My Mind´s MAP(P): The 4-minute Ivy League Diploma in Positive Psychology

MAPP 9 Superhero MedalFor one of our MAPP final papers, we were asked to come up with a list of bits and pieces of insight, those “eureka moments of comprehension” we´ve had over the two semesters at Penn. I´d like to share those with you as a kind of “MAPP in a nutshell”. As I like to tie knowledge to those teachers that are “responsible” for my comprehension, I will present them to you in that way. Therefore, I´ve created a list of (to my knowledge) all the persons that have taught in MAPP 9 at one point or the other, and will name those that have provided me with an especially memorable insight. Those perceptions do encompass theoretical insights from positive psychology, its real-world application (or its contribution to real-world application of other psychological concepts), or style of (teaching) delivery…

Roy Baumeister: Bad is stronger than good (precisely: bad events and emotions create a stronger and longer-lasting impact on our brains). Therefore, we need to purposefully create more positive events and emotions in our lives to counterbalance this one-sidedness (with a tip to the hat to John Gottman…).

Dan Bowling: Everything that can be done can also be done with style. It makes the world a brighter place.

Art Carey: Has shown me how important the process of writing is for my own life – and that part of my future career should consist of getting paid for being a “wielder of words”.

David Cooperrider: Words create worlds. Accordingly, positive words will create (mostly) positive worlds – whereas negative words will create (mostly) negative worlds. So use your words wisely, especially your questions – as they tend to create the worlds within other people´s minds.

Angela Duckworth/Peggy Kern: Woohoo! Learning (and teaching…) statistics can be fun. Go figure…

Jane Dutton: High-Quality Connections (HQC) are the high-octane fuel of every organization. Suspend your judgment and try to walk a mile in your fellow men´s shoes before coming to any conclusion. Build trust via giving open, positive feedback – if possible, on a daily basis.

Chris Feudtner: Keeping an open heart while working in dark places (e.g. palliative care units for children) can grant you an enormous “aura” and tangible “clarity of the mind”. When there´s nothing left, there can still be hope. What do we hope for – when there´s no other option left but hope?

Barbara Fredrickson: Positive emotions are not a trifle. They are essential building blocks for our well-being and should be fostered actively.

Adam Grant: It is more blessed smarter to give than to receive. Being altruistic does not turn you into a doormat. It can lead to success, even in competitive corporate environments.

Jonathan Haidt: 1) There are no good reasons (at least not good enough) to be pessimistic about the fate of mankind. Judged by most empirical indicators, it´s not foolish to say that we are on an “upwards trajectory”: things are bound to get better. On that note, I would also like to thank my classmate David Nevill for giving me the sentence “We never have enough data to be pessimistic.” It continues to inspire me, even on a sort of metaphysical level. 2) Look to the extreme ends of the (positive) emotional continuum, e.g., to emotions such as awe and elevation. They may be powerful change catalysts.

Emilia Lahti: You have tons of soul mates somewhere out there. They may live at the other end of the world. But eventually, some of them will find you (especially if you start a blog, that is…)

Ellen Langer: Everything that can be done is worth being done mindful. It leads to better results and more satisfaction. Plus: Don´t fear getting old.

Daniel Lerner: Everything that can be done can also be done with “an eye for excellence”. It pushes the boundaries of human achievement.

Chris Major: A man with a true purpose is (almost) unstoppable.

Ryan Niemiec: 1) Strengths matter more than frailties. They are the key to our “true self” and the building blocks on our road to (work and life) satisfaction. 2) A movie is never “just a movie”. It´s a lesson on character strengths.

Off the Beat: Singing is life!

Ken Pargament: Even atheists value the “sacred moments” in their lives. Find them, cultivate them, and cherish them. They are valuable.

James Pawelski: 1) Trust the process. 2) It´s always valuable not to be the smartest person in the room. 3) Know which giants´ shoulders you are standing on. 4) There is nothing more practical than a good theory (and a proper definition). 5) Know the limits of your knowledge. 6) Positive psychology is grounded in meliorism (the belief that people/things can improve/be better than they are today). 7) You can be a proper scientist and nevertheless enjoy Tony Robbins.

