Character Strengths and Purpose

When you combine your character strengths with your purpose, it creates a powerful synergy. Your character strengths are the tools and qualities you possess to fulfill your purpose. They empower you to pursue your mission and make a meaningful contribution. By aligning your strengths with your purpose, you set the stage for a fulfilling and meaningful and purposeful life.

Title Photo by Zeynep Gül Ceylan

Once Upon a Time in Harmonyville

Once upon a time, in the small town of Harmonyville, there was a young woman named Lily who felt a deep calling to make the world a better place. Her purpose was clear: she wanted to bring joy and happiness to those in her community.

But Lily didn’t know where to begin. She wasn’t a millionaire who could fund grand charitable projects, nor was she a famous public speaker who could inspire masses. She was just a regular person with a strong desire to make a difference.

One day, as luck would have it, she attended a local community meeting, where she met a man named Lou. Lou was a retired teacher known for his patience, empathy, and excellent communication skills.

As they got to know each other, Lily realized that Lou’s character strengths aligned perfectly with her purpose. She shared her dream of spreading joy, and Lou, with his kind-hearted nature, suggested they start a project together. They decided to create a community garden where people could come to relax, connect, and learn about gardening.

Lily’s passion and purpose provided the vision, and Lou’s character strengths brought the plan to life. They reached out to their neighbors for support, and soon the garden flourished. People from all walks of life came together, benefiting from the shared purpose and the character strengths of each individual involved.

The garden became a hub of joy and happiness, embodying the idea that when purpose aligns with character strengths, amazing things can happen.

When Character Strengths and Purpose Combine

As Lily and Lou came to understand, when you put your character strengths to work to fulfill your purpose, you begin to find ways to contribute to making our world a better place – new and innovative ways to be of Service. It all begins with finding your purpose (if you don’t know already) and discovering your own unique combination of character strengths. Then, when you put the two together, as the story says “amazing things can happen”.

What amazing things will you do? Let’s find out . . .

Defining Purpose

“How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out.” ~ Jim Carrey

As we’ve discussed before, purpose has three components: universal, unique, and ultimate.

Universal is embodied in the phrase from Abraham Maslow: “What one can be, one must be.” When we endeavor to live an Excelerated Life™, we understand our common, or universal, purpose as “to give our best in Service to the world.”

Our unique purpose, and the one we are primarily discussing today, is to contribute our personal Service based on our unique combination of talents, skills, strengths, interests, and abilities. You came to this life to do something that only you can do. Your talents, interests, skills, and abilities make you uniquely suited to your purpose, to give your best in Service to your world.

Then there is our ultimate purpose. This is both universal and unique. We all have it (universal) and we each express it in different ways (unique). We could state it as to show up as the best version of you moment to moment to moment – that is, to embrace an Excelerated Life™!

“The purpose of life is not to be happy,” says Emerson. “It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” This speaks to all three: universal, unique, and ultimate.

The Power Within: The VIA Character Strengths

In our journey to discover and live our unique purpose, it is helpful to look for the qualities that make us unique and to recognize the attributes that shape our personalities.

The VIA Character Strengths provide us with a powerful framework for self-discovery. These 24 distinct character strengths serve as a roadmap to our individual virtues and values, helping us discover our true selves and embrace our potential for growth, connection, and happiness.

There are over 5.1 million possible combinations of these top strengths [Niemiec and McGrath] which makes yours unique to you. When you use them purposefully, when you develop and expand your own unique strengths, then you begin to flourish. And one way to put your specific combination of strengths to good use is to combine them with your unique purpose.

The Synergy Between Purpose and Strengths

Purpose and character strengths are deeply interconnected. When you align your strengths with your purpose, it can lead to a fulfilling and meaningful and purposeful life.

Character strengths, as defined by the VIA Classification of Character Strengths, are the positive traits and qualities that reflect our core virtues. The VIA Classification identifies six virtues that are found throughout all the wisdom literature and religions of the world. These six virtues are:  wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, and spirituality and transcendence. [Seligman] These virtue groups encompass qualities like kindness, curiosity, leadership, creativity – 24 different qualities that we all have in varying combinations. Identifying and understanding your character strengths is the first step in aligning them with your purpose.

Purpose is your guiding star, providing direction and meaning to your life. It involves finding a cause, a mission, or a set of values that resonate deeply with you. Purpose gives your life a sense of significance and inspires you to make a positive impact in the world. This means using your unique purpose to serve the ultimate purpose.

When you combine your character strengths with your purpose, it creates a powerful synergy. Your character strengths are the tools and qualities you possess to fulfill your purpose. They empower you to pursue your mission and make a meaningful contribution. When your strengths are in alignment with your purpose, you’ll experience a deep sense of fulfillment and passion.

character strengths and purpose

Let’s consider some examples.

If your purpose is to help people in need, your character strength of compassion can be a driving force. You can work in roles like social work, healthcare, or volunteering, using your compassionate nature to make a difference in the lives of others.

