Authentic Happiness is the Risk Manager’s Bible


 Authentic Happiness is the Risk Manager’s Bible.  Even writing that statement seems strange.  Authentic happiness just doesn’t seem to go with the world of risk.  But why not?

Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness describes his book as “using the new positive psychology to realise your potential for lasting fulfilment”.   The focus of his book is on how positive thinking rather than negative thinking makes a more profound impact on people.  A large majority of the book discusses the role of negative emotion and how psychology historically has been focused on using negative processes and analysis.  However, we also found that his book highlights some critical considerations for any Risk Manager.

He notes that optimistic people “tend to interpret their troubles as transient, controllable, and specific to one situation.  Pessimistic people, in contrast, believe that their troubles last forever, undermine everything they do, and are uncontrollable”. Now let’s consider for a moment these words and risk management. Clearly we want individuals in an organisation to be more in control than not.  We also want people to see their events and incidents but we do not want them to feel they last forever, And we definitely do  not want people working for our organisations that undermine everything they do.

This book is filled with perfect quotes for Risk Mangers, take “the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths.”  In risk management we want organisations and businesses to consider the risks and to do so you need to know your strengths so as to utilise these to manage risk.

Risk management is generally seen as a negative occupation.  However, we know that to be the best possible Risk Manager you need to focus on what is best for the business to manage risk.  Martin highlights that “a positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood.”  So, the Risk Manager that can embrace positivity can better help a business manage their risks as they will be able to see entirely new options in risk management.

Martin also highlights that “gratitude amplifies the savoring and appreciation of the good events gone by, and rewriting history by forgiveness loosens the power of the bad events to embitter (and actually can transform bad memories into good ones).”  In risk management we talk constantly about the need for people to raise events and using events of the past to learn for the future.  Martin confirms this is a wonderful way of achieving authentic happiness and positive outcomes.  Bad events should not embitter us, or the people it impacts, as if we use that mentality we will end up not learning from our past but rather trying to avoid it.  Rather, as Risk Managers we should embrace our past, transform the bad events into good memories.  Memories should be used by an organisation to learn from the past and leverage it for a brighter and better future.

So how do we change our thinking as Risk Managers from negative to positive?

Martin provides us with the key tool.  “Once you recognize that you have a pessimistic thought that seems unwarranted, argue against it using the ABCDE model. A stands for adversity, B for the beliefs you automatically have when it occurs, C for the usual consequences of the belief, D for your disputation of your routine belief, and E for the energization that occurs when you dispute it successfully.”  Using this model he highlights that anyone can turn a pessimistic view into a positive and pro-active view that will help them succeed.

During our reading of Martin’s book we highlighted no fewer than 30 passages that could easily be utilised by any Risk Manager.  So, we ask you to question yourself and consider “Authentic Happiness” as the Risk Manager’s bible.   You may find that this one book provides you with a new way of approaching how you manage risk.  And we hope it changes you from the negative Risk Manager to the positive Risk Manager.

On a final note, Martin details that we should “reserve five hours of the work week for ‘signature strength time’, a nonroutine assignment that uses individual strengths in the service of the firm’s goals.”  We recommend that in that five hours, you dedicate some of the time to bringing that strength into the world of risk management in a positive and authentically happy way!