For those who don’t know much about professional life coaching, much of its principles are based on the fundamentals of Positive Psychology. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, describes the primary features of this particular discipline as, “hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Instead of merely surviving and enduring, it begs the question, how do we create a successful, flourishing population with a sense of optimism and a life worth living (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) state, “The aim of positive psychology is to begin to catalyze a change in the focus of psychology from preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building positive qualities” (p. 5).
Life coaching is all about bringing out the positive aspects of individuals, allowing them to dip into their own creativity and wisdom, hoping for a better and more successful future, and courage and persevering to put these ideas into action to reach their goals and dreams. Many people have voiced the opinion that life coaching is a waste of time, a scam to extort money out of ignorant people, and so on. So what does the science say about life coaching? Going back to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), the science states that prevention is the best way to solve the quandary of mental illness, and building competency is the best way to accomplish this, as opposed to correcting weakness. There are specific strengths that individuals possess that act as a buffer against mental illness, including, “courage, future mindedness, optimism, interpersonal skill, faith, work ethic, hope, honesty, perseverance, and the capacity for flow and insight, to name several” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 7). One major focus in professional life coaching is identifying specific strengths the client possesses and building on these strengths to achieve the goals the client sets for him or herself.
It’s not about mental illness. It’s about mental health!
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Seligman, M. E. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.