• Living In A Positive World: Guest Q & A with Huffington Post Blogger, Meghan Keener


    Living In A Positive World

    A few years back, I appeared on a reality show for TLC and met the wonderful Meghan Keener where she then served as a Story Producer.  We hit it off instantly.  I consider her a friend and most of all inspiring with her column and the study of applied positive psychology.  As a proud junkie for inspiration, I was curious to learn of her take on the fundamentals of happiness.

    1. I’m intrigued of what exactly is a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology.  Can you tell me what is entails and why choose this as a study of work?
    A master’s degree in applied positive psychology examines, through the lens of science, the things that make life worth living – things like achievement, good relationships, creativity, and vibrant health. Whereas psychologists’ general goal is to move people away from a negative state (such as depression or anxiety), positive psychology looks at where to go from there, positioning people towards their best possible ends. Also, whereas a lot of psychologists go into research or clinical applications, applied positive psychology is more focused on the real-world solutions to helping people achieve what they want out of life – in normal everyday situations like work and family life.

    2.  How does this study affect your everyday life in changing the negative to a positive?
    The main thing it does is that it gives you a new lens through which you look at the negative. For example, that of resilience, or that of character strengths. Sometimes it’s not the experience but the way that you see that experience; you might ask yourself, “What resources do I have to deal with this?” or “How might I create meaning from this tragedy?”  Being able to understand how mindfulness, for example, can help you become more emotionally regulated.  The negative will always be there. But we can learn from exemplars (think Nelson Mandela) and now from the social sciences how we can transform our experiences of those negatives into something that benefits us.

    3. Some have an innate quality of experiencing joy in everyday life. Do you believe people are born with a positive gene or not?
    That’s a great question. There is research that shows that some people just naturally have more positive affect than others. (What’s very interesting there is that you can be high in both positive affect and negative affect. They exist on different dimensions, so being one doesn’t preclude the other.) However, we also know from research that some of your happiness is a result of your circumstances and a great deal of your happiness is under your own control, because of the choices you make and the people with whom you surround yourself.  Also, the meaning you make out of situations and how you take advantage of your support resources plays a big part. And you can’t overstate the importance of physical health on well-being.

    4. With crisis, lack of jobs, poverty or any other trauma surrounding us, what 5 basic steps can help us to improve our happiness and/or well-being?

    • The first thing I have to mention is gratitude. I know your readers have heard this before, but it truly is like a magic pill. Gratitude practice actually retrains your brain to scan your environment for what’s already working in your life, so you start to see more and more of it.
    •  Understand your unique character strengths. One great tool is the free VIA character strengths assessment, which is a scientifically-valid test on how your strengths rank. The goal is for you to see what your natural assets are, so that you can put them to greater use in your life. It’s not about getting “better” at what you’re “bad” at, but aligning your life with what feels authentic and is your natural area for contribution. For example, the character strengths of social intelligence or kindness can create unique areas for contribution in the workplace.
    • I would point to what psychologist Chris Peterson called the number one finding of positive psychology: “Other people matter.” Spending time in high-quality connections with the people we love makes people happier than just about anything else, and it even helps the immune system.
    • Find your flow activities. Flow is the feeling you get when you’re using your skills to the point where you become completely immersed in an activity, time seems to stand still, and even your sense of self falls away. Try to notice which activities make you feel like this, and make time for them.
    • Lastly, creating a mission or purpose statement can give you an overarching sense of why you’re here. It also helps you when faced with everyday decisions, because it’s a shortcut: “Would doing this move me closer or further from my mission?”

    5. Why is it easier for people to be negative than positive?
    This is called the “negativity bias”. It was important to our ancestors to remember the dangerous things in their environment (which berries were poisonous, etc.) to protect themselves. The people that were the best at remembering what was dangerous were the people that survived to create offspring. The problem is that part of our brain is still controlling our daily lives, giving us the fight-or-flight response in situations that aren’t actually dangerous – such as a stressful meeting at work. Some research shows it takes several positive messages to counteract a single negative message.  Emotions can be contagious, so it’s not just about your own well-being – it’s also about the impact you have on others.

    6. What do you hope to bring to the public with @PosPsychology?
    Thanks for following! My Twitter feed is one place from which I generate purpose. I think that this field is something very exciting that can be applied in almost every domain of life, and people are hungry for this information. But not everybody can go get a master’s in this field, so it’s one way I can contribute and add to the collective knowledge in these exciting areas of theory, research, and application.

    7. Although challenging, I feel having a positive attitude brings a fruitful purpose in life.  What is your purpose in life?
    This question gets me thinking about the difference between meaning and purpose. To me, meaning is more about making sense of the past, and purpose is something that drives you towards the future. One thing that’s meaningful for me is the understanding positive outliers. How do people become great at anything (even bad things)? How does excellence manifest – in being a mom, being an athlete, being a businessman? In terms of purpose, that’s starting to change for me. Just as in normal adult development, we start to care more about our families, our communities, as we get older. Especially being trained in all of the things that don’t buy happiness, I want to structure my life around creating real lasting value for those I love through who I am, and for the ripples around me through the various kinds of work that I do.

