Have you ever fixated on past mistakes and struggled with negative self-talk? The human brain is hardwired to focus on the negative, which tends to have a more significant impact on us than positive ones.
What’s worse is that these tendencies can have a massive effect on the way we think and even on our behavior, relationships, and work.
This article will define what personal strengths are, help you gain more appreciation of your strengths, provide ways for you to identify them, and show how these personal strengths could be translated to professional strengths in the workplace.
What Are Personal Strengths? Definition and Meaning
What are personal strengths? Personal strengths are defined as positive personality traits which include skills, abilities, knowledge, attributes and talents.
There has been much buzz on personal strengths in the field of Positive Psychology. Studies found that the positive use of strengths has been correlated to hope, optimism, life satisfaction, and even buffers for negative events and stresses in life.
But what is the relationship between positive psychology and strengths? In contrast to traditional psychology, positive psychologists place more focus on positive experiences and feelings. Furthermore, they believe that virtues promote happiness.
In connection, Dr. Seligman believes that to be truly happy, one must be aware and use their “most fundamental strengths” and use them in daily life (Seligman 2002).
But what is a personal strength? Definition by Linley is that strength is a natural capacity to behave, think, or feel in a certain way that feels real for a person and enables them to perform in their utmost abilities (Linley 2008).
Seligman contrasts strengths with talents. He defined strengths as traits that could be learned and enhanced with effort, while talents are innately present in a person.
In order to understand virtues better, Dr. Peterson spent three years trying to understand it better and how it is expressed. He, along with Dr. Seligman (2004), explored all major cultural traditions and religions.
They found that they similarly endorsed the same virtues. These six virtues, when taken together, capture what “good character” is. Six virtues include:
- Wisdom & knowledge
- Love & humanity
- Spirituality & transcendence
Seligman noted that each of these virtues could be achieved through distinct routes, or what he called “strengths.” In contrast to the abstract virtues, these strengths are measurable and could be enhanced.
Peter and Seligman (2004) noted that these strengths are treasured across cultures and that they are present in every person, in varying degrees. This means that everybody has a unique pattern of personal strengths and that some may be good in some areas and not as much in others.
Below are each virtue clusters and the strengths associated with them:
- Wisdom and Knowledge:
- Curiosity/Interest in the world
- Love of learning
- Judgment/Critical Thinking/Open-mindedness
- Ingenuity/Originality/Practical Intelligence/Street Smarts
- Social/Personal/Emotional Intelligence
- Valor and Bravery
- Love and Humanity
- Humanity and love
- Kindness and Generosity
- Loving and Allowing One
- Fairness and Equity
- Humility and Modesty
- Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
- Spirituality/Sense of Purpose/Faith/Religiousness
- Forgiveness and Mercy
- Playfulness and Humor
90 Examples of Personal Strengths
- Emotional intelligence
- Intellectual strength
- Natural Leader
- Team Player/Teamwork
What Are Your Weaknesses? Personal Weaknesses Defined
Psychology’s paradigm focuses and places too much emphasis on deficits, illnesses, and negative experiences and emotions. This actually led to the birth of positive psychology, which views weaknesses differently.
Weakness is viewed not as an absence of a specific strength. Instead, a person’s weaknesses are those that are found at the bottom of the strengths list. Based on the 24 strengths outlined above.
Concentrating on strengths does not mean that you will ignore or neglect the weaknesses. On the other hand, strengths are utilized to overcome challenges in life. These so-called “weaknesses” are countered or buffered by using and employing a person’s strengths.
Despite being on the bottom of the list, weaknesses are not viewed are “flaws” in a person. In the same way that strengths could be enhanced and improved, positive psychology believes that these lower strengths can be enhanced through the use of techniques and tools.
Why Our Strengths and Weaknesses Matter: The Research
Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses is the backbone of positive psychology. This is because the theory is anchored on it and because the therapeutic process and therapeutic work depend on it.
Several studies back up the benefits of exploration and knowledge of an individual’s strengths. Below are some studies that show how knowing one’s strengths has a positive impact on a person’s life.
- Miglianico et al. (2020) did a literature review on the use of strengths in organizations. They found that strength use has led to better wellbeing, work engagement, work performance, and job satisfaction in the workplace.
- A character strengths-based program added to the curriculum of adolescent students led to a significant increase in their life satisfaction and wellbeing. To similar study conducted on undergraduates found that awareness of strengths led to improved measures on wellbeing, happiness, and health and a decrease in negative emotions and loneliness (Smith et al., 2020)
- A longitudinal analysis done by Tang et al. (2019) found that not only does understanding one’s strengths improve a student’s wellbeing, but it is also positively correlated to academic achievements. In the same vein, college students who know their strengths and capitalize on them will use social supports and create successful experiences that provide them with opportunities to use their strengths in novel situations (Bowers & Lopez, 2010).
