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InFocus

Positive psychology and pride

Positive psychology promotes happiness over coping with each crisis as it occurs and can enhance your pride experience, in turn allowing you to flourish in the workplace

Pride is one of the most meaningful experiences in life.

In psychology literature there are numerous studies investigating self-oriented pride. This is the type of pride we get from self-oriented achievements such as passing an exam, placing a central line or repairing a fracture.

In workplace-oriented studies, pride can also be seen as more of a collective attitude, derived from team achievements and fostered by the sense of belongingness, similar to the feeling the whole team gets after a successful caesarean section, when every team member has a puppy and the surgeon is swelling with geniality while suturing up. Or when we resuscitate a collapsed patient post-road traffic accident and chest trauma. Or when we, as a team, tend to a client who has many needs and worries. This is other-focused pride which especially applies to veterinary practices.

By looking at dynamic pride both from the self and from the team, we can see many opportunities for enhancing pride in ourselves and in the workplace.

By looking at dynamic pride both from the self and from the team, we can see many opportunities for enhancing pride in ourselves and in the workplace

You can also further divide pride into self-focused short-term pride, self-focused long-term pride, other-focused short-term pride and other-focused long-term pride. Most goals will fall into self-focused short-term pride and other-focused long-term pride. For simplicity, we will concentrate on these.

Positive psychology

It is only recently with the emergence of what is called “positive psychology” that people’s happiness has become something that we actually study and even attempt to measure.

This new branch of psychology, while it may seem obviously important now, has shifted the research focus from pathology (ie analysing personality disorders, psychological pathology and traumas) to optimal human function and flourishing; by doing so, it addresses how to enable individuals and work communities to thrive (Seligman, 2011).

This new branch of psychology … has shifted the research focus from pathology … to optimal human function and flourishing; by doing so, it addresses how to enable individuals and work communities to thrive (Seligman, 2011)

Positive psychology has promoted human flourishing as the ultimate goal of scientific research. That is why counselling is no longer solely something for when you are desperate and in crisis: it is a therapy for enhancing well-being as well.

Positive computing

There is a massive part of product design dedicated to the design and development of technology used for psychological well-being and human potential, or the so-called “positive computing” which has been inspired by the mindset of positive psychology.

The inspiration for this discipline of design is drawn from the ideas of positive psychology by moving from:

  • Preventing pain towards promoting happiness, even by doing simple things such as using bandages with pictures
  • Material sufficiency towards experiential value (Pohlmeyer, 2012), for example using alarm clocks that brighten slowly and then burst into birdsong
  • Immediate response towards long-term impact, such as using seasonal affective disorder light visors

Human flourishing has essentially changed the traditional design process, exemplified by recent scholarly advice such as “think experience before product” (Hassenzahl, 2010). 

Staff will flourish and be more productive if they have what is called “pride experience” in the workplace

So, translated to the veterinary workplace, staff will flourish and be more productive if they have what is called “pride experience” in the workplace. Positive psychology promotes enhancing workplace happiness rather than the old-fashioned “putting out fires” attitude of getting by.

So, what can provide us with pride experience?

In general, we all feel our work life holds more meaning when we are:

  • Motivated by cherished goals such as exams or promotions
  • Aware of self-improvement, for example appraisals and being given/taking on more responsibility
  • Involved in healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Loyal to our beliefs and ethics

Enhancing self-focused pride

Every day at work we do something worthwhile, something worthy of pride. It might not be the fracture repair or central line placement mentioned earlier; it may be the swift running of a blood sample, the efficient handling of a difficult client interaction, remembering the name of the dog in the waiting room or getting the inappetent patient to eat.

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.

Steven Maraboli

But all too often we don’t notice the mini victories. Why? Because we are too busy: there’s no time for basking in glory as it is only a mini victory and you think “I do it all the time” and “I could do that in my sleep”. Yet, all the people who ask you what you do for a living, who gasp in admiration and envy when you tell them your job, would be over the moon with joy and pride if they were able to take blood and run it, if they could use a feeding tube or take radiographs.

It is as though we have become immune to the feeling of achievement once we have achieved a task once, and that feeling is never to be revisited.

So how do I notice the mini victories?

Mindfulness: only you can change you.

It takes no time and it is simply focusing on noticing the present moment rather than only noticing the things which need fixing, the next task or the list of problems. Take a random hour at work and try to make a conscious decision to notice every mini victory in that hour with your whole attention for as long as is practical. This a great place to start.

Take a random hour at work and try to make a conscious decision to notice every mini victory in that hour with your whole attention for as long as is practical

At first, it will take a lot of effort and may be quite tiring. But with practice you will notice that a few mini victories added together make for a good feeling, and a few good feelings a day might accumulate into a great day. Noticing several great days per month may be the difference between feeling pride in yourself and leaving the practice.

Enhancing other-focused pride

Other-focused pride comes from interpersonal interactions and the influence between oneself and others. Moral accomplishment as an individual and as a team is associated with a feeling of pride and inner well-being, and we can take intrinsic pride in how we work. Others in your social interactions in the clinic can empathise with your experience of pride and therefore can contribute to our psychological empowerment and promote future successes (Froman, 2010).

It follows that we are uniquely placed to feel other-focused pride during the progression of events in veterinary practice: from treating the client with care and kindness, to communicating well as a team, to each member of the team enhancing the client experience, and through each diagnosis, treatment, discharge and follow-up – and by placing the thank-you card from the client up on the communal board so that the whole team can feel that same sense of achievement.

Others in your social interactions in the clinic can empathise with your experience of pride and therefore can contribute to our psychological empowerment and promote future successes (Froman, 2010)

Lu and Roto (2016) (2003) talks about a powerful closed loop of energy derived from pride: “Better performance contributes to business success, and recognized business success instils a strong feeling of pride, which fuels future better performance”.

It is a no-brainer really. Self-focused pride is something you can achieve today in the next hour. Other-focused pride you can achieve by looking around at your team and then contributing.

Pride can grow from there if we make the effort.

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