• Article by: Cheryl Sol

Know Your Strengths

Updated: Mar 16

Positive Psychology, as a theoretical framework, has a specific focus on the strengths and capacities that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The idea behind this concept is not to focus on problems but to find and nurture one’s talents, build on positive emotions, broaden awareness and encourage new and varied thoughts and actions.

It is about strengthening existing resources and building your resilience.

This concept is used widely in organizations where businesses and employees identify their core strengths and values and use them for the growth and wellbeing of individuals and the organization.

Similarly, your life and your family can be seen as an organization —consisting of groups of people who come together for a purpose.

A good place to start is to become more aware of what aspects of yourself or others are strengths in order to build on them.

In relationships and friendships similarity is good. It is some of the glue that keeps us connected. But then there are the differences. We are all individuals and others in our lives are not necessarily extensions of what we believe in or how we behave. It then becomes useful to clarify where those people contribute or add to your life rather than trying to make them over. In trying to nudge others to be what you think they should be or live in the way you prescribe, you are missing what they do have that is valuable and what you can learn from them.

I am going to introduce some examples of strengths. All of these have their useful and positive side where they do, indeed, act as strengths. These qualities also occur in the extreme, which is not useful.

For example, if one of your strengths is organizing, it is obvious that this can be used to great advantage. On a committee, if you are an organized person, you can be used to keep the admin part of the committee in shape, or be in charge of co-ordinating events, etc. However, in its extreme form, you would start to organize everyone else and power struggles will emerge.

A strength then is any pattern of thought, behaviour or belief that can be productively and flexibly applied.


There are different ways in which strengths are measured or defined.

One example of these is the 6 classes of character strengths outlined in the CSV (Character, Strengths and Virtues) handbook by Peterson and Seligman (2004).

These are :-

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open mindedness, love of learning, perspective

  • Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity

  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence

  • Justice: good citizenship, fairness, leadership

  • Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self- control

  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality.

  • You don’t have to be a perfect person who is always in good humour, hopeful, kind, brave, open minded and totally rational. Maybe just pick one or more of these which you feel you can relate to or see in yourself and briefly reflect on if and how you use this strength to facilitate your life.

  • Some strengths are very easy to name, recognize and measure. Others are not and I will introduce some ideas from the Cliftons StrengthsFinder concept.

  • Reflect on these below, tick off the ones that apply to you.

  • Being inspired by the future and being able to inspire others to a vision

  • Being strategic —being able to see a situation and be creative in deciding on alternative ways to proceed with it.

  • Having the desire to learn for the enjoyment of the process rather than the outcome of it.

  • Having stamina and the ability and drive to work hard

  • Being adaptable and able to go with the flow and deal with things in the now as they happen

  • Being analytical and able to see all the factors that contribute to a situation

  • The ability to arrange and organize and be flexible with putting the pieces together in a way that works

  • Having core beliefs that translate into providing a purpose and a way of living your life

  • The ability to command a situation by presence

  • The ability to communicate your thoughts into words and present these well

  • The ability for connectedness. This involves a belief and capacity that relationships are important

  • The ability to recognize and develop the potential in others and enjoy helping them develop their capacity

  • The ability for empathy and being able to understand and appreciate how people feel in different situations

  • The ability for consistency and being able to maintain a theme around treating others

  • The ability to focus and stay on track

  • The ability to create harmony amongst people

  • The ability to accept others for who they are

  • The ability to see the unique qualities of people and appreciate them

  • The ability to transform situations to their most favourable outcome

  • The ability to have a positivity and enthusiasm that is contagious

  • The ability to form and maintain close relationships with others

  • The ability to take ownership and responsibility for your own behaviour

It is likely that by going through these different lists, you have identified a number of areas of strength for yourself. It could now be useful to see how you would like to develop and use them in your life for your own and others growth and well -being.