Home All Positive Psychology Pyramid

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.

As I have worked with lawyers, teachers, school superintendents, business school students and others on positive psychology, I have looked for a way to organize my approach.  This pyramid is the result.  (For those who prefer organic images, see the end of this post.)  I admit that my thinking may be heavily influenced by my work with lawyers as I have struggled with the unique deficits that law school seems to create.  That said, I share this in the hopes it will spark others to contribute their thoughts as to how to organize the findings in this new field.

Optimism-to-goals Pyramid

Optimism-to-goals Pyramid

My view is that “the good life” is built on a base of positivity and that a good way of thinking about that base is captured by “Resilience/Optimism/Energy” (ROE), “Strengths”, and “Relationships.”  These are three components that work together to form a base on which one’s values can lead to purpose expressed in attractive, motivating goals.


Resilience/Optimism/Energy (ROE) is obviously a concept where I have not been able to settle on one word.  I think about it in terms of both bouncing back from adversities and bouncing forward in the presence of opportunities.  (My colleagues at Flourishing Schools have contributed a lot to my thinking in this area, especially with the concept of “bounciness”.)  I am approaching resilience and optimism from the explanatory style model found in The Resilience Factor by Reivich and Shatte and Learned Optimism by Seligman.  Optimism, however, can also be thought of as future expectancies (Carver and Scheier) — expecting more good things than bad to happen in the future.  This is the optimism Susan Segerstrom works with in Breaking Murphy’s Law.  She has done a lot of work with law students, tracking them forward as they become lawyers.  I will come back to this form of optimism when I discuss Relationships.    The Energy component includes regular exercise (shown to reduce depression), and meditation for mindfulness (numerous positive benefits in many studies).  Meditation, however, appears from the research to have broad-ranging effects in all areas (Fredrickson, Positivity; Siegel, The Mindful Brain).   Energy also includes Barb Fredrickson’s Positivity ratio.


I think of Strengths both in terms of the character strengths measured by the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths and the work-related strengths of action identified in the Gallup organization and described in Strengthsfinder 2.0  and Strengths Based Leadership.  Discovering, affirming for one’s self, and having others affirm one’s strengths is an energizing, optimistic experience that builds well-being.  Becoming confident in those strengths helps one re-envision current situations with new pathways into the future.  Combined, these two views of strengths offer a sort of binocular view of how one might be and act in the world.  Given that law school seems to reduce the connection of law students to most of the standard set of human values (as identified by Shalom Schwartz) and appears to result in lawyers who endorse 21 of the 24 VIA strengths at levels below the average for other Americans, the VIA strengths may offer special opportunities for legal professionals.

Foundation and Entry Points

Generally, either Strengths or ROE seem to make the most sense as entry points for those seeking to build their base of positivity, and working on either or both sets the stage for moving to Relationships.  The VIA Strengths, for example, have as one of their criteria that exercising the strengths uplifts those who witness it.  (See here for a 9-minute screen cast on the background and criteria for the VIA Strengths.) 


Further, we tend to like and be attracted to happy, optimistic, resilient folks.  As one becomes more strengths oriented, one also begins to see strengths in others, thereby laying the foundation for better relationships.  Exercising those strengths can create moments of shared positive emotion and experiences of novelty, both of which build relationships.  (Fredrickson, Positivity; Kashdan, Curious?)  However, Relationships can also feed back into ROE and Strengths.  For example, Segerstrom reports that those law students whose relationships increased in connectedness and carrying power over the 10 years after law school gained more expectational optimism (but those whose financial resources increased did not).   I also often introduce Appreciative Inquiry — as a style and approach, not a formal methodology — when working with Relationships.  “Me at My Best” stories make an excellent exercise in appreciative relating, and they help connect back to Strengths and ROE which will often be in the stories.  High Quality Connections (Dutton, Energize Your Workplace) emphasize rapid moments of emotionally rich connections  This connects to Fredrickson’s approach to love as the frequent, shared experience of positive emotions in a safe relationship.  Finally from a group perspective — friendship, couple, family, law firm or department, school, etc. — I introduce the Losada Line:  3:1 positive to negative interactions for growth, 5:1 or higher for excellence.


