Many people feel frustrated because they are not using their personal strengths to make a living or contribute to the world.
If I asked you “what are your personal strengths?” would you be able to answer with conviction? Are you already using those strengths in the work that occupies most of your waking hours?
My own answers to those questions tended to be vague, until I came across this excellent framework for identifying personal strengths.
The 24 personal strengths listed here are based on research by psychologists Peterson and Seligman in their book Character Strengths and Virtues.
Personal Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge
Do people come to you for novel solutions to tricky problems? Do you enjoy seeking alternative ways of doing things? Is your mind constantly challenging the status quo and looking for a better way?
Do you ask lots of questions and stop only when the other person is obviously tired of answering? Have you had your fair share of accidents and injuries because you just had to try something out?
Are you able to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time while others are taking sides? When presented with a radical idea, do you consider it a possibility instead of judging it right away?
4. Love of Learning
Is there always a book in your bag so you can pull it out to read when you have a few spare minutes? Do you get an adrenaline rush from learning new skills or attending classes or seminars?
Can you see things from different points of view without making a conscious effort to? Do people tend to respond to your thoughtful comments with “I never saw things that way…”?
Personal Strengths of Courage
Do you readily go where angels fear to tread? When everyone is holding back, are you the one who stands up to volunteer with words like “what the heck” or “you never know until you try”?
When others are ready to quit, are you the one who encourages them to try just one more time? Have you doggedly worked at a problem until you find the solution instead of giving up or passing the problem on to someone else?
Have you ever told the truth knowing that it would cost you money, friends, and perhaps your reputation? Do you do the ‘right’ thing all the time, even when no one is watching?
Do you inject energy into the projects you’re involved in? When you’re around, do projects seem to somehow pick up speed? Do people give more of themselves when you are working alongside them?
Personal Strengths of Humanity
When you look at people, do you see what they look like or do you see who they really are? Do you feel a deep appreciation for everyone you meet because each is unique and special?
Are in incapable of walking past a street busker without dropping a few notes or coins into his box? Have you done good deeds for strangers on a regular basis because you saw the difficult situations they were in?
12. Social intelligence
Can you sense the mood of people in the room the moment you walk into it? Are you able to tell who gets along and who does not after a quick observation? Do people readily ‘click’ with you even when they don’t get along with each other?
Personal Strengths of Justice
Are you proud to be a member of an organisation or nation?Are you an ambassador for your company or country? is loyalty to this group very important to you?
Were you the child who kept saying “that’s not fair”? Have you given up your share of something because you felt it was not right that other people didn’t have the same privilege? Do you see everyone as having equal rights?
Do people look to you for guidance in chaos or in general? Does a group seem to ‘gel’ only when you’re there to hold it together? Do those in your group excel under your tutelage when they weren’t making it elsewhere?
Personal Strengths of Temperance
Are you able to let go when people have repeatedly hurt you? Do you understand that harbouring a grudge hurts you more than it hurts them? Do you accept the frailty of human nature and allow people space to make mistakes?
Do you constantly learn from other people, even those who are younger or less educated or experienced than you? Can you accept praise graciously while not taking personal credit and walking on air immediately after?
When given two options, do you usually choose the less risky, less expensive, less high-profile one? Do you tend to view others’ excesses as flamboyant or extravagant, and often advise people to ‘tone down’?
Are you able to deny yourself what you want because of a higher purpose or objective? When tempted to spend or eat beyond your plan, can you smile and say no most of the time without feeling deprived?
Personal Strengths of Transcendance
20. Appreciation of Beauty
Do you pause often to take in a view, gaze skywards, or observe animals in motion? Does a sense of awe sweep over you often when you contemplate the vastness of nature and the intimate details of life?
Are the words “thank you” on your lips and in your heart practically everyday? Is your reaction to people, events and things one of appreciation and gladness that this wonderful thing came your way?
Can you always see the silver lining when others see only a dark cloud? Is your mantra ‘tomorrow will be better than today’ or ‘don’t worry, everything will be ok’ or ‘things will work out, you’ll see’?
