Positive Psychological Capacities and Growth

Goal-Directed Behavior, Performance, Outcome

Actualizing goal-directed behavior becomes performance and outcome. By applying a time and space frame to behavior, we observe performance.

Performance is frame-dependent. Selecting a suitable frame is crucial to evaluating performance. 


Behavior has a growth edge in relation to set (growth) goals. Increasing capacity and expanding awareness help to manifest the potentialities inherent in the strengths and values of the individual, the group, and the organization. A planned approach to the learning and growth endeavor can accelerate this process.



Industry-level competitive strategy emanates from the idea of accruing advantages that could ultimately serve as barriers:

Advantages in the early stages of the market serve as entry barriers through government regulations.

Advantages in established markets serve as barriers to expanding market share through technological supremacy.

Advantages in mature late-stage and renewal markets serve as barriers to innovation through patent protection.

In each case, counter-forces such as deregulation, technological change and diffusion, and rapid innovation make barriers ineffective.

While economic capital, including financial and tangible assets, were the main drivers of performance and performance improvement well into the 1970s and 1980s, with the rise of information technology and the computer, production and delivery systems and processes have become more sophisticated.


Human Capitals 

New human, intellectual, and social capital factors have become significant drivers of performance and performance improvement.

Human capital in the form of employee knowledge, experience, skill, and expertise is a crucial success factor for sustained organizational performance.

More accurately, effective human capital engagement with the organizational processes creates value.

The task of the organization is to develop and manage human capital effectively.

What is capital? It is a resource; metaphorically speaking, it is a form of energy, ready and available for use to produce some outcome.

Competencies, the collective employee knowledge, skills, and abilities are organized through managerial leadership and flow into intangible assets.

Intangible assets in operation with tangible assets create value.

Intangible assets are created by law or by social convention.


What does make the enterprise effective? What does have a significant positive impact on performance outcomes?

When the resource of human capital in the form of capabilities and competencies is aligned with the corporate strategy and fully engaged in the creative process, value is created in the form of outcomes: products, services, sales, income, flows and stocks, etc.

A cycle of employee satisfaction, engagement, and business outcomes is established.


What is the specific contribution of human capital to performance outcomes?

In the old economy, performance could be linked directly to a certain level of output or production.

In the new economy, however, value is increasingly derived from intangible sources, and measuring the specific impact of human capital on corporate performance is more based on ideology than critical inquiry.

The idea that human capital can provide a company with an asset that is valuable, rare, and difficult to replicate and, therefore, a source of sustained competitive advantage is an ideology claim.


Developing Psychological Capacities 

Positive leaders and their associates work to develop positive psychological capital (PsyCap), thereby improving individual and organizational performance. PsyCap comprises self-efficacy (also called confidence), hope, optimism, and resilience.

To build PsyCap, get engaged and absorb in flow.

In the workplace, you get to “flow” through personal and organizational goal alignment and job fit.

The four positive psychological capacities of confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience are conceptualized as positive psychological capital (by Luthans);

as well as the four trait manifest variables of trait core confidence higher-order construct (by Stajkovic).

Following POB, positive organizational behavior, these capacities are measurable, open to development, and can be managed for more effective work performance.

These four states apply to today’s workplace and contribute to positive psychological capital, with a return of improved performance, such as higher productivity, better customer service, and higher employee retention.


Capacities are considered states, making them malleable: you can assess, develop, strengthen, and manage your states; if you know what you are doing.

Inspired by the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Model, you can “Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself” to grow and beneficially use your capacities in life, work, love, and play.


In a coaching context, we are interested in expanding resources and using them to improve the client’s wellbeing and achievement. Hope, optimism, self-efficacy, and resilience are an excellent combination of positive capacities for the client to work on to forward their action and deepen their learning.


Some confusing words on capacities

Capacities are states, meaning they don’t stay the same over time. Well, nothing stays the same over time, so what makes a state different from a so-called trait?

The frequency or duration of change or stability?

The ease of change, the intensity, what is it?

Is it age-dependent, where a capacity becomes more or less malleable at age 10, 20, or 30?

Or does some window of malleability open and close, dependent on life stage, need, or circumstance?

What about neural structures and networks more or less susceptible to experiential formation? How are they linked to states?

Or muscle memory, habits, etc.?

What is the place of affective learning in shaping capacities?

Can an intensive affective experience build in a day what a lifetime of practice didn’t achieve?

Or, the opposing case, destroy hope and optimism in a day for which you practiced and built a decade?


Another Word on Capacities

From Lycan (1987), the organism is an “institution” containing psychological capacities; these are just below the level of the organism itself but several levels above the neurobiological. To locate the psychological directly at the neuroanatomical level is “implausible.” Psychological capacities are processes. They are temporally extended and typically transform an input into an output. To establish the relationship between psychological capacities and something neurobiological, we have to focus on neurobiological activities, not neurobiological structures. A capacity is an ability to perform a particular task, such as an information processing task.


Capacities operate as reservoirs of possibilities. Moment by moment, possibilities become actualities through the interaction of world events and personal choices, judgments, and actions.

