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PREVIOUS: What is Character, Part 2

SITE: 7 Common Character types in Fiction

See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.


PRINCIPLES of Character (C

1. Character Strengths (CS) are BASIC
Neal Mayerson (founder of the VIA Institute on Character) says CS are the basic building blocks of the True Self, our essence – the core part that account for being at our best.
• The word “character” comes from a Greek noun for the stamp impressed on a coin.  From that we use the term to mean that individuals have been “stamped” by nature into a complex of mental & ethical traits.

Unfortunately, people often jump to incorrect conclusions about what C traits mean, such as – if someone is sensitive they are therefore weak; if a person is vain they must be shallow …. Groups are also rigidly stamped in a particular way, such as – because of the very real differences between men and women – one group is considered better than the other.  (‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’).

2. C Strengths (CS) are stable, but can & do change
While they are fundamental parts of our personality, these strengths can change in intensity or in focus, depending on predictable life events such as starting a family, unpredictable life events such as a trauma, and deliberate changes in lifestyle.  
• ALSO, some traits may be prominent at one stage in life (being Adventurous but not Compassionate, Socially active but not Discrete…) while other traits may take prominence at other stages, as with experience & maturity (Decisiveness, Cautiousness, Self-control….)

3. CS are inter-dependent
In most situations people will express a combination of CS rather than one at a time. Interactions among strengths may enhance the expression of some but hinder the expression of others.
EXP : it’s hard to be Creativity without some level of Curiosity, or to be Kind without some amount of Bravery…..while being Discrete can limit the ability to be Persuasive, and being Truthful will modify one’s Meekness ….

4. CS can be developed
While we’re born with fundamental & personal CS, we can have them in different proportions (one person will be naturally higher on Courage, another on Cautiousness, one is higher on Ambition, another on Deference….).
Yet the strength of our characteristics can be modified or enhanced with attention, experience & training. People can learn to be more Curious, more Grateful, more Fair, more Open-minded….
Specific interventions can have an impact on many CS, such as journaling, emulating others & goal-oriented planning. Practice can break old habits and form new ones

5.  CS can be overused, misused, or under-usedpower abuse
Since we are all molded by our childhood experiences, our fundamental strengths can be repressed & then quickly forgotten, or expressed in unbalanced & harmful ways.
EXP : Creativity can be misused in email spamming, overuse of Curiosity can lead people into dangerous locations, under-use of Fairness can lead to conflicted relationships.
Balance and skill are key to mental health

6. CS have important consequences
The outcome of expressing one’s CS – at their best & from the right motives – is likely connected to many benefits, such as increased internal happiness & external success.  This may be especially true regarding our signature strengths – the more intense ones that are energizing & authentic. They’re the True Self strengths we use across many settings & are readily noticed by others.  Over time, research may also reveal that each C. has its own unique ramification.
EXP : Perseverance seems to be linked with achievement (nACH) more than most other character strengths.

7. CS are universaluniversal
Personal Character Strengths can be found in the most remote cultures & lands, shared by people with differing beliefs, religious affiliations, & political preferences. This makes applying CS more a matter of identifying & then actively using the best parts of us, instead of picking ourself apart.  (from Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D)

NEXT: Dimensions of C.

5 thoughts on “PRINCIPLES of CHARACTER

  1. Good article. Finding my CS right now is difficult, I enjoy the perspective you bring to the table. I know I have good and bad character traits, I’m just trying to deal with this new ACOA title and how that has impacted my perception of who I am and what traits are truly mine and are only a result of my reaction of the dysfunction I experienced early in my life.


  2. I know what you mean – in the beginning it took me a long time to identify mine. But mirroring from other people helped – (intelligent, curious, artistic, sensitive…)
    as did making inventory lists, starting with qualities I could put on a resume (good organizer, dependable, creative…)


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