Can you see the lighter side of almost every situation? Do you see the folly of human self-importance? Do people relax around you because you help them to take themselves and life less seriously?
Do you feel connected to a source that is higher and deeper than yourself? Are you detached from things of this world? Do you feel that the ‘real’ world is inside you rather than outside?
Shortlist Your Personal Strengths
If you’re like me and feel that many of the 24 strengths apply to you, then you can cross out ‘Humility’ right away. That leaves only 23! 😉 Then keep on eliminating those that you think are probable, until you’re left with those you absolutely cannot cross out because they are YOU.
Ideally you should have a list of about 3 to 5 personal strengths to be able to meaningfully work with these. A ‘shortlist’ should, after all, be short!
Innate vs Acquired Personal Strengths
There may be some ‘strengths’ that you’ve worked hard to acquire. Those are probably skills you have learnt, rather than personal strengths per se.
For example, I had to learn to be grateful. It took practice and became natural only after months of keeping a gratitude journal. However, I never had to learn how to be curious. All my life I’ve wanted to understand, to know how things work, to find the truths of life.
Play to Your Personal Strengths
‘Playing to your strengths’ has a literal as well as a figurative meaning. You’ll know something is a strength when it’s play to you, when you’re enjoying the process, when you would pay to engage in the process.
The figurative meaning is, of course, finding work and pastimes that build on your personal strengths. Patching up your weaknesses may help you level up; playing to your strengths can help you shoot for the stars.
91 replies on “Personal Strengths: Find Out What Yours Are”
thanka for the posting, it has changed the way are look at issues
the short discriptions really helped in finding my strengths thnaks
I learned a lot – strengths that I have had and played naturally; after reading this posting I can name them. It is empowering; I am learning a new skill – RECOGNITION!
[…] Your 24 Possible Personal Strengths – Joyful DaysJun 24, 2009 … The 24 personal strengths listed here are based on research by psychologists Peterson and Seligman in their book Character Strengths and … […]
I don’t feel I have any extraordinary amount of any of these strength compared to others – can I then claim “humility” as a personal strength in the same manner you exclude it automatically?
It had a great help for me. It was so great to read this. I can’t express my views may this post help others to develop their personal strengths.
It had a great help for me. Thanks for sharing!
It was so great to read this. I can’t express my views may this post help others to develop their personal strengths.
I appreciate your posting this list. I has opened my eyes to a number of things about myself that I used to see as weaknesses. Now I have a new way to look at those things, and at myself.
That’s a good question. The closest category I would think is spirituality, since good intuition is the ability to sense the truth at some subconscious level. Perhaps they should come up with a new category for intuition 🙂
Of the 24 potential strengths, under which heading/category does intuition fall?
IT’s love to read.
i really don’t that one person can have these things.
I have the majority of these personal strengths down pat. It’s great to reflect on our inner values, because most of the time we’re too busy judging others to have for analyzing ourselves.
Great post, Daphne.
Thanks for your comment, and great to hear that you have so many strengths under your belt. That must be a useful thing!
Hi Daphne! I’m looking forward to your next posts 🙂 I’m just gonna be off for Sydney for the next weeks, hope I could have internet connection there also.
It’s so sweet of you to drop by to let me know your whereabouts, and I’m grateful for your encouragement… you inspire me to write! Thank you, and yes you’ll hear from me soon 🙂
Christine Arylo reminded me last week of two of my natural superpowers (aka strengths)…intuition and the ability to pause.
I love your strengths, especially “the ability to pause”. We don’t usually even think of that as a strength and yet it is so useful to be able to pause. Thanks for this comment. I learnt a new strength from you!
Wow, you’ve done a great job with this article. I’ve been aware of and working with my personal strengths for a while and this article is a tremendous help!
Your blog always makes me “just feel better” when I visit! 🙂
Your comment made me ‘just feel better’ too, thank you so much! Good to know that you’ve been working with your personal strengths – you’re already one step ahead of most people (myself included!) who don’t usually give this much thought. Well done!