Actualizing, or its absence, always impacts capacities; they either grow or decay. The person must make a (psychological) move to equilibrate at the higher or lower level of the previous state. An increase in capacity will dissipate if not stabilized through another psychological or interpersonal process such as acknowledgment, appreciation, reflection, noticing, valuing, celebrating, “prouding,” and championing.

Due to recency having a disproportionate effect on cognitive appraisals, a decline in capacity needs to be reappraised with a realistic optimist lens to prevent downward spirals, ripple effects, contagion, etc.

Equilibrium is always dynamic; there is no static stability in the human experience.

In a sense, the distinction of capacity and, for example, strengths, talents, etc., is artificial yet useful. We could speak of strengths as capacities, which would not be incorrect, but it would muddle up the concept of capacity and render it unuseful.

Distinctions between states, traits, capacities, capabilities, etc., can be mapped along the dimensions of:

automaticity – intentionality,

response time in terms of malleability,

the centrality of the concept in defining personhood,

the near-far, opposite neighbors,

effects of absence or excess

consequences of growing or deepening a capacity or a strength.


Concepts are tools for thinking. They can guide us to a clear understanding and insight. But unfortunately, they also can confuse our understanding if we do not use them with proper purpose and care.


Realizing Strengths, Actualizing Potential, Expanding Capacities

Where to start, what to do, what to expect?

{Here, we provide a complete, science and research-based, 93-module life enhancement program.}


Capacities are human potentials.

Energy flow is the increase in probabilities of possibilities. The moment of actualization of a potential (where its probability approaches a %100), we call presence, experienced as the “now” or time in human awareness. Simultaneously, an infinite number of possibilities increase in probability, and an endless number of possibilities decrease in probability. We experience this as change, the surface phenomenon of energy flow.

What is real? The energy flow is the real.

What is actual? The human experience is the actual.


Positive Psychological Resources

Capacities are resources. Using resources can contribute to wellbeing and life satisfaction. Using resources can also nurture resources, and not using resources may lead to their withering and languishing.

You will be inclined to use what you appreciate and value, and as always, the facilitative aspect of this process is your awareness, awareness of what you are, what you have, what you know, what you can do, what you can hope for, what you choose to do, and of how you are doing.


Positive Organizational Behavior and Psychological Capital

The idea that our human capacities impact our attitudes, behaviors, and judgments has its roots in pre-ancient times. First, it is expressed extensively in myths and later in philosophical discourse.

In the search for sustainable competitive advantage, i.e., to make more bucks than the other guy, brilliant scholars have repackaged human wisdom into the so-called scientific construct of Psychological Capital, PsyCap, making knowledge out of wisdom.

For an inquiry into the possibility of a social science, refer to Roy Bhaskar’s work on critical realism.

Words like “concept, construct, and higher-order construct” make the social science endeavor sound very convincing, more than when your grandmother tells you to be hopeful, to believe in yourself, to see the good things in life as well as the bad ones, and that this too shall pass.


POB is the study and application of positively oriented human resource strengths and psychological capacities.

Orientation implies direction.

High levels of PsyCap are claimed to be positively related to employee performance and job satisfaction and positively linked to wellbeing, health, and positive relationships.


A Note on Positive versus Negative Capacities

There are negative capacities. You have an inexhaustible capacity for self-deception, as an example. If you wish, devise a list of all these darker capacities in your spare time on a Sunday; plan for at least 5 hours, and have about 27 blank pages available for notes.


Hypnotized by Growth

What a word, isn’t it? We need growth in the economy, growth in financial assets, growth in our production capacities, growth in our organizations, in our institutions, in democracy, and now also in all things human resources.

To take a metaphor from medicine, we have benign tumors, and then we have cancer. The problem with the word benign is that we assume we know what we are talking about when we use it. Yet, we never know when a benign period may end and a malignant period may begin.

So, growth, go for it; just, maybe, for a moment, think about the externalities if you have any capacity for moral judgment.

References for Positive Psychological Capacities

References: Articles

Luthans, Avey, Avolio, Norman, & Combs, 2006. Psychological capital development: toward a micro-intervention, Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Luthans, Luthans, & Luthans, 2004. Positive psychological capital: Beyond human and social capital, Business Horizons.

Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000. The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work, Child Development.

Stajkovic, Lee, Greenwald, & Raffiee, 2015. The role of trait core confidence higher-order construct in self-regulation of performance and attitudes: Evidence from four studies. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Stajkovic, & Luthans, 2002. Social Cognitive Theory and Self-efficacy: Implications for Motivation Theory and Practice.


References: Books

Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007. Psychological Capital: Developing the Human Competitive Edge.

Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007. Psychological Capital: Investing and Developing Positive Organizational Behavior. In Nelson & Cooper (Eds). Positive Organizational Behavior.

Rasmussen & Wallio, 2008. The Health Benefits of Optimism. In Lopez (Ed). Positive Psychology: Exploring the Best in People. (Vol. 1) Discovering Human Strengths.