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Discovering the power of positive psychology with Dr. Wendy O’Connor: How to unlock our potential and design the life we want

Dr. Wendty Oconnor on Speaking of Phenomenal Podcast

Dr. Wendy O’Connor had a one-year-old baby at home and owned a private psychology clinic when her twin daughters were born. As she adjusted to new responsibilities, another shift happened. Dr. Wendy felt it, questioned it and found a new and very specific mission: to help women become truly happy by deepening their self-knowledge and overcoming fear.

In the second episode of Season 3 of the Speaking of Phenomenal Podcast, she describes to host Amy Boyle how the shift in her priorities after becoming a mom and the resistance she found when closing her private practice to become a happiness coach informed her career transition and strengthened her belief in the power of positive psychology. “If we let other people’s opinions have power over us, we can very quickly just short-circuit a dream instantly.”

In a world that values productivity and instant gratification, where many women (myself included, as a foreigner who is currently shifting careers) feel insecure and sometimes frustrated about their passions and desires, Dr. Wendy reminds us that it is worth it to explore our discomfort with the current situation, that our thoughts (and other people’s) very seldomly reflect reality and that obstacles exist to make us stronger in the journey. 

One might think it is easier for her because she is a trained psychologist. But with a bit of curiosity and courage, we, too, can change our relationship with our fears and unlock our potential. These two questions by Dr. Wendy might help us start: “What are the parts of my life that bring me joy and fulfillment? And what are the parts that feel either a little stale or disconnected or kind of lackluster?”

During this episode, Dr. Wendy encourages women in the audience to dare to take non-obvious paths, “allowing yourself full permission to experience it all, to be happy and grateful as all heck that you have an incredible life and there’s not much to complain about and to honor the deeper desire for more.” First, we must approach our feelings of detachment and frustration with curiosity. Then, discover our strengths and what we want our lives to look like. During this process, she says we should remember that gratitude and ambitiousness are compatible. “You get to have both.”

We can’t control the shortcomings – that will happen, for sure – but we can influence our interpretation of them. In other words, how we experience them. In Dr. Wendy’s case, that meant moving on when people told her her career shift was too risky. For each of us, that means being intentional about what we want, why we want it and what we need to achieve it. “You’re on a road trip to somewhere really freaking good. And there’s going to be traffic. There’s going to be potholes. There’s going to be flat tires. There’s going to be bathroom breaks. There’s going to be snack breaks. There’s going to be construction… A lot of times, there’s this expectation that it should be linear. And what we don’t even realize by wishing that is that we’re actually wishing away the very tools we need to create and sustain what we’re after.”

Now it’s your turn to think: How do you want to experience your life? What fears can you (or should you) reshape?

You can find Dr. Wendy on Instagram

Carolina Baldin is a freelance journalist from Brazil. Having worked in law, policy and regulation, she is passionate about everyday stories that illustrate larger issues. She graduated from a master's program at Northwestern University in 2023 and became a guest blogger on the "Speaking of Phenomenal" podcast blog in March 2024.

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