Positive psychology is something I have been studying and taking courses on for the past 6 years and if you chose to investigate as I have, you might be as equally delighted by the research and innovative discoveries as much as you would appreciate the intuitive nature of what it’s all about. And while the old model of psychology was useful and relevant for the time, I can’t help but ask again and again, why the hell was this not discovered sooner.
If happiness, which is clinically defined as subjective well-being was the heart, then a main artery would be something called explanatory style. Explanatory style- how we choose to explain to ourselves the nature of past events- plays the starring role, which impacts our happiness and sustained financial success. Our explanatory style can be a conscious conversation, but can also and if often an unconscious one.
People either have an optimistic or a pessimistic self-explanatory style. The optimistic kind is present when we interpret adversity and challenges as being local and temporary. Local is “it’s just this issue” and temporary is “it won’t last forever”.
The pessimistic explanatory style is global and permanent; global in that “it’s everywhere” and permanent, “it’s going to be like this forever”.
What we believe determines how we behave which drives the lens through which we view and seek opportunities for more optimism or more pessimism. It’s ingrained, until we choose to replace it. The latter creates what Martin Seligman, the grandfather of Positive Psychology called learned helplessness, which he stumbled across while studying depression in 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania, a subject he was personally interested in.
The short version of his research was that in the 80’s, MetLife was loosing $75 million a year in hiring costs due to the high turnover rate in their sales force, which experienced a staggering 90% rejection.
Here’s what he discovered when he looked into the explanatory style of the sales force. Those agents with a positive self-explanatory style sold 37% more insurance than those with pessimistic ones, and the most optimistic agents sold 88% more than the most pessimistic ones. Additionally, those with an optimistic style were half as likely to quit as their pessimistic counterparts.
Regardless of how high agents scored on traditional “smarts & knowledge tests”, MetLife committed to hire only those agents with an optimistic self explanatory style and not only did turnover plummet over the next few years, but they experienced and a 50% increase in market share.
Go to www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/ppquestionnaires.htm and take a free test to see what your self explanatory style is.