“All in on Love” and other beautiful Stories…

I guess I´m suffering from MAPP deprivation. The Penn graduation ceremony seems like a long time ago – even though it´s only been three months since then. And now that I´ve handed in my master thesis I´m free to do whatever I want. But the truth is: I miss my stays in Philadelphia. And I miss my MAPP classmates.

Time to engage in some reminiscence. Below, you´ll find a collage from graduation weekend (click to enlarge; from left to right and clockwise: Martin Seligman, co-founder of Positive Psychology and me; standing out from the crowd; James Pawelski, academic director of the MAPP program at Penn, and me; a view of Penn´s stadium during commencement; commencement brochure etc.; reuniting with Linda Matesevac, my psychology teacher from 19 years ago; the “Walk of Honor” on Penn´s Locust Walk; middle: me and some MAPP cohort members).

Nico Rose - MAPP - Penn Graduation

And you should definitely check out Penn President Amy Gutman´s salutation – and the fabulous commencement speech given by Penn alumnus and Soul & R´n´B star John Legend (“All in on Love”; here´s the full text). Enjoy!

My Capstone: Introducing the Concept of Self-Permission to (Positive) Psychology

Yeah! It´s finally online. Over the last couple of weeks (and including reading and preliminary research, over the last 8 months) I´ve been working on my MAPP Capstone thesis. Now, it has been published in the Scholarly Commons section of Penn´s homepage. You can download the PDF for free here.

The title of my paper is: Introducing Self-Permission: Theoretical Framework and Proposed Assessment. Here´s the abstract:

The term self-permission refers to a belief about the self that a person can hold to a stronger or weaker extent. Self-permission, in short, is the answer an individual gives oneself when asking about their perceived allowance to reach overarching long-term objectives, such as having a fulfilling career or enjoying a lasting and gratifying relationship. At a broader level, the question is whether a person allows him or herself to lead a happy and rewarding life. This paper describes the concept of self-permission, explores its nomological network and possible antecedents and consequences, proposes a corresponding self-permission scale (SPS), and suggests a study for assessing 1) the psychometric properties of that scale, 2) its relationship with conjectured adjacent constructs, and 3) its relationship with psychological functioning. Considering how important it seems to be to most individuals to make the best out of their lives and to live up to a deeply felt sense of purpose, a better understanding of self-permission could significantly benefit the psychological well-being of many people who do not allow themselves to thrive.

If you are an expert in (Positive) Psychology research and theory, I´d love to have your feedback. I propose a new construct and a scale to measure it. I´ve tried to list all adjacent constructs and concepts I could find to “build” the nomological net (please see appendix in addition to the relevant section in the paper) – but I´m sure there´s lots of interesting stuff out there that I´ve missed and that could serve to deepen my understanding. So if there´s something I should definitely have a look at, please do tell me…

Introducing Self-Permission - Nico Rose

The MAPP Capstone Folder at Penn´s Scholarly Commons Directory: Cutting-Edge Positive Psychology Knowledge for free

It´s almost over. What started out as a dream about 11 months ago, is now reality. I´m about one mouse-click away from becoming a full-blown Mappster. Mid-May, I had finished all my regular course requirements – and celebrated that intensely. By now, I`ve finished writing my so-called capstone project, an paper that can take on the form of a typical research paper, a book proposal, or even an outline for training concept etc. – as long as it´s backed by scientific research. I´ve decided to write a theoretical paper on the concept of self-permission which will be available online very soon. Over the last two hours, I´ve turned that paper into a conference poster and will send that over to Philly once I´m done with writing this post. When that is approved, I´m officially Dr. rer. pol. Dipl.-Psych. Nico Rose, MAPP. 🙂

By the way, if you are interested in novel ways of applying Positive Psychology to different domains of the “real life” (and also some cutting-edge research), you should definitely check out the MAPP folder of Penn´s Scholarly Commons directory. There, you´ll find +30 MAPP capstones from previous years – and it´ll grow as my fellow classmates and future Mappsters will upload their work over the upcoming weeks and years. My paper by the name of “Introducing Self-Permission: Theoretical Framework and Proposed Assessment” is already uploaded and will be available for download within the next days. Enjoy!

