In mid-June I was fortunate to hear Tal Ben-Shahar, the author of Happier, speak at a private event about the importance of positive psychology... always, and especially in these difficult times. The science of psychology, it seems, has focused primarily on identifying what's wrong, what needs to be fixed, strengthened, and even eradicated to live a happier and more fulfilling existence.
Positive psychology, by contrast, strives for a more balanced approach-one that also considers what's right and those things that are working, and working well, to create a more holistic, complete and honest sense of a person or situation.
Over the past ten months, it's been easy for advisors to see (and perhaps obsess about) the difficulties that are both close to home and lurking ominously in the background-such as declining account balances, negative performance, departing clients, a mercurial Dow, mounting home foreclosures, flawed credit practices, titanic corporate failures, the questionable execution of TARP-and overlook all that is, in fact, working.
Professor Ben-Shahar cautions that a Pollyannaish optimism, one that is detached from reality, is neither practical nor healthy. But seeing both sides of the equation by gently and continually balancing the bad with the good is both realistic and beneficial. So now may be the time to be thankful, repeatedly and even fervently thankful, for gainful employment, the patience of clients, the intelligence and doggedness of portfolio managers, trailing commission schedules and the compassion of peers and business associates.