1.What Is Character?
Ans : The topic of character has been of longstanding interest to philosophers, educators, political leaders, religious leaders, and the general public. Until recently, the study of character had not undergone rigorous scientific efforts thus was relegated to the experiences and programming of character educators, personal opinions of experts, and commentary by self-help gurus.
2.What are character strengths?
Ans : Character strengths are positive traits – capacities humans have for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that benefit oneself and others. Specifically, they are the psychological ingredients for displaying virtues or human goodness. Each person is having a capacity for expressing any of the 24 character strengths Some strengths are easier and more natural for the individual to express (e.g., signature strengths), other strengths arise in particular situations where they are needed (phasic strengths), and other strengths are expressed to a lesser degree or lesser frequency (lesser strengths).
• Character strengths have individual differences. Each is distinct from one another.
• Character strengths are plural, meaning they interact and influence each other.
• Character strengths are generally stable, but they can change over time.
• Character strengths are shaped by context. They do not operate in isolation from settings, proximal and distal, in which people are found. Character strengths are within people and people are within settings. Settings cannot fall to the background when focusing on character strengths.
3.How do character strengths relate to happiness?
Ans : The use of character strengths exercises, such as using one signature strength in a new way each day, has been associated in several studies with higher, sustained levels of happiness (and lower, sustained levels of depression). Other studies (from several research teams around the world) have found that some character strengths have a stronger relationship to happiness; those with the strongest relationship with happiness are zest, hope, love, gratitude, and curiosity.
Character strengths have also been strongly linked with the dominant theories in positive psychology. Authentic happiness theory states that there are three independent but related pathways to a true and lasting happiness – pleasure (the experience of positive subjective experiences), engagement (the absorption of oneself in work, play, relationships, etc.), and meaning (connecting with the larger purpose of an organization or the universe; contributing to the common good). This theory is discussed in the book Authentic Happiness and the character strengths are viewed as critical aspects of each pathway.
Another theory is PERMA, which notes that there are 5 distinct, measurable, uniquely beneficial pathways to human well-being. These are positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA). The character strengths are described as the ingredients or mechanisms for each.
Most theories, concepts, and practices discussed in positive psychology have a link with the character strengths in general or with one or more character strengths in particular, such as mindfulness, flow, savoring, self-determination, positive institutions, growth mindset, positive psychotherapy, positive education, and so on.
4.What differentiates character strengths from other strengths?
Ans : Our work is about the core or essence of who we are as humans – our character strengths. These positive, core characteristics of our personality are different from strengths of talent (innate abilities), strengths of interest (what we like to do), strengths of skill (proficiencies we develop), and strengths of resources (external supports). While each of these areas of strength are important, it is character strengths that provide a pathway for developing each of these areas. E.g., We use perseverance and self-regulation to pursue a talent in music or sport, hope in developing a new skill for work, curiosity as we explore our interest areas, and gratitude and kindness when we are tapping our resources. Also, it is our strengths of character that we have to turn to when we lose resources, talents, and skills, or when we lose interest in something.