Happiness At Work #124 ~ Happy UN International Day of Happiness 2015

For the International Day of Happiness 2015 we’re inviting everyone to focus on their connections with others.

This campaign is a global celebration to mark the United Nations International Day of Happiness. It is coordinated by Action for Happiness, a non-profit movement of people from 160 countries, supported by a partnership of like-minded organisations.

A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy.

March 20 has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.

In 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

For the very first International Day of Happiness in 2013, events took place all over the world and we celebrated hundreds of “Happy Heroes” – those people in our communities who do so much to bring happiness to others.

The 2014 Day of Happiness campaign asked people to share authentic images of what makes them happy to “Reclaim Happiness” back from the fake commercial images of happiness that we are so often bombarded with. Many tens of thousands of people shared images and the social reach was estimated to be over 13 million people globally.

International Day of Happiness, 20 March 2015 – 7 Billion Others

“Once you start listening to music, you’ll feel happiness deep down your heart.”

Video portraits from Italy, India, South Africa, Algeria, Cambodia, Chad, and the USA to mark the International Day of Happiness.

On selected international days the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), in partnership with the Good Planet Foundation, shares clips from the ‘7 billion Others’ project to communicate the dreams, hopes, and fears of citizens from all over world.

International Day of Happiness: Just how happy are you?

BBC News

Have you ever thought about what truly makes you happy?

It is a question the United Nations is asking us to think about, because it has branded Friday 20 March the International Day of Happiness.

The pursuit of happiness is in fact a very serious business, with experts claiming that loneliness can be twice as deadly as obesity.

See the video of Tim Muffett’s report for the BBC here

How to use staff happiness to boost your business

by Margaret Harris for The Sunday Times Business Times

Research by executive search company Korn Ferry has found that happy employees are good for business: happy staff generate more sales and are better at taking on challenges than those who are miserable in their jobs.

Michelle Moss, director of assessments at Korn Ferry’s alliance partner Talent Africa, said of the research: “Traditionally, staff members worked seriously hard on the job and had fun after hours, at the weekend or in retirement. Today, you are encouraged to be happy in your work and have fun making your workaday contribution.”

Moss has the following advice:

To increase their staff members’ happiness, some big companies provide on-site gyms, hair salons and other services. “The aim is higher staff retention, but the essential building block is employee happiness at the workplace,” she said;

Give staff “happiness injections” to motivate them when the job threatens to overwhelm them. These may take the form of support services, perks or efforts to make work more satisfying;

This process can sound manipulative, but it benefits the workers and the company: people feel good about themselves because they feel valued by their employer;

Celebrating wins, no matter how small, can help raise team spirit and lift morale;

and

Companies with happy employees are likely to be rewarded with increased productivity, lower absentee rates, contained recruitment costs and an easy flow of ideas.

read the original article here

Happy – 2015 UN International Day of Happiness – Pharrell Williams

UN to Create a Playlist of Happiness

What is happiness? The United Nations is teaming up with pop stars to create a playlist that asks, in musical form, that eternal question.

A campaign launched Monday is asking listeners around the world to post through social media the songs that make them happy, with the playlist to be revealed Friday on the UN-declared International Day of Happiness.

The curators who will assess the responses and determine the playlist include the British singer-songwriters Ed Sheeran and James Blunt, US singer-songwriter John Legend, French DJ David Guetta and the Portuguese pop star David Carreira.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is not generally known for his rock star persona, announced the initiative in an MTV-style video in which he offered his vote for Stevie Wonder’s 1970 hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

Ban said that the song – also known to be a favorite of US President Barack Obama – represented his hopes for a successful agreement on climate change at a UN-led conference in Paris later this year.

The United Nations in 2012 declared an International Day of Happiness – which coincides with the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere – after an initiative by Bhutan, the Himalayan land that measures a “Gross National Happiness” instead of a standard economic indicator.

“On this day we are using the universal language of music to show solidarity with the millions of people around the world suffering from poverty, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises and the effects of environmental degradation and climate change,” Ban said.

Last year, the International Day of Happiness invited music fans around the world to dance to Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy,” creating a viral sensation.

The campaign, which did not specify restrictions on genre, asked music fans to post songs on social media with the hashtag #HappySoundsLike. The playlist will be released by streaming service MixRadio.

read the original article here

Five Ways Music Can Make You Healthier

You might use music to distract yourself from painful or stressful situations, too. Or perhaps you’ve listened to music while studying or working out, hoping to up your performance. Though you may sense that music helps you feel better somehow, only recently has science begun to figure out why that is.

Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion through the reward centres of our brain, stimulating hits of dopamine that can make us feel good, or even elated. Listening to music also lights up other areas of the brain — in fact, almost no brain centre is left untouched — suggesting more widespread effects and potential uses for music.

Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing. In particular, researchers have looked for applications in health-care — for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.

Here are five ways that music seems to impact our health and wellbeing.

Music reduces stress and anxiety

Research has shown that listening to music — at least music with a slow tempo and low pitch, without lyrics or loud instrumentation — can calm people down, even during highly stressful or painful events.

Music can prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels—all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Performing music, versus listening to music, may also have a calming effect. In studies with adult choir singers, singing the same piece of music tended to synch up their breathing and heart rates, producing a group-wide calming effect. In a recent study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music—either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist—three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang.

Though it’s sometimes hard in studies like this to separate out the effects of music versus other factors, like the positive impacts of simple social contact, at least one recent study found that music had a unique contribution to make in reducing anxiety and stress in a children’s hospital, above and beyond social contributions.

Music decreases pain

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management. In a 2013 study, sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia — a disease characterised by severe musculoskeletal pain — were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another recent study, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

It’s not clear why music may reduce pain, though music’s impact on dopamine release may play a role. Of course, stress and pain are also closely linked; so music’s impact on stress reduction may also partly explain the effects.

However, it’s unlikely that music’s impact is due to a simple placebo effect. In a 2014 randomised control trial involving healthy subjects exposed to painful stimuli, researchers failed to find a link between expectation and music’s effects on pain. The researchers concluded that music is a robust analgesic whose properties are not due simply to expectation factors.

Music may improve immune functioning

Can listening to music actually help prevent disease? Some researchers think so.

Wilkes University researchers looked at how music affects levels of IgA — an important antibody for our immune system’s first line of defence against disease. Undergraduate students had their salivary IgA levels measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to one of four conditions — listening to a tone click, a radio broadcast, a tape of soothing music, or silence. Those students exposed to the soothing music had significantly greater increases in IgA than any of the other conditions, suggesting that exposure to music (and not other sounds) might improve innate immunity.

Another study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels, but the music also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6 — a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes, and heart problems.

According to a 2013 meta-analysis, authors Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin concluded that music has the potential to augment immune response systems, but that the findings to date are preliminary. Still, as Levitin notes in one article on the study, “I think the promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do.”

Music may aid memory

My now-teenage son always listens to music while he studies. Far from being a distraction to him, he claims it helps him remember better when it comes to test time. Now research may prove him right—and provide an insight that could help people suffering from dementia.

Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory. In a study published last year, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to speak, or speak in a rhythmic fashion, or sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy.

Evidence that music helps with memory has led researchers to study the impact of music on special populations, such as those who suffer memory loss due to illness. In a 2008 experiment, stroke patients who were going through rehab were randomly assigned to listen daily either to self-selected music, to an audio book, or to nothing (in addition to receiving their usual care). The patients were then tested on mood, quality of life, and several cognitive measures at one week, three months, and 6 months post-stroke. Results showed that those in the music group improved significantly more on verbal memory and focused attention than those in the other groups, and they were less depressed and confused than controls at each measuring point.

In a more recent study, caregivers and patients with dementia were randomly given 10 weeks of singing coaching, 10 weeks of music listening coaching, or neither. Afterwards, testing showed that singing and music listening improved mood, orientation, and memory and, to a lesser extent, attention and executive functioning, as well as providing other benefits. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients, in part promoted by organisations like Music and Memory.

Music helps us exercise

How many of us listen to rock and roll or other upbeat music while working out? It turns out that research supports what we instinctively feel: music helps us get a more bang for our exercise buck.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited thirty participants to listen to motivational synchronised music, non-motivational synchronised music, or no music while they walked on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion levels. Measurements showed that both music conditions increased the length of time participants worked out (though motivational music increased it significantly more) when compared to controls. The participants who listened to motivational music also said they felt better during their work out than those in the other two conditions.

In another study, oxygen consumption levels were measured while people listened to different tempos of music during their exercise on a stationary bike. Results showed that when exercisers listened to music with a beat that was faster and synchronous with their movement, their bodies used up oxygen more efficiently than when the music played at a slower, unsynchronised tempo.

According to sports researchers Peter Terry and Costas Karageorghis, “Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise.”

read the original article here

Pharrell reminds kids to be happy on U.N. International Day of Happiness

Singer Pharrell Williams urges kids to seek happiness during the United Nation’s program for the International Day of Happiness.

Your Happiness Is Part of Something Bigger

by , Director of Action for Happiness

This Friday is not just the first day of spring, it is also the International Day of Happiness – a day to celebrate the things that contribute to human wellbeing and a flourishing society.

One of the strongest findings from all the research about wellbeing is the vital importance of our relationships. We are a deeply social species and we thrive when we’re closely connected to others. But modern society is undermining rather than enhancing these connections.

Our cities and public spaces are increasingly crowded, but more of us are living alone and fewer of us know our neighbours. The digital age promises endless connectivity, but we have fewer face-to-face interactions and often find ourselves paying more attention to the smartphone in our hand than the people we’re with.

The effects of this are devastating. Loneliness has been shown to be twice as deadly as obesity and is now becoming an epidemic among young adults as well as older people. Social isolation is as likely to cause early death as smoking.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways we can start to put this right. In particular, we need to give much greater priority to helping people at risk of loneliness and isolation and supporting the many excellent initiatives that address these issues, includingcampaigns, befriending services, social prescribing, helplines and more.

But this is also about how we treat the people around us in our daily lives. We can each play our own small but meaningful part in helping to create a happier, more connected world.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Happiness is “Your happiness is part of something bigger” – highlighting the importance of these small, everyday connections with others. The aim is to encourage people, wherever they are in the world, to reach out and make more positive connections with the people around them.

This can include simple everyday actions – like chatting to a neighbour, reconnecting with an old friend or sharing a few friendly words with a stranger in the supermarket.

Or it could be something more unusual. For example, Action for Happiness activists (or ‘Happtivists’ as they like to call themselves) are planning Positive Flash Mobs in various major cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bucharest, Kiev, London, Milan, Perth and Washington DC. The aim is to transform places where we normally ignore each other – like busy streets or train stations – into places of friendliness and connection.

And in the online world, many thousands more people will be supporting the day by sharing inspiring personal messages and images using the#InternationalDayOfHappiness hashtag. Our online relationships will never be quite as valuable as those we have in person, but the internet can still be a great tool for creating more positive connections.

Of course, just one day focused on spreading happiness is not enough by itself; it needs to be the trigger for wider and more sustained changes. That’s why Action for Happiness, the non-profit movement behind this campaign, is also working to encourage on-going action across society, through initiatives like Happy Cafés and theAction for Happiness course.

So if you’d like to help transform our disconnected society into a friendlier, happier and more connected place, visit www.dayofhappiness.net and download your free Happiness Pack which has lots of suggestions for how to get involved.

The International Day of Happiness will be more than just a fun celebration, it will also help to remind us all that the world is a better place when we connect with and care about the people around us.

As Mark Twain once said: “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up”.

read the original article here

The Key To Our Happiness Is Connection, Not Competition

There are two different sides to human nature. Both are important, but the balance between them has huge implications for our wellbeing, culture and future.

One side of our nature is self-interested. This is our in-built instinct to do whatever we can to survive and thrive, often at the expense of others. The other side is co-operative and leads us to help others even when there is no direct benefit for ourselves.

Although Charles Darwin is normally associated with the “survival of the fittest” theory, he also believed that our natural instinct was to care for others. In The Descent of Man he wrote that the communities most likely to flourish were “those with the most sympathetic members”, an observation backed up by research that we are wired to care about each other.

But we have such a strong cultural narrative about the selfish side of humanity that we adopt systems and behaviours that undermine our natural co-operative tendencies. This starts in schools, where the relentless focus on exams and attainment instills in young people the idea that success is about doing better than others. It continues in our marketing culture, which encourages conspicuous displays of consumption and rivalry.

It’s found at the heart of our workplaces, where employees compete with each other for performance-related rewards. It’s behind the self-interested behaviour that makes it so hard to overcome major societal challenges such as climate change.

This “get ahead or lose out” ethos not only fails to promote the better side of our nature, it’s also deeply flawed. In schools, helping young people to develop social and emotional skills doesn’t just enhance their wellbeing, it’s also been shown to boost their performance.

In workplaces, research from Adam Grant, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School shows that “givers” – people who help others without seeking anything in return – are more successful in the long term than “takers” – who try to maximise benefits for themselves, rather than others.

For society as a whole, the World Happiness Report 2013, a major global study, found that two of the strongest explanatory factors for national wellbeing are levels of social support and generosity. Our success as a society directly depends on the extent to which we see each other as a source of support rather than a source of threat.

Today is the International Day of Happiness and this year’s theme is “your happiness is part of something bigger”, focusing on the importance of connecting with and caring about the people around us. This matters for sustainability for three significant reasons.

Firstly, it is a timely reminder of the importance of collaboration and the need for systems thinking, both within and across organisations. This is the only way we can solve the major challenges in our increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Secondly, it links to the growing body of evidence including a recent paper from the University of Warwick that shows when people feel happier and more connected they are more productive at work. Dr Teresa Belton, researcher and visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia, has also shown it leads people tobehave in more environmentally sustainable ways.

Thirdly, the deeper message behind the International Day of Happiness is the need for a radical shift in the way we measure progress. This moves us away from chasing GDP growth at all costs and towards a more holistic view of wellbeing as the ultimate goal, taking future generations into account too.

This doesn’t just matter for business leaders and policy makers, it relates to the way that we each behave as individuals and how we treat others in our communities and working lives.

Today people all around the world are taking small actions to create more positive connections with others around them, whether at the office, in the shops, on the train or in their neighbourhood. These tiny moments of friendliness and co-operation aren’t trivial and meaningless; they are the vital lifeblood of a good society.

read the original article here

RSA Animate – The Empathic Civilisation

Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. Taken from a lecture given by Jeremy Rifkin as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.

