I attended a presentation this week by Kim Edwards, a PhD candidate in the Department of Clinical Psychology. It was one of those presentations that sticks with you for the rest of your life. The concepts with respect to positive psychology are really quite simple. We just need to “change our minds”
When thinking about career goals and career development, far too often we focus on our areas of weakness. What we need to improve upon. What went wrong in a situation. What we didn’t do well. What positive psychology seeks to do is change the way we think about ourselves. Instead of focussing on what we aren’t good at, we should focus on what we are good at. Simple right?
In her presentation Kim asked us, “If your child came home with a report card that had “A, A, C, F” what grade would deserve our greatest attention”. As much as I wanted to say, given the topic of the presentation, that I would give the most attention to the “A”, in reality, I know that I would be focussed on the F.
So when you get your grades for your first term courses and you see an A, A, B and an F. What will you do? Probably, like me, focus on the F and then lie awake at night worrying about how that is going to effect your overall average, your application to grad school, the rest of your life. . . Essentially, your career is now over before it even began.
It is not to say that we should ignore our short-comings, but rather, we need to focus on our strengths and try to moderate the areas where we are not as strong.
When we look at our potential in a work environment, the vast majority of people think that their greatest capacity for growth is in the areas that they are weakest. The reality is, however, that our greatest potential and growth comes from our strengths. No matter how hard you work at it, if you are just not good or not interested in something you are less likely to succeed. Whereas if you spend time further developing competencies and preferences that you already have, you will find that you become exceptional; that you advance beyond your expectation.
Furthermore, if we focus on finding a career that draws on our strengths on a daily basis not only are we more likely to succeed, but we are more likely to be happy, energetic, productive, profitable, patient with customers and clients and have fewer sick days.
So if you find that you are great at writing essays and terrible at retaining information that revolves around numbers and statistics or vice-versa, embrace that. In numerous interviews that I have conducted with successful, happy people, when I ask them what advice they would give to young people, just about everyone has said, “follow your passion and you will succeed. Do what you are good at.” Now we have some scientific research to support those assertions.
If you would like to look a little further into the concept of positive psychology or would like to take some tests that help to draw out your strengths try the two sites below.
Authentic Happiness http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires.aspx
VIA Strengths profile https://www.viame.org/www/en-us/getyourviameprofile.aspx
Kim, at the end of her presentation, left us with this quote:
“People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough” (Buckingham and Coffman, 1999, p.57)