This thing about positive psychology

So, yeah I’m holding a series of open workshops in 2014 on the topic of positive psychology. The first is in London, on Tuesday 18th March. You can either book clicking on the button to the right, or here.

Anyway, why bother? Here’s the hard sell, for those who want some clarity about what you can learn.

So what is this thing about positive psychology though? Why is it even a topic, and why should I care about learning about it?

Here’s the thing. I want you to live a good life. But importantly, we all want to live a good life.

A good life can mean so much, and is so varied.

A good life could mean you make more money. It could mean you gain that promotion you’ve been seeking. It could mean achieving a personal goal. It could be about finding the partner who’s right for you.

We all define ‘good’ according to what our value set is all about.

And seemingly, if you’re on social media, you read about stories of people all living apparently good and happy lives. Well, that’s partly the beauty of and the challenge of using social media to share your stories. Do you want to be the one people see as spreading sad/upsetting news, or the person who shares good/happy stories that people ‘like’?

It’s tough too, because the more we read about other’s stories, the more we have the urgency to share something of our own. It’s a form of conformity which we’re largely unattuned to, and can be hard to resist. I know I fall guilty of it – and in part, I help promote this.

I wouldn’t call it a fall sense of happiness, I’d call it a false sense of reality. Social media allows to be seen what we share through it. Once people have a perception of what you’re about, and you have a sense of that, it’s hard to be someone different or to include other aspects of yourself.

Thankfully, there’s been a host of research, both academically and in the corporate environment, that helps us to understand what it means to be happy, and to live a good authentic life. We can take those learnings and apply them to our personal life, and to how we operate corporately.

The challenge to this all is making it happen. I can help you learn more about it. You can obviously read more about various authentic and positive practices yourself.

Here’s what I know, though. This thing about positive psychology isn’t going away. People will be hearing about it more, and people will be wanting to understand how to make it happen. It will start to make a better and positive difference to people’s lives, and it will start to help working environments be better. Quite definite statements, aren’t they? Who can guarantee anything? I can guarantee it insofar as I know that this area of psychology is already having a positive impact in a lot of ways.

If I want you to live a good life, I want you to understand how to do that, and how to make it happen. Make a booking to the next workshop here.

Advertisements

Positive Psychology in Application in 2014

A nice simple post today. Over 2014 I’m planning on holding a number of open workshops on Positive Psychology in Application.

The first is planned for Tuesday 18th March. You can book your tickets here. This one will be in London, and is from 0845-1300.

But wait, there’s more.

I’m holding the other workshops across the UK. Currently, I’m planning on:

May 15th – Birmingham
September 25th – Manchester
December 4th – Bristol

The times of the sessions will all be the same – 08:45-13:00.

Gotta love a bit of ambition.

Unconditional positive regard

In a previous post, I wrote about hope. I quite like that post, it kind of describes me.

Unconditional positive regard. I remember learning about this on my Psychology course when it comes to therapy and counselling. This is something quite challenging. Imagine it, you have to sit with the person opposite, and unconditionally regard them with positive intent. No cynicism, no interpretation, no negative bias – accepting what they say is the truth, and accepting that they want the best.

Could you do it? Imagine all the people you encounter every day, and with every one of them, you have to hold them in unconditional positive regard. I can’t do it. I’m not thinking I particularly should. But how do you judge a situation and decide with which person you should practise this thinking? How discerning and intelligent must you be to be able to do this?

You can see why it’s important for counselling and therapy purposes. The counsellor / therapist is there for you, and they are trained in helping you to be your best self. That means they can’t and shouldn’t judge you, criticise you, or react to you in a way which you feel you cannot trust them. You have to be able to speak with this person with utmost confidence that they can and will respect you for who you are.

Humans only have so much capacity for this type of behaviour. It’s really hard to maintain that kind of thinking and do it with everyone. It takes conscious energy and will to make that happen. We place expectations on pretty much every interaction we have, be it digital or physical, and that means we open ourselves to either being delighted or disappointed. If we’re delighted, it’s easy to be positive towards others. If we’re disappointed, the last thing we want to do is look for anything positive in another person.

Even therapists and counsellors have their supervision and support sessions where they blow off steam and ‘let it out’.

Consider then at work how much more challenging this is. In HR we face day to day issues that people want to come and talk to us about which directly affect them in one way or another. And, in the main, we can influence the outcome of that interaction – either the person is delighted, or they’re disappointed. How many people do you choose to hold in unconditional positive regard? Not many I’m betting.

Maybe you try hold you manager in this regard? Maybe some of your colleagues? Maybe the person you sit next to? Or a director or senior manager?

So what do we do? Suddenly think the best of everyone we come into contact with?