An awesome one again. I read about some things which are I’m weak at but never have seen that until I found them in this post. Thanks for sharing!
An awesome post again. When we identify what are our strong points and weak points, I think we can pay attention to improve them. But having these list with us is really important.Otherwise we’ll forget what we are improving in few days 🙂 ( Everyone of us is trying to improve but in few days he forget it 🙂 )
Sorry your comments went into spam, for some reason. I just found them. You make a great point that a visual list is an important reminder, because we humans forget so easily even the most important things!
HI Daphne! Just wanted to give you this ONE-OF-A-KIND BLOG Award! You can get the code to display your award here Your Blog Award Badge
I’m honoured. THANK YOU! I’ve been without an internet connection for almost 2 weeks and am rushing through emails and comments now, so I’ll take a look at the award when things have settled down. I’m so humbled that you thought of me.
So that’s why I haven’t read much from you lately, it’s that internet connection! I was checking your posts even from my mobile phone and accessing it thru feedm8. Looking forward to more joyful articles from you.
Wow, I’m flattered that you were checking for my posts. Thank you so much for your support. You have inspired me to post soon, though it’s hard to get back in the groove!
Wonderful post! Especially the last few suggestions… love it. If we could all be a little more grateful, humorous, and spiritual… 🙂
Welcome, and thanks for your comment. Gratitude, humour, and spirituality can indeed change the world, and all it takes is for each person to demonstrate just a little of this each day. Excellent perspective.
This is really cool to see the full list and that you’re studying this. I had to take the strengths inventory when I studying to be a coach. I’ve taken quite a few times and must admit that I find the strength change…I suppose given where I am at that time in my life.
The top five for me that are most consistent are: Bravery, Humor, Persistence, Love, and Fairness. The alternates which come and go in the top five are Spirituality and Creativity.
I think you can take the VIA Strengths Inventory at http://www.authentichappiness.com for free…at least you used to be able to.
You did a great job at listing the 24 and explaining them briefly…not an easy task from Peterson and Seligman’s book:~)
Interesting that your strengths change over time – I’m sure it shows that you are growing and working on different areas at different points in your life. Wonderful example for a coach to set for her students! You’re going places, I’d say.
I’m impressed that you can name not only your top 5 strengths, but also another 5 ‘revolving’ ones. Now that’s self-knowledge for you. Great work!
I LOVE this list. When you see all of these characteristics together it’s pretty awesome. Paring it down, is the hard part.
Like you and the others mentioned, it’s when we concentrate on our strengths, we excel. Bring on the stars! 🙂
You ARE a star in my book. I’m humbled that you took the time to comment when you’re so busy with your own successful blog. Glad you found the list useful. Happy paring! 😉
I, too, have trouble to list my personal strengths with conviction. This framework seems to be an excellent way to identify one’s personal strengths. Thank you so much for sharing!
Glad you found the list useful. Conviction is a good thing to have most of the time, especially about what we are good at and can use to the fullest advantage for ourselves and people around us. Thanks for your comment.
This is quantum thinking! Wow!
I figured if I am able to embrace just 1 out of the 24, it should pave the way to conquer the rest, for they are all inter-connected!
Wish me luck and I applaud you, for I feel you to have all 24!
Thank you for everything on the list!
I feel like giving you a hug for your generosity in thinking I have all 24! You certainly have the strength of kindness! Thank you so very much for this heart-warming comment. Hugs from me!
This is a great post. It helps everyone to take a good look at ourselves. So we can realize what is our strengths. I believe we win with our strengths, so it is at most important for each of us to know what those are.
Thanks for sharing.
Imperfect Action is better than No Action
Thank you for your comment. Yes we can all be winners because we all have strengths. You are certainly doing a great job with your blog, showing how ordinary people can be winners in life.
[…] Your 24 Possible Personal Strengths – Joyful days (EN) […]
Hi Daphne, I’d say one of my gifts is perspective. My friends say I have insights or a different way of looking at things that they never saw before.
