Remember the first Foresight Blog posting, when I invited you to join me for big ideas in small bites? Last week’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology was an overflowing buffet of big ideas about how to live our lives with more meaning and fulfillment. Since the conference, friends and colleagues have been asking me for a summary of the highlights and new research findings. While I can’t possibly fit all the big, juicy bites into one blog posting, below I summarize three talks that most inspired me. For those of you who live in Los Angeles, later this summer I’ll be giving a free workshop about how positive psychology can help your business flourish. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more details about this event.
As with any good conference, the kick-off keynote presentation was a thought-provoking speech by one of the founders of the field, Martin Seligman. His talk was about prospection, which he defined as mental representations of the future, and he challenged the audience to think creatively about the positive benefits of envisioning the future. He suggested that past-based thinking tends to be negative, the present is fleeting, and the future is the home of hope and meaning. Because of our ability to hold a positive future outcome in our minds, we sacrifice happiness in the moment to achieve meaning in the future.
Another inspiring speaker was Chip Conley, founder of one of the most successful boutique hotel firms in the country, who used positive psychology to generate optimal experiences for hotel guests and employees. He said that companies have gotten smarter about their environmental footprint, and now is the time to get smarter about their “emotional fist print.” Conley argued that toxic work environments create emotional fallout in all aspects of life and the leader’s job is to manage the emotional pulse of the organization.
A theme across many sessions that I attended was the importance of relationships in every aspect of life. As a big fan of storytelling, I opted to attend the talk by Hollywood movie producer Lindsay Doran who spoke passionately about how the great movies that we think are about accomplishment (Rocky, Dirty Dancing, The King’s Speech) are actually about how the relationships in our lives are transformed during our pursuit of accomplishments. In other words, the accomplishment that movie audiences most care about is the ability of our relationships to survive and thrive in spite of our struggles.
What does all of this mean for our day-to-day lives at home and at work? My best takeaway is: if we want to feel meaning and fulfillment in future, cultivate positive relationships and positive emotional experiences in the present. What’s your takeaway?