What is Positive Psychology, how does it relate to Values in Action Inventory Strength (VIA-IS), and what does that have to do with coaching?

“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between.”  It takes seriously those things that make life most worth living.  What is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and therefore deserves as much attention.  It is the study of what we are doing when we are not frittering life away.  pg 4

One of the best ways, the founders of Positive Psychology determined, to fundamentally frame the positive aspects of human life was to study character and character strengths.  Character strengths:

·         Are ubiquitous across cultures

·         Are fulfilling

·         Are morally valued

·         Do not diminish others

·         Have obvious antonyms that are negative

·         Are trait-like

·         Are measurable

·         Are distinct

·         Are strikingly embodied in some people

·         Are observable in some children or youth

·         Can be selectively absent

·         Have enabling institutions

A coach who is trained in VIA-IS can help the client resolve problems within these contexts!

Character strengths differ from talents and skills because they fall into the moral domain.  This is a less-than-satisfactory conclusion because we must cede the designation of a character strength to the larger society and culture.” Pg 147

“The VIA-IS is intended for use by adults and has been completed in five different incarnations by almost 350,000 individuals (as of 2006) from more than 200 different nations.  It is a face-valid questionnaire that measures the degree to which respondents endorse items reflecting the various strengths of character in the classification.  There are 10 items per strength (240 total).  For example, the character strength of forgiveness is measured with items such as, “I always allow others to leave their mistakes in the past and make a fresh start,” “I believe it is best to forgive and forget,” “I am unwilling to accept apologies” (reverse scored) and “I hold grudges” (reverse scored). Pg 150.

“…. our complex emotional experiences sometimes blend the positive and negative, how optimism is most meaningfully apparent when we think about setbacks and failures, how crises can reveal our strengths of character, how ongoing challenges are a prerequisite for us to experience flow in the moment and to achieve something important in a lifetime, and how relationship success is foreshadowed not by the absence of problems but how we resolve those that arise.” Pg 306.

Reference:  Peterson, Christopher.  A Primer in Positive Psychology. 2006 Oxford University Press, New York, NY

The VIA Classification contains 24 strengths of character organized under six core virtues:

·         Strengths of wisdom and knowledge include recognition of five character strengths related to the acquisition and use of information in the service of the good life:

o   Creativity

o   Curiosity

o   Love of learning

o   Open-mindedness

o   Perspective

·         Strengths of courage entail the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal.

o   Authenticity

o   Bravery

o   Persistence

o   Zest

·         Strengths of humanity include positive traits manifest in caring relationships with others.

o   Kindness

o   Love

o   Social intelligence

·         Strengths of justice are broadly social, relevant to the optimal interaction between the individual and the group or the community.

o   Fairness

o   Leadership

o   Teamwork

·         Strengths of temperance are positive traits that protect us from excess.  Hatred is an excess against which forgiveness and mercy protect us, for example.

o   Forgiveness/mercy

o   Modesty/humility

o   Prudence

o   Self-regulation

·         Strengths of transcendence may at first glance seem a mixed lot, but the common theme is that each allows individuals to forge connections to the larger universe and thereby provide meaning to their lives.

o   Appreciation of beauty and excellence

o   Gratitude

o   Hope

o   Humor

o  Religiousness/spirituality

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