Friday, 3 December 2010

Strengths vs values

  I often work with clients in the area of strengths and values.  But what's the difference?
To explore strengths, I often use the VIA signature strengths test, and it’s worth noting that of course ‘VIA’ stands for values in action.  So are strengths the same as values?
In practice I find words like ‘strengths’ and ‘values’ become a bit overwhelmed by the meanings we load on to them, so probably more for my own benefit than anything else, I wanted to rehearse my understanding of the differences. 

I bet you can hardly wait... 

Values are defined by Harris (2009) as chosen life directions.  I like this.  Simple.

Peterson (2007) described signature strengths as:
“akin to what Allport (1961) identified as personal traits. These are strengths of character that a person owns, celebrates, and frequently exercises...which bring a sense of authenticity ("this is the real me"), and a feeling of excitement while displaying them, particularly at first”. 
This fits Alex Linley’s definition of a strength which is:
 “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance”.
These definitions suggest a number of contrasts with values, not least that they are 'pre-existing' not 'freely chosen', and they’re linked with feelings of excitement, ‘particularly at first’.  In contrast for me, the truly liberating aspect of values is that because they are a choice, they are far less dependent on how we feel in a given moment.  

It's the difference between having a marriage which is based on feelings of love, or based on a choice to love someone.
Strengths can be useful to help people evaluate what course of action to take.  But it is only values which enable us to freely choose that direction, work out what we want to stand for, and avoid getting stuck.   


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the cool article. I was looking for a simple explanation of the difference between strengths and values and i found it. Love the name "Headstuck"

Elaine Cox said...

Extremely helpful short blog, thank you.