When your purpose is to drive innovation and creativity in the world, character strengths like creativity, curiosity, and open-mindedness can be instrumental. You can become an inventor, artist, or entrepreneur, using your creative strengths to develop new solutions and ideas.

Or if your purpose is to lead and bring about positive change in your community or organization, your character strength of leadership can be pivotal. You can take on leadership roles and inspire others to work towards shared goals, fostering a sense of purpose in those you lead.

When your purpose is to share wisdom and mentor the next generation, character strengths like wisdom and love of learning become essential. You can become a teacher, coach, or mentor, imparting your knowledge and experience to others.

If your purpose is to explore and discover new knowledge, your character strength of curiosity is your greatest asset. You can become a scientist, researcher, or explorer, satisfying your inquisitive nature while contributing to human understanding.

By combining your unique character strengths with your unique purpose, you have the means and ability to give your best in Service to the world. Aligning your character strengths with your purpose enhances your sense of fulfillment and makes your journey rewarding and impactful. When you leverage your unique strengths to fulfill your purpose, it becomes a driving force for positive change and personal growth.

Discovering Your Purpose

Your purpose – the thing you came here to do – is one thing that makes you who you are. You brought something with you when you came here that makes you uniquely suited to fulfill your purpose. No one else who has ever been born or who will ever be born can fulfill your purpose. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Purpose is not something you select or choose or decide on. Purpose is a thing you discover. It is there all along, you only need to find out what It is. [McWilliams]

If you haven’t yet discovered your purpose, that’s the first step. The “Find Your Purpose” worksheet can help with this.

How do you know when you’ve identified your life purpose? Here are some clues.

  • You feel a strong connection with the purpose you’ve written down.
  • You have a great desire to fulfill it.
  • You feel deep pleasure when you act in accordance with it.
  • Your interests naturally go in that direction.
  • You feel if you do this, it will give your life meaning and inspiration.

Identifying Your Strengths

The first step to using your strengths, including your Signature Strengths, is to take the VIA Strengths Survey at the VIA Institute on Character website. You’ll receive a free “Strengths Profile” report, listing all 24 character strengths sorted by your individual score, with the highest Signature Strengths listed first. It also contains a brief description of each strength. For a small fee, you can get a more in-depth report that gives additional information on each strength with suggestions for ways to use your Signature Strengths.

Once you know your strengths profile, explore in more detail the strengths that appeal to you, including but not limited to your Signature Strengths. You can find ample information about each strength at the VIA Institute on Character website. For example, each strength is looked at in detail on this page.

Link Character Strengths and Purpose

OK, you have (I hope) discovered your purpose and you know your character strengths. Now, how can you find ways to use your strengths in concert with your purpose? Consider how your strengths can be applied to make a positive impact on others and the world. Here are some steps to consider.

Determine how you can live into your purpose in your work, your relationships, and in your personal pursuits. Look for opportunities to use your character strengths in your daily activities as you go about living your purpose.

Regularly take time to reflect on how your character strengths are contributing to your purpose. Adjust and refine your actions based on this reflection. Then establish short- and long-term goals that align with your purpose and character strengths.

Stay open to growth. You are not operating in a vacuum and, while our purpose seldom changes completely, you may find different and new ways to pursue and fulfill yours. At the same time, be open to discovering new strengths or refining your understanding of your existing ones.

The Unfolding Tapestry of Your Excelerated Life™

As you embark on the journey of aligning your character strengths with your unique purpose, see it as weaving a tapestry. Each thread represents a strength, each color symbolizes a different aspect of your purpose. Your life is a canvas waiting for the vibrant hues of your strengths to paint a story that reflects the essence of who you are.

Remember, the journey is not about perfection but about progress. Embrace the challenges, learn from the setbacks, and celebrate the victories, no matter how small. Life is not a destination; it’s a continuous unfolding, and so is your Excelerated Life™.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Your unique purpose and character strengths are the instruments with which you compose the symphony of your existence. Let the music resonate with authenticity, purpose, and the harmonious interplay of your strengths.

The adventure awaits. Embrace it fully. Live it boldly. That’s how you embrace your Excelerated Life™! 🚀.

What could you do to bring your strengths to bear on living out your purpose?
What is one small step you can take today to get started on that path?
Share your comments by leaving a post below.

Excelerated Strengths™ — discovering and using your Signature Strengths — is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


McWilliams, Peter. Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School – But Didn’t. Allen Park, MI: Mary Books / Prelude Press, 1994.

Niemiec, PhD., Ryan and Robert E McGrath, PhD. The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality. Cincinnati, Ohio: VIA Institute on Character, 2019.

Seligman, Ph.D., Martin E. P. Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press, 2002

This blog post includes research information and suggestions provided by ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. The content was generated with AI assistance and is intended to provide information and guidance. Please note that the suggestions are not official statements from OpenAI. To learn more about ChatGPT and its capabilities, you can visit the OpenAI website.

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