1. Are you making the best of your talents and strengths?

    July 9, 2014

    Are you making the best of your talents and strengths?

    The father of the Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman, talks about character strengths as opposed to pathologies. He even designed a classification system similar to the famous DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but simply focusing on those personality traits that make you function best.

    Why do that? Simply put, we are more than just the sum of our parts. We have many talents and strengths going for us and we may achieve success in our lives if we use them well. Please understand that success is relative for each person, it’s not just professional and financial success, but it can also be personal, related to family or your community. Would you say that someone who is known for its volunteer work in the neighbor’s kitchen soup is not successful at that? Or that a single mom that keeps the family going is not successful? You don’t have to invent the wheel again to be successful in your daily life. Or even acknowledged for it.

    But do we know our own talents?

    What are best at? Are you a great communicator, are you a leader, and are you well-organized? If you can’t answer this question yourself just yet, ask your friends and family what they believe to be your strengths and talents. If their answers are inconclusive, you can try to do Dr. Seligman’s questionnaire at https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/ and find out what are your character and signature strengths.

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  2. The Search for Meaning: A Road Less Traveled.

    July 3, 2014

    The Search for Meaning: A Road Less Traveled.

    Isn’t life a bit like taking a trip to some unknown destination? Let’s call our destination Meaning. If your trip is well planned and organized you will want directions to where you are going. But, before you can get those directions you will need to know where you are starting from. This all seems simple  enough.

    It’s time for a truth test. Have you noticed how we all wear different hats. Sometimes we even wear different hats at the same time. In our haste to find our way to Meaning we often fall victim to the latest “in” terms. Adjectives that we unquestionably accept as true. Some of these adjectives include descriptors like:

    “Soccer mom”, “Easy”, “A loud mouth”, “Smart/stupid”, “Fat/skinny/Wow”, “Nerd”,  “Friend”, “Rich/poor”, “Lazy/on their way to the top”

    Is it any wonder that we get confused about who we are or what our role in life is?

    Added to this is a world of contradictions, or mixed messages. Such things as the generation you most identify with, your gender, your position in life, and your level of involvement in the world around you all influence how you filter these mixed messages. Here are just a few of these messages:

    “Stop and smell the roses”

    OR

    “I want the world and I want it now!”

    “Don’t sweat the small stuff”

    OR

    “The truth is in the details”

    “It is what it is”

    OR

    “You’re in charge.”

     

    The last factor holding many of us back from finding our own place called Meaning is our increased dependence on instant gratification. Gone for many is the patience needed to see things through to their logical outcome. It is difficult to have an attachment to things that are disposable.

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  3. Turning points in life: how to make the best of them?

    July 1, 2014

    Turning points in life: how to make the best of them?

    Have you read our previous post on crisis? Well, this is its sequel. There comes a time in life when you come across a choice: the choice is to go forward or pass on an opportunity. Those are what I like to call turning points in life.

    Over time, luckily for us, we’re faced with several turning points in our lives, chances to evolve or to stagnate. Are you making the best of those moments towards a better version of yourself and hopefully a more meaningful and happy life? Do you recognize a turning point when faced with one?

    Of course, you’re going to have to be a little bit of an optimistic to make the most out the turning points in your life. Fear of the unknown and a pessimistic attitude could enable you from taking an opportunity to make positive changes in your life, transforming a low point into an upwards one. Are you ready to live a full life? And discover what lies ahead when you take chances and dare to dream a brighter future?

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  4. Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    June 14, 2014

    Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    If you’re an optimistic like myself, you’ll immediately say opportunity. But what if you’re facing a really big crisis? How to stay positive and optimistic in the face of what seems tragedy to you? Let’s analyze in this post personal crisis, like identity ones.

    Not to remind you of a great financial collapse, but the word crisis comes from the Greek word krisis, which actually means growth. Interesting perspective? Think about it: all of mankind’s greatest evolutions came from a crisis. Don’t believe me? Think about the Middle Ages, such a dark period in time, right? How did we evolve from it? Well basically through the black plague which wiped out a third of the European population and the 100 year war between France and England. What good came out of it? We have the millions of deaths to be sorry for that’s true,  but this particular crisis enabled us to leave the dark ages and change our political and economic system as well it provided an opportunity for development in arts and science.

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  5. Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    June 13, 2014

    Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    Other than posing an interesting question, what is meant by this title? In order to answer that question we need to take a step or two back, back to understanding what are the key differences are between psychology, mythology AND positive psychology.

