Activities: A Strengths Focus

{Biswas-Diener, 2008. Invitation to Positive Psychology: Research and Tools for the Professional. A 6-week Course.}

4.1 Reflection

Before we delve too deeply into this topic, and before I start influencing your thinking about strengths by telling what positive psychologists have to say, take some time to consider your conceptualization of strengths. Think about how you would define a strength. How does the dictionary define it? Is there an important difference between strengths, skills, talents, morals, and values? Are these concepts related? Are they words we can use interchangeably? Freely write your answers:

4.2 Reflection

Consider your strengths. What are some of your shiniest qualities that come immediately to mind? What do other people say about you when they give you compliments? How were you praised growing up and at school? How much do you feel like you use these strengths? How much of your current success do you attribute to them? How much do you work on shoring up weaknesses? Freely write your answers:

4.3 Reflection:

Look at the list of 24 character strengths above. How accurate or complete do you think this list is? Did Peterson and Seligman include most of those traits you consider important? Are there virtues missing that you would add? Are there strengths on the list that you think do not belong there? Freely write your answers:

4.4 Reflection:

Consider which of the 24 VIA strengths resonate with you.

Do you have particular insight into some of them? Picture how you might work with a client around this particular strength. What questions would you ask? What personal stories might you share? What sources of inspiration might you use? What insights could you offer?

Now, think about those VIA strengths that seem distant to you. Perhaps they are strengths you do not value or just seem downright foreign. How would this dynamic affect you if your client was to present with this as her top strength? How might you overcome any difficulties in understanding or cherishing this strength? Freely write your answers:

4.5 Further Reflections

You may already intuitively sense that working with strengths is fun and beneficial. Indeed, you might already use this approach with students, supervisees, or clients. However, regardless of your experience with this approach, spending time thinking about strengths can be helpful so you are more conversant with them.

Do you believe there is an optimal use of strengths? Do you believe that strengths can be overused or destructive? Can strengths become weaknesses? If so, how, when, and why might this happen? Are certain situations calling for a particular strength, or might most strengths be applied to almost any circumstance?

4.6 Exercises

Working with client or student strengths is difficult without experience with the relevant assessments and interventions. This week familiarize yourself with the VIA and strengths interventions to use them effectively in your professional work.

  1. Go to and take the VIA assessment of strengths. What do you think of the instrument? How easy was it to take it? What will your clients think of it? What do you think of your top 5 signature strengths? Are there any that are surprising? Why? Consider asking someone else if they see evidence of the surprising trait in you.
  1. Choose one of your top strengths from the VIA, the Strengths Finder, or elsewhere, and work on intentionally employing it throughout the week. Consciously make an effort to approach your daily activities through the thematic lens of this strength. Actively employ the strength when you are faced with difficulties, stressful situations, or tough decisions. How does it feel to use this quality? What is the effect of using it even more than you normally might?
  1. Practice attending to the strengths of another person. Listen as your spouse, best friend, or colleague speaks to you and try to pick up on the strengths they have. What do they seem passionate about? What are their underlying values? When do you hear their voice rise or speed up? What seems to activate and empower them?
  1. Try looking for uncharted strengths over the rest of the week. For example, pay attention to how your friends and colleagues use their time, what they do when alone, and how they interact with one another. See if you can identify a potential strength.