Do you know you have superpowers? Here's how to unlock them.

3 min
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Imagine if you had superpowers that could help you surpass tough challenges, beat any obstacles in your path, and be as wise as you could possibly be. Well, you do have them – all of us do: they’re called character strengths, and knowing what they are (and how to use them) could transform your life for the better.

Everyone has their own strengths of character. Unlike skills and talents, character strengths aren’t very tangible, and they are harder to measure. It can be easy to overlook the fact that you’re kind or brave, or have a keen sense of justice – but these are important traits that can be harnessed as superpowers. Your character strengths can offer a route through which to show up in the world – for yourself and for others – and utilizing them can improve your life. If you know how to lean into them, your character strengths can make you more successful, confident, and happier. So how do you identify them and start using them for good?

The VIA Character Strengths Survey

The VIA Institute (VIA stands for “values in action”) defines 24 scientifically-developed character strengths under the following six categories: wisdom and knowledge, courage, justice, temperance, humanity, and transcendence. The VIA Character Strengths Survey is a free resource from the VIA Institute on Character, and it’s a great place to start. Once you’ve taken the survey, you will receive a report with a ranking of your strengths. You might find the results surprising, and you might become aware of signature strengths – the top three to seven strengths in the ranking – that you had never even noticed or considered to be strengths. This framework for understanding ourselves more deeply has informed a range of studies into success and happiness, and the research has found that the benefits of knowing your strengths can be extraordinary. 

Use your strengths daily to boost your mood

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that doing something that utilizes one of your signature strengths will improve your mood. More positive emotions lead to a more positive experience of life, and greater satisfaction overall. So if your signature strengths include appreciation of beauty and excellence, for example, immerse yourself in whatever feels like pure art to you. If one of your strengths is a love of learning, allow yourself the time to indulge in a new skill, perhaps. Get creative with the way you use and feed your strengths. The nurturing of curiosity can be incorporated into your everyday life by trying new foods regularly, or mixing up your route home instead of taking the same path each time. Meanwhile, if perseverance is one of your strengths, you could give yourself a sense of accomplishment by working out how to overcome obstacles standing in the way of you and a goal you’ve set for yourself.

Embrace your strengths to improve long-term health and well-being

Experiencing more positive emotions also leads to increased health and well-being, and long-term resilience. These are the principles of positive psychology, so your capacity for humor as a signature strength is far from frivolous. Rather, embracing life’s comedy might be one of the most powerful tools you have in your kit to flourish physically and mentally. After all, the ripples of positivity that can be created from activating, feeding, and expressing your strengths can be far-reaching, with that boost of energy helping you build more optimism, compassion, empathy, inspiration, pride, hope, and joy in your life as a whole.

Utilize your strengths to meet your goals more effectively

Another study observed that “strengths use might be an important part of an effective learning loop in which progress leads to well-being, which, in turn, motivates sustained effort and leads to further goal progress.” The grit and resilience that you develop from the positive utilization of your signature strengths can help you smash through your goals in life and work. So how can you reframe your approach to them by embracing your creativity, or your core value of honesty, for example?

Optimize your strengths for career fulfillment

If kindness is one of your signature strengths, then a role in a caring profession could offer you the chance to utilize this strength every day at work. If teamwork is a signature strength, you’ll likely thrive in a collaborative setting. Identifying your signature strengths and then evaluating how much you use them (or neglect them) in your professional life could open a door into finding more job satisfaction. How could you bring your strengths into your role? How could you work to enhance them and get the best out of yourself? Or could this be your motivation to embrace another character strength – bravery – and make a career change?

Steer into the jet stream

Your strengths ranking isn’t static. Once you’ve identified your signature strengths, you can also choose to nurture the ones lower down in the ranking, whether that’s by building your courage if you tend to be fearful, or by establishing practices to bring more gratitude into your day. But as with everything in life, leaning into what works best rather than struggling against the flow leads to greater results. Embracing the skills, talents, and strengths that come more naturally – the ones that already light you up – is like when an airplane slides into a jet stream that’s flowing in the same direction. It’s a boost to your success, your health, and your holistic well-being. So go ahead and embrace your superpowers.

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All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Using Signature Strengths In Pursuit Of Goals; Strengths Deployment As A Mood-Repair Mechanism; The Neuroscience Of Positive Emotions And Affect; When The Job Is A Calling: The Role Of Applying One’s Signature Strengths At Work; Character Strengths Are Superpowers: Using Positive Psychology To Help Children Realize Their Potential.

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