Positive psychology was in the spotlight at the 3rd Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Conference.
At the March 22-25 conference 2012, 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 were 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, co-originator 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 mindfulness 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.
We agree. See our article on curiosity for more insights and strategies.
Realising strengths for performance and growth
Alex Linley, Founding Director of CAPP and author of the Strengths Profile strengths assessment and development tool 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.
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
To learn more about positive psychology, download your free white paper that distils the science, practice and impact of positive psychology on human happiness, performance and wellbeing.