What you'll learn in this podcast:
- Science Says—Learn how a simple question can help you identify how satisfied you are with your life.
- Life Hack—Learn how a simple, proven techniques can help you achieve your long-term goals.
- Practitioner’s Corner—Learn how Susan Chritton, the author of the book Personal Branding for Dummies is using positive psychology to change peoples' lives.
Read the interview from the Practitioner's Corner:
Transcription provided by The Flourishing Center
Emiliya: Hello everyone, and with me today, I have Susan Chritton, who is a positive-psychology-based executive career coach. She comes to us from California. She was actually part of our very first California-based CAPP program, our Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology Program. She's author of Personal Branding for Dummies, and she's doing some really unique work in the world. I'm so excited to share her with you, because she's helping utilize positive psychology, not just to increase others well- being, but also in how they think about who they are, and the impact that they make in the world. So, thank you so much, Susan for being here with us, and thanks for creating the time.
Susan: Great Happy to be here.
Emiliya: So Susan, tell us a little bit about your work in the world.
Susan: So, I began as really a career counselor and found that I worked so much with people in career transition, which I still do, and I still love that, but I was always frustrated that we weren't doing more work with people in the workplace to help them be happier where they were, and flourishing really, using our terms here in positive psychology. About in the early 2000s, soon after it [positive psychology] started, I started taking classes and learning more about personal branding and have really incorporated that so much into my work and career.
Then a few years ago, I think it was 2015 when I did that Positive Psychology Program, I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, this just gives me even more of what I was looking for to help people in their work, and to bring in the positive of how they are best working with themselves."
Emiliya: Awesome, and really people on the line might not be familiar with what it means to work with a career coach, or work within personal brandings. So, would you give us a little bit more information about what does that look like, and what does all of that mean?
Susan: As a career coach, there are many places that someone could come in and work with you. It could be early on in your career, even or, in a career transition or when you're really trying to figure out, who are you? What do you know how to do? What might be a good place for you in the world, with your set of skills?
Over the years, I've worked with a lot of people, just helping them figure out how do they use who they are in the world in a really practical way. So, moving on kind of along the lines, it could be that people work with a career coach to build the tools they need to take that out there. I would say the work that I'm doing today, as I have evolved in my own career, is I work with a lot of pretty senior-level executives, who know who they are, but often need to be reminded. I would say, a lot of my clients are often in their kind of, I would say between late 40's and early 60's, and they're really now doing a big shift from just achievement, to taking their values into the workplace. Taking their values into the way they lead people.
That's when I really bring in the piece around personal branding, is that we really look at who are they? How are they seen now? How do they want to be seen, and how do they live a more authentic life? And this is where I do bring in a lot of positive psychology in helping a person look at that, and then identifying how do they want to use that in the world, in a very practical way? Right? So, it's not just like, "Oh, you know, I want to do good in the world." That's great, but we also look at a very practical way about, what do you have to offer, and how do you do that?
Emiliya: That is so cool, Susan. Thank you for sharing that. How are you integrating positive psychology research and skills, into that kind of work?
Susan: I would say, the first answer that pops in my head, and the place I use it the most is around the strengths. So, in the engagement piece of our work in positive psychology, I use a lot of work around strengths, and I love the combination of using Strengths Finder, along with the VIA Strengths, the Values In Action Strengths, to look at both, what strength do you have that motivates you from within, and what strengths do you have that are talents, that show up out in the world, that are easy for you to do, that come really naturally?
So, I would say, the first place I use that is there, and I'll give you a quick story, because I think that stories always illustrate things so much better. I have a client who is a transitioning-out CEO of an educational company. We did a Strengths Finder and he has like strategic and futuristic, and what struck him as odd was that when we did the VIA Strengths, leadership showed up in the bottom third of his strengths. He said, "This really bothers me. I'm a CEO of a company. Part of what I do is leadership." What he said after our discussion as to what motivated him was not to be a leader. What motivated him was being curious, was being creative, and he loved to lead to bring those things out in other people.
Emiliya: So cool. What impact did your perspective make on him?
Susan: It was really interesting because he had this sort of look of stun on his face, and he goes, "Oh, my gosh. That just changes the way I think about everything." And he said, "All this time, I've been framing that it's all about leadership, and I realized that leadership is just the avenue. What I'm motivated by really is the psyche of curiosity and creativity." And he said what it did, what shifted for him was he said, "I don't need to be a leader to do that." So, it broadened in one sense, the possibilities of what he would do next. He was thinking he needed to show back up as a CEO, but what he really came up with was, "I just need to do really cool, creative work in the world, and if it happens to be with people, I'm good."
