I’m Not Talking about Lacing the Decaf
I’ll be honest. As a therapist, I’m not a huge fan of what some aspects of the “positive psychology” movement have become – more on that in a bit. Martin Seligman, a psychologist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, is considered to be positive psychology’s founder. A Web site, Authentic Happiness, describes it as “a new branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.”
I love his ideas and have used them with patients long before it had a name. It always seemed healthier to focus on people’s strengths and positive qualities than get stuck in pathology mode. My concern is that the idea is often distorted and very far removed from its original focus and intent. (I also believe it can be dangerous for clinicians to ignore patients’ serious, underlying issues while applying these theories.)
My corporate-life era was at the beginning of “team-building” workshops, often led by people with no (or questionable) credentials that made us do the most annoying, embarrassing things under the guise of improving morale, etc. So I’m really biased in this area. To be fair, now there are respected business leaders and coaches who present this material brilliantly.
So before the bosses make everyone wear clown noses and spout mantra-like slogans, let’s find some practical workplace uses for positive psychology.
· Remind yourself daily that the only person you have control over is yourself. That includes your thoughts, attitudes and reactions to others. This is a variation of “don’t let the turkeys get you down.”
· Focus more on the process than outcomes. Not everything you do will have a good result, but learn from it.
· Gratitude. Every day make lists of things you’re grateful for. I know that some crappy days this will be a real challenge. But maybe it’s as simple as being grateful you don’t sit near “Psycho Doris.”
This is a post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.