    Defining Terms:

    I could suggest that you define the three terms identified above. That would be well and good except our definitions may not match – that would not be so good. So, for the sake of clarity, let’s go with the following:

    1. Psychology: Let’s keep it simple, psychology is a scientific discipline that studies mental processes and behaviors.

    2. Mythology: The story accepted and believed in different cultures explaining how or why humans act in certain ways.

    3. Positive Psychology: The application of psychological principles and practices that emphasize how to achieve a “good life” for oneself.

    Why are these important?

    Myths:

    Among the newer areas of psychology is positive psychology. The very use of the word “positive” has strong Euro-American cultural mythologies attached to it. Most particular this can be found in the work of Norman Vincent Peale, “The Art of Positive Thinking” and similar self-help approaches of making all things better by simply thinking positive. These are myths.

    I refer to this myth as thought replacement. It even works for some. The difficulty with this approach is that it remains a superficial solution. Serious work to address your preferred choices in your mental processes and behaviors requires an attitude with a deeper effect. Achieving the good life, that is, a life of contentment calls for something more.

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  6. How to Become an Optimist

    June 11, 2014

    How to Become an Optimist

    Positive Psychology research has brought to light research on the positive effects of being an optimistic. But it has yet to show us how we can be optimistic. Is optimism a life’s choice or is it a matter of personality? Can anyone be an optimistic or is it just for a few? And is not being an optimist a necessarily bad thing?

    Let’s hope we can answer some of these questions and more.

    What is Optimism?

    In the first place, it’s probably necessary to clarify what is optimism and who can qualify as an optimist. Optimism is not an unrealistic view of reality. It’s a positive mind-set where people choose to focus on what can go right instead of what can go wrong. Nonetheless, optimists can still see the bad things in a situation, but choose to ignore it.

    It is a personality trait but it is also a life attitude. Our as someone explained it to me one day, it’s all about the glasses you wear to analyze reality – are they programmed to see the good or the bad?

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  7. Silence! I Need to Hear my Inner Self

    June 6, 2014

    Silence! I Need to Hear my Inner Self by Daniela Aneis

    Not all people can enjoy the silence, or even a little bit of solitude. But how can you hear your inner voice with all the noise that is coming from the outside world? Doesn’t it seem like sometimes we get caught up listening to others when we should be looking for the answers within ourselves?

    And why is it that enjoying some time alone has become a synonymous for being lonely? Loneliness is not the same as solitude.

    Truth be told: We already have most of the answers we look for

    This may seem like a quote taken from a karate movie but isn’t it true? When has following what other people have told you to do, has come with positive outcomes for you? And how many times have you thought “I should have done what I was planning in the first place”?

    In order to avoid feelings of frustration for not being able to make the necessary silence to hear your inner voice, you might just want to follow some of the advices on this particular article.

    There are two important things to take into account when listening to your inner voice and making decisions you can live with:

    • Listen to what you’re body in telling you: trust your gut!
    • Take some time on your own to listen to yourself

    Some people have strong emotional responses at a physical level: they usually call it their gut feeling. And the truth is sometimes we can’t quite interpret cognitively what we are experiencing and make sense of it, but it feels plain wrong on your insides. Listen to it and take time off to think things through. When you do make a decision, try to feel as confident as you can about it.

    If something feels wrong or off, just step aside. Retreat yourself from the situation. It’s always best to make a well thought through decision than to go by your impulses. Impulses are often misleading.

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  8. The Ideal Self vs. the Possible Self

    June 5, 2014

    The Ideal Self vs. the Possible Self

    Many of us are no strangers to frustration. We can’t always have what we want and the world is not always fair. But there are some of us who lead a life of frustration and dissatisfaction, that look back and all we see is what we couldn’t achieve. This is obviously neither the good life nor the happy and meaningful life we wish to achieve that Positive Psychology talks about.

    What is it about the way we perceive and attribute meaning to our lives that determines a life of frustration versus a fulfilling one?

    I came across at a conference on aging and learning throughout the later life, an interesting idea one of the speakers pointed out: the ideal self vs the possible self as a source of frustration in later life. As an example, the speaker talked about the plans we all make for our retirement: that we are going to start a new project, do things we’ve never done before, travel places and we postpone everything until we get to the stage when we’re finally retired and do nothing. And all those plans just seem washed away and life pointless or a waste of time. Why didn’t I do things sooner, why didn’t I take that chance?

    That idea keep me wondering. Why are we sometimes so frustrated with our lives? Why can’t we feel happy with what we have or make the necessary changes to achieve a possible goal? And maybe, it’s this idea of an ideal self that is keeping us away from achieving a possible one.

