VIA Free Character Strengths Test (Science of Well-being Week 1 Optional Rewirements)

The next optional rewirement in Week 1 of the Science of Well-being course is the free Character Strengths test on the VIA website. The test comprises of 120 questions and takes 15 minutes or so to complete. There are no right/wrong answers, and there are no better/worse answers. The key is to be authentic, so that you can derive the most from the experience.

How you give answers in the VIA Character Strengths test is on a 5 step scale for each question:

  • Very much like me
  • Like me
  • Neutral
  • Unlike me
  • Very much unlike me

After taking the test, you will get a simple ranking of your 24 strengths in order for you (i.e. not relative to everyone else who took it), relative to other characteristics. In other words, it is how you see yourself with respect to the 24 character traits in order of your self-perception. If you answered the questions authentically as recommended, then your results will be close to the truth. If not, it’s then just your self-image. The results have nothing to do with anyone else in comparison. Your strongest trait might well be weak, and weaker than someone else’s weakest trait. On the other hand, your weakest trait might still be strong, and stronger than someone else’s strongest trait. It’s all your traits relative to each other. Always keep that in mind when interpreting the results!

You can pay for more in-depth tests and details, from $20-$50 US, but I didn’t. I neither felt the need for it, nor was it even suggested for the course, so I did not.

Finally, the course encourages students to print it out the free keep track of their top 5 strengths for use throughout the course. Another Week 1 optional rewirements calls upon this result, which I will post in the next post. For now, though, let’s get to the results and what I think of them.

Below are the 24 characteristics in alphabetical order, so you can see them all before seeing my list and not knowing what else might, or might not, remain from the list to show up:

  1. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
  2. Bravery
  3. Creativity
  4. Curiosity
  5. Fairness
  6. Forgiveness
  7. Gratitude
  8. Honesty
  9. Hope
  10. Humility
  11. Humour
  12. Judgment
  13. Kindness
  14. Leadership
  15. Love
  16. Love of learning
  17. Perseverance
  18. Perspective
  19. Prudence
  20. Self-Regulation
  21. Social intelligence
  22. Spirituality
  23. Teamwork
  24. Zest

My VIA Character Strengths Ranking

I gave probably more than my fair share of Very much like me or Like me answers so that it probably didn’t take much to bring some traits down to the bottom of my list when they might still be pretty strong in me. That’s my opinion, but I’m betting others would say similar things about me as I take pride in giving genuine answers on these self-assessments, even when I don’t like the answers and wish it could be different. Ultimately, looking at my list overall, I would say that my strongest characteristics are, both, strong and frequently shown because I have the opportunity to do so. On the contrary, I would say the weakest traits are still generally pretty strong in me, but that I just don’t get to show them much for reasons in the comments. The ones in the middle may truly be my weakest traits, but are in the middle because I get a chance to show them more often than the weak traits. Some of the questions, the way they are worded with frequency in the statement, means you answer with a strong Very much like me or Like me, if you get to show the characteristic often, even though if it were asked like how strong would I rate the same skill in myself, I wouldn’t put it any more than the middle point of “neutral”. But let’s go through the results and see what I got.