Happiness At Work edition #124

You can find all of these articles and many more in our latest collection here

Happiness At Work #123 ~ Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Take the next step…

This post collects together some different ideas about why pausing and making time for quietness and simply to breathe is essential to our happiness at work, along with some practical approaches and techniques for doing this.

When did you last think about your breathing?

For as long as we are alive, we are guaranteed to keep breathing whether we think about it much or not: no matter what we do or do not do, think or do not think, we will keep right on breathing. But just as with any other aspect related to our normal body function, most of us are likely to only really think about what is happening to us when we notice a problem or difficulty: we are out of breath or having to breathe extra hard or feel our breath racing away on us or need to stop and catch our breath or to get our breath back.

Perhaps normal breathing is a bit like the way we tend to think about silence and not talking, a kind of nothing, or, at best, a neutral state that is primarily inactive and passive. But, just as silence and not saying anything can be one of the most potent, active and consciously vital actions we can bring to our encounters and the people we engage with, so, too, can breathing be one of the most enlivening, empowering, sustaining, and rebalancing actions we can take.

Rather than an absence of action, our ability to be silent effectively and productively demands that we learn how to be skilled, alert and attentive listeners.

We also need to learn how to become expert at breathing.

And If we become more conscious, deliberate, flexible and skilled at breathing we will get from this to . . .

  •  …feel more confident and more truly ourselves;
  • …grow and continually renew our sense of capability and influence over the world we inhabit;
  • …quiet, calm and control feelings of anxiety, stress or terror in times of panic or unsureness;
  • …fire our inspiration into life and trust our unconscious minds to bring us the ideas and solutions we need;
  • …radiate an animated, dynamic and receptive presence and come across to people as bright, charismatic and attractive;
  • …and take us across a creative leap from our personal breathing practices into something more profound and collective that can affect the vibrations and creative possibilities of our encounters in groups.

Simply by becoming better at breathing opens up for us a myriad of fresh possibilities around us. If we practice even very simple breathing exercises over time, we will build a stronger, more resilient sense of confidence, ease and energy that can lead us to feel more intensely open, enlivened by and connected into the world and its people.

And better breathing not only makes us feel more alive and vital, it significantly adds to our overall and long-term health and well-being.

As the mainstream scientific community begins to assimilate the growing body of research that points to our ability to re-wire our brains, breath practices are emerging as one important methodological family from which we can draw in order to actively co-create ourselves and influence the flavour of our life experience.  So breathe, breathe, breathe!  Whether it’s a slow change in a habitual thinking pattern or an ecstatic experience of divine union that you are seeking, the breath can take you there.  (Rev. James Reho)

As well as the articles that follow, you can also find practical ways to develop your breathing awareness and expertsie in our toolkit: Six Ways Of Breathing, which link breathing practice to:

  • Breathing to Feel More Alive, Whole & Connected ~ Everyday Breathing Exercises
  • Breathing for Renewal ~ Exercises for Taking Time Out to Breathe
  • Breathing for Recovery ~ Building Resilience and Regaining Balance
  • Breathing Ideas Into Life ~ Exercises to Ignite New Ideas and Trust Unconscious Thinking
  • Breathing for Presence ~ Exercises to help Build Confidence and Presence
  • Breathing for Creative Collaborations ~ Exercises to Help Unleash and Harness your Creativity in Groups

10 Places To Find Time To Think

by Time Management Ninja

Once your day gets going, it never seems to stop.

Busyness. Interruptions. Noise.

You feel like you can’t get a moment to think, time to plan, or even a moment to collect your thoughts.

If only you could find a place to stop and think about your day.

Finding Time to Think

It’s just run, run, run… all day long.

In the hurried pace of your day, you find it difficult to stop and think.

Wouldn’t things be easier if you could stop for a moment to plan what you are doing? Prioritise your work? And even decide what you shouldn’t be doing?

With noise and interruptions in the workplace, it can be hard to get time to think. Even harder to find a place to get some peace and quiet.

You need to ask, “Where can I find a place to think?”

Even in the busiest environments there are locations to get away and plan for a few minutes.

Here are 10 Places to Find Time to Think:

  1. In Your Car – The next time you are driving in your car, try the following experiment: Turn off your radio. Put your cellphone out of reach. (You shouldn’t be using it in the car anyway.) Then, listen to the silence. I bet you won’t be able to drive more than a quarter of a mile before you start to hear the thoughts in your head.
  2. Before Everyone Wakes Up – OK, this is a time, not a place, but the early morning before the world gets up is a great time to think for yourself. Whether it is just you, or you are getting up before the morning kid chaos, find time for yourself before the day begins.
  3. In Your Office – If you are fortunate enough to have an office for your job, shut the door and get some planning done. (Yes, you can shut the door.) Then when you are done, you can open the door and re-engage your team.
  4. Go Outdoors – Going for a walk outside is a great way to get some peace. You don’t have to go deep into nature. (Although that can be great, too). Many workplaces have walking paths or simply sidewalks where you can go for a quick walk and recoup your thoughts.
  5. At the Coffee Shop – Personally, I am not the Starbucks type. However, many people find isolation in the public noise of coffee shops. Find a table in a secluded corner and get some work done. (Or bring the coffee shop to you with an app like Coffitivity.)
  6. In Your HeadphonesUse your headphones to create your own privacy. Shut out the noise. Play your favourite music. Even silent headphones can bring privacy and the expectation that you are not to be disturbed.
  7. In the Library – There is a reason why libraries have a “quiet rule.” Go there to find a silent place to think and plan. And if someone is making noise, you are justified in saying, “Shhhhh!”
  8. The Unused Conference Room – If your workplace has unused meeting space, make a meeting with yourself. Take advantage of empty meeting space to get work done.
  9. At Lunch – It’s nice to go out to lunch with the gang, but sometimes it’s helpful to book lunch with yourself.  Feed your body and your mind with a lunch date alone to think and plan the rest of your day or week.
  10. The Secret Place – Every workplace has one. The secret room, hidden nook, or unknown alcove that only a few people know. Find your own secret corner to hide away and get some quiet time

A Place for Your Thoughts

You can find a place to take the time to think about and plan your day.

Depending on your circumstances or work place, you might need to get creative. However, getting some “think time” for even a few minutes can boost your productivity in a big way.

Today, go find your quiet place and take time to gather your thoughts and ideas.

read the original article here

12 Totally Unexpected Ways to De-stress

by Aja Frost for The Muse

Have you ever heard exercise helps you de-stress? What about meditation or deep breathing? We don’t know about you, but we’re a little tired of being told the same de-stressing techniques over and over. So here you go: 12 relaxation suggestions that (we hope) you haven’t seen before.

  1. Go on: Drop an F-bomb or 10. Just not where your boss can hear.(Scientific American)
  2. Make a beeline to the office kitchen and sniff an apple. Not only will the scent ward off headaches, it can make you less stressed. (Eating Well)
  3. Massage your ears. No, seriously: The action releases endorphins! (Zen Habits)
  4. Start pacing. That’s what one super successful entrepreneur does when he’s deep in thought. (Tech Co.)
  5. If you’re at your computer, try shutting it down and working on a task that doesn’t involve a screen. (Psych Central)
  6. There are actually foods that calm you down. We suggest eating them.(NPR)
  7. Green is the new black! Turns out having a plant on your desk relaxes you.(Forbes)
  8. You might want to close your office door for this one, but listening to head-banging music and rocking out will help you release all that nervous energy.(Inc.)
  9. If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, looking at fractals (like a picture of snowflakes or ocean waves) will make your brain happy. (Everyday Health)
  10. What have you accomplished today? Whether it’s big or small, tell yourself—out loud—what an awesome job you did. (Reader’s Digest)
  11. Blowing up a balloon forces you to practice deep breathing, so make a run to the drug store. Or just take a deep breath. (U.S. News & World Report)
  12. conceptualise stress as a good thing. It’s your body’s way of preparing your for a challenge. (The Muse)

read the original article here

Letting Your Mind Wander Can Make You More Productive

It’s estimated that we spend nearly 50 percent of our waking lives in a state of daydreaming.

For something we do so often, mind-wandering sure has a bad reputation. It’s often described as a mindless activity – one that makes us more lazy, unproductive and dissatisfied with our lives. A Harvard study even concluded, “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

But why would we so readily spend half of our lives engaged in a fundamentally purposeless activity? The answer is that we don’t – a wealth of new research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that daydreaming is anything but purposeless.

In fact, these self-generated thoughts might make us more creative and productive, and may even bring meaning to our lives.

“We (and others) have been arguing that daydreaming serves a function — evolution would have not let so much metabolic energy go to waste,” Dr. Moshe Bar, cognitive neuroscientist and author of a new, surprising study on the subject, told The Huffington Post. “It helps us prepare for the future, plan, think about self and others, and generally engage in mental simulations that facilitate our interaction with the environment.”

But in addition to staving off boredom and giving us the opportunity to reflect, Bar’s research suggests that daydreaming might make us more productive at the task at hand – even as it offers us an opportunity to allow our minds to run wild.

Bar and his colleagues were able, for the first time, to induce mind-wandering in study participants… Participants reported daydreaming most when stimulation was focused on the frontal lobe of the brain. While daydreaming and control might seem antithetical – mind-wandering seems to involve a lack of attention, while executive function plays a role in regulating attention — the researchers hypothesised that there might be a connection between the two. Both brain regions are involved in organising and planning for the future, for example.

But the researchers made another, more surprising finding: Rather than distracting the participants from the task at hand, when researchers induced mind-wandering in the participants, it actually improved performance on the number-tracking task. Mind-wandering seems to enhance the participants’ cognitive ability, helping them to succeed at the task while also allowing them to enjoy some pleasurable mental diversions.

Bar suggested that this improvement is due to the fact that mind-wandering combines the thought-controlling activity of the executive network, and the thought-freeing activity of spontaneous daydreaming, which occurs across the brain’s broad default mode network. The activation of multiple brain regions during mind-wandering, Bar says, “may… contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way.”

“What I think is cool about this study is that it’s possible that the stimulation simultaneously increased activation of working memory (allowing for greater focused attention) and increased mind-wandering,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who specialises in daydreaming and creativity but was not involved in this study, told The Huffington Post. “If true, this would suggest that attention and mind-wandering need not be at odds with each other and can even facilitate each other.”

As Kaufman suggested, the study points to a harmony between mind-wandering and mindful mental states, which we tend to think of as being at odds with each other. In fact, mind-wandering may not be defined by the inability to pay attention so much as the ability to draw attention inward – to our own thoughts, reflections and dreams.

read the original article

What Mindfulness and Daydreaming Have to Do with Getting Things Done

“You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing.” (David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.)

This podcast on productivity tips for the 21st century conditions we are now working in includes:

  • Why it’s increasingly important to find ways to keep your head clear and stay productive
  • The addictions that constant updates via smartphones are causing
  • The myth of multi-tasking (it doesn’t work when trying to be productive)
  • The 2 Minute Rule – any email you can answer in 2 minutes or less, you should reply to right away
  • How to focus on only what you are doing instead of being distracted by all your other to-dos
  • The importance of day dreaming after doing something productive
  • How to have a “mind like water” and how that helps you react properly to situations
  • The difference between having direction and having discipline

read the original article here

Making happiness count at the workplace

An organisation that proactively creates and spreads happiness at work is better off

adapted from an article by Carole SpiersBBC Guest-Broadcaster and CEO of a business management consultancy based in London.
March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, now celebrated throughout the world and confirmed as such by the UN in 2012. The day recognises that ‘happiness is a fundamental human goal’ and calls upon countries ‘to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all people’.

Being happy at work is one of the keys to being truly happy in life as most people spend 20 to 30 years working, which is about 30 per cent of the average human lifespan.

There are, of course, many factors that impact professional happiness, including business relationships, professional development, work-life balance, environment and organisational culture. Obviously, you have no control over whether your employees are happy at home, but you do have some control as to how happy they are at work.

And if you don’t know if your employees are happy, then why not ask them? If your team is working in a positive atmosphere, this will be reflected in their performance levels, and while the additional cost to you is zero, gains can be substantial.

So let’s look at small actions that can make big differences:

Value and Appreciate

This is top of my list. Make sure that the company’s culture values its human resource and that employees don’t feel as if they are just an insignificant part of an impersonal system. Bosses and team leaders should tell their team that they are appreciated. A simple ‘thank you’ Post-It note left on someone’s computer will probably be kept for many years.

Celebrate

Strengths-based leadership is proven to bring huge increases in productivity, creativity, engagement, commitment, confidence and risk-taking.  Focus on what is already working especially well – successes and achievements – at least three and even five times as much as any negatives and performance weaknesses.  Celebrate team triumphs, employee of the month, as well as birthdays, births, etc. There are always reasons for a celebration … so why not share in someone else’s joy? And doing with this something special to eat helps to make it even more of a shared experience.

Quiet room

Sometimes people need to speak in confidence with someone else. A small room with comfortable chairs and a coffee table could provide this staff amenity.  But even more than this, a lovely space where it is legitimate and valued for people to go and ‘just think’ for a bit can add miracles to what people then go on to do.

Smiling co-workers

A smile costs nothing but has immense value. Any day seems to go better when you are surrounded by colleagues who smile and are willing to help you.  All emotions are contagious and spread from person to person – so you may as well increase the spread of happiness across your team.

Welcome

Care about people’s experience in activities you lead as much you care about the results they need to achieve.  Be a friendly host. Welcome visitors or staff members to your department with a smile. It is sometimes difficult to summon up the courage to go and see someone in a large department, but if each office had a list of names of people and their pictures on the wall outside, then this could encourage people to come in.

Getting to know you

You may have worked with your colleague for many years but I wonder if you know what they do when they go home? Once a month, individuals could give a talk, at lunchtime, about their favourite hobby or interest.

Brainstorming sessions

Set time aside each week to get your team together to have brainstorming sessions. You will be amazed by the mountain of ideas of hidden creativity, just waiting to be unleashed. Have a suggestion board where employees’ ideas would be considered and constructive feedback given. Appoint an ‘ideas champion’ to follow through accepted ideas.

Meet the Management

Maybe once a month, managers could attend a lunch arranged by different members of their team. One month it could be Asian style, another month Indian or Iranian, etc. Whoever is responsible for the meal could give a few minutes of presentation on their individual culture and the food that has been prepared.

A unique benefits package

This could include staff discounts or free gym membership, or free parking.

Flexible schedule/hours

Being able to leave the office by arrangement when you have personal business to take care of, is something that makes any company position, extra special.