It was a big shift in that, and I would say, other pieces just kind of go back to your original question, which is how else do I use positive psychology? I look at it often with my clients, because I look at it as really a toolbox, and I listen carefully to what they're looking for, where they're at. What can I pull from my positive psychology toolbox to say, how can I better serve this client at this moment?
A lot of times, it could be around the life satisfaction pie. It could be about the idea of optimism and pessimism. So, different things, and I really do look at it in a way. I do actually, I have another kind of funny story is. I have another pretty senior-level client who was being fairly stubborn in his things. I said, "Have you ever heard of that fixed versus growth mindset?" And he goes, "No." And I said, "Well, we need to have a chat about that." That was an interesting one, and that opened up a lot of doors for him to actually start to examine, where was he kind of set in his ways?
Emiliya: Thank you, Susan. A number of our listeners may not be familiar with fixed and growth mindset, so will you give us a high-level overview of what you shared with him, and what impact that it made?
Susan: What we were looking at is Carol Dweck's work, and so she's written a book called Mindset, where she looked at a fixed mindset, and that is where intelligence is static. It's where people see things in a certain way, and don't necessarily look to challenge themselves to have a growth mindset, which is about intelligence can be developed, and how do you persist when you have setbacks? And things like that. But it's more than that. It's also about challenging your assumptions.
For him [my client], it was going from that judging place, which is more of a fixed mindset, to more of a learning mindset.
Emiliya: That's exactly what the research, I find, to be the most compelling, is the difference between focusing on judging and proving, and moving it into learning and growing. Like the saying says, that a fixed mindset focuses on showing, whereas growth mindset focuses on learning.
Susan: One of the things I really try and do too is, and I think that this is why I was drawn to be a career coach versus maybe other things, I'm very practical, and I always like to say, "Okay, how do I move this from theory to practice? How do I look at taking what I know how to do, and giving people really practical tips?" For example, like the idea of willpower is that you tend to have more willpower in the morning. So, a very practical tip is when you have big decisions to make, try and make them early in the day, before you get too stressed or tired, because you tend to not make as good as decisions then. Unless you have filled yourself up back at lunch with good food, and maybe a little walk around the block, or whatever it might be, but ideally it's that place of, try and make big decisions when you have more willpower to think them through.
Emiliya: Awesome. I'm curious, what are some of the positive psychology practices that you utilize the most in your life, that nourish you?
Susan: Well, lately this summer, I've been really focused on my health, and just really looking at, what do I need to do to replenish myself? I realized that I had been pushing myself actually for a number of years, and I would say, more than any other time in my life, I let myself have space to just kind of get my own balance back in play.
There are many things that I do. Along with that, it's just sort of savoring the moment. That's a positive psychology piece that I do a lot, which is just try and enjoy things. Enjoy my food. Enjoy my walk. I don't even take, this is terrible, but I don't even take my dogs on a walk with me, because that is like, my time where I just look around at the trees, and I wave to the neighbors as I walk, and I listen to all the music I want to listen to. That kind of thing.
Emiliya: I love how you are so aware of what you need, and are able to give yourself that sense of self-care. I think it's such an interesting place to even just be able to say, I don't take my dogs for walk because-
Susan: I think one of the challenges that sometimes we face in choosing our own self-care is the sense of guilt. For the parents to take the time to practice self-care, if they're not utilizing that time with their children, or for me to take a walk and not bring my dog, because I feel like I would feel guilty that I should be, but instead to think about all the ways in which we need to nourish and feel ourselves first.
Emiliya: I'm sure when you come back from that walk, you're much more present to your pet, than you would be otherwise?
Susan: I probably am. I have two new kittens, and pay a lot of attention to where they're heading, like the potted plants. I think it's even just, like whereas before I would look at things like even having kittens, and the havoc that they cause. I'm just so enjoying watching them play. I think a big piece of having to working with positive psychology is, and I feel like I'm always been pretty present to what's around me, but I pay even more attention now. Even things like, if I have a down day, I'm just like, "Okay, this is really normal." If anything, and this sounds again, sort of bringing everything back to a singular place, but to me, this is all about permission to be human. Including when I'm not having a great day, and also really accepting who I am, which is I do look at things kind of academically.
I was always kind of a different mother, than a lot of the women in my neighborhood, and I just really accept that, because that's really who I am, and it's OK. That's what I love about this whole thing is that who you are becomes OK.
Emiliya: Thank you, Susan. I'm curious, in what ways has positive psychology supported you in overcoming any obstacles or challenges, that you've experienced in your life?