With the base of positivity built up, individuals seeking “more” are in a better position to understand, sort, and own their values, develop purposes in different domains of life, and set and pursue goals with energy and joy.  However, this is not a one-directional process just moving “up” the pyramid; there are all kinds of interconnections and feedback loops.  For example, one technique in the resilience approach developed by Reivich, Shatte, Gillham, et al., is “detecting icebergs”.  This means recognizing those situations where one’s beliefs about the situation and one’s emotions/behaviors in the situation do not match, either in size or in type.  So, for example, one might have a belief about loss, which generally should be connected with sadness, but experience anger instead (which usually connects with beliefs about violation of rights).  Or, one could have a belief about a minor violation of rights, but experience massive anger.  In these situations, detecting icebergs is often a productive response.  This is a process that helps the individual discover some slightly deeper beliefs that will make sense of the feelings/behaviors. Here’s the interesting part — it often turns out that those “icebergs” are really deeply held values, sometimes two such values that have come into conflict.  So, by working on resilience, the individual striving for “better” gains insight into his values.  By identifying and sorting values, he develops greater capacity for resilience! 

Another cross-level connection is between goals and optimism.  Writing about expectational optimism, Segerstrom says that “The first rule of doing optimism is pursuing goals.” (Breaking Murphy’s Law, p. 188.)  Her research also indicates that in the 10 years from law school into the practice, her subjects whose relationship networks increased also experienced the greatest gain in expectational optimism!  So, for getting a handle on how to move forward when one is down or unhappy or bored and there doesn’t seem to be a way forward, the hierarchical nature of the pyramid is a help.  But, in the process,  the interconnectedness and ever-changing relative importance of these aspects starts to emerge in ways that make sense to the individual.

Obviously, there are constructs I have omitted in any explicit form, but some of them are here implicitly or would be included in training sessions.  For example, Snyder’s version of Hope involves Goals, Pathways, and Agency.  The components are here, though I haven’t listed “Hope” separately.  The same with Gratitude.  I would use “Three Good Things” as an exercise in the ROE component (usually VERY early in any work with a group) and also involve gratefulness in relationships. 

OK, I promised a more organic image for those who prefer such a way of thinking.  In truth, it is becoming more and more my way of thinking.  But, I am not an adequate  artist to create the appropriate image.  So, I will describe it.  (Thanks to Kathryn Britton for finding two good images!) 

Imagine a tree growing in good soil beside a year-round stream with plenty of sunlight. The tree has rich, abundant foliage, and you can see fruit hanging from its limbs.  The stream is Resilience/Optimism/Energy providing energy even in adverse, arid conditions.  The rich soil is Strengths, providing support and nutrients for growth and accomplishment.  Relationships are the sunlight, providing energy (note the interconnections) and beauty.  The trunk of the tree are one’s personal values, the foliage is purpose in various domains, and the fruit are motivating goals whose pursuit is as enjoyable as their attainment, if not more so!



Dutton, J. (2003). Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. New York: William Morrow.

Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Gallup Press.

Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths-Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press.

Reivich, K, & Shatt?, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.

Schwartz, S.H. (1994).  Are there universal aspects in the content and structure of values? Journal of Social Issues, 50, 19-45.

Segerstrom, S. (2007). Breaking Murphy’s Law: How Optimists Get What They Want from Life – and Pessimists Can Too. The Guilford Press.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. 2nd Edition. New York: Vintage.

Siegel, (2007). The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being. New York: W. W. Norton.

Pyramid used with permission from Dave Shearon
Fountain of Faith from kimberlyfaye’s photostream
Icebergs from Nick Russill’s photostream
Cherries courtesy of James Yeo

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Jeff 17 April 2009 - 10:16 pm

You know Dave, this is your best work to date. I was hooked from the git go. I honestly have found your writing to be of use, but this piece captures and summarizes pithily the various components of resilience.

Seligman has outlined the four pursuits of pleasure, engagement, meaning and victory. Who wouldn’t want those components in their lives? I see resilience as THE skill set leading to those ends. Reivich and Shatte started something good but it needed broadening. Segerstrom wins hands down for the most practical advice on optimism. I no longer have the book because I donated it to a public library, but as I recall she said that the optimism loop is driven by optimistic behavior. That’s been the most useful advice for me.

