The Quantified Self: New Avenues for Positive Psychology Research and Application - Part 4: Self-Experimentation Capacity Building & Quantified Coaching

Self-Experimentation Capacity Building: The Future of Applied Positive Psychology

Linley, Joseph, Maltby, Harrington and Wood (2009) strongly believe that the goal of positive psychologists should be to spread the positive psychology message as wide as the ability to do so allows us.  They firmly believe in the applied power of positive psychology to facilitate optimal functioning.  Most positive psychology-based interventions focus on cultivating happiness, well-being, and psychological capital by leveraging strength-based interventions; however,  new types of positive psychology-based interventions may be even more beneficial to increasing the optimal functioning in people’s lives - self-experimentation capacity building & quantified coaching.

Taking heed of a hot topic in evaluation - evaluation capacity building (ECB) - I propose that interventions to build self-experimentation capacity may be a new frontier towards increasing well-being.  ECB is about learning how to think evaluatively and how to engage in sound evaluation practice (Preskill & Boyle, 2008).  ECB stems from the approach that the most important part of an evaluation is its utilization in making decisions (Patton, 1997).  Rather than simply conducting an evaluation of a program or organization, evaluators that advocate ECB strive to create an evaluation culture within the organization by empowering individuals and groups to take evaluative processes into their own hands (Preskill & Boyle, 2008).  ECB involves the design and implementation of teaching and learning strategies to help individuals and groups learn about what constitutes effective and useful evaluation practice. The ultimate goal of ECB is sustainable evaluation practice, where individuals continuously collect, analyze, and interpret data to make better-informed decisions.  In our case, it would not be evaluation, but instead, self-experimentation capacity building.  Influenced by Preskill & Boyle’s (2008) model of evaluation capacity building, I propose a preliminary list of objectives that ideally should be met when building self-experimentation capacity.  The objectives can be categorized under knowledge, skills, and affective domains.


Self-Experimentation Capacity Building (Quantified Coaching) Objectives

Knowledge – Participants/Clients Understand:

  • Self-Experimentation involves purposeful, planned, and systematic activities
  • Experimentation terms and concepts
  • The strengths and weaknesses of different experimental, quasi-experimental and correlational designs
  • The strengths and weaknesses of different data collection methods
  • What tools are available to use for self-experimentation and how to use them
  • How to apply basic statistical analyses to quantitative data
  • How to apply basic thematic and content analyses to qualitative data

Skills (behaviors) – Participants/Clients are Able to:

  • Develop relevant hypotheses
  • Develop simple logic models
  • Design simple experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational studies
  • Choose appropriate data-collection instruments and methods
  • Select appropriate technology to conduct self-experimentation
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data
  • Interpret results and draw conclusions
  • Teach others about self-experimentation

Affective – Participants/Clients Believe and Feel that:

  • Self-experimentation yields useful information
  • Self-experimentation can be a positive experience
  • Self-experimentation should be a part of everyday life
  • Self-experimentation contributes to a person’s success
  • Self-Experimentation adds value to the individual
  • Self-Experimentation is worth the time and money

End Thoughts

Self-Experimentation Capacity Building interventions, workshops, and educational programs should be built and implemented around these objectives.  I believe that Self-Experimentation Capacity Building & Quantified Coaching represent the next evolution of applied positive psychology.  As more people learn about the value of self-experimentation, the usefulness of its findings, and how to properly conduct decent to good science, a healthier and more optimal society will result.  This notion is similar to Donald Campbell’s utopian “experimenting society” where people think critically and make highly informed decisions that lead to the positive evolution of the world (Shadish, Cook, & Leviton, 1991).  If my proposal is correct, self-experimentation & quantified coaching could become powerful pathways to higher well-being, happiness, and meaning - perhaps more effective and customized pathways than positive psychology has ever seen.  When individuals are empowered to effectively collect and analyze data on whatever they find most meaningful to their own personal development, the possibilities for increasing optimal functioning are endless.  This skillset can further be complemented by working with a qualified quantified coach, who can help one  build self-experimentation capacity and guide one on their self-tracking journey.

Are you tracking anything right now?  Have you ever worked with a coach? What benefits have you experienced?



Further Reading & References: 

Linley, A. P., Joseph, S., Maltby, J., Harrington, S. & Wood, A. M.. (2009). Positive psychology applications. In C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.) Handbook of Positive Psychology (35-47). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Patton, M. Q. 1997 Utilization-focused evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Preskill, H., & Boyle, S. (2008). A multidisciplinary model of evaluation capacity building. The American Journal of Evaluation. 29(4), 443-459.

Shadish, W.R., Cook, T.D., & Leviton, L.C.L. (1991).  Foundations of Program Evaluation.  Newbury Park, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.

Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., Sullivan, B. A., & Lorentz, D. (2008). Understanding the search for meaning in life:  Personality, cognitive style, and the dynamic between seeking and experiencing meaning.  Journal of Personality, 76(2), 199-228.