During our intensive research on positive psychology and the power it’s had on lives across the globe, we have found that some of the greatest documentations of the field of study can be found within books and personal tales of success and purpose. Check out some our favorite books on the topic below:
In this powerful and horrifying tale of a first-hand account of WWII, Viktor Frankl discusses and documents his experience living through the Holocaust as an inmate at Auschwitz concentration camp. During his imprisonment, he found his purpose in life and found a way to survive the horrors he experienced.
Amy Blankson has served as a powerful force within the realm of positive psychology after co-founding GoodThink, an organization dedicated to making individuals happy. Amy is also the only person to be named a “Person of Light” by two former presidents (Clinton and Bush), and continues her mission and purpose throughout this guide to balancing productivity and well-being in a modern and digital era.
As individuals, we have the power to broadcast certain messages to those around us, be those positive or negative messages. In this book, Gielan discusses the importance of broadcasting happiness and the way in which she believes we are all broadcasters in our own ways. Based around the idea that the way in which we communicate with one another has an impact on both professional and personal achievements, it is sure to have an impact on those who take a read.
This story tells the journey of Marilyn Tam as she went from an abused, neglected, unwanted, and unhappy child to a happy and healthy international business success, who is also one of the world’s leading humanitarians. Through this journey, Tam found her purpose and passion and decided to pass her story on to inspire countless others.
Written by a consultant at Zappos!, Delivering Happiness is a culture book that discusses the way in which the Zappos! CEO created one of the greatest cultures to work for by developing a strategy around employee happiness and engagements. This book discusses the ways he grew his business while also taking a human approach to corporate life with his employees.
Throughout life, it seems as if we are constantly on the hunt for the next thing that will make us happier; whether it be a new job, a trip, losing that other five pounds, we consistently are looking for what’s next. Author Shawn Achor discusses his journey of studying, researching, and finally lecturing at Harvard University as he conducted one of the largest studies at Harvard and companies like KMPG to attempt to fix why we think about happiness the way we do.
According to Gore, it seems as if we are all on the constant search for happiness, but we look for it in all the wrong places. This book discusses the way in which you can achieve optimal happiness through what she calls JOY-ercises as you create what you want out of your own life. Gore believes that you have the power to control your happiness, and wants to set out to help individuals do just that.
What became an instant New York Times bestseller, Angela Duckworth talks of what she believes is the formula to outstanding achievement: a blend of passion and persistence that she calls “grit”. She also continues to talk about the work and interviews she’s done with top leaders in her field and how they’ve achieved more than they could have imagined with her technique.
Rather than focus solely on the end goal of “happiness”, Csikszentmihalyi instead chooses to focus on the psychology behind the optimal experience which leads us through the journey of life. Through his research, Mihaly found that this experience is created through a process called “flow” which can help us achieve true happiness.
In his classic work, Abraham Maslow talks about his hierarchy of needs and how it relates to the way in which we move through our lives reaching for what he believes is the ultimate goal: self-actualization. His theories are some that set positive psychology into motion, and any modern theory of happiness and experience is based off his original principles.
Positive Psychology is a relatively new form of study that looks at human beings as drivers of their own success through passions, strengths, and virtues rather than focusing on the way in which we can change our flaws and weaknesses.
According to the Positive Psychology Center, “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivae what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”
But, where did this realm of study come from and how has it impacted the way in which researchers have looked at human development?
The Existential Approach
Prior to positive psychology, the field was dominated, and for the most part remains the same today, by the “disease model” of psychological research which aimed to pinpoint and correct various flaws in human beings’ mental health. This focuses solely on negative aspects of individuals and makes very little note to what is currently acceptable or within the realm of normal mental and psychological behaviors.
Positive psychology aimed to change the disease model by finding ways in which human beings were succeeding and ways to allows individuals to go above and beyond while creating experiences bigger than themselves. This desire to better oneself is a very existential approach to psychology, and it is where positive psychology succeeds in bettering yourself rather than focusing solely what needs to change.
In a piece titled The History of Positive Psychology: Truth Be Told, author Jeffrey J. Froh discusses the power of human potential and the way in which positive psychology aimed to capture and optimize this to better one’s day-to-day life. He states:
In his presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1906, William James asked why some individuals were able to utilize their resources to their fullest capacity and others were not. In order to understand this, he said two more questions must be answered: “(a) What were the limits of human energy? and (b) How could this energy be stimulated and released so it could be put to optimal use?” … These questions are a clear demonstration of William James’ interest in the study of optimal human functioning and its relationship to experience, a common thread woven throughout positive psychology literature.
At the time, to assess the power of human potential while focusing more so on human accomplishments rather than human flaws was unheard of. William James helped pioneer a field of study that aimed to view human beings as subjective individuals who experience the same situation in completely different ways.
The Hierarchy of Needs
Additionally, psychologists began focusing on a humanistic approach to psychological development with the foundation of Abraham Maslow with his introduction of the hierarchy of needs. In his model, which put emphasis on the highest form of human development represented as self-actualization, focused not only on core necessities such as food, shelter, love, and belonging, but put them in a format that characterized development as meeting the current needs in order to successful development of needs above it.
Within this model, Maslow looked at the human experience as a whole and found that the way in which essential needs are fulfilled are just as important as the needs themselves. In order to achieve the next level the hierarchy, individuals must fulfill the essential needs within their current category. This look keeps focusing on the path in which an individual is able to reach their fullest potential and states that an individual is incapable of fully achieving self-actualization if needs such as food and shelter, as well as other necessities such as love and belonging, are not met.
As we approach our fullest potential and begin to look at the development of human beings from a positive psychological perspective, we begin to understand the power of a positive outlook on accomplishments. By looking at things beyond flaws within human beings, positive psychologists are able to study the way in which the human experience is shaped by positive and meaningful life experiences. Through the study of positive psychology, we can learn to better individuals in both personal and professional environments to ultimately shape their potential into one that can help grow organizations both inside and out.