Character Strengths Matter by Shannon Polly

Character Strengths Matter

How to Live a Full Life
Email this review


Editors Polly and Britton expand upon the work begun by the late University of Michigan psychology professor Christopher Peterson and former American Psychological Association president Marty Seligman in this guide to the 24 character strengths.

According to Seligman, positive personality traits, or character strengths, form the backbone of positive psychology. Gaining a foundational knowledge of these traits predicates a full life and involves three steps: becoming aware of “signature strengths,” exploring their meanings, and mindfully implementing them. Polly and Britton describe each trait at length and include relevant articles, to-do lists, and inspirational passages meant to be read aloud. The second half includes essays from those who’ve studied and realized their signature strengths. One writer, Scott Asalone, co-founder of A&S Global Management Consulting, lists best practices for using Peterson’s research in corporate workshops. Executive coach Yee-Ming Tan discusses how assessing one’s strengths plays a role in a negative-feedback environment: “The power…is not just in the identification of strengths but in the integration and the shift that comes afterwards.” Character strengths range from appreciation to zest, but the depth of each chapter varies wildly. Virtues like fairness and humility strike the biggest chord, explain Polly and Britton, when they promote increasing self-awareness. An activity for practicing fairness suggests self-monitoring when errors are made to encourage being forthright and admitting mistakes. While the guide offers a quick, easily digestible list of admirable traits, the quality of the advice for cultivation of those traits varies. For example, an activity for curiosity essentially suggests reading more often and broadly. Furthermore, the suggestion to perform three acts of kindness per week doesn’t offer a strategy for sustaining the practice. The guide isn’t designed to be read cover to cover, and it’s handiest when used as reference material.

Well-researched and skimmable but sometimes light on actionable strategy. 

Pub Date: June 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-692-46564-6
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Positive Psychology News
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


IndieHow Can I Help? by Joe Gurkoff
by Joe Gurkoff
IndieCHANGING BEHAVIOR by Georgianna Donadio
by Georgianna Donadio
by John P. Kildahl