Positive Psychology-The theory behind Executive Coaching

by Rosemarie Perla

“Positive emotions are not trivial luxuries, but instead might be critical necessities for optimal functioning.”

— Barbara Fredrickson

Positive Psychology is the study of what makes us flourish and what makes life worth living.   I attended the 2nd Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital’s “Coaching in Medicine and Leadership” Conference which was held on September 25 and 26 2009.  This conference had many scholars speaking on new research in positive psychology.   Unlike traditional psychology which, in the past explored pathology and treatment – Positive Psychology focuses on optimal performance and ways to enhance the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people.  Positive Psychology is the theory that underlies the field of coaching.  Coaches explore ways and create conditions to contribute to their client’s flourishing and optimal performance.

Take away: A Positive Psychology exercise suggested by Martin Seligman, PhD, a leader in the field:   At the end of the day, think of 3-4 things that you are grateful for that happened during the day AND ask yourself how did you contribute to making that good thing happen?


“Positive Psychology- Science at the Heart of Coaching.”  Carol Kauffman, PhD, Coaching in Medicine and Leadership, Harvard Coaching Conference, September 2009.

Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman. Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson, 2009



Leadership and Professional Executive Coaching
In my role as an Executive Coach, I see a lot of very talented business owners and leaders who are cracking under the pressure and responsibilities of extremely demanding jobs. They want to make a big impact but are being pulled in every direction, losing themselves within the large system in which they must operate.
The stress of it weighs them down, feeding negative thinking and making it harder for them to keep a bird’s eye view, mental agility, and balance that true leadership requires.