|Positive Psychology is the science of human flourishing that emerged in 1998 when Martin Seligman was president of the American Psychological Association. After decades of studying depression Seligman recognized that there was no study of what is right with human beings and institutions. Seligman founded not just a science, but a movement followed by people who believe in the possibility of a better world. Positive Psychology scholars are not naive. They understand and appreciate the ills of the world. However, they choose to not dwell on them and they recognize that what is best about people and institutions deserves to be studied, revealed and enhanced.
Positive Pyschology has identified 3 pathways to well-being. The first is positive subjective experiences; such as pleasure, gratification or positive emotions. Positive experiences cannot create sustainable well-being alone; but we have learned a lot about the potency of positive emotions, much of the discovery stemming from the work of Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
|Barbara’s work suggests that when we experience positive emotions we are more intelligent, more creative, have a more global perspective, and are less racially biased. In addition, while we experience positive emotions we build sustainable physical, psychological, emotional and social resources. The experience of positive emotions has so many ramifications for our workplaces that have yet to be fully explored, but we do know that being positive is a good thing. No, it’s a great thing!
The second pathway to well-being is positive individual traits; the enhancement of strengths. There are many types of individual strengths such as character strengths, talents, skills and knowledge. By enhancing the use of one’s strengths in daily life, one can expect increased well-being. Organizations that support employees in strengths discovery and use will find that it is not only good for the individual, but for the business. Through strengths use individuals can find themselves in a state of flow where they lose track of time, become absorbed in their work and function at the highest levels of productivity. Strengths use has dramatic implications for the workplace. Sadly, Gallup surveys suggest that most Americans feel they have little opportunity to use their strengths at work.
The last pathway to well-being is positive institutions. Positive institutions enable the use of positive traits which enhance positive experiences and emotions. What could be possible if workplaces became positive institutions? Part of the positive experience is finding meaning in what we do. Work is a basic human need and an ingredient for human happiness, but employers have primarily missed the opportunity to help employees see and feel the greater good behind their work experience. While most employers have a mission statement that hangs on the wall, it is rarely brought to life for employees. Human beings long for meaning in their lives. They want to belong and make a contribution. That is good news for employers who understand the power of building a positive culture.
Positive psychology researchers are building a wealth of research around the concept of positive psychological capital – understanding who we are and who we are becoming. Leadership Beyond Limits, LLC offers a unique and deep development experience for leaders to envision their future self and to enhance their self awareness through a study of their beliefs, strengths, relationships, purpose, optimism, confidence and resilience.