Perspective is a wonderful strength to have, and if your friends are all pointing this out then they certainly know what they are talking about. It also comes through on your blog, where your view of the world is different from others, and thus you add value. Great going!
[…] Your 24 Possible Personal Strengths – Daphne of Joyful Days outlines an excellent framework for identifying personal strengths. […]
Hi Daphne. This was quite an inspiring list. I stopped counting after the first section, but found myself nodding at almost every one. I resonated with most of them. Then I got to the end and saw that bit about cutting down the list. My heart sank. Nope not I; I’m not cutting the list down because it is already a done deal! Too late, I’ve already bonded with it. 🙂
I kind of agree with Tom and Evelyn about these being more like values than strengths. And that is where the length of the list comes into play. For values I would say Yes to all of them. As for strengths, some of them are who I am now as Tom noted, while others, depending on how much I value them, I will work at and practice until they are who I am.
It’s wonderful that you’re taking a stand and not cutting down the list. I’d say one of your personal strengths is courage! And yes, there is no reason we cannot own many strengths. All power to you!
Interesting take on these strengths being values as well. I didn’t quite see that myself, but now that three of you have pointed it out, I’ll think seriously about how they can be seen as values. Thanks for this perspective.
really inspiring post – love articles like this because of their unavoidable simplicity that challenges you to actually do something.
loved the one on bravery, inspired me to write something on courage. busy at it now.
keep well and in touch
alex – unleash reality
Thanks for your comment – I felt energised just reading it! Maybe your strength is that of vitality! 🙂 Glad you’re writing a post on courage. I’ve been away from an internet connection for 2 weeks so may have missed your post in my reader… hope to catch it soon. Thanks for the Stumble!
This is awesome! It’s like taking my personal inventory and immediately seeing where I can improve my life.
Also a wonderful boost for anyone who is looking for a job right now. The question would be where and how could I include these in my resume, interview and cover letter?
Glad you like the personal inventory. Lists are great for ticking off aren’t they? You’re so right that this can help a lot when we’re looking for a job. Good question about how to include these strengths… perhaps one way is to ask a respected person for a reference or testimonial, asking the person to include a slant on our strengths if possible?
You are so kind in your comments. Well, from one winning person to another, I have to say that we sure have a lot in common 🙂
It’s an honour to have a lot in common with someone like you! 🙂
[…] Your 24 Possible Personal Strengths […]
Beautiful enumeration of the framework.
I’ve tried a few strengths frameworks. Probably the most practical book I read was Go Put Your Strengths to Work.
What’s worked best for me is paying attention during the week to what gives me energy and makes me strong vs. what sucks the life force out of me and makes me weak. For example, I get energy from meeting with my mentors, so now I schedule recurring meetings to give me a boost. There were some meetings that drained me so I stopped going. There are some people that catalyze me so I go out of my way to sync up with them regularly.
Sorry for the late reply. I’ve had little internet connection for 2 weeks. Thanks for the book recommendation – I’ll keep an eye out for Go Put Your Strengths to Work.
It’s a great idea to spend more time with people who energise you and less with those who sap our energy. That’s one of the reasons I like blogging in this niche – people are so empowering with their comments, yourself included! Thanks for this lovely comment, JD.
I absolutely believe that working with our strengths rather than focusing on our weaknesses is the way to go.
I have always been curious and the one to ask questions (spent 10 years in market research before going full time wellness!)
Forgiveness, appreciation of beauty and hope I had to learn….Not sure what my ultimate 3 -5 would be. One thing I was thinking of didn’t show up on this list…so I’ll have to reread!
Glad you agree with the approach of playing to our strengths. And happy to know that you’re just as curious as me…sometimes I feel like a pest asking questions, yet the answers are so fascinating, aren’t they?
What was the one thing that didn’t show up on the list? Maybe you should write your own book, because this list is by no means the be all and end all.
And who doesn’t want to shoot for the stars?! I loved that line, and enjoyed this post. At first I thought, “This won’t be so bad… I’ll have about 3 or 4.” Well, I guess I need to do more paring down, too (I laughed at Lance’s comment).
