by Allison Aboud Holzer

Positive psychologists use the term “character strengths” to define traits morally esteemed across cultures. Psychologist Christopher Peterson has spent the last several years studying and empirically validating twenty-four such traits, such as Creativity/Innovation, Forgiveness/Mercy, Leadership, Gratitude, Humor, Curiosity, Bravery, Zest and Kindness. Character strengths are qualities so inherent to who we are that we often don’t even recognize them in ourselves, while others may admire them. You can take the free online assessment (link listed below) and determine your own top five signature character strengths!

Leo Lionni’s story about Frederick the Mouse beautifully illustrates the character strength of Creativity/Innovation. While all the other mice gather supplies for the winter, Frederick collects what he calls “special supplies” – the warmth, the colors and the words that will ultimately bring hope and inspiration to the others during the tail end of winter. What the other mice first don’t understand, they eventually recognize and esteem as Frederick’s unique strength that contributes to their society.

Inquiry: Describe in detail a story about you at your absolute best!

Related Activity: Take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire at http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/ and use your top character strength in a completely new way every day for two weeks. Report back on how you feel!

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