In my last post, I talked a little about Positive Psychology and how it relates to the Life Coaching Experience. In this post, I would like to expand a little bit on that to discuss the strengths associated with positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of, “positive emotions, positive character traits, and enabling institutions” (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005, p. 410). It acknowledges that psychology seeks to understand the entire human experience, including the bad but also the good. Seligman and colleagues (2005) acknowledge that to relieve suffering and to increase happiness are two separate endeavors. Life coaching is a means to address the latter.
Seligman and his colleagues (2005) provide a list of specific virtues and character strengths they discuss in a book currently in print titled Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (CSV), written by Peterson and Seligman published in 2004, which is intended to be a handbook on psychological well-being as the DSM is the handbook for psychological disorder. This list comes in the form of six specific virtues endorsed by almost every culture around the world, and within these categories of virtues is a list of character strengths associated with a particular virtue.
What studies have shown are that character strengths are what contribute to fulfillment and life satisfaction. The research also indicates that some particular character strengths tend to be mostly associated with the happiest and most fulfilled individuals, and these are strengths of the heart (Seligman et al., 2005). These include zest, gratitude, hope, and love.
Seligman and colleagues (2005) state that the science behind happiness involves three separate distinctions. The first is a positive emotion and pleasure, the second is engagement or having an engaged life, and the third is meaning or having a meaningful life. While individuals may pursue one route to happiness over the other, research has found that individuals are the happiest who pursue all three of these categories in their lives (Seligman et al., 2005). Seligman and colleagues (2005) cite the work of Lyubomirsky, King, and Deiner (in press) stating that happy people not only feel good, but they also tend to be more healthy, successful, and more socially engaged than those who are not happy.
In short, as life coaches, it is important to help our clients identify their character strengths and to be happier people, so that they can live more fulfilling, satisfying, healthy, successful, engaged, and meaningful lives!
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Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation and interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.