Interesting way to approach living an authentic life. Thank you for sharing this!
I’m happy that you loved the line about shooting for the stars. And I’m sure you’ll get there with your joyful attitude! Lance’s comment was funny, wasn’t it? I laughed too. Thanks for your wonderful comment.
Hmmm .. I found it worryingly easy to get down to 4 items – worrying because I had no problem taking most items off the list.
I was left with Perspective, Fairness, Hope and Spirituality – which I have to say I quite like as a short list.
Next step is to ask a few people who know me well to do the exercise and see if they agree or not!
You are blessed, my friend. It’s not worrying to take items off the list. Quite the contrary, if we can’t take many items off, it may mean that we don’t know ourselves very well, or not be aware of our strengths. Perspective is a beautiful strength to have, I wish I had more of that. And it’s a rare person who has Spirituality come easily to them. So many seek this all their lives. So in all Fairness, you are doing great and I Hope the people you ask (great idea by the way) agree with the list!
Hi Daphne. I like the ’23’ way you described above. Now I must think hard about what is my strongest character.
Thank you for the list, Daphne. 🙂
By the way, how about your new home?
Thanks for your comment, and for asking about my home. It’s almost ready to move in!
Like Tom, I see this list as great attributes or values to have. I am not sure if it makes sense to reduce them to a handful. For instance, “forgiveness” is something that is a good idea for us all to practice. It may not be one of our core strengths. But I wouldn’t call it a weakness either.
Nonetheless, I find this list useful because it tells us what characteristics make up a winning person!
You’re right that it would be wonderful to have all these characteristics! In fact, I think it is possible to acquire many of them through focus and practice. I learnt gratitude, for example, by the practice of saying thanks everyday. I guess the authors were trying to help people know how to capitalise on some innate strengths. Your point is good though – this helps us work towards having more of these characteristics to ‘win’ at living. I think you have many of these already!
I appreciate your posting this list. I has opened my eyes to a number of things about myself that I used to see as weaknesses. Now I have a new way to look at those things, and at myself.
I too used to think that open-mindedness, for example, was a weakness – not being able to have a firm mind and take sides. It was such a relief to know that it’s a strength. Glad you had the same revelation and ‘salvation’.
This is a keeper! Its great to see everything (personal strengths) all lined up and defined. I am definitely going to print this out and go though this over and over again.
Glad you found the list useful, and I’m happy that you’re printing it out. It does help to clarify our view of ourselves. All the best in using your personal strengths. You have so much potential !
Daphne, this is fantastic. I have a couple of Seligman’s books already and it looks like I’m going to have to get this one. They way you boiled those down into 23 bite-sized consumable bites was wonderful! Thanks!
I have to confess I haven’t actually read their book, just came across this list and a few write-ups on it and thought it was useful enough to write about. I need to get that book too, along with you!
This is a different take on how I see strengths. Those listed are more like preferred values or characteristics of choice. I see a strength as something more individual based on who we are not how we choose to be. But I did enjoy their take and I’m also curious to see how you respond to Chris’ question.
The way I see it, these strengths can be either innate or acquired. So they’re both who we are and who we choose to be. Or perhaps I’m just missing your point – feeling slow today after returning from vacation.
I wrote a long reply to Chris’ question so will direct you to that comment now while my brain recuperates 🙂
Great post. I loved going through the questions, and happy to report there are alot of positive answers there.
Thanks for sharing your insights!
Welcome, and thanks for your comment. I visited your blog and love your writing style. Tried to subscribe but couldn’t find the button. Glad you found some answers in the list.
Hi Daphne .. I’ve printed it out .. before I’ve read it properly .. it looks a brilliant post! Thankyou !!
The last phrase hit me in the eyeballs “playing to your strengths can help you shoot for the stars”.
However I’ve now read the post and feel the need to quietly go through the list of 24 – probably as you say reducing it to 23 immediately, and probably 22 immediately (as 24 Spirituality needs to go – as it’s an area that’s on the list to learn about) .. then follow your ‘instructions’.