In the current economic climate, many companies struggle to gain market share. Fortunately, leaders are beginning to realise that the smartest way to gain competitive advantage is through employee engagement — that means ensuring an environment where it is pleasurable to work.

read the original article here

3 Reasons Why Today’s Leader Needs Mindfulness Meditation

Marketing and business development expert, Deborah Holstein, highlights just three of the benefits of mindfulness for business…

Many people hear the term mindfulness meditation and instantly their eyes narrow with alarm or roll back into their heads. I think I can see the thought bubble over their head flashing “Yes, I know, I know…but I’m trying to build a career here! I don’t have the time!” Because in the busy life of today’s leader (or rising leader) there never seems to be enough time for anything, much less 15 minutes a day for mindfulness meditation. That’s a mistake.

If you do not practice mindfulness, you may be short shrifting your career because you are neglecting to develop critical skills you need to grow and thrive in your career — and in the rest of your life.

Here are 3 reasons why cultivating mindfulness through meditation is necessary for your success.

Mindfulness changes your brain – for the better

You may already be aware of the many health benefits of meditation: lower blood pressure, less inflammation, pain management, to name a few. You may not yet have heard that research has also shown that mindfulness meditation also benefits your brain.

In fact, with a regular meditation practice, the source of your “lizard brain” (the amygdala) actually begins to shrink. And as this primal region of your brain shrinks, the area of your brain associated with higher order thinking (the prefrontal cortex) — awareness, concentration and decision making — becomes thicker. These brain benefits were visible within just 8 weeks and correlate with the amount of time devoted to meditation.

Leaders need take on bigger and ever more complex business challenges, so you need every edge. Starting your regular mindfulness meditation practice now — whether you’re already an executive or plan to be one someday — is like money in bank because the brain benefits will be there when you need it.

Your stress hurts your team

A leader’s stress is contagious. Your team members who see you under stress – tired, frazzled and unfocused – will experience empathic stress responses including increased cortisol. And if you allow your stress to progress into full fledged burnout your team is far more likely to mirror your negative attitudes. This is especially dangerous in today’s open workspace environments because there isn’t an office door to shut to prevent your team from “catching” your stress or burnout.

For all leaders, a big portion of your day-to-day is about motivating and inspiring your team. You don’t want to increase your team’s stress or hurt their health or productivity so you need to be in control of your emotions and proactively managing your stress – all things that stem from a practice of mindful meditation.

Leaders need more soft skills

As a leader, your role – and your value to the organisation – changes from being the one “doing” the work, to being the one ensuring the “right” work gets done. And all the work gets done by and with other people. This means that as you rise in an organisation more and more of your success depends upon your ability to effectively communicate, motivate and mediate.

A mindfulness meditation practice teaches you to be present and more aware of the meta messages inherent in any interpersonal exchange. Truly listening to your team and colleagues and staying aware of their emotional responses — both expressed and not — will help you to most effectively adapt your communications and responses for the best result.

read the original article here

Work hard, work harder: How we’re screwing up the pursuit of happiness.

by GLAIN for The Executive Roundtable

Once upon a time, in a work galaxy far, far away, there was a mantra that companies used to use. It went like this: work hard, play hard. Over the past decade (or possibly more), the mantra has changed to work hard, work harder as companies move their focus from why they do what they do, to a single minded drive to make money and increase shareholder value. Sure, there are a few bright sparks on the horizon. A handful of companies are bringing back the drive for purpose – Zappos, G Adventures, Whole Foods to name a few – but they are overwhelmingly few and far between. In my observation, this quest for the almighty dollar is wreaking a boatload of misery into our work lives… and our homelives…

If you’re feeling like you’re in a never ending numbers grind at work, try changing the focus. Here are a few very simple ways I do this at The Executive Roundtable:

  1. I open our weekly team meetings asking people to share something great that happened to them the week before – personal or work related. Whatever makes you feel good.
  2. We celebrate progress… even when we’re behind on budget. We look at what we’ve accomplished.
  3. We take time to appreciate each other’s contributions by sharing peer feedback.
  4. I make a list of 5 of our members that I haven’t spoken to in a while and reach out to see how they’re doing and share a laugh.
  5. I get inspired by reading an inspiring book, watching a TED Talk or writing a blog post like this one that I think might help others.

As many of you head into the March Break week with your families, think about how you can bring more happiness and balance into your life by taking the emphasis off money and material objects and putting it onto the things that ultimately matter most: love, relationships and community.

read the original article here

Nine Steps To Work-Place Happiness

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in the Cotswolds. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you. We create our own experience. Here are nine steps to happiness at work:

1. Avoid “good” and “bad” labels: When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.

2. Practice “extreme resilience: Extreme resilience is the ability to recover fast from adversity. You spend too much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others. You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.

3. Let go of grudges: A key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. Consciously drop the past. It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.

4. Don’t waste time being jealous: When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me. Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.

5. Find passion in you, not in your job: Sure, you can fantasise about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But be warned against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, change how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at , identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

6. Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now: Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared. Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realising this truth will help you gain perspective.

7. Banish the “if/then” model of happiness: Many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy.

8. Invest in the process, not the outcome: Outcomes are totally beyond your control. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

9. Think about other people: Even in Britain, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, it’s better to inhabit an centred universe. If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. He may rise later, and stronger. Challenge the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.

read the original article here

Riding the Breath: Breath As A Spiritual Praxis

by The Rev. James Reho

Breathing is never really simple.  Our breath bears our emotional history and is a playing field for our flirtations with both Eros and Thanatos.  While our relationship with our breath is often barely conscious, the quality and form of our breathing enhances and communicates much about our emotional state.  As children, we hold our breath to get what we want; breath steels and expresses our will.  When we are frightened, we gasp for breath sharply with the upper chest; breath influences and expresses our anxiety level.  When we sleep, exercise, concentrate, make love, or meditate, our breath takes on again other patterns to support our activities…

Tradition as well as experience and research indicates that conscious work with the breath can help heal emotional and even physical pain and disease, and can vitalize our body/mind complex in ways that are so extraordinary that I hesitate to describe them… you simply wouldn’t be likely to believe me…

The words for “breath” and “spirit” in several scriptural languages are related:  ruach in Hebrew, ruh in Arabic, pneuma in Greek, and spiritus in Latin.  From this last, we have in English words like “inspire/inspiration” and “expire/expiration” that carry dual meanings relating both to breath and to spirit in various forms (creativity, vitality)…

Why breathe?

In the fifth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad (8th – 7th century BCE) the faculties of speech, hearing, seeing, thinking, and breathing have an argument concerning which of them is primary for the human person.  These bodily functions[xvii] ask Father Prajapati (the uber-person) which of them is the finest.  He answers that the one whose departure leaves the body in the worst case is the primary function.  Speech, hearing, seeing, and thinking each in their turn leave; upon their return, they all discover together that the body can still function, albeit with some deficit.  When breath determines to leave, however, all the other faculties find they are dragged along with it; indeed, breath is the most important of these.

Aside from its obvious necessity for physical life, the breath expresses and influences our emotional and mental states.   The various techniques of working with breath—from traditional pranayama and hesychastic breathing to more modern practices such as breathwalk[xviii] and holotropic breathwork—we can utilise this often-unconscious process to affect our lives physically, mentally, and energetically:

“Life is not under your control and the mind is not obedient, but there is something the mind does obey.  That is the rate of the breath…” [xix]

Yoga and the Transformational Power of Prānāyāma

Prānāyāma, the control of the breath (really, of the life essence which is carried upon the breath) is one of the eight traditional limbs of yoga.  There are hundreds of methods of prānāyāma, devised to enhance very particular aspects of one’s being and/or address very particular weaknesses in the physical, emotional, intellectual, or psychological being of the yogi.  Practitioners claim that directing the breath in particular ways can build and enhance cross-hemispheric functionality of the brain as well as optimise the function of glandular systems and mental and physical performance…

Mastery of various forms of prānāyāma is an endeavour requiring years of practice and study.  One learns to exercise precise control over inhalation (puraka), exhalation (rechaka), and breath retention (kumbhaka): through building stamina and extremely sensitive muscular control, one can “move” the breath with precision into various areas of the lung, retain the breath for extended periods with fine control over air pressure, and also finely tune the nature, rate, and form of the exhalation, creating a nearly infinite array of possible breath patterns.

The benefits and effects of prānāyāma are nearly unbelievable to those who have not experienced them. Directing the breath into various bodily energy centres can bring about experiences of expanded consciousness or incredible bliss; slow alternate nostril breathing can calm and balance the mind and emotional self; and strong, mouth-based prānāyāma such as is done in breathwork can open levels of experience and consciousness typically thought accessible only through hallucinogens or years in a snowy cave in the Himalayas or upon Mt. Athos.  Sound interesting?  Here are some starting points to begin gathering your own data on the power of breath…

Getting Started: Jumping into the Experience of Breath 

Here then are three entry-level prānāyāma exercises that can give you a first taste of what is eventually possible through the control of breath.  I am a certified yoga instructor, but am not a healthcare professional: please check in with your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning any of these practices, and if you become dizzy or ill… stop and rest.

Deergha Swasam (Three-part Yogic Breath):

Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine, either cross-legged on a cushion (making sure knees are lower than the hips) or in a chair with feet on the floor.  Rest the hands in the lap.  Eyes are closed. Begin by inhaling slowly through the nose into the diaphragm/abdomen.  Once the abdomen is full, allow more breath to come into the chest, expanding it forward and outward (i.e., both the front and sides of the chest expand).  Finally, bring in even more breath so that the collarbones slightly rise.  Let this long inhalation be smooth and gentle-but-firm.  Now exhale the same way: let the air come out from the collarbones, from the thoracic cavity, and finally from the abdominal cavity.  Fully empty the lungs by bringing the navel in toward the spine.  Repeat for ten minutes.

This breath builds lung capacity in a pleasant way (there are really tough prānāyāmas that do so in a less-than-pleasant way!).  Our typical, unconscious breaths usually involve inhaling about 500 cubic centimeters of air; through a full deergha swasam breath, you will inhale (and expel) about 3000 cubic centerimeters of air.  Six times the air means offers six times the oxygen.  Aside from fuller oxygenation and removal of toxins, deergha swasam helps steady the emotional state and create a peaceful, alert focus of the mind.

Kapalabhati (Skull-shining Breath, or Breath of Fire):

Sit as above.  Here you focus on the exhale, which is sharp and brought about by quickly “snapping” the navel in toward the spine.  The inhalation will occur naturally as the abdomen relaxes.  Build this up so that you can accomplish two or three cycles per second.  Both exhalation and inhalation occur through the nose.  This breath can be practiced with arms raised to the side at 60 degrees, elbows straight, palms up.  Bring the focus of the closed eyes to the point between the eyebrows.  Practice for three minutes, then inhale and hold the breath.  Finally, exhale and rest for two minutes with hands sweeping down at the sides and coming to rest in the lap.  Let the breath return to normal.

According to practitioners of kundalini yoga, this breath builds the aura and cleanses the blood and the lungs.  It invigorates the whole body and is great to do as part of your wake-up routine.  Although in the early stages of learning this breath we focus our energy and concentration on the exhale, there should be a balance between the exhalation and inhalation so that you do not become breathless.

Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing):

Nadi sodhana is really a family of prānāyāma techniques that focus upon balance and opening of the nadis, energetic channels that are said to exist in the subtle (pranic) body.

To perform nadi sodhana, sit again as outlined above.  Allow the left hand to rest on the left thigh or lap.  The right hand forms a two-pronged pincer, with the index and middle fingers bent into the palm.  The extended thumb forms one end of the pincer and the ring finger and pinky, kept together as one finger, form the other.  Take a few preparatory deergha swasam breaths, and then after an inhalation, use the thumb to close off the right nostril.  Exhale.  Inhale.  Now use the ring finger-plus-pinky to close off the left nostril and remove the thumb to allow the exhalation to pass through the right nostril.  Inhale.  Now again block the right nostril and open the left.  Exhale and inhale.  Continue, gradually working to lengthen the inhalations and exhalations.  Once you are comfortable, you can work on having the exhalations last for twice as long as the inhalations.  To complete a cycle (let’s say, ten minutes to start), let the right hand return to the lap and the breath return to normal after an exhalation through the right nostril.

This nadi sodhana practice calms the mind and the heart and balances the hemispheres of the brain.  It builds strength in the lungs as well, especially when one pauses to retain the inhaled breath and then pauses again when the lungs are fully evacuated as part of the practice.  Yoga teaches that we alternate which nostril is dominant roughly every 90 minutes (experiment with this; you’ll see it’s about right), corresponding to our natural “switching” between hemispheric brain dominance.  Through the practice of nadi sodhana, we simultaneously active both hemispheres of the brain, bringing both balance and deeper connectivity between the hemispheres.

read the original article here

Happiness At Work #123

All of these articles are gathered together in the new Happiness At Work collection along with many more more that give ideas, tools and techniques for increasing greater leadership, balance, productivity, creativity, learning, resilience and flourishing at work and in our lives….

see the full collection here

Happiness At Work #122 ~ People: our greatest resource, now as it has always been

We are more and more recognising that the ‘soft people skills’ are neither unimportant nor inevitable, and we fail to give them our best attention and expertise at our peril.

“…given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.”  Stella Duffy

Our headline post for this new Happiness At Work collection takes its words from Stella Duffy, writing about the real power of brilliant everyday people to make brilliant things happen – and yes, that would be all of us.

What last year’s very first Fun Palaces experiment discovered, heightened and celebrated was the huge talent, enthusiasm, energy and abilities of people to make something together when there is the right mix of invitation, belief, openness, trust, and recognition.

A Fun Palace is a 2hour or 2day (or somewhere in between) event that is Free, Local, Innovative, Transformative and Engaging.

80% of the 3,000+ people who made them and 80% of the 40,000+ people who took part in last year’s Fun Palaces across the UK and in other countries were experiencing arts activity for the first time.  And 90% of makers believed their Fun Palace made people very happy or happy.

And there is much we might learn from this to take into our organisations, teams and work relationships, as the article about relationships at work collected here all suggest.

Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local people

Try reading this imagining that Stella Duffy is talking about your organisation, even if you are not a professional working in the arts, science or community engagement…

The 3,183 people across the UK who signed up to make local Fun Palaces last year did so for many reasons…

For most, whatever their initial reason for getting involved, it was the local aspect that proved crucial: working with neighbours (many of them not already friends), local councillors and public buildings, often for the first time, to make great, inclusive work – and making it locally.

One of the things we’re proudest of with Fun Palaces is that it’s not about outside experts. Contrary to many subsidised engagement programmes, this project doesn’t fly in experts to make a difference. It does not look for experts to tell a group how best to function, nor does it believe that experts are best-placed to inspire communities to create their own arts and sciences events. We do not bring in world-class orchestras or top-ranking scientists to work with Fun Palaces; we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to – and we don’t want to.