1. Creativity
Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it.
No doubt this is a VERY strong trait in me. I hardly do anything the conventional way, though usually with purpose to improve or to reflect something, rather than just for the sake of being different. That’s not how I am creative. I’m creative with a purpose!
2. Curiosity
Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering.
This is also VERY strong. Most of my creativity is assisted by my curiosity to find something different, and most of my creativity serves to satisfy my curiosity.
3. Honesty
Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.
Most of the honesty I have to do in my life is to myself in giving me a lot of “tough love” to improve myself. I strongly believe in honesty being the best policy, with silence being a legitimate form of honesty where there’s not a lot of foreseeable consequence for not verbalizing my honesty. In the latter situation, if I must tell a “white lie”, then I won’t hesitate to, either. I call it all “sensible honesty is the best policy”.
4. Hope
Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.
I definitely have a LOT of hope in life, though I have no problem giving up hope and accepting a situation, like the biases towards Asian men for dating potential by women in Nova Scotia in my realistic dating age range. See this post, near bottom, for my conclusion and how I came to it.
5. Humour
Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.
My sense of humour is something a lot of people I have met like about me, and who think I’m a funny or very funny person. Amazing since it once was almost non-existent until I took a stand-up comedy course, and did some for trial by fire, to unleash what I always thought I had in me as a very introverted youth, but could rarely get out in time to be funny in the moment, since timing is so important in humour. Now, my sense of humour is so liberal that, sometimes, it gets me in trouble! Humour is also how I deal with a lot of negative things, trying to find something funny in it, fully believing that humour is the best medicine.
6. Zest
Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.
My love for life is something I don’t see matched by a lot of people. In general, I would say the only people who do show a similar amount to me are the ones totally dedicated to something like it’s almost all their identity. I, however, show this zest spread out for everything in life, in which’s capacity I don’t know many who can match me for it.
7. Judgment
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.
This is judgement, and not judgmental, and it is more a corrective mechanism here to question one’s conclusions, rather than a mechanism of drawing quick, possibly faulty, conclusions. I make a lot of decisions in processing things, ready to decide any time I have to based only on what I have at the time. However, I also change my mind if more information becomes available that contradicts my initial decisions, and I don’t end up condemning people like a judgmental person would often. I might react to something I judge on, but it’s not in the capacity putting them down. I also don’t rush my decisions if I don’t have to, and generally have pretty good intuition not to have to change my mind a lot from some initial observations and conclusions.
8. Self-Regulation
Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.
I take great pride in my self-discipline, as I call it. I have a lot of it, but I’ll let myself relax on it enough so as to have some fun in life, that I would say #8 is a fair spot for it. For pure characteristic strength, though, I’d put it probably top 4 or 5 because I consider patience, something that doesn’t seem to be measured here, to be one of my greatest traits, and much of my self-regulation is merely patience to wait until a better time, rather than denying myself something.
9. Fairness
Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
I also pride myself on being “fair” in life. However, “fair” is probably more “justice” or “equity” for me as described in the definition, rather than “equality”. That is, not everyone deserves the same treatment. That is, some who are less capable deserve more of some things, and some more capable deserve less, or in the appropriate circumstance. It’s not a blanket response of “equality” for everyone, though there’s a lot of room for that, too.
10. Gratitude
Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
The awareness of this is strong and constant in me, though I usually don’t take a lot of time deliberately to give thanks. Not to the extent I think this characteristic should be this high, at least, compared to others on my list that are lower. Most of my gratitude comes from the realization of where I am compared to others in what I am fortunate to have that even in bad times, it’s not all that bad.
11. Perspective
Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself/others.
This I definitely take great pride in having, and I have provided wise counsel to enough people, especially on things you wouldn’t think someone my age now (or at the time), or possibly lacking enough experience in (e.g. love), to be doing. I pride myself a lot in having a rare and insightful perspective into all the big things in life (e.g. love, friendship, death, work), from the big picture to the littlest details. The fact this characteristic sits at #11 for me would disappoint me if I took this list more seriously like it was the be all and end all. If you have a lot of strong traits, though, they can’t all be Top 5, and that it might be hard to even pick out a Top 5. 🙂
12. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.
That different perspective on how I see the world, physically as well as attitude, comes through here. For me, soon after I observe something, I’m also deconstructing it, which exposes the beauty in the details (and flaws) a bit more than someone who would only observe it.
13. Prudence
Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.
I am usually a very calculated risk taker, but that hardly means I don’t take risks. I take them after being satisfied I can handle the consequences I can think of happening from failure, of which I am not afraid like many are for how they may be viewed as weak, inept, foolish or such. I have done enough in life I don’t have to worry about that as I can cite things and out debate them should they want to expose their judgment of me. I also love proving people wrong as a source of motivation. Finally, I think showing some vulnerability, that you’re human like everyone else and are willing to open yourself up about it, is a key part of being a good leader, rather than some almost ideal figurehead any human will know you’re not. You’ll get much more buy-in and support to show people you have flaws like them and that you’re not afraid to show them and discuss them, rather than you being superior to them. Any mistake you make as a leader then will completely discredit you and expose your superior attitude as flawed and there goes the trust you’ll need from those you lead if you want to lead them effectively.
14. Perseverance
Finishing what one starts; persevering in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks.
If I had to pick my list of Top 5 characteristics from the 24 here, some may be hard to decide among, but not this one. It might appear at #14 because most of the perseverance I exhibit these days are by choice, not necessity, and may be more like patience rather than having to dig deep to get out of holes in life. The questions asked probably revealed that. But make no mistake, think thrice before going to war with me on anything I’d be willing to go to war on! 😉
15. Leadership
Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same time maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.
I would say I’m a reluctant leader by nature, and that this characteristic is actually higher at #15 than where I’d put it. I’ll admit that publicly, yes! I am an ENTJ by natural Myers-Briggs persona, which is nicknamed the Field Marshall. When called upon, it is very easy for me to pull out that persona. But how can I claim to be that while saying I’m a reluctant leader? That’s because I have realized over the years I don’t know how to lead gently. It’s like going to battle or war rather than let’s just get this group assignment done today. Winston Churchill was great for war, but less so for peace. I tend to overdo it with my zest, determination, ambition and such, when I lead, so I’ve convinced myself to hold off until I am really needed, at which time, the conviction with which I lead will be ideal for the situation. I have trouble leading in second or third gear, one might analogize, but that first gear can be overwhelming for many, if not most, situations in life unless you were on a battlefield, or backed into a corner, rather than just leading a path through life. I study a lot on leadership, but my natural tendency is not to herd sheep as a leader in as much as mobilizing them to defeat the wolf! 😉
16. Social intelligence
Being aware of the motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.
This one I had known to be generally “average” for me. While reading the book Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, from reflection on my life with respect to the aspects of social intelligence, I concluded I was probably only average in this area, which I would not include knowing what makes other people tick. That I have a much better than average grasp on! As with being aware of others’ motivations should I try to figure it out. Often I don’t care, which might be why I don’t have a great ranking for it. As for fitting into social situations, I wouldn’t say I’m awkward by any stretch, but I will be myself and individualistic from time to time despite perceptions, like wearing my personally designed and sewn work dress shirts and pants, which are quite professional looking, but not the norm, and especially for government. Too artsy rather than a drone look, I would say. 🙂
