Great intro to Positive Psychology

THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE – by Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor does an excellent job introducing Positive Psychology in a very funny, engaging way, and in all of 12 minutes.

What I found really interesting was the first graph he showed his audience.

It highlighted the data point which “messed up” the neat averages and trends.

I think in this search for “anomalies” Solution-Focus shares its roots with Positive Psychology.

As Solution-Focused practitioners we do not hide such a data point.

Quite the opposite. We keep asking questions, and specific kind of questions, until we help clients see just those data points. The useful exceptions. What defies negative generalizations and stands out as a success, even if tiny.

“No problem happens 100% of the time. What happens the rest of the time?”.

I also think this attitude in the DNA of the Solution-Focused method of inquiry explains the gap with psychological research. A gap so difficult for many SF practitioners to bridge.

Researchers deal with averages, trends, statistics, constructs.

Solution-Focused  practitioners deal with individuals, single episodes of “when things are a little bit better”, details and real-world, observable interactions.

Of course this gap disappears if we are thinking of outcomes to find evidence of Solution-Focus effectiveness. But it is there in the forma mentis of psychological researchers vis-a-vis Solution-Focused practitioners.

I just thought that was interesting.

How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity, and the hidden power of Character

Paul Tough‘s conclusions can be summed up very briefly:
- the biggest obstacle to academic & life success is a home & a community that create high levels of stress, and the absence of a secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage stress;
- non-cognitive skills, like conscientiousness, grit, resilience, perseverance and optimism are more important than cognitive skills for young people to succeed in life;
- character matters; as the author points out, conservatives are right about this. But character is molded by the environment and as a society we can do a lot to influence its development in children; as the author points out, liberals are right about this. “We now know a great deal about what kind of interventions will help children develop those strengths and skills, starting at birth and going all the way through college.” (p. 196).
To get to those conclusions the author takes the reader on a very interesting journey, and that is what makes the book superb. It is well written and a treasure throve of scientific insights and cutting edge research, with moving stories about students, teachers and schools that make the science alive. Mr. Tough introduces the reader to innovative interventions for children and adolescents while painting insightful portraits of the people at the forefront in the quest to develop (or at least not squander) the human capital of this nation.
I felt the author’s position was very balanced. While looking for successes in his reporting, he does not shy away from highlighting the difficulties and the unknown: e.g., he puts the early successful KIPP’s results into perspective, with the good, the bad and what can be done differently; you got a sense this topic is still a work in progress; he makes it very clear that “No one [author’s emphasis] has found a reliable way to help deeply disadvantaged children, in fact.”(p. 193).
But overall there is a sense that, in the end, we will figure it out. A sense of possibility.
For passion and for work I read a lot of books about psychology, neuroscience & leadership / personal development. I always learn a lot.
But this book is different. Not only did I learn a lot. I was also moved.
I was totally absorbed and emotionally involved in the stories of the kids the author features in his narrative.
Mr Tough says that when he spent time with these young people he felt “a sense of anger for what they’ve already missed.”
I felt the same way – and that goes to his credit. I almost feel as if I personally know little James Black  or Kewauna. I did get mad on their behalf.
Mr. Tough also says he had a second reaction: “a feeling of admiration and hope when I watch young people making the difficult and often painful choice to follow a better path, to turn away from what might have seemed like their inevitable destiny.”  (p. 197).
That is what I felt as well – again, to Mr. Tough’s credit.
I am already doing some volunteer work with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
But you get sucked in the local situation and your horizons get narrower.
Reading this book widened my perspective and made me fully appreciate the depth of the problem but also the promise of better days to come if we embrace a new way to tackle it.
So I made the resolution to get more involved next year.
Here is my recommendation: read the book.
You will learn a lot – about neuroscience, about parenting, about teaching and about what makes people successful.
You will meet some young people who deserve all of our respect and admiration.
Hopefully, you will be moved as well to do something, even a little tiny bit, to make a difference.

Note: this book review was originally posted on Amazon, here –> http://www.amazon.com/review/R3KZ2UCFMRH774

The Participant who learned to evaluate his skill level

I had a wonderful time leading the last module of Solutionsurfers PURE Brief Coach Training in Sacramento, CA last week.

I was blessed to have such amazing participants.
And it was a joy to see how much progress they made in their coaching skills and in their coaching presence since we started in June!
As always, I learnt a lot seeing them coaching.
Their questions brought me to new insights about Solution-Focus.
Our conversations, always enlightening.

So I felt great about our training.
I checked in daily, and I was comforted to see it was not just an impression of mine :)
On the final day, I was happy to see that on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 was meeting all their learning goals, beyond their wildest expectations, and 1 the opposite of that, they rated themselves to be 8.5 or more (some at 8.5, others at 10) on that scale.

I was particularly impressed by a distinction made by one of the participants.
He distinguished the “learning scale” from the “confidence scale“.
On a learning scale, he said he reached an 8.5, maybe even a 9.
But on a confidence scale about being a Solution-Focused  coach, he said he was worst off!
He started the module being at a 7 on this confidence scale, but now he was down to a 3 - he gained a new appreciation of the challenges involved in coaching in complex scenarios (mandated coachees, conflict situations, difficult decisions… the topic of the last module of Brief Coach Training).
He stated: “Between the past module and this one, I had 6 hours of practice; I now realize I need at least 60 before considering having clients!”

I was proud of him.
I already posted here about the Dunning-Kruger effect, i.e. about the fact that novices over-rate their abilities – while experts, knowing the complexities involved, tend to under-estimate their abilities.  So it was good to see this effect being taken care of, right there in front of my eyes, by this gifted participant, all on his own.

Here was a participant who not only had developed his Solution-Focused Coaching skills to an impressive level, but had also developed his meta-cognitive abilities regarding his own skills.

Impressive.