Thursday, January 26, 2012

The VIA Survey

I did the VIA Character Strengths survey today. This is something developed by Martin Seligman (and collaborators) to help identify areas of strength (to build on) and areas of weakness (to build up). It's free to go through, though it takes rather longer than you'd like (probably a full 15 minutes) and you have to supply some basic personal demographics for their database. I didn't pay for the analysis at the end, just got my rankings for the 24 different areas.

I could tell while doing the quiz that my last-place ranking was going to be Appreciation of beauty and excellence. I'm chewing on why that was so. I certainly value beauty and excellence, but I'm not a rah-rah gusher/enthusiast: I learned how to nod in understated Scandinavian fashion from my dad. I daresay I could voice more appreciation than I do.  

My second-lowest area was Zest, enthusiasm, and energy. I'm guessing this is because at the moment basic survival seems like a very noble goal. I personally think that getting out of bed each morning and making coffee without forgetting to put in water is legitimate reason to rate highly in the energy category. Maybe it's that I'm not very zesty. Go ahead and tell me -- I can take it!

My top three areas were:

1. Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness

2. Forgiveness and mercy

3. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness 

I thought that sounded about right, though there were other items I wouldn't have been surprised to see nudge these out. If you take the survey, let me know what ranked where! 


  1. My worst was "Social intelligence". Ha, big surprise there. Second worst was "Perspective".

  2. Well, I'm sure you can guess what my weakest were.

    My top 3 were:
    1. Love of learning
    2.Forgiveness and mercy
    3.Curiosity and interest in the world

  3. Why are all the comments in italics?

  4. Here's another, less scientific, survey:

  5. The other day, Doug wanted to know why I was cooking the lid to the kettle, in an otherwise empty saucepan.

    I'd gotten the lid off (into the pan next to the kettle)... and gotten water in the kettle ... and then forgot to move the lid back to the kettle ... and turned on the burner under the saucepan.

  6. Captain Quirk, I seem to recall some strengths on your part, too, such as lots of creativity, ingenuity and originality, for instance. Seems like you might do well on honesty, too. Just a guess!

    Julia, having read this post, I got curious and took the survey myself. After my usual "There's just not enough context here to answer that question" mutterings, I came out high in things like love of beauty and learning, and low in things like teamwork. This is probably no great revelation to either of us, but my immediate reaction was that love of learning or beauty are not character strengths, but hungers. Do you applaud someone for really, really wanting to eat? I found myself wishing I could more honestly check "like" on kindness and generosity questions instead. They require more effort for me.

    And I kept thinking, like you, that my answers must be influenced by what I'd been doing/experiencing recently. I think your life requires more zest and energy than mine, for sure! But when you're always being tried in a particular area, it never feels like a strength. So basically, I think the top scores are usually going to be things that come easily, whereas perhaps some of the ones lower down actually reflect more character development, because they involve overcoming some kind of resistance or suffering. And perhaps for some of the lower ones, we just feel like someone else has that territory covered and we don't see the point. Make sense?

    Though I do think you probably appreciate beauty more than you let on.

    Laura (still anonymous, though it has nothing to do with not wanting to be part of a team).

  7. Laura,
    I think love of learning and beauty can go either way. I think our souls need beauty much as our bodies need food, and that beauty and knowledge can give us the energy to do things we need to do. Beauty and knowledge can ameliorate suffering, make us more empathetic, teach us to appreciate the goodness that exists in the world.

    Taken to excess -- or taken merely for the sake of self-satisfaction -- you're right: it's simple gorging.

  8. Interesting. Huh. Unfortunately I'm not too surprised that my lowest were self control and The highest were curiosity and interest in the world, appreciation of beauty and capacity to love and be loved. A little embarrassed how low forgiveness was...and surprised by some others. Definitely gives one a lot to chew on....

  9. Wow, that seemed to be pretty much right on target for most things. My top 3 were
    1. spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
    2. fairness equity, and justice
    3. honesty, authenticity,and genuineness
    these I pretty much what I expected, love of learning was #4, I would have figured 1 or 2
    The bottom 3
    22. appreciation of beauty and excellence (no surprise)
    23. creativity, ingenuity, and orginality ( I agree, I say I haven't had an original thought in about 48 years, I'm 57)
    24. self-control and self regulation ( this was a bit of a shock, I thought it would be mid way not bottom last)