What an absolutely amazing day! And it’s only the first day of the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress!
It’s rather difficult for me to describe what it is like to (on these rare occasions) be with my own kind. By this I mean that people really enjoy learning about Happiness from me in Happiness 101 but there aren’t other “faculty” to really talk to. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy teaching the class and public speaking – I just LOVE talking about it!
It started in the van ride from LAX to the hotel. Four of us were there for the congress. Now, regular (“normal”?) people usually need some sort of legitimate reason to strike up a conversation. Not us! Not when we’re in close proximity like that. Suddenly I was among my people again. People who completely get it. There was Paula the school administrator from Rhode Island who is using positive psychology to bring hope to those just entering the job market. Misa was the student from Washington state and figuring whether positive psychology will be her niche (she’s already got the bug, I can tell). There was Evona who was of Polish decent (complete with the accent) using positive psychology as a business coach in Philadelphia. Now, mind you, I was running very, very late for the pre-conference talk by Barbara Fredrickson. I would never say something as blasphemous that I did not care about missing one of THE giants in positive psychology speak…. let’s just say that I was using Flow (a concept well established in the world of positive psychology) as an amazing distraction. Paula, Misa, Evona and Frank. Strangers only moments before. Felt like family.
I truly was fabulously late for Dr. Fredrickson’s talk about genes and how they play a roll in Happiness. Listening to people of this caliber is amazing and wonderful and also challenging. I have a genius IQ. I am a smart guy and I had to literally strain my brain to fully comprehend what she was sharing with us. I could feel the vein in the middle of my forehead shudder and twitch as I strained to comprehend. She was purporting that we are hard wired to strive for Happiness but not quite in the way we thought. She compared Hedonic Happiness with Eudainomic Happiness. Basically this was comparing the kind of Happiness in which we are only concerned with ourselves vs. the kind of Happiness we achieve when helping others – and why sometimes philanthropy (giving, volunteering) doesn’t bring us Happiness. After it was over, she was mobbed much the way actors or rock stars might be. I’ve had my picture taken with before and I was sure I would again before the Congress was over, so I decided to find my hotel – instead I found a friend.
Patrea and I met at the 2nd World Congress. She is from Australia where she works as a Positive Psychology Therapist. It was like finding the friend you made at Disneyland but only seems to materialize there AT Disneyland. She is a wonderful person to share the experience the Congress. We gabbed away and compared notes, excitedly asking one another which workshops we would attend (there will be 114 presentations in the four days – a lot to choose from!) We also got caught up, like friends do. I don’t think we stopped talking until the presenters started speaking. Sometimes the talking was not necessarily to each other. We would randomly strike up conversations with the nearest attendee. Name badges tell your name and where you’re from. Sometime geography alone was reason enough to talk to new friends.
Patrea is quite brash and she commandeered two seats right up front. Aside from the reserved seats, they were literally THE best seats in the house! Jane McGonigal (who uses positive psychology to create games to make the world a better place (see Super Better) breezed right by me. I noticed that Mihay (“Mike”) Csikszentmihalyi (the father of the Flow concept) was only a few feet away – unguarded. I asked for a picture and he graciously agreed and chatted for a moment. Martin Seligman (the father of positive psychology itself) and Roy Baumeister talked for the majority of the Congress’ kick off. I was truly blown away. The concepts that these giants in positive psychology shared with us lead me to say the word “Wow!” and embarrassingly high number of times on my video immediately following. They spoke eloquently and convincingly about:
How our language can indicate our negativity and accurately predict heart attack. They were able to do this with scientific methods using a method called “coding” language on Twitter. He also shared with us language that can make you more hopeful and optimistic – which according to their study will reduce the risk of heart attack!
Both Seligman and Baumeister both talked about the science that demonstrates the importance of thinking about and conceptualizing a bright(er) future. No future? No hope.
More soon. It’s after 2am.