Why Positive Psychology?

By May 19, 2015 News

We recently finished another semester at the small college where I teach. But, I’m finding that my students’ responses to one particular final exam are lingering with me. The course is a semester-long seminar on positive psychology, and the final exam is one essay question. This year, I asked them to address the question, “Why positive psychology?” This is one of my favorites.

 “Why?”“The war, goose! The war’s going to start any day, 300-101 test download and you 210-060 braindumps don’t suppose any of us would 300-101 test download stay in college with a war going on, do you?”“You know there isn’t going 300-101 test download to 300-135 item pool be any war,” said Scarlett, bored. “It’s all just talk. Why, 300-101 test download Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week 300-101 test download that our commissioners in Washington would come to—to—an—amicable agreement with Mr. Lincoln about the Confederacy. And anyway, the Yankees are too scared of us to fight. There won’t 300-135 item pool be any war, and I’m 300-101 test download tired of hearing 300-135 item pool about it.”“Not going to be any 300-135 item pool war!” cried 300-101 test download the twins 210-060 braindumps indignantly, as though they had been defrauded.“Why, 300-135 item pool honey, of course there’s going to be a war,” said Stuart. The Yankees may be scared of us, but after the way General 300-135 item pool Beauregard shelled 210-060 braindumps 300-135 item pool them out of Fort Sumter day 210-060 braindumps before yesterday, they’ll have to fight or stand branded 300-135 item pool as cowards before the whole world. Why, the Confederacy—”Scarlett made a mouth of bored impatience.If you say ‘war’ just once more, I’ll go in the house 210-060 braindumps and shut the door. I’ve never gotten 300-135 item pool so 210-060 braindumps tired of any 210-060 braindumps one word in my life as ‘war,’ unless it’s ‘secession.’ Pa talks war 300-101 test download morning, noon and night, and all the gentlemen who 300-135 item pool come 300-135 item pool to 300-101 test download see him shout about Fort Sumter and States’ Rights and 300-135 item pool Abe Lincoln till I get so bored I could scream! 210-060 braindumps And that’s all the boys talk about, too, that and their old Troop. There hasn’t been any 300-101 test download fun at any party this spring 300-135 item pool because the boys can’t talk about anything else. I’m mighty glad Georgia waited till after Christmas before it seceded or it would have ruined the Christmas parties, too. 210-060 braindumps If you say 300-101 test download ‘war’ again, I’ll go in the house.”She meant what she said, 300-135 item pool for 300-101 test download she could never long endure any conversation of which she was not the chief 210-060 braindumps subject. But she smiled when she spoke, consciously 300-101 test download deepening her dimple and fluttering her bristly black lashes as swiftly as butterflies’ wings. The boys were enchanted, as she had intended them to be, and they hastened to apologize 210-060 braindumps for boring her. They thought none the less of 300-101 test download her for her lack of interest. Indeed, they 210-060 braindumps thought more. War was men’s business, not ladies’, and they 210-060 braindumps took her attitude as evidence of her femininity.Having maneuvered them 210-060 braindumps away from the boring subject of war, she 300-135 item pool went back with interest to their immediate situation.“What did your mother say about 210-060 braindumps you 300-135 item pool two being expelled again?”The boys looked uncomfortable, recalling their 300-101 test download mother’s conduct three months ago when they had come home, by request, from 210-060 braindumps 300-101 test download the University of Virginia.“Well,” said Stuart, “she hasn’t had a chance to say anything yet. Tom and us left home early this morning before she got up, and Tom’s laying out over at the Fontaines’ while we came over here.”

It’s always a joy to read the students’ responses, many of whom were surprisingly pessimistic and cynical at the outset of the course. I want to share some of their responses, but first let me tackle the question myself. Why positive psychology? Positive psychology because optimism works, virtue is greatly needed and hope is never out of season.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, asserts that positive psychology is much more than “happiology.” The aim of positive psychology is well-being and, ultimately, human flourishing. Well-being is both subjective and objective – involving a sense of contentment, purpose and meaning as well as good relationships and real accomplishments (Seligman, 2012).

Optimism is the common ingredient among successful teams, organizations and families. If we cannot dream, if we cannot find the good, if we cannot believe a better day is coming, then how can we flourish or persevere in the face of adversity? Or, how can we possibly appreciate the beauty and blessings of everyday life? Optimism is vital to human resilience and Grit (Duckworth et al, 2007), with the latter being a widely recognized predictor of academic and work success. Recall Michael Jordan’s 26 missed shots at the buzzer over the course of his career, or Abraham Lincoln’s many failures prior to his remarkable ascension to President of the United States. We don’t seem to dwell on these things. And they didn’t either. Best of all, although we all start at different points, realistic optimism can be learned.

According to Thomas Jefferson, “Happiness is the aim of life… (but) virtue is the foundation of happiness.” Positive psychology, at its best, is really all about the study and promotion of virtue (Worthington, 2010). This is what Lincoln meant by the “better angels of our nature.” NY Times columnist David Brooks, among others, has recently seized on this idea – suggesting virtue and good character as the antidote to what ails our postmodern society. I love Seligman’s concise statement about the problems of contemporary society, “the waxing of the self and the waning of the commons” (Seligman, 2004). In other words, we’ve become increasingly self-absorbed and disconnected. When asked to summarize positive psychology in two words, the late Christopher Peterson, replied, “Other people.” We need to be reminded that in the most basic sense, we are all in the same boat, and we need encouragement to go forward in such a way that others benefit also. In this regard, the pursuit of virtue reminds us that happiness can only be pursued indirectly. As Dallas Willard (2013) so insightfully noted, we need to reconnect our notion of the good life with pursuit of the good person.

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Last week some remarkable teachers gathered at the White House gardens to be honored and to recognize the teacher of the year, Shanna Peeples. Shanna works with a wide range of poor and disadvantaged children in Amarillo, Texas. When asked about her teaching, Shanna summarized her work by saying, “I sell hope to my students.” What a simple and beautiful statement. Her words reminded me that life experience often teaches us cynicism, so there will always be a need for us to champion hope.

So, what about my students and some of their more compelling insights? Haley offered this, “Positive psychology allows us to accept the bad with the good, and even find good in the bad.” Autumn and Sarah focused on the importance of social interest and a larger purpose, suggesting “…positive psychology empowers people and helps them grow by focusing outwardly.” Amy emphasized the practical and the spiritual in her essay. She summarized, “Positive psychology offers a way to cope with our negative thoughts and be content in the present moment, engaging both the soul and mind…” Jaylen succinctly concluded, “Positive psychology is about making life worth living;” whereas, Christian noted, “…in trying to become the person we are called to be, we meet a spiritual calling.” He added, “Seeking to live a better life brings spiritual growth.”

At LifeData we want to learn about and promote virtue, while encouraging optimism and bringing the interventions of positive psychology to mobile devices and everyday life. If you want to join us, please click here.

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