Intentions and actions that benefit both the individual and others
How do you define character?
We define character as everything we do to help other people as well as ourselves.
As an organizing principle, we separate character strengths into three dimensions. Strengths of heart, such as gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people. Strengths of will, such as grit and self-control, enable achievement. Strengths of mind, such as curiosity, enable independent thinking.
Character Lab also recognizes and supports a diversity of frameworks including SEL, whole child, and 21st-century skills.
Strengths of heart
Strengths of mind
- Help us wonder, reason, and create
- Examples: curiosity, creativity
Strengths of will
- Help us achieve our goals
- Examples: grit, self-control
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths like self-control, curiosity, and gratitude are critically important to social and emotional well-being, physical health, and achievement. Although character strengths are malleable, surprisingly little is known about how to cultivate them intentionally.
How can we cultivate character?
At Character Lab, we believe that helping children develop character is an age-old challenge that will yield to a new solution: world-class scientists creating actionable resources for educators, parents, coaches, counselors, and anyone else interested in helping kids thrive. For more, read our Playbooks and Tips of the Week.
Download our Character Strength Posters
Character Strength Posters
Printable 11×17 posters for your classroom or officeDownload now
Research articles about character
A tripartite taxonomy of character: Evidence for intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual competencies in children
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 48, 16–27.
Park, D., Tsukayama, E., Goodwin, G. P., Patrick, S., & Duckworth, A. L. (2017).
Integrating psychological and cultural perspectives on virtue: The hierarchical structure of character strengths
The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407–424. McGrath, R. E. (2015).
The myth of achievement tests: The GED and the role of character in American life Heckman, J., Humphries, J. E., & Kautz, T. (Eds.). (2013). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.