Monday, July 17, 2017
Positive Psychology and Kindness in Montreal
Last week my wife and I enjoyed a mini-vacation in Montreal Canada. My primary purpose was to enjoy learning at the International Positive Psychology World Congress. I was thankful for the opportunity to share in a roundtable discussion time my dissertation research on flow activities and at-risk college students. My wife’s main purpose was to rest and relax from her work. The IPPA congress provided a wide range of topics on how to help people flourish in their life journey and how to help individuals focus in on well-being. These are topics that I focus on in my book, Living More Than OK. It was my first time to attend one of their World Congress’s.
This week’s post I will share just a few points that meant much to me from the congress. Several of the initial speakers I listened to spoke of the research that shows the importance of acts of kindness for our well-being. An important happenstance event happened the second day to illuminate what I had heard. My wife and I in the afternoon planned to take the metro train to Montreal’s Botanical garden. We went to the Metro station near our hotel and bought tickets. As we went to the turnstile my wife went through without a hitch. I went through then and the metal bar would not move. We tried the ticket several times. Several people passed by and then a man our age came over and asked in a thick French Canadian accent what was wrong. We explained the situation and he tried that ticket as well. He then told my wife to go down to the train platform and wait for me. He then told me to follow him. We walked down a separate stairwell and he took me to another entry point in the same station where there was a worker in the ticket booth. He explained in French what had happened to my wife and I, visitors from the US. The agent apologized for our inconvenience and let me through and I reconnected with my wife. I thanked the gentleman for his help and he went his way.
The other pictures here are from the Botanical Garden green houses. It was a rainy afternoon but their Garden had the best greenhouses we had ever experienced. Looking back at the event the man’s act of kindness was a true life example of what I had heard from several of the initial speakers at the conference. That kindness towards others is helpful in a meaningful way to all parties in the experience. The man did not have to stop as he could have acted, just as others, who had passed us by. Instead he went out of his way to take me to a ticket agent, who could help with my ticket problem and explain our problem in French. We were thankful to find people like that in Montreal.
Back to other meaningful learning points from the IPPA Congress. One of the more enjoyable sessions was a presenter in one of the round table sessions I attended. There were two presenters at the table and both did admirable jobs on their research presentations. The one I preferred was Annie Norman, who is the State Librarian for the State of Delaware. She was sharing about her state library’s research on the study of lifelong learning of readers in their libraries through a tracking system they have created. They provide useful journals that patrons can use to reflect on their reading. Since, I emphasize being a Bookhead in my book, Living More Than OK, when I saw her presentation listed on-line I could not pass it up. Being an avid supporter of libraries and reading programs I could not pass up her presentation. Her information did not disappoint. It was wonderful to hear from a librarian who understands how the services of libraries can inculcate human flourishing in the lives of the communities they serve.
My favorite session of the ones I attended was Saturday listening to Drs. Steger of Colorado State University & Russo-Netzer of University of Haifa, Israel, speak to the issue of purpose and meaning in their session, “More Than Skin Deep”. They pointed out the reality too often people are busy being busy or live in a survival mode instead of being truly alive. This connected with me, since I emphasize to people to move beyond being just OK to be Living More Than OK.
Their focus from what I picked up focuses in on being mindfully aware of searching and finding meaning in your life. This reminded me of Dr. Seligman of University of Pennsylvania in his keynote discussion where he shared research on the importance of meaning in having a flourishing life. I appreciated their emphasizing being intentional in your life as too many clients I have helped are too often just running on a negative autopilot through life and not being intentional about the choices they make in life. I see this in college students I work with as well. Another important point was encouraging us to take reflection time to visualize and draw out an icon or poster in response to the question “Know your Why?”. We add significance to our lives when we take time to understand the why force in our lives. The presenters made good use of group interaction even though it was a packed room.
Another important point they brought to light was in a discussion to the question “What is being fully alive?”. They helped with the myth on positive psychology that it is about being happy all the time. Some of our life highlights that lead to learning are not always happy. My parents’ deaths were not happy, my job loss in Chicago was not happy, other struggles on my journey have not been happy but finding the meaning in the 20/20 of hindsight adds to the meaning of life.
It was a great vacation to see the beautiful city of Montreal and for my wife to have a much needed break from her work. The congress time also added more lifelong learning to my life experience.
Reflection: What does being “fully alive” mean to you? Take a day sometime just to think through and reflect on “knowing your Why” – draw of a poster or icon about it.