Building Your Mental Toughness #2: Use Strengths

Building Your Mental Toughness #2: Use Strengths
May 27, 2018 Niels van Hove

Actively working on building your Mental Toughness increases mental health, well-being and performance. In a series of 15 short blogs, I’ll describe 15 elements that improve your mental toughness. This is part 2: Use Strengths

Use Strengths

We all have character and skill strengths. According to Martin Seligman, leading authority in positive psychology, the path to happiness is best achieved when we learn how to maximize our strengths.

‘The good life is using your signature strength every day.’ Martin Seligman

We often spend a disproportional amount of attention to our weaknesses, yet science shows clearly that correcting our weaknesses takes us only so far on the journey to reach our potential. Doing more of what we do best opens up the most effective pathways to both success and happiness.

In a three year study a group of 53 scientist studied character traits throughout history. They concluded there are 24 character strengths we all possess in varying degrees. They fall under six broad virtue categories:

  • wisdom: strengths that that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge.
  • courage: emotional strengths that involve the will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition.
  • humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others.
  • justice: civic strengths that underlie healthy community life.
  • temperance: strengths that protect against excess
  • transcendence: strengths that forge connection to the larger universe and provide meaning.

These virtues have been developed over thousands of years of religious and philosophical traditions. They are malleable and valued in their own right by almost every culture.

VIA strength cards from The Positivity Institute

Seligman developed the scientific VIA survey of character strength, which has been taken by over 3 million people in 190 countries to make positive change for themselves. People who use their top 5 strengths each day are 6 times more likely to be engaged in their work, 1.8 times more productive and 3 times more likely to report high life satisfaction.

Activities and environments that don’t embrace your strengths will be less enjoyable, will take more energy from you, or even drain you. Using your strength provide your with more joy and energy and makes it easier to get through tough moments in life. Recent research indicate that the character strength Hope was the most significant moderator of well-being in the face of negative life events.

I really encourage you to get an idea about what your strengths are. When I discovered mine, a lot of my day to day behaviours, but also big life and career decisions made sense. The interesting thing is, the closest people around you will recognize your strengths, because it’s you. My youngest daughter asked me many times; ‘daddy, why do you always make jokes with people in the street you don’t know?’ She obviously picked up one of my top 3 strengths; humor and playfulness.

You can discover your character strengths with a free strengths test  (you’ll have to sign up using an email). Read the outcomes with an open mind and discuss them with a trusted person or a coach. Find ways to incorporate your top strengths in your daily life.



Niels is a mental toughess coach and founder of He is passionate about bringing mental toughness to the world, one individual, family, school or company at the time. He authored a self-help guide Building Mental Toughness for adults and an illustrated children’s book; My Strong Mind


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