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A quick note to say that I've set up my Business blog, to be able to speak with a clear voice on both personal and work issues (i.e. by having separate blogs).

Thursday, 19 April 2012

“What are the skills that build positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, engagement in life?”


Since last June, I've been working with a start-up called http://happie.st. Our tagline is 'get rewarded for doing the things that make you happy".

I've come across some awesome personal development materials since then, and have got stuck into a lot of podcasts, DVDs, books, articles etc. ;-). For the eagle-eyed, you probably already know that! lol

This post records some of my recent discoveries, and the inspiration they provide:
  • Some reflections by Martin Seligman, arguably the moving spirit behind Positive Psychology, and someone I first learned about on my Psychology undergraduate degree – as he had convincingly put forward the theory of ‘learned helplessness’.
  • A summary from Time magazine about Positive Psychology
  • Links to some courses on Positive Psychology I have found (in the UK)
  • Widget showing some of my Goodreads books and account

Marty Seligman

I find listening to a podcast of someone gives a fantastic flavour of the person, and whether I’m going to enjoy / like / benefit from their writings.

Marty at the RSA

Martin Seligman at the RSA in London: I've listened to his podcast, and it’s highly insightful and enjoyable. Full disclosure: I used to be a Fellow of the RSA.

MAPP programme promotion podcast

Having searched iTunes for ‘Martin Seligman’, I was also listening to another podcast, and found the early proceedings highly meaningful.

I’ve listened to a particular section a number of times, and I've (roughly) typed up a couple of minutes the proceedings of the Virtual Information Session (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lps/graduate/mapp) from about 4mins 30secs - involving Marty Seligman:
  • "Back 8 years ago, when I found myself president of 160k psychologists, I asked myself the question "what do psychologists do well?", "what don't we do well?"
  • I thought what we did pretty well was suffering: depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, victims and the like
  • But, what psychologists didn't do well, what there was no science, no practice of, was what makes life worth living: positive energy, positive emotion, engagement
  • So, as I looked around, I decided that my initiative as president of that Association would be to cheer-lead for, raise money, do some of the science, or the possibility of a science of practice, on what makes life what worth living, the positive side of life
  • I should say that what was behind that was some of my experience as a clinical psychologist, as a therapist for many years
  • And initially, I had believed that all you needed to work on was suffering; if you got rid of suffering, you automatically got happy
  • We were astonished to find out in clinical practice that occasionally when things went really well and you were able to alleviate anxiety, depression, anger: you didn't get a happy person, you got an empty person
  • So the question was, so what are the skills that build purpose and meaning in life, they're different from relieving depression? What are the skills that build positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, engagement in life? And so that became my mission
  • [...]
  • Starting about 4 / 3 years ago, as the science was beginning to develop along, I began to become concerned about application; that is, how can we take the things we're learning about gratitude, about pleasure, about strength and virtue, about creating purpose, and bring them into the real world"
I feel the point about an 'Empty person' is incredibly powerful, certainly for my own life. I'd actually bought 'Learned Optimism' (http://amzn.to/J6djq7) a couple of weeks back, and I'm also reading 'Happier' (http://amzn.to/Jrve7w).

I feel that this will be a rich vein for investigation and learning for me. I find the description of ‘empty’ a trigger to do practical things to build my own levels of positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, and engagement in life :-D

I'd be fascinated to hear any thoughts and feedback you may have. By the way, MAPP stands for ‘Master of Applied Positive Psychology’.


For now, studying at the University of Pennsylvania, at Martin’s knee, is a bit of a long shot, so here are some closer to home:

Time document

Useful summary of Positive Psychology which puts things into a nutshell:
The New Science of Happiness

Goodreads widget

I’m whacking this in here, as it’s a useful place for me to share what I’m reading :-)

Wash up

I hope you find these materials useful and insightful. I’d love to get your feedback, and what else you’d suggest. Thanks for reading!