What is Positive Psychology? What is it NOT?

Negative, Positive, Lightbulb illustration

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In our Positive Business blog posts, you’ll notice that our advice is often backed up by positive psychology research.  What is “positive psychology”?  Let’s begin by explaining what positive psychology is NOT.  It is not positive thinking.  Whereas traditional clinical psychology studies disease and dysfunction to find cures, positive psychology studies the flip side of the coin.  Think of positive psychology as the study of what’s right. 

We write in Profit from the Positive and on our website:

Positive psychology is the study of what constitutes excellence in individuals, communities and workplaces. It incorporates the study of productivity, resilience, motivation, emotions, strengths, team dynamics and more."

Let’s see how positive psychology can show just how much you enjoy getting up and going to work everyday.  One thing the Gallup organization has discovered in its studies of more than 10 million workers worldwide is that when we have the opportunity to use our strengths—what  we are naturally good at—every day, we are six times more likely to be engaged in our work and three times more likely to report a greater sense of wellbeing.  Think about all the time you spend at work—when you love what you do, it has a spillover effect into your personal life.  Unfortunately, the reverse is true when you dislike your job. 

So how do you uncover your strengths?  A very simple way is to ask yourself these three questions:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What kind of work really energizes me?
  • When am I at my best? 

Start there, and then go ask a few colleagues, friends and/or family members what they believe your strengths to be.  Those qualities that come up again and again are your strengths.  When you build on your natural talents, rather than always fixing weaknesses, you will be more successful, fulfilled and happy.


Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin, Ph.D.​, are organizational consultants and executive coaches. You can find more information at www.ProfitFromThePositive.com. Their new book is Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2013).