July 7, 2008

How good does it get?

Repost from last year:

Positive thinking seems to be back in style. Positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, solution-focused change, and positive deviance are some popular positive change approaches. These approaches tend to focus on strengths and virtues that enable individuals and organizations to flourish. I think positive change approaches hold a great promise. Maybe they can help us to improve our lives, our organizations and hopefully even our world. But just how positive can we expect life to become? This may be an important question. If our expectations are too low, they can make us passive and thus prevent us from improving our circumstances. In these cases our expectations have become self-fulfilling. High expectations may be self-fullingfilling too, up to a point. If they are unrealistically high, they can turn into a recepy for desillusion and frustration. Expectations play an important and sometimes paradoxical role. A case in point is a party. Sometimes you go a party with low expectations and you are pleasantly surprised by how much fun it turns out to be. At other times your expectations are high -this is going to be so much fun!- and it turns out rather dissappointing. In these cases the contrast between what we expect and what we find seems to impact our feelings and behaviors dramatically. So, what is wise to expect about life? How good can life actually get? Is a problem-free life within our reach? Can we ever approach a total peace of mind, free of worries and fears? Can we always be feeling good about ourselves and our accomplishments and live in peace with our fellow human beings? Or is it wise to lower our expectations drastically and expect life to be one damn thing after another? Or is there a middle way? When is life good enough?



  1. Maybe we need three things?

    Positive expectations so we look for the mechanisms that lead to positive results (allowing students to finish their thoughts, for example)

    Growing understanding of the positive mechanisms (learning that writing and speaking takes practice so allowing students to finish their thoughts!)

    Being confident that we can adjust rapidly to situations (having a mastery rather than competitive orientation which is sustained by the two above! Valuing for its own sake that students should be allowed to learn whether or not they are the cleverest students in the kingdom!) And this links to
    a 4th which is belonging. If we don't feel we belong, we will resent the boring party. So perhaps a sense of responsibility to everyone around us is critical too?

    I think all these are maintained in a spiral. Once it begins to go downwards, it takes a massive effort to turn it around.

    Self-fulfilling prophecy is a very popular topic with students - they are very aware of how much the struggle with negative mentors and are relieved to find out it is "not just them" and that they are able to influence the world (by the effect of their self-fulfilling prophecies on their teachers for starters!)


  2. Hi Jo, Thanks for your comment. Sounds like a good list. Maybe we should add something like appreciating what is there or appreciating progress?


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