I sometimes get asked if I am a Psychologist since I have studied Positive Psychology. The answer is no, while Positive Psychology is an area of Psychology, it does not mean that all practitioners would be Psychologists, or that therapy would be the only area where Positive Psychology could be applied. Positive Psychology has successfully been applied in various contexts such as schools and workplaces. Every practitioner applies the tools and research in their own field to support the well-being of their students, employees, patients, clients, community members, and so on.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to give a talk on strengths to an amazing group of people. I spoke at the Job Seekers' Garden Club of St. Louis career event. The Job Seekers' Garden Club started as a networking group last year when many people lost their jobs. Now they are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and they bring together job seekers, recruiters, and connectors in the St. Louis metro area. Their mission is to get people back to the careers they love. It was an honor to be part of this mission and to share my thoughts as well as some well-known research on the importance of identifying and developing our strengths.
When I speak about strengths, I often hear the argument that focusing more on strengths might be nice, but working on our weaknesses is what really makes us improve. On the surface, it seems to make sense: if something is a strength for you, why should you spend any more time on it? Shouldn't you focus on the areas that are NOT strengths for you, and improve those, instead?
Recently, I have talked about strengths with a lot of different people, and I have noticed that we all have our own definition of what strengths are. Some of us consider strengths to be our job-related skills, some consider them to be our knowledge and experience, and some see strengths as our personality traits.
Have you heard of job crafting? Whether you have heard the term before or not, it is likely that you have engaged in the activity of job crafting at some point during your career. In a nutshell, job crafting means modifying your job to make it more engaging and meaningful to yourself. Job crafting can benefit both, the individual employees AND the organization, as it increases well-being and job satisfaction, and helps create better customer experiences and increase productivity.
Recently, I have been talking a lot about putting more focus on developing our strengths, rather than spinning our wheels trying to fix weaknesses. Indeed, there is evidence that focusing more on strengths increases both, happiness levels AND productivity.
One of the key concepts in Positive Psychology is character strengths. When Positive Psychology as a discipline first emerged, the purpose was to study human well-being and what is right with us. Very soon, there was a need for a common language and a way to measure the good in people. Professors Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson together with their team were pioneers in researching character strengths and many other scholars have followed in their footsteps, providing us with a strengths-based approach to living a good and meaningful life.