What is positive psychology exactly? How can we take the flowery concepts of psychology and apply it in a practical way, in both our work-life and personal-life?
To translate into simpler terms: “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”
We’re so often trying to “fix” ourselves, that often we don’ focus on the aspects where we are flourishing. Positive psychology emphasizes the idea of self-actualization — we can realistically become our best selves by honing in on the things we are good at.
Find your flow.
Find ways to align your work with your core values. Ask yourself: how does this work provide meaning to me and more importantly, others? When we find our flow, we become entirely consumed by the activity at hand. As characterized by positive psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, “Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
And who doesn’t want that?!
Happiness is a choice.
Find laughter in the little things, avoid assholes in the workplace, and frame conventionally “bad” circumstances in a positive light.
In an Adam Grant Research Case called The Office without A**holes (I highly encourage you take a listen to his Ted Talk), he summarizes:
Working with a**holes actually makes people dumber
Hiring someone you shouldn’t have is much more expensive than not hiring someone you should have hired
Makes people less helpful
Being an a**hole is a contagious disease
So, if you have the choice, why would you want to be the workplace asshole?
Meaning > money.
“When we think about how people work, the naive intuition is that people are like rats in a maze…When we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing.”
But the reality is, we should add all kinds of meaning behind the original motivator of compensation. Think to yourself, why does this matter to me? Is it the culture? The challenges I face? The identity I find in the work I’m completing? The creativity to problem-solve?
View failure as a motivator.
In Tal Ben Sahar’s podcast on positive psychology, the main point he focuses on is the importance of failure, and how repetition and hard work can instill sustained happiness. As mentioned in the podcast, Sahar states that “Great producers fail more”, and viewing successful people as geniuses is not entirely accurate. Sahar believes that most geniuses applied the 1,000 hour principle — it takes 1,000 hours to get good at something, and it takes extensive failure to achieve greatness. I want to apply Sahar’s wisdom to my daily life by getting out of my comfort zone as a leader. I want to step into new roles, not be afraid of failure, and take on responsibility before others ask me to.
When individuals are driven by success, the accomplishment of tasks, and finding fulfillment through crossing off checklists can be both helpful and harmful. One of the key ideas Sahar mentions is the “hedonic treadmill” and how humans feel the need to move from accomplishment to accomplishment in order to fulfill our emotional tank. This statement resonated with me as he explains that our egos become inflated when we search for fulfillment through achievement.
Motivate yourself by appreciating others.
According to an Inc.com article by Adam Fridman, he emphasizes on recognizing people’s strengths before punishing them for their weaknesses. By leveraging and acknowledging people’s strengths, we are better equipped to help others feel safe, connected, and appreciated. Likewise, leaders who act with a growth mindset bring others up by helping them improve on their weaknesses and motivate others to bring their best ideas to the table. As mentioned by Fridman, he couples the “fail forward” approach with a growth mindset. When positive psychology is implemented in the workplace, it allows people to fail without fear and helps businesses drive innovation.
Positive psychology is all encompassing. When we make small tweaks in our attitude and actions, we can see big changes in the quality of our work, relationships with others, and the overall productivity and quality of life.