17. Kindness
Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.
I have a lot of kindness, but I am also very discriminating where I disperse it, which might be why it appears this low on my list (and this list is only a relative comparison among my characteristics, not in relation to anyone or everyone else’s). I realized long ago I could not save the world, but that I could save my world, and that’s where I focus my kindness. For example, when it comes to kindness in the form of donations, I don’t like giving to big charities that get a lot of donations already, and that needs to spend a lot to get more donations. I’d rather spend directly on a specific case or person, become involved in the solution rather than give and turn my back, get more bang for my buck, and know for certain I’ve helped solve a real problem to some extent, even if it were temporary relief that would be all I could do. However, I prefer to give in terms of time and skills, which, if paid for if nobody offered up, would cost far more money than I’d be willing to part with, and which sometimes money wouldn’t be able to buy, like genuine caring for someone to listen to them, be there for them, through tough times, and not like a paid therapist. I have a lot of time and skills, and I offer up a lot of both. I just pick out where and how very discriminantly.
18. Love of learning
Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows.
This one is shockingly low for me on this list given most of the things I pursue in life, and certainly anything over the top like documenting the work required for this course, is out of my love for learning. I constantly joke about how learning is my drug of choice and that I’m addicted to it. This assessment must have dispersed the various qualities that I associate with love of learning, like curiosity as stated in this characteristic’s description, for my results to have been so low on my list relative to other characteristics I exhibit.
19. Forgiveness
Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting others’ shortcomings; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.
I’d have put this possibly even lower on my list because I don’t forgive easily in the true sense of forgiveness. My “karma” usually isn’t nice to those who do me wrong, with tales of how some things had turned out to be epic almost like Greek myths! In that sense, while I don’t overtly forgive in some situations, I do really let it go with faith that my “karma” will take care of it all far better than anything I might ever be able to do for retribution. I would not count that as forgiveness, but that’s not holding a grudge, either. As for giving some a second chance, I’d say I’m average there. Pending the situation, where I will put my humanity ahead of my rationality, I would say I’m even more forgiving than the average person. But given how well I keep the people not positive to my life away, as in those not good towards me rather than those struggling cause I tend to help them, I don’t have to give a lot of second chances. Where I don’t is when it comes to love. Reject or cheat on me and that is that. I don’t subscribe to the possible one true love in life. There are plenty of good people to love not to have to waste time on second chances in those context. Reject like with an ask for a date, or cheat on me, and that is that, despite what my heart might plea. My head is in firm control over those situations. 🙂
20. Humility
Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.
I’m surprised this one is as low on my list. I share a lot of what I do with others, but in the same way I hope they share what they do with me to know, entertain and/or inspire, not to brag I am better or more special. In fact, when people tell me that certain things I do are amazing, I genuinely come back with I’m sure they could do it as well, because I consider it all skills rather than talent, and skills can be learned. Where I might differ from them is the passion I have to stick with some things to take them to higher levels, but I’m not special there. We all just pick our own things to focus on. I’m constantly reminded by some of the “elites” I know in most things I do, who focus a lot more of their life in those things, for which I can’t come close to matching and don’t expect anywhere near the same high level of outcomes. Some I know even if I devoted the same effort, I can’t get to because therein creeps some talent and/or genetic predisposition (elite athletes), but it’s only at that higher level. I regard talent as only a head start, short cut and/or ceiling to excelling at something, but the rest, like competency to a decent level and ability to get there, for most things, is just a skill, and that can be learned.
21. Bravery
Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.
Of the 24 characteristics listed, I might well put this one last on my list because I am fortunate to have a life where I don’t have to display a lot of it. Where I have, I know I am up to the task. Also, where I do display bravery, it’s only in the reputational sense of possibly looking foolish in front of others for failing, not physical, daring bravery. Yet, I know a lot of people who can’t even handle the reputational stuff, especially in some past work places. Also, with regards to what I said about being a reluctant leader, I won’t show some traits here until really needed to be called upon for the conviction with which I pursue it being overwhelming for many, if not most, situations.
22. Spirituality
Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.
This one is perhaps the most shocking for me in terms of ranking. My spirituality is what holds a lot of things together for me. It’s not a spirituality of the religious kind, though, which might be why it showed up here. I answered all the religion questions as “very unlike me”, though they are not the only ones making up this characteristic, I am sure. Otherwise, it’d be at the bottom of my list. Most of my spirituality, though, I will also say, is of the rational kind. The possibly irrational belief of what I have rationalized out for goals, place, perspectives, etc. is “correct”, and that I should plan and act out my life on those principles. The faith is in the belief those principles are correct, that my rationalization skills are superbly sound, not in the principles themselves that had been rationalized.
23. Teamwork
Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share.
can work well in a team, as I have demonstrated regularly in adult life at work and many volunteering pursuits. However, I work best on my own where I don’t have to worry about being overwhelming to, or expecting too much of, anybody. I’ll just do it myself and only have myself to blame where I fall short, which I will do for self-improvement purposes. A lot of my creativity also doesn’t sit well in groups because groups normalize, and creativity is the opposite of that, being different from the norm. Creativity is my #1 characteristic on this list, which I won’t dispute much for how strong I know that force is within me, and my reluctant leadership coming in at #15, it is not surprising to me then this teamwork characteristic shows up so low on my list.
24. Love
Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people.
Ah, what do I say about this other than that in appearance, it is absolutely right! As someone who has forsaken the opportunity for love due to extreme unfairness of the society around him (see this post), for better opportunities to improve the world, it’s not hard to conclude I am not very capable of loving. Well that was anything but a light decision. Rather, it was a very calculated risk. I hoped, and have proven, I could do without love in that sense through my other traits providing substitutes that could keep me happy, not that I am able to be happy without love as a natural condition. Add on the fact that I doesn’t have my own family or pets, I lives far from my Parents and other extended family (by circumstance), and I can absolutely overrule the irrationality of love to forgive if cheated upon without exception, and can do the same for rejection with regards to future interest, and yes, I do seem like I’m incapable of love or being loved. However, I would vehemently claim the opposite. Given the way I approach less passionate things in life with so much zest and conviction, and am not dysfunctional in any way, why or how could one conclude I wouldn’t be capable in the most natural and passionate thing to life? They just need to see me in love when that time comes. The only way this debate will only ever get settled, though, is whenever I get my next chance, something that hasn’t happened in over a decade and a half of living in Nova Scotia. We can only wait and see in the meanwhile. I promise you, should I get the chance, my Character Strength of Love will be in my Top 5, if not the Top Character Strength, when all will be said and done! How will that be for letting love change me as a person? As for loving others, my family will attest to my capability to love them. And if you put me in any job where love might have to be held back, like a social worker for children or other victims, I guarantee you it will not be long before my job limitations will be too much to allow idiots to keep on doing what they do, and that there’ll be some vigilante justice happening on behalf of the kid or other victim! Thank goodness I knew that a long time ago and never even thought about any similar jobs! 🙂