One major hurdle to optimistic behavior is a low level of energy. How does one move from couch potato to highly active? From serious depression (extreme low arousal) to ecstasy (extreme high arousal) with all stops between. Clearly there are people who move from suicidality to extreme happiness. What’s the mechanism? Is there a general motivational factor ‘m’ that can apply to the bredth of human experience? There’s got to be something else at work instead of just jotting an idea on paper. I don’t think that encompasses what is going on. Something inside changes, clicks. What factors are most predictive of whether someone will have the energy for change and then will make the leap into carrying out change?

I would guess sleep would be close to #1.

Dave Shearon 18 April 2009 - 9:10 am

Thanks, Jeff! I appreciate the kind words.

Great point on sleep. Some folks might start moving toward “better” by just going to bed a little earlier!

I suggest three things for those trying to get started.

First, pay attention to what calls to you. When your read about ROE, are you intrigued? Does “I should do that” flash through your mind? I think most of us have more awareness of the best path forward than we give ourselves credit for.

Second, follow that thought! Do something, anything, to get moving forward. In a follow up survey I did with lawyers who had attended one of my programs, those who reported taking some action after the seminar were four times as likely to say they were experiencing greater well-being and almost three times as likely to report greater commitment, energy, and engagement with their practices.

Third, go for “better”, not perfect. Tal Ben-Shahar named his book Happier instead of “Happy” for this reason. It’s about movement in a direction, not attainment of a state. Better is worth the effort. Better is usually good enough.

Jeff 18 April 2009 - 12:58 pm

You know Dave, I just found out that I am being forced to resign from my current position. I see myself as a casualty of politics. Apparently I did not kiss up properly to the kings and queens of the workplace. At first I was discouraged, but I think my resilience kicked in. I’m pumped to leave a toxic environment and head to greener pastures. Fact is, I hadn’t planned on returning next year to work. The only part that still stings is the backstabby nature of some folks and a nagging worry that every workplace will have this kind of treachery. That and the remote possibility of abject poverty.

Resilience is the key to the strong life. Thanks again!

Dave Shearon 18 April 2009 - 1:03 pm

Ah, Jeff, I’m sorry about the timing and that it wasn’t your choice! But, I hope it turns out to be an opportunity. I’ve just made a recommendation in my primary employment to reduce my position to part-time. It’s the right thing for the agency, and it will open up more time for me to work on applying positive psychology for lawyers and leaders in education and other fields. Already, I can feel the pull of “white space” in my life, pulling me toward action on things I’ve been thinking about for some time. Feels good. May something similar be your experience.

LeanRainmakingMachine 18 April 2009 - 4:17 pm

My Professional firm, 120 years old, just blew up in October –Poof! : out of work, etc.
But, I landed a new gig that just may be a great fit and sure is an interesting new challenge with interesting people….. So, you might find that this challenge is the best thing that ever happened to you professionally
Best of luck –I feel your pain…

Jeff 18 April 2009 - 5:40 pm

Thank you both. I’m mostly over it. It was hard for around 2 days…because I still have to work with the people that fired me until the end of the school year. I find I don’t care for the litigious zero sum nature of teaching Special Education. Outwardly the bureaucracy claims to be all for the children. In point of fact, many are covering their asses and assigning blame. I’d rather be unemployed than to feel such pressure. The biggest challenge is not feeling incompetent.

I am glad to see that you both are dealing well with the upheaval. Niccolo Machiavelli has something to say about our modern economic crisis. In his book “The Prince” he talks about the fickle nature of Fortune. I think our economic situation, helped by greed and bad decisions, qualifies as Fortune’s caprice. One of the most hopeful things he wrote was that you know Fortune will eventually flood your rivers, so build dams before it happens to catch the floodwaters. He suggested that since you will have floods in your life, you’d better anticipate them and prepare for them.

I prepared for the worst, saving almost every paycheck I earned this year. I am vigorously pursuing an unemployment claim. I also had no plans to return to the systemic mess that made me feel like a fool. I’m have been accepted in a post-master’s certificate program. Far from passively accepting what Fortune brings, I am doing all that I can for damage control and triage. I may drown economically but I won’t go without a good fight.

It is my hope that the dams in your lives help contain the flood.

Louisa Jewell 19 April 2009 - 9:24 am

Hi Dave,
I have been thinking about the application of positive psychology in work settings and I think your model is excellent. I really enjoyed reading your post. We do not focus on values at MAPP but I think they are critical because they motivate people towards behavior that is meaningful for them. I have used several tools over the years to allow people to openly discuss values such as Career Anchors and a tool I developed myself. I find this particularly central to discussions with CEOs as values often contribute to leadership decisions.

