The Good Life

Positive psychology and what makes life worth living.

Affirmation on Your Desktop

Affirmation should occur in the workplace.

I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest. — Muhammad Ali

I took an airplane flight the other day, which was smooth but nonetheless eventful. I was glancing through the Skymall Magazine that I found in the seatback in front of me and saw an item for sale that put a smile on my face, in part because it was silly and in part because it was not silly and therefore made me think.

The item is called Bob's Affirmation Box, and it is a small wooden box in which the sorts of things you might keep on your desk at work can be stored. Every time the lid is opened, it says something positive*. Apparently, all these comments are addressed to someone named Bob:

You're the best, Bob.

Looking good, Bob.

Brains and brawn, Bob. You have it all!

Bob, you rock.

Everybody loves you, Bob.

Maybe someday there will be a version of the affirmation box that can be personally programmed with your name or mine, but Bob's Affirmation Box costs only $24.95, so we should not criticize. Until such a personalized product exists, you can always legally change your name to Bob. In Michigan, this can be done at any county courthouse for a fee of $150.00. Bob, you're worth it!

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While I was smiling, I was also thinking, and I did so from the vantage of positive psychology. I am often asked about positive psychology and The Secret, the runaway best-seller based on the so-called natural law of attraction: Our thoughts and feelings attract into our life congruent experiences and events. If we think positive thoughts, we will attract wealth, health, and happiness.

I wish it were that simple. Nonetheless, affirmation can be an ingredient of success and happiness, as the large research literature on hope and optimism documents. Affirmation is only one of many ingredients of the good life, to be sure, but it still warrants our attention, as long as we do not stop with it.

Bob's Affirmation Box is a good starting point, if we remember that our thoughts influence our actions and that our actions influence our outcomes, for better or for worse.

It is thoroughly implausible that the affirmation box in and of itself will change anybody's life, but it will likely bring a smile to Bob's face, and it will likely spark conversations with those who might be in Bob's office when he opens it. That's all good.

 

The affirmation box could be placed on your kitchen counter, on your night stand, or on the handlebars of your exercise bike. But I think it makes most sense to put it on your desk at work.

Why? Despite the huge amount of time that many of us spend at work, it is remarkable how little affirmation occurs there. Indeed, positive psychology research suggests that the good life can be elusive in the workplace, because for many of us, what's missing there often includes friends and flow and the habitual use of our strengths and talents.

The terribly serious point about this otherwise silly product is that affirmation should occur in the workplace. And while we might leave our office door ajar hoping someone will drop by and say something positive to us, why not drop by a co-worker's office and say something affirming to him or her? I suspect you may set something good in motion and have an instance of the law of attraction that is not fanciful.

*You can listen to some of these affirmations at: http://www.whatonearthcatalog.com/whatonearth/Item_Bobs-Affirmation-Box_CD0776_ps_dpr.html

 

 

Christopher Peterson was professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

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