5 essential brand-new & upcoming Books on Positive Psychology

Are you eager to get some fresh perspectives on Positive Psychology? Here you go…

Recently published books on Positive Psychology

Michelle Gielan: Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. Michelle is a former CBS News anchor and is a Penn MAPP alum. About the book:

“In Broadcasting Happiness, Gielan shows us how our words can move people from fearbased mindsets, where they see obstacles as insurmountable, to positive mindsets, where they see that change is possible and take action. Using scientifically proven communication strategies, we have the ability to increase others’ happiness and success at work, as well as our own, instantly making us more effective leaders.”

Shannon Polly & Kathryn Britton (Eds.): Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Shannon and Kathryn are also Penn MAPP graduates working at the intersection of research and consulting. About the book:

The book brings Peterson´s and Seligman´s character strengths “to life with stories involving children, teenagers, adults, and elders and occurring in family life and business settings, in the present and in the distant past, in locations from China to the United States to the Middle East. Research shows that using character strengths in new ways for a week makes people happier up to six months later. This book includes many ideas for using your character strengths in new ways.”

J. Harold Ellens, Theo D. McCall & David Bryce Yaden (Eds.): Being Called: Scientific, Secular, and Sacred Perspectives. David was an assistant instructor in during my stay in the Penn MAPP program and has his own Mappsterview. About the book:

“This unique book is an essential resource for interdisciplinary research and scholarship on the phenomenon of feeling called to a life path or vocation at the interface of science and religion.”

Positive Psychology Books coming up in 2016

Emma Seppälä: The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. Emma is the Science Director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and founder of Fulfillment Daily. About the book:

“Drawing on the latest findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience—research on happiness, resilience, willpower, compassion, positive stress, creativity, mindfulness—Seppälä shows that finding happiness and fulfillment may, in fact, be the most productive thing we can do to thrive professionally.”

Angela Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. If you are remotely interested in Positive Psychology, it is not necessary to introduce Angela, but for the sake of consistency in this article, she´s a professor at Penn´s Positive Psychology Center and a close colleague of Martin Seligman. About the book:

“Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.”

New Positive Psychology Books

Want to be the Boss? Be Happy, Science says, and you´ll be a Good Leader

Happy BossFor a moment, think about a leadership person (a.k.a. boss) in your life that you really liked working for. How could that person be described, what kind of personality did he/she convey? Was he/she more the grumpy moaner – or rather an upbeat “Sunday´s child”?

Turns out that this question is not only about likeability but also about leadership effectiveness. In a recent meta-analysis* published in The Leadership Quarterly titled Is a happy leader a good leader? A meta-analytic investigation of leader trait affect and leadership, Dana L. Joseph and her colleagues found that – broadly speaking – happier leaders also tend to be more effective leaders. In the words of Joseph and her colleagues:

Our analyses show that leader trait affectivity, particularly leader trait positive affect, plays a significant role in predicting leadership criteria.

A happy boss is a good boss.

They also find that the relationship between leader happiness and effectiveness may not be a direct one. Rather, it seems that happy bosses predominantly engage in a special leadership style that has been coined transformational leadership. As opposed to more traditional leadership styles (telling people what to do and controlling them; management by objectives etc.), transformational leadership, according to Joseph et al., consists of the following dimensions:

  • idealized influence, or the extent to which a leader displays conviction and behaves in a way that causes followers to identify with him/her;
  • inspirational motivation, which involves communicating optimism and challenging followers to meet high standards;
  • intellectual stimulation, or the extent to which a leader takes risks, challenges assumptions, and encourages follower creativity;
  • and individualized consideration, which is characterized by follower mentoring, attending to follower needs, and listening to follower concerns.

Now, does that sound like the behavior of a boss we´d all like to work for? My answer is a clear yes. And it predominantly starts with that person´s happiness.

* A special type of study that statistically aggregates previous study results to provide an overview of a specific branch of research.

No Pain, no Gain? Think again! We are able to experience Post-Ecstatic Growth, Science says

Post Ex GrowthOriginally coined by German philosopher Nietzsche, the following quote has become a piece of common knowledge: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. Most people have – at one point or another – made the experience that going through really tough times may render us stronger than before, and not shattered as one would initially expect. In psychology, this mechanism is labeled Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG; here´s an overview of the idea).

Some people might even claim that there is no gain without pain. Turns out, that this view may be wrong, or at least incomplete. In a 2013 article published in the Journal of Positive Psychology titled Gains without pains? Growth after positive events, Ann Marie Roepke, Ph.D. student at Penn´s Positive Psychology Center, presents evidence for what she calls Post-Ecstatic Growth, based on a survey among some 600 people. Basically, Roepke had people name the one experience in peoples lives that they remember as the most positive (e.g., the birth of a child). Then, she asked people to specify which category best characterized their positive event, based on Seligman´s PERMA framework and which positive emotions had been evoked by the event (e.g., in awe, inspired, uplifted, joyful, content, fascinated etc.). Additionally, she assessed the outcome of that event, for instance, feelings of personal growth or “doors opening up” for new possibilities in life.