Do you use any tools to proactively search out values?
Thanks again for this excellent article.
Louisa Jewell (MAPP4)

Marie-Josee Salvas 19 April 2009 - 10:03 am

What an interesting conversation! I have lots of thoughts to share:

– Great article, Dave. You capture a lot in a very succinct and well thought-out model. Thank you for this contribution!

– My area of expertise is the relationship between health and productivity. I have built a 12-week program helping people integrate the teachings of positive psychology and fitness into their lifestyles in a motivating and sustainable way. Resonating with some the the earlier comments, all I ask of participants in week #1 is to get a full night sleep (at least 7 hours, unless they are wired differently than the rest of humanity!). So yes, sleep is a great intervention to tackle first.

– Jeff, sorry to hear the news. Did you read Kathryn Britton’s article on April 7 about “Powerful Questions To Ask At a Job Interview? I think it can serve you well. She gives very constructive and effective suggestions on how to avoid to be caught in another toxic work environment.

– Louisa, I think values are mostly captured under the theme of meaning. Meaning can be about “the what” of work and in that case it could also be labeled as purpose, or it can be about “the how” of work and it that case it could also be labeled values. Thoughts?

– Lastly, Dave, I love your concept of bounciness – “bouncing back from adversities and bouncing forward in the presence of opportunities”. Very helpful! I’ll be using it and quoting you and your colleagues.

Best to all,


Marie-Josee Salvas 19 April 2009 - 10:04 am

What an interesting conversation! I have lots of thoughts to share:

– Great article, Dave. You capture a lot in a very succinct and well thought-out model. Thank you for this contribution!

– My area of expertise is the relationship between health and productivity. I have built a 12-week program helping people integrate the teachings of positive psychology and fitness into their lifestyles in a motivating and sustainable way. Resonating with some the the earlier comments, all I ask of participants in week #1 is to get a full night sleep (at least 7 hours, unless they are wired differently than the rest of humanity!). So yes, sleep is a great intervention to tackle first.

– Jeff, sorry to hear the news. Did you read Kathryn Britton’s article on April 7 about “Powerful Questions To Ask At a Job Interview? I think it can serve you well. She gives very constructive and effective suggestions on how to avoid to be caught in another toxic work environment.

– Louisa, I think values are mostly captured under the theme of meaning. Meaning can be about “the what” of work and in that case it could also be labeled as purpose, or it can be about “the how” of work and it that case it could also be labeled values. Thoughts?

– Lastly, Dave, I love your concept of bounciness – “bouncing back from adversities and bouncing forward in the presence of opportunities”. Very helpful! I’ll be using it and quoting you and your colleagues.

Best to all,


Senia Maymin 19 April 2009 - 2:43 pm

Dave, what an interesting discussion you’ve started!

LeanRainmakingMachine, major kudos for being in an even better place than with the 120 year old firm earlier!

Jeff, so glad that at this point you feel resilient! I think for you – and given how intensely you work at your job – the next opportunity could only be better!

Love this discussion thread.

Jeff 19 April 2009 - 3:56 pm

$enia and MarieJ,
Its going well. I hadn’t planned on returning there next year. I think the most positive job I could have would be an angel dropping sacks of cash on my front lawn. That would be REALLY POSITIVE to my psychology. The hardest bit is feeling incompetent at work. They really played a headgame on the new guy and it makes it hard to get back up and apply with confidence to a new position. I will ask Kathryn’s 6 Questions or some mishmash of them of the Employees at the next gig. The issue is how to feel good about your IQ & abilities when all of your feedback tells you “you suck”. My boss actually told me, “You are a dumb dumb head”. That makes me laugh. Who calls somebody a dumb dumb head? Its not that I’m trying to get rich, I just want to eke out a decent middle class living.

Peace out,

Kathryn Britton 19 April 2009 - 5:34 pm


Best of luck finding something more fulfilling and intriguing to do next.

Your discussion of “dumb dumb head” makes me wonder if a game we played as children (to drive each other crazy) would work as a silent resilience technique in situations like this: “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Sounds like your boss was holding up a mirror!

I heard a lecture the other day about appropriate negative feedback being an act of respect because it contains the assumption that the person receiving it both wants to do well and can do well. That said, there sure is a lot of awful negative feedback out there.


