Thriving and Character Strengths

Are you thriving? How would you know?

Thriving can mean different things to different people. You might thrive when the pressure is on to finish a project. Your friend might thrive when he can plan ahead and finish with time to spare. According to a 2017 article on the science of human thriving, thriving has many facets and may be different from person to person. The authors noted there isn’t a consensus on the definition of thriving within the scientific community. Instead, they offered their definition as the combined experience of development and success. 

Based on this definition, I can think of examples of thriving from my life. For instance, after I completed my MBA more than 30 years ago, I changed jobs and received a pay raise commensurate with the market value at that time. I felt challenged as I applied what I learned at work. The challenge plus salary increase were meaningful rewards as I built my career.

If you’re doing challenging work that has the right amount of stretch, enjoyment, and success, you might feel like you’re thriving. On the other hand, if you’re coasting and doing well but not particularly enjoying it, you’re probably not thriving. If you feel depleted and the work doesn’t fit your talents and strengths, you’re clearly not thriving.

From another perspective, you might notice that some parts of your life are thriving while others aren’t. For instance, perhaps you’re in a great relationship, but you feel lethargic about where you can contribute the most. Or maybe you feel energized about work, but you seek a meaningful relationship.

The Good News: Thriving Enablers + Character Strengths

The good news is that there are seven personal variables that can enable thriving. The even better news is that you can focus on and improve these variables. Your character strengths, 24 human capacities that amplify what’s best within you, like Curiosity, Fairness, and Leadership, can play a central role.

Positive psychology expert Ryan Niemiec makes the connection in a November 2017 blog post. Below is a summary of the thriving enablers, in bold, and the role played by character strengths, capitalized:

1. Psychological Resilience – All 24 character strengths, from Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence to Zest, can boost your resilience.

2.  Motivation – Your signature strengths (top strengths) can enliven you to take action in your relationships, work, and play.

3.  Proactive Personality –  Bravery and Perseverance help you seek out challenges and overcome obstacles.

The other 4 thriving enablers include Knowledge & Learning (assisted by Creativity, Curiosity, Love of Learning, and Perspective), Social Competence (Social Intelligence, Love and Kindness, Leadership and Teamwork, and Fairness), Positive Perspective (Hope), and Religiosity and Spirituality (Gratitude and Spirituality).

In other words, there’s yet another reason, among hundreds of research-based reasons, why you should practice and share your strengths wisdom with others: they’re key ingredients to human thriving. If you’d like to learn more about your character strengths or sharpen your character strengths skills, take a look at the sneak preview of what’s coming up for you in 2019.

Sneak Preview of 2019

We’re going to be part of a study beginning in early 2019, and you’re invited to join in! This could be the inspiring opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Instead of wrestling with new year’s resolutions, why not kick off the new year with an investment in your personal or professional growth? The 6-week program is based on Jane S. Anderson’s book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best, a workbook endorsed by positive psychology experts Tal Ben-Shahar, Ryan Niemiec, Margarita Tarragona, and others. To receive information and updates, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter at


Brown, D. J., Arnold, R., Fletcher, D., & Standage, M. (2017). Human thriving A conceptual debate and literature review. European Psychologist, 22(3), 167–179. DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000294

Niemiec, R. M., (2017, November 8). Seven Pathways to Thriving. Psychology Today Online. Retrieved from


Happy Character Day!

(about a 2.5 minute read)

Tomorrow (September 26, 2018) is Character Day! Character Day is the day people around the world link arms to celebrate what unites us as humans: our character strengths.  As you can see, I’m celebrating early. In honor of Character Day, for two days, I’m offering half off my print book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best on The price you see is the discounted price.

Readers tell me they’re giving it as gifts to friends and family; including it in work with coaching clients and in workshops; adding it to reading lists for courses they teach; and starting their own 30-day practice groups. Stock up and save while it’s half off!

