The inspiration for this podcast is Steven Bartlett, CEO.


Houseworking strategy

I listen to podcasts or desert island discs when I’ve got practical jobs like housework and other DIY things to do. I find it’s an effective way to tackle chores, especially the ones that I don’t really want to do. Time goes by quickly; I’m entertained and the end result is I’ve achieved a goal that I easily could have put off.

So, I knew about Steven Bartlett from social media and the BBC programme Dragon’s Den and I liked the way that he came across. So when I was looking for a podcast to listen to before tidying up the bedroom, his name popped up and I thought, “Oh, that might be interesting.”


Late to the party

Well, straight away I realised I was really late for this party because the current episode was number 230 something. But I decided to go back to the very beginning and I scrolled and scrolled all the way back to episode one and I pressed play.

That first podcast impressed me in so many ways and I wanted to comment, I wanted to join the conversation because you see my background and interest is in the science of positive psychology.


The Positive Psychology Connection

If you’ve not heard of it before, there are many definitions of what positive psychology is but one of the most simplest is that it’s the study of what makes life worth living. And it does that by looking at and talking to people who are flourishing and thriving in life to see what characteristics they might have in common. The premise of this being that if we develop those things and use them ourselves, we might improve our sense of wellbeing too.

We’re talking about things like positive emotions, character strengths, resilience and meaning and purpose in life. And what we end up with is a list of things that work well for most people most of the time. I expect Steven has a good knowledge of the subject because as he says in that first episode, he’s done his own research and read things but I doubt whether he, as an 18-year-old boy, would have known anything about it, or even had an interest in those sorts of things, although I might be wrong.

Having listened to episode one, I’m looking forward to hearing exactly how he learned to develop the skills he has, whether they were the results of role models in his life, or whether he acquired them as a matter of survival and just where did that passionate will to succeed come from?

So, as I said, after listening to that first podcast, I had lots of thoughts about what he said, especially from a positive psychology perspective. Although it might not have been his intention, here I felt he was clearly sharing what positive psychology’s principle looked like when applied in one’s life And that’s what’s so important about positive psychology – the theory may be interesting, but it’s the application of it that really matters.


Theory versus Application

You know, you can understand the theory of how an umbrella will keep you dry in the rain but unless you’ve remembered to take one with you, and unless you know how to put it up, you’re going to get wet if there’s a downpour – you know what I mean!

And that’s the whole aim of The Positive Psychology People – to share the principles of positive psychology and show what they look like when applied in the real world and also to help people improve their lives by using simple evidence-based techniques.

So after being inspired by CEO Steven Bartlett, I’ve decided to record my thoughts just as he did. It’s just an experiment, and this may never be published, but if you’re listening to it now, then clearly it was.

So here is my take on episode one of Steven Bartlett’s CEO, and if you haven’t already, then you might want to go and listen to that first.


Episode One

In episode one, Steven explains that he’s decided to share his unscripted thoughts from his diary entries.

His motive is to explain to people how he got from being a broke university dropout, living in a rough area, to become a highly successful CEO. He shares his knowledge and experience in the hope that it might help others create the life that they want. Now to me, that is positive psychology in a nutshell.


The power of narrative

Although his intention is to help others, sharing his story in this way is likely to be highly therapeutic for himself. James Pennebaker is a pioneer in the field of expressive writing, and his work shows the benefits of emotional expression and how it has positive effects on both physical and mental health. Although many of the participants in his studies were asked to write about traumatic experiences, the exercise of expressing one’s thoughts has been found to be a good tool for self-exploration and personal growth.

You see, as Steven tells his personal story, he has to make sense of his thoughts and his emotions and in turn, bring a sense of meaning to his past experiences. As an adult looking back on past events in life, he can see how they’ve influenced him and impacted on some of the decisions he’s made, which is a really powerful way to find meaning.

Psychology professor, Dan McAdams is a leading researcher in the field of narrative psychology. His work focuses on the ways in which personal stories shape our identity and contribute to our psychological wellbeing. He says that we create a sense of self by constructing our personal narrative, which is what explains who we are and how we came to be that way and this is what helps us understand ourselves and our place in the world. According to his work, people with the most coherent and meaningful personal narratives tend to enjoy greater wellbeing with higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and resilience.

As Steven tells us the processes and stages he went through as he transcended from his 18-year-old self to age 27, he is in fact constructing his story, his personal narrative. I like that he doesn’t present his journey as an easy one, but emphasises that it’s been achieved through sheer hard work and that he’s had to make a number of sacrifices. He doesn’t promise “Oh, here’s the answer you’ve been looking for and I know the secret of happiness.” and nor does positive psychology. It offers no goal to lasting happiness but it does suggest that probably, possibly, you could be happier than you are right now. And if that’s important to you, Steven and positive psychology might be able to steer you in the right directions. And I use the plural because there are many ways to create positive change.


Hard work and happiness

Whilst he emphasises the importance of hard work, I’m not sure if he knew or knows that research shows that it’s happiness that is the precursor to success, not the other way around. In the book The Happiness Advantage by Sean Achor, he says that when people are happy and positive they also become resilient, creative, and productive, which are the key factors that lead to success.

Steven doesn’t think he’s got it all right. He realised that his lifestyle and work ethic have had a toll on his personal relationships. He quotes from the Harvard Grant Study, one of the longest well-known longitudinal studies in the field of psychology. As Steven says, one of the key findings was that the quality of an individual’s relationships was the single most important factor in determining their long-term health and happiness.

The psychiatrist and researcher George Vaillant was Director of this study for more than 40 years, and he summed it up in a slightly different way. He said, “The 75 years and $20 million expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion – happiness is love. Full stop”  End of quote. His book, Triumphs of Experience:  the Men of the Harvard Grant Study, summarises the findings and explores the factors that contribute to a happy and meaningful life. Vaillant reflects on the lessons learned from the study and provides insights into the ways individuals can cultivate resilience and well-being across the lifespan. It’s beautifully written, and I highly recommend it. What I took from it was that it’s never too late and it’s never too early to make positive change.

Listening to Steven explain that it was hard to develop and maintain a long-lasting relationship when he was so absorbed in working hard, I couldn’t help wondering if he’d ever considered getting a dog. Not all relationships have to be human-based. Research shows that pet owners report higher levels of self-esteem and are less likely to feel lonely and isolated.


The power of pets

As the CEO, I’m quite sure that Steven could have taken a dog to work with him if he’d wanted one. But not everyone is a dog person, and maybe it wouldn’t fit in with the amount of travelling he does. I have to confess that Molly, our dog, is one of my closest friends, confidante (she’s very good at keeping secrets), personal trainer, source of amusement and as well as all of that, she shows me unconditional love and loyalty. She has brought untold joy in my life and also to that of my partner, Iain.

So there, I’ve got that off my positive psychology chest. There are other themes in Steven’s podcast that I could comment on, and maybe I will sometime in the future, but I’m going to leave it here for now.

I’m really looking forward to listening to episode two, and who knows if I listen to all 230-whatever of them, I might end up with the cleanest, tidiest house I could ever imagine!

Let’s see.

See you next time.

Audio Version

Read more about Lesley Lyle and her other articles HERE


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