“…the focus on human strengths and virtues is one of the most important initiatives in psychology of the past half century

Howard Gardner

FIERCELY AWARE: The Science: 1.2.3

The Strength(s) to be Positive, Happy and Well

Leading researchers widely acknowledge the science of character strengths as the foundation for creating positivity, happiness and wellbeing.

 Character may occupy the most central role in the field of positive psychology. Pleasure, flow, and other positive experiences are enabled by good character.”   Chris Peterson

These twenty-four strengths underpin all (of wellbeing)”   Martin Seligman

“Character strengths are the superfoods of our psyche – packed with social and psychological punch”   Neal Mayerson

In 1999, Martin Seligman and Neal Mayerson shared a vision to bring science to the table where mainly philosophers and theologians had been typically seated. Their aim was to identify the aspects of our personality that account for the goodness in the human experience – the constellations of feelings, thoughts and behaviors that are widely valued as good for the individual and the greater common good – universal character strengths and virtues.

Seeking a language and science that expressed the best in human nature, fifty-five renowned scientists around the world conducted a three-year study of the great traditions in philosophy, theology, humanities, and religions.  This impressive team was led by Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson.  The scientists’ rigorous methodology resulted in three robust tools including a classification, handbook, and a set of surveys that identify, explain, and measure character strengths.  The VIA surveys have now been translated into more than 30 languages and been taken by nearly 8 million people around the world.



Beyond being the building blocks for positivity, happiness and well-being, activating character strengths have been directly linked to increased engagement, meaning, performance and both physical and emotional well-being.  For a summary of some of the most important work in a field of hundreds of studies, take a look here.

Part 2 is all about learning how to activate your strengths and those of others to change your life and the world. But first, take a look here at why we need to get fierce about unleashing the best of our humanity.