I want to help you. This is my default position. It means I’ll empathise with you and try to get the best solution for you. It doesn’t mean I won’t judge you, or choose to not believe you, but I’ll put that to one side while I try help to help you.

Well, why not?

Here’s what we know. We know that people who help others achieve something feel better about themselves in the long run. We know that at work, when we help our colleagues to do something, they tend to be appreciative and share the good story with others. We know that engagement at work is about the support and inclusive feeling we have. We know that when we are trusted to do our work, we produce our best work.

It’s hard. If achieving something great was easy, we’d all be doing it.

When bloggers are the secret to success

I enjoy helping others. It’s been evident through a lot of activities in my life. I was involved with a voluntary group for many years, I chose to go through an education in psychology as I have an interest in how people work, what motivates them, and what I can do to be involved in that. It was during this process I realised in particular I liked working with groups of people above all else. As long as I had a clear idea, a plan, and specific outcome, I could get the group there. I look back on this reflection and see that I was practicing this strength all along. It’s not a sudden realisation, it’s one I’ve always known about.

In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a group of people who have the ability to see where there is something good and positive and are willing to encourage it. There’s something in that. There’s something in the power of a community that I want to give props to.

Last year I decided to hold a workshop on Positive Psychology. It’s a topic I knew enough about to push some of my own personal boundaries, and practice my strength all at the same time. One of the things which was key in this endeavour was raising awareness. I was starkly aware that even though I have a fair following on Twitter and LinkedIn, I would only be able to attract a certain number. I needed to reach more people.

So I got in touch with people I could rely on who write a regular blog. The response I had was generous and most kind. I was truly touched that people who had no reason to help spread the word about my personal project, were willing to help me make it happen.

David Goddin decided to host a guest series on his blog asking people about positive practices in coaching. David, thank you.

Doug Shaw opened his blog for a first come first serve approach when he wrote a post on Positively Psyched. Doug, thank you.

Rob Jones offered the same on his blog asking people to give him a funny reason why he should attend in his post on The One With the Mumbo Jumbo. Rob, thank you.

Vera Woodhead was also very kind and she wrote a post about Connectedness: relationships for a better future. Vera, thank you.

And Donald Taylor joined in by helping to answer the question Are you happy? Happiness, work and good business. Donald, thank you.

It would be remiss of me to not mention Martin Couzins and Mervyn Dinnen. They both attended the session in an official capacity as bloggers. Martin collated a round up of posts in his Round-up of coverage from Positive Psychology in Application. Merv wrote a piece on the Jobsite blog called Introduction to Positive Psychology. Martin and Mervyn, I thank you both.

There were subsequent posts written and shared about the event, and I’m grateful that people took to doing this of their own volition.

If it wasn’t evident, this post is simply to say thank you to these bloggers, and what they helped me to achieve.

Are you interested in applying your creativity in an interesting way? I’m asking people to get involved in Learning Stories to see if they can produce a story about learning which inspires someone to act. The deadline for submission is March 21st 2013. Fancy a challenge?

Slides from #ppia

I have been ruminating all week about what I could say about #ppia. But I’m just not there yet. I want to say all these wonderful things that happened on Friday, but I haven’t taken it all in yet myself. There’s been a lot happening with the family, and we’re off on our holibobs from this weekend.

So in place of profound deep personal insight, I share with you the slide deck from the day instead. Hope you find it useful. I’ll catch y’all in mid-September.

The half fulls and the half emptys

I like philosophising. My friends say I do it too much. I’m always looking for the thread that connects things (fights strong internal battle to talk about MBTI). Life is just so full of happenstances that when those patterns emerge you get to see how and why certain behaviours happen. It’s one of the things I’m acutely aware of when I deliver L&D solutions with a group of people. I’m not just interested in delivering the content. I’m interested in seeing what people are going through. What have I noticed from when you entered to when you left? And also it’s why I enjoy Twitter. What behaviour do I see with you from when I started following you to when I saw your last tweet?

At the same time, life is full of glass half full and half empty types. If something good happens, the half full types start to see other good things that happened. The half empty types will brush it off as an odd occurrence of life, atypical in their life.

So what happens when you start to focus on improving one aspect of your life?

In a previous post, I wrote about finding your signature strength. That is, a character trait that defines you, and permeates through everything you do.

When you are ill and you go the doctor, they ask a series of questions to isolate what the problem is. That funneling process is key to knowing how to treat you. Most of the time they’ll be spot on. The times they’re not is when they haven’t asked the right questions to know where to focus. It’s all a learning process. And when they’ve got it, when they’ve nailed it, and they treat your illness, eventually you’re back fighting fit.

