Maybe today would be a good day to describe what I did for my final project last year in my Positive Psychology Certificate program.
At the end of our first immersion in May of 2013, our teacher Tal Ben-Shahar had mentioned that positive psychology is all around us, all we have to do is look for it. So for example, if you’re at a stop sign it can be a reminder for you to just take a moment and breathe. Or if the light turns yellow it can be a reminder for you to slow down, and not just in your driving!
What we focus on in many ways determines what we see. Does it mean that if we only focus on the good no bad will happen to us? No, bad things sometimes happen to good people. It’s life. And at the same time, as Tal likes to say, “When we appreciate the good, the good appreciates.” Similarly, when we focus on the positive we begin to see more of the positive, and realize there’s actually quite a bit of good stuff going on in our lives.
This is the work of David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, work he calls Appreciative Inquiry. When Cooperrider was a grad student, he was hired as a consultant by the Cleveland Clinic, which had recently bought a hotel near the hospital for patients’ families to stay. The Omni Hotel had been a low-budget hotel prior to the purchase, and the Cleveland Clinic had spent lots of money renovating the space. They kept the management and staff the same, who continued running it like it was a low-budget hotel. That’s when Cooperrider was brought in. At that point, conventional wisdom would say this is when staff and management needed to be eliminated; clean house so they could start over and get it right.
Instead, Cooperrider brought the top managers to a five-star hotel for one week and asked them to notice only the things that the hotel was doing well, things that were working. So for example, the people at the front desk were helpful and courteous; the doorman always greeted people with a smile; the housecleaning staff did an exceptional job; or the wait staff was pleasant and efficient. The managers were also instructed not to think about their hotel.
At the end of the week, the managers were so excited about seeing good business practices in the five-star hotel that they couldn’t wait to get back to Cleveland and try out everything they had seen in their own hotel. They worked together seeing—and being excited by—the possibilities. In a very short amount of time—and with no change in management or staff—the Omni Hotel became a four-star hotel.
Back to Tal telling us to notice signs of positivity all around us:
So on the way home I stopped at Costco and was looking at different items there, specifically camera boxes. Now granted, I know the point is to market their product, make them attractive to the consumer so they’ll buy them. But what if you paid attention to the literal meaning of signs and applied them to your life? I’m going to share some of the photos I took during that exploration. I’m curious, what comes to your mind when you see these photos? Are my reasons for taking them obvious to you? How can you apply these thoughts to your own life?