Twice in the past month I was pointed to the online VIA Survey of Character (or VIA Inventory of Strengths, VIA-IS). I didn’t pay it much attention the first time (it was Christmas after all!) but the second time it crossed my radar, I checked it out as it was presented as the “un-DSM-IV” which essentially means it is not about mental disorders! Well if that isn’t enough to send you to the site, what will it take?? What the VIA Strengths Survey is, in fact, is the world’s most scientifically validated tool for measuring character strengths.
At no charge, you can take the VIA Strengths survey (click to this page and scroll to the bottom to register). You will need about 20-30 minutes to answer all 240 short questions if you do the full survey. It is worth it. Immediately you will receive an ordered list of your results listing your character strengths from from 1 to 24. Incidentally, there are five strengths that are most closely linked to happiness. I am not going to tell you which ones though.
So you confirm your strengths (you likely had a good sense of what they were anyway) and then what? Well conventional wisdom suggested you work on your weaknesses but newer thinking in positive psychology recommends playing to your strengths. Do you remember your school guidance counsellor telling you to get tutored in math to improve your long division because you were terrible at it. Well no more! Some folks at Harvard have created an exercise called Reflected Best Self to help you play to your strengths (You’ll have to pay $6.50 to order the whole article). A life/ business coach can help you leverage your strengths too.
In my case, on the heels of doing the VIA Strengths, I am also using the free online survey called 360 Reach to get external feedback too (the link I have here is for the free version that you can use for 15 days. It was hard to find on the site). I sent the 360 survey to colleagues, clients, employees I used to manage, friends and family. The beauty of the 360 Reach tool is threefold: at the basic service level it is free; it is turn key; and responses are anonymous making it more likely that respondents will be honest. And the bonus: you can review the feedback in real time at the site as anonymous responses roll in. Once you have a minimum of 10 respondents, you get some analysis of the data.
Based on the feedback so far, I have heard what people believe are my greatest strengths and weaknesses (oh, and the survey includes a couple of projective questions. So far, the type of dog people think of when they think of me is a golden retreiver–happy, dependable, loyal and attractive :); and the home appliance that most relates to me is a mix master).
I could say lots more but I am going to wait until I have a statisically significant number of responses in. Are you curious yet about your strengths?