The term "positive psychology" first appeared in the last chapter of Dr. Abraham Maslow's 1954 book Motivation and Personality, the title of which was, "Toward a Positive Psychology." In this chapter, Maslow maintains that “psychology itself does not have an accurate understanding of human potential, and that the field tends not to raise the proverbial bar high enough with respect to maximum attainment."
Whereas the contemporary disease model of psychology is often considered overly preoccupied with pathology, positive psychology incorporates its key elements of humanism, by supporting the notion that people are predisposed to seek ongoing growth and higher improvement.
More recently, Drs. Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology as the study of how human beings excel in the face of hardship. Seligman characterizes the six human virtues of wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, and spirituality and transcendence. He claims to have arrived at this list of basic virtues, by distilling it from a cross-section of theological, sociological, and philosophical teachings from across the centuries of recorded civilized human history.
I have come to understand modern "positive psychology" as akin to a “neo-humanistic” approach to the understanding of human behavior. The early influences of humanism can also be seen within popularized versions of its ideology as found in the mid-20th century writings of its time, evidenced by Robert Collier's 1926 book, "The Secret of the Ages" and Napoleon Hill's 1937 book, "Think and Grow Rich." These best-selling books expounded upon the notion that positive ideas and thoughts have healthy transformative power.
Modern examples of these same philosophical influences can even be seen within the popularized writings of Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 "The Power of Positive Thinking," Wayne Dyer's 2004"The Power of Intention," and Rhonda Byrne's 2006 book, "The Secret."
The basic tenant within these modern writings seems to reflect aspects of many of the concepts related to positive psychology, partly suggesting that the things upon which we focus tend to become our reality, as we allow things to happen and do things, consistent with this structured focus, in order to manifest our desires. I do believe that one of the most vital benefits of positive psychology is its ability to offer its heartfelt reminder of the true nature of limitless possibilities and the power of human spirit and perseverance.