Are You Zesty or Testy?

Updated: Feb 2

"What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life."

- Bertrand Russell, British philosopher

If you have zest, then you approach life with vitality. You don't do things halfway or half-heartedly. You feel alive. "We describe people with this strength as vigorous and energetic, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, bouncy and perky, peppy and high on life," write Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman in the book Character Strength and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. The following is a synopsis of their work, which is legendary as it applied science to the more touchy-feely topic of character.

Benefits of Zest: Research shows that people with zest generally are happier in life. Kids with zest are less stressed (if you have a teen, the you know how important this is!!). Adults are more likely to see their work as a calling, motivated by the sheer enjoyment and meaning they get from it. Businesses that cultivate employees with zest will improve the engagement of their workforce.

So, what if you don't feel very zesty. What if you feel testy? How can you tell if you're cranky? You might instinctively know. You might be so busy you haven't thought about it. Ask someone you trust. One flag that you are cranky is that you're already telling people you feel this way. The fact that your cranky is just another thing to be cranky about. If you're feeling bored or tired all the time, those also are classic signs that you might be defined as testy.

What if "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" just isn't your thing? That's OK. We are all "differently good." The problem might be that you are not using your core character strengths daily. In addition to zest, there are 23 other character strengths, according to Peterson and Seligman, that can bring you more meaning and fulfillment by using them every day. And, finding ways to incorporate your strengths into your day could possibly lead to having zest. This stat based on research by the VIA Institute on Character, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world, reports:

People who use their core strengths are 3X more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, and they are 6X more likely to be engaged at work.

What is a character strength? It's a universal talent that everyone possesses to some degree that enhance the individual without diminishing others. These strengths bring all kinds of benefits to people and organizations, such as harnessing the mindset to do the right thing, be innovative and build strong relationships with those around you.

These strengths are grouped into six virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

  • Wisdom: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective

  • Courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest

  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence

  • Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership

  • Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation

  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

So, what are your strengths? Learn what your strengths are by taking the free, unique character strength profile using the VIA Survey. You can also look around the VIA web site for more information. And if you google Zest or Character Strengths, plenty of articles will surface to provide you with more context.

Spark Ideas is an internal communications company working to engage employees in the business. If you would like more information about Spark's work, contact