When Positive Psychology comes knocking

It’s time I got off the fence and declared that I have more than a passing interest in Positive Psychology. Whew, glad I’ve got that off my chest.

One of the areas of personal development I’m seeing people start to gain a real interest in is about their personal resilience and wellbeing. People want to better understand how to increase their capacity for dealing with daily life and for living a better life. For some, they’re at a point in their life where they are ready to make conscious efforts to live a positive life and help others in what they do.

At recent talks I’ve given on positive psychology, it’s a genuine pleasure to see how people react to the topic. When I see after the event people still talking about the topic, or I’m seeing people writing about their #3goodthings, I know I’ve had a hand to play in that. And it helps me to know that it’s a sought after topic.

Earlier this year I advertised a series of workshops I was going to run. I’m gonna do that again, and this time focus on one town/city as opposed to a range of choices.

The next bit of the evolution for me is to work with people individually in growing their understanding of the subject and how to apply it to daily life. I wouldn’t call it coaching. It’s probably more accurate to call it 1:1 development.

What is the difference between positive thinking and positive psychology? How does mindfulness help build personal resilience? Why should I write about #3goodthings? What is a gratitude visit? What is my signature strength? How does emotional intelligence help build positive relationships? What does a vibrant life mean? How do I create flow?

These are the types of questions we’ll be exploring together. And hopefully can help you to arrive at some answers which will lead to you living a life focused on your wellbeing, personal resilience and feeling good.


Leave your emotions at home

I, like many other L&OD pros, see great relevance in the topic of emotional intelligence and its relationship with work. Many times over will you hear things being said about the percentage points increase of sales folk who have good EI or the x point improvement on the staff survey because of a focus on EI. It’s useful information and helps give credence to this topic.

But why does it need that credence at all? Who doubts that there is wisdom and efficacy in understanding our emotional selves? This is the battle we face in HR. To convince the number crunchers that topics like EI are core to understanding human behaviour and therefore core to business success.

Here are some examples of situations where the individual has shown that not only do they understand EI, but it’s helped them achieve a goal.

At a previous organisation a colleague passed away. He was popular and well liked, and sadly his death was sudden due to advanced cancer. Not long after at a company all hands, the CEO was honouring him and he started to cry in front of everyone. We all clapped in solidarity. There was no tenuous link to ‘do better work to honour his memory’. There was appreciation of a CEO who cared about the people he worked with. What did he achieve? Showing strength of character to his workforce that we could rally around. Love wins over fear every time.

An old work colleague used to worry about doing a good job. He was good at what he did, was willing to learn and develop new skills. He took his time, sought help when he needed it and accepted feedback no matter how critical it was. What did he achieve? He now has his own company and offers consultancy on the very thing he trained in.

The last team I worked in was a new group who came together to help the organisation develop its learning and organisational development capabilities. I really enjoyed working with this group because we all took the time to appreciate and listen to what we each had to say. What did we achieve? In six months of being there we were receiving regular praise from all parts of the business because of the good work we were doing.

I can’t categorically link any of the above to EI. I can understand, though, that good EI – both natural and developed – helps make things better. It’s hard to define that ‘better’ in hard terms.

We can put people through programmes and through development to be better. But for me that’s not the crux of it. For me, the crux of it is about the environment you’re in and how you cultivate these behaviours for everyone to understand and be comfortable with.

People often say ‘leave your emotions at home’. They only say that because they’ve never been allowed to or shown how to share their emotions at work in a safe way which is non-threatening and supportive of them as a person.

You know when you laugh…

Something for a Friday? Sure.

Perhaps what we need is to share something. Create some… connections.

But, you know, something genuine, and something… fun.

I like playing with the tangible and giving people a glimpse into something else.

It’s what sparks an idea you see. That thing over there.

So, here it is >

You know when you laugh, and you can’t help but do a body laugh? And you’re laughing so hard your sides start to hurt? And you’re enjoying the feeling but want it to stop? And then you think back to that and you can picture the exact thing that made it happen?

When I was 18, we were holding an event at the gurdwara. My good friend Jerry and I were in the car park. More specifically, he was on the bonnet of my car, and I was in the driver’s seat. I thought it would be fun to see what would happen if I accelerated the car from 0-30 mph in the space of 10 metres and brake sharply. It was great. As soon as the car stopped, Jerry started flying into the air. I could see him launch and was shocked at what I was watching. He must have travelled 15 metres before he came crashing to the concrete floor and doing several rolls. He immediately stood up and we both stood there in shock for a moment before we feel into a fit of laughter. Thankfully he had little bruising and a few grazes on his leg. It was awesome.

