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Army’s New Program Measures Character More Than Once

Posted Jan 08 2010 9:36am

A new leadership training program based on character, developed by Drs. Martin E. Seligman and Christopher Peterson and piloted at West Point, was highlighted in last night’s PBS Special: This Emotional Life. According to PBS, the Seligman-Peterson program will soon be required for all soldiers.

Chris Peterson, the VIA Institute’s Science Director, bases his work on what he calls the “simple notion” that “If you want to develop character, you have to identify your strengths and use them over and over again.” Peterson says, “You can’t cultivate the whole of character, but you certainly can cultivate its components.”

The components of character were identified by Peterson, Seligman and 55 social scientists. The survey to measure your character strengths is called the VIA Survey of Character and is available, free of charge, to all online at The VIA Classification of Character Strengths is presented and discussed at

On the PBS special, Peterson went on to say that, “Most of the interventions that have been created to date are based on the very simple premise that you are what you do. And if you do more of these things you will be more of whatever they represent. So how frequently are you kind? How often are you a leader?” He suggest that you “keep track of that and measure it all along so you can track your progress.”

The VIA Institute has found that it works best to know your VIA Survey scores. Peterson and the Institute have developed two reports — one that is free and gives survey-takers a top-down list of their strengths, with a precise definition of each. The top 5 or 6 strengths are a person’s “signature strengths” — which are innate strengths of character. A more in-depth report — 17 pages of scores, charts, graphs, with thorough descriptions of signature strengths with ways to use them — is also available at Consultants can purchase codes that send their clients’ reports directly to the consultant’s email.

It’s a new year. Perhaps this is the perfect time to spend a year developing your character — your strengths — and ultimately your happiness.

Questions? The staff at the VIA Institute on Character, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing our understanding of character, is available to answer any questions. All proceeds support the work of the organization: research and education.

Source: VIA Institute on Character

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