Positive Psychology: A Word With Rosa Nenonen from 'Pilots' Helsinki

Having worked as a model since she was a young girl, Rosa’s journey started from Finnish Lapland and took her through famous fashion capitals, Paris, Milan and New York, to San Francisco. During her years of self-exploration, she met several inspiring people and became puzzled by their secret: how are people able to reach their full potential? After having earned her certification in applied positive psychology and exploring its interest and demand in homeland, she founded Pilots Helsinki, ''The Academy for a Good Life'', which draws from the field of positive psychology, to share knowledge and skills for a meaningful life for individuals and organisations alike. 

Words: Meri Frig

Rosa Nenonen. 

Rosa Nenonen. 

Can you tell us briefly about the meaning and value of positive psychology? 

Positive psychology is the area of psychology that studies well-being, happiness, and character strengths. Traditional psychology has done meaningful work with mental illness, but that in itself is not enough. The other side of the human mind has been neglected almost entirely. If a person is not sick or depressed, it does not yet mean that the person would be happy and feel well. Positive psychology focuses on strengths and virtues and on developing and strengthening them.    

In what ways, in your opinion, can it make a positive contribution to people’s lives?

Positive psychology has had a very positive impact on my own life. I have learned to understand the human mind and its functions better, and therefore, I have become more aware of the restrictions of my own thought patterns. I believe that, with the study of positive psychology, I have been able to utilise my own potential better, my relationships have also deepened. Feelings catch, increasing my own happiness has also had a positive impact on people that are close to me. I feel that I have liberated and found a more meaningful direction to my life. 

You worked as a model and traveled all around the world. You mentioned you met several inspiring people during that time. What, or who, have inspired you the most, or inspire you right now?

There are so many! Meeting new people is always inspiring and interesting. The more varied and different the background and mindset, the more our own thinking can develop, if we only keep our own minds open. Then again, people are just people with their fears and sorrows, whether they live in Rovaniemi, where I was born and raised, or in New York, where I worked. People have a need to be seen and heard, appreciated and loved, and external success never takes away our human needs, even if some may pretend so. The most inspiring people are those who dare to be their own authentic selves and execute their own passions. 

"We stay easily imprisoned by circumstances and victimise ourselves – take the passenger’s seat in our own lives."

Rosa Nenonen x 'Pilots' Helsinki #Savant

How did you come up with 'Pilots' Helsinki, "The Academy for a Good Life"? 

I got acquainted with positive psychology when I lived in San Francisco and I was affected by it immediately – the scientific background convinced me. The field was still rather unknown in Finland and so I wanted to take forward what I had learned. Positive psychology was known only to a small academic group, but I knew that what I had learned would also benefit other people, but didn’t know how to reach the Finns that may be very reserved at times. It took me years to think how I could enclose it, so that people would give it a chance and not consider it as positivity nonsense. I started first with writing a blog about positive psychology themes, and I noticed that there really was interest – people were craving for information about well-being. The idea of 'Pilots' developed slowly during the years. At the end of 2016, I even surprised myself, being ready to launch 'Pilots', or the first version of it – we develop Pilots continuously. We want to share research about well-being in an easily approachable form. To help individuals and organisations recognise and shed the restrictions they have set to themselves, and therefore use their potential more fully – to help them reach their own best. We all have much more potential than we even believe. 

Why “pilots”? 

We are all pilots of our own lives, or at least we should be. We stay easily imprisoned by circumstances and victimise ourselves – take the passenger’s seat in our own lives. It is true that we cannot always control changing circumstances – at times there can be very challenging times, but we can find in ourselves the skill to get up again and find more favourable circumstances for our route. 

"People have a need to be seen and heard, appreciated and loved, and external success never takes away our human needs, even if some may pretend so." 

Rosa Nenonen. 

Rosa Nenonen. 

Who are in your target audience? How do you reach them? 

Our target audience is women  between 30 to 45 years of age. We reach them through social media.  

In what ways, do you think, the local Nordic culture affects your work? 

The Nordic culture affects everything I do. It provides the glasses through which I see the world. I don’t believe I could have started to work with this in, for instance, the United States. The culture is so different and, as an outsider, it is more difficult for me to understand it – in all cultures there are unspoken rules, for instance, in the Nordic countries, no one should stand out because of their specific characteristics, but everyone should be on the same level. It’s the opposite in United States – everyone should stand out and no one should fall in line. This, of course, is a generalisation, but the mindset is very different. I hope, nevertheless, that everyone could find their own place despite the culture.