In short, Roepke found clear evidence for the existence of Post-Ecstatic Growth. Here are some excerpts from the discussion section of her article:

Positive events can, in fact, catalyze growth. Although hedonic happiness levels tend to return to baseline after positive events, important changes in eudaimonic well-being and in worldview may remain. Four domains of growth are particularly important after positive events:

  • new meaning and purpose in life;
  • higher self-esteem;
  • spiritual development;
  • and better relationships.

Some positive experiences are more likely to lead to (self-perceived) growth than others. […] Events that evoke stronger positive emotions are more closely linked to growth. This is consistent with Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory: positive events can provide opportunities to expand one’s thought-action repertoire, and this expansion can be perceived as growth. Indeed, participants who reported that a positive experience opened their eyes to new opportunities, goals, roles, and values also felt they had grown more. […] Inspiration, awe, and elevation are especially important positive emotions for growth. […] In contrast, more hedonic positive emotion (e.g. feeling joyful and content) predicts less growth.

Inspiration is related to meaning, a sense of connection to something greater than the self. Meaning, like inspiration, is closely tied to growth: meaningful experiences are associated with more growth than experiences of accomplishment, engagement, relationship, and hedonic positive emotion.

Roepke´s conclusion:

Our best moments can inspire us, connect us to something greater than ourselves, and open our eyes to new possibilities, ultimately giving rise to growth.

Hence, there is gain without pain. If we seek out the right positive experiences, we are able to experience gain from previous gains, possibly entering into an upward-spiral of growth.

Want to stay on top of Positive Psychology in Organizations? Here are 3 Reviews for you (PDF)

Happy ManagersBeing a manager in my day job, I am foremost interested in the application of Positive Psychology in organizations – and the science exploring these issues, Positive Organizational Scholarship. While there are a couple of good trade books on the subject, I also like to read original research papers which is always a great source for new ideas to blog about. As there are so many articles out there, the question is: Where should we start?

The (or at least my) answer is: Always start with review articles, and, if there are any, meta-analyses. Both are tremendously valuable in order to get an overview of a discipline in the shortest amount of time – as the authors first scan the extant data-bases for relevant articles, and then organize and summarize the current body of research. It´s a lot of hard work which is usually rewarded by receiving frequent citations over time. So, thanks to all those diligent, hard-working review writers out there!

Here´s a list of three reviews on Positive Psychology in organizations for you – the links will lead you to the respective PDFs. Enjoy!

4 Hugs for Survival, 8 for Maintenance, 12 for Growth

I love this quote by the “Mother of Family Therapy”, Virginia Satir. Reminds me of Roy Baumeister´s article Bad is stronger than Good – and how we need to actively counterbalance the impact of negative incidents and encounters in our lives.

Virginia Satir - Hugs

“Liebster Award”: 11 Questions for Dr. Nico Rose

Liebster AwardThis is a little off-topic: I´ve been asked to fill in a questionnaire on myself as part of the initiative “Liebster Award” that is meant to draw attention and to promote interesting blogs. I was nominated by Petra Becker of International Art Bridge. Now I am to answer her 11 questions, then I get to nominate up to 11 bloggers with my own 11 questions. So here we go:

Why did you start a blog?

Because it´s the greatest things about the internet: you´re a nobody from somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Germany, you get the chance to broadcast your (or other people´s great) ideas, and suddenly, people start to read. Literally, all over the world – even if it´s just a couple of hundred people per day. That´s the best thing since sliced bread.

How much time do you spend on your blog?

A couple of hours per week.

What do you expect of other blogs?

Relevance.

What do you like most about your friends?

That they are and will remain my friends – even though I regularly tend to disappear from their lives for prolonged periods of time.

Who´s your favorite author?

Used to be Nick Hornby, currently, I basically read non-fiction only.

Who´s your favorite artist?

My almost three-year-old son.

Bild Mika

Who are your everyday heroes?

Currently, I do admire the social media editors who run the Facebook account of the German Federal Government. They´re doing a darn good job (considering the severity and complexity of their topics) and have to put up with a lot crazy sh.t in return.

What´s your earthly bliss?

The gorgeous Indian food at Restaurant Maharani in my hometown.

What´s your favorite pastime?

Cuddling with my son. And writing. And speaking. And then a some more cuddling…

How and where do you want to live?

I am very content with what I have here and now.

What´s your motto?

Before you go out to change the world, walk three times through your own house. (from China)

And my “Liebster Award” goes to…

Here are your 11 questions … auf Deutsch :-)

  • Was ist aus Deiner Sicht Dein bisher bester Blog Post?
  • Dein bester Tipp für wirklich gute Blog Posts?
  • Welche 3 Bücher sollte man 2015 auf jeden Fall lesen?
  • Flugzeug oder Bahn?
  • Was wolltest Du werden, als Du 8 Jahre alt warst?
  • Wäre Dein jüngeres Ich heute stolz auf Dich?
  • Wem möchtest Du gerne mal in der Sauna begegnen?
  • Wem möchtest Du auf keinen Fall in der Sauna begegnen?
  • Wunschlos glücklich: ein erstrebenswerter Zustand – oder nicht?
  • Wenn ich ein Tier wäre, dann ein/e…
  • Was ist der Sinn vom Leben, dem Universum und dem ganzen Rest?