zest character strength life satisfaction

‘For you, life is an adventure.’ -VIA Institution on Character, 2015


Have you ever met someone who lives their life to the fullest?

They go out dancing; exploring a new world, their face always shows an expression of joy and excitement. Just being near them, you sense all of their energy as it radiates upon you. Sometimes they remind you of a childhood moment which has got lost along the way you’ve grown up.

These are people with zest!

Defining Zest?

Whether it is energy, enthusiasm, or vigor, basically Zest is a way of ‘approaching life with excitement and energy’ (Park & Peterson, 2009). It is rare for them to do things halfway or halfheartedly- they are alive and activated (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

According to the VIA Classification of Character Strengths (2015), Zest falls under the category of courage, the strength that allows us to overcome fear. This is why we see people with zest do extraordinary things.

Zest and Satisfaction

Many studies show that Zest is strongly related with life satisfaction and well-being. It is one of the top strengths found in individuals who report high levels of life satisfaction. In fact, in research performed by Park, Peterson and Seligman (2004), Zest was ranked second after hope with the highest correlation to life satisfaction while gratitude followed close behind. 

Moreover, measuring the contribution that character strengths made to satisfaction with college students, a study revealed Zest to be the number one contributor, followed by love and hope (Lounsbury et. al, 2009). 

This relationship has also been studied in the office where Zest in the workplace was associated with finding ones calling and passion for work. This meaningful relationship to work has been found to increase work satisfaction, reduce sick days, and encourages a disinclination to retire (Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). 

If Zest can lead to higher work satisfaction which in turn results in higher performance levels and reduced turnover. While it increases our satisfaction with learning and life, the next question is how can we increase our Zest?

Cultivating Zest

Improving your levels of Zest at work can improve your sense of purpose and life satisfaction.  According to Peterson et. al. (2009) ‘a supportive supervisor at work and good social relationships outside of work are important contributors to zest’.

This shows that finding the right job is important but so are the people and relationships you build in and outside work. Companies need to realize the importance of strong social relationships at work and use organizational psychology to improve communication as a predictor of improved work satisfaction and improved overall performance. 

On a personal level, one way of improving your zest is through exercising it. Physical exercise such as yoga is commonly known to promote well being and therefore engaging in activities that require physical effort like playing sports or adding a little more exercise (like taking the stairs instead of the escalator) could help to boost your blood flow and energy.

Make life fun and engaging through adding more challenges onto your daily routine, creating new ways to complete your boring schedule, and doing extra, exciting new activities along the way would also help increase zest (Proyer et. al., 2013).

Lastly, research has shown that having more social contact can help improve Zest (Proyer et. al., 2013). It is so simple, just call up an old friend, have coffee with  a new friend, or join a sport team or club. Bounce ideas, opinions and enthusiasm off of each other, learn new things, have fun, crack jokes, and enjoy the moment. Find the things in life that make you happy and feel connected to others and for sure you will find your Zest!

“If gratitude is for the past, hope is for the future, zest, therefore, is for the present.” (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004).


Lounsbury, J. W., Fisher, L. A., Levy, J. J., Welsh, D. P. (2009). An investigation of character strengths in relation to the academic success of college students. Individual Differences Research, 7(1), 52-69.

Park, N., Peterson, C., Seligman, M. E. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603-619.

Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practiceJournal of College and Character10(4).

Peterson, C., Park, N. (2006). Character strengths in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(8), 1149-1154.

Peterson, C., Park, N., Hall, N., Seligman, M. E. (2009). Zest and work.Journal of Organizational Behavior30(2), 161-172.

Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., Buschor, C. (2013). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies14(1), 275-292.

VIA Institution on Character. (2015). Zest. Retrieved from www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/Zest

Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: people’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21–33.

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