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Let's Get Serious About Playing with Our Strengths

By Sonya Tinsley-Hook

Most of us know that children learn through play, but so do teens and adults! Humans of every age learn best when given the opportunity to play and experiment with something new without being worried about making mistakes. We’re often told that to improve our performance and experience greater success, we need to play to our strengths. But it’s hard to play to our strengths without first having the opportunity to play with our strengths in a risk-free environment. Doing something fun and new with your strengths at least once a week will not only deepen your understanding of them, but also help increase your sense of well-being and life satisfaction. Once you’ve identified your highest character strengths using the VIA Survey, why not try some of these playful suggestions? You can do them on your own, but like most things, they are even better when shared with others.

Strengths Games

Strengths Survivor – You’re stranded on a desert island with only your strengths to rely upon. List the ways your highest strengths will help you survive. Or try this game with one or more friends and talk about how your different strengths will complement each other and help you survive together.

What’s On Your Happy List? – Make a list of at least ten things that you absolutely love to do. Next think about how your strengths are connected to these activities. Chances are the activities that you love the most are so satisfying because they provide you with the opportunity to make use of some of your highest strengths. Jot down any interesting connections you make to help you remember why you love the things you do.

Hail to the Chief – Yes, it’s true. You’ve been unanimously elected to serve as the leader of your country because of your unique combination of character strengths (We did say this was a fantasy, right?). You have an excellent staff and cabinet to help with the parts of the job that are a struggle for you, so you’re free to focus only on what you do best. Describe how each of your highest strengths will help you to be an excellent Leader of the Free World or Head of State. What strengths are you going to need to borrow from others in your cabinet of advisors?

Strengths Superhero – How would a superhero with your unique combination of strengths serve as a force for good in our world? For example, a superhero with two of my favorite signature strengths, Forgiveness and Perspective, might fly around helping people see problems and conflicts through the eyes of others. Just like Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Truth” that forces people to be honest, my superhero might possess magical “Frames of Forgiveness” that enable the wearer to view the world through other perspectives and then experience understanding and empathy. Please don’t forget to give your new superhero a name worthy of their amazing strengths and powers!

Lucky Strength of the Day – Write down each of your highest strengths on a separate slip of paper. Fold the pieces so you can’t tell what they are and put them in a bowl. Pick one strength to be your “lucky strength of the day” and focus on it all day long. Look for opportunities to use it in different situations, especially in regards to any challenges you encounter. Every chance you get, ask yourself, “How can my strength of ________ help in this situation?” Make note of any new insights you gain about this strength. Keep your jar on your desk or table and repeat this game until you’ve had the opportunity to focus on each of your strengths at least once. This game might also become a lifelong strengths practice for you. For a different challenge, try this game using your lesser strengths.

Can’t decide which one of these activities to do? Turn it into a game of chance! Write the names of each of these activities on a separate strip of paper. Put the strips in an envelope or bowl and then close your eyes and choose one. Vow to play whatever game chance places into your hand for the day. Working, or rather, playing your way through these suggestions is sure to bring you deeper understanding… and a few chuckles as well.

Remember, children are especially receptive to learning through games. Check out my free guide 10 Great Games to Help Kids Learn about Their Strengths (available at for fun and easy ideas especially for the school-aged set.

Now let’s all get out there and start playing with our strengths.