Power of Positive Psychology
Looking back over the many years of medical schooling and being in the education system, I can’t recall a time where I was ever taught to look at situations and perspectives in a positive manner. To be honest, it was just putting your nose to the grind and working hard to get through most days. And for those days that were extra hard, it was like trudging through quicksand. I wish I had read about this during medical school, or at least on my psychiatry rotation - I feel that knowing what I know now would have been immensely helpful for my 23 year old self in medicine. Now there’s all this talk about resilience and grit, But what exactly is positive psychology? And how do you use it, or develop it, to help you in the workplace?
What is positive psychology?
Positive psychology is the study of behaviors and what makes people happy and fulfilled in life.
Positive psychology has been around for a long time, but really only recently has its presence been brought to the forefront. It means thinking positively, having a positive and optimistic mindset, to overcome hurdles and negative thoughts that might stop an ordinary person mid-way from achieving their dreams. Positive psychology isn’t just voodoo - over the past decade, there has been an influx of social science and scientific research that has helped us to understand positive psychology at a more detailed level, and has helped understand the benefits behind it and how we can use it to work more effectively to achieve our goals (Seligman 2012, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Atria Books).
Understand that happiness fuels hard work which then leads to success.
One of the greatest contributions of positive psychology is in the understanding of happiness and the intersection of happiness with success. It was previously thought that hard work alone leads to success which then leads to happiness. BIG NEWS! The other way around is what’s been really found to be true: Happiness drives hard work which then leads to success (Achor 2010, Seligman 2010, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Crown Business).
Happiness is the ingredient to positive outcomes and success - it creates positive energy, it enhances creativity, and that in turn flows to those around you, elevating others to also become positive. Being surrounded and creating optimism and positive energy around others (for example, your employers) can help change the work environment from the traditional business model of surviving and fear of repercussions to one of a thriving model that promotes positivity and creativity.
Create an energetic work environment!
Positive psychology research has also influenced how others, such as managers and executive leadership, promote their work environment. It’s been shown through social science research that those who encourage others to pursue dreams, or come from a place of abundance tend to attract others with high-performing habits and thus, leads to the building of successful endeavors.
How do you cultivate a positive mindset and how do you use positive psychology in your workplace?
Some characteristics that can help cultivate a work culture of new ideas and initiatives include taking individualized interests in your employees or co-workers, feeling and expressing gratitude towards others, encouraging others to talk about their issues and barriers perceived at work, and exhibiting compassion, encouragement, and open discussion for new ideas. There’s a reason why people with high emotional intelligence are generally successful.
To put it all together, understand that happiness brings success and that creating a positive workplace enhances learning, collaboration, and innovation.