The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center defines positive psychology as “the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” Historically, psychology has been focused on the study of illness and negative behavior, but, since 1998, the study of helpful or enabling behaviors has begun to receive traction in this field.
How do we use positive psychology in the workplace? Positive Psychology is about examining the situations where we feel happy, satisfied, and fulfilled, and then trying to duplicate those variables to achieve similar results. Many resources provide guidance on problem solving and otherwise fixing things that are broken in our work lives. We are taught to take an objective and ‘scientific’ approach when outcomes don’t meet our expectations to learn from our mistakes and correct our actions for future outcomes. Positive psychology would ask us to take these same objective skills and deductive reasoning and point them at different results.
To learn how to duplicate positive outcomes, we need to understand what it took to create those outcomes in the first place. The world of Appreciative Inquiry takes this thinking process and puts it into action. Appreciative Inquiry is a series of conversations to help the members of a group or community break down, to the specific variables, a favorable outcome. The questions in the conversation help the participants to drill down to actions and their results, so that when faced with similar situations in the future, they can repeat the actions to achieve similar positive results.
Being happy is a noble pursuit. People who are satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school and work, to fulfilling social relationships, and even to good health and long life.