Super DumDumHead 19 April 2009 - 10:10 pm

Danke schoen! I do the Truffle Shuffle every single time I think about Dum Dum Head. It just tickles me to death. I mean honestly, can you imagine one professional calling another that? In front of students at a school? Holy logjams Batman!

Seriously, there’s got to be a lot of stress and paranoia and whackness to act that way. April is Motivation Month. I wonder if there’s research about how to put an organization through rehab from that kind of toxicity?
How do you pull it back from the brink of crazy?

You know, I think of your consistent references to Jane Dutton. Those quality connections matter, big time. One of the reasons I like to read PPND is because of the collegiality here. You have always treated me well.
When we say negative feedback, don’t we really mean improvement training? It is only negative if it does not bring benefit but harm instead. Isn’t improvement and success the whole point? I think it is. This discussion reminds me of the so-called Japanese automakers’ innovation of avoiding blame and instead looking for solutions in organizations. I really like solutions-focused thinking.

I’m lucky that I have been burned enough to prepare for it and so I’ve almost got another job bite already. Resilience is king.


Dave Shearon 19 April 2009 - 10:18 pm

Louisa Jewell, I’d love to hear about your work with values!

I really began studying the area after MAPP, mostly as a result of the connections I started finding with the kind of situations lawyers have to deal with on a regular basis. Basically, I think many situations that lawyers face involve conflicts that pit commonly held values against each other. That’s part of the reason they make it to a lawyer’s office. I’m still working on that. In most of my workshops, I’ve focused on basic well-being.

In our Flourishing Schools work, we usually have time in workshops to just work with the basics. I expect Sherri or Louis, who do more coaching work, could address values better than me.

Dave Shearon 19 April 2009 - 10:23 pm

Marie-Josee, thanks! What kind of things do your clients say after a week of trying to get more sleep?

I agree about values integrating with meaning. Marty talks about meaning as connected to something bigger or greater, and many values can contribute to that if pursued purposefully through attractive goals. Plus, I think our relationships often give meaning to our lives. So, I kind of see meaning, like hope, as something that comes into the pyramid implicitly. Like hope and other topics, I end up dealing with it as I work through the components.

Dave Shearon 19 April 2009 - 10:26 pm

Jeff, your comments about leadership in schools really strikes home. I was talking at a social gathering recently with some parents who have children in their early years in teaching. One, in particular, has run a camp for disabled adults through the Baptist Convention here in TN for many years and has had a LOT of kids work in that camp. A number went on to become special education teachers, and a number of them left after a year or two or three. The common theme, according to my friend, is “Love the kids. Like the families. Can’t stand my leadership.” I’m going to write more about this later, but your experience is far too common.

Jeff 19 April 2009 - 11:44 pm

There is a project called GoodWork run by Howard Gardner of Multiple Intelligences fame I think. Special Education at the public schools, as I’ve experienced it, lacks the qualities of GoodWork.

The churn at such jobs, probably true of 1st and 2nd year lawyers too come to think of it, has got to be high. When demands exceed capacity, something has to give. I honestly did not have the energy or the time in the day to have a life outside of work. That’s if I intended to meet standards and stay employed. I chose to say, “oh well” and let them get rid of me. I still completed my work effectively but I refused to obsess about it.

Let me give you a sample day. I went in, prepared my paperwork, received 1-3 parent complaints, met with a supervisor who told me my work sucked and added 2x the workload. Then I had a full day of teaching very demanding children and trying to teach them well. Most could not read beyond elementary school levels. So I had to teach literacy and then try to encourage them (many were depressed and HATED school…justifiably!) These kids needed the veteran teachers but these teachers knew what a burnout job SPED is and avoid it like the plague. I’d work through lunch most times because I really wanted to do well at my job. Usually by the end of the day, my boss or her boss would again tell me that my work was far below par or that I missed a deadline or to rewrite reams of paperwork. Building administrators paperwork style differed from central office’s paperwrok style. They simply could not mesh. Then I had to schedule meetings arranging 4-6 adults in one room with vastly different schedules AND any of the 4-6 could cancel the meeting at any time. Of course if any 1 of them cancelled the meeting could not legally take place. So the process began anew…and the best part was that there was a time pressure to get this thing done. Plus there were 19 other meetings waiting in the queue so if one was overdue, it crashed into the well-scheduled second meeting which made the 3rd late…but you couldn’t schedule the meetings earlier than a certain window.

