The “Spiritus Rector” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, has authored his autobiography. It´s called The Hope Circuit and was published with the imprint Public Affairs. I was able to read an early draft and can say it´s a fasninating read – not only for people interested in Positive Psychology, but also in psychology and science in general.
I´m the luckiest guy in the world. I get to spend the week at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, more precisely: the Ross of Business. Part of the Ross School is the Center for Positive Organizations – which without exaggeration can be described as the global focal point for research and application(s) of Positive Psychology in business (Positive Organizational Scholarship). It´s home to POS luminaries such as Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton, and Robert Quinn. Additionally, some of the big shots in the field have completed their Ph.D. studies here, among them Adam Grant and Amy Wrzesniewski.
I´m going to provide an overview of what I´ve learned here at a later point in time. For today, I´d like to provide a book list of works that been crafted by faculty of the Center for Positive Organizations. After is, Christmas is coming up soon – and you might still be looking for something for your loved ones (or yourself)…
Also, watch out for Wayne Bakers upcoming book “Just Ask”…
I don´t know if it´s my age (…the 40s are clearly in sight…), or the fact that I will become a father for the second time over the upcoming weeks (Yeah…!), or if it´s just in the air anyway (I believe so…) – but my mind is preoccupied with the topic of meaning and purpose at work and in life in general most of the time.
If you also would like to dig deeper into that subject-matter: Here´s a neat book list for you. Some books are brand-new (e.g., Dan Pontefract´s) or haven’t even been published yet (as in the case of Emily Esfahani Smith´s, a fellow Penn Mappster), some have been published over the last two years (e.g., Aaron Hurst´s book), some are a bit older (e.g., Rick Warren´s bestseller), and with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and Viktor Frankl I´ve also included some classics. Some books are based on solid science through and through (e.g., Vic Strecher), some are more self-help style (e.g. Marsha Beck), some are scholarly books (Dik et al.), most are clearly written for the layman.
Share and enjoy!
- Martha Beck: Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live
- Mihály Csíkszentmihályi: Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning
- Bryan Dik et al.: Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace
- Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
- Aaron Hurst: The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World
- Dan Pontefract: The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization
- Emily Esfahani Smith: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters
- Victor Strecher: Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything
- Dave & Wendy Ulrich: The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win
- Rick Warren: The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
This is a little off-topic – but over the last days, I came to realize how much easier it appears to be for top (psychology) researchers in the U.S. to “create buzz” around their research and/or book publications compared to their German colleagues.
Over the last weeks, a couple of researchers in the field of Positive Psychology and adjacent whom I am loosely acquainted with (e.g., Adam Grant, Scott Barry Kaufman, and Emma Seppälä) or whom I would like to be loosely acquainted with (e.g., Amy Cuddy – we´re following each other on Twitter; I guess that doesn´t count…) have published new books (Congratulations to all of you!):
- Amy Cuddy: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
- Adam Grant: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
- Scott Barry Kaufman/Carolyn Gregoire: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
- Emma Seppälä: The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success
Because a) these are all fabulous books; b) they all probably have more than decent PR agents; and c) I follow a heck of a lot of Positive Psychology people on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn my timelines are bursting with posts about their books (reviews, excerpts, and interviews). Now here´s the interesting thing – look at these headlines:
- A Harvard psychologist says there’s one factor that defines success in a job interview
- A Stanford psychologist explains why spacing out and goofing off is so good for you
- A Wharton professor says this is the one question you should ask before accepting a new job
This is a random sample. Even though – from my perspective – Adam Grant has become a sort of personal brand, and Amy Cuddy is well on her way to becoming one (there´s not too many social psychologists who get air time on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert), very often the research is marketed via the university they are affiliated with.
So, it´s clear that these institutions over time have managed to become strong brands. Their names validate and even amplify the messages publicized by their faculties. That’s a really cool thing!
Now, if you are from the U.S. you might say: Duh, tell me something new. But seen from a German perspective, this is really remarkable – because (currently) this would never work over here. You just won’t see a headline along the lines of “A Humboldt University of Berlin Researcher says X” – because the names of the universities do not really add any credibility to the message (at least not in the realm of psychology; with, e.g., engineering, it might be a slightly different story).
As a side note: I have not seen that many headlines featuring my MAPP alma mater, UPenn (with Wharton Business School being the exception). Maybe, it’s time for some more brand-building here?
One day before New Year’s Eve, I sent an e-mail to some of the foremost researchers and experts in Positive Psychology and adjacent. I asked them to answer one of the following questions.
What do you hope for Positive Psychology in 2016?
What are your expectations of Positive Psychology in 2016?
What would be a breakthrough for Positive Psychology in 2016?
While there obviously is a lot of variation in their answers, one common topic is the notion that Positive Psychology needs to shift its attention from individual wellbeing to a broader perspective: systemic or holistic wellbeing, so to say. The answers are displayed below in alphabetical order.
Shawn Achor, CEO of GoodThink Inc. and author of The Happiness Advantage:
I hope positive psychology continues to attract top talent inside and outside of academia, while re-embracing concepts like “happiness” which appeal to the non-academic population rather than going for jargon. I expect that positive psychology will take firmer hold inside of companies as more research comes out. We need a top company or celebrity to credit “positive psychology” (rather than individual interventions) for their success. I’d like to see a celebrity say positive psychology is so important they are donating money to spark the movement.
