Updated: Jul 21, 2019
"I'm trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.” - Martin Seligman
Understandably, I am often met with raised eyebrows when I state my job title - Positive Psychology Life Coach. Let's face it, life coaching doesn't always have the best reputation - often times it is viewed as something that isn't really needed. Add to that the misconceptions of what positive psychology is about, and you have lengthy explanations from myself that, thankfully, always lead to lowering of those eyebrows!
So what is it really all about? Psychology has traditionally been about focusing on fixing what is wrong and healing from past experiences, and the image of the psychotherapist's leather bed prevails. Even while studying for my undergraduate degree in psychology, the majority of the reactions I received sounded like "Oh, I'd better fold my arms as you're probably analyzing my body language". The positive psychology movement came about when professionals felt that there was room in the field to move forward. The thoughts were that, once the healing was achieved, what was next? How can we help people to recognize their value, their natural strengths, their innate skills, their community, and use all of these to move forward with confidence?
There is plenty of space in positive psychology for exploring negative experiences and emotions as well. However, the difference is in the approach. As a positive psychology life coach, I help my clients to find ways of embracing these negative moments and coming through them in their own way. And then, when they are ready to, we look back together at what can be gained from these experiences. What have they learned about themselves? How did they use their strengths to overcome? How might they plan for the future based on their experiences?
A very important, and perhaps the most important note here, is that all interventions that a positive psychology life coach will introduce to their clients are based on empirical research. Researchers in positive psychology are continuously testing and improving theories and concepts that will add to the knowledge base. Everything that we do in sessions, as practitioners, comes from the science. It has been tested. It works. As long as we remain true to the life coaching ethics of asking clients for permission, and ensuring that the interventions are true to who they are, it works.
It has been said that hopefully one day, the term 'positive' in there will become obsolete, and the field will naturally embrace the forward motion of positive psychology. Until that time, I hope I have shed some light on why my job is not about painting a pretend smile on your face. It's about authenticity, insight, and forward movement.
I am a positive psychology life coach at Soul Space. To find out more about my services, click here:
The following article further explains positive psychology and it's connection with life coaching:
This episode of The Positive Psychology Podcast talks in more detail about the role of positive - and negative - emotions in positive psychology: