The Impact of Positive Psychology on Motivation


  The Impact of Positive Psychology on Motivation

This article will discuss the fundamental aspects of positive psychology, and how it has helped motivate people to make significant changes in their lives.

Positive psychology is a fairly new field of study, which investigates and analyzes the factors that contribute to human happiness or satisfaction. Although there's still not a complete consensus on what cause why some people are more satisfied than others, researchers have found that there are certain circumstances which contribute to people being happier.

This article discusses the research done on positive psychology and its effects on motivation. This includes an overview of how it came about, as well as its impact on different areas of life.

What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology was originally developed by Professor Martin Seligman. Seligman's idea for positive psychology stemmed from his belief that people, as a whole, should be more concerned with their mental health instead of simply dealing with problems. In order to deal efficiently with psychological issues, Seligman believed that people must view these problems in a more positive light. With this in mind, he designed the concept of "Authentic Happiness," which was an attempt to change the way society viewed human development and moods. The idea for positive psychology came about shortly after Seligman's most popular theory: 'learned helplessness.

In the early 1960s, Seligman found that when dogs were exposed to unavoidable electroshock, they eventually gave up trying to avoid it. Seligman discovered that the dogs would stop making an attempt to escape the painful shocks because they had no control over whether or not they received them. Subsequently, these dogs were said to be in a state of "learned helplessness." This theory was met with great controversy and criticism because people viewed it as an attack on Americans' sense of independence and self-reliance. Despite the initial negative reception, Seligman continued his research on optimism and pessimism with his theory of learned helplessness.

Once Seligman's learned helplessness studies had gained some recognition, he started focusing on how to deal with depression. During an interview, he explained that his research led him to believe that people learned helplessness in terms of their attitudes towards learning and development was a "major and widespread phenomenon." As a result of this realization, Seligman devoted the rest of his life to finding ways for people to deal with depression more effectively. He believed that the reason people are depressed is because they don't learn how to overcome difficult situations, which leads them to think they are incapable of dealing with them.

Putting Theory into Practice
Seligman's research proved that pessimism severely impacts human happiness. His studies showed that the countries with the lowest levels of depression were those that allowed their people to learn to deal with adversity and negative circumstances. In order for people to deal with negativity, they must first realize that it's possible to overcome these situations.

Seligman found that optimism provided better opportunities for happiness. He was also a firm believer in changing the way society viewed human development and moods. In order to help people overcome sadness and depression, he believed people should be encouraged to view them as temporary illnesses. Instead of viewing them as permanent traits, Seligman believed it was necessary to change the prevailing attitudes towards sadness so people would view it as something that could be resolved through training and proper thought processes.

Positive psychology has definitely impacted people's lives in a positive way. Seligman and other researchers have developed numerous techniques that have helped people deal with their problems and develop optimism. These techniques include:

Finding solutions to tragic situations through research.
Realizing that both pessimism and depression can be beneficial if you look at them in the right manner. Considering the way to approach others with optimism. Using problem-solving techniques to get rid of as much pain as possible through research, while still maintaining health and wellness. Understanding it's possible to take control of your life through reframing negative circumstances as challenges instead of threats.

While positive psychology has changed the way people view themselves and how they approach life, it has also helped motivate them to make positive changes.

How Positive Psychology Helped Motivate People
One of Seligman's most significant contributions to psychology was his development of the theory of "learned optimism". In his studies, he found that people who had low self-esteem are unable to understand their abilities sufficiently to deal with life's difficulties. The reasons for this are because they have an unrealistic interpretation of their capabilities. Seligman believed that people who have had successful experiences in the past are able to cope well with problems because they've developed a belief that they can learn and develop from these situations. Seligman also said that the tendency to "learn to be content" has a stronger effect on human development than having a positive attitude.

Seligman's research regarding learned optimism resulted in his theory of authentic happiness. According to Seligman, people who are unable to deal with negative situations are not truly happy because they can't come up with solutions and find ways of overcoming these troubles. Seligman's view towards this problem is that people have learned not to deal effectively with setbacks because they've had previous experiences dealing with them. These previous learning experiences made it so they expecting a similar outcome every time, which led them to stay stuck in their current situation and not explore other options for dealing with these problems.

Seligman's research showed that people who have learned to be optimistic in their youth aren't as affected by depression as those who were raised to expect the worst. In order to overcome depression, Seligman believed people should learn optimism and develop an understanding of how these circumstances can be beneficial.

While Seligman's theories have made a huge impact on psychology, they haven't been accepted by everyone in the academic community. In order for a theory to be accepted into the mainstream, it has to be proven valid under rigorous testing conditions in clinical settings and experiments. Despite this fact, Seligman still remains one of the best-known researchers in psychology and his work continues to influence how people view themselves and their circumstances.

The Emotional Strength Inventory is a free online assessment to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses with regard to various aspects of emotional intelligence. Taking the test will provide you with a greater insight into how you view and deal with emotions.

The Motivational Style Questionnaire (MSQ) is an online assessment that measures 6 different motivational styles. It will help you identify your style of motivation, so you can learn to develop ways of improving your emotional well-being by changing these styles.


Positive psychology has taught us how to be optimistic and develop our capabilities to live more fulfilling and productive lives. The results of Seligman's research have changed the lives of people all over the world. Through positive psychology, we have seen the value of optimism and realized that it can be a vital tool in overcoming difficulties in life. By using these techniques, we can experience greater happiness, more meaning while remaining mentally well.

Seligman, M.E.P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 57(5), 268-274. Retrieved from http://www.

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