On Character Day, hundreds of thousands of schools, workplaces, families, and individuals will be sharing the research and practice of character strengths. Thank you Let It Ripple Film Studio for launching Character Day in 2014! If you haven’t registered to participate in Character Day, no worries. There are many simple ways to celebrate character strengths. For instance:

Get and Share Resources
1.  Watch the brief, inspirational video The Science of Character. If you’ve already seen it, share it and introduce others to the research and practice of character strengths.

2.  Take the free VIA survey of character strengths or offer it to someone you know who hasn’t taken it.

3. Request these free discussion kits to use in your next character strengths discussions.

Boost Your Strengths Wisdom
4.  To understand why strengths matter or when describing to someone else why they matter, access the hundreds of research findings on the VIA Institute on Character website. They’re organized into topics such as character strengths in the workplace, education, and relationships.

5. To learn more about a specific strength, go here and click on the strength.

6.  Check out these books to expand your knowledge.

Practice and Have Fun With Character Strengths
7.  Post your signature strengths (top 5 strengths) in a prominent place such as the refrigerator, the entryway to an office, or a journal. This will remind you of who you are when at your best. Better yet, if you’re part of a family, work team, or other group, post everyone’s strengths and notice how they bring goodness, meaning, and performance into each others’ lives.

8.  Brighten someone else’s day by noticing and appreciating his or her strengths. Practice strengths-spotting your postal carrier, neighbor, barista, pharmacist, or anyone you encounter during the day.

9. Perform a random act of kindness. Clean the kitchen without being asked. Purchase a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Offer to carry someone else’s heavy bag.

10. Send a note or text of gratitude expressing thanks and praise to someone you appreciate.

There are virtually limitless ways to infuse strengths into whatever you do and wherever you go. Most importantly, you don’t need to wait for an annual event to celebrate character strengths. Just take a step!

May we celebrate character strengths today and every day.

Until next time,

Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
***half-off for two days – September 25 and September 26 – at***


Strengths Conversations That Connect

(about a 4 minute read)

Do you regularly have strengths conversations? A strengths conversation is a simple discussion about your strengths or someone else’s. Many of us probably don’t have strengths conversations often enough. In modern life, we tend to rush through the day and focus on what is urgent but not necessarily important. It takes intention and commitment to shift our mindset to what’s strong, but it’s worth the effort.

In his book Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing strengths expert Ryan Niemiec summarizes numerous studies about the benefits of knowing and applying character strengths. He says that character strengths are linked to things we want more of in life, like greater happiness, work satisfaction, engagement, meaning, confidence, goal achievement, and vitality. Building strengths conversations into your daily routines can put you on the path to these and other positive outcomes.

There are virtually limitless ways to strike up strengths conversations. Below are a few examples in different settings.

In a Team Setting
Ask your team members to share examples of when they felt engaged or energized. Name the strengths they used. Brainstorm ways to apply these strengths on team tasks. Keep the conversation going each week and find new opportunities to apply strengths. Watch the energy, connection, and engagement amp up.

In a Social Setting
Spot strengths in your friend as he accomplishes something new or persists through a challenge. Tell him why you value those strengths. Notice how this brightens his day.

In a Family Setting
Start a strengths-spotting ritual at dinner time. Ask one family member to describe something that went well during the day and have the other family members name the strengths they noticed in that person. Make sure all family members get their strengths spotted. Feel the positivity boost within the whole family.

My #1 strength is Creativity, so I came up with my own strengths conversation starter. I found an artisan who crafts words from metal and asked him to create metal wall art of my immediate family members’ top strengths. You can see our top strengths below in the picture.

   I mounted these metal works of art in the den, where we tend to gather with family and friends. When guests visit, they notice and ask about the significance of these words.

They are reminders of who we are individually and how we live as a family. Fairness and Kindness are strongly held values that tend to govern our interactions. Interestingly, two of us have Fairness as the #1 strength. Creativity helps us be flexible with each other. We each play a role in maintaining this family culture.

I like to ask my guests what resonates as their top strengths and why. In five minutes or less, we touch on each other’s unique capabilities. This short conversation is uplifting and infinitely more inspiring than one that begins with the question: How are you?

When and where can you begin a strengths conversation? Take a moment to write down a few ideas. Choose one and put it into action. Even if you’re not an enthusiastic conversationalist, you may find this a simple, positive way to connect with others.