So that’s my list of 24 Character Strengths in decreasing order. I will not even attempt to try and create a list the way I self-perceive because there are just too many fine points to compare for judging if some characteristics should be above or below another. It’s too close a call to make decisively, in other words. I have pointed out a few I saw as being grossly incorrect, and will stick to those rather than accepting what some generic system of a bunch of questions might say. I have heavily self-analyzed myself throughout life to know better. Still, it was a really interesting exercise to do, and even more to respond to! A lot of this I had already formulated in my self-perception at a general level, but having to write it out made it all clearer, from which I will benefit and made the extensive effort very worthwhile for me.

The next part of Week 1’s optional rewirement is to take the Top 5 characteristics here and execute them in various ways for a week. Interesting since I tend to approach things by bringing up the rear, to work on the weakest parts, in life, although I sometimes realize I should capitalize on the strengths more if the weak parts for some particular situation isn’t all that weak. I’ll blog about that tomorrow after I will have thought and planned out how I will execute that next optional rewirements assignment.

I will also watch a lecture video in the course on character strengths and applications, from Week 5, as suggested. There are good reasons for this out of sync plan, I’m sure. I just don’t know what it is right now so I’ll just state it and leave it as is.


To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.

And click here if you want to register for the Science of Well-being course, by Professor Laurie Santos, free on Coursera!


A little video demonstrating Creativity, my top Character Strength…



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