At the March 22-25 conference, hosted by The Australian Institute of Business WellBeing, at Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong, some of the world’s leading experts shared positive psychology research and perspectives on health, organisational development, education and public policy.
Founding fathers, leading lights and emerging researchers rubbed shoulders for high quality workshops, presentations and robust discussions at this outstanding event. It really was a privilege to witness aha moments and emerging themes as these thinkers explored the learning edge of where positive psychology can take us as individuals, organisations, communities and societies.
Wholeness, more than happiness
As happiness and wellbeing was defined - and how to measure it - many social scientists and thinkers were prepared to challenge the positivity bias where it simplified the subtlety of human experience. A more nuanced definition of flourishing means “moving in a direction of increasing complexity and differentiation,” according to Richard Ryan, cofounder of Self Determination Theory. Ryan’s extensive body of work underpins our understanding of the vital role of competence, autonomy and relatedness to motivation and wellbeing.
Social psychologist Hugh Mackay, in a passionate and controversial address, worried that the pursuit of happiness might neglect the learning in sadness. “Where wholeness is the goal,” he said, “you are open to all possibility and able to cope with the full spectrum of experience.” Along with Paul Wong, President of the Meaning-Centred Counselling Institute, Mackay held humility, acceptance and a social conscience as beacons for authentic living.
Educator Jennifer Fox Eades encouraged practitioners and researchers alike to live positive psychology principles to know it first in themselves.
Curiosity for mindful connection and flourishing
“You can’t always be happy but nearly always profoundly aware and curious”, asserted Todd Kashdan. The Center for Consciousness and Transformation at George Mason University senior scientist shared a slew of audacious research on the role of curious engagement in differentiating emotion to become more psychologically flexible and resilient. Jennifer Garvey Berger cited “passionate curiosity” among three principles for supporting people to grow in the increasing complexity of today’s organisations. David Drake spoke about inquisitiveness as fundamental to the growth process when learning new mindsets and behaviours and maturing our strengths.
Alex Linley, Founding Director of CAPP and author of the Realise2 strengths test spoke by video link. Linley outlined the power of this increasingly popular tool to identify our genuine strengths and those that release the energy, motivation and fulfilment that will allow us to perform at our best. Performance management, he asserts, is primarily about aligning strengths to organisational goals; strengths-based employment practices such as strengths spotting and job crafting work and make it more likely to reach these goals. Realising, affirming and harnessing strengths helps overcome our negativity bias and tendency to focus on weakness which demotivates. Strengths feedback needs to be genuine, pragmatic and formal and doesn’t mean avoiding tougher performance conversations.
The shadow side of strengths was explored by David Drake. Understanding how our strengths evolve and choosing how we want to use them can mean releasing habitual reliance on realised strengths and success strategies and bringing unrealised strengths to light.
Read more about Realise2 and how EIW is using it to get outstanding results with individuals and teams... [information coming soon]
More positive practices in organisations, communities and schools
Speakers such as Felicia Huppert, Don Iverson, Kim Cameron, Michael Cavanaugh, Diann Rodgers-Healey and Sean O’Connor shared research and success stories around topics including:
PosEd—positive psychology and mindfulness in education
Mental ill health and the impact of presenteeism
Virtuous and visionary leadership
Positive leadership models suiting women—and men
Coaching effectiveness and the ripple effect
We’ll explore more of these stories and themes in future articles.
Sue Langley is a sought-after speaker, facilitator and master trainer in emotional intelligence, positive psychology and the neuroscience of leadership. Sue has studied positive psychology at Harvard and is the first person in Australia to undertake the Masters of Neuroscience of Leadership. Considered one of the leaders in Australia in the practical workplace application of these fields, Sue is CEO of Emotional Intelligence Worldwide and the author of “Positive Relationships at Work,” in Positive Relationships by Sue Roffey (Springer, 2012).
Sophie Francis is a learning and development writer, consultant and coach with a background in positive psychology. Marketing Manager at EIW, Sophie is currently studying a Masters in Business Coaching.
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