Robert Biswas-Diener, “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology” and co-author of Upside of Your Dark Side:
What trends do I expect? 1) An increasing push to brand “positive” with different specialties (positive education, positive real estate, positive boxing, etc.). I think positive education has the greatest momentum so we will see more and more of this. 2) An increasingly “life hack” approach to disseminating positive psychology. For example, many bloggers, etc. will harp on single published studies or offer simplistic advice as a sort of low-cost cheat with big payoffs. I see this as akin to promoting effective communication by saying “use 3 hand gestures every minute.” Artificial, simplistic, dubious. I think this is a by-product of market forces on positive psychology. I think the real action– the important action– will happen in research (see below).
What I hope for: 1) This will take time but there are at least two labs that are undertaking very sophisticated intervention studies. Using careful methods, longitudinal sampling, careful controls, and consulting with academics such as clinical trial researchers to improve the quality of this research. 2) I think we will see an expansion in topics covered. Grit, resilience and happiness, to name three, have been popular, but I think we will start seeing more topics integrated: interest, friendship, hospitality, intelligence, attention, etc.
Kim Cameron, professor at University of Michigan and co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations:
My expectation is that the international membership* will double, and that in 18 months we will have as many non-USA members as we do members from The United States.
* This reply somewhat confused me. I conjecture that Professor Cameron is referring to the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA).
Angela Duckworth, professor at University of Pennsylvania and author of Grit:
My hope for Positive Psychology in 2016 is that there continues to be the scientific rigor that elevates this endeavor to something other than feel-good self-help!
Jane Dutton, professor at University of Michigan and co-author of How to be a Positive Leader:
I have one big wish: I hope for more serious research and consideration of how work and organizational contexts matter in limiting or facilitating human flourishing. My expectation (and deep hope) is that there will be an explosion of research in positive organizational psychology and that it will be used to foster humility and carefulness in how to apply positive psychology in work settings.
Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Originals:
I hope for a shift in focus from the mind to behavior. Positive psychologists have paid a great deal of attention to cognitions and emotions, strengths and virtues, but far less to the actions that make our lives better.
Tim Kasser, professor at Knox College and author of The High Price of Materialism:
I hope that Positive Psychology will become less focused on trying to increase peoples’ personal happiness and instead recognize that a good life also includes living one’s life in ways that promote the well-being of other people and the ecological sustainability of the planet.
Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute, researcher and lecturer at Penn, and author of Wired to Create:
I’d like to see more research on Positive Communities, and deepen our understanding of their development and benefits. There’s so much of a focus on individual flourishing measured through self-report questionnaires. I’d like to see much more research on meaning as measured by the functioning of larger systems of people and community structures.
Dacher Keltner, professor at Berkeley and co-director of the Greater Good Science Center:
I hope that positive psychology will use its wisdom to tackle the costs of inequality and poverty.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor at University of California, Riverside and author of The How of Happiness:
I hope for the label “positive psychology” to be retired. We don’t need it anymore!
Ryan Niemiec, Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character and author of Positive Psychology at the Movies:
I expect there to be an array of important published and forthcoming studies on positive psychology interventions with problems (e.g., conflicts, disorders, stressors, dark side).
Martin Seligman, co-founder and spiritus rector of Positive Psychology:
I hope that more exoplanets suitable to life will be discovered* and that David Mitchell will publish another novel.
* I guess Marty has answered my question in a more comprehensive way. Always dreaming big, I daresay.
Amy Wrzesniewski, professor at Yale and one of the world´s foremost experts on meaning at/in work:
I hope that we see more top tier peer-reviewed research that sheds helpful light on the antecedents and outcomes of people finding a sense of meaning in their lives! Am doing my best to help!
Today, I´d like to know which Positive Psychology Book you like best. I´ve provided a list with 10 of the most popular books (from my point of view). You can pick up to 3 books – or list other books that you prefer. Thanks a lot for your participation. Please share this post so others will vote, too!
2016 is going to be a really nice year for non-fiction aficionados. Below, you´ll find three upcoming books that were all written by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania: Angela Duckworth, Adam Grant, and Scott Barry Kaufman.
by Adam Grant will be out on February 2, 2016. About the content:
How can we originate new ideas, policies and practices without risking it all? Adam Grant shows how to improve the world by championing novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battling conformity, and bucking outdated traditions. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Parents will learn how to nurture originality in children, and leaders will discover how to fight groupthink to build cultures that welcome dissent.
Here´s what Malcolm Gladwell has to say about the book: “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.”
by Angela Duckworth will be out on May 3, 2016. About the content:
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. Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. She takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance.
This is what Arianna Huffington thinks about the book: “At a time when our collective notion of success has shrunk to the point of being unrecognizable, Angela Duckworth arrives to restore it. With a mix of masterful storytelling and the latest science, she shows that perseverance and passion matter at least as much as talent and intelligence. And far from simply urging us to work harder for the sake of working harder, Grit offers a truly sane perspective: that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.”
by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire will be out two days from now, on December 29, 2015. About the content:
The book offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Revealing the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking. Kaufman and Gregoire untangle a series of paradoxes – like mindfulness and daydreaming, seriousness and play, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration – to show that it is by embracing our own contradictions that we are able to tap into our deepest creativity.
What Martin Seligman has to say about the book: “Scott Barry Kaufman has just written the go-to book on creativity and genius. With Carolyn Gregoire, he puts together the newest scientific findings from the brain, from mental life and from the messy world of emotion to whiz us to the cutting edge of the highest human accomplishments.”