Isaac Prilleltensky: Fairness on the community and societal level influences our individual well-being. Countries with developed democracies, a high degree of personal freedom, generous social security systems and relatively small gaps between top earners and “normal” workers are the happiest (on average)

John Ratey/Tom Rath: Move your ASS! Your brain will appreciate it.

Ann Roepke: Our life is a narrative and as such, we do have tremendous power over it by actively re-writing or pre-writing the storylines.

Esa Saarinen: Don´t hold back. Create systems of generosity. Err on the giving side. Embrace your inner (and outer!) “weird”.

Barry Schwartz: 1) Most times, “good” is “good enough”. 2) Purposefully limit the choices you have to make in life. E.g., choose not to choose by setting defaults and creating habits.

Martin Seligman: Think and dream big.

Daniel Tomasulo: Everything that can be done can also be done with a twinkle in the eye. Makes hard work feel “easy”.

Amy Wrzesniewski: Purpose and meaning (at work) are the result of finding work that integrates your strengths, passions, and values. The calling comes from within. Other people matter (at work, too).

I am deeply thankful to all of you!

 

P.S. Thanks to my classmate Linda Rufer for designing those MAPP 9 superhero medals. The backside says I was voted “most mappalicious” person in our cohort. Whatever that means at the end of the day… 🙂

The No. 1 Secret to Standing Out from the Crowd at an Ivy League School…

Climb* on a chair! 🙂

Outstanding Pomp and Circumstance

Just came home from a fabulous Penn (MAPP) graduation and commencement weekend. Will post lots more on that shortly…

* A big thank you to my classmate Brandy Reece and her husband for the awesome photo. In that moment, I climbed on my chair to give a special shout-out to our program director James Pawelski who was passing by.

Thank a Teacher: Somebody influenced your Life? Let ´em know…

Has there been a special teacher, professor, or mentor that you would like to thank for positively influencing your life? If you´re still looking for the right moment – it might be here right now. Six seniors from Olin College, MA have created the website www.thank-a-teacher.org which lets you express your appreciation in public. The site has really taken off over the last days thanks to exposure on social media.

So below, you will find my thank-you-note to Linda Matesevac, who was my psychology teacher from 1994-95 when I was an exchange student at York Country Day School, Pennsylvania.

Nico Rose - York Country Day School

In Germany, psychology is not taught at high-schools. Entering my junior year, I had already (sort of) made up my mind to make it to law school. That changed dramatically over the year. Thanks to Linda, from 1998 on, I majored in psychology at the University of Muenster, Germany. 15 years later, I became part of the 9. cohort of the Master of Positive Psychology program at Penn. I am writing this on the morning of my graduation ceremony. Linda is going to be there – so we´ll meet for the first time in 19 years… 🙂

Thank a Teacher

Which Super-Power would You rather Possess: Fighting Evil or Promoting Good?

In order to learn more about the meaning of the word/concept “positive” in “Positive Psychology” (which the following post is all about), I highly encourage you to visit the website of James Pawelski, where he provides an in-depth analysis.


OK. So here´s a question for you: Some higher being has chosen to endow you with super-powers. You get to choose between two different profiles:

Superpower_Good_Evil

Let me elaborate a bit more on this:

  • So, you could either be Mr. Red Cape. He´s your typical super-hero. He fights “the Bad”: Kicks the shit out of the bad guys, saves people from collapsing skyscrapers, and might even have the power to fight epidemics and end the occasional war. But: he cannot create “the Good”.
  • Or, you could be Mr. Green Cape. He´s a different kind of super-hero. He has the ability to spread trust and love, and give meaning to individuals and whole communities etc. . But: he cannot eradicate “the Bad” – he definitely cannot end poverty and other calamities for good.

Mind you, this is an either-or story. You have 100% of one side – and 0% of the other. Who would you want to be – and why?

I won´t give you an answer here – because there is no single “right” solution.* But maybe, you´d like to think (or rather: feel) it through – and then share your thoughts in the comment section…?

