Dave Shearon, MAPP, applies positive psychology to both law and education. Dave writes articles about applications of Positive Psychology to law and education at his site. He co-authored the recently published book, Smart Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth. Full bio.
Dave's articles are here.
I’ve been a bit of a grump today. Not a bad, grump. Just some tacky, negative comments. I said as I started out this morning that I was feeling that way, and I know I was a bit terse with my staff a time or two during the day. When I got home this evening, I was still a bit on the grumpy side, although more in a joking sort of way.
“So what?” you ask. The “so what” is that my family noticed and I noticed, and I don’t think either of those things would have happened before MAPP. Both my wife and younger son let me know quickly I was being a grump. I didn’t feel right to me, and I felt a need to start changing it. I’ll be particularly dilligent about writing Three Good Things tonight, I can assure you.
At just about this point in 2006 when I was doing the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology at Penn, I wrote a blog post entitled, “What good is a Masters in Positive Psychology?” One of the interesting things about putting stuff on the web is that it can be there years later for you and others to read. I have, occasionally, had something I’ve written thrown back at me. Not surprising since I put up my first web site as I ran for the school board here in Nashville almost a decade ago. (Wow! Could it be that long?) But, in the case of this post, the following language rings even truer today than it did then:
“It’ll take creativity, imagination, vitality, and a certain amount of risk-taking to translate the opportunity represented by the MAPP program into real changes in your life. But, I think I can say with confidence that you, personally, are far likelier to be in a position to exercise those qualities as a result of your experience in the program.”
I am a happier, more optimistic person because of MAPP. I am better at taking my ideas and moving forward with them. I handle adversity better. I have friends I treasure and colleagues I enjoy working with as a result of MAPP. And, I have so few grumpy days that when I do get off kilter, it stands out to me and those around me. In one of the very first Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs I did based on positive psychology, there was a middle-aged lawyer in the back of the room, slouched forward in his chair with his arms crossed and a grim look on his face. Somewhere in the second hour, he raised his hand and asked, “Were you this happy when you were practicing law?” The answer is no, and I wasn’t this happy after I left the practice, either!Earlier this year, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and do some sightseeing before I went on to spend 12 days a Geelong Grammar School as one of a group of facilitators for their training in resilience and positive psychology. On the morning of December 31, with our flight set to leave about 6 pm, I suddenly realized that the luggage limitation that I thought only applied on one of our tours actually applied on all of them! These were backpacker tours, and we both had to pack for 17 days in 32 pounds! I weighed a suitcase and it was over 14 pounds, empty! Bit of a shock! However, after a bit of discussion, I just went out and bought a couple of very basic, light-weight, nylon duffle bags. We packed the tour stuff in them, my clothes for Geelong in a suitcase to stay at the hotel where we would finish, and were ready to go. As we were wrapping that effort up, my older son said, “Dad, you’ve changed. Before you did that program, it would have been, ‘*#%$! *#%$!’ and you would have stomped and stormed around. Now, you just adjust and deal with it!” Pretty neat when your kids see the change!
Is it a conscious effort with me? You bet it is! I take my own medicine. I do Three Good Things. I try to engage my strengths and the strengths of those around me. I remember that things I don’t do well, others do nearly flawlessly practically every time, and I’m grateful for that. I try to act like other people matter. I notice and try to create High Quality Connections in casual encounters as well as at work and home. When I think about writing a sarcastic, negative, and hyper-critical post or email, I stop and ask what I expect to accomplish, and I virtually always either don’t write it, or delete it. Oh, I can still on occasion point out what I see to be a weakness or failure. But I’m far more careful about when and how I do it, and I often decide to forego sharing such observations entirely.
The post I referenced earlier was mostly about what a MAPP degree might open up professionally, and there have been a number of things in that area for me over the last two years. But, what I didn’t expect when I went in, and what I now wouldn’t trade for anything, is the difference the experience made in me as a person. So, when I read some of the backlash pieces on positive psychology such as the one my colleague Sherri Fisher posted about recently, I just smiled.
I am reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s about what makes ideas “sticky.” One component is credibility, and one way of establishing credibility is by making falsifiable claims. That’s a claim that folks can test for themselves, such as the famous “Where’s the beef?” commercials for Wendy’s in the 1980s. Positive psychology make falsifiable claims. Having tested them myself, as well as having read the literature, my thoughts are not focused on defending what positive psychology has developed so far, but on putting it to work. I wish for you the will and opportunity to travel that same road!
Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2007). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Random House.
Grumpy WTS courtesy of 11950mike
Suitcases courtesy of Phineas H