Many of us who took an Intro Psych course in college probably remember learning things like diagnosing mental disorders and the controversies around anti-depressant medications. Thinking about that class, you might wonder “where is the positive in psychology?”
That’s the exact kind of question which started the positive psychology movement in the 1990s, when some leading psychologists decided to make a conscious shift in the field away from the negative aspects of our psyche and toward the positive. One of the founders of the positive psychology movement defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Positive psychologists believe that we can improve well-being and goal-achievement by focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad.
As a coach, one of the things that attracted me to positive psychology is its grounding in research evidence that shows us how we can be most successful and satisfied in our life’s pursuits. Some people confuse positive psychology with the self-help movement or trends like affirmations. That’s not what my coaching practice is about. Coaching using the science of positive psychology involves understanding the research findings about how people thrive in their given endeavors, and applying those findings in meaningful ways in our lives.
For example, substantial psychological research shows that one of the most powerful predictors of long-term happiness is high-quality, supportive relationships. The relationships we have with our friends, family members, significant other and our coworkers all matter. This is one of the reasons that my own research has examined workplace relationship management as an important factor in our ability to accomplish our job. Next week I will be presenting this research at the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology taking place here in Los Angeles.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Foresight Blog, where I’ll give you a sneak peak at what I’ll be presenting and how it relates to coaching using positive psychology.
In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about positive psychology, below are links to some of the most influential books in the field:
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Stumbling on Happiness
The Myths of Happiness