Character Strengths Resources Mentioned in this Podcast
- PERMA test (stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships and Meaning Assessment)
- Via Character Strengths
- Personal Values Inventory
- 340 Ways to Use the Via Character Strengths
What are Character Strengths?
Character strengths are truly the essence of who you are. They encapsulate how you show up in the world, either in relationship with others, or all by yourself. Your character strengths are at the core of your personality.
That said, character is malleable and can change over time based on seasons of life, the roles you play and the responsibilities you show up for every day.
How are Character Strengths Different from Values?
Your values are what you hold most important. That said, your values don’t always align with the things you are currently spending your time and energy on. For example, you may value your health and wellness, but you rarely workout and lately you’ve been eating and sleeping poorly. This may be a temporary circumstance – ie, you are traveling for work so the value misalignment will correct itself when you get back home, or it may be a longer term misalignment that happened slowly and unintentionally.
Either way, if you’re not living your values, this can lead to results you don’t want or a life you don’t enjoy.
Character strengths are different. They are less about what you do and more about how you show up, such as being a natural born leader, or having persistence and grit in everything you take on. These are the ways you approach everything you do, and it’s often largely unconscious.
Character Strengths, Values & ADHD
THere’s an important thread that weaves character strengths, values and the ADHD brain together. As we know, ADHD brains hyperfocus on what’s interesting to them. They only suffer a deficit of attention when they are uninterested in the topic or task.
Furthermore, ADHD adults struggle with self-awareness, so the process of understanding their unique strengths and values is a critical step in learning who they are, and where they thrive. With that, it is so important for adults with ADHD to take the time to know what drives them (values) and how they can draw from their character strengths to make the most of their interests.
How to Identify your Personal Values
I’ve written about this before and it can start with a very basic process of looking at a list of value statements and identifying what resonates. But a big part of that process is narrowing down the top three values that define your deepest attachments. We all have limited time, energy and resources to invest in what we care about the most, so knowing the top 3 to 5 without question, is really the important work.
The best tool I’ve come across to identify and prioritize your values is the Personal Values Assessment. I recommend taking this quick assessment and working through the prioritization exercise. It’s fast, simple and free.
How to identify your Character Strengths
The best way to evaluate your character strengths is through the Via Character Strengths Assessment tool, designed by Martin Seligman and a team of researchers at Penn State University. This is the most comprehensive test that evaluates our most common strengths across humanity, regardless of race, gender, culture or religion.
There are 24 Character Strengths in the profile, and it’s important to note that every human has these strengths. However, it’s the top 5 to 7 strengths that truly define who we are at the point in life when the test is taken. Our strengths are developed based on our upbringing, beliefs, circumstance and life roles, so they can change over time and we can intentionally work to develop areas that are less prominent or underused.
You can take the Via Character Assessment here. It takes about 20 minutes to complete, but it’s free and your scores will be saved in your profile. I encourage you to take the test every 3 to 5 years and see if there are shifts.
Putting Character Strengths and Values in Action
Once you have this data, take some time to think about how it shows up for you in your life when you’re at your best, and perhaps at your weakest moments. If you are an ADHD adult who is accustomed to having their weaknesses and flaws pointed out to them, this is your opportunity to look at what’s best about you. How you shine and flourish.
In terms of your values, think about whether or not the values you identified in your assessment align with how you’re spending your time and energy. Does your credit card statement reflect your values? How about your calendar?
For example, if you value health and fitness, but you spend your money on happy hours and take out food, and you don’t schedule time for the gym, that’s a value that’s strongly out of alignment.
If the idea of bringing it back into alignment seems hard or boring, think about your top character strengths and how you can use them to encourage yourself. If your strengths are kindness and gratitude, ask yourself if you’re being kind to yourself with your current choices? How can you express more gratitude for your body? What would being kinder to yourself and your body look like?
Building Character & Aligning Values
So now that you have the fundamentals of how to identify your strengths and values, you can start to make choices that are in alignment with what you truly care about, and show up in a way that reflects your authentic strengths.
As an ADHD adult, this will serve you in your self care, your work and your relationships. When you start to peel away the things that don’t matter to you or start saying no to things that don’t support your strengths, you can transform your life, career, body, marriage and relationship with yourself.
Need Help Aligning Your Strengths & Values?
If this feels like something you could use help with, then consider coaching with me. Very often it’s hard to look at ourselves objectively or see opportunities beyond our current set of beliefs. Coaching can not only help you understand where you thrive, it can help you see what’s possible and map a path to get there.