The local person – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.

Joan Littlewood said she believed in the “genius in every person” – and we do too. We believe that everyone can make great work, in every field, and that what is lacking is not willing, hard work – nor the brilliance necessary for ordinary people to become expert – but opportunity and encouragement…

What we learned from our Fun Palaces pilot in 2014 was that the experts are already in communities, that excellence of engagement is far more valuable than a subjective excellence of artistic quality.

We also learned that, given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.

Real people, ordinary people, the people: the ones who know their own community’s needs and wants, because they live in it, offering engagement and participation far from Westminster, from the grassroots up.

Maybe you can make something brilliant during this year’s Fun Palaces where you are?  Fun Palaces, 3–4 October 2015, is now open for registration.

Read the full article here

7 workplace myths disproven by research [infographic]

Admittedly this is a real potpourri of seemingly random bits and pieces of research, but it has been made up into an intriguing provocation to some of the assumptions and beliefs that w might need to let go of in the new world of work we are making for ourselves.

Read the full article here

Where To Start On Empathy? 5 Essential Reads

Nathan Wiltshire writes

During the course of my work and life, many people ask me for advice on where to begin their own explorations into empathy. Having personally consumed hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and video content, I thought I would help de-clutter and put on a platter some of the best sources to not only get started, but to challenge your thinking. Happy reading!

1. Empathy: A handbook for revolution by Roman Krznaric

Out of all high-level discussions on empathy, this is by far the most ideal introduction to the topic. As an inspirational yet very accessible read, I suggest this as the ideal stepping-stone into empathy. By approaching the exploration from a philosophical lens, the author provides a high level overview of empathy, interwoven with many excellent historical illustrations and practical real-world examples. Also, there is a great TED talk previewing the book.

2. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

I like this book as the strongest practical demonstration empathy, in which Orwell immerses himself in a homeless life. For me its impact comes as much from the descriptions of lived experience on the street, as it is for knowing that this was a transformational period for the writer. The reader really gets a strong sense for how this experience provided Orwell with the deepest of insights into humanity, which he would use as the basis for later seminal works that remain relevant today – 1984 and Animal Farm. This might even inspire you to seek immersion in your own life, to intensify your own empathic exploration beyond your usual comfort zone. It is suggested second on this list deliberately as you will find it easier to make the connection between the author’s empathic journey if you start the book with an understanding of empathy basics provided by Roman Krznaric.

3. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen

This was the first book I ever read by a neuroscientist. I chose this because it seemed logical that in order to really understand empathy, it is necessary to get to the very source – the human brain. Zero Degrees turned out to be an easy to read and fascinating account of the conditions that leave some people without the neurological capacity for empathy. For anyone interested in empathy, this is a key insight as it demonstrates that the vast majority of us can be empathic.

4. Empathy: A motivated account by Jamil Zaki

After reading the first three, this will be a slightly more testing read as the author provides a more technical account of empathy. This has been added to the list mainly because it will make you consider what brings people to empathy (or not). It discusses the selectiveness of empathy, that it is dependent on several personal and situational factors, and that we even avoid empathy under certain conditions. Why do we act when a family member is in need of help, or even a fellow countryman, but not the millions living in poverty in far away places? These are fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves. It may seem overly technical for some – however, those who can stick with it will gain new levels of insight.

5. Well Designed: How to use empathy to create products people love by Jon Kolko

Having read the first four on this list, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, I now have some understanding of empathy… but what the heck am I supposed to do with it?’ One of the great challenges I see at the moment is the rapidly developing thought leadership in the clinic sphere, coupled with a relative dearth of advice on applied empathy. Well Designed takes steps towards a practical framework for applying aspects of empathy in product design. The author combines his background in design thinking and develops it to address the need for robust empathic insights. To do this he leverages ethnographic techniques and an immersive account of empathy, which indicates that observation is an essential starting point. The steps contained with this book are simple enough for anyone to try – not only in product development, but also in service or process design.

Read the original article here

10 Ways to Make Employees Happier in 2015

Derek Irvine, employee recognition expert and co-author of The Power of Thanks, suggest his top ten tips to reinvigorate employees, and build and foster a more dynamic company culture…

One simple way to breathe new life into your workforce and culture is by focusing on “thanks” and social recognition.

According to Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 73% of employees who are recognised at work feel happier in their jobs. Thanking your employees daily and, in turn, encouraging them to consistently thank each other, will go a long way; as will implementing a recognition program that can help streamline and track moments of “thanks” in your company.

By saying “thank you,” you will not only have happier employees, but employees who are more engaged, motivated and loyal to you as their employer.

Here are 10 ways to create a culture of recognition, and make your employees happier in 2015:

1. Thank your employees every day

While “thank you” is instinctual, it’s most powerful when it occurs repeatedly, and in a timely manner. Focus on recognizing employees on a consistent basis throughout the year.

2. Foster friendships at work

According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 89% of employees say work relationships matter to their quality of life.

Work friendships inspire and motivate employees, make employees feel more loyal and connected to their company, and provide the foundations for building trust among colleagues.  By encouraging friendships at work, you create a happier employee and also an employee who’s more productive and committed in the workplace.

3. Pay attention to employees’ needs

Some managers are more task-focused than people-focused. Instead of looking at their employees and their needs, they’re looking at their to-do lists.

By keeping your head up, you’re not only in a better position to see and acknowledge your employees’ needs, but also their contributions, which puts you in a much better position to reward their work.

4. Nurture your company’s culture

Choose the values that define your company, and then encourage your employees to express those values in their everyday behaviour.

Instituting a recognition program can help breathe life into these values and make them actionable for employees every day.

5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other

Every company is a collection of communities and of human beings, bonded by their connection to each other through their work.

By giving employees the opportunity to congratulate and thank each other for their work, a culture of recognition naturally emerges through associative behavior.

6. Create better leaders

There’s an old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.

By encouraging people to thank their teams often and, in turn, encourage the same behaviour among employees, a palpable rise in employee happiness will occur.

7. Show employees empathy

The importance of humanity in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s one of the critical components of developing and retaining employees because, as humans, we have an incredible need for acknowledgement and compassion.

Listen, support and protect your employees, and encourage the same behavior among all teams by celebrating instances where great connections occur.

8. Prolong the honeymoon

New hires love their jobs, are more engaged and feel appreciated and acknowledged at work. However, after passing the one-year mark, these feelings tend to wane.

In order to keep employees happy, make every year feel like the first year. Recognise and appreciate your employees as often as possible so their enjoyment and engagement in the job starts high and stays high.

9. Unite your team

Today’s multigenerational workforce calls for an adaptable culture that is functional for a variety of different styles and approaches.

Understanding people’s motivations and work styles, and being sure to make room for all of them in a united workplace, will help you make great strides in energizing your team.

10. Give “thank-you” gifts

Everyone loves receiving gifts. So why wouldn’t the same apply in the workplace?

Consider giving employees a gift with tangible value, such as a choice of merchandise or gift card, which will in turn improve their engagement, motivation and happiness.

Read the full article here

What Does Your Communication Say About Your Culture?

Are you aware of how your communication style impacts your culture?

Is it the impact you want?

What one change in communication style would make if it returned a better outcome?

Leadership expert 

There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:

  • Verbal: Face-to-face, words, tone;
  • Written: Email, text, tweet;
  • Non-Verbal: Body language;
  • Interpretation of environment: Atmosphere, cultural styles.

Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different from yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.

However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.

Perception is reality

How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation.

Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly.

Organisations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.

Don’t kill the messenger

First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less.

To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh, S***” will replace 50 “Atta boys!” in five seconds! This is the same with first impressions.

In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.

Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting.

In addition, behaviours are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organisational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones?

Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your return on investment (ROI)!

Big Bang explosions create lasting scars

We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organisation wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently.

Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.

But experts say this causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.

These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organisational culture.  For companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.

Read the full article here

Life as a Gymnasium, Trading and Investment as Workouts

When Positive Psychology starts being applied to finance you know it’s being taken seriously!

Although written specifically for finance professionals, especially traders, Brett N. Steenbarger’s ideas here lift easily across and into many of our professional lives, and offer some strengths-based ways to treat ourselves with greater humanity, recognition and appreciation…

My initial post introduced positive psychology as a bridge between the real and the ideal–between who we are and who we aspire to be. The radical paradigm shift of positive psychology is that we don’t cross that bridge simply by solving problems and resolving conflicts. We evolve by building upon our strengths: by becoming more of who we are when we are at our best.

Imagine that life is a gymnasium filled with exercise machines and equipment. One station provides us with a workout for joy and happiness. Another station exercises our capacity for life satisfaction, fulfilment, and gratitude. Still another station pushes us to higher levels of energy and vitality. Creativity, mental toughness, love and friendship,mindfulness – all have their workout spaces in life’s gym.

The notion of life as a gymnasium suggests that how–and whether–we develop hinges on the quality of our workouts. In life, as in the weight room, it’s use it or lose it. We either exercise and develop our strengths or we allow them to fall into disuse. That perspective yields a very different way of looking at our daily calendars and weekly planners: What have I exercised this day, this week? What strengths have I strengthened and which have I neglected? Am I working out, exercising the best within me? Or am I merely coping, keeping head above water in status quo mode?

Development requires expansion, not shrinking. In any gym it is only when we push our boundaries that we expand, becoming stronger, faster–more fit.

Work As Gymnasiums

Because of the need for continuous adaptation, [21st century work] requires ongoing workouts of our psychological capacities. Successful [professionals] must maintain a steady discipline of risk control, a self-confident capacity for decisive action, and also an unusual open-mindedness and flexibility when change occurs. Opportunities are ever-changing, which means that successful [professionals] must be analytical and creative, optimistic and cautious. On top of it all, skilled [professionals] must manage themselves as well as they manage risk and reward. If we fail to maintain focus/concentration, emotional balance, and self-control, our decision making suffers and we can fail to profit from even the best ideas.

Making Your Workouts Work For You

Positive psychology suggests one powerful strategy: dissect, analyse, and study your most successful decisions and actions. Reverse engineer your successes and you will discover your principles for peak performance.

This is what is known in psychology as a solution-focus. To bridge real and ideal, immerse yourself in what you do when you most closely approximate your ideals. If you unearth a great idea and manage it well, break down how you generated the idea, how you turned the idea into an successful strategy, how you managed the risk and reward, and how you managed yourself to sustain good decision making.  If you study your own work over time, patterns emerge. You’ll see errors you need to correct, but you’ll also observe strengths you can build upon. In studying your successes, you will realise that, at times, you already are well along that bridge toward your ideals.

You can’t sustain great workouts if you don’t know your best practices. Exercising your strengths requires that you know what your strengths are. If you begin to catalogue your best work, you will observe your patterns of success: the ways in which you leverage your strengths.

Read the original article here

Also on this theme…

Science Proves That Hugs Can Boost Your Immune System

We know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University

Why Managers Need To Focus On Employee Happiness

If managers were smart, they would focus on employee happiness, and allow employees to naturally come up with great ideas and provide great service.

Happy employees are more productive. If an employee is happy, they’ll be more likely to be engaged, and go above and beyond to perform well.

And this has now been proven by research…

Happiness At Work edition #122

You can find all of these articles, and more, collected together in edition #122 of Happiness At Work here

Happiness At Work #121 ~ Freeing Your Voice

This week’s theme gathers recent stories and videos that all speak to the importance of freeing our voices and finding effective ways to be heard, seen and understood, along with some helpful techniques for going about this with courage, credibility and charisma.

Some of the stories and commentary that caught my attention from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos make our headline stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.  I have highlighted those that carry the new voices that can be heard with increasing resonance and authority amidst the more familiar agendas and rhetoric we might expect to come from a gathering of the great and good from the global business world, still predominantly older men in in suits.

These voices include a call to action to release and harness the still much much greater power and presence that women have to play in our work and leadership, the need to mix things up with a richer diversity of voices from the outside, from the fringes, from the edges, and the need to make conversations that join voices and unify thinking into the complex new solutions for the world we are continually having to reach for.

From outside the happenings of Davos 2015, I have also included some remarkable people who have found their voices – Morgana Bailey’s courageous stepping out of hiding, and Martin Bustamante, one of the prison inmates from Cristina Domenech’s poetry classes performing his own poem for a TED audience – as well as Julian Treasure’s practical masterclass in how to free and fire up your voice so that people will listen.

What it Feels Like to be a Woman at Davos in 2015

As Poppy Harlow reports from the event for The Guardian…

Davos is a gathering of great minds and change-makers from across the globe, and its theme this year was “the new global context”. The focus takes in everything from fighting terror to addressing the growing income divide. But this year just 17% of participants at this invitation-only summit are female; an increase on 15% in 2014, but still far too small a number. Meanwhile, on the Fortune 500 list, just 3.4% of corporations have female CEOs. Clearly, there is work to do.

In 2010 WEF introduced a new policy allowing corporations to bring a fifth senior leader to the summit (as opposed to the general limit of four), as long as both men and women were in the delegation. Progress has been made with initiatives like this, but the event remains dominantly male.

Facebook’s VP of global marketing Carolyn Everson thinks change will come. She told Fortune, “In the coming years, the number of attendees who are women will rise, as the conversations that are taking place all around us today are going to fundamentally impact the path for women in the future.” …

There’s a lot of work – game-changing work – being done by the women here at WEF. This is a place that humbles just about everyone because it’s hard to digest the calibre of many of the attendees and the magnitude of change for the better they are striving for.

WEF’s mission statement says it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.” And as Ann Cairns tweeted: “men and women make truly productive teams.” Let’s hope in the coming years they will also be equal in number.

Link to read the full article

Why We Need New Allies For Gender Equality

In her address to the conference, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said…

Given the paucity of women currently in positions of political leadership (just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women), it is hardly surprising that obstacles – practical and psychological – remain to more women joining them. We know that in too many cases still, girls are leaving school without competitive qualifications, and that even when girls do make it to tertiary education, gender-based violence and intimidation on campus is a daunting prospect.

Yet these young people are the change agents of our future, and this recognition is reflected in initiatives springing up globally, large and small.

Read the full article

Derek Handley: Davos Has A Diversity Problem

In this video clip you can hear maverick world changer and frustrated partygoer, Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor for AUT University, talking about his work, his dreams for a more socially and environmentally proactive business model, and his view disappointment in the lack of diversity at Davos….

“I spent most of the time outside the main event meeting people in all the different environments,” he said. “My main takeaway is it’s a really interesting place and there are amazing people here, but there is a diversity problem, and I think it’s a significant issue.”