I love that.

Your turn?

The importance of relationships

I’m a relationship kind of guy. Someone who enjoys building them, cultivating them, nurturing them, and generally having them. And that’s inclusive of all types of relationships. With my wife, with friends, with work colleagues, with suppliers, with superiors, with just about anyone that I end up meeting. Human existence thrives on relationships, without them we are nothing.

In Sikhi we are taught that the company of those around us is a blessed thing and we should seek it out whenever possible. In psychology we are taught about various facets of relationships and the importance of them on mental and psychological wellbeing. In the workplace we are often taught to be collegiate and be helpful to those around us, those we work with and those working either under us or on behalf of us. In society we are taught that doing things for the greater good is the ideal to have. That we should aim to do things which will bring some positive contribution to society. Personally my parents have taught me that relationships are the very cornerstone of a happy home life.

I’m in agreement with all that. It makes sense, you can see how it works and you can see how it can fall apart. When people don’t invest the time to do these things you can see the reactions from others. Why did they act like that? Don’t they see the harm they are doing? Do they lack self awareness? Are they socially inept? Do they not care about there around them?

Sadly, not everyone is geared up to this mentality. I say sadly because it is something we are all capable of doing, and I believe we should do. This has nothing to do with personal tendencies for space, privateness, extraversion, introversion, personalities, or any other individual trait. This is, I believe, a fundamental aspect of human life that we should be highly conscious of helping to grow.

Many ills in society, family, communities, individuals can be seen to have a link with the level of relationships people have in all of those groups (and others). I’m cautious to say there are causal links, as research is constantly being carried out about the power of groups both negative and positive.

But, if we took the time to genuinely develop relationships that have meaning, we can see intuitively that a general level of positivity and constructive behaviours would arise. As I’ve said above, regardless of your personal bent, we are all capable of doing this. Some are naturally better at this than others, and some have difficulty with it. But just because it is difficult does not mean it should not be something we aim to strive for.

What’s your day been like?

Some people are naturally ‘people people’. I don’t mean they are extraverted, or introverted. I mean they just like people. I’m like that. I just like people. I like talking, I like listening, and I like to learn about others. When I’m on holiday, I’ll ask 101 questions to tour guides and the like so I get what it’s like to be in that place.

One of the best things that positive psychology tells us about improving our wellbeing is that seeking out the company of others is of huge benefit to our psychological wellbeing. In a previous post, I spoke about positive energy networks. But that was focused at work. Personally though, there are some very pertinent actions we should be encouraging to help each other understand how to live a better life, and to be happier in this life.

If you recall, originally, therapy and the likes aims to take people suffering from some sort of depression or other mental anxiety from a state of ‘-1’ to ‘-5’ to a state of ‘0’. ‘0’ in this instance meaning ‘normal’. Positive psychology aims to take you from a state of ‘0’ to a state of ‘+5’. And that’s what fascinates me. That’s where I think we can do so much more in our lives to truly make a difference to ourselves.

There’s plenty to personally do in terms of the food we eat, the exercise we take, the work/life balance we try and achieve. But there’s also something very conscious we need to do about the people we connect with. And this is quite possibly the hardest thing to be conscious of, while at the same time being the most rewarding.

When I leave home in the morning, and I start that daily routine, at what point am I connecting with someone, and at what point am I just a passer-by? Mostly, I won’t care about my fellow commuters, we happen to be in the same space because of circumstance, not through choice. But then someone falls over. Or someone falls ill. Or someone gets irate with another passenger. Or someone sneezes. Do we intervene? Should we? What benefit is there to us? What difference does it make if I offer assistance?

You arrive at work. You say pleasant hello’s to the security guard. Walking to your desk/office you do more of the same. And then you start to do your work. Where have you connected with any one of those people? Do you need to? Are they important enough to you? And what about when you go about your work. Bob comes to have a chat with you. Brenda sends you an email asking for that information. Billy needs an urgent response to that question. Are these transactions or are these times to connect and make a difference?

You talk with your friends at some point. You share some banter. Talk about something trivial. Make an effort to remember events and let them know you care. If you didn’t talk to them would your day have passed any differently? Would you have missed them? Would they have missed you?

There’s a clear bias to my questions, and it’s in line with what I want to get you to think about. This isn’t just about ‘active listening’ or ‘great customer service’. This is about your wellbeing, through the connections you actively choose to, or not make. And at the same time being mindful that your connection will have an impact on the person you’re with. Everyone gains something by being connected to.