- Numerous studies found that a strengths-based approach to client care and management improve not only health professionals’ service towards patients but also leads to more positive relationships between clients and their caregivers (Gotlieb, 2014; Gan & Ballantyne, 2016; Mossman, 2011)
- Therapists and counselors help their clients discover their strengths and utilize them in the therapeutic process to facilitate change (Gelso & Woodhouse, 2003; Scheel, Davis & Henderson, 2012)
The Fortitude of Character
Once you do know your personal strengths, you may ask, “What’s next?” In the same way that every skill needs to be improved to get gains, character strength must also be improved. In positive psychology, the term used to imply the process of identifying, improving, and harnessing of one’s innate strength is termed “fortitude of character.”
This feat cannot be achieved overnight. On the other hand, this is done by responding appropriately to various circumstances that you will encounter daily, whether positive or negative.
Improving one’s character needs a great deal of self-awareness and consistency to focus on those that need further personal development, especially those that will help you face difficult situations better. This mindful practice of deliberately responding in a manner that will target or improve your character will soon lead to transformation and personal growth.
5 Benefits of Listing Your Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
1. Helps You Know Yourself Better
Knowing yourself and your weaknesses and strengths, not only helps you understand what to do to improve yourself but also helps in decision-making. Better self-awareness helps you build boundaries.
It enables you to say no to what you know you won’t benefit from or those you are not good at. In the same vein, it opens your eyes to those who will allow you can exhibit your strengths. Helps you understand other perspectives.
2. Allows You to Identify Areas for Improvement
They say that change cannot happen if there is no awareness. Listing down and identifying the things you are not good at allows you to acknowledge your weak points, which is crucial if you want to improve them.
This gives you a good head start at self-improvement. It also gives you a better perspective on understanding the reason for your struggles and weak areas and gives you insight into where to start making changes.
3. Encourages the Use of Positive Self-Talk
People usually find it difficult and awkward to tell good things about themselves. Listing down your own strengths prep us with using more positive talk towards ourselves.
4. Gives You a Better Appreciation of Others’ Differences
Understanding that everyone has a different set of strengths and weaknesses allows us to be more receptive to differences in opinions and perspectives.
This not only leads to empathy but even celebration and appreciation of the uniqueness of other people. This, along with better self-awareness, also lessens the need to compete with others.
5. Leads to Greater Self- Appreciation
It is normal to have quirks and peculiarities. While these may simply be brushed off as weird traits, they could be related to your strengths and weaknesses.
Thus, the self-reflection and introspection required in listing down one’s strengths and weaknesses will help you see the “why” to things. It will allow you to see connections between your behavior and routines and your strengths and weaknesses.
Tips for Listing Your Character Strengths
It is usual to be probed about your strengths, especially in interviews when they ask what are your strengths and weaknesses, although it also comes in casual conversations. Answering this may be challenging, especially since you don’t want to look arrogant but want to be truthful at the same time.
One way to help you list down your strengths is to cluster them into groups. Below are the clusters you can place your strengths into:
These skills usually include role-specific abilities and skills. These are generally acquired through education, training, and relevant experience. This includes relevant skills and knowledge you have earned from your degree. Knowledge gained from courses is also included here.
These are traits that are not tied to any specific job. They’re also called transferable skills. These include problem-solving skills, critical thinking, leadership, analytical thinking, and communication skills.
These include unique qualities that you have, such as being energetic, friendly, a team player, a go-getter, and so on.
Identifying and Measuring Your Character Strengths
Aside from listing them, there are several strengths tests that you can use to become more aware of your own strengths to better understand your patterns of feeling, knowing, and behaving.
One of the free tools that can be used to identify your strengths is the HIGH5 test. It uses a combination of an empirical and theoretical approach to research which enables its results to be applied practically while making sure that its results are universally relevant.
- VIA Character
The VIA Character Strengths Survey is developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). They provide a free survey that is based on 24 character strengths from 6 virtue clusters. The takers will receive a list of their top 5 strengths, middle strengths, and lesser strengths.
- CliftonStrengths Assessment
Formerly called Clifton StrengthsFinder, the CliftonStrengths Assessment is a paid test that provides takers with a “talent DNA,” which is a unique order of 34 themes that aim to describe their preferences in thinking, feeling, and behaving.
What are Professional Strengths?
While strengths are personal, in that they are within a person, they are not in one’s personal context but could be utilized and translated in various contexts such as our relationships and roles.
