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Coaching with Character Strengths: An Inside Look | January 2023: Volume 4, Issue 1

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

A bimonthly briefing on the latest science and practice of character strengths.

Happy 2023 wherever you are in the world! In this briefing, I want to share a powerful story, both poignant and funny. I also wish to encourage you to start your new year in a wonderful way by taking our evidence-based program, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP); the next cohort begins February 7th.

A Well-Being Toolbox

I was in a Zoom meeting with a group of 20 people, all cameras on. It was a social gathering but the topic had grown serious – one of the members had an untreatable cancer and was speaking about how he was coping with his situation. The mood turned appropriately somber as each participant attended closely to the man as he slowly shared, with heaviness in his voice, about his journey.

Suddenly, unbeknownst to me, my 7-year-old daughter Maya popped up behind me on the screen. She must have picked my door’s lock and creeped in! Tilting her head at an angle behind me, she smiled widely and curiously to the faces of the group.

I immediately attempted to verbally guide her to the door, while simultaneously listening to the man sharing his suffering. It was not an easy balance, especially with an attention-hungry 7-year-old. Maya responded by breaking out into one of her new dance moves and starting to sing (thankfully I was muted).

With a wave of panic, I looked at the screen – did the others notice her? Everyone seemed to still be in “mindful listening” mode to the ailing man. I muffled some additional words to my daughter, kindly explaining the need for privacy. My words were futile to my dancing daughter, as were my feigned attempts to continue listening closely to my friend.

As I started to stand up to physically guide Maya to the door, the man spoke to us, without missing a beat: “And I appreciate the young new member of our community,” he said with a chuckle. Smiles began flowing throughout the group. “I needed that levity right now. Sometimes it’s just too much to always talk about my cancer.” He paused, with the group hanging on every word. “This little girl’s curiosity…and humor…and zest – that’s what I needed to see. That’s what I want for myself, too, right now. Thank you, thank you.”

I took a deep breath, this time with the emotion of relief. Maya sat on my lap for the remainder of the meeting.

Life can appear messy and unpredictable. Often there are no perfect responses, only responses. We have tools to help us. We have tools to make our lives better and the lives around us better.

New research shows that practices with mindfulness and character strengths are some of the best tools to have a positive impact on our problems/stressors as well as our well-being and relationships.

There is a collection of these tools – many call it a well-being toolbox – that form the evidence-based program, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP). Remarkably, MBSP has been shown in studies to be more effective than the leading mindfulness program on the planet.


We are learning that we need character strengths to make mindfulness more effective. Mindfulness without character strengths is purposeless. We are also learning that we need mindfulness in order to become aware of and use our character strengths. Character strengths without mindfulness are hollow expressions. Join our next MBSP program (starting February 7th, live with people from across the globe). On this journey, the integration of mindfulness and strengths will enrich your life. You’ll learn practices for your toolbox you can use the rest of your life.


Every other month Dr. Ryan Niemiec, VIA's Chief Science & Education Officer, sends a newsletter to connect with researchers, strengths practitioners and educators from around the world. He offers things such as a character strengths research finding, a practical nugget, and/or a character strengths story or dialogue he's found inspiring. His hope is that it will prime your day and week with character strengths. Also, let it serve as a reminder that you can reach out at anytime to share your study, your strength applications, and your latest innovations! This article captures a past newsletter. To receive newsletters in real-time, click to subscribe.

Discover More Mindfulness and Character Strengths Strategies To Boost Well-Being

Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) is an evidence-based program that enhances well-being, improves relationships and helps people manage problems. Find details about our upcoming sessions and learn more about this unique course.


Hofmann, J., Heintz, S., Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019). Differential relationships of light and darker forms of humor with mindfulness. Applied Research in Quality of Life. DOI: ttps://

Monzani, L., Escartin, J., Ceja, L., & Bakker, A. B. (2021). Blending mindfulness practices and character strengths increases employee wellbeing: A second-order meta-analysis and a follow-up field experiment. Human Resource Management Journal. DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12360

Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019). Fusing character strengths and mindfulness interventions: Benefits for job satisfaction and performance. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 150-162. DOI: 10.1037/ocp0000144

Prasath, P. R., Morris, C., & Maccombs, S. (2021). Mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP) group intervention: A systematic review. Journal of Counselor Practice, 12(1), 1-22. DOI: 10.22229/asy1212021