Did I mention that the paperwork file was located in an office which was only open during a certain 80 minute window unless you came in 1 hour before the scheduled school day. Lovely. So the historical paperwork you need to review the child’s case was locked away in a separate office. Someone had misfiled most of the historical files so many were missing. Plus as a new teacher I had never chaired a meeting before. Plus the administrators took over the meetings and omitted key legally required parts of the meetings…messing up further the paperwork. They lacked any training in SPED but were “being helpful” and refused to share power.

If you have to obsess about a job to succeed, Brother you will burn out. Notice that in SPED there is a large legal component. Perhaps the lawyers are miserable and it all rolls downhill to the SPED teacher? You are an expert in this area, what do you think?

We have constantly changing federal laws to appease, which means constant mind-numbing deadlines and reams of paperwork that has a zero-sum nature to it. You get it in on time or face a possible lawsuit or loss of federal monies. It must be completed perfectly or it doesn’t count. I could have put my students into a warehouse and shut off the lights and I honestly doubt that the administration would have cared. I’m not blaming them, they just lacked the energy to care. They’re worried about protecting themselves. We have advocacy groups with lawyers itching to sue the district over minutiae in legal compliance.

It appears that advocacy and legal defense has exceeded caring about kids and teaching fun and motivating activties. It is about $$$ and power instead of learning and growth. I used to believe that public schools were about giving everyone a chance to learn and about love of learning and teaching. Now it looks like just another racket. The poor kids either drop out and take Adult Ed or suffer for 4 years because they’re being taught by zombies.

I think your lawyer articles qualify you to write about jobs which look great on the surface but really are stinkers underneath. Maybe you could help others who are stuck in deadend jobs cope.

Amanda Horne 20 April 2009 - 4:47 am

Hi Dave

This is a great article! This resonates with discussions my clients have when talking about positive workplaces and positive leadership. Meaning and purpose and self-concordant goals consistently seem to be their bottom line driver. E.g. when asked where and why do you direct your energy, what fuels you, what gives you strength, resilience etc. They always talk come around to high quality connections and friendships, AND meaning/purpose/passion.

Thanks for the wonderful read.
Amanda Horne

Marie-Josee Salvas 20 April 2009 - 10:42 am

Dave – one week is usually too short to get the full benefits of sleeping more. Out of 7 nights, there’s usually 3 or 4 that are compromised by unexpected deadlines, something really interesting late on TV (and the ability to self-regulate being already depleted), the baby getting the flu, a severe episode of insomnia, etc.

But usually in 7 days people can get in 1 or 2 more good nights than usual, and since they are being mindful of the effects of sleep, it’s enough to make them realize that trying to play tough guy is a failing strategy. People feel and function better after a full night of sleep – regardless of how resigned they are. So in the end, the first week basically serves to make them more conscious and more careful about how much sleep they get versus need. Then we build from there.

Jeff – I really agree with Kathryn. Having read lots of your comments on PPND over the course of many months, I do believe your boss is holding a mirror when he calls you names. AS SDDH said it, how can a professional think this is appropriate behavior? There’s an obvious lack of judgment here.


Jeff 20 April 2009 - 1:07 pm

I had an experience with sleep deprivation that you might find interesting MJ. I was in Navy Bootcamp and I watched an individual get put on limited sleep as a punishment. Most nights he got around 2-6 hours of sleep. It wrecked havoc on his thinking ability. He looked about ready to pass out and often fell asleep involuntarily during any period in which he was sitting down. Is this the kind of thing we are doing but in a micro-version when we deprive ourselves of a basic nutrient?

The poor guy fell asleep while sweeping!

I’ve also noticed that-and think if this is your experience too-that there are sleep haters that knock sleep as if it were a crutch for the weak. “I only sleep 1-2 hours a night”. I’ve heard that hundreds of time from tough guys/gals that want to show off how productive they can be by limiting sleep. I always say I like 8 or more if I can get it.


WJ 20 April 2009 - 1:23 pm

Dave, I actually think hierachical models are a little miselading – they imply linearity and as we all know the world is non linear.

And meditation doesn’t equal mindfulness – its a pathway. Mindfulness is a way of thinking (awareness + acceptance) that is the basis of resilience and perhaps optimism.

aaron jarden 20 April 2009 - 5:06 pm

Hi Dave, i have not read any of the above commnets, but from an empirical, philosophical and theoritifal standpoint, i think your model would be better as a circle with values at the centre.

Cheers, Aaron.

Dave Shearon 20 April 2009 - 8:39 pm

Wayne, I understand and share the concern about hierarchical models. That’s why I noted the interconnectedness between the layers and also suggested another image, the fruited tree growing in good soil by a stream with the sun shining. Not hierarchical, and, yet, having grown up on a farm, I know you pay attention to soil, water, and sunlight before deciding what to plant where. In the fields in which I work, ROE, Strengths, and Relationships seem like good areas of initial inquiry/work.

I know about meditation as a pathway. That’s why I used the phrase “meditation for mindfulness.” However, I wound not agree tha mindfulness is THE basis for resilience (if you’re really giving it that much emphasis in your comment). Lots of things impact resilience including genetic components, perceived social support, innate levels of energy and happiness, etc. Working with explanatory style can clearly increase resilience if someone is trapped in a mindless negative style — and yes, I think that work may well make the individual more “mindful.” That said, you and others (including Barbara Fredrickson, Todd Kashdan, Jon Haidt, and Daniel Siegel) have convinced me that meditation for mindfulness is a high-payoff approach to increased well-being and living a good life!

Dave Shearon 20 April 2009 - 8:43 pm

Aaron, I would be interested in seeing an approach based on circles. As I said, part of my motivation for sharing my thoughts and images was the hope that others would talk about different approaches. I doubt that a singe image can capture what we already know about how to help folks move forward, much less the rapidly increasing knowledge base that Todd Kashdan, Marcial Losada, George Vaillant and others who have contributed here are creating.

WJ 20 April 2009 - 11:20 pm

Dave – should have said that mindfulness is an important aspect of resilience.

You might be interested in the model I use for my ACCEPTional thinking framework – a series of interconnected triangles. See http://www.i-i.com.au/acceptional/accept_%20habits.html

So Dave do you meditate?

Dave Shearon 22 April 2009 - 9:40 am

Wayne, I do not regularly engage in a formal practice of meditation now. I express the situation that way because I do think I have achieved more mindfulness due to resilience training, strengths focus, and relationship skills. I also practice some breath observation during exercise and when I’m relaxing before sleep. That said, using Prochaska’s stages of change, I would place myself as having moved from pre-contemplation to contemplation and entering preparation for a regular, formal meditation practice. I’m persuaded; just a matter of starting and continuing!

Jeff 22 April 2009 - 12:06 pm

…leading into motivation, April’s optional PPND theme!

Ketch Rudder 9 June 2009 - 2:59 pm

Optimism has nothing to do with “future expectancies”.

Optimism means living by the belief that the actual world is the “best of all possible worlds” because God accomplishes the most good at the cost of the least evil.

Most humans know the about the doctrine because Voltaire’s “Candide” makes satire of it.

Men (the Old English word for person) do not have “values”. Rather, men have beliefs and wants. When a man acts and gains something he wants, he expressed himself and revealed that he wanted the obtained thing more than all other things in that moment.

A value is something that results from mathematical manipulation of symbols in a ratio or equation.

The Academia (Ph.D) Positive Psychology movement proves to be most comical as quackademics abuse language and push forth, falsely of course, as original, ideas that have been around since Cynics and their Cynicism and Stoics and the Stoicism.

Even the likes of Emerson and others from the 1800s through the early 1900s had a better handle on the field than today’s Ph.D quackademic.

anna 7 July 2009 - 6:59 am

Hi Dave, I really enjoyed reading your article. It made me thing about my job differently. I my self am a aMSc student in medical psychology.
I’m doing my research on weight loss. I’m comparing the clinical Psychotherapy approach to the positive Psychotherapy approach in weight loss programs -support groups.

I have tried to find models/ research / article on the subject but unfortunately I came up with nothing.

Do you know any models/ research / article

That compares the two therapeutic approaches, or maybe research on positive psychology and diet in support group?


Dave Shearon 8 July 2009 - 9:19 am

Hi, Anna. I am glad you found the article helpful. I know there is some literature out there on the use of positive psychology approaches (strengths, etc.) in psychotherapy. However, since that is not my field, I don’t know what work has been done comparing such approaches with more traditional clinical approaches.

All the best on your researc!


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