The field of positive psychology has sprung up in recent years as an attractive alternative to traditional psychology and one worth considering when it comes to doing a career self-assessment.

By definition, positive psychology uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life. The focus of positive psychology is generally on personal growth. Findings indicate that happiness is improved and affected in a number of different ways, including career satisfaction, increased financial income, strong social ties and networks and a healthy mind and body.

In a recent study from the Journal of Career Assessment (“Strengths-Based Career Counselling: Overview and Initial Evaluation”), positive psychology career counselling was compared with conventional career counselling. Both groups had an increase in career satisfaction but only the former had enhanced self-esteem. And, at a three-month follow-up, the positive psychology career counselling group had a higher rate of employment (81 per cent) versus the conventional career counselling group (60 per cent).

Positive Psychology Theories Put into Practice

A popular framework of positive psychology, as presented in psychologist Martin Seligman’s book “Flourish,” is referred to as PERMA.

Pleasure: Leading a life of pleasure maximizes positive emotions and outcomes minimizes negative emotions and outcomes.

Engagement: Leading a life of engagement involves seeking out activities that allow you to be in flow, a state of effortless involvement that occurs when we concentrate our attention on activities that involve your signature strengths, or strengths that are deeply characteristic of yourself.

Relationships: The tendency towards relationships is biologically and evolutionarily ingrained in us. Positive relationships are especially powerful because they play a role in supporting the other components of wellbeing.

Meaning: Leading a life of meaning belongs to and serves something that is bigger than yourself, such as family, religion, community, country or even ideas.

Accomplishments: This involves the pursuit of success, winning, achievement and mastery, both as end-goals and as processes.

The PERMA theory can be put into practice with certain exercises, such as the following:

  1. Three good things. Every evening, write down three good things that happened that day and think about why they happened.
  2. Use your signature strengths. Identify your top five strengths, such as wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence, by taking this free survey.
  3. Express gratitude. Write a letter to someone at work or in your personal network explaining why you feel grateful for something they’ve said or done. Read or reiterate the letter to the recipient, either in person or over the phone.

It’s not necessary to chase positive emotions or try to be everything to everyone. Instead, pursue flow states based on your particular strengths. By undertaking a careful career self-assessment, you will better know yourself and your strengths and be able to use them in your chosen career.

Enjoy the positive results!