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What Is Positive Psychology Coaching?

Once a mainstay only in athletics and professional sports, then later in executive and corporate suites, professional coaching in the last ten to fifteen years is becoming more and more mainstream.   

Building a “coaching culture” into a work environment is becoming the standard in many companies, and personal coaching has gained traction as clients seek to gain understanding and skills that will empower them to move toward their personal and/or career goals. 

Still, a question I hear a lot is, what exactly is coaching, anyway? 

Coaching is a professional partnership between two individuals that can enable an individual to make progress toward their goals much more rapidly and directly than they would on their own.  Coaches provide resources, guidance and direction for clients who wish to improve their careers, relationships, and lives.  Wellness coaches help clients find motivation and tools to reach physical or emotional health goals, such as weight loss, better nutrition, smoking cessation and stress management. 

A coach works directly with a client on a goal or goals they choose, assessing strengths, designing actions and encouraging and challenging the client to move forward.  A well-trained coach provides insight and tools, along with motivation for the client to stay on track when confronted with inevitable obstacles. 

Positive psychology is a relatively newer branch of psychology, and studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals to thrive.  It’s been a rapidly growing area and, as a theory base, fits perfectly with the coaching model in exploring clients’ strengths and how to develop and promote them. 

Too often, we get caught up in what isn’t working in ourselves or our lives, and forget to appreciate what does work and works well.  We may be overly critical of ourselves, expecting perfection. Maybe we still hear the voices of a long-ago teacher or overly critical parent or other relative, reminding us of those places we didn’t measure up, at least in their eyes.  Whatever the reason, when was the last time you sat down and took inventory of your good qualities and your strengths?  Do you even know what they are?  

The very first thing I do with clients is have them take a Character Strengths’ Assessment, a scientifically designed tool that provides a guide to their core strengths.  The client and coach can then explore how to put them to best use in the client’s work and life. 

When we don’t know and appreciate those good things and, more importantly, use them in our lives, we are leaving untapped those parts of ourselves that can bring us the biggest rewards. Knowing our strengths and operating from those can help us be more successful both personally and professionally. Research shows that people who identify and incorporate these qualities and strengths do better in every major area of their lives. People who operate from strengths tend to be happier, healthier, more productive, and thus better able to contribute to the world around them.  They are more successful in their marriages and have stronger relationships with family, friends, and community.  They are more resourceful and creative, do better at work, and tend to be higher earners.  In short, they have a more positive impact on themselves and those whose lives they touch. 

So how do you begin to uncover what’s right about you so that you can effectively use those strengths to create a life with meaning?  Here are some ideas: 

  • There are numerous specific interventions and practices that can be effectively integrated into the coaching relationship.  I use the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths and Realize 2 assessments to help clients identify character assets. With a working knowledge of core strengths, we can then explore how to put them to best use in the client’s work and life. 
  • You can set aside some time to reflect on and list those good things.  Sounds simple, but have you ever really taken the time to do this?  Think about those qualities of mind or spirit you bring to your family, friends, and colleagues.  Are you someone who values taking time for others and expressing that in meaningful ways?  Are you diligent and persistent in what you set out to accomplish?  Do you put a premium on learning, on interest in the world around you?  Do you excel in groups, as a member of a team?  Are you fair-minded, do you try to give everyone a chance?  What about your attitudes?  Are you known as a hopeful, optimistic person?  Do you try to see the best in others and in situations? 

These are just a few examples to get you going.  There are a multitude of things you may be gifted at that you aren’t even aware of.  Creativity, for example, is not just limited to the arts.  You may be creative in what you bring to the mix on a rainy afternoon with your children, or in brainstorming solutions to a difficult problem at work. 

  • What about asking a trusted friend or family member?  Those around us are often much more adept at seeing us realistically than we see ourselves.  Ask someone who knows you well to share those positive things about you that they recognize.  You might be surprised at what you hear. 
  • Keep a running list of the strengths you uncover and keep it somewhere you can see it on a regular basis.  Use this as a reminder to put them to work for you in your daily life, and pay attention to the results. 
  • Write a paragraph or two about a time when you were at your best.  This can be anything from training for and running your first 10K, or successfully keeping your cool during a difficult team meeting. Reflect on the qualities that were present. Maybe you handle difficulties with others well (social intelligence) or were able to brainstorm a solution to a difficult problem (creativity.) Perhaps you excel in focus and perseverance in the face of obstacles. When you focus on operating from what’s right with you, the happier and more successful you will be! 


Suzanne Levy, ACC, CMC, CHWC, CPPC, NBC-HWC is the Owner at Evergreen Life and Wellness Coaching, an Evergreen business in Evergreen, Colorado. She holds the following credentials:   Certified Mentor Coach, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Associate Certified Coach, International Coach Federation. She works with women and men looking to achieve Whole Being Wellness at every stage of their life, working particularly with lifestyle, stress management, career planning, time management and burnout. She seeks to help her clients develop awareness of how both health and mindset impact successful performance. Her work with clients encompasses the whole-being – lifestyle, food, exercise, sleep and mood. You may contact her at:  
Evergreen Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC 
P.O. Box 206
Evergreen, CO  80437
Telephone:  303-670-7863