The good life is a process, not a state o being
— Carl Rogers

Why Positive Psychology?


Positive psychology—generally referred to as "the scientific study of optimal human functioning" 1—was officially launched as a field of study in 1998 by Martin Seligman, president of the American Psychological Association. Until that year, the study of happiness—of enhancing the quality of our lives—had largely been dominated by pop psychology. In the multitude of self-help seminars and books, there is much fun and charisma, and yet many (though far from all) offer little substance. They promise five easy steps to happiness, the three secrets of success, and four ways to find your perfect lover. These are usually empty promises, and over the years, people have become cynical about self-help. On the other side we have academe, with writing and research that are substantive but that do not find their way into most households. As I see it, the role of positive psychology is to bridge the ivory tower and Main Street, the rigor of academe and the fun of the self-help movement. Many self-help books overpromise and underdeliver, because few of them are subjected to the test of the scientific method. In contrast, ideas that have appeared in academic journals and have passed the academic process from conception to publication usually have much more substance. While their authors are generally less grandiose, making fewer promises to fewer readers, these authors also tend to deliver on their promises. And yet, because positive psychology bridges the ivory tower and Main Street, advice given by positive psychologists—whether in book form, in lectures, or on a website—can sometimes sound like the advice that self-help gurus offer. It is simple and accessible—like pop psychology is—but it is simple and accessible in a radically different way. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked, "I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." Holmes was interested in the simplicity that comes after searching and researching, deep reflection, and laborious testing—not in baseless platitudes and off-the-cuff assertions. Positive psychologists—by delving into the depth of a phenomenon—emerge on the other side of complexity with accessible ideas and practical theories, as well as simple techniques and tips that work. This is no easy feat. Foreshadowing Holmes, Leonardo da Vinci pointed out that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Concerned with distilling the essence of the good life, positive psychologists, alongside other social scientists and philosophers, have spent a great deal of time and effort attempting to reach the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

Tal  Ben-Sharar

PhD in Organizational Behavior and BA and Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard