SUCCESS Materials – English

Character Strengths – Theoretical Background – Classification of Character Strengths

Classification of Character Strengths

Peterson & Seligman (2004), came to some conclusions regarding character strengths:
“A character strength is a disposition to act, desire, and feel that involves the exercise of judgment and leads to a recognizable human excellence or instance of human flourishing”.

Character strengths are plural – that is, good character is comprised of a multitude of complementary positive traits. Character strengths are not segregated mechanisms with automatic effects on behavior; rather, virtuous activity involves choosing virtue for itself and in light of a justifiable life plan, which means that people can reflect on their own strengths of character and talk about them to others. Character strengths can be distinguished from related individual differences such as talents and abilities.

The application of these criteria led to the identification of 24 individual character strengths under the banner of six overarching virtues, as illustrated below.


The character strengths can be measured and ranked for each individual based upon the extent to which the individual deems them to be important in their life. Peterson and Seligman (2004) suggest that most people possess between three and seven core ‘‘signature’’ strengths. Signature strengths are the ones which are owned by a person, embraced, and frequently being practiced through the lifespan. Several studies have highlighted the relationship between the application of individual signature strengths and overall positive experiences such as life satisfaction, well-being, and meaning in life (Proctor, Maltby & Linley, 2011; Wood et al. 2011).