What Positive Psychology Means to Me
When people ask me what I study and teach I get two subsequent reactions, the person may give me a quizzical look, typically followed by a joke about happiness and bright yellow smiley faces. I try to show them that to me, positive psychology is not simply about the pursuit of happiness, but about the pursuit of excellence, of people working at their best. Not excellence as defined by the appraisals of others, but by our own standards, coupled with the sheer enjoyment and intense satisfaction we can find within life when we are working to our greatest potential, excelling ourselves.
As such, my chief line of interest is the flow state, an intensely absorbing psychological state found within skill-challenging activities that we can lose ourselves in and are inherently enjoyable to us. Whilst frequently experiencing flow might make us happier, I’m drawn to it because of the passion that typically accompanies it. You ask someone about their hobbies or work that they know they can truly engross themselves in and it makes for wonderful listening, people light up when they speak about it. For example, I have absolutely no interest in insurance management or fishing, but on separate occasions I have listened intently to two individuals detailing their experiences; the challenges they find within the activities associated with it, how they measure their skill, and how they lose themselves when these activities become optimal experiences for them.
I first discovered positive psychology after attending a seminar as an undergraduate, purely out of curiosity. It was the kind of light bulb experience that leaves you with a clear direction for where you are heading. I had no idea of how I was going to do it, nor really what that entailed, I just knew I had never been drawn to anything like this before. I called my brother as I walked home afterwards and ranted to him how great the idea was that you could study human beings at their upmost best, and be taken seriously for doing so! He promptly checked whether I was feeling well.
To take quite a leap, a few years on and positive psychology hasn’t just become a topic of study or a job, it has become that with which the world has unfolded for me from an entirely different perspective, and an improved one at that. This is because positive psychology is in itself a transformational field, as you explore positive psychology, you inadvertently end up learning more about the potential in yourself and the world around you than you thought imaginable. It is a journey filled with discovery and satisfaction, with the pursuit of your own excellence, and it’s damn good fun!
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’