Susan: Well, I would say even a bigger one I've been working on is, I tended to be more of a pleaser, right? Like I would do things to try to please people or maybe sometimes give up too much a piece of myself to kind of keep that place. Maybe this is not a good advertisement for it, but I have decided that I need to first and foremost, be true to who I am and I've really let go of some of the people that it's not more of a reciprocal relationship, and that's been really healing for me too. I have found that again, and that permission to be who you are, it actually started quite, it was in some ways opening up a big Pandora's box to really look at everything, and saying, "What works for me? What doesn't work for me, and how do I be true to that, including being loving?" I feel like love is one of my top VIA strengths, and it's even in that way, what does that look like?
Another piece I've been really playing with and actually thinking about using in my work. I've used this one in a huge way the idea of what the trust equation is. So, the idea of credibility, plus reliability, plus intimacy, over self orientation equals trustworthiness. I have been playing with that one. I don't know why that particular piece of learning really stuck with me, but I play a lot with that about the credibility, reliability, the intimacy. How much we share with each other, and then also, the self orientation, like how much of it's about me? How much of it is about them? How much of it becomes about us?
Even looking at that from a, like even social media. I think that that's a huge place to look at. Where do we lose trust in social media, and things like that?
Emiliya: I'm such a huge fan of that trust equation too, and for listeners on the line, I'll do it again first, just so that you could digest this. This is the research that comes out directly from the business world. Actually looking at, what does it take for people to feel that another person is trustworthy? And that it has these four components of intimacy. How much is the person lets themselves be seen? It's a credibility. How credible are you around what you're talking about? How credible are you in what you are trying to propose? How reliable are you in the way that you show up, and how much are you oriented around yourself versus others?
This equation that has the numerator, being made up of credibility, plus reliability, plus intimacy, divided by self-orientation. The self orientation being on the denominator, and that yes, when we have people who focus so much just on themselves are broadcasting themselves, without a real connection to the people that they're trying to share their work with. We're going to lose our sense of trust. We might not necessarily know why that is, but we'll feel it and I'm right there with you, Susan. I love this research because it's one of those things that we usually feel when we really trust someone, or we feel that we are not really quite sure why I don't trust you as much, but then to have somebody laid out for us in a very specific way, is so helpful, because then it makes a lot of sense.
Susan: I think the first place we go to often with trust is, do I feel like they're lying to me, or can I trust what they say? What I like about this equation is it really does break it down into these components of being able to start to understand yourself even, how trust shows up for you on a personal level with that.
I think the other piece of my work as a career coach is, I do do a lot on meaning and purpose, and looking at, and of course that is a huge component of people wanting to find more meaning and purpose in their work.
Emiliya: How do you support them in doing that?
Susan: For starters, I really kind of dissect for them, what are they looking for? What I often see is that people are looking for some grandiose purpose of saving world peace, or that everyone has food on the table. A piece that we look at is, what's their role in that in breaking it down into really some bite-size pieces, that they feel purpose more on a daily basis than because they have an accomplished purpose, than if they're still having purpose. Like often people look and say, it's all about accomplishments or achievement with purpose, and actually that's not so. It's more around connection to your role in the world. That's a place I often play with.
Emiliya: I love that. That purpose is something you do. It's not just something you have. It's a choice. It's not the goal that you've accomplished, as much as everyday I'm living my life with purpose in doing purposeful things.
Susan: Right. Purpose could be opening the door for somebody that's struggling, and the fact that you're there to help. It doesn't have to be grandiose. Actually, you can find purpose in every single day, if you pay attention.
Emiliya: My last question is, Susan, I'm curious if you find that you have any words to live by, or any grounding motto for yourself, that you love to live by?
Susan: Well, my very favorite one was from a fortune cookie, probably about 20 years ago. It was, "Life is a precious gift. Do not vegetate." So for me, it is that life is a precious gift, and for me, being a person of action, it is about do not vegetate. It doesn't mean that I can't occasionally do that, but anyway, that's a little motto that I really do live by. For me, it is about taking who I am out into the world, and trying to live by those principles.
Emiliya: Awesome, Susan. Susan, if people wanted to find out more about your work, your publications, where would they go to find you?
Susan: I have a website. It's just my name so, it's susanchritton.com, and then also, just I'm on Amazon, and barnesandnoble.com for Personal Branding for Dummies. There's some information there as well.
Emiliya: Thank you so much for being here with us, Susan.
Susan: Great. Thank you, Emiliya. It's always a pleasure to talk to you.
Emiliya: Thanks for listening to today's Science Says, Life Hack, and Practitioner Corner. For more information on positive psychology, the science of happiness and well- being, visit our website, theflourishingcenter.com. Learn about how you too, can bring positive psychology into your home, your work, and your community at large.