People with multiple problems in life will be referred to a lot of different services to help them. Counselling for depression. Alcoholics anonymous for people who are addicted to alcohol. Support groups for people taking drugs. Therapy for mental illness. Clinics to help reduce obesity. Some of those people will never be able to life fulfilled lives because there’s just too much going wrong. The best they can hope for is a manageable life. Those who can be helped, are helped because they’ve got the right interventions to get them out of their private hell. The focus is clear and unwavering. Eventually, for those in the last statement, their life gets better.

Humans are good at making things happen. When we see a clear destination point, and we’ve got the right motivation to get there, we’ll do it. What surprises us is when other things in life suddenly start to happen too. That’s not happenstance though. That’s us being highly conscious and being are best selves.

This is what I’m hoping to help people do.

Next Friday (17th August) I’m holding Positive Psychology in Application. 21 people are attending so far. I want to give them focus to help themselves get some clarity on affecting one area of their life. My hope is that once they do, they’ll start to feel more positive about other aspects of their lives, and what they can do to enhance that.

I’d like it if you booked on, and I can help you too.

The Hard Sell

People from the UK are known as a dry-witted, self deprecating, stiff upper lip sort of people. We don’t do emotions, we don’t do passion, and we certainly don’t be positive. Those are for… other people. We’re an expressive people, very opinionated, and love a bit of pomp and circumstance. We’ve got brilliant engineers, a world leading creative industry, and top class medical professionals. What we don’t need is a group of people spouting mumbo jumbo, or getting you to help yourself in three easy steps, with little or no knowledge of what they’re talking about.

And yet amongst all that, here’s me trying to hold and promote an event on Positive Psychology to a group of professionals in the UK, many high earning, many very qualified, and many bloody intelligent. I may as well take a herd of elephants to the North Pole and convince them it’s their natural habitat.

And yet, I’m being doggedly determined to bring this thing to fruition and make a success of it. As of today, I have 13 people signed up to Positive Psychology in Application, and we’ve got 29 days before the day itself. To say I’m feeling the pressure is an understatement. Not pressure to get people signed up, but the pressure to ensure I help impart a set of practical tools and interventions that people can use immediately after leaving the workshop.

Pressure.

If I throw on my L&D hat for a moment, what are the key learning objectives for the workshop? Or put another way, why should you book your ticket?

Here’s some big themes prevalent in the workplace today affecting HR professionals:
– Health and well-being
– Employee Engagement
– Innovation
– Redundancies

I’m laying the gauntlet down for myself, by aiming to provide some ideas on ways to help address those various themes using a Positive Psychology approach.

Ultimately, Positive Psychology is about an individual set of interventions to help a person increase their sense of well-being and take part in activities that create long lasting effects of feeling positive. By engaging in a range of activities that help you to do this, the research has found that it has a knock-on effect in other areas of your life. You start to feel more energetic, you become more conscious about your body and how you’re keeping physically fit, your interactions with others become meaningful and you focus less on things which annoy you. These are a result of actions taken which positively influence your behaviour, your perceptions, and further has an influence on those around you.

There are some well researched and developed approached such as Appreciative Inquiry and the use of facilitation techniques such as Open Space or Positive Deviance which build and allow for full and robust discussion on topics important to a group of people. At work this could be topics like having an on-site day care service for parents wishing to bring their children to work, it could be about developing a work-life balance policy which everyone has a vested interest in, it could be about addressing concerns about health and safety in the workplace by creating a group of people at work who are responsible for it.

In wanting to be innovative/creative/fresh, the culture of the company has to be supportive and have the right mechanisms in place. Actually, what needs to happen is the belief in the company that good ideas can come from anywhere. You create that by helping people feel like they have the autonomy and responsibility to do it. Having unofficial work-groups spend time throwing ideas together, or an internal community of practice which meets fortnightly, or a social club where like-minded people can come together, are all helpful and useful ways of building that environment. In the main, good ideas come from collaborating and discussions with others.

And sometimes we have to accept that bad things happen. At the end of the day businesses will do what they must in order to survive. The procedure of redundancies are not pleasant and not very positive. Yet there are still things which can be very useful during stressful times like this. My own experience of redundancy from several years ago helped me to see that being able to discuss things with others in the same boat was highly beneficial. The company didn’t do this for us, we did it ourselves. There were those in the group who were more than happy to spend time in giving support to others. Those conversations and discussions were very helpful. The CEO was quite removed from the process and left it all to the HR Manager to deal with. On the last day the CEO tried to come around and talk to everyone individually. You might think this is a good thing except he didn’t know our names, the work we did, or what value we provided. This isn’t going to be an easy time, but more care can be given to providing the right support within and from the leadership team.

So there you have four key things which you will be able to apply the learnings from Positive Psychology to.

Now go book your ticket.