Penn - MAPP - Capstone Projects

How to rock your Ivy League Master in Positive Psychology: a 10-Point Action Plan

Penn LPS GraduationAfter each on-campus period of the MAPP 2013/14 program, we were asked to write a journal entry, mostly in order to reflect on important insights from the days before. After the final onsite in May, we were also asked to come up with a list of “eureka moments“, tiny bits of knowledge we would like to pass on to future Mappsters so as to help them to make the best of their experience at Penn.

So here´s my list. Please keep in mind that this is my list. The list of a German trying to balance a full-time management job, several sidelines, plus having a family, with successfully making it through a wonderful but very demanding master´s program that entails regular intercontinental flights. So the list of my beautiful classmates could look entirely different. But I would expect some overlap at least…

 

*That´s (typically, but not necessarily…) a person of the opposite sex you love almost as much as your actual significant other. Just without the sex thing.

** That´s a sophisticated term for “Why should I really read ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’ when there´s several superb executive summaries on the www?

*** I mean really good ones. German, Suisse, or Belgium brands. Hershey´s fine – but it´s not the real deal.

2014 Penn MAPP Graduates

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.

Positive Psychology and MAPP at Penn: Doing that Namedropping Thing

Actually, I should be busy writing on my MAPP final papers right now. But then, taking short breaks is supposed to help your mind stay fresh, right?

By now, a lot of people that have read my blog also contacted me to ask about my MAPP experience. Obviously, it´s not that easy to tell a story of 10 months in a few sentences. Hey, that´s why I started this blog in the first place…* There´s also been some questions about the tuition – and to be honest, it´s not exactly a bargain. I could have not taken part without some generous support from my employer (or rather: my boss). But hey – Penn belongs to the Ivy League and that comes with a price tag.

If you´d like to know why I am convinced that it was worth each and every penny (and much more…), please read my blog front to back. Otherwise, you might be convinced by the sheer (work-)force of people that you’ll  have the pleasure and honor to learn from. So here is the name-dropping list. Please note that the guest lecturers and assistant instructors will vary from year to year (C = core faculty; G = guest lecturer; A = assistant instructor that has taught part of a class at some point):

That´s value for money…

*And to become super-duper famous, of course…

Godspeed to MAPP 9! I Love Myself so Much More Because of You…

The Master of Applied Positive Psychology program 2013/2104 at University of Pennsylvania (MAPP 9) is history. While the graduation festivities are still up and coming in May, it´s been the last time for us to come together as a full group since not all of us will come to graduation. It´s been a very emotional weekend with lots of special treats – but I promised not to divulge any details. I don´t want to be the spoiler for the future Mappsters. Let´s just say that some wise person brought a pack of Kleenex for each person in the room…

I´ll just share one thing with you, and that is a sentence that my classmate Guang Zeng said to our group at one point (and which may well be the most beautiful thing I´ve ever heard…)

I love myself so much more because of you!

Before coming into class on Sunday morning, I took this photo of Penn´s Locust Walk that runs across the core campus. It perfectly captures the mood of that weekend as we were frequently reminded of the fact that the end of MAPP 9 is the beginning of our journey in/with Positive Psychology – and not the end.

The Road goes ever on

As Bilbo Baggins sings:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,…
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Is this the end of Mappalicious?
Is this the end of Mappalicious?

Is this the end of Mappalicious?

Certainly not. I´m going to continue blogging on Positive Psychology topics. Maybe not with the same regularity (as other exciting projects are waiting…) – but I will…

My Year in MAPP: A 5-Step Course in the fine Art of Being Un-German

In general, I hate this sentence – but: time flies.

Right now, I´m in Philly, precisely: in room 340 of Wharton´s Huntsman Hall, for attending the final onsite period of the 2013/14 MAPP program at University of Pennsylvania. Seems like yesterday that I wrote that blog post on being admitted to my deepdive into Positive Psychology at UPenn. Maybe it´s still a little bit early for reminiscence, since there´s still a lot of work ahead (final papers, capstone projects) – but lately, I´ve been musing on a truly intriguing question:

Is MAPP a Course in being Un-German?

Flag - German SmileyThat question only makes sense when you´re German, of course – which I happen to be. My MAPP classmates surely know I´ve been using this definition a lot over the year: un-German. What do I want to say here?

Despite that disreputable first half of the twentieth century, I kind of like being German. According to most socio-economic (and also ecologic) indicators, it´s a very good place to live. Hey, according to BBC we might even the most popular country in the world. Go figure!*

But what do other countries like or maybe even admire about Germans? Let´s look at some of the (pretty thoroughly verified…) stereotypes:** People definitely love our cars (and the fact that there´s no speed-limit on most areas of the Autobahn), they indulge in our Bier, Schnaps, and Riesling-Wein (especially around the time of the Oktoberfest – which I´ve never visited by the way…), our ten trillion varieties of Wurst and the Schnitzels (although the original Wiener Schnitzel is from Austria, of course). So generally speaking, people like our products. They love things “Made in Germany”.

Because that´s what we´re good at. Germany has an “engineering culture”. We´re good at planning things and following through with it, that´s our Prussian heritage. We´re builders and craftsmen, planners and executors, not so much “poets and thinkers” any more. We´re industrious, punctual, orderly, dependable, and basically good at “being good at things”.

Emilia Lahti & Nico RoseRather not on top of the list is “the German” as a person(ality). Most other countrymen consider us to be blunt to the point of outright rudeness – if we´re talking at all, that is. We´re not the epitome of warm-heartedness, either (that may be a result of our language). And while Germany typically is considered to be the “export world champion”, our humor definitely is not one of our hit products.

Additionally, we´re just not a very optimistic people. I mean, compared to most other countries, we´re really really rich and really really healthy and long-living. We´re well-off – period. Still, collectively we´ve managed to have a special kind of fear being named after us: “German Angst” (roughly: being overly cautious and pessimistic). Oh, and we´re also good at feeling Weltschmerz – which can be described as the state of “being pissed off with existence in general and also in particular”.

So on the face of it, trying to be a good German and studying Positive Psychology (here´s a short definition) does not add up. At the end of the day, Positive Psychology is just too … ahem … positive. Rather, a German in a Positive Psychology course seems like a prototypal case of “opposites attract”.

Yet, in spite of it all, I did it. And here´s what I´ve learned…

Lesson 1: Greeting Somebody

In Germany, most people opt for a solid handshake when greeting somebody they do not know that well. Among younger people and goods friends, you’ll also see the occasional hug or that “kiss-kiss embrasser thing” we copied from our French neighbors.

In MAPP, people hug each other at all times. Basically, our bodies are completely entangled while being on campus. Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how important hugs are for our health.

LOVE_Penn_PhiladelphiaLesson 2: Engaging in Small-Talk

In Germany, when meeting somebody again after several weeks, of course you´ll engage in some microscopic dose of small-talk. E.g., when somebody asks you “How was you flight?”, you´re supposed to reply something like this: “Oh, it was the worst thing ever. There was a delay of at least five minutes. And they didn’t have Becks beer on board. I did not get the window seat I wanted and the food servings were tiny. The guy next to me smelled like a dead rodent and I had already seen all of the HIMYM episodes they showed on board.” The other person will then reply: “Oh, I know exactly what you´re saying. It´s been even worse for me…………..”

