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Positive Psychology: Focusing on your strenghts to find a better life

In the Internet Age, it seems like everybody and their grandma have found their internal compass. There are articles, books, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, Youtube videos, and a myriad of other resources that make it seem like every single person (except yourself!) knows exactly where they are going and why.  

Of course, it just takes a simple look at the world we live in (or sitting down over margaritas with your neighbour) to find out that, in reality, most people are absolutely clueless about where they are going… even if they act like they do

What would you do if you found your compass?

Positive psychology was created as a tool to use psychology to empower and make people’s lives better, as opposed to just treating mental illness and solving problems. This is typically done by identifying strengths and positive points in one’s life, acknowledging each person’s individuality and particular pursuits. 

You can see that, as our lives become more comfortable and our basic needs become fulfilled, positive psychology takes a more critical role in our lives. Our evolution has reached a point where more people than ever head towards goals of self-actualisation.

Maslow’s famous pyramid showcasing the hierarchy of needs.

Positive psychology in practice.

The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) is based upon the idea that, having found its compass (as Character Strengths), a person can base its life project on following it to succeed and feel fulfilled. 

To create this branch of psychology, researchers have categorised behavioural qualities as strengths (universally recognised values) and created a system to quantify and measure them within every individual’s character. Thanks to this methodology, people can identify which qualities come naturally to them (their ‘Big Five’) and potentiate them, as well as understand which values do not seem to be developed within their personality.

VIA-IS categorises these Character Strengths as follows. Note that Character Strengths are also clustered in groups:

Character strengths.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective.
  • Courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest.
  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence.
  • Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership.
  • Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation.
  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality.

VIA as a non-profit organisation dedicated to develop and promote the positive psychology methodology, created by the researchers behind the Character Strengths and Virtues Handbook, where Character Strengths were first categorised. People interested in taking the main test can do so, and see their results for free, in the organisation’s website at https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/surveys/takesurvey. The organisation also highlights the importance of finding methods to utilise and empower one’s most substantial values.

Remember: Tools are meant to be just tools.

Like every instrument of this kind, please remember that both positive psychology and VIA-IS have weaknesses and strengths (just like you do!) and that they are not meant to be final solutions. By all means, please take what you need and can use from them, and leave behind everything that you feel doesn’t fulfil you personally. You can use your identified strengths to guide you through your life, motivate yourself by incorporating them, or apply them in your daily life, among many other things.

As they say, the path itself, in these matters, is the destination. 

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