Positive Psychology can be seen as the new kid on the block, looking for significance and trying to get all the other kids to think that it’s super cool.
The main challenge that Positive Psychology faces, is it is not playing nice with the other kids. I was reading a recent book from Martin Seligman called Flourish (Free Press, 2011) and I got very excited because he had a section called ‘Coaching and Positive Psychology.’
“Coaching is a practice in search of a backbone. Two backbones really: a scientific evidence-based backbone as well as a theoretical backbone.”
It’s hard to make friends when you make comments that imply, “Hey, where’s your backbone Life Coaching? In fact, I think you need two backbones.” Hey Martin, that’s just not nice. And it’s also not true. The problem that Positive Psychology has with Life Coaching is that coaching didn’t originate inside the ivory tower of academia. It came from a need in the sports and business world for more sophisticated tools to provide a positive framework to move forward and get results… not just to help “diagnose” people’s problems.
Indeed, the only theoretical framework that a corporation needs for coaching is a robust return-on-investment (ROI), and numerous studies have shown Life Coaching and Corporate Coaching to have awesome ROI numbers. http://libraryofprofessionalcoaching.com/research/roi/the-state-of-the-art-in-return-on-investment-roi-in-coaching/
Seligman continues with trying to make friends by writing, “[Positive Psychology can provide] adequate credentials to be a coach.” Unfortunately, that sounds a lot like he’s saying, “Hey, friend, let me tell you how to do what you’ve been doing successfully for decades.”
I just have to laugh at how silly that is. But hey, as a professional Life Coach, I forgive Martin and other Positive Psychologists! The way that I see it, Life Coaching has clearly created practical methods that work. It provides how to framework that produces results and uses much of the advancements of Positive Psychology to its benefit.
The thing is, Positive Psychology is catching up to those methods with underlying theories and new experiments that shed more light on what could possibly work.
It’s truly a good match. Can’t we be friends?