Using Character Strengths Every Day

You all know I’m a big fan of looking at people through a strengths-based lens.  I can’t help it.  Once you understand what the strengths are, you just can’t help but to see how incredibly amazing every single one of us are.  It’s addictive to see everyone in such a positive light.

But the Clifton StrengthsFinders is not the only strengths assessment.  The University of Pennsylvania Center for Positive Psychology has their own strengths test based on character strengths (VIA Survey, free on   Though the test is constructed similarly to CSF, the VIA is based on the characteristics that cultivate well-being.  CSF was constructed to help people be engaged and successful.  In my opinion, they’re both two sides of the same coin, just coming at the same thing from different angles.

Since I’ve been trained as a Gallup CSF coach, that has tended to be my angle, but I’m interested in also developing and exploring my VIA strengths.   My top five VIA strengths are forgiveness/mercy, capacity to love and be loved, gratitude, industry/diligence/perseverance, honesty/authenticity/genuineness.   Just for reference, my CSF strengths are input, intellection, relator, ideation and strategic.    Both are equally valid in my mind.

But I haven’t really focused on my VIA strengths.  They seem to be more oriented to my personal life, but are they?  Does that mean my CSF is oriented to my work life?

I will argue that both sets of strengths apply to all parts of my life.  After all, I don’t divide myself into my work-self and my home-self.  They’re one and the same and I’m the same person regardless of the setting I’m in (thus my “genuineness”… but that’s true for all of us).

How can I use forgiveness and love at work?  Interestingly, I feel the Arbinger Institute philosophy of treating others as I would like to be treated applies.   My forgiveness allows me to treat others as people, not obstacles, pains-in-the…neck, or problems.    My reluctance to objectify them to something sub-human allows me to overlook small grievances that might otherwise interfere in a smooth working or professional relationship.

Perhaps finding ways to use love at work is less obvious.  I think most of my colleagues would recoil a bit if they were told that they had to use love at work to be engaged and successful.  I say that because I recoiled a bit when I first thought about it, and I’m a pretty touchy-feely person, don’t you think?  It may not surprise you to know, however, that my personal mission is to use active love to help people and organizations in my life become the best possible versions of themselves (click here to learn more about active love).  Shortly after I identified my mission, I was able to identify my passion:  developing people and thus the organizations they serve.

I think academics are drawn to teaching and research because of that service mentality.  We are serving mankind via our scholarship and research.  We’re serving our students through education and learning.  Every organization, really, has to have some type of meaningful mission to be successful, and that meaning tends to relate back to serving people or some aspect of our planet.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.


All:  Don’t forget to send me questions or topics you’d like for me to discuss.  Go either to this blog, email me at or to the Talk to Susanna link on the left.  Thanks!  Look forward to hearing from you!