Positive Psychology Coaching – A book review you need to read

Positive Psychology Coaching - A book review by Jodie Cooper

This is a brilliant book by Robert Biswas Diener and Ben Dean on how positive psychology enables individuals and organisations to flourish. It covers the relevant studies, interventions, ideas and delivers it in a digestible format. Here are some of the key points of the book in review.

  • Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup Corporate, in 2005 said “Gallup uses positive psychology because positive psychology works. If the data showed that yelling at my employees was more effective, then I would do that instead.”
  • Gallup uses positive psychology to produce harder working and increasingly loyal employees as well as growing numbers of satisfied customers. “Clearly positive psychology works in the workplace” Robert Biswas-Diener.
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues show that happy people make more money take fewer sick days, get along with colleagues better, spend more time volunteering, are more likely to help strangers, receive better evaluations from supervisors, are rated more highly by customers and exhibit less work turnover than less happy individuals.
  • Happiness is not an emotional pay check that comes from achievement. Happiness is beneficial in and of itself. Happier people tend to be more helpful, prosocial, charitable, altruistic, and healthier, they live longer, are more likely to marry and stay married and tend to have more close and casual friends, they also earn more money. They have better organisational citizenship, performance evaluations and increased productivity.
  • Not expecting fulfilment to be intense or permanent is key to happiness. People who see mild satisfaction as success will become more motivated, optimistic and positive long term.
  • One study found that Nuns who used positive descriptors more often in a autobiography, lived 7 years longer than their negative colleagues. It was concluded that happier people have better health habits.
  • Martin Seligman & Ed Deiner found in their ‘Very happy people’ study, that the only common factor in very happy people was the presence of quality relationships.
  • ‘The art of living’ study by Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues found that happy people are less prone to self-reflection (rumination,) less likely to engage in negative comparisons and more likely to construe events positively and more likely to savour successes.
  • Kahneman describes ‘the peak and end effect’ as how people are more likely to recall the emotional intense events and also the last thing that happened.
  • “Most people are mildly happy, most of the time.”
  • Happiness is functional, it enables individuals to be curious, explore, take risks and seek and develop relationships.
  • Positive emotions counter negative emotions. As fear, anxiety and anger limit our possible choices, love, curiosity, gratitude and enthusiasm expand our choices and actions. Happy people are more creative, helpful, social, and energetic.
  • Lyubomirsky’s Happiness pie indicates that Happiness is impacted by genetics (50%), by life circumstances (10%) and by intentional thoughts and actions (40%).
  • Three elements critical to happiness are: goals, social relationships and cognitive habits.
  • Goal conflict can lead to numerous negative outcomes.
  • Wire monkey studies by Harry Harlow demonstrated that baby rhesus monkeys would prefer physical touch, affection and interpersonal interaction rather than food. This connection is essential to flourishing.
  • Social relationships are a powerful predictor of happiness. Studies on life satisfaction of prostitutes, homeless people and those living in the slums of Calcutta indicated that despite dire poverty, those with strong social ties were able to ward off the ill effects of their circumstances. Hence indicating that social relationships are more significant than life circumstances.
  • Loss aversion is the way we expand negative events and believe they will have a much greater impact on our lives than what is realistic. (Daniel Kahneman)
  • A positivity portfolio is a collection of things that bring back positive memories, hopes, dreams and enable you to feel the emotions of gratitude, optimism and pride.
  • Argyle and colleagues found that people who regularly engage in sport and physical activity experiences less stress, less tension, less tiredness, lower feelings of anger and depression, increased vigour, higher self-esteem, more positive body image and increased positive moods.
  • Gratitude is linked to more helpful behaviours, higher positive emotions, improved life satisfaction, increased hope and lower feelings of depression, anxiety, envy as well as less materialistic attitudes.
  • “People who want to live a more fulfilling life, should stop reading self help books and start helping others.” Laura King.
  • Elevation, according to Jon Haidt, is that uplifting feeling you get when in the presence of exceptional people. It’s being inspired at seeing someone achieve a goal, feeling motivated when hearing a speaker or feeling hope when witnessing altruistic work.
  • Character strengths enable people to focus on what they do well, enjoy, and are likely to be successful at. They provide a framework for people to recognise what they are good at and explore ways to do more of it.
  • VIA strengths are most widely used and provide a free assessment tool.
  • Philip Zimbardo studied ‘time perspective’ and describes how people live predominately in their past, present or future and how this time orientation affects their lives.
  • Learned helplessness study by Seligman found that dogs when given electric shocks, and no way to escape soon learned that nothing they did impacted their circumstances, and stopped looking for opportunities to change them, even when removed to a box they could easily escape from.
  • Optimism is a critical strength that lies at the heart of motivation, perseverance and ultimately, success in life.
  • Perseverance is predicted by two things: Commitment and Confidence.
  • Explanatory style is the way people explain events to themselves. Pessimistic people blame themselves for bad events and see negatives as more permanent, while attributing success to luck and seeing it as temporary. Individuals with an optimistic explanatory style see success as deserving and attribute it to their hard work, they view failures as poor luck and temporary only.
  • The most positive people will reminisce about the past, savour the present moment and hold hope for the future.
  • Robin Dunbar warns that 150 meaningful relationships are the maximum our brain can handle.
  • The largest influence on work satisfaction is relationship to managers, closely followed by relationship to co-workers.
  • Top three strengths of a leader. 1. Enabling others 2. Being a team builder and 3. Being socially adaptable.
  • Amy Wrzesniewski describes work orientation in three ways. 1. Job 2. Career or 3. Calling and found that approximately 1/3 of the population fall into each of the categories. IE. 1/3 of all cleaners feel that their work is a job, 1/3 see it as a career and 1/3 see it as a calling and believe it is what they are meant to be doing and their work has a significant impact on the world.
  • Job crafting is the ability to shift the work within a role towards the individual’s strengths. It can be achieved by changing the number, scope or type of tasks. Changing the quality and amount of interaction with others at work or changing the way we think about the role.
  • “Who wouldn’t be attracted to a program that gets employees to work harder and stay loyal to their companies by actually improving the quality of their working conditions? Positive psychology speaks to the important bottom lines: productivity and profit. But at the same time is speaks to employee welfare.” Alex Linley.

If you’re interested in becoming a better coach and love the ideas that make up positive psychology, please read this book. It will be a game changer in your own life and that of the people you work with.

Share this post


More from the blog