Until next time,

Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
(check it out here)


How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference?

(about a 3 minute read)

Need a little inspiration today? I recently came across a brief video and had to share it. It will invite you to consider what you can uniquely contribute to the world right now, a theme that ties in nicely with character strengths.

In the video, a key question is posed: How many people does it take to make a difference? The answer:  Just one. You.

Take two minutes to watch How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference?

How can you make a difference today? Start by living into your strengths a bit more. Character strengths are multi-faceted, so there’s always a way to go deeper. Use Social Intelligence to better understand others. Turn Kindness toward yourself when facing a hardship. Try Bravery to stand up for and give a voice to the voiceless. Wherever you are on the strengths journey, go a little deeper and discover how your strengths are pathways to meaningful conversations and contributions that only you can make in the world.

As it says in the video, where you are right now is the entry point.  Jump in!  If you know someone who can use a little inspiration today, please share this message.

Until next time,


*A special note of thanks to the folks at Compendium, Inc.for this video and their book The 1 Book: How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference?

Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
(check it out here)



Becoming Strength-Based: 6 Things You Can Do Right Now

(about a 5 minute read)

There is a palpable shift in focus from what’s wrong to what’s strong in parenting, schools, teams, organizations, leadership approaches, learning processes, social work, coaching, therapy, and countless other arenas. Each time we engage our strengths, we boost our capacity for excellence and goodness. Each time we appreciate someone else’s strengths, we create a ripple effect of goodness that blesses us with meaning, happiness, and success. Many institutions in our society are becoming strength-based.

What is “becoming strength-based?”

My definition of “becoming strength-based” is shifting from a deficit, problem-oriented perspective to a positive one. I don’t mean to imply you should ignore or avoid problems or negative experiences but that you should also cultivate what’s strong with intention and purpose. It also means noticing when you’re at your best and building on the strengths that contribute to those best moments.

6 Actions You Can Take Right Now

Below are 6 actions you can take right now to become more strength-based. You won’t need buy-in or approval from management, family members, or friends. Just begin.

  1. Notice where you are on the strengths journey, and know that becoming strength-based is a learning process, not an event. Start wherever you are, and advance from there. If you find it difficult to name your strengths, take the free VIA survey to identify them. If you can easily name your strengths, explore different facets of them. If you’ve already explored your strengths, begin to apply them in new ways or settings. Learn about overusing and underusing strengths, turning them inward, and engaging them optimally. Experiment in relationships, at home, and at work. Notice where your strengths make the strongest contribution. If you’re interested, my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best can guide you through these discoveries.
  2. Offer the free VIA survey to those around you who are open to it. Having a common language will help you communicate easily about what’s going well and how your unique strengths contribute to success and happiness. I work with character strengths because research shows that they are foundational to human flourishing.
  3. Develop your strengths fluency by noticing, naming, and appreciating strengths in action. This foundational process is called strengths-spotting. Begin a strengths-spotting practice around the family dinner table. Send a daily strengths-spotting email to someone you respect or feel close to. Challenge yourself to notice someone’s strengths in action as they unfold in real time.
  4. Align your strengths with the activities you do each day, even those you find mundane. Express Gratitude to your work team in staff meetings. Explore relevant topics using your Curiosity.  Add a touch of Humor to doing the laundry. If you’re not sure how to accomplish this last one, ask someone high in Creativity for assistance!
  5. If you’re in a leadership role, create opportunities for those you serve to engage their top strengths. If you’re a teacher, help the disruptive student cultivate his Creativity to boost engagement. If you’re a manager, pass the leadership baton to a team member high in Prudence to lead the planning session. If you’re a parent, help your child express Zest with vigorous physical activities after sitting all day in school.
  6. Whether you’re in a formal leadership role or not, become a role model for strengths. Don’t just teach others about their strengths, make sure you’re living yours. Being able to draw on your own experiences inspires others.

No matter where you are on life’s journey, you can probably benefit from becoming more strength-based. Try one or all six actions. Notice how your efforts cultivate excellence and goodness. Share your wisdom with others.

