UD Alumnus Helps Others Thrive in the Workplace With OptimalWork

Kevin MajeresKevin Majeres, BA ’97, MD, has long been interested in the study of human nature. He began reading Aquinas daily as a sophomore in high school and entered UD as a philosophy major. Later, he switched to politics; as former politics professor John Paynter, PhD, pointed out to Majeres, the politics major at UD “really is the philosophy of human nature.” While at UD, Majeres read psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and he began to see his deepest interests in the study of the mind.

“Psychology has an openness to meaning and beauty,” Majeres said.

Majeres had wanted to be a doctor since he was very young, and psychology became a natural fit.

Today, Majeres serves on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and maintains his own private practice. He’s done much of his work in cognitive behavioral therapy — which he says appealed to him because of its Thomistic and Aristotelian elements — and he completed a fellowship at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia. Majeres has focused on anxiety disorders and explored the use of exposure therapy to treat them with rapid progress.

While at Harvard in 2010, Majeres took a workshop on the psychology of “peak performance.” He realized that if one applies three basic steps of successful exposure therapy to a setting of work, one can go into “flow” at will: reframing, mindfulness and “leaning into the challenge.” It was this insight that led to the founding of OptimalWork.

“Flow” is a psychological term Majeres uses to describe — well, optimally working. More specifically, it’s an optimal state of thinking.

“OptimalWork is a way of training people in the skills of self-mastery,” explains Majeres.

“Flow is the state where you are performing at your best. It is a state of optimal experience and is the result of self-mastery.”

Through OptimalWork, Majeres has shifted his focus from disorders to thriving. OptimalWork offers an inventory of structured learning content, along with tools and exercises, informed by cognitive behavioral therapy. It includes a masterclass that was originally a four-week training program. The program begins with a 24-item questionnaire about attitude, attention and actions, and it can analyze inventory data to tell participants what effective changes they might make.

Majeres’ work has helped many flourish, including members of the UD community. UD offered its first OptimalWork workshop on May 25 to 75 students, faculty members and staff.

Matthew Spring, PhD ’15, director of Academic Success and Seven Arts of Language, said the program has been helpful for students and professors.

“We have incorporated the program on an individual basis over the course of the year through weekly coaching meetings with students who are using the program. A few professors have expressed an interest in incorporating the program into their classes,” Spring said.

Spring expressed his gratitude to the faculty and staff who have participated in and supported the program.

“I’ve been encouraged and grateful to all the colleagues who have taken the time over the past year and this summer to work through the program for themselves, with staff incorporating it into their day-to-day responsibilities in their offices and faculty benefiting from the program in the research they are doing this summer,” Spring said.

“I’m also grateful to Johnathan Sumpter, director of the Counseling Center, who envisions this program as a piece of the wider work he is doing to support the mental health of our students, especially in areas ranging from motivation to procrastination and anxiety to depression.”

For Majeres, the only path to these results leads from an understanding of the human person.

“The goal is that OptimalWork will continue advancing and giving people personalized recommendations to tell them exactly the things they most need to make the fastest progress,” Majeres said.

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