Mary Zenzen is a gem, full of delightful surprises.
A striking blonde who flew in from Colorado to join our CAPP weekends in Philadelphia, Mary reminds you of a jewel, showing different sparkling light when turned.
Example 1: Courage. At an early on-site, Mary shared that one of her sons was having difficulty learning. Counter to advice from his teachers, Mary trusted her sense of what he needed and put him on a different academic regimen, requiring him to figure out how to learn. She was right: he figured it out and is flourishing in his learning now.
Example 2. Integrity. During lunch at on-sites, Mary looked for partners to walk with. Literally walking the talk, she kept her body active, which is one of the principles we learn in class. On one of these walks, she described to me her life with her Mom, then with her husband and friends. An exercise with her answering personal questions confirmed what I suspected. Throughout her life, Mary walks the talk. Integrity permeates her actions with family, friends, and husband.
Example 3. Service. During another on-site, Mary leaks out a service project for which she was project manager: World Vision, Step into Africa, AIDS experiential exhibit at Colorado State University (2008). “How many of these have you done, Mary? “Oh, about every 5 years I do another….” Following are her descriptions of 2 others she helped start and of which she was a board member:
1. Character Fort Collins: A city-wide character movement which involved the City of Fort Collins, Larimer County, Poudre School District, Colorado State University, the business community, the faith community, and the family sector (2000-8).
2. CHAMP: A city-wide character movement for coaches, parents, and teachers which used a train-the-trainer delivery model to equip coaches to be good coaches of character (2003-8).
Spotlight Questions for Mary:
Briefly describe your life until now.
I am experiencing an unexpected gift of midlife: an interesting combination of wisdom and hindsight from the past, with plenty of runway in front of me to dream and create for the future.
I am deeply grateful for my family. I was blessed with: loving and intelligent parents (a great start); a husband I’ve been growing with for 30 years; beautiful responsible adult children who are a complete blessing; and, now a grandchild and another on the way. Wow–I see why people on their deathbeds wish they worked less and enjoyed their families more.
I was given lot of tools for dealing with life, but when I found positive psychology I had what I needed to teach others, and make that my life’s calling. Now, I am on my way, with many thanks to Louis, Emiliya, and our CAPP 10 cohort in Philadelphia. I wanted a supportive professional community to grow with, and I found one. Thank you all for being my CAPP family… one more family for which I am deeply grateful!
What drew you to Positive Psychology?
I have studied leadership, business, psychology, and spirituality all my adult life–about 30 years. I turned to them when I was in a difficult spot or in a transition where I needed to reinvent myself. 5 years ago, I entered a tricky transition–empty nest, midlife, and a job that wasn’t using all my skills and abilities. It was a very empty place where I toughed it out, but I needed something new and life-giving to get me growing again. My job took me out east on a regular basis, so I started reading the New York Times and found an article about Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work. Reading her books, connecting the dots, and finding other positive psychology researchers… I knew I was on to something that provided purpose and meaning in my life again and which I could turn into meaningful work to help others. I took a 40-hour Pursuit of Happiness certificate course, and then found the International Positive Psychology Association. When attended its conference last summer, I met Emiliya and Louis and signed up for CAPP 10! The program met all of my personal and professional goals, and I’m well on my way to integrating positive psychology into my personal and professional life.
What lessons has PP taught you?
The biggest lessons.
1. The conditions by which human flourishing emerges can be generated through intentional effort. Positive psychology provides the evidence-based strategies for generating higher levels of positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and purpose, achievement and vitality.
2. I can put the fundamentals of positive psychology to work in a specific context–e.g., the workplace. The Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan provides the most relevant framework for doing this.
3. Practicing and teaching positive psychology are extremely important in setting up this generation and the next for success. There is work to be done to embed positive psychology teaching and practices into systems and organizations. We start with ourselves and recruit others into the process. It’s a lot of work. I’m up for it!
Write your life story of the next 3 years:
So, Mary starts a company called Better World Organizations, LLC, which equips people to set a new standard for positive leadership and performance. She teaches positive psychology and how it can be integrated into systems and organizations to thousands, no, millions, of people by the year 2020. Individuals start taking responsibility for becoming positive change agents in their workplaces, schools, families, and communities. The root of many problems dries up as mindset shift from “fixed” to “growth.” Mayors, school superintendents, police chiefs, and community leaders say, “There was a time when people didn’t understand the power of gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness….Today, most people understand positive psychology principles, put them to work in their own lives, and teach others. These people integrate positive psychology into their workplaces, schools, families, and communities all the time. It’s great to have everyone working together to create positive organizations and communities.”
So, Mary is talking to the mayor now….He’s interested.
Wow, Mary. Rock our world.
<Student Spotlight contributed by David Shen, CAPP>