 

*Although James Pawelski, MAPP´s academic director and Chief Philosophy Officer, is not too fond of simple and easy answers, he probably would have one for you here. But I´m not going to write it down – so as not to be the spoilsport for future Mappsters and listeners of his beautiful lectures in general…

Picture source: red cape, green cape

Does having a Child make us Happier or Unhappier? Or is that the wrong Question?

I´m pretty sure that all the parents among my readers will join into a roaring “HAPPIER!” when answering the first question in this post´s headline. Yet, it turns out that an unanimous scientific answer to that question is rather hard to find – as there´s a lot conflicting data out there.

There are papers that show well-being drops for both men and women when a first child comes into the house – and it typically does not rise that much until the children leave for college. Other researchers found that a first child markedly increases happiness, especially with the fathers, and the more so when it´s a boy. Then, there are papers that give the classic answer for lawyers (and psychologists as well): It depends. Or rather, there are upsides and downsides. E.g., mother are more stressed – but less depressed.

When there´s a lot conflicting research on a certain topic, it´s always a good thing to carry out a meta-analysis, which is a weighted integration of many studies on one area of inquiry. Such a meta-analysis has been done in 2004. Here´s the summary:

This meta-analysis finds that parents report lower marital satisfaction compared with nonparents (d=−.19, r=−.10). There is also a significant negative correlation between marital satisfaction and number of children (d=−.13, r=−.06). The difference in marital satisfaction is most pronounced among mothers of infants (38% of mothers of infants have high marital satisfaction, compared with 62% of childless women). For men, the effect remains similar across ages of children. The effect of parenthood on marital satisfaction is more negative among high socioeconomic groups, younger birth cohorts, and in more recent years. The data suggest that marital satisfaction decreases after the birth of a child due to role conflicts and restriction of freedom.

What they say is: On average, marital satisfaction drops slightly when a first child is born. The effect is stronger for women than for men, and the younger and richer the parents are. Parents struggle with stress due to role conflicts and a decrease in self-determination.

Are Children supposed to make us Happier?

Eudaimonia - HedoniaBut maybe, asking about satisfaction and happiness is not the right question after all. Is it really the “job” of our children to make us happier and more satisfied as a parent? I don´t think so. When a child comes into your life, you lose tons of money, you lose tons of sleep (and that´s due to dirty diapers, not dirty sex…), and you have to carry out planning and preparations on a regular basis that in their complexity can be likened to the Normandy landing – just for going to the movies on a Friday night.

Having children does not make us happy all the time. Period.

Yet, we get something else, research suggests: Purpose. Meaning. Unconditional love (especially when you have some sort of food, that is…). Asking for satisfaction is looking at the wrong axis of the Eudaimonia-Hedonia-Grid depicted above.

Being a parent is not a “fun” job at times – especially for the mothers (given a more traditional role-taking). Remember that viral video about the toughest job in the world?

But then: it definitely can be a blast. When researchers see a lot of conflicting data, they sometimes turn to what in science lingo is called “anecdotal evidence”. They tell a story. Here´s a story about my family having fun in the park (Photos taken by Tina Halfmann).

Enjoy!

Family Rose

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Family Rose

Want to be Happy today? Check out the “Good Day Theory”…

A couple of minutes ago, I went out to go to my favorite café in order to work on a MAPP final paper. Now, I´m blogging. By the way, if you want to have some real good advice on following through with your plans, check out Peter Gollwitzer´s research on implementation intentions. But I digress…

So, when I went out of the door, I saw this sticker on a street light – basically, directly in front of our home. And I wonder how many times I might have passed it without noticing – but of course, it could be new as well.

Good Day Theory

Via Google, I´ve found out that it´s the name of a local rock band – I´ve posted one of their videos at the bottom of this post. The good news is: there really is a kind of “good day theory” in Positive Psychology. At least, there´s a paper by the name of What makes for a good day? Competence and autonomy in the day and in the person

What they found: a good day typically is characterized  by frequent fulfillment of our needs for autonomy and competence. In plain English:

A good day in one where you decide what to do – and then choose to do something that you´re really good at.

So do that. Now…