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The Power Of Positive Psychology

Positivity-- which is a close cousin of optimism-- is far too often regarded as pollyannish or somehow naive. As Martin Seligman and his staff have scientifically established, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

And (I will observe anecdotally, as an interested layman and retired lawyer), positivity is a quality/discipline that a lot of lawyers would benefit from learning more about. Well-balanced advice is almost always better informed than slanted or biased advice-- and speaking of bias, most lawyers' negativity bias is off the charts!

So, what is Positive Psychology all about? Nobody can reduce the answer to a single sentence, but the founder (Martin Seligman) does about as good a job as any one man could: "The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life" (my emphasis). In a word, I think Positive Psychology is about the, "also".

As I understand, the basic tenets of Positive Psychology overlap significantly with the larger concerns of wellbeing, as well as the more specific concerns of mindfulness and meditation. Indeed, the more I read about Positive Psychology, the more I've come to regard it as a kind of scientific equivalent, or intellectual explanation of, mindfulness and meditation-- they are, in many ways, peas from the same pod.

Not even die-hard proponents of Positive Psychology believe it to be the cure for everything that ails us, but you know what? The insight afforded by Positive Psychology and plausible answers or explanations to many of the questions that I ask and care about, means a lot. And that's saying something-- coming from an old lawyer who practiced for approximately 40 years!

Whereas I previously had little, "fire to fight fire" when my old skeptic- brain would kick in, I now have the wisdom and scientific rigor of Positive Psychology to back me up and anchor what could be otherwise be dismissed as a purely subjective response.  

I have no illusion that the findings of Positive Psychology will once-and-for-all end the abiding skepticism of certain people in the legal profession about the necessity of wellbeing and benefits of mindfulness or meditation, but for anyone with a thinking mind who might care, the work of Positive Psychology should certainly advance the conversation-- to the point of action.

I only hope I'm still around to see the day!


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