Report from IPPA Conference, Day 3.5

If you missed the first half of this post, please click here.  If you’d prefer to start at day one, click here.

Happy Therapist Frank Clayton with SuperBetter Hero Jane McGonigal

To be perfectly honest, I was so excited about my exchange with Jane McGonigal, I had trouble focusing in the next workshop (which I was running late for since I had been stalking Jane).  Too bad too because the talk focused on self-efficacy.  This is not a measurement of how well you can do something, but a measurement of how well you THINK you will do something.  Obviously if you do not think you are capable of climbing from the hole of depression, then that will effect how hard you try (if you try at all).  The presenter was heralded as an expert with so many accolades, the person introducing him had to skip that or there would have been no time for the presentation itself.  He was well-polished with Powerpoint slides popping about every minute.  However, there was virtually no interaction with the audience – not even at the end.  The information itself was well-researched and thorough – TOO thorough.  I am a pretty smart guy but this stuff was even over my head.  I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to later go over the slides again and hopefully be able to better absorb it.  One thing is clear: our self-efficacy is a very important piece of motivation, especially when it comes to happiness.  One thing I did get out of the talk is that self-efficacy can be measured and improved upon.

Ryan Niemiec’s presentation on the what to do after a client (or student) has taken then Values In Action Character Strengths Survey was very refreshing.  Ryan was very engaging and flat-out fun!  We started with a meditation to get us centered.  Soon-after he posed the question: once you have established what your client’s strengths are, and you only had 30 minutes to spend with them and had only two suggestions to make, what would you say or do?  He had us break into pairs to brainstorm.  I had two partners, both wore a broad, warm smile.    Their answers were as similar as their affect: challenge the client to use their top strengths and apply it to their current, primary problem.  I took a more “teach a man to fish” approach suggesting that since I only had 30 minutes with the client that they identify their top five strengths and check in with themselves on a daily basis using habits taught in Happiness 101.  This would keep their strengths at the forefront of their mind.  Many, many wonderful suggestions were made by Ryan and by other audience members.  There are many, many ways to apply strengths once they are identified.  Ryan pointed out that only about 1/3 of people even know their signature strengths.  If YOU would like to be happier, I suggest you click here, sign up (takes two seconds) and take the questionnaire, VIA Character Strengths Survey

We had an hour and a half break and then it was time for the gala!  I slipped into an unused to write to you.  I immerged hearing a band loudly playing “Happy Days Are Here Again”.  I smiled, assured I was in the right place.  So imagine my surprised when I came up the escalator to – nothing.  No one.  Gone.  Alone.  “Where is everyone?”   I went to the large room where the posters exhibit had been held.  ‘Packed up.  Gone.  Empty.  “Where’d  they go?” I said, this time aloud.  I checked the itinerary, the location  of the gala was not at the Marriott.  It was being held at the National Convention Center!  Suddenly I VAGUELY remembered a rep from the conference saying something about shuttles.  Downstairs the concierge said the National Convention Center was one block away.  No problem.  I walked outside.  It was raining.  No problem.  I walked one block to the National Convention Center.  There was little sign of life.  I tried one door, then another.  I walked under cover to a parking lot attendant who informed there were no events happening at the National Convention Center.  Checking the program again, blinking twice I saw that the gala was at the National CONSTITUTION Center.  Note to self: update glasses prescription.   The parking lot attendant was sweet and without my asking she made some phone calls and found out that the Constitution Center was located on 6th and Race.  I was at 13th and Race.  7 blocks.  No problem.  I’d seen taxis all over town.  Walking one block under cover and half block with no cover from the rain, I hailed a cab and within minutes was there.

My friend Patrea

Inside, it was not raining and there was a multicultural cornucopia of smiling, warm, friendly faces – including one I recognize – Patrea!.  She is a therapist in private practice in Wellington Point, Australia.  She is an excellent conversationalist and we were soon joined by Suzi visiting from Istanbul.  Suzi is an educator hoping to bring positive psychology to the school system in Turkey.  We were joined by Svein from Norway.  He is a psychologist and professor at the University of Tromso and wants to incorporate more positive psychology into the program there.  What an amazing group of people!  We consoled Svein about the tragedy in Norway.  He said it was difficult to be away from his home country at this time of mourning.  He told of one survivor that embodied the spirit of Post Traumatic Growth who said that if one man could spread so much hate, imagine how much love and compassion could be generated by thousands of people.  So they rallied.  Svein said there are only five million people in all of Norway.  On the day of the rally, he said 200,000 people peacefully demonstrated in the capital city.  What an amazing example.  The food was good.  The conversation was even better.  Several other people swirled in and out of the conversation including a medical student from India and father/daughter team from Canada.  It was a very inclusive atmosphere.  I felt that I could walk into any circle of people and not only join but be welcomed.  I will tell you it was a little strange to be standing in the heart of such an American town, yet be a minority.

A special guest appearance was made by none other than Benjamin Franklin!  Well, you know, a guy that looked, dressed and acted like Ben.  He a good choice because while positive psychology is a relatively new field of scientific study, history has studied and worked to achieve the allusive butterfly “Happiness” as long as history itself.  Benjamin Franklin was a good choice as he made great strides toward personal happiness, serving as an example to others and sharing freely his ideas to live the good life.  “Ben” was witty and spoke of other historic figures as political pals with whom he enjoyed meeting and verbally chewing over policy and circumstance.  For just a moment “Ben” brought alive for me.  The silhouette of Independence Hall loomed quietly in the back ground.  The rain fell outside.  Inside all was well.

The proprietor of The Constitution Center informed that for us to fully appreciate the contents of this historic building, we would have to spend over 17 hours there.  In  about 17 hours, I would be poised to return home.  One exhibit I could not pass up were the statues of the historic scene: the signing of The Constitution.  What an amazing group of intellectuals, though not nearly as “lively” as “Ben”.  I did my best to embrace their “stoicism” and hey, one great thing about them: they didn’t interrupt when I started into one of my rips about happiness.

All-in-all, Day 3 surpassed even Day 2 (which I did not think was possible). When I awake I would have the privilege to see Richard Davidson take the stage.  “Richy” is one of the giants when it comes to researching happiness.  As I laid down to sleep, I felt happy as I anticipated hearing him speak.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

P.S.  Somehow I lost all of my pictures for this part of the day.  Sorry!

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