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What to Learn From Positive Psychology?

What to Learn From Positive Psychology?


Positive psychology, is that like wearing rose-tinted glasses through life? Always looking on the bright side? Just kidding… but what is positive psychology really? According to Gable and Haidt (2005) it can be defined as “the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions.” So what lessons can we learn from positive psychology theories to improve and flourish in our career lion life?


The Hierarchy of Needs Model

Based on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model, we can learn that we need to satisfy our lower order needs to flourish and improve our wellbeing. This model considers five stages, required to work on your influence and personal development. The first and lowest layer in Maslow’s model considers our basic biological and psychological needs, required for survival. Continued by our safety needs, considering i.e. protection, security, order, law, limits, and stability. The third layer concerns belongingness and love, your relationships with your friends, family and significant others. Our esteem needs make the fourth layer in the model, covering our desire to achieve, have responsibilities, and build a reputation. Then when you reach the top of the hierarchy, you will be able to flourish getting to personal-growth and fulfilment. Our articles for Career Lions actually focus on the top three layers of this model. 

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Based on Maslow’s model, I have a much better understanding of the basis needed to flourish. From which I gather that the only obstacle to reach personal growth and fulfilment, are my own self-esteem needs. I always think I will be much happier whenever I win a certain ranking at a dancing competition, acquire skill “x”, and so on. Maybe, just maybe, I will have to be satisfied with my current achievements. To flourish sooner rather than later, seeing as you never know how much more time you have left.

The Flow Model

The saying “go with the flow” supposedly originates from the flow model by Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of “positive psychology”.  He states that one is happier being fully concentrated and engaged in an activity, feeling “in the zone”.

The flow model demonstrates eight emotional state of people engaged in activity, based on the level of challenge and skill. These are apathy, boredom, relaxation, worry, control, anxiety, arousal, and flow. Yes, flow being the ultimate goal where one completes tasks successfully as a result of a fully focussed mental state.  

 Flow is said to have tremendous contribution to effectiveness and can be induced by:

  •        Formulating clear goals related to the tasks,
  •        A balance between the level of challenge and skill, and
  •        Intermediate feedbackloops to allow for corrective actions.  

Flow model, where have you been all my life. This is the answer explaining my constant need for challenge and desire to obtain more and higher levels of skill. Based on these insights, I will definitely make sure I have enough projects to get my “flow” on. Boredom is no fun and usually results in an online shopping spree anyways (while I should be saving up to buy a house, yes I am well aware). For the moment, I think I am pretty set. I am currently training about four times a week, to one day qualify for the World Championships of Irish Dancing again. Moreover, I have am trying to learn programming in Java. 

The Growth-Mindset Theory

The growth-mindset theory by Carol Dweck describes that by adapting such a mindset, we can achieve success and fulfilment in any life phase. She defines what is called a fixed- vs. a growth-mindset. The aim of someone with a fixed-mindset is basically to obtain validation, given their believes that intelligence and ability are fixed. Those who have adapted the growth-mindset set out to achieve mastery and competence, believing that the required qualities can be developed. The way one perceives failure and criticism is  one of the major differences between these mindsets. Someone with a fixed-mindset is strongly affected by this, compromising his or her confidence. Meanwhile, growth-mindset thinkers embrace failure as a challenge and opportunity to improve working even harder. 

Your mindset is not a given constant. It can change over time as well as differ per situation depending on your belief concerning particular abilities. According to Dweck, the first step to transform your mindset is to recognize your inner fixed-mindset voices. She urges us to become aware of our choice in the matter and to talk back with your growth-mindset voice until your brain is completely rewired.

When it comes to the growth-mindset, I think in some areas and on most days I do quite ok. However, at times there certainly is a definitely a small little voice somewhere saying: “See, you can’t do this! You are so stupid! You are a waste of space!”. From now on, I will be screaming back: “Are you saying I can’t do this? Watch me prove you wrong!”.

So what lessons did you learn from this? Are you going to change your way of thinking to flourish by applying positive psychology concepts? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.






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