#39 Meeting Barbara

Sometimes I think the Universe is lending me a helping hand in pursuing my Fabulous Feats. This was the case when I ran across a post on Facebook for The Canadian Positive Psychology Association and discovered that their conference was taking place in June at White Oaks, Niagara-on-the-Lake. At that time, I was still in search of work and so inquired about volunteering to reduce the cost of my registration. The result was becoming an Ambassador for the three day event that included some of the biggest names in positive psychology research: Caroline Miller, David Cooperrider, and, I could hardly believe my luck, Barbara Fredrickson.

Of course, life 2016-06-18 15.38.14also has a way of making things just a bit more complicated than we anticipate and between my registration and the conference I was privileged enough to be hired to work for Niagara Region Mental Health. I had several commitments I had made prior to beginning work and had already taken time off for my convocation, and needed three days for a trip to Ottawa (stay tuned for my SPARKie adventures in the next blog) the week after the conference so taking a full three days off for the conference was a bit challenging (thank you for hiring me, do you mind if I take half the month of June off?).  My Manager and team were stars, though, allowing me to pick up an extra weekend of work so I could use my days off to attend the conference.

I had been assigned to the registration desk which meant I needed to be at White Oaks Resort by 6:45 on the first two days. I was excited to be able to attend sessions after morning registration and before the pre conference check-ins on the first evening.  I enjoyed meeting the participants and was giddy after attending sessions on such topics as appreciative inquiry, mindfulness, and grit. At the end of one workshop, when each participant was sharing what we would take away with us, I ridiculously blurted out “I found my tribe!” which was met with laughter and delighted affirmations from others in the room.

On the second day, I looked forward to being able to slip away from the registration desk in time to hear one of my rock star researchers, Barbara Fredrickson, deliver the keynote.  I felt especially excited because Dr. Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory is foundational to my own growth over the last couple of years. She posits that positive emotion2016-06-23 17.53.48s like joy, contentment, and love, help people to be open to new ideas  (broaden) that, in turn, allows individuals to grow their physical, intellectual,and social resources (build). Her research has provided strong support that positive emotions broaden one’s awareness and encourage novel, varied,and exploratory thoughts and actions that build skills and resources which can be drawn on later for coping and resilience. I feel that my own positive focus has been the driving force for my own psychological growth and my ability to bounce back in the face of challenges.  Further, in my new position working with individuals living with severe mental illness, I feel that broaden and build can provide a means by which narrow and limiting focuses on negative emotions can be improved through opening up to the power of building wellbeing through small positive thoughts and actions.

It is at this point that the Universe interceded again: one of the room monitors was absent and I was asked to take over the duties. This meant I was relieved of registration duties and found myself able to arrive early for Dr. Fredrickson’s keynote. I picked a seat right in front of the podium and was so excited. I would see my research hero up close. As I scanned the room, I noticed a woman sitting alone at the table next to me.  I quickly realized it was HER! Drawing on my broaden and build resources, I surprised myself by walking right over to her and introducing myself. I told her of how much her research has meant to me personally and how I felt I could bring it to the clients with whom I was now working. She was gracious and humble; she thanked me for sharing my experiences and told me that because she did not work with clinical populations, she was grateful when others shared their stories and especially related to taking the research to those whom it could help the most. She shook my hand and I returned to my seat.

Barbara’s keynote was amazing: she talked about prioritzing positivity and the importance of interpersonal micro-moments of positivity that open everything from our physical posture to our ability to consider different possibilities, ideas, and relationships. I left her talk buoyed by both the message and the messenger.

I completed my duties as Ambassador introducing speakers in several sessions and thanking them for their contributions. At the final keynote, the volunteers were brought on stage and, in turn, thanked for our efforts. I felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to play even a small role in this incredible event. Thanks to all who brought the CPPA into my world (Universe included).

Next up: A SPARKie goes to Ottawa.


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