VIA Survey of Character Strengths

VIA Survey of Character Strengths Results Interpretation

The VIA Survey of Character Strengths (created by Christopher Peterson, PhD and Martin Seligman, PhD) will help you identify your values.

VIA Survey of Character Strengths

Martin Seligman, in his book Authentic Happiness, states that he has found in his research that if a person uses their VIA Character Strengths in their work they will find it more meaningful and will, therefore, be happier.

“As coaches, the authors have found the Strengths Survey to be quietly radical.  Many clients have never had their strengths assessed and find that just reading the survey results helps them label or understand themselves in new ways.”

–Carol Kaufmman, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry

To take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (it will take 30-40 minutes to take the test):

    1. Click here to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.
    2. Select the “VIA Survey of Character Strengths” from the list of inventories (it will be the 8th item on the list).
    3. Click on “Register” and create a User ID  and password.

NOTE: There is no cost to take the survey.

    1. Once you register, the VIA Survey of Character Strengths will be the 8th inventory on the list. Click on “Take Test” at the right.
    2. Once you fill out the survey, it will return your top 5 Strengths (known as your Signature Strengths).
      • Click on the “Show More button at the bottom of the page, to show how you rated all of the strengths in order of preference.
      • Copy the page by highlighting it and clicking on Copy, then paste your results into a Word document, save the file, and e-mail it to your Coach.

NOTE: If you need to get out of the inventory and get back into it, your answers to that point will be saved and you can return to the survey by clicking here.

The VIA Character Strengths

In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman identifies 24 character strengths that fall into six categories. He calls these strengths Values in Action (VIA).  Here is a list of the VIA Character Strengths:

Wisdom and Knowledge:

Curiosity & Interest in the World
• Love of learning
• Judgment, Critical Thinking & Open-mindedness
• Creativity, Ingenuity & Originality
• Social intelligence
• Perspective Wisdom


• Bravery & Valor
• Perseverance (Industry, Diligence & Perseverance)
• Honesty, Authenticity & Genuineness (Integrity)

Humanity and Love:

• Kindness & Generosity
Capacity to Love & Be Loved


• Citizenship, Teamwork & Loyalty
• Fairness
• Leadership


• Self-control & Self-regulation
• Caution, Prudence & Discretion
• Modesty & Humility


• Appreciation of beauty
Hope, Optimism & Future-Mindedness
• Spirituality, Sense of Purpose & Faith
• Forgiveness & Mercy
• Humor & Playfulness
Zest, Enthusiasm & Energy

NOTE: Those Character Strengths highlighted in purple or the strengths most closely associated with happiness.

Validating your Top 5 VIA Character Strengths

Your top 5 strengths on your VIA Survey of Character Strengths are your Character Strengths.  It is important to validate the results of the survey with your Coach.  Explore these questions to validate your results:

  • Do the top 5 strengths listed in your results seem like they are your authentically you?
  • When you utilize these strengths do you experience a sense of flow (time passing without awareness that it has passed, being completely engrossed in an activity)?
    • If a strength listed in your top 5 does not seem like it induces a sense of flow or does not seem to represent you, take a look at Character Strengths number 6 and 7 to see if one of them aligns more closely with you.

VIA Character Strengths – Increasing Happiness

Increasing happiness is not just an end in itself; it also correlates with, and may even help create greater:

• Competence
• Resilience
• Access to personal as well as social resources
• Physical health
• Deeper connection to society
• A sense of personal mission

In the book “Authentic Happiness”, Christopher Peterson, PhD and Martin Seligman, PhD present their research that shows that using your Top 5 “VIA Character Strengths” in your work, activities, hobbies, and avocations can increase your sense of purpose and therefore your level of happiness.

You can increase the use of your top 5 Character Strengths by being aware of and setting the intention to use them more and by doing activities and exercises that increase them.

Martin Seligman has created many exercises that he has proven to increase gratitude and optimism. Here are two links to exercises to increase happiness and your use of your Character Strengths:

Also, Martin Seligman writes about increasing happiness and increasing your use of your Character Strengths in his books: Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism.

For other articles on the VIA Character Strengths click here.

Increasing Use of Character Strengths that are Associated with Happiness

In addition to helping you increase your happiness through increased use of your Character Strengths, the VIA Survey of Character Strengths can help you increase your happiness by helping you increase your use of certain strengths that are more closely associated with happiness. (This survey is not static, it can change over time)

Of the 24 VIA Character Strengths, the five that are most strongly correlated to happiness are:

  • Gratitude
  • Curiosity & Interest in the World
  • Zest, Enthusiasm & Energy
  • Hope, Optimism & Future-Mindedness
  • Capacity to Love and be Loved

Questions to Explore to Increase Happiness

    • How do you currently use your Character Strengths?
    • What can you do to expand your use of your Character Strengths more in your work, avocations, and/or volunteer work?
    • How can you utilize your Character Strengths more in your hobbies and home life?
    • What could you do to increase your use them even more?

Using the VIA Character Strengths for Career Exploration & Job Search

Once you have validated your Character Strengths (top 5 strengths), they will become part of your Career Criteria that will support you in selecting your career or job.

You and your Coach can also use your Character Strengths to brainstorm Career Possibilities.  Look at each of your Character Strengths and brainstorm a list of careers you believe would utilize that strength. Then determine if you want to add it to your Career Possibilities List.

Below is a link to a list of careers, jobs and activities that use each of the character strengths.

Look for each of your Character Strengths in the list and see if there are any jobs or careers you would like to add to your Career Possibilities List or if they help you think of other possibilities.

You can also note hobbies to explore that will utilize your Character Strengths:

Questions for Career Exploration

    • In your current position, how could you use your top 5 Character Strengths more?
    • If you are exploring careers, which jobs and/or businesses seem to utilize more of your Character Strengths?


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With Our Consultations Coach: Chris Sier, PCC (BIO)
With Our Consultations Coach: Chris Sier, PCC