Six Functions of Character Strengths for Thriving at Times of Adversity and Opportunity: a Theoretical Perspective

  • Ryan M. NiemiecEmail author


Life is a collection of moments, some light and pleasant, some dark and unpleasant, some neutral. Character strengths contribute to the full range of human experiences, influencing and creating positive opportunities while also helping us to endure the mundane and embrace and navigate the struggles. Some researchers have argued that thriving, which casts a wider net on the human experience than constructs such as flourishing or resilience, constitutes strong well-being and performance at times of both adversity and opportunity (Brown et al. 2017). With this and the many findings in the science of character in mind, six character strengths functions are theorized and then applied across time orientations, making the case for the integral role of character strengths in these matters of thriving. Three opportunity functions are offered, including priming in which character strengths prompt and prepare for strengths awareness and use; mindfulness in which character strengths serve in synergy with mindful awareness of the present reality; and appreciation in which character strengths use expresses value for what has occurred. The three adversity functions include: buffering – character strengths use prevents problems; reappraisal – character strengths explain or reinterpret problems; and resilience – character strengths support the bounce-back from life setbacks. Several applications of these six functions for vocational and educational settings are explored.


Character strengths Thriving Adversity Opportunity Priming Mindfulness Appreciation Buffering Reappraisal Resilience 



I am grateful to Neal Mayerson, Ph.D., who encouraged me to expand this idea beyond a sole focus on resilience and character strengths.

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© The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VIA Institute on CharacterCincinnatiUSA

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