Thanks – a really interesting and informative post, and having the details of the book Character Strengths and Virtues by Peterson and Seligman is essential too.
Great! – Hilary Melton-Butcher
You certainly have strength number 4 (love of learning), if I may be so bold as to say so. Just reading your blog convinces me of that. You take the trouble to find out so much about each little thing, with pictures that bring that knowledge to life. Still, you know yourself much better than I do and I hope you find the list useful.
Hi Daphne .. thanks for that lovely comment. Yes – I do love learning .. and I do like bringing interesting facts to life .. I’m so grateful to you for pointing that out so clearly.
The list is so very useful .. it’s always important to analyse one’s strengths .. and keep on track ..
All the best Hilary Melton-Butcher
It’s my pleasure to tell you what I feel when I’m reading your posts. Keep up the great work!
Less: 1-8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24. Or maybe claiming all those takes humility away. I struggle with social awareness so can’t claim much of the others. Well, Leadership on certain things. 🙂
Very good post. Gives me a few things to focus on learning!
“Less” should have been “Lessee”. Nevertheless (cough, pun intended), you just got yerself another blog subscriber. Thanks for the good stuff you write!
Hello Mr Nuggets,
Welcome, and thanks for your comment. You made me laugh with both your comments. And I blush that I didn’t get the pun on neverthe’less’ the first time… thank goodness you dropped a hint!
Thanks for subscribing – I hope your opinion remains the same over time! 🙂
I like the concept of clearly identifying my personal strengths, then working with them. I read on J.D. Meyer’s blog that it’s better to focus on your strengths than on your weaknesses.
That JD is a smart chap, so it must be good to do as he says and focus on your strengths.
Thanks for this. I’m curious about how knowing this has affected the way you live — are there strengths you’ve started playing to more often in your life?
Can’t run from you, can I? 😉 Would saying “I plan to do absolutely nothing about this” make me a prime candidate for life coaching or a lost cause? I suspect the latter… 🙂
Seriously, reading this list validated some of the things I’d done earlier. This blog, for example, was set up because I was simply curious (strength #2) what blogging was all about. Going further back, even as a child I found it impossible to take sides when my parents argued, because I saw both sides of the argument – I used to think this was a problem or weakness, and it’s nice to know that open-mindedness is a strength too (#3). And now I know that my love of learning (strength #4) is the reason why I once had a dream to read all the books in the world before I died – this was before I realised how many books there were in the world!
I’m not sure where this will take me going forward. The thing about loving to know is that this love is sufficient in itself – with no need for practical application, though of course that’s bonus. There is a satisfaction and joy that comes just from KNOWING. Hard to explain unless you’ve experienced this too.
I love this post! It was so great to read this and to contemplate the questions you’ve posed. I’m definitely going to print this out and keep it handy. Thanks!
I just learnt your name from seeing replies to your comments on other blogs. Hope it’s ok to use it here. It’s a handy list, isn’t it? Quite fun to do as well.
This past weekend, I attended the first international conference for Positive Psychology. Seligman and Peterson were there and this list came up in one lecture. The thing that fascinated me about this list is that it is so obvious when you come to think about it. I think, on some level, we all know this stuff but we lose sight of it because of all the drama that is out in the world.
Hope all is awesome! 🙂
Wow, you met Seligman and Peterson just before I published this post… what awesome timing! You’re right that in hindsight these things seem obvious. Their genius was making it a comprehensive list and categorising them so it’s easy for people to simply read and check off the list. Lists seem popular nowadays.
I love it – so we’re down to 23! I laughed out loud!!
On a more serious note, this is a wonderful post. What I really love is all of these strengths listed together, with a short description of each of them. It’s so easy to go through the list and really identify with certain ones (more and 3 to 5…I guess I need to spend some time paring the list down too!). Daphne, thanks much for this!
You’re at 23 too? Wow, we’re soul mates! 🙂 Thanks for your cheery comment – this first comment made me really happy because you ‘got’ the joke.