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Six universal virtues

October 9, 2013

Here’s a great idea….
In his book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman tells how he and his team set out to create an authoritative classification and measurement system of human strengths.
“One of the first tasks…was for several of us to read the basic writings of all the major religious and philosophical traditions in order to catalogue what each claimed were the virtues, then see if any showed up in almost every tradition…To our surprise, almost every single one of these traditions flung across three thousand years and the entire face of the earth endorsed six virtues: wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, spirituality and transcendence” (pp. 132-133).

In other words…
There are virtues that are universally valued at the foundation of most societies, past and present.  These tried and true virtues are what make us moral human beings who build strong relationships and thriving communities. Within those six virtues, Seligman identifies 24 different strengths that humans manifest.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life….
From the list of six virtues above, which ones do you value most? If you’re interested in an assessment to help you identify which of the 24 are your greatest personal strengths, go to and take the free VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Once you have identified your strengths, find ways to use them in coordination with the strengths of other people around you to build a stronger family, workplace, and community.

To Find Out More…
about personal well-being, check out Getting Our Hearts Right or The Personal Journey programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You may also enjoy reading Authentic Happiness.

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