He took issue with the fact that most attendees of Davos are men, and also said the annual meeting lacks artists – people who are in the problems themselves.  Because those people can’t afford to be here.

The best ideas always come from the fringe…  Let’s mix up the really interesting and powerful people who are here with some very diverse perspectives and focus hard on that if we really want to create a very productive and flourishing century.

Link to watch this video

3 Forces Shaping the University of the Future

In her address, Drew Gilpin Faust said “Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-ecomonic mobility…

Higher education is essential for a thriving society: it is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility and the locus, through research universities, of most of the major discoveries of the last two centuries.

At a time when access and affordability are more consequential than ever before, the world’s colleges and universities are facing a changed landscape. Three forces are creating possibilities and challenges that will define the future of one of humanity’s most enduring and most trusted institutions:

The influence of technology…

Residential education—working and living alongside one’s peers and mentors—cannot be replicated online. When I speak with alumni, they often reflect on serendipitous moments that changed the way they thought about themselves and their place in the world. More often than not, those moments happened in a common space or a classroom, a dining hall or a dorm, laboratory or lecture hall. Being together and sharing experiences no matter one’s surroundings.

The changing shape of knowledge…

What matter most in these moments, and in so many others, is recognising the extraordinary scope of expertise that humanity has at its disposal—and bringing the best minds together to work through problems and develop solutions, amplifying the possibilities for discovery inherent in all of their dimensions.

The attempt to define the value of education…

Higher education lifts people up. It gives them a perspective on the meaning and purpose of their lives that they may not have developed otherwise. Is it possible to quantify this experience, to communicate its value through a set of data? No. But it is among the highest and best outcomes of higher education. We must continue to prepare the next generation of thinkers and doers to navigate the world using evidence and reason as their guide, understanding their work in the broadest context possible as they imagine and define their purposes. We must continue to help humanity transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilisation has been and where it hopes to go.

So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods.

As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.

Link to read this article

And in 3 Ways To Fix Our Broken Training System Alexis Ringwald, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of LearnUp, signals the changing times in her call for training that is more employer-driven, responsive an on demand.  She writes…

In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.

Let the change begin.

Link to read the full article

From Spreading Happiness to Saving the Planet, the Rise and Rise of Pharrell

Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell Williams had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip.

“I think you guys know how serious the global warming thing is, and so for us we’re taking it very seriously, and we wanted to do something very different this time,” Pharrell said in Davos. What he means by having “humanity harmonise all at once” might remain slightly mysterious, but organisers say they expect 100 acts performing before a broadcast audience of two billion people across seven continents, including Antarctica.

Pharrell, whose song Happy was the bestselling single of 2014 and who was recently described by US GQ as “a quiet little Egyptian space cat of a dude”, is known for getting things done – at least in music.

As the magazine recently described, besides being a pop star in his own right he has become a kind of a musical consultant for other artists who guides you toward your “twinkling star”…

Pharrell says the trick in producing other people is to drop his ego. “I say to the artist, whether it be Beyoncé or Usher, what do you want to do? And when they tell me, I say, OK, let’s do it like this. It’s real simple.”

Like Prince, Pharrell surrounds himself with women – his assistant, Cynthia Lu; art director Phi Hollinger; and Fatima Robinson, his choreographer.

“Women have a way of expressing themselves that I can relate to more honestly,” he told GQ. “I am a sensitive person, so I want to be with sensitive people.”

Pharrell appears to be settling into his role as a multimedia prophet. He has given himself over to invocations of pseudo-mysticism, recently explaining: “It’s all math. You have a certain number of bones in your body. You have seven holes in your face. There are nine planets, a sun, trillions and trillions of galaxies. Everything quantifies to numbers.” He’s been described as pop’s Bill Clinton – “a masterclass in charm and empathy”.

Link to read the full article

Morgana Bailey: The Danger of Hiding Who You Are

Inspiring and deeply moving, Morgana Bailey’s presentation shows the vital importance of openness, embracing difference and daring to be heard for our happiness at work – and much much more…

Morgana Bailey has been hiding her true self for 16 years. In a brave talk, she utters four words that might not seem like a big deal to some, but to her have been paralyzing. Why speak up? Because she’s realized that her silence has personal, professional and societal consequences. In front of an audience of her co-workers, she reflects on what it means to fear the judgement of others, and how it makes us judge ourselves.

Cristina Domenech: Poetry that frees the soul

We all have a voice and we all have things of power and beauty to say with it.  But some of us will find it harder than others to find, free and trust our own voices.  Here is a success story of great empowerment where this has been achieved.

“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

In this presentation sound and listening expert Julian Treasure provides his guide for releasing your full voice at its best sets, and his vocal warmup for tuning up before an important speaking engagement – see from 4’16”

Before this he sets out his top tips for increasing your impact and influence as a speaker.

Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening?

Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.

To Change the World: Steve McCurry’s Photos

Steve McCurry’s collection of photos showing moments of study and learning across the globe…

“Only the educated are free.”  Epictetus

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  William Wordsworth

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

Happiness At Work #121

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #121 which you can see here

Happiness At Work #119 ~ latest signs that our wellbeing matters and will matter even more in 2015

Photo: Mark Trezona

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by developing greater understanding about – and practical capabilities in – their own and each other’s happiness and wellbeing.

We have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanisation  To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

The quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of the 500 people who run the 147 companies who control the multinationals affects the lives of us all.  And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. 

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

If you really want to take advantage of this new science – rather than falling back on the old Maslow pyramid of hierarchical needs – you should focus on: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.  Relatedness is people’s need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives, and to feel that they are contributing to something greater than themselves.  Competence is people’s need to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling a sense of growth and flourishing.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.  A more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful organisation.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but with the purpose and mission of the organisation.  We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

Young people today – and we know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  And a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience makes the need for a new approach to education urgent…

Nearly all of the above words are a mashup from our highlighted stories in the new Happiness At Work #119 and give us this week’s headline.

Here then are these top stories that I have spliced these lines from…

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

International Positive Education Network: New Global Campaign Group Challenges Narrow, Exam-driven Approach to Education

A new global organisation, the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), has launched, with support from Dallas-based Live Happy LLC. IPEN’s campaign calls for a radical shift in how young people are educated.

IPEN’s campaign is built around evidence showing that developing pupils’ character strengths and wellbeing are as important as academic achievement to their future success and happiness.

With a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience, the need for a new approach to education is urgent.

IPEN is calling on like-minded individuals and organizations to sign our Manifesto for Positive Education and demonstrate the strong desire for change we believe exists around the world.

Commenting on the launch, James O’Shaughnessy, chair of IPEN and former director of policy to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said:

“Young people are crying out for a new approach to education, one that prepares them to live a good, meaningful life that is full of purpose.

“That is where positive education comes in. It supports intellectual development and the cultivation of the mind, but it places equal value on the development of character strengths to help young people flourish.

“We are calling on everyone who supports this broader approach to education to sign our Manifesto and make their voices heard.”

Martin Seligman, Senior Adviser to IPEN and the Zellerbach Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, said:

“The high prevalence worldwide of depression among young people, the small rise in life satisfaction, and the synergy between learning and positive emotion all argue that the skills for flourishing should be taught in school.

“There is substantial evidence that students can be taught good character, resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning, in such a way that also supports and amplifies their academic studies.

“By taking this broader approach – which I call positive education – we can give our young people the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.”

Link to read the full IPEN press release

Positive education challenges the current paradigm of education, which values academic attainment above all other goals. Drawing on classical ideals, we believe that the DNA of education is a double helix with intertwined strands of equal importance:

  • Academics ~ The fulfillment of intellectual potential through the learning of the best that has been thought and known

+

  • Character & Wellbeing ~ The development of character strengths and well-being, which are intrinsically valuable and contribute to a variety of positive life outcomes.

The IPEN Vision

We want to create a flourishing society where everyone is able to fulfil their potential and achieve both success and wellbeing. Every institution in society has a moral obligation to promote human flourishing, and none more so than those responsible for educating young people – families, schools and colleges.

The IPEN Mission

People flourish when they experience a balance of positive emotions, engagement with the world, good relationships with others, a sense of meaning and moral purpose, and the accomplishment of valued goals.

The aim of positive education is to equip young people with the knowledge and life skills to flourish and contribute to the flourishing of others.

Link to the IPEN site and the invitation to sign their manifesto

The Case for Positive Education

by James O’Shaughnessy and Emily E. Larson

Unless we can show that the arguments for positive education are true in practice, as well as in theory, then we will not deserve to change education in the way the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) is proposing. This post, therefore, tries to answer some of the most burning questions with the strongest evidence currently available to support our proposition. Its structure is based on the kind of questions we tend to experience when discussing positive education with an interested but sceptical audience.

Positive education represents a paradigm shift: away from viewing education merely as a route to academic attainment, towards viewing it as a place where students can cultivate their intellectual minds while developing a broad set of character strengths and virtues and wellbeing. This in a nutshell is the ‘character + academics’ approach to education.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  So it is important to argue that, aside from its own intrinsic value and the wider benefits it brings, educating for character and wellbeing can help the quest for academic excellence.  School interventions that focus on social emotional learning, character development or wellbeing have been shown to increase academic performance as an outcome.  A report by Public Health England has shown that an 11% boost in results in standardised achievement tests has been linked to school programmes that directly improve pupils’ social and emotional learning.

Further evidence suggests that positive educational interventions have been found to increase facets of the student experience that contribute to academic success such as:

  • Hope
  • Engagement in school
  • Academic expectations
  • Motivation
  • Perceptions of ability
  • Life satisfaction
  • Self-worth
  • Classroom behaviour

In separating mental health and wellbeing from academic achievement we are ignoring the fact that depression has been on the rise since World War II despite increasing national wealth, and even worse, almost one in five will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school.

This is deeply worrying in itself, but it directly impacts academic achievement too. Adolescents who experience poor mental health at ages 16 to 17 have been found to be less likely to obtain higher education degrees than adolescents without such challenges, suggesting that mental health problems during secondary school have lasting implications for achievement later on in life.

The raw intelligence of an individual is an important determinant of future success and wellbeing but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Research by Angela Duckworth has shown that the character trait called ‘grit’, or passion and perseverance for a long-term goal, is a better predictor of some success outcomes than IQ.  And James Heckman has show that character traits are malleable or ‘skill-like’ and can be improved with good teaching and practice.  In a meta-analysis of positive education interventions, researcher Lea Waters found that interventions targeting students’ character can indeed lead to development of character strengths.

So even if our characters and IQs are partially determined by genes and upbringing, then there is still plenty of room for improvement.

We strongly favour rigorous, stretching academic development as an essential route out of poverty. But on its own it is not enough. Carol Dweck has popularised a construct called the ‘Growth Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is malleable and can be changed through hard work and perseverance. It stands opposed to the ‘Fixed Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is inherited and cannot be changed.  Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck supported this research in their study, which found during difficult transition periods at school, students who have a growth mindset displayed superior academic performance even though the students entered with equal skills and knowledge.  Additional research has found this effect was especially prominent in students who have a stereotype against them, such as being female or from a minority.

A note of caution must be sounded, however. Impressive as these results are, Dweck and her fellow authors note that, “believing intelligence to be malleable does not imply that everyone has exactly the same potential in every domain, or will learn everything with equal ease. Rather, it means that for any given individual, intellectual ability can always be further developed.”   What this means is that, like academic education, character education can make us better version of ourselves, but it cannot change everything about us.

Link to read the original IPEN post

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Creating physiological and emotional coherence is one of the biggest challenges of our time

Dr Alan Watkins is an ex-physician dedicated to transforming business and society by vertically developing business leaders. Vertical development is, according to the Global Leadership Foundation, “building our ability to distinguish and let go of our own limited thinking and perceptions.” Alan’s book, Coherence, is a how-to guide.

“People think things but they don’t really understand the phenomenon of thinking and what determines it,” explains Alan.  “We don’t just ‘have a thought’ – every single thought we have occurs in a context of our biology and our emotional state. Both are crucial to not only what we think but how well we think it.

“Despite this, we over-privilege cognition and under-privilege emotional regulation.”

Poor thinking comes as a result of incoherence in our biological and emotional signals. You see this problem in children. Those who are bullied, agitated, nervous or upset simply cannot learn. They lose the cognitive capacity to take in and assimilate new information.

As adults, we less commonly face bullying peers or overbearing teachers. Yet the problem presents in a different way and has far-reaching consequences.

“Part of my mission is to reduce suffering on the planet and we believe big business, while it could be an incredible force for good, is often the source of the greatest suffering.  Some of the companies we work with have 650,000 employees, so when leadership is wrong it affects the lives of 650,000 people.

“Furthermore, business determines outcomes on the planet. A study in New Scientist in October 2013 analysed 40,000 multinationals and found 147 companies basically controlled those multinationals. Assume you have two or three power brokers in each of those 147 companies and you find you have around 500 people that run the planet.”

Basically, the quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of 500 people affects the lives of us all. And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. That’s why Alan focuses on leaders.

The problem is more acute because of globalisation and the ever-increasing complexity and uncertainty of the world around us. To make optimal decisions, we must consider ever more variables and consequences.

“The amount of pressure and the intensity of business structures these days is so overwhelming. Robert Kegan, professor of education at Harvard, says most leaders these days are ‘in over their heads,’ dealing with a level of complexity that they literally can’t cope with.”

Alan’s model of decision-making looks like a pyramid and is built on layers. At the bottom is physiology, topped with emotion, then feeling, and then cognition. Finally comes the decision we make. We think we’re clever for ‘coming to’ a decision, when in reality it’s heavily influenced by the bulk of the pyramid that has come before.

What is emotion really? According to Alan it’s the ‘tune’ played  by all the various physiological parts of the body interacting in a multitude of ways, like an orchestra. The feeling is our conscious awareness of this tune.

In order to adapt and become better at thinking and better at decision-making, we need an orchestra that is aligned, tuneful and rhythmic rather than one that is erratic. This is effectively ‘coherence’ throughout the system. With that comes a solid, stable breeding ground for clear thought production.

The pyramid is a two-way street. Our thoughts and feelings can influence our physiology and our emotions. When we remember a stressful occasion we feel our body lose coherence. Our heart rate intensifies. Our pupils dilate. We can’t think straight.

It feels like we have no control of our physiology and our emotion.

Alan teaches people the skills they need to take back conscious control of their physiology and emotion and therefore prepare themselves for different situations depending on what type of thinking or emotion is needed. About to go on stage to make a presentation? You need to put yourself in a ‘passionate’ state. About to make a big pitch to a client? You need to put yourself in a ‘competent’ state.