    Meghan Keener, MAPP is a positive psychology expert and ICF-trained life coach. She is also a writer/producer, currently working at Discovery Communications and blogging for Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @PosPsychology or look her up at alifeextraordinary.us



  • How Film and TV Jobs Prepared Me for PR

    Maritza at a Nissan production shoot.

    At my first PR job I was told, “The agency will love you because of your production background.”

    I thought, “Well that’s a first.”

    It turned out she was right.

    A film publicity storm was about to make landfall, and my film and TV jobs on productions such as ALI, I Love You Philip Morris, Top Chef 3, and New in Town – as well as awards shows and commercials – had me prepped and ready.

    Looking back, I can’t help but think how similar the PR and film production industries are.  Not only did my experience prepare me for my publicity career, but it helped me in every day life.

    We have all experienced it right? Working with an array of personalities is probably the most challenging aspect of any industry. And it’s not just tending to celebrity personalities; it’s also the entire production crew.

    From assistant directors, producers, production managers, videographers, stylists, gaffers, and publicists – you have to learn not only to adapt to everyone’s professional needs, but also behavior associated with the culture of each individual industry. Getting demands from a million different directions (and people!) can deter you from keeping your ‘cool.’

    Sound familiar?

    It might not be talent demanding a certain variety of tea (yes, this has happened to me, and no, I will not name-drop). But it might be a client asking for the moon and stars, which is, of course, part of the job. What got me noticed was I did it all with a smile.

    Working on film and TV jobs is not for the faint of heart: A typical day is 12 hours long. I started at the bottom of the totem pole as a production assistant on the film,ALI. It was a go-get-this-go-get-that kind of gig – tough, but fun.

    Production jobs are like contract work – short lived – they last for a few months and then you’re off to the next project.

    I once worked 20 hours straight. Yes, you read that right. I literally had to scour for food and a corner to pause and breathe.

    Why? It was part of the job; it was low budget production with a large-scale execution. Crews regularly work very grueling hours.

    Some productions gigs require working outside in the extreme heat in the middle of nowhere. Working events as a film publicist was reminiscent of my past. Having experienced  the film production process – watching teams work as hard and as fast as possible to make things happen on schedule – I was prepared for PR. Working on red carpet events for up to 10-12 hours consists of setup, walk-through, media check-in, logistics, and handling talent. It is grueling NOT glamorous. But I was comfortable with ‘grueling.’

    Film and TV Jobs are Good Training Ground for PR
    Film production and PR careers look glitzy from the outside, but I know first-hand there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. It’s true that in production work there are aspects that could be seen as perks: Traveling, brushing up against starlets, and working with incredibly talented production teams.  There are moments, however, that shatter the veneer of it all, and make you question whether or not it’s the industry for you.

    I have witnessed numerous times crew members being fired so the producer could bring his own crew from elsewhere. I’ve watched my peers – talented professionals passed over because of circumstances that had nothing to do with their capabilities and skills – head home to begin the search for their next gig.

    Learning to bite my lip and pick up the slack prepared me for the public relations world.

    At times, PR campaigns have limited resources and tight budgets. Staff may have to wear multiple hats to spearhead a campaign. A PR pro can blog, pitch to the media, manage social media platforms, organize an event, and even clean up publicity stills on Photoshop. The only thing within your control is how hard you work, and that you do the work well. No matter what happens, you can always rely on yourself. That’s true in life too.

    Just like film and television production, PR has many moving parts and it’s a fast paced life. And in both industries, you’ll experience a certain amount of ruthlessness. You might get knocked down just as Will Smith did in ALI.

    But what’s important is how you get back up…and stay up.


    Article was originally posted on spinsucks.com


  • So your light bulb isn’t as bright?


    We all come to our fork in the road.  Which way do we turn?  Right, left or just stand in the middle and hope for someone to wave in lending us a hand.  As part of the public relations world, we know very well those moments of writer’s block, feeling stagnant or just down right bored.

    An artist friend of mine turned me to The Artist’s Way.  At first, I was intrigued. Then lost focus and put the book down.  Then picked it up again.  It’s a time of great self-discovery.  There are various tasks which forces you to sit down and literally write about yourself and your thoughts.  How is this different from keeping a diary?  Well, the tasks encourage you to ask yourself some deep thought questions.  What would your 80 yr. old self tell your current self?  What would your 8 yr. old tell your current self? In some ways, it can create new ideas and re-purpose old ones.

    However, my favorite way of creating new ideas stem from walking. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal takes us to a path of creativity be simply walking away.  I’m hoping this is not a new trend we are now just discovering.  We live to work. We’re physically at work more than our homes.  We sit at our desks and barely get up from them to get some kind of exercise.  You know who you are.  My biggest advice mirrors this article.  At this point, my hope for you is that you have chosen the best place to clear your head.  I’m hoping it’s outside where you drive more oxygen to your head and escape from those pesky fluorescent office lights.  Why walk away?

    • De-stress.
    • Ignite creativity.
    • Circulate the legs.
    • Connect with others (put your cell phone down!)
    • Get a different perspective.
    • Adjust your eyes other than being fixed on a computer screen.
    • Plug yourself into some of your favorite tunes.
    • Get some vitamin D.
    • You owe it to yourself.

    Tu camino es su derecho.  Your walk is your right. One of my favorite “walks” is at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.  So stop reading this post and start walking!


    Article also published on Project Eve.