What I Do: Positive Psychology in Houston

For the fourth time in the past year, I’m headed to Houston. Believe it or not, my main profession is not blogging, or podcasting or rock throwing.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “what do you do?”. Here’s a stab at answering that question.

Over the next four days I will be working intensively with Bridge Bats Swim Club and the University of Houston Swimming and Diving Team.

For the Bridge Bats, this is my fourth visit to the team. After a three visit series last year, which is a typical engagement for me with a team, Head Coach Dirk Marshall and I decided to continue working together through the 2018-2019 season.

This will be my first visit to the University of Houston, the culmination of a several conversations with Head Coach Ryan Wochomurka. With both teams, I talk about Positive Psychology topics (which I’ll expand upon a little below) with the following guiding principles:

  1. I only talk about the top 10% of what I know. I’m here to help and this one quality control to ensure that teams I work with get stuff that I have the highest confidence in.

  2. Everything I talk about is backed both by research and I have personally tested “out in the field” in my own coaching of athletes

  3. Everything I talk about is delivered in a way that is practical and ready to use immediately

  4. I provide the downstream troubleshooting that is necessary to make these ideas and concepts work

For each team, I present on the same topics but differently depending on the audience. At Bridge Bats, I talk to coaches, athletes and parents. Coaches are welcome when I present to athletes, as well as parents and so on, but the information presented will be directed at the specific audience.

So what do I talk about?

Learned Optimism: The theory of Learned Optimism was my entree into the world of Positive Psychology. I read the book by Martin Seligmann in 2007 and soon after I was applying to the MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) at Penn to study under Seligman and the other top people in the field. 

It’s a pretty simple theory: optimism is a skill that people can learn, like riding a bike or playing the piano. It’s easy to get started and very hard to master. There are a lot of misconceptions about what optimism actually is and a lot of conventional wisdom that totally misses the mark.

Active Constructive Responding: How do you talk to people about good news? How do you get people on your team capitalizing with each other on what is going well? How can you improve your relationships by changing the way you respond when other people are in a positive emotional state?

Active Constructive Responding is about all of the way above, and by far my favorite thing to get people started with, for the sheer response they exhibit when they do it for the first time.

Emotional Regulation: We are all emotional creatures. We cannot control what emotions will strike us in what moments. We can, however, work on how we respond and think about emotions.

We talk both about how to manage your internal response to strong emotional situations and also about how to help teammates, athletes or children with the same. 

Feedback Loop

Afterwards and between each engagement, there is a feedback process that goes on between myself and the coach of the team I’m working with. This time around, I plan on documenting some of that as well, so check back next week for that!