The Value And Strength Of ‘Character’

Individual Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

Have you ever wondered what “character” really is? The word “character” traces its roots to a Greek word that means to engrave. From the ancient Greek and then into Latin this led to the idea that, according to Aristotle, how we act over and over again engraves in our soul what becomes known as character. That’s why, when someone does something that people would not expect, they say they’re acting “out of character.”

A woman raising her fist in triumph

Modern psychology recognizes that character plays an integral part in our own state of mind and, importantly, our happiness. Which might lead you to wonder, of all the character traits, which ones most profoundly affect us and our happiness. Mark Travers, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, says, “A new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that while all character strengths serve an important function, some may be more central to psychological well-being than others — and that zest, hope, and humor are the three strengths most commonly found in well-rounded and psychologically healthy individuals.”

That might be a surprising list, but if you look at the qualities associated with these traits, you’ll see some common themes.

  • Zest — mastery, health, engagement, pleasure, optimism
  • Hope — optimism, pleasure, mastery
  • Humor — pleasure, humanity, optimism

“This squares with other research,” says Travers, “showing the character strength of zest, or the ability to approach life situations with excitement and energy (and not halfheartedly), to have the strongest ties to overall life satisfaction.”

In short, research is showing that enjoying life and approaching it with enthusiasm directly correlates to happiness.

This research is part of a project conducted at the University of Zurich that examined how 24 traits affected our state of mind. If you’re wondering what some of those other traits might be, they included:

  • Courage — the ability to overcome inner and outer resistance through willpower to reach a goal.
  • Humanity — the ability to have loving interactions with people.
  • Justice — contributing to the welfare of one’s community.
  • Temperance — counteracting excessive behavior.

It’s a fascinating discussion involving how our character is linked to career success, academic achievement and personal health. Read the entire article here.