Written by Cecilia Leboeuf-Hansen – Founder of Coneqt, member of the Live2Work development team.

The Live2Work project consists of a group of professionals from different fields, all involved, in one way or another, with unemployed young adults. The consortium got together for their first internal professional development workshop, to strengthen the team’s knowledge on the newest tools and research available in positive psychology. This training workshop took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in January 2017. To our delight, the training workshop, happened to coincide with a session at the Pedagogical University of Denmark, where Martin Seligman gave a lecture on; Positive Psychology – State of the Art. Some clips of the lecture can be seen here. http://edu.au.dk/viden/video/

It was a very relevant and interesting lecture. Especially for our group, as it gave us the opportunity, to not only network and find people who could assist us in our work, but also to reflect on the prospects of the new ideas, that are being developed as we speak.

Happiness – the “undemocratic” state of being

One of the topics that Martin Seligman presented to us, was authentic happiness. This made us question, what happiness really is, and how an understanding of this can be useful in our work, of helping unemployed young adults enter the labour market. He told us that we were not to
confuse positive psychology with happiness. “Smiliness” is inherited, not changeable, and undemocratic in some ways. Happiness, it turns out, is genetic and not something that can be acquired (or at least, to a certain degree).

Well-being, however, can be defined as how well you are doing. This feeling depends on your mission. Where do you want to go and how do you intend to get there? Whether you are focusing on Positive emotions, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning, or Accomplishments (P.E.R.M.A.), depends on your goals in life, what is more pleasurable in life for the individual. We learnt that Positive psychology is descriptive instead of prescriptive, and that PERMA is something that is measurable and teachable.

How to measure PERMA

We learnt that we can measure PERMA, by looking at subjective and objective measures. This is because free, non-suffering people pursue the following;
– P= positive emotion; They hunt the good stuff. To develop this, one can try the following activity; for one week write down three things that went well each day and describe why you think they went well. This activity will give the individual higher life satisfaction and lower depression; and this will become an addictive action.
– E= Engagement; signature strength and professions. To work on signature strengths, one can close one’s eyes and think of something one must do at work, something that one doesn’t like to do. One can then recraft things in one’s mind, and visualise oneself doing things one doesn’t like, using one’s highest strength.
– R=Relations (ACR) Active – Constructive – Responding vs Active, Passive, Constructive, Destructive.

Martin Seligman explains that positive development takes place, when the individual is responding in an active – constructive way.

Meaning; How do you celebrate, rather than how do you conflict? Active and Constructive means to take time to let the other relive the good experience.
– M=Meaning and Purpose- pleasure vs altruism. (Kids/youths don’t know about this.) Doing something altruistic lasts and lasts, rather than hanging out with friends (the joy ends when it’s time to go home).
This means that if you want to feel better, go out and help someone! Belonging to and serving something bigger than yourself will give you better well-being.
– A= Achievement/accomplishment/mastering – Self-discipline and GRIT, account for success. Angela Duckworth has stated that grit, is twice as important as IQ.

So, happiness is not something you learn, it’s something that is in your genes, but well-being can be taught, and grit is the secret to making it as far as one has the potential. In order to help people in situations of professional vulnerability, we must then focus on the development of PERMA, and teach these individuals how to achieve lasting well-being.
You can read more about Martin Seligman’s theories on authentic happiness on his website: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/