first world congress on positive psychology

July 1, 2009

by anne lueneburger

positive energy

From June 18 – 21, I attended the first World Congress on positive psychology (pp) in Philadelphia, chaired by Christopher Peterson, Professor at the University of Michigan. It was Peterson, who, after I had taken his (fabulous!) class on pp, very much reinforced my focus on strength-based coaching. The presenters at the conference were truly “Who is Who” in (positive) psychology, such as  David Cooperrider, Mike Csikszentmihalyi, Barbara FredricksonMartin Seligman,  and Philip Zimbardo.

There were over 1,500 attendants from over 50 countries, and it was an inspiring and invigorating event. Positive psychology offers such a rich range of topics that are essential to us thriving in our (professional) life.  Presentations included:  “Positive Health: How to Die Young as Late as Possible” by Raymond Fowler , “Putting Positive Psychology to Work in Organizations” by Carola Hillenbrand or ” Coaching as an Evidence-Based Applied Positive Psychology” by Anthony Grant.

There will always be individuals who prefer the deficit-based thinking approach where the attention is on the problem, its analysis and the efforts to “fix it”. However, one of the most interesting take-aways from this event for me was how increasingly empirical evidence shows what positive psychology practitioners have known all along: strength-based change is a more powerful and sustainable approach to manage change. One of the presenters, Sonja Lyubomirsky, discussed her latest publication “The How of Happiness” where she introduces empirically proven pp interventions that have a significant positive impact on well-being and performance.

As Peter Drucker, the visionary “father of modern management”, stated: “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths…making a systems’ weaknesses irrelevant.”

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