When it comes to being successful, does attitude matter?
Does it help to be positive?
Are people born that way or is it something that can be cultivated?
What about happiness – do you have to sacrifice happiness to work hard and be successful?
Yes. Yes. Yes. And, no. Research on Positive Psychology is showing that positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment make a significant difference in people attaining individually and collectively the highest levels of success, productivity, pleasure and quality of life.
Positive psychology seeks to address not just the alleviation of suffering and the reduction of pathology but also to enhance the traits and capacities related to feeling really good.
Adaptive character traits and skills that are healthy and generative rather than destructive, lead towards greater happiness and fulfillment as precious life energy is spent on things that matter rather than unproductive or counterproductive dramas.
If you need a new framework for how you want to evolve in your life, pay attention to following six virtues and 24 character strengths as established in the book “Character Strengths and Virtues” (2004) by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman. These were found to be the most universal and productive of persons identified as experiencing the highest levels of well-being and happiness:
1. Wisdom and knowledge (cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge):
creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective
2. Courage (emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal): authenticity, bravery, persistence, zest
3. Humanity (interpersonal strengths that involve “tending and befriending” others): kindness, love, social intelligence
4. Justice (civic strengths that underlie healthy community life): fairness, leadership, teamwork
5. Temperance (strengths that protect against excess): forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-regulation
6. Transcendence (strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning):
appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, religiousness (as in spirituality – having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life).
What can you do today, right now to improve your well-being?
Try the following: Make a gratitude list of everything you have that you can be grateful for – even if it belongs to someone else – like your family is safe and ok or your friend is feeling better but most importantly – what do you have that is working and ok – or better in your life right now.
Reviewing positive experiences and strengths helps balance out the habit of automatic negative thinking.
Three good things in life. Write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week.
You at your best. Write about a time when you were at your best and then reflect on the personal strengths displayed in the story. Review your story once every day for a week and reflect on the strengths you’ve identified.
You can and probably are using these strengths today in some way.
Learn to contradict your automatic negative thoughts and assumptions about yourself.
Own your mistakes and then build skills and character traits to do better next time rather than “beating yourself up” some more.
Gratitude visit. Write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who has been especially kind to you but has never been properly thanked.
It has been found that wo of the exercises—using signature strengths in a new way and three good things—increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months. The gratitude visit, caused large positive changes for one month. Not bad.
Working on yourself makes a difference in how you feel and by improving your own well-being. You’ll have the positive vibe to energize others in class, at work, and the people you care about.
By refreshing yourself, you will be refreshing to others, which has been demonstrated to improve the well-being and increase the productivity of individuals and systems significantly compared to those where negativity is habitually expressed, whether verbally or attitudinally.
Practice pointing out the positive in others and in situations and you’ll find people really enjoy being with you and you’ll enjoy them a lot more than if you’re only noticing what’s negative.
If you would like more support to do this work, the strengths-based counselors at the Counseling Center would be glad to join you in this effort. Stop in at our reception desk to schedule a visit or call X 1265.