In MAPP, when people ask how your flight was, you´re supposed to say “Awesome!” That´s it. And the other person will respond: “That´s awesome. Let me give you a hug…”

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how mostly looking on the bright side of life is really beneficial for your psychological and physiological well-being.

Lesson 3: Taking a Break

MAPP Energy BreakIn Germany, when you take a break (which we don´t do that often), you basically stop doings things. Maybe, you have a piece of Streusel-Kuchen, maybe you check your mobile phone for messages. And if you meet a German who is one of those rare positive outliers on extraversion, you might be able to get him engaged in a little small-talk – but don´t count on that.

In MAPP, when you take a break, you´re not allowed to sit down and just do nothing. Because breaks are supposed to be “energy breaks”. So basically, somebody will walk up front, put on some music that is not Rammstein, and then coerce all the other people in the room into frenetic singing and shouting, and moving their bodies in distinctly inappropriate ways. Afterwards, you return to your seat. But before that, you hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how taking short breaks from work for dancing is really good for your health and gets so creative juices flowing

Lesson 4: Answering “complicated” Questions

In Germany, when somebody asks you a (“complicated”) question, you answer. That´s it. If you don´t want to do something or disagree, you just say “Nein!” or “That´s not a good idea.” Works out fine.

In MAPP, when somebody asks you a (“complicated”) question, you´re supposed to say something like this: “Oh, that is a truly brilliant question (break into huge smile while speaking…). I really appreciate it. It´s just so thoughtful and deep. I could have never come up with that in a million years. By the way, I just love your hair today. So, about your question…”

When you want to say “No” to somebody, or “I think that´s a bad idea” things get a little more complicated. Because: You can´t. It´s sort of “not allowed”. So instead, you might want to start with something along the lines of the above-mentioned phrases. Now, proceed by putting on a (just slightly) less smiling face and say, e.g.: “Let me give you a little bit of context on that.”*** Then, in excruciating length and detail, you recount each and every item of information that may or may not be relevant to the current affair, starting roughly at Lincoln´s “Better Angels of our Nature” address. And basically, you keep on going until the other person has forgotten what she wanted in the first place. Afterwards, you hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how important it is to really be empathetic towards other people, and to engage in (what Positive Psychologists call) active-constructive responding.

MAPP White DogLesson 5: Finishing something

In Germany, when you´ve finished something, you start doing something else immediately (except for when we want to practice the art of Gemütlichkeit – but hey: drinking beer is also doing something…). That´s what we´re here for. We do stuff. We finish it. We do something else. I mean, one of the largest chains of building centers in Germany advertises the slogan “Es gibt immer was zu tun…” (“There´s always something to do…”).

In MAPP, when you´ve finished something, you cannot do something else immediately. Nohoo! Somebody will walk up to you and ask you to savor what you´ve just did. So you might have been to the rest room, reenter the classroom – and somebody will approach you and ask: “Nico, did you take enough time to savor that experience?” Not.

But savoring really is a big issue in MAPP. Now, that is really really un-German. I´ve understood that it´s close to the concept of being “gemütlich”, just (mostly…) without beer. Basically, it´s the opposite of feeling Weltschmerz. It´s about back-pedaling, admiring your recent accomplishments, and giving yourself (and the world in general…) a mental pat on the back – and a hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how taking your time to savor life and the beautiful things (and maybe even some of the not so beautiful things…) it entails is really important for our well-being and finding meaning in life.

So, that´s what I´ve learned. Here´s the management summary:

Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.

(William James)

Alternatively, in the words of Henry David Thoreau:

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.

MAPP 9 & Co.: Thanks a million! Love you guys. Lots of hugs…

Nico

MAPP_White_dog

 

* But to be honest: that survey is from 2013, a year without any major soccer tournaments. That doesn´t really count…

**You will find 151 of those in Liv Hambrett´s hilarious and at the same time truly insightful piece What I Know About Germans.

*** Thank you for that one, James!