Tool Belt Takeaways

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about strengths. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we were called to Courage as we explored the sixth and final virtue category of the VIA character strengths (1)! I described the strengths of Courage briefly and invited you to develop your personal pathway to Courage in order to galvanize action in the face of fear.

Did you discover what makes you Courageous? Be it Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, or Zest, I hope you answered the call, accepted an action opportunity, used an authentic pathway to Courage, and continued to discover your character strengths.

This week, I want to step back and celebrate how far we've come! So, let’s take a moment to remember what we’ve learned so far…

Five Powerful Reminders: 

1) Strengths are the building blocks of human flourishing. The VIA Character Strengths are not just about skills or talents that help us accomplish a particular task. Rather, these Values In Action provide a common language for what is best within us and represent pathways to virtue (1). 

2) Capitalizing on our strengths can bolster well-being, and the first step is awareness. Only by garnering awareness and identifying strengths, does it become possible to build on our strengths in action (1).

3) Most of us underutilize our personal strengths in daily life. In fact, only 17% of folks report using their character strengths most of the time each day (2). So, there is great potential for beneficial outcomes if we cultivate awareness and actively utilize our strengths more frequently.

4) Using self-identified strengths that feel authentic is both natural and energizing (3). Research supports the use of strengths can positively impact both well-being (4), life satisfaction (5), and performance (6). Wowza! That is great news and makes the use of character strengths a wonderful tool when the goal is to increase well-being and performance simultaneously (7).

5) Beneficial outcomes come from the active use of strengths! Remember, merely identifying character strengths can actually lead folks to under preform (8). Why? Folks who believe their identified character strengths are stable traits may not exert effort in developing them (9). So, maintaining a growth mindset (or the view that core aspects of one’s self are capable of development) is critical for beneficial outcomes (8).

Values In Action (VIA) - Six Virtue Categories, 24 Character Strengths:

1) Wisdom is the acquisition and use of knowledge (1). 


Pathways to Wisdom: Love of Learning, Perspective, Judgment, Creativity, and Curiosity. 

2) Humanity or the character strengths of caring represent our pathways to ‘tend and befriend’ and are typically utilized in one-on-one relationships (1). 

Pathways to Humanity: Love, Kindness, and Social Intelligence.

3) Justice describes the best possible interactions between and individual and a group/community and helps to make life fair (1). 

Pathways to Justice: Teamwork, Fairness, and Leadership.

4) Temperance protects us from excess and is the practiced ability to observe and moderate one’s emotions, motivation, and behavior internally (1).  

Pathways to Temperance: Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence, and Self-Regulation. 

5) Transcendence forges connection to something higher or larger than ourselves and provides a sense of meaning and purpose in our worlds (1).

Pathways to Transcendence: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, or Spirituality.

6) Courage works both inwardly and outwardly to help us overcome fear and impacts our thoughts, emotions, motivations, and actions (1).

Pathways to Courage: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, and Zest.

We’ve covered a lot of ground!

Take a moment before we move on and write down the character strength you identified as an authentic pathway to each of the six virtues listed above. (Don’t worry, I’ll wait.) Got it? Okay, look at your list.

Breathe it in for a minute. 

Does is it resonate with you? Does it feel authentic? Is it energizing?


You’ve spent the last six weeks cultivating a personalized tool belt of strengths to use in daily life that can promote personal well-being, help you overcome challenges, and thrive! Now, it’s time to dig in and really start to understand how we can capitalize on our strengths in action!

As you explored your six pathways to virtue and identified your personal character strength tool belt over the last six weeks, did you find some strengths to be more helpful in certain situations than others?

We tend to lean on certain strengths more than others in particular situations. Why? Context is vitally important when we employ our strengths (1). We do not operate alone. Honesty in the wrong moment may be seen as unkind. Values and virtues can complement each other in one moment and compete in the next. It is not always straight forward or easy. Just remember, a good life is lived over time, across situations, and the dynamic journey to strengths is a process. 

Additionally, we tend to express a unique and dynamic constellation of strengths in any given moment (10)! That's right. It is rare that we are using one at a time. We tend to use strengths in combination. In fact, the goal is to employ the best combination of strengths to the right degree in a particular situation (10). That can be a tall order. Over time, we will start to see which strengths in our constellations support one another and how each pathway can be helpful in a particular moment, so that we can recognize a problem and readily draw the proper tool for the task at hand.

What does your tool belt look like? 

This week, I invite you to take stock of the strengths you have identified and developed in our time together and spend some time reflecting on your personal tool-belt of strengths. 

Go back to the list you created of the six pathways to virtue that feel authentic to you. If you skipped that invitation earlier, I encourage you to do it now. Make it accessible. Perhaps you could write it on an index card that fits in your pocket or purse? Or on a post-it note that you see every day - at your desk, on a mirror, or on a door? You could even make a list in your phone and set a daily reminder in your calendar to look at it every day this week? The point is to keep your tool belt close at hand throughout the week so you can reflect.

Take a little time each day to check in, look at your tool belt, and ask what is working for you? Do you draw on your strength of Courage at work? Perhaps Transcendence helped you refuel when you were tired? Does your pathway to Justice or Temperance pop up to soothe a moment of conflict? When was your strength of Wisdom most engaged? How did Humanity impact you at home or in your primary relationships? 

Understanding where your strengths are most useful can help you develop them over time.

I hope you accept this call to examine your personal tool belt of strengths! Join me next week as we look at what some research has to say about using our strengths and discover more ways to use our tool belt of strengths to thrive. 

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.


1. Peterson C, Seligman M. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol 1). Oxford University Press; 2004.

2. Buckingham, M. Go put your strengths to work. New York, NY: Free Press; 2007.

3. Seligman, M. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press; 2002.

4. Gander F, Proyer R, Ruch W, Wyss T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2012; 1-19.

5. Seligman M, Steen T, Park N, Peterson C. Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist. 2005; 60(5), 410-421.

6. Dubreuil P, Forest J, Courcy F. From strengths use to work performance: The role of harmonious passion, subjective vitality, and concentration. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2014; 9(4), 335-349.

7. Seligman, M. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press; 2012.

8. Dweck, C. Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House; 2006.

9. Hong Y, Chiu C, Dweck C, Lin D, Wan W. Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1999; 77, 588–599.

10. Niemiec, R. VIA Character Strengths: Research and Practice (The First 10 Years). Well-Being and Cultures: Perspectives from Positive Psychology. 2013; 11-29. 

* Special thanks to for the Character Strength Mottos