The science of character

For years, a person’s “character” was viewed as something they were born with and would carry with them throughout their life. A trait that was a permanent and unchanging definition of who you were as a person.

It wasn’t until recently, in 2001, when 55 distinguished scientists began a three-year study on the science of character. They searched throughout history to find the core characters or virtues that withstood the test of time. What they found were six main categories or virtues and 24 character traits, known today as the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues. They also determined that these six virtues and 24 character traits work together to determine a person’s “character.” When practiced and developed together, a person can create a more meaningful, happy and successful life, regardless of personal circumstances.

This all happens in the prefrontal cortex of the brain where a control panel (for lack of a better analogy) organizes and controls all executive functions by organizing and controlling a person’s thoughts and actions. Simply put: it’s the self-control filter.

What research has found is that people can change their character by simply taking a moment to focus their attention on their thoughts and actions. When you determine your strengths and focus on building upon them, their actions can have a lasting effect on their happiness and well-being.

Everyone wants to become the best version of themselves and research has identified seven character strengths that are gamechangers in finding more academic success, happiness and achievement. These are optimism, gratitude, curiosity, social intelligence, self-control, enthusiasm and perseverance. By concentrating on those along with your own personal strengths, you can become your best version on yourself.

Check out this infographic and determine your strengths. Then ask yourself how you can apply them more in your home, work, school and community. Let’s take it a step further and focus on those around us. Let’s help them recognize their strengths and help them become stronger, too. Let’s start shaping and strengthening positive character traits within oneself and those around us.

VIA Institute on the Science of Character
Science of Character video

Character Lives