Aug. 20, 2018Print | PDF
By Claire Tattersall, student affairs professional
2018 Positive Psychology certificate graduate
2019 Positive Education certificate graduate
I work as a manager of undergraduate student services and deal daily with students that are struggling for any number of reasons. To broaden my knowledge and learn new strategies, theories and tools to use during student appointments, I registered in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Positive Psychology and Positive Education certificate program. This program has enhanced my effectiveness with my students and has helped transform how I exist in this world. It has aided me in parenting and helped me to be more self-compassionate and resilient.
Every day, I see the instant impact that positivity or negativity can have on the trajectories of individual and collective scenarios. I frequently coach my students to frame goals as something they want to achieve rather than something that they are hoping to avoid, taking the approach of ‘I hope I master this course content and get a good grade’ as opposed to ‘I hope I don’t fail.’
Focusing on the positive can cause your entire body can change. A student talking about possibilities tends to sit up more, make more eye contact, smile more and has a visible energy. That same student, when talking about their fears, becomes mentally and physically closed off: they may slump in the chair, have a hard time making eye contact or even experience a nervous shake. The theories and practices that I studied in the certificate program highlight what I have witnessed in others and what I feel in myself when faced with a challenge.
I work hard to make sure that I am supporting a work-study environment that promotes creativity and innovation, and protects and encourages positive emotion and perspectives.
One way I do this is by focusing on unanalyzed idea generation while trying to resolve a problem or improve a service with my staff team. By protecting the brainstorming process from negative emotion that can result from instant analysis, I help people to feel safe in sharing ideas, broadening the thoughts and actions that we can consider and generating an upward spiral of energy and creativity more likely to result in good options.
In a university environment, there can be a strong desire to analyze and critique everything as soon as it is put on the table. However, if that desire to point out flaws, impracticalities or budgetary constraints, for example, can be delayed until a second stage of consideration, it allows for a cross-pollination of ideas of emerge and makes others feel open to sharing. You can reassure the team or group that you will eventually get to the analysis stage where all data points will be examined after you have finished ideating.
Focusing on the positive not only assists in short-term idea generation and problem solving but also ensures long-term success, well-being and resilience as a team. The benefits of positive emotion cannot be undervalued in individual or group scenarios. In my experience, positive emotion has been critical to achieving any sort of meaningful and sustainable success.
Laurier’s Positive Psychology certificate program provided me with the foundational knowledge and skills that I needed to turn our student support from transactional to transformative.
I have seen the results of this change in our students’ academic achievements and overall resilience. This program has inspired my insatiable desire to learn more on the topic of positive psychology so that I am continually learning and growing.