Until next time,


Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author of 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
(available on


4 Reasons Why Strengths Matter

(about a 4 minute read)

There is a strengths movement underway in organizations, schools, and even communities in which leaders are being urged to lead with their strengths and help their teams become strength-based. If you’re not familiar with this movement, there are good reasons to join in. If you are familiar, there are good reasons to intensify your efforts. This post answers the question, “Why Strengths?”

As someone with Perspective as a signature strength, I like to see and understand the whole picture. Before investing my own time, resources, and energy into learning and applying my strengths in daily life, I wanted to know why strengths even matter. Perhaps you or someone you know feels the same way. If the latter, feel free to share this post as a brief introduction.

Below are my top 4 reasons:

  1. Engaging strengths is linked to the outcomes you may desire in life. If you seek fulfilling relationships. engagement at work, happiness, achievement and performance, or meaning and purpose, your strengths are internal resources that can help you shift toward those outcomes. Engaging strengths can boost your confidence, well-being, and self-esteem. It helps take your work and relationships to another level of energy, performance, and enjoyment.
  2. Strengths help you express yourself authentically and contribute in ways that are unique to you. It is virtually impossible for anyone else to have the same profile of character strengths as you. Character strengths are part of your core identity. When you express them, you express a level of integrity that comes naturally from within you.
  3. Strengths can help balance your naturally negative mindset. We all have a biological predisposition to notice what’s wrong. This probably evolved from ancient times when humans fought for survival against predators. Even the most positive people you know are hard-wired to process difficult experiences more thoroughly than positive ones. Focusing on the positive and what’s strong can feel unnatural and uncomfortable, like folding one’s arms in the opposite way. Try it, and see how it feels. If you have discomfort about engaging your strengths, overcoming this discomfort through exploration and practice is important. It can help you bring balance and energy to daily life situations.
  4. Engaging your strengths can lead the way to personal and professional growth. Focusing on weakness and what’s wrong only takes you so far. Robert Quinn, positive change expert and co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations, says that focusing on the negative tends to teach us what to avoid, while focusing on the positive teaches us what to embrace. There’s an enormous chasm between the two. Although fixing what’s wrong can help protect you from harm, embracing the positive can help you boost performance and realize potential. Both approaches can be valuable and needed. But if you seek to live into your potential, you need to cultivate strengths.

Engaging strengths is a journey, a learning process of discovery and growth. I hope your journey is helping to fuel your dreams and navigate life’s daily challenges with greater ease. Learn more about the journey here.

Until next time,


Jane S. Anderson
President, Strength Based Living
Author, 30 Days of Character Strengths:
A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best
(available on





Welcome to Strength Based Living

Greetings and welcome to the Strength Based Living (SBL) newsletter. You’re about to embark on a journey that I hope will be inspiring and meaningful. Thank you for subscribing.

About twice a month, you’ll receive an update on how to:

  1. engage your strengths for personal and professional growth.
  2. develop a deeper understanding of how individuals, families, and teams can benefit from cultivating strengths.
  3. share your strengths wisdom with others to create a ripple effect of excellence and well-being.

In these articles, I’ll explore not only the foundational practices of character strengths like strengths-spotting, naming and appreciating strengths you see in action, but other topics like becoming strength-based in your team or family.

Why not begin by strengths-spotting yourself right now? Pause and notice which strengths you’re using as you read through this article. Perhaps you’re engaging Curiosity by pursuing your interest in this topic. Maybe you’re expressing Kindness to yourself by taking a break from an onerous task that came before this. Notice that I capitalize the first letter of each character strength so you can recognize them easily. If you’re not yet familiar with your character strengths, don’t worry. The upcoming journey is filled with opportunities for learning, discovery, and growth.

Register below and look for the next SBL newsletter article in your email inbox in a few weeks.

Wishing you a day fueled by character strengths!



Discover Your Character Strengths

Join over 6 million people worldwide!

Subscribe and take VIA Institute's free survey of character strengths

Thanks for subscribing. Check your email for the link to the Character Strengths survey.