Positive Psychology Redux: Dr Martin Seligman

Last Updated Jan 3, 2010 7:26 PM EST

As I said in my last blog I am posting observations about various people that I heard speak at a conference held in Sydney in early December: Mind & Its Potential.

Today the spotlight falls on Dr. Martin Seligman, widely regarded as the founder of Positive Psychology, who was on the dais with the Dalai Lama.

I was very interested in hearing Dr. Seligman as there is has been a very interesting discussion in the Linkedin Emotional Intelligence Network about the link between Positive Psychology and EQ.

Probably the most useful of Dr. Seligman's comments was his definition of Positive Psychology which he defined in four steps.

Positive Emotions Those who are optimistic do not think like pessimists who tend to see problems as permanent, pervasive and personal. Rather than saying " I'm doomed", "Everything's finished." "I'm no good", "Global warming will kill us all." Optimists see a way out; they confine the problem and do not take it personally. They do not indulge in catastrophic thinking. "Man will adapt to climate change. Global warming means happiness for mankind. There will be better days. Belief and hope is half the battle won." Perhaps the core belief of the positive psychology movement is that you can learn to be optimistic and doing so will make you a better person. I must confess that I have found the Candidean optimism of some public speakers tiring on the other hand I remember my first sales manager telling me to never forget that the only thing more contagious than enthusiasm was the lack of it.

Positive Meaning Dr Seligman's message was that your life will be definitely be improved and you will be much happier if you use what is inside you to serve greater whole. One of my mentors, Charles Handy, advocated that you spend 10 percent of your time in voluntary activity for groups which is a principle that I have tried to follow in my life. All I can say it that it works and you do truly reap what you sow.

Positive Relationships We all know that relationships are fundamental to the happy life but Dr. Seligman put a spin on it that I had never heard before. He said that a major problem is many relationships is that people fail to celebrate the good times. They tend to focus on the problems and wallow in recriminations. Far more important is to participate in celebrations such as marriages, births, promotions. I think that is one of the reasons for the happiness of Latin people is that they do indulge in celebrations and they do it in groups.

Positive Accomplishments The Chinese say the secret to a happy life is to get a degree, have a son, and write a book. The implicit meaning is that one should aim at becoming educated, raise a family and leave behind knowledge that other people can use. However thinking about it some more achieving all three of these are significant accomplishments.

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed listening to Dr. Seligman and he did make me think.