What are character strengths and why are they important?
In Character Strengths and Virtues, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman define character strengths as ‘the psychological ingredients—processes or mechanisms—that define’ the way that people are. What is more, everyone has his or her own unique blend of character strengths. Research also shows that once you understand your strengths, and begin to craft a life that plays to them, you are far more likely to flourish and be happy.
Our evolving character strengths
Our character strengths framework was first developed as a result of research conducted by the University of Cambridge and Penn State. It also leaned heavily on work done by positive psychologists such as Martin Seligman.
We began with nine strengths but several years into our work, we now focus primarily on four character strengths. We have shaved down our list because are keen to focus on key strengths that lend themselves to a number of theorists and great brains—within the positive psychology world and beyond. You may find that other organisations and institutions highlight many more—we too greatly respect and admire their work. At this juncture of our journey, we feel that as far as our impact and focus go, less is more.
Soft skills are specific, learned abilities that can help you work and interact effectively with other people, such as being an effective communicator or team player. They differ from hard skills, which often refer to skills you might learn on the job, such as how to change a car engine or code a website. Nonetheless, like hard skills, soft skills take a lot of work to craft.
All of our work, whether it’s online or in person, is structured around this framework. But we are not dogmatic about it; in fact we are excited to be part of the emerging dialogue about character strengths, attitudes, attributes and soft skills. We are thrilled to tailor our approach to the needs and preferences of individual young people and the youth organisations that are working with them.