When strengths are utilized in professional contexts, they shift from being personal to professional. Thus, personal and professional strengths are the same but only differ in how they are applied.
Professional Strengths in the Workplace & for Job Interviews
One of the most common contexts where strengths are utilized is in the workplace. We transition the strengths from personal to professional by using words and language applicable to the work context.
For example, a character strength of curiosity can be defined as openness and flexibility to new ideas and approaches in the workplace.
Teamwork and loyalty character strength can be defined as sacrificing self-interest to achieve the group goal. Kindness and generosity can be described as the ability to demonstrate empathy towards teammates.
Why is this important? Knowing your professional strengths will help you sift through jobs and even roles and tasks within the jobs that best suit your preferences.
Organizations may also utilize these professional strengths to boost efficiency. Not only that, acknowledging each employee’s professional strength in the workplace will lead to better collaboration.
Personal Strengths and Traits of Leaders and Managers
In a role that includes the task of handling people, communication skill is crucial. Providing appropriate feedback and providing clear instructions are essential to keep the team running smoothly.
However, communication is more than just the ability to express ideas clearly and concisely. It also involves listening well and connecting well with the person on the other end of the communication line.
Strengths for Providing Guidance and Direction
Leaders are responsible for creating ideas and plans, but they should also be able to express this clearly to the team and steer them towards it.
Using strengths-based goal setting, good leaders set long-term goals that are in line with the team’s values and vision while taking into consideration their individual and collective strengths.
Leaders and managers should exhibit the ability to provide clear outcomes and goals, do proper and efficient delegation of tasks, develop safeguards, and supervise the team well.
Strengths for Supporting Staff
The company and team’s growth depends on the leader’s ability to manage his staff well. Thus, he needs to have particular strengths that lead to good staff management.
A leader’s ability to recognize employees’ strengths and utilize them through proper delegation is essential in group development. Aside from this, leaders should provide timely and constant empowerment and objective and timely evaluation.
To support their growth, great leaders recognize their staff’s achievements and accomplishments and provide continuous development and training.
Strengths for Decision-Making and Judgment
Leaders and managers are placed in their spots because they are tasked to lead others within their team.
It makes sense that they possess strengths such as: collecting relevant information necessary in decision-making, weighing options and choosing the best course to take, executing plans and strategies, following up on the development of actions, and applying insights from previous errors.
Organizing and Planning Strengths
Planning and organization are vital when managing a team. Good leaders set goals and have clear, detailed plans to achieve them.
They also take charge of assigning tasks and delegating work within the team. To make sure that the organization is kept, leaders also keep track of the progress. They also motivate the team towards accomplishing the goals that have been set.
Another set of strengths that sets leaders apart from poor leaders is their ability to solve problems. This skill set requires a keen eye to notice issues and gather relevant information necessary to analyze the problem.
Leaders are also gifted with the ability to see relationships and connections between situations and events. These enable the leader to draw out possible solutions to the problem. Paired with their execution skills, leaders choose the best solution and follow through with it.
- (PDP) Personal Development Planning – Creation, Goals & Examples
- Personal Development Goals: 43 Examples & How To Set Goals
- Personal Growth Plan: How To Create, Measure & Succeed with Your Plan
- How to Develop & Improve Your Strengths
Academic References and Research-Based Sources:
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford University Press. This foundational text in positive psychology provides a systematic classification of character strengths and virtues.
- Clifton, D. O., & Harter, J. K. (2003). Investing in Strengths. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive Organizational Scholarship (pp. 111-121). Berrett-Koehler. This chapter discusses the benefits of focusing on strengths in organizational settings.
- Linley, P. A., Willars, J., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The Strengths Book: Be Confident, Be Successful, and Enjoy Better Relationships by Realising the Best of You. CAPP Press. A practical guide to identifying and using personal strengths.
- Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. O. (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. Free Press. This book introduces the concept of focusing on strengths and provides a framework for identifying them.
- Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. Sage Publications. This text offers a comprehensive overview of the field of positive psychology, emphasizing strengths and well-being.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377. This seminal paper discusses how positive emotions can broaden an individual’s thought-action repertoire and build their personal resources.
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Free Press. Seligman explores the concept of “authentic happiness,” focusing on strengths and virtues as key components.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row. This book introduces the concept of “flow,” a state of deep engagement and optimal experience, and discusses its relation to personal strengths and happiness.
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268. This paper presents the theory of self-determination, emphasizing the role of intrinsic motivation and psychological needs in personal development and well-being.
- Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101. This research introduces the concept of “grit” as a strength, encompassing perseverance and passion for long-term goals.