Monday, February 22, 2010

What’s Right with You?

Marty Seligman signing his book with me at the 2009 IPPA World Congress

Last week of February, 2010

Facilitating in a weekly teen Careers class this week brought to light something I have been mulling over for a while: why is it often the case that we immediately remember the faults or flaws about ourselves, rather than instantly call up our strengths, instead? Even the most positive of us will fall prey to negative and self-critical thinking. What is this about?

When I joined the adolescent Career class again this week and asked the students to offer a quick review from the previous week, I half expected them not to remember. They surprised me.

Several of the students said: “We talked about what we are good at. We talked about our strengths. We sculpted objects as symbols to represent our best qualities.” These students get it. They get positive psychology.

Their comments got me thinking: maybe what current CEO’s, leading psychologists, and even neuroscientists are proposing – that creativity and strength recognition is essential and elevates productivity and success in the workplace – is continually evidenced in both my private art therapy practice and in my coaching business. Pulling back the curtain on the psychology behind this reveals the teachings of my personal “positivity mentor,” Marty Seligman, dubbed, the “Father of Positive Psychology.”

Marty claims that with our disease/ ‘what’s-wrong-with-us’ model, that has served as our foundation for over 60 years, we have really done ourselves an injustice. He believes that: “In our rush to do something about people in trouble; in our rush to do something about repairing damage, it never occurred to us to develop interventions to make people happier…positive interventions.”

In the teen classroom, the college classroom, art therapy studio, and with coaching clients, we use whatever intervention is best suited to uncover strengths, creative traits, and what Seligman calls, PWB – positive well-being. With the fusion of creative materials, play, one-on-one and group dialogue, writing, one’s willingness, and the psychological and mindful understanding of what is in the hearts, minds, and actions of people, we have all the ingredients for PWB.

And when we have PWB, we can do anything; get any job interview, market ourselves, land ideal employment, or launch our new business. Positivity and client strength identification is the cornerstone of my marketing and coaching business. When you feel good, you can do anything. Really.

I used an art intervention with the students I coached this week. They want to feel good. They want to be successful. They want to feel empowered, whether in the classroom or the workplace. And for me, the best takeaway of all, was that I witnessed that they loved – no, craved - learning what’s right with them.

Let’s be in a rush to look at what’s right with you, with me, with others. Let’s re-brand and market ourselves in strength and positivity. Let’s change the evolutionary pattern of modern psychology and “post modern-mindfully,” put a new face on it. Let’s use our creative interventions, whatever they may be (and we all have them!), to go get some PWB.

Mindfully yours,


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