This research study identifies the principles, history and theories of positive psychology. It also analyzes current research on positive psychology. Finally, it shows how these concepts can be used in practice, even in organizations.
Researching the history of positive psychology, Dr Martin Seligman is the happiness professor and the unofficial father of positive psychology, the controversial study of human happiness. Humanistic Abraham Maslow, in his 1954 book about motivation and personality first used the term positive psychology. Martin Seligman made it the theme of his presidency of the American Psychological Association in 1998. He claimed psychology up to then was answering no and I, instead of yes and we. Getting people to be constructive is a better predictor of increased commitment and love than teaching people how to fight. William James argued that in order to study optimal human functioning thoroughly, one has to consider the subjective experience of an individual.
For that belief, in 1906, James is considered, by some psychologists, to be America’s first positive psychologist. Earlier influences on positive psychology came from philosophical and religious sources. The ancient Greeks had many schools of thought. During the Renaissance, individualism started to be valued. Utilitarian philosophers, such as John Stuart Mill, believed that moral actions are those actions that maximize happiness for the most number of people, and that an empirical science of happiness determine which actions are moral. Thomas Jefferson and other democrats believed that Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights, and that it justifies the overthrow of the government. The Romantics valued individual emotional expression and sought their emotional true selves.
According to Dr. Seligman, during hard times, strengths and positive emotions help people get through. Seligman defines a “good life” by using own strengths consistently. Work, leadership, institutions and culture are interrelated and integral to positive psychology. Even if people were financially free, people would still do something with their time, after getting all the fun and travel out of their system. Therefore, happiness at work transfers and contributes to people’s life happiness. Work naturally shapes people’s network or circle of influence, as humans like to group up with people who share commonalities with their work, industry, and professional experiences.
Individuals can also think of times when they were not stimulated at work; their work was repetitive and meaningless. Studies have shown that the workers, who thrive, are the ones who are continuously challenged in meaningful ways, so work can become fun and play. Besides, more and more scholarly articles stress the importance of happiness at work and slowly but surely more organizations are realizing it and make it their goal and mission with employees. To create positive institutions, it is important not to keep secrets, following a mission and have effective conflict resolutions skills. According to Seligman, there are five traits to positive institutions: continue growing, CEO modeled, being bigger than its sums of the parts, empowering to make decisions, and being clear with the mission or purpose. Positive leaders create positive companies and institutions. Again, positively and positive energy is contagious, because, from a quantum physics perspective, everything is energy.
Therefore, people tend to gravitate towards other positive people, positive leaders, positive teams, institutions and positive cultures. The proposed model to link positive psychology and business, to make businesses successful and sustainable, is to center them around the VIA Human Strengths. Institutions or organizations are seen as micro-society and micro-communities that expand outward. Coming from strength or love, versus lack or fear, always produces far better results and outcomes. Change is about strength. All of these principles could be summarized by saying that it is best to see, focus on and bring out the best in people. These principles are true across different cultures worldwide. Optimism for the future reduces anxiety. Hope for life after death helps coping with death, but denial of life after death helps celebrating and appreciating life more. The essence of joy is enjoying the present. The thought of eternity or immortality helps valuing life, as there would be no reason to keep something of no value.
Positive psychology studies happiness and how that relates to love and gratitude. What faith offers, such as community, gratitude, forgiveness, purpose, acceptance, altruism, and eternity, increases well-being. Marriage is the hope for happiness. We choose a career, or fly believing, hoping, or having faith. The chance for error in faith makes humans humble and open to hope that feeds love and joy.
Positive psychology also studies meaning and motivation and how these relate to happiness. Life purpose is the meaning and direction of one’s reality or experience and goal creation and pursuit. Quality relations and quality life are achieved through negotiation of adversities. To understand whether a political action is good or bad, it is possible to look at motivation or the motive, such as the general group/public good purposive and committed principle, versus a personal self- need.
Positive psychology also focuses on creating resiliency and positive attitudes instead of curing emotional problems. Many people are unhappy with their jobs, and they also are afraid of losing them, as a result of a lack of confidence. To build self-confidence, it is important to be an optimist, to break through fears and take action, be surrounded with positive people and to be mentored. Finally, it is crucial to become a mentor to help others. Everyone has learned what that can highly benefit others. Marshall Goldsmith, famous executive coach advises to find a positive spirit toward what the person is doing now, that starts from within. It is possible to create a positive spirit by becoming more self-confident. Successful people are self-confident and optimists. They face their fears and act, surround themselves with positive people, find mentors and become mentors.
Positive psychologists apply state-of-the-art psychological research to people’s lives. Positive Psychology goes beyond overcoming the unhappiness of past problems. Positive psychologists focus on where people want to go in their lives so that they can empower them to get there. An early part of the change process is education. Learning about success and personal fulfillment is the starting point because it shifts the client’s mindset. As Einstein said, people cannot solve problems with the same mind that created them. Positive psychologists engage with clients to move them from suffering to thriving, with new experiences. Otherwise, the person remains stuck on old programs and preconceived patterns of operating. This activity generates a positive first step.
Positive psychologists counsel to live life according to the principles that research shows successful. Some of these principles involve passion for achieving positive outcomes, bringing an abundance of positive energy to relationships, facing challenges with optimism, using strengths to achieve goals, replenishing energy to meet goals, and making a difference in the world. If positive psychologists have experienced and learned these principles, it is easier for them to counsel others to do the same and be the change they want to see in the world, like Gandhi taught us. Positive psychologists ask: What is the dream? Who might be able to help get there? What challenges will there be? What strengths will overcome those challenges? How will the positive energy be kept to reach goals?
What will the achievement of the dream cause in the world? Change starts by enlightening people. After the first positive psychology meeting or session, clients understand that it is possible to obtain a positive outcome because their experience was outside of their norm. Clients are encouraged to experience something new to end their struggles. The psychologist offers proven strategies to help clients realize their goals. Each session measures progress. Positive psychologists are guides. To achieve authentic happiness, people must put the same level of time and energy into working toward optimal functioning. To improve their lives, people must learn specific positive ways and suggestions of responding to their concerns, doubts, anxieties and criticisms. They need continuous encouragement to use their strengths, think optimistically around challenges, and stay positive in their relationships.
Some other applications of positive psychology consist of focusing on a few things that went well during the day, before sleep, increases wellbeing. Asking what works well and why brings out powerful solutions. Positive psychology relies on serious scientific research.
A central topic of study in positive psychology, like mentioned before, is gratitude. Gratitude can amplify happiness and the good. Positive psychology can lead to a healthy and happy balance between work and life. The demands of juggling work and home lead many women to try to do everything. In the effort to be superwomen, many women lose sight of what makes them happy and they fail to realize how important their happiness is to being a good worker and a good mother. The key to being the best at everything one does is to take care of happiness the way health is taken care of, through conscious choices every day. People can use positive psychology to shift from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality for workplace success. This helps tapping into the sense of joy every day for own happiness and the happiness of those around.