Last month I attended the 2nd Australian Positive Psychology Conference run by the Australian Positive Psychology Association (APPA) at Melbourne’s Monash University on 12-13 February. It came at the end of a long and busy week, I was tired, and I had little enthusiasm for leaving home and flying interstate. Thanks to my ‘industry and perseverance’ strength, I made the trip. I returned home feeling energized and enthusiastic. I had greater clarity and confidence about the role we can play in helping to implement Positive Psychology.
I can’t actually put my finger on what specifically caused this happy state. Some of the sessions were fantastic, some were not so great, others were unexpectedly helpful, others not as helpful as I’d hoped. There was time to think and reflect. There was time to just be. There was plenty of time to interact with the 350 participants, all keen to learn, share, and connect. There is something energizing about noticing the healthy state of the field of Positive Psychology in one’s own country.
Positive Education, a great step forward…
A pleasing trend I have observed in Australia is the healthy state of Positive Education. Last year there was a successful Positive Education Conference at Sydney University – yes, a Positive Psychology conference devoted just to Positive Education. In this year’s (general) Positive Psychology Conference in Melbourne we noticed a large number of presentations devoted to Positive Education. And there seemed to be many more participants from schools at this conference than were at the 1st Australian Positive Psychology conference in 2008.
But … what about workplaces?
However, consider this comment from a participant during a lunchtime discussion forum (Positive Psychology in Organisations): “What happens when the children who have been exposed to positive education enter the workforce and encounter bosses who are not literate in the field of Positive Psychology?” Consider also anecdotes about company executives who, although interested in Positive Psychology, did not attend the conference because they thought the agenda was heavily biased towards education.
Some participants noted that proportionately there were not as many sessions on workplace applications as there were on Positive Education. Why was this so?
All agreed this is not a criticism of the conference. In fact people were pleased with the progress of positive education in Australia.
- People are implementing positive psychology in workplaces and organizations, but do not yet have rigorous evidence that can be presented at conferences.
- Consultants do not feel comfortable presenting, being uncomfortable about “blatant self promotion.”
- Some executives who are implementing Positive Psychology in their organizations did not think they have a story to tell. One commented, “Just one more year and then I’ll present.” Some realized they do in fact have a story already and could have presented if they’d had the right opportunity.
- Teachers in schools are much more interested and enthusiastic about Positive Psychology than leaders, managers, and executives. The well-being and development of students is the core business of a school. Well-being of employees is not considered core business of some organizations, and anyway, organizations have so many more cynics to educate. Young children tend to be less cynical.
- Positive Psychology is still young, there is nothing to worry about, workplaces are slowly picking it up.
- The Positive Education sessions at the conference provided inspiring information which is transferable to the workplace. “Let’s great creative.”
We had no answers, just comments, thoughts, and curiosity. We also had lots of hope and optimism that there will be increasingly more experiences of successful applications of Positive Psychology in organizations.
So, I wonder: what do you think?
What are you observing in your part of the world? As Positive Psychology matures, what do you think will be the key topics of conversation at conferences and forums?
Free Giant Macro Pencil and Pink Eraser by D Sharon Pruitt (Pink Sherbet Photography)
Office block: by Amanda Horne