Psychology has been a field that has been mainly focused on the mentally ill, depressed, and the individuals that are below “zero” or “normal”. Psychologist, psychiatrists, and therapists have been helping their patients get to this “zero” range. Meaning that their patients are no longer showing signs of having their preexisting issues and they are at a “normal” state. (Whatever “normal” really is.)
Psychologists are now researching the aspects of humans that allow us to go beyond “zero” or live a “happy life”. This field of psychology is now known as Positive Psychology. Abraham Maslow coined the term, positive psychology, when he used this term as a tittle of a chapter in one of his books. Even though Maslow coined the term of positive psychology, in 2000 Martin Seligman became the known founder of Positive Psychology.
In 2004 Seligman was featured in a “TED Talks” seminar where he was able to better define what the goals are for the field of Positive Psychology. The “knowledge about what makes life worth living,” is a general statement of what Seligman says Positive psychology is. Positive psychologists are not attempting to look at life through rose colored glasses but are attempting to conduct research that is as concerned with strengths as psychology has been with weaknesses, building the best as much, as preparing for the worst, along with fulfilling the lives of the “normal”. One trait that separates the “extremely happy” people from the “normal” people is the fact that “extremely happy” people are extremely social.
Seligman talks about three “happy lives” that really depend on how one uses ones strengths. The Pleasant life is the “happy life” where one has many pleasures in life and uses ones skills to amplify them. Celebrities typically have a life like this; the majority of their fortune is heritable. The Engaged life or The Good life occurs when someone has an active involvement within life, identifies their strengths and re-crafts these into their work, love, and play. An example of someone that lives an Engaged life would be someone that works as a telemarketer that is extremely social and energetic and uses those strengths to make everyone’s day a good one, he or she talks to. The last “happy life” would be The Meaningful life. The people that live this type of life are people include Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. People that live The Meaningful life know their highest strengths and use them for something that is much bigger than they are; they have purpose and direction.
One way to find out what your “strengths” or to identify what is best in you, is to take the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA). This is a 240 questioner taken by 1.3 million people world wide and translated into 17 languages. After finishing the VIA all 24 strengths will be listed from what strengths you use most, to what strengths you use least. These strengths are categorized into six different classifications: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Some of these strengths are appreciation of beauty and excellence, humor, leadership, kindness, zest, and love of learning. You can take the VIA, for adults or for youth ages, for free at www.viacharacter.org.