2.13 (V) Positive Education - Teaching Academic Success and Well-Being
[MUSIC] I'm tremendously excited to be here today to share with you the cutting edge and latest work we've done at the intersection of positive psychology and education in this blossoming new field called, positive education. This new model of education, compared to the traditional model of education, promotes traditional academic success but also teaches students and teachers the skills to flourish as human beings. So as before going into delving into positive education, there are three core questions that the science of well-being has answered during the last few decades. Firstly, can we define well-being? What do we mean when we talk about well-being? Secondly, this concept that might be a little elusive, or a bit ephemeral to some people, is now measurable. So, can we measure well being? And thirdly, and for the purpose of education, most importantly can we increase well-being? Can we teach and learn specific skills to enhance our well-being? And as I'll be talking about in the next 10 to 15 minutes, luckily the answer to these three questions has been shown empirically to be undeniably, yes. So let's position well-being. Where is well-being today in a global context? Some of you might know that in the year 2000, 192 countries got together and had a consensus around eight millennium development goals. Now in 2000, these eight millennium development goals were about cutting global hunger in half, malnutrition in half, extreme poverty in half, and so on and so forth. Now, just like traditional psychology, the millenium development goals found that yes, it is absolutely desirable to eliminate global ill-being in all of its manifestations. But by eliminating ill-being and suffering, the best you could get to is neutral, neutral societies, neutral communities. Just like in psychology that was obsessed and focused with depression, anxiety, and eliminating all the things that make life not worth living, psychology found that by eliminating mental ill-being, the best you could do is get people to zero. So just like positive psychology studies and promotes what makes life worth living in 2015, the same 192 countries convened around at the United Nations, and there was a consensus around 17 new sustainable development goals, or the SDGs. And well-being is now officially as you can see, one of the 17 goals that is on the global development agenda. So well-being is not only now definable, measurable, but it's been globally deemed to be desirable and worth pursuing. So let's go back to the first and most important question or the first and initial question in this quest for the science of well-being. What is well-being? Now, there has been a lot of debate about what is well-being since Aristotle, Confucius in the East, but there's a growing consensus that there are five core pillars to well-being. And we like to, our flavor of well-being can be easily remembered, by this acronym: PERMA. The P stands for positive emotions. Now in the West we often confused happiness with feeling good. Feeling euphoric, feeling proud when you hear good news about someone you care about. Feeling joyful, excited. But, as we all know emotions are passing, they're not permanent. So that is only one slices of the pie of true deep well-being as you can see. The second element of well being is engagement or flow. Engagement is what the violinist feels when here she is being completely one with the music they are playing. It is what a teacher feels when he or she is completely engaged with a full on classroom that has an appetite for learning. Ideally, most of you are in flow right now listening to what I'm saying because I'm definitely in flow. Being tremendously excited sharing what we been doing. The third and actually most important element of the PERMA framework of well-being is relationships. If there is one of the few human universal that psychology has found is that, we are by far the most social species on this planet. And thus single most predictive element of global life satisfaction is the quality of a relationships. Having authentic connections with other people base on love, respect, admiration, being able to truly count on others, relationships. Other people matter, and they matter mightily. The fourth element of the well-being model is meaning. It's waking up in the morning and having a why, a why to getting up a purposeful existence. It's feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself. And that actually, after relationships, is the second most predictive element of global life satisfaction. And finally, there is achievement or accomplishment, which is what we most In the West, at least, what is most similar to what we define as success. Now, when we talk about achievement here though, it's finding your true calling, your true passion, what really makes your eyes shine. And identifying your strengths and using those strengths to pursue your true calling and passion. That is what we mean by a sense of accomplishment, a sense of mastery, a sense of self-efficacy. So when we talk about well-being, when I talk about well-being in the next ten minutes, I'm going to be talking about PERMA. So what is it that takes well-being as this abstract concept, and actually lands it as a science? It's the fact that we can now reliably measure well-being. Now, decades of well-being luckily have shown us that there are internationally validated self report instruments that are valid regardless of culture, regardless of context. And not only that, but there's a blossoming new field of well-being in neuroscience where human beings are put into functional magnetic resonance imaging machines, FMRIs, EEGs. And we can see that different regions of the brain associated with positive emotions with well-being are higher in people who report higher levels of well-being. And not only that, but there are rigorous studies with, for example, Tibetan Monks, who dedicated the grand majority of their lives to mindful meditation and comparing them to normal human beings who've never meditated. Regions of the brain associated with positive emotions, with meaning, with a sense of belonging, with self-efficacy are much more active in these monks who've spent 20, 30 years meditating compared to normal human beings. So, this tells us two things. Well-being is not just an abstract concept, it's measurable. And secondly, when we practice deliberate skills that promote well-being, there are real changes in the brain. There are neural pathways that are created because of the wonderful neuroplasticity that we have as human beings. And so, when we give people the skills to be self-aware and they report how they're doing, that is backed up by new regions of their brain that show that their well-being is genuinely enhanced. In short, people know how they are doing a lot better than we assume that they do. So, now that we know, number one, what is well being, PERMA in short. Number two, that we can measure well-being, regardless of context, culture or age. The biggest and most important question that Martin Seligman, my Doctoral Advisor and myself have been pursuing is, can we increase well-being?