Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.
This discipline is based on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within them, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Using one’s strengths in a challenging task leads to the experience of Flow. Deploying one’s strengths in the service of something larger than oneself can lead to an engaged life, a meaningful life.
As Prof. Csikszentmihalyi explains in his best-selling book, Good Business:
“I have given the name “flow” to this common experience, because so many people have used the analogy of being carried away by an outside force, of moving effortlessly with a current of energy, at the moments of highest enjoyment.”
Flow tends to occur when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. Optimal experiences usually involve a fine balance between one’s ability to act, and the available opportunities for action.
If challenges are too high one gets frustrated, then worried, and eventually anxious. If challenges are too low relative to one’s skills one gets relaxed, then bored. If both challenges and skills are perceived to be low, one gets to feel apathetic. But when high challenges are matched with high skills, then the deep involvement that sets Flow apart from ordinary life is likely to occur.
Why is Flow important? When we are in this state of Flow, we perform at our peak. Not only do our productivity levels soar, but we experience a deep sense of satisfaction. Work becomes a source of enjoyment. Organizations capable of fostering and sustaining long-term Flow for their employees, can count on increased performance standards. According to successful executives Prof. Csikszentmihalyi’s research team interviewed, Flow can be definitely achieved in the work environment. Some believe Flow is even a necessity, because if one doesn’t enjoy one’s job, one can’t be very good at it.
Positive psychology has also been implemented in business management practices. Happy workers enjoy multiple advantages over their less happy peers. Individuals high in subjective well-being are more likely to show superior performance and productivity, and to handle managerial jobs better. They are also less likely to show counter-productive workplace behavior and job burnout.
“A business organization whose employees are happy is more productive and has a higher moral. Any manager who wants his or her organization to prosper should understand what makes people happy, and implement that knowledge as effectively as possible.” – (Prof. Csikszentmihalyi, Good Business)