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  9. The Emotional Rainbow

    June 5, 2014

    The Emotional Rainbow

    by Daniela Aneis

    One of the most common critiques and one of the most wrong ones is that the Positive Psychology movement ignores negative emotions to simply focus on positive emotions. This is quite untrue. What Positive Psychology wishes to do is take the focus out of negative emotions to take a better look at what positive emotions have to offer in terms of human development.

    But what we really do need is to learn how to cope with the emotional rainbow that our nature has to offers us. The negative and the positive emotions. They are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary.

    Good or bad emotions?

    Actually there is no such thing as good or bad emotions, only the necessary ones. Or at least that’s what I tell my patients. Emotions are centered in the most primitive part of our brains (yes, reasoning came after in evolutionary terms) and yet it is one of the most crucial parts of our brain. Can you imagine calling yourself human and not being able to feel anything?

    Remember the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, so necessary to our survival as a species? We don’t need to assess in a jungle if that big animal is to eat or is planning on eating you, but our emotions still serve their purpose in our “social survival”. It’s still a jungle out there, only the rules are not as simple as they used to be.

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  10. Putting a Positive Spin on Views about Man and Nature

    June 2, 2014

    Putting a Positive Spin on Views about Man and Nature

     

    by Sue Chehrenegar

    In an earlier article about beauty and the meaning of life, I wrote about those people who work to protect the earth’s natural beauty. Some segments of the population applaud such efforts; others tend to laugh at talk about saving the earth.  This week, I spoke with a woman who had become discouraged by the stark division between environmentalists and those who show no interest in preserving the earth’s natural beauty, along with its resources.

    She believed that there ought to be a way of bringing those two groups together. Thus, she thought-up a way for introducing a sense of unity into what has become a very divisive issue. She has put a positive spin on that controversial topic by focusing on the fact that the typical person respects the God-given order of things. Hence, she has chosen to reach-out to the members of various faith groups.

    I liked her idea, as so I decided to read more about order in the environment. As I was reading, I discovered that her concept helped to highlight the reason that an environmentalist finds it relatively easy to introduce plenty of meaning into his or her life. The book which I have been reading was published way back in 1974, but it tackles a subject that is the focus of online discussions now, forty years later.

    I discovered that I had read and studied this particular book before. In fact, I had underlined the author’s definition of order. He had defined order as a condition in which things have been arranged with respect to their purpose. In other words, a consideration of purpose aids someone who must carry-out the act of putting a group of things in order Only by considering each object’s purpose can someone identify some sort of integrating principal, an element that shows how those various things are related.

    Now, according to the author, there are certain qualities that are related to order. The author mentions both clarity and beauty. A person with a strong religious faith has clarity regarding what is considered right and wrong. Hence, a religious person can appreciate the need for clarity, and, therefore, such a person ought to be able to understand why some people advocate for preservation of the environment.

    Once the author of this one book has presented his concept of clarity, he has turned to the concept of beauty. According to him, beauty can be categorized as the highest expression of order. The author speculates on why humans have such a love for beauty. He states that because life depends on order, those who become aware of its presence experience of sense of grandeur and majesty.

    Grandeur and majesty are words that are often used to describe our Creator. Hence, this one author’s observations on order and beauty have managed to shine a limelight on how religion might be used to put an end to the divisive nature of discussions about the environment. In other words, his words have helped to put a positive spin on any such discussion.

    As someone who writes an occasional piece for dreampositive.info, I admire any attempt to change a negative into a positive. I would also like to mention one particular website: www.edenkeeper.org. The woman who I talked with this past week added meaning to her life by creating that specific website. Now she invites others to contribute articles that focus on religious news, and how that news relates to preservation of the environment.

    I hope that those who read all the posted articles on that particular website will begin to understand the message that I have been re-reading this past week. Meanwhile, I am pleased to share the thoughts of some people I once knew, people who appreciate why a person would strive to have a meaningful life. I once enjoyed an evening in the home of the book’s author (Daniel Jordan), a man whose life ended much too soon. Dr. Daniel Jordan was one of the leaders of Bahai religion and was killed by an extremist in 1982 while he was visiting New York City.

    Dr. Jordan’s book dealt with so many significant subjects, that he asked a colleague to index all the information for him. The man who took-on that task (Geoffrey Marks) happens to be married by college roommate. Thanks to my roommate, I had a chance to meet Mr. Marks and lots of other people who have worked to make their lives more meaningful.

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/3704377275/