Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Expert Series: Positive Psychology is good for Coaching, part 1 of 4

Positive Psychology is good for Coaching

Part 1 of 4: Coaches Need Positive Psychology


If you are a good coach, you are a Positive Psychology practitioner. You work to form trusting relationships, you build a close rapport and you are driven to help clients move forward to achieve a set of meaningful goals. You use your strengths in each session, you are energized by your work and you experience a sense of accomplishment when your clients succeed.

As Robert Fulghum argued, everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten (share everything, play fair…be aware of wonder). I am going to show you how everything you need to know about coaching (well, almost everything), you can learn from Positive Psychology. I will introduce you to the field of Positive Psychology and the theories and assortment of practices I use to fuel client momentum and drive success.  We are going to “learn some and think some…and play and workeveryday some” (Fulghum).

Let’s get to work.

What are three good things that happened in the past 24 hours? What went well? They can be as big as winning a gold medal or as small as getting to a meeting on time. Take 30 seconds to write them down.  I’ll wait.

I do this activity at the start of every coaching session, class and most conversations too! (I’m insufferable.)  This simple activity is at the heart of Positive Psychology: a shift in focus to “what’s working,” and how do we do more of it? instead of “what’s wrong,” and how do we fix it?

While psychology “as usual” concentrates on how to help people get from -5 to 0, Positive Psychology focuses on how to help people flourish and move from 0 to +5. This doctrine also explores what helps the “plus fivers” thrive.  Why are happy people happy? What factors contribute to healthy relationships? What are the characteristics of successful teams? How do motivated people stay motivated? You get the point. Positive Psychology provides coaches with the theoretic foundation for us to help healthy, creative, resourceful people change for the better, and offers us a smorgasbord of research-based activities to keep our clients engaged in the process.

Oh, and by the way, the results of the study that had people write down three good things at the end of each day for just one week (conducted by Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology; Chris Peterson, the great uncle of the movement, and Nansoon Park, a distant cousin), found that participants experienced an increase in happiness and a decrease in depressive symptoms for six months. Six months!! Pretty amazing. Try it and see what you think.

Workout 1: for those who are really ready to play and work everyday some!

  1. At the end of the day, write down three good things that happened. Big or small, deep or superficial. Whatever comes to mind. Keep it simple and list only three. Take 60 seconds to replay one good thing, savor it, and ponder why it works.
  2. At the start each session, have your client talk about three good things that happened in the last day, or since the previous session. Keep a log of the items and read them at the end of the week.
  3. To get ready for the next post, take the VIA Character Survey at, and start thinking about your strengths. Good luck!

About the Author:

Deb is a coach, consultant and educator with over 20 years’ experience helping individuals, parents and businesses thrive. Deb applies Positive Psychology methods in her successful practice, Coaching Is Good. She helps her clients set challenging goals, take risks and capitalize on strategies that energize and breed success. To sign up for Deb’s Positive Psychology Coach Training Course, at the Impact Coaching Academy, starting September 12, go to: Impact Coaching Academy’s Positive Psychology Coach Training Course


The Expert Series is brought to you by choice Magazine as part of our ongoing efforts to bring opportunities for learning and growth to the coaching community. Delivered in four parts every two weeks, each series covers useful topics for business development and coaching insights, serving the needs of leaders in all areas and walks of life. Archived copies of previous series can be found here.