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James Pawelski on Are You Too Positive?

Are You Too Positive?

Podcast with James Pawelski

DELIVERED BY The Wellbeing Lab

Today’s Guest:

James Pawelski is my guest today.  James is the director of education and senior scholar in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the author of the book The Dynamic Individualism of William James.  He serves as the founding director of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program for more than 10 years, where he teaches courses on positive interventions, the humanities, and human flourishing.  James is an international keynote speaker who regularly makes presentations in English and Spanish.  He has spoken in more then twenty countries and on six continents.  In addition, he also holds paid leadership positions as the founding executive director of the International Positive Psychology Association, member of the steering committee of the International Positive Education Network, and president of the William James Society.

James Pawelski’s website: (

In this discussion, James and I talk about the relationship between positive psychology and philosophy, the roots of positive psychology and why we should understand them, the role of the humanities in understanding, and what the positive in positive psychology is.  James tells us about some of his favorite books for gaining insight into human flourishing as well as why he thinks literature and story telling are so important for a happy life.

You’ll Learn:

  • 1:43 – You will learn about James’ recent talk at the European Conference on Positive Psychology about the importance of theory for research and practice. He talks about the interesting things that happen when you ask careful questions deeply.
  • 3:50 – James talks about what positive psychology means by positive.
  • 5:30 – We hear of how positive psychology, with its focus on what is going well with a person, is complementary to mainstream psychology, which focuses on the negative psychological aspects such as depression or anxiety.
  • 6:58 – James goes into more detail about the relationship between the positive and negative.
  • 8:20 – James answers the question, “Is positive psychology fundamentally about the best things in life, or is it fundamentally about living the best life we can?”
  • 10:40 – We talk more about the importance of a comprehensive approach to positive psychology.
  • 12:00 – The question is raised, “What happens if various positives are in conflict?”
  • 14:28 – James discusses the connection between positive psychology and the humanities.
  • 17:04 – We go into the intersection of positive psychology and the humanities in the workplace.
  • 20:06 – The importance of stories and story telling to a happy life is discussed.
  • 20:36 – James tells us how using the Values in Action Classification of Strengths and Virtues has helped in his own life.
  • 21:27 – He talks about two of his favorite books to help people bring out the best in themselves and others.
  • 22:58 – James talks about a few of the books he is currently reading and why he recommends people studying mindfulness meditation.
  • 24:08 – We hear why James is not a fan of the term optimism and why he prefers the term meliorism.

Your Resources:

James Pawelski’s website 

European Conference on Positive Psychology 

Positive Psychology program

International Positive Psychology Association-Learning Library

James’ Book List:

Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

The Upside to Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener

Positive Emotion: Integrating the Light Sides and Dark Sides by June Gruber and Judith Tedlie Moskowitz

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

“Neighbour Rosicky” by Willa Cather

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for joining me again this week. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of this post.

Also, please leave an honest review for the Making Positive Psychology Work Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated. They do matter in the rankings of the show, and I read each and every one of them.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates. It’s free! Special thanks to Sue for joining me this week. Until next time, take care!

Until next time, take care!

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