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What Character Strengths Should Coaching Students Develop to Change Habits Effectively? | Life Coaching Certification

Research has shown that the four character strengths associated with changing habits effectively, Hope, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Creativity, do not feature strongly in a JSCS student sample. We offer a few simple suggestions to build those qualities. Keep reading to find out how to gain your life coaching certification.

Written by Dr. Joan Swart

Character Strengths Involved in Change

Character strengths are the building blocks of positive psychology approaches (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Instead of focusing on a client’s shortcomings and dysfunction, an awareness is cultivated of using and developing their strengths to stimulate the helpful behavior and attitude required for productive change (Niemiec, 2017).

Although others also count, the character strengths of creativity, perseverance, forgiveness, self-regulation, and hope play a determining role in successful and sustainable habit change.

#1 – Hope

Firstly, the motivation to pursue a habit change is inherently based on hope, and optimistic future-mindedness that provides sufficient incentive and expectation of a reward to invest effort in achieving it. 

#2 – Perseverance

By definition, habits are routines or patterns of behavior that are ingrained and difficult to change. Most often, they are attached to their own incentives, such as avoiding discomfort or pain, seeking distraction, and looking for external validation. Therefore, success requires perseverance and the ability to moderate and control one’s impulses and emotions (self-regulation). 

Persistence in overcoming obstacles and restarting after failures is the mainstay of any worthwhile change process, while resisting the urge to give up and revert back to one’s old ways.

#3 – Forgiveness

Acceptance and forgiveness of one’s weaknesses is vital when facing and managing setbacks, relapses, and sticking points. Without the capacity of self-forgiveness, building and sustaining new habits is onerous and less likely to succeed. In other words, self-forgiveness gives us the capacity to pick ourselves up, face criticism, and defy the odds.

#4 – Creativity

While other character strengths may also play a role in building healthy habits such as perspective, honesty, zest, kindness, gratitude, and social intelligence, the fourth and final strength highlighted here as integral to most instances of personal change is creativity. This means to be adaptive and inventive when identifying and trying new solutions to old, established problems, like unhelpful habits. By seeing and doing things in different ways, one can circumvent or break through sticking points and blocks and “trick” the mind to adopt the new habit more readily.

Research Results

A total of 2,400 Jay Shetty Certification School and Pathway Program students completed the VIA-120 Character Strength Survey online between February and April 2020. A comparison between the Jay Shetty student sample and large general population samples in the UK (Linley et al., 2007) and US (McGrath, 2014) showed a similar trend, with the average ranks of Hope and Forgiveness higher than in both population samples. Perseverance and Creativity scored lower.

However, none of the four character strengths featured in the top five rankings, with Hope being the only one that just made top 10, and Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Creativity placing in the bottom 10.

Conclusions & Recommendations

These results suggest that there is room for development in the utilization of the character strengths associated with positive habit change in the average JSCS sample. A few things are important to note at this time.

  • A low rank of a character strength does not equate to a weakness but is rather an indication that it is not used often.
  • Character strengths are not innate qualities and can be developed with training and practice.
  • The optimum character strength profile is unique to the demand that every person faces from their momentary environment and situation.

By doing a few simple exercises every day, a person can develop the character strengths that will enable them to form and sustain habits more successfully. As indicated in Figure 1, regular practice of just one activity from the list per character strength will have a significant impact on each character strength, with an amplified effect on habit formation.



  1.   Write your successful movie script – Imagine yourself exactly where you want to be in 10 years, engage all your sense, and write about your experiences.
  2.   Curtail news intake – Minimize distraction and negative influences to create a quiet and constructive space of possibilities.
  3.   Visualize your successes – Picture achieving something you have dreamed of for a long time, how it will feel at that moment, and how your life will change as a result.


  1.   Read about a role model – Choose a real, historical or contemporary person who you have admired and followed. Learn about their strengths, habits, and values, and apply as much as you can to your own life.
  2.   Learn to make positive self-appraisals – The most common self-limiting beliefs that are holding us back from developing positive habits that lead us to our dreams are that we are not deserving, worthy, or capable of success and happiness. Practice being kinder and more appreciative to yourself, and acknowledge your strengths.
  3.   Repeat positive affirmations – Write short, powerful statements that articulate your vision and strengths and repeat them out loud often


  1.   Write down your positive qualities – Self-forgiveness is the mainstay of compassion for others and for finding the strength to pursue positive change. Don’t beat yourself down but focus on your strengths and opportunities.
  2.   Put yourself in another’s shoes – The difference between sympathy and empathy is the vantage point. In empathy, we are able to sit with the other person and engage with them at their bottom while shining the light up.
  3.   Do compassion-focused appraisals – Don’t judge yourself and others but employ unconditional acceptance from a place of compassion and understanding.


  1.   Put time aside for creative activities – Don’t just hurry from one routine or established task to another from one day to the next. Make space for something you may have wanted to do for a while but didn’t have the opportunity, patience, or courage to try.
  2.   Expand your knowledge in a new area – Make it a goal to learn something new every day, not just in your established areas of expertise, but in something peripheral or brand new.
  3.   Explore new things in your current environment – Your surroundings are full of gems that you probably never notice. Engage mindfully with your environment and use all your senses to create new experiences, insights, and connections.

If you do some of these things for a few weeks, you are highly likely to notice the positive change in your character strengths of Hope, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Creativity. Together, in harmony, your ability to introduce and sustain new habits will also increase and you will be more adaptive and resilient to changing external demands.


References: Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Harrington, S., Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Character strengths in the United Kingdom: The VIA Inventory of Strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 341-351. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2006.12.004

McGrath, R. E. (2014). Character strengths in 75 nations. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407–424. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.888580

Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character strength interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.

Swart, J. (2020). What do the character strengths of coaching students tell us? Wisdom Magazine, 2. Retrieved from URL.

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