all movie choices are good, but I found at least one in each category that I could watch. More on that later, I promise.

The VIA character survey is short, free, and available in multiple languages, so go ahead and take it, at least for the sake of curiosity. And if you feel so inclined, share your main character strength with me in the comment section!

Photo by Brooke Lark