You Signature Strengths

Sep 05, 2022
your signature strengths

One of the things that makes you uniquely you is also something you can tap into to boost your wellbeing...your signature strengths. 

If you're not quite sure what your signature strengths are yet, you're in good company. As many as 2/3 of people do not have a good idea of what their core strengths are. Fortunately, as with all elements of psychological strength, you can gain critical knowledge, insights, and skills in this area. So let's dive in! 


What Are Signature Strengths? 

In general, personal strengths are the positive aspects of your personality or abilities that impact the way you move through the world. You can think of signature strengths as your top, most important, most essential to the core of you strengths. 

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, in his book Flourish, (p. 38-39) signature strengths are characterized by:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity -  "This is the real me."
  • A feeling of excitement when you display the strength, especially at first.
  • rapid learning curve as you first begin to practice the strength.
  • A sense of yearning to find new ways to use it.
  • A feeling of inevitability when using the strength - "Try to stop me."
  • Invigoration rather than exhaustion when using the strength.
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, and enthusiasm when using it.


Identifying Your Signature Strengths

Don't even entertain the notion that you don't have signature strengths. Everyone does. In fact, positive psychology experts hold that we all possess some core strengths, just to different degrees. The real issue is that our minds can downplay our strengths and abilities, making it hard to clearly see our strengths. Or, we haven't done the personal research to really uncover our signature strengths. Let's change that!

Here are 3 ways to identify your signature strengths. 

  1. Take the free VIA Survey of Character Strengths. This is a well-researched assessment that ranks your core strengths. 
  2. Think of a specific time when you were at your best, when you felt alive, successful, and like you made a difference. Write a story about it including the details of what was going on, what you did, how you did it, and what happened. Then, reflect on the story and what strengths it highlights. 
  3. Think of times when people have expressed appreciation, admiration, or respect for you. What qualities were they responding to? 


Using Your Signature Strengths 

Once you've identified your signature strengths, it's time to use them! The more we can use our signature strengths, the better. It boosts our wellbeing and helps us get closer to that elusive "best self."

Look for opportunities to pull your strengths out, and lean on them during challenging times. For example, if curiosity is one of your signature strengths, can you tap into it the next time you have to have a hard conversation? Rather than getting wrapped up in the anxiety or anger, can you pull out curiosity and approach the conversation as an opportunity to learn about the other person and what works and what doesn't? 

The other really cool thing psychologists have figured out about strengths is that they can be developed. Set your fixed mindset aside here. Strengths aren't just something you are born with, that innately exist within you. They can be intentionally cultivated through practice. So, if you want to shift your signature strength it! You'll have to put in some effort to make it happen, but that can be really worthwhile. Choose the strength you want to cultivate. Brainstorm a list of ways you can practice that strength (think of it like trying that strength on. What would would someone who is high on that strength do in a given situation? How would they do it?). Choose a few and try it out. Keep in mind that, as with anything new, it might not feel easy, comfortable, or authentic at first. Use some grit (a strength!) to keep going. 

If you want to dive deeper into signature strengths and other aspects of you at your best, you might like our Ascend program. This self-directed digital course includes a ton of videos and hands on exercises, many dedicated to uncovering and using your strengths, values, and identity to optimize your life experience. 


"The good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification."
 - Martin Seligman


Written by Dr. Ashley Smith

Peak Mind Co-founder

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