One of the biggest influencers of our system coherence is heart rate variability. A smooth, consistent, rhythmic heart rate can actually entrain the rest of our physiology to ‘beat in time.’ And the best way to influence our heart rate variability is through breathing to a set pattern.

What else can we do? Better emotional literacy and management is key. Alan says that if he could only teach his children one skill it would be emotional management. This is the ability to identify, classify, deconstruct and invoke emotions at will.

This is important because unless we know how we’re feeling at any one time then how can we know how our thinking is affected? And from that, how can we know which emotional state we need to be in?

In his book Coherence, Alan distinguishes between two emotions, frustration and disappointment. They feel very similar. But while frustration should encourage you to push forward and tackle obstacles, disappointment is designed to make you take a step back and reassess before deciding on a new course of action.

How can you come to an optimal decision if you can’t differentiate between the two? The decision you make, however rational you think it is, will be created in the context of the emotional interpretation you make, yet you’ll feel like you’ve come to the decision through rational cognitive process.

Once we understand and can label a wide range of emotions, we can better identify how we feel and ensure we are aware of how this affects the decisions we make.

“If you transform your own capability, your whole orientation and the whole way you perceive yourself and your own identify and the world around you, the situation, transforms. You see it completely differently, it’s like moving from black and white to colour.”

This vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by vertically developing along the lines of emotional regulation and system coherence.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Six Tips for Business Leaders to Show Staff They’re Cared For

Learn more ways to improve your workplace wellbeing with The Ultimate Wellbeing Toolkit – a practical learning hub brought to you by financial protection specialists Unum, designed to equip HR professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to show employees that they are valued. You can also find out more information about the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Showing your staff that you care about them simply makes good business sense. Staff who feel that their employer cares about them are likely to be more engaged and productive.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.

In short, a more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful company.

So what does a caring employer look like? Below are some practical tips to help managers increase caring while boosting productivity and profitability:

1. Thank the people who put you there

First, consider who your organisation has to thank for its success and how you can demonstrate your appreciation to these key stakeholders, whether it’s the employees, suppliers or communities you operate in. This means taking the time to understand their needs and aspirations and meeting them. This could include:

  • Structured praise and recognition/development opportunities/team-building days
  • Charitable donations to the local community/allowing your staff to volunteer with community projects

2. Nurturing relationships is not just a “nice to have”

ILM research reveals managers find working relationships (within teams and with customers and suppliers) increasingly important. Developing and maintaining good working relationships are the key means of, not distraction from, doing real work.

Organisations are using the strength of working relationships as a market differentiator. Managers should take time to properly engage with colleagues and understand their aspirations and concerns. Twenty-nine per cent of managers have had training in relationship management.

3. Keep lines of communication open

In a world of digital working, with more people working flexible hours, you might not be the same location as your staff as often. Therefore communication has become a top priority. It’s not surprising that communication has been noted as the top skill managers would like to develop.

However, recent ILM research has noted that this is also the skill which managers state their peers tend to do most badly.

The key to communicating well is fostering good two-way communications. It’s essential that people feel consulted and listened to.

4. Help your managers manage 

Communication, planning, and leadership and management are all cited as being increasingly important but they can be hard to achieve, especially in large organisations.

Training and qualifications will help, especially for people who are newly promoted into management: frequently they are promoted on the basis of technical/subject ability and left without support when it comes to putting management and leadership into practice.

ILM has found that only 57% of organisations have a leadership and management talent pipeline, even though 93% recognise that a lack of management skills is affecting their business.

5. Find out what your employees value

We know from ILM research that the top-ranked (by both managers and employees) performance motivator is job enjoyment.

  • Only 13% of employees rated bonuses as a top motivator
  • 59% of employees rated job enjoyment as a top motivator
  • 31% of employees identified better treatment from their employer; more praise and a greater sense of being valued would make them more motivated.

This could be non-financial recognition and reward, improved office environments, team and company away days or schemes to encourage innovation and creative thinking.

Think how jobs are structured and what opportunities there are to provide development – whether formal training and qualifications or informal opportunities such as secondments or varying the projects or roles of each staff member.

6.  Ensure everyone works towards the goals of the business

Have clearly stated values and work out with everyone what those look like in practice (abstract words on posters or screen savers are not enough).

This will help everyone to pull in the same direction and will also help people applying to work for your company to gauge their suitability.

Having a clear vision which managers can pass on to staff will help everyone to work towards the same thing. ILM research also indicates that it will improve staff positivity and performance.

Specific training and development will help aspiring and current organisational leaders to turn dry objectives into something tangible that their people can reach.

Link to read the original article

see also:

The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work

Understanding the psychology of criticism can help you give better feedback and better deal with negative reviews…

by Courtney Seiter

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Companies  Are Realising They Must Hire Self-Learners

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte,  shares his insights from their Global Human Capital Trends study with 1700 organisations around the world and his observations of current trends and movements…

…It would be nice if employees took a holistic view of their job and their company but most don’t. Most go to work, try to do the best they can, and hope they get paid well, then they go home.

We must build a work environment that works and select for people who suit our culture. Job fit is not just skills and capability but cultural fit e.g. we’re a fun-loving company, we’re a serious company, we work late, we don’t work late etc.

All these are cultural things. These statements will attract different people. If you don’t characterise your culture, you’ll get some percentage of people leaving because the company just isn’t for them.

We have to build organisations that attract the right people.

I think cultural fit does not mean uniformity of thinking and uniformity of race, gender etc. So most of the time when you look at culture you’re looking at behaviour that crosses different work styles and thinking styles.

Deloitte is at its roots a financial services accounting firm, so there’s a certain amount of rigour, quality etc. That doesn’t mean you need to be this race or this gender but you do have to be comfortable with that culture.

A lot of innovative companies have cultures that are very open. One of Zappos’ culture attributes is ‘we like wacky people,’ and they are saying, we want you to be yourself, it’s ok to be different, to look different. Culture doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but due to the purpose and mission of the organisation. Some people will go to work and do their job anywhere – some engineers, for example, even though might be making a nuclear bomb.

Young people today – and I know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

The word talent has been overused so it’s now a buzz word. But more and more economic studies are showing a higher and higher percentage of the economy is driven by services, intellectual property, creativity and innovation – things that require human beings.

At the same time there are the machines that are as smart as people – like Watson from IBM – starting to replace white collar jobs. So you go to a fast food joint and there’s no one there to take your order, you just press a button. And that’s happening in law and accounting and almost every other discipline.

Companies are realising they have to look for people who are creative and self-learners. There’s an accelerating obsolescence of skills. If you’re a software engineer and you don’t know machine learning, you’re falling out of the mainstream. The rate of change in all these technical disciplines is going up.

Companies want to hire self-learners who are passionate about their domain, hard-working, collaborative, creative and want to stay ahead.

More and more learning is pull-driven – by the person. The training department still has to do a lot of formal training but they have to create a learning environment where they can learn on their own.  Otherwise, staff will go outside and learn it somewhere else. That’s why MOOCs are so big and all these online learning systems – people are scrambling around trying to keep their skills and careers modern.

Deloitte just published this study from the Center for the Edge based on profiles of personalities at work. One is called the Passionate Explorer – these are people who are domain experts who love their domain and who continually educate themselves in their domain. Around 15-20% of the workforce falls into this category.

They aren’t always the most execution-focused people, but companies realise you need some of these people in your organisation.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Five career lessons to live by

From accepting that you can’t always have a plan to making sure your voice is heard above the noise,  shares these words of wisdom are relevant to us all from five inspirational businesswomen at this year’s annual  Institute of Directors Women in Leadership conference

“You don’t need to have a plan to succeed” ~ Dr Suzy Walton

The “what are you going to do with your life?” question pops up at a worryingly young age, and while it’s wonderful if you have a clear passion and vision for your career path, it can be hugely intimidating for those of us who have never really had a clue.

Setting goals for yourself can be a positive step forward, but it can also leave you blinkered and unable to see the unexpected opportunities that might come your way. Trying to stick too rigidly to a plan can also mean that if life throws you a curveball, it can knock you sideways. Being open to change and accepting that things don’t always work out the way you thought they would could be the key to a happier life and a more exciting, varied career path.

“Sometimes you need to pretend to have authority” ~ Anne-Marie Huby, founder of Justgiving

When asked how she dealt with the difficulties of asserting yourself as a young person in a new role, Huby’s advice was clear: “pretend to be the person you want to be.”

Self-doubt is one of the biggest career stallers out there. You could be brilliant at what you do, but if you don’t act with conviction then others will doubt you and your leadership. If you have trouble being authoritative and believing in yourself at work, perhaps its time to see how far a little acting takes you, and how quickly the way you project yourself becomes the reality.

“You have to speak up if you want to get noticed” ~ Dr Leah Totton, winner of the Apprentice and founder of Dr Leah Clinics

If you work in a company where good work is always rewarded and credit is always given to the right person, then you’re one of the lucky ones. For most of us, sitting back and hoping that someone notices that we’ve been in the office since sunrise isn’t the route to career success. If you want to stand out from the crowd and prove that you deserve that promotion/pay rise/investment then you have to stand up for yourself so that you can be heard over the noise.

“Starting a new business always takes longer than you think” ~ Pippa Begg, director of Board Intelligence

For many women, entrepreneurship offers a rewarding alternative to the corporate rat race. Running your own business is often painted as the perfect situation, offering motivation, job satisfaction and the opportunity to set your own rules. The reality however, can be more challenging than you could possibly imagine.

“People will tell you that it takes twice as long as you think it will to get your first client,” said Begg. “Forget that – it takes at least five times longer.” It took Board Intelligence over a year to get its first client; a time frame that would have left many entrepreneurs ready to give up. For Begg and her business partner, a firm belief in their proposition kept them going, and a few years down the line they boast an impressive lineup of clients.

“Diversity is a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice” ~ Cindy Miller, president of European operations at UPS

Miller joined the famously male-dominated company she now runs 25 years ago as a package car driver and worked her way up to her current position. She described her first promotion to manager, and how she later discovered that she had been fourth choice for the role, behind three men.

She spoke about current company developments, including mentoring, support and community building for female employees, emphasising the importance of cultural changes as well as practical ones.

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

Link to read the original Guardian article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation

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What you can find amongst this week’s toolbox of practical techniques

Playing To Your Signature Strengths

24 SMS ‘ till Christmas is the initiative from Happy Newcomer that presents a movie and a song that reflect the spirit of each the 24 Character Strengths from Seligman & Peterson’s model that we are using more and more.

In this week’s collection you will find the next six Character Strengths:

  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Love of Learning
  • Social Intelligence
  • Zest & Enthusiasm

Three Critical Conversations that Boost Employee Engagement

by  and 

Employee engagement is an individual experience, and here are three types of conversations that will give you critical engagement-boosting information from your employees…

1. The “Start, Stop, Continue, Increase” Conversation

Here’s how this conversation might sound:

Lisa, one of the things I like to do with each new hire is get specific feedback on how I manage … specific feedback on what works for them and what doesn’t. So, with that in mind, I’d like to get your responses to the following questions:

  • First, what’s one thing that I do that is really helpful in terms of bringing out the best in you that I should keep doing?
  • The second question I’d like to get your response to is ‘What’s one thing I do that irritates or frustrates you, so that would be the one thing I should STOP doing, if I want to bring out the best in you?
  • The third question I’ll be asking is, ‘What’s one thing you recommend I START doing, because by doing this, I will make the biggest positive impact in your work experience and in my ability to bring out the best in you?’
  • Finally, what’s something I do that is really positive, but, I could be doing it a lot more?

Those are the four questions I’d like to get your take on. So, here they are on a sheet of paper. To give you some time to think rather than catch you off guard, how about if you think about your answers and then we can go through them next week when we meet?”

Because most employees have never been asked such questions, and because many people need time to think through their questions and responses, you will get better quality answers by letting them reflect on their answers.

2. The “What Would Be Most Helpful?” Conversation

This is a more focused, situation-specific request for feedback on your management style.

So, here’s how it might sound:

When I asked you to go search out that difficult answer, was that helpful or would it have been better for me to have teamed you up with Joe?”

Asking “What would be most helpful?” in the conversation gives you valuable information you can use to tailor your approach to each specific employee. As we discussed in our previous article, each employee has their own unique combination of motivators, de-motivators, preferences, and aspirations.

One size does not fit all, and your ability to bring out the best in each employee depends on your ability to tailor your approach to meet each employee’s unique combination.

Asking this also strengthens your relationship with the employee. Even if they don’t have a ready answer, your asking the question demonstrates that you want to manage that employee in the way that works best for them. It communicates that you care enough to want their feedback.

Also, the courage and humility demonstrated in such a request engenders tremendous respect and appreciation in the employee.

3. The “What would You Like to Know About Me?” Conversation

This conversation is especially useful for new employees. It saves them from the unnecessary anxiety caused by an uncommunicative boss who won’t express explicitly what they want from their employees and what makes them happy.

Here’s an example of how this conversation might sound:

Just as we’ve been having conversations about what works best for you and how I can bring out your best, I’d like to have what I call a “What Would You Like to Know About Me?” conversation with you. I have found this to be really helpful with new employees.

This is where they ask anything they want about what I look for most in my team members, my core values, specific business goals, things that drive ME crazy as a supervisor … that sort of thing. So with that in mind, what would you like to know about me that you would find helpful?”

Besides helping them get to know you, this question also allows you to model that it’s beneficial to be direct and open about who you are and what you want. This is a subtle invitation to the employee to do the same with you.

Link to read the original article

Favourite Books of 2014

Berkley’s Greater Good editorsJill Suttie, and Jeremy Adam Smith list their top picks from the previous year – perhaps one or two of these might make a good gift for someone you care about about.  This might well be yourself of course…

the-truth-about-trust- David DeSteno

The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More by David DeSteno

Trust is the social glue that allows us to do more together than we could ever do alone. But trustworthiness is a moving target, argues psychologist David DeSteno, dependent on our moods, circumstances, and competing needs; therefore, it’s best to learn how trusts works if we want to connect with others without being taken for a ride.

As social animals, we’ve developed shortcuts for knowing whom to trust—“gut reactions,” based on subtle cues, like folding arms across one’s chest or leaning back—that signal someone is untrustworthy. While some of these can be quite accurate, others are subject to manipulation and prejudice, which DeSteno demonstrates with ingenious science experiments. Some of his findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom—most notably, the view that trustworthiness is a fixed trait. Instead, he argues, being trustworthy depends on an internal calculus, where we weigh the benefits versus the costs of acting with integrity in any given situation.

Our ability to predict our own trustworthiness—like trusting ourselves to refrain from adultery—is hampered by our inability to predict future cost/benefits and by our tendency to rationalize our own behavior. He argues that we should work toward nurturing our trusting nature and our trustworthiness if we want to succeed in life and contribute to a more harmonious society.

Mindwise - Nicholas EpleyMindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley

Though we humans are equipped with a brain specially attuned to predict what others are thinking, feeling, and planning, there are many cases in which our “mindreading” powers lead us astray. Social psychologist Nicholas Epley presents fascinating research on how our social brains work and why we sometimes can’t look beyond our own preconceptions.

Epley suggests we have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanization. To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Making Grateful KidsMaking Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character by Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono

Many parents worry that our modern culture, with its focus on materialism, will make their kids spoiled and entitled. But, while culture can have a negative impact, researchers Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono suggest ways parents can avoid this outcome: by helping kids develop gratitude.

Research has shown that grateful kids have all kinds of advantages later in life—better relationships, higher levels of happiness and optimism, and more commitment to community, to name a few. Froh and Bono’s book outlines that research and provides thirty-two research-based tips for parents to encourage gratitude in their children. Much of what they suggest falls into the category of overall good parenting—i.e. being present for your kids, encouraging their talents, and providing needed support. In other cases, their tips involve specific gratitude practices, as well as role-modeling the gratitude behavior you want to see in your kids.

But, their goals go beyond wanting parents to enjoy their kids more: “The ultimate function that gratitude may serve in human development…is to help individuals find their own life story for elevating others and to make a difference in the world,” they write.

The Upside of Your DownsideThe Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener 

“Every emotion is useful,” write the authors of The Upside of Your Dark Side. “Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones.”

Kashdan and Biswas-Diener delve deep into the research to understand why “negative” states like anger or sadness have evolved; they also look at what happens when positive emotions aren’t restrained by negative ones that may cause us to reflect, take a stand against unfairness, or speak our minds. Of course, not all anger is useful; not all sadness is healthy. This is where the book shines: The authors tease out the differences between, for example, anger and rage, and then provide very concrete tips for managing negative states so that they don’t run out of control.

But The Upside of Your Dark Side also contains a larger cultural critique of movements for greater happiness and well-being. Positive emotions are good, argues this book, but focusing excessively on them can cut us off from our whole selves.

Empathy - why it matters and how to get itEmpathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It by Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric, a philosopher and founding faculty member of London’s School of Life, explains how we humans are wired for empathy and why empathy is so important to cultivate.

Science shows that we literally have brain circuits devoted to trying to understand how another person is feeling and to “feel with” them. Yet there are social, political, and psychological barriers to feeling empathy that can get in the way. Krznaric’s book argues that we need to understand these barriers and find ways to overcome them if we are to create the compassionate society we want.

Empathy is not about pity or sympathy, he writes, but about truly putting yourself in another’s worldview and treating them accordingly—“Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.” He outlines six habits of highly empathic people—i.e. immersing yourself in another culture, engaging in conversation with people who don’t share your views, or joining a choir with people from many walks of life—as a way of decreasing prejudice and developing empathy.

Brainstorm - the power and purpose of the teenage brainBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel

The cultural view that impulsive teen behavior is due to “raging hormones” is outdated and just plain wrong. These two books explain what’s actually going on in teens’ lives and what we can do to support and nurture them on their path to adulthood.

 

Age of Opportunity - lessons from the new science of adolesenceAge of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg

Their advice rests on what scientists now understand about the human brain and teen development. During adolescence, the brain starts to become more efficient by “pruning” out neural connections that are less needed, making adolescence a period of both great neural reorganization and creativity.

Ha! the science of when we laugh and whyHa!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why by Scott Weems

You may assume that the appreciation of humor is too idiosyncratic to study scientifically; but you’d be wrong. Psychologist Scott Weems has delved into the science of laughter and come up with an entertaining read about what humor is and what it does for our brains, our health, and our relationships.

It’s true that not everyone finds the same jokes funny. But the common thread in different types of humor is that they all involve dealing with surprise and resolving the ensuing cognitive dissonance in the brain—neural processing that has benefits in other realms of our lives, such as creativity and insight.

Laughing at jokes also releases the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain, and can increase blood flow and strengthen the heart, much like aerobic exercise does. Perhaps that’s why a sense of humor often tops the list of desirable qualities in a mate.

People say that “laughter is the best medicine,” and laughter has indeed been shown to decrease pain and to reduce stress. Weems suggests laughing at jokes even if they aren’t funny is a good strategy. It will make your life happier and healthier and, because laughter is contagious, spread good feelings to those around you.

Link to the original Greater Good article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Happiness At Work edition #119

All of these stories and many more are collected together in this week’s latest edition of Happiness At Work

Enjoy…

Resilience ~ the increasingly must-have skillset for us all

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

The following post is adapted from materials we use in our resilience workshop and eLearning programmes.  We hope you find these useful.

Resilience is becoming one those things we are all expected to be good at – and it may even be starting to be seen as some kind of new panacea.

Last year Forbes predicted that it would be one of the key new trends in business.

The UK Government has called for resilience to be taught in schools and resilience is being looked to for our economic recovery and future success.

In their book, ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,’ co-authors by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy feature a type of workplace resilience which has involved innovative CEOs all over America and abroad to hire Marketplace Chaplains to provide pastoral care and go some new ways to meet the increasing sense of value in employee wellbeing.

 Zolli described the thinking in a recent New York Times piece, Learning to Bounce Back

“[A] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organisations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.”

Similar trends are being noticed in the UK.  Here are some thoughts by Stefan Stern from his January 2014 Guardian article:

Yes, teach workers resilience – but they’ll still have a breaking point

"Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip"

“Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip”

As the global economic race sets in, it is leaders’ responsibility to organise work in a way that does not harm people’s health

This “global race” business is no laughing matter. It’s as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics want us all to stay in training. The language of fitness and athleticism is everywhere: we have to be flexible, we have to be agile, we have to be nimble.

And now, it seems, we have to be resilient too. The civil service is the latest organisation to support “resilience training” as a way of helping staff deal with the pressures of work. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice, told the FT that colleagues could benefit from developing coping skills in today’s tougher climate.

Who could be against resilience, or greater fitness come to think of it? The healthy worker may be more resistant to colds and flu, and will have the energy to keep going when others start to tire. Economists continue to worry about the chronic poor productivity in the UK. A lack of resilience may have something to do with it. Whether you are on a late or early shift, there is work to be done and targets to be hit. That means being ready and able to perform.

But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”?

Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, says this. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” He supports “any training which can equip staff with the skills they need to help look after their own mental wellbeing”.

There is a caveat, however. Resilience should not be seen as a way of putting up with anything. “Nobody should be expected to cope with ever-increasing demands, excessive workloads and longer working hours,” he says.

What really adds to stress and a sense of powerlessness at work is a loss of autonomy, either as a result of poor work organisation or the impossibility of being able to speak up. And while it might seem refreshing to hear a senior civil servant discussing the need for a more open culture and better two-way communication between bosses and employees, if this doesn’t happen in practice then stress levels are likely to rise.

But a positive mindset can go a long way to help individuals to overcome the most difficult of situations.

Resilience is definitely something that can be learned and is worth cultivating – it increases our power and range of choices over our circumstances – whatever they may be – and therefore, ultimately, the outcomes we produce.

And it is important to note that healthy adaptation to stress depends not only on the individual, but also on available resources through family, friends and variety of organisations, and on the characteristics of specific cultures and religions, communities, societies and governments – all of which in themselves may be more or less resilient.

Mark Trezona 2014

“The forces of fate that bear down on man and threaten to break him also have the capacity to ennoble him.” – Elisabeth S. Lukas, a protégé’ of the neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl,

What is resilience?

It is estimated that up to 90% of us will experience at least one serious traumatic event in our lives.

Traumatic events throw our lives into turmoil in unpredictable ways; no two people will respond to them in exactly the same manner.

For some, the stress of the event will become chronic, lasting for years.

But most of us find ways to meet the challenge and continue with purposeful lives. For a period after their ordeal we may become distressed, but in time we will bounce back and carry on. For some, it will be almost as if the trauma had never occurred. For others, the distress will persist, but they will find healthy ways to cope.

And some survivors will even grow stronger and wiser because of their trauma. These survivors may report that their tragedy has helped them to appreciate life more, to become closer to family and friends, to find greater meaning, and sometimes to embark on a new mission in life. In the words of Elisabeth S. Lukas, a protégé’ of the neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “The forces of fate that bear down on us and threaten to break us also have the capacity to ennoble us.”

Shawn Achor – who talks about resilience specifically in Principle 4 – “Falling Up” of his Happiness Advantage model:

“The people who can most successfully get themselves up off the mat after failure or setbacks are those that define themselves not by what has happened to them, but by what they can make out of what happened.”

Defining resilience

Resilience is complex, multidimensional and dynamic in nature.

Resilience - an increasingly must-have skillset

Resilience – an increasingly must-have skillset

Zolli and Healy define resilience as “the capacity … of a person to maintain their core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances…”

In people, resilience refers to the ability to continue to survive and even to thrive after encountering difficulty. The American Psychological Association defines it as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace or financial stresses.’

In his book Aging Well, Harvard University psychologist George Vaillant (2002) describes resilient individuals as resembling “a twig with a fresh, green living core. When twisted out of shape, such a twig bends, but it does not break; instead it springs back and continues growing”

Resilience has been defined as an attitude that enables the individual to examine, enhance and utilise the strengths, characteristics and other resources available to him or her. Further expansions of this definition of resilience include:

An individual’s response and methods used to allow them to successfully navigate through or past an event perceived to be stressful.

“The flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences” (Tugade et al, 2004) or “a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversities which can be unusual or common place.” (Neenan, 2010).

“The capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).

The term “bouncing back” is used to describe resilience, but this belies the struggles and adaptations that an individual has to make in order to emerge stronger from a stressful situation and the growth that is part of resilience.

Dimensions of Personal Resilience

Resilience is far more than a simple psychological trait or biological phenomenon. In order to truly understand it, researchers must approach it from multiple perspectives and examine it through a number of different scientific lenses,

Here are the five human dimensions of resilience, mapped on to our favourite tool for developing greater resilience: Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities model (more about this below):

 

5 Dimensions of Resilience mapped onto Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Capabilities (Mark Trezona 2014)

5 Dimensions of Resilience mapped onto Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Capabilities (Mark Trezona 2014)

Emotional   Organisation, problem solving, self-determination.

“Approaching life’s challenges in a positive, optimistic way by demonstrating self-control, stamina and good character with your choices and actions.”

When faced with a difficulty we will appraise the situation and make an assessment of whether or not our own skills are sufficient to navigate the event successfully. If we feel there is a deficiency, this can lead to reduced optimism and positivity. Having prior experience of successful problem solving increases our confidence and can assist in the development of a positive attitude.

People with high levels of determination are strong self-believers: they believe that they will be able to tackle most things, which gives them positive feelings of being able to make choices and keep at least some control over what is happening.

Psychological   Vision, self-confidence, self-determination.

“Strengthening a set of beliefs, principles or values that sustain you beyond family, institution and societal sources of strength.”

Having a vision gives us a sense of purpose and direction to one’s life. Without a life vision, activities and actions have a reduced value and therefore affect the effort and determination that will be applied to overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of achieving the goals associated with the vision.

It also means that when competing demands arrive it is easier to allocate time and energy according to your goals/vision, giving precedence to the things that have the greatest worth for you.

Having goals is essential to our survival, and having a strong personal vision contribute to our self-confidence, hope and excitement about the future.

Physical   Self-determination, vision, self-confidence.

“Performing and excelling in physical activities that require aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, healthy body composition and flexibility derived through exercise, nutrition and training.”

This dimension recognises that feeling as physically fit and healthy as we can be is an essential aspect of resilience. What physical exercise contributes to our resilience comes from the degree of effort we make, and the commitment to an exercise programme over a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of significant effort three times per week over three to four months (Leith, 2010).

A commitment to a lasting and stretching exercise programme requires self-determination, and achievement of this contributes to mood control, creates positive emotions and raises self-confidence and, consequently, self-belief.

Social   Interaction, relationships, self-confidence.

“Developing and maintaining trusted, valued relationships and friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication including a comfortable exchange of ideas, views and experiences.”

We need others in order to survive, and more we are able to reach out and strengthen our interactions the better. Mowbray advocates strengthening our ability to create reciprocity, the ability to respond, understand and assist in the needs of others – ‘first seek to understand…’ – and, in return, others will respond what we need.

Our own personal resilience can be hugely affected by relationships at work, including the effect of line managers. If our manager is limiting our progression, subtly or overtly, it will be a challenge not to allow this to affect how we feel about ourselves,. Our resilience demands that we can avoid feeling “hard done by” attitude, and remain connected and engaged in our work. (Of course, a manager who invests time in encouraging and nurturing us helps us to build up our psychological capital and to be more resilient when we need to be.)

Family   Relationships, interaction, vision, self-confidence.

“Being part of a unit that is safe, supportive, loving and provides all the resources needed for all members to live in a healthy and secure environment.”

Everyone needs a relationship where they feel safe enough to “just be themselves” without any fear of belittlement, ostracising or other forms of behaviour that make the individual feel that they need to adapt and modify their behaviour. Usually this comes from within the family structure and it is these relationships that can either be supportive and nourishing, or the most punitive and damaging, in which case we will need to develop considerable resilience.

 

What makes some people resilient?

Can the average person learn to become more resilient?

We now know that most of us bounce back naturally from the setbacks and hard times we face.

 

Resilience Curve - most of us with come through whatever setbacks and traumas we face; some us will make ourselves better as a result of dealing with our difficulties (Mark Trezona 2014)

Resilience Curve – most of us with come through whatever setbacks and traumas we face; some us will make ourselves better as a result of dealing with our difficulties (Mark Trezona 2014)

A small minority of us will get trapped and unable to move beyond the trauma we have faced without significant help – this is what we recognise as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The same percentage of us are so experts at resilience, that they not only bounce back, they grow stronger and believe things to be somehow finer as a result of their experience dealing with the tough times they have had to face.

And these are the people – dozens of them – that psychiatrists Stephen Southwick and Dennis Charney studied to create their 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities that we have based our starfish model on

Southwick & Charney interviewed three different groups of people:

  1. Former Vietnam Prisoners Of War who, like Viktor Frankl, had to survive and come through severe deprivation and sometimes long periods of what might appear to have been insurmountable and never-ending hopelessness
  2. American Special Forces Instructors – who have to train their people to be resilient in advance of almost certain trauma and who are now systematically using techniques for this not just from this model but from Martin Seligman’s Signature Strengths and Positive Psychology teachings too, and are seeing significantly reduced numbers of returning servicemen and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  3. And the third group of people Southwick and Charney interviewed were civilian men and women who had not only survived enormous stress and trauma, but had somehow endured or thrived, including many of the survivors and protagonists from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Bouncing back is a choice – but the choice is easier for some

Here is what they write in summary of their extensive research:

When we began this project we assumed that highly resilient people were somehow special, perhaps genetically gifted. We assumed that resilience was relatively rare, reserved for a select group of individuals. But we were wrong.

Resilience is common (Masten, 2001). It can be witnessed all around us, and for most people it can be enhanced through learning and training.

Millions of people all over the world exhibit resilience in their responses to challenging events and circumstances of all kinds.

Most us have been taught to believe that stress is bad.  We have learned to see stress as our enemy, something that we must avoid or reduce.  But the truth is, when stress can be managed, it tends to be very good and even necessary for health and growth.  Without it, the mind and body weaken.  If we can learn to harness stress it can serve as a catalyst for developing greater strength and even wisdom.

And yet we need to acknowledge that building resilience and bouncing back is easier for some that it is for others.

And it is important to say that if you ever feel what you are facing is too much to cope with, and do seek expert help and guidance.

It is vital not to feel that simply by learning these techniques we are then on our own and should be able to make things work for ourselves

Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes that help needs to come from a professional in this field.

 

"Falling Up" - Principle #4 of Shawn Achor's Happiness Adavantage

“Falling Up” – Principle #4 of Shawn Achor’s Happiness Adavantage

How Resilient Are You?

Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium.com, the online stress management system that teaches people “how to find balance, once and for all,” concludes that there are four key components that contribute to resilience. 

 If there’s a word people in the top ranks of human capital are buzzing about these days, it’s resilience…

The fact is, resilience in a person is far more than a tough-as-Teflon surface or rubbery resolve that helps you rebound from stress or disappointment. Because while we humans are arguably all made from the same stuff, some of us clearly have a way of thriving even when times are tough and stress is unabating.

The four essentials that make the critical difference between hanging tough to get what you want in life and never quite getting there. The most resilient among us can summon these components at will—or, better yet, make them habitual so they don’t have to think twice.

1.   You believe in yourself. Seems simple and obvious, but in fact, you won’t get very far without this. A resilient person is not cocky or overly confident; quite the opposite: they have a clear sense of their own potential, capability, and ability to cope and achieve — a top trait of resilient people.

It’s this belief that contributes to self-efficacy, which means not only your ability to do a thing but to access the resources to get the help you need.

2.   You have the ability to see what is possible, while also seeing what is.  Optimism has been touted as above-all important, but resilient people temper this with a less-is-more approach. Blind optimism is a liability, but tempered with clear vision, an optimistic outlook is an asset, and I’m far more likely to trust someone with a sense of realistic optimism than someone who refuses to take into account the downsides in the “spirit of positivity.” The most resilient people assess their surroundings as well as their own strengths and weaknesses in context, and know where they will excel — and where they will fall short.

At the same time, they have a positive bias—they expect good things from the world and from other people. It’s this kind of outlook that allows them to do what’s also critical: to see the world for what it is. And you need both. The clear vision is what gives you the power to assess what is and what you need to do about it (realism), and at the same time keep expecting good things. Because if you truly believe that there’s nothing and no one good left, you won’t be able to function, let alone thrive.

3.   You have control over your impulses and feelings. With the ability to self-evaluate and assess a situation must come the willingness to manage the impulses and emotions that result. This is where a resilient person’s rubber meets the road.

The most resilient people aren’t hotheads; they don’t combust over little (or big) things. They’re able to take everything into account before they respond so that they don’t make mistakes, rash decisions, or other actions they may regret. Unchecked emotions and impulses not only contribute to those actions, but can cost them some self-preservation, as they’re big contributors to stress. This takes a lot of practice, no question! We’ll spend our lives learning to be better. But it is a skill that can be learned and honed, and the most resilient among us know that.

4.   You aim high and reach out.  A resilient person doesn’t curl up and die over the slightest rejection or failure. In fact, a resilient person does the opposite of curl up; they expand. They reach out—even in the wake of crisis.

This is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of resilience: Your ability to continue to aim high and reach for it, as opposed to lowering your standards, expectations, or efforts. So when things don’t go your way (as they sometimes don’t), and you feel hindered or pushed back, your inner resilience can keep you coming back, and reaching out, not just to “try again,” but to outdo yourself, once again.

Link to read the original Forbes article

We can all learn to be more resilient

We have chosen the starfish to be the poster image of Southwick & Charney’s model, because starfish are one of those extraordinary beings that are capable of growing themselves back if they lose a part of themselves – in fact they can re-grow themselves from a single cell. So if they lose an arm , little by little over time they can grow it back.

Neuroplasticity is our human form of this perpetual capacity for growth.  This is “the ability of the nervous system to respond to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganising its structure, function and connections.”

You may recognise this idea from other teachings from the science of happiness, for example Shawn Achor’s Tetris Effect principle, and we know from other studies that if we keep a Gratitude Journal or make a 3 Good Things list every day, after 21 days we have physically rewired the circuitry in our brains so that we are autonomically scanning for these things without any longer having to deliberately choose to.

When cells in the brain are actively used, they transmit their messages more efficiently, and form more connections with other cells. On the other hand, when brain cells are not stimulated, they die and are pruned away. As with other regions of the body, the well-known adage of “use it or lose it” also applies to the brain.

By repeatedly activating specific areas of the brain, we can strengthen those areas. In other words, by systematically following the advice of the POWs, Special Forces instructors and other resilient women and men from Southwick & Charney’s study, we. too, can become more stress-resilient.

So here are the 10 capabilities that Southwick & Charney discovered that all of the highly expert resilient individuals they interviewed used in their response to stress, difficulty and trauma…

 

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities, (Mark Trezona, 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities, (Mark Trezona, 2014)

Expert resilience involves…

  1. Realistic Optimism ~ keeping an optimistic but realistic outlook;
  2. Facing Fear ~ confronting fears;
  3. trusting and relying upon our own inner Moral Compass;
  4. Religion & Spirituality ~ having a religious or spiritual practice and finding a way to accept what we cannot change;
  5. seeking out and accepting Social Support; and
  6. imitating strong Resilient Role Models;
  7. Physical Fitness ~ attending to our health and wellbeing, and exercising sufficiently intensively to stay physically fit;
  8. Brain Fitness ~ keeping mentally sharp and emotionally strong;
  9. Cognitive & Emotional Flexibility ~ active problem solving, looking to uncover meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity and even found humour in the bleakest moments;
  10. Meaning & Purpose ~ Finally, resilience means accepting to a very high degree responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing, and even deliberately using our most difficult experiences as a platform for personal growth.

Taken together these are the capabilities that can make us strong and highly resilient and, thus, far more able to – as Shawn Achor words it – Fall Up when we encounter problems and setbacks in our work – as well as in our lives.

 

1. Realistic Optimism: belief in a brighter future

Ignition: Realistic Optimism, Resilience Capability #1

Ignition: Realistic Optimism, Resilience Capability #1

Optimism serves as fuel that ignites resilience and provides energy to power all of the other resilience factors. It facilitates an active and creative approach to coping with stressful situations.

Optimism is a future-oriented attitude, involving hope and confidence that things will turn out well. Optimists believe that the future will be bright, that good things will happen to them, and that, with enough hard work, they will succeed. Pessimists, in contrast, see the future as dim. They believe that bad things will happen to them and doubt that they have the skills and stamina to achieve their goals.

BUT Blind optimism doesn’t work

Realistic optimists pay close attention to negative information that is relevant to the problems they face. However, unlike pessimists, they do not remain focused on the negative. They tend to disengage rapidly from problems that appear to be unsolvable. That is, they know when to cut their losses and turn their attention to problems that they believe that they can solve.

How does optimism increase resilience?

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson observes that positive emotions have been shown to reduce physiological arousal and to broaden our visual focus, our thoughts and our behaviour. When people experience positive emotions and an accompanying broadening of attention and behaviour, their thinking tends to become more creative, inclusive, flexible and integrative. Experiments have shown that inducing a positive mood (e.g. by showing participants a funny movie or reading them a funny story) increases people scope of attention, their abilities to solve problems accurately, and their interest in socialising and in strenuous as well as leisurely activities. Thus, by broadening attention and action, positive emotions can contribute to our creativity, physical health, relationships with family and friends, and our ability to acquire new knowledge, and our psychological resilience.

Three coping mechanisms related to broadening attention include:

Positive reappraisal of trying circumstances

When optimists broaden their attention, they increase their capacity to positive reappraise situations that initially appear to be negative. The process of reframing allows them to approach hardship as a challenge and to find opportunity embedded in adversity. Optimists who are realists don’t deny the difficulties they face, but they do tend to look for a silver lining.

 Goal-directed, problem-focused coping

Optimists tend to cope with stress by actively employing strategies to solve problems. They gather information, acquire necessary skills, plan, set goals, make decisions, resolve conflicts, and seek social support. Research has shown that optimism and positive expectations tend to promote active striving, while pessimism and negative expectations are associated with feelings of weakness and helplessness that may lead to unhelpful behaviours like self-pity, resentment, denial and avoidance of problems.

Infusion of meaning into ordinary events

Optimists are more likely than pessimists to report that their lives are meaningful. While it is widely believed that a sense of meaning and purpose enhances positive emotions and happiness, researchers have recently begun to ask whether it also works the other way around – whether positive emotions and feelings of happiness can enhance one’s belief that life has meaning. The optimist may be more likely than the pessimist to see the ‘big picture’ and to view daily experiences within a larger framework of meaning.

The neuroscience of optimism

The prefrontal cortex is essential for guiding behaviour, regulating emotions, and understanding the difference between potential rewards and punishments. It is also essential for imagining the future and setting goals – functions that relate directly to optimism. The prefrontal cortex enables us to engage in optimistic processes like hoping for the best and imagining a bright future, anticipating and preparing to meet a challenge, and making plans to achieve and enjoy success.

The prefrontal cortex is also involved in learning. Even though optimism has a substantial hereditary component, it can be augmented through learning. Even if you are a born pessimist, or a very limited situational optimist, you can teach yourself to increase optimistic thought.

Ways to become more optimistic

One way to increase optimism involves learning a set of cognitive skills that are part of what Martin Seligman has termed ‘learned optimism.

Social scientists and cognitive behaviourists describe two basic approaches for learning and enhancing optimism: increasing positive thinking; and refuting negative thinking. With practice we can teach ourselves to think or insert positive thoughts. We can also teach ourselves not to dwell on negative thoughts. To do this we must learn to distinguish negative thoughts and then to challenge their accuracy.

  •  Use the power of Positive Thinking

Here are some of The Power of Positive Thinking author Vincent Peale recommendations:

Make a true estimate of your ability and then raise it by 10%.

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Always picture success no matter how badly things seem to be going at the moment.

Practice positive and peaceful thinking by making a list of positive and peaceful thoughts and pass them through your mind several times each day.

Practice the technique of suggestive articulation, that is, repeat out loud some positive, success-oriented and peaceful words.

Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.

Adopt an “I don’t believe in defeat” attitude.

Start each day by affirming positive, successful, peaceful and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful.

  • Spend time with positive people

Two of Peale’s other recommendations, to cultivate friendships with hopeful people and to avoid “worry conversations,” bear special emphasis. Optimism and pessimism can both be contagious, so it is often beneficial to intentionally surround ourselves with people who are positive, confident and encouraging. Under adverse circumstances, people are best able to call upon their own resilience and keep their hopes up if people around them are doing the same.

Ways to Develop Realistic Optimism

Ways to Develop Realistic Optimism

How optimists and pessimists think

Psychologists like Martin Seligman have found that pessimists and optimists have very different explanatory styles (ways of explaining bad a good events to themselves and others.) Optimists tend to respond to adverse events by viewing the consequences as temporary and limited in scope. They are likely to use words such as “sometimes” or “lately.” In addition, optimistic people tend to have an internal locus of control – the belief that they can influence events in their lives.

  • Learn to modify your explanatory style

One practical approach to enhancing optimism involves learning to recognise and modify your typical explanatory style. Developing these cognitive skills may also prove useful when dealing with adversity.

When something bad happens:

Remember that these difficulties won’t last forever. Take one day at a time. Where now there may be only pain, over time good things will return.

Keep the adverse event or situation within its limits: don’t let it pervade other areas of your life.

Think of strengths and resources you can use to help deal with the problem.

Notice what is good, for example, acts of kindness by those who recognise your struggle.

And when something good happens:

Give yourself credit for whatever part you played in making it happen.

Allow yourself to feel grateful for whatever part you didn’t play in it – the efforts or generosity of others, or just simple good luck.

Get the most out of it: think of ways to expand the scope and duration of the positive event or situation.

  • Question your negative beliefs

There is also evidence that we can build optimism by confronting negative thoughts and emotions.

One practical approach to enhancing optimism involves learning to recognise and modify your typical explanatory style. Developing these cognitive skills may also prove useful when dealing with adversity. Here are a few tips.

When something bad happens:

Remember that these difficulties won’t last forever. Take one day at a time. Where now there may be only pain, over time good things will return.

Keep the adverse event or situation within its limits: don’t let it pervade other areas of your life.

Think of strengths and resources you can use to help deal with the problem.

Notice what is good, for example, acts of kindness by those who recognise your struggle.

And when something good happens:

Give yourself credit for whatever part you played in making it happen.

Allow yourself to feel grateful for whatever part you didn’t play in it – the efforts or generosity of others, or just simple good luck.

Get the most out of it: think of ways to expand the scope and duration of the positive event or situation.

In his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman recommends responding to negative thoughts “as if they were uttered by an external person whose mission is to make your life miserable.” Sometimes it is helpful to ask yourself specific questions in order to refute negative beliefs. These may include:

  • What is the evidence for this negative belief?
  • Is there a less destructive way to look at this belief?
  • What are the implications of this belief?
  • Am I catastrophising or exaggerating the potential negative impact of the situation?
  • Am I over-generalising, falsely assuming that this particular situation has broad implications?
  • How useful is my pessimistic approach to the problem at hand?

2. Facing fear: an adaptive response

To become more resilient, sooner or later we will need ton face our fears.

Moving Forward: Facing Fears, Resilience Capability #2

Moving Forward: Facing Fears, