At the risk of gaining a reputation as a major name dropper, I want to tell you about attending the Positive Psychology Summit in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It was fun to catch up with some my classmates from the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. Senia Maymin, Kathryn Britton, Nick Hall, David Pollay, Margaret Greenberg, Caroline Miller, and Tom Rath are all happy and going strong. I also saw Jordan Silberman, but never got to talk to him. What a wonderful group of accomplished people.
Meeting members of the MAPP 2.0 and MAPP 3.0 classes was also a treat. I was very impressed with the Poster Session where some of the MAPP 2.0 graduates shared their capstone research projects. All the members of the MAPP 3.0 class had that eager, excited, and somewhat overwhelmed look on their faces that all the MAPP alumni have known so well.
It was also great to see and hear from Martin Seligman again and to catch up with James Pawelski and Debbie Swick. It was fun to listen to Chris Peterson and Nansook Park talk about their ongoing research. Their enthusiasm for their work is truly infectious. I had a brief conversation with Ed Diener and enjoyed his enthusiasm for advancing the field and kicking off the new International Positive Psychology Association.In addition, I enjoyed meeting some more positive psychologists whose work I have read and admired. I enjoyed talking to Everett Worthington from Virginia Commonwealth University about his work with decisional and emotional forgiveness. (By the way, Dr. Worthington mentioned that he is working a book on humility that should be available in the spring of 2008.) I enjoyed talking to Robert Emmons from the University of California, Davis about his work on gratitude. Mike Morrison from Toyota talked about personal leadership. Alex Linley from the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology, UK talked about building strength-based organizations. Roy Baumeister from the University of Florida talked about free will. As I talked to old friends and made new ones, Ilona Boniwell’s presentation came to mind over and over again. Ilona is a Senior Lecturer in Positive Psychology from the University of East London, UN. She spoke in one of the pre-forum sessions about teaching positive psychology in a postgraduate setting. Toward the end of her presentation, she mentioned that there seemed to be a “magic to MAPP.” She said that she has noticed that the people who study positive psychology in her program seem to see their studies as a calling. She said that positive psychologists seem drawn to the field and they sense a bond with other students that holds them together.
I saw this calling in the eyes of my classmates, in the faces of the new MAPP 3.0 class, and in the presentations from the notables in the field. I also remember some of my classmates sharing their stories about how they found themselves in the MAPP program at the University of Pennsylvania. In those stories my classmates talked about something “clicking” inside them that compelled them to pursue further study. The sacrifices these wonderful people then made to study positive psychology are testament to the depth of their commitment.
I know that something “clicked” inside of me. I still enjoy reading my text books (imagine that!). I still buy the new books and I left the Positive Psychology Summit with a new and long list of books to read. (They’ve been ordered and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival.) I can’t wait to see what new thoughts and applications will arise as the research in positive psychology continues.
Boniwell, I. (2006). Positive Psychology in a Nutshell (2nd Edition). London: PWBC.
Emmons, R. (2007) Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. Boston: Houghton Mifflan Company.
Morrison, M. (2006). The Other Side of the Card: Where Your Authentic Leadership Story Begins. McGraw-Hill Education.
Worthington, E. (2007). Humility: The Quiet Virtue. Templeton Press.