For decades, and with good reason, psychology has been concerned with the negative aspects of human life. It has focused on what is wrong with individuals and sought ways to fix those faults. A great deal of progress was made under this so called ‘disease model’ but on it’s own, the question “What is wrong?” is not enough.
Over 15 years ago, psychologists began to ask a new question. Instead of focusing exclusively on “What is wrong?” they started asking the question, “What is right and what can we learn from what IS working?” Perhaps the key to contentment and inner happiness has less to do with ‘fixing’ the past and more to do with preparing ourselves for our best future.
“The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life, to ALSO building on the best qualities in life.” Martin Seligman.
We do not ignore what is not going well, but positive psychology is about ALSO not ignoring what IS going well. By asking this question, we get a broader view of reality and valuable insights into resiliency and all that promotes flourishing.
South China Morning Post, Family Section. Article: Full Esteem Ahead, profiles the work Justine and the Mindquest Group in the Positive Psychology field.
TED talk by the founder of the Positive Psychology movement, Dr. Martin Seligman. He talks about why psychology was good, not good and how it may become good enough.
TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth, who studies intangible concepts such as self-control and grit to determine how they might predict both academic and professional success.
As defined by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania:
“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”
Positive psychology gives us different ways to improve our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
Whilst the positive psychology movement appears to be relatively young, it finds its roots in ancient teachings from around the world, such as the writings of Aristotle, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism to name but a few. In the twentieth century, psychologists such a Carl Jung, Maria Jahoda, Gordon Allport, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow also focused on the subject matter that would become positive psychology. What is new in the past 15 years, is the substantial research that now supports the effectiveness of this approach. 15 years of scientific rigor and analysis have put in place a new branch of psychology that is founded on empirical academic research.
Martin Seligman, widely acknowledged as the founder of this new wave of scientifically supported Positive Psychology, identifies the contributing pillars of wellbeing through the acronym P.E.R.M.A These include: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment. It is through these pillars of wellbeing, that human beings are naturally drawn to in their efforts to flourish and that form the foundation of optimal functioning. So what does the good life look like? In the words of Martin Seligman, it is pleasant, engaged, meaningful, achieving and connected.
Source: Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness – University of Pennsylvania
At Mindquest Group, we believe strongly in the tenets of Positive Psychology, as well as empowering individuals by developing Resilience and Grit.
Strengths-based interventions are highly empowering and motivating, and give people control and confidence. These approaches do not ignore weaknesses but work on the basis that investing time and energy on the areas of strength is more productive and more likely to succeed than using our resources on overcoming weaknesses. Moreover, if we need to prevail over an area of weakness, using our strengths to do that, makes more sense.
We don’t know what the future holds, but we can prepare ourselves for the future by strengthening our PERMA.