Photo Oct 01, 11 27 29 AM

I basically want to approach life as one big research project. I love to learn new stuff. And then I love to talk about what I learn.

I didn’t realize that this “love of learning” was my number one attribute until I took the VIA Character Strengths test from the University of Pennsylvania. Normally I groan and grumble when doing personality tests (in fact, I pretty much don’t do them anymore since discovering the Enneagram, as other personality tools often point to the Ennea type — frequently without the same degree of precision or depth. )

But I took this VIA questionnaire as part of the Martha Beck Life Coach Training program and what I learned has had real legs for me so I wanted to share it with you.

We are not always the best ones to see our gifts and passions. It often is the water we swim in.  And sometimes our passion and our ego can get all intertwined.

As a recovering overachiever, a lot of my graspiness toward external approval played out in the educational realm.

Thankfully the Enneagram helped me get perspective on that habit. No longer will I learn things or sign up for a training program as a means to an end or just to get a credential. I have to enjoy the process.

That is why I took my time exploring multiple coach training programs. I had to find communities of learning where I could trust the process and the people to shape me.

But as we relax our habitual personality patterns (you know… those things that trip you up again and again) it can be easy to simultaneously lose sight of the good things that are part of your unique personality package.

Combining the Enneagram and the VIA test helped me to free my learning to live in its own way.  It also provided clarity on where to invest my time and energy in my coaching practice. I’ve begun to focus more on opportunities to teach and to write and also to see some of the unique gifts I bring as a coach: especially connecting people to that right resource at the right time.

There are so many beautiful character strengths. Yours might be in a totally different arena. (The full list of strengths is included below.)

So make a cup of tea and take the test. (It is the VIA Character Strengths Questionnaire. Free but you will need to register.) And tell me what you find. Or sit with it for a while and see how it might inform and even shape your decisions about life going forward.

Self-awareness is such a huge gift and something most of us don’t learn in school. Let’s learn it now, together.

Warm best,


PS If you need some help connecting the dots between your Enneagram type and VIA Character Strengths — and how to live into the good stuff with both of them– reach out for support! Schedule a complimentary coaching call here. 

1. Wisdom and Knowledge – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

  • Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
  • Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
  • Judgment [critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly
  • Love of Learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
  • Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people

2. Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

  • Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it
  • Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks
  • Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions
  • Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated

3. Humanity – Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

  • Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people
  • Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, “niceness”]: Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
  • Social Intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick

4. Justice – Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

  • Teamwork [citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share
  • Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
  • Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done, and at the same time maintaining good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.

5. Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess

  • Forgiveness: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
  • Humility:  Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is
  • Prudence: Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
  • Self-Regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions

6. Transcendence – Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [awe,wonder, elevation]: Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
  • Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks
  • Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
  • Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
  • Spirituality [faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort

cropped-UpLevel-Filming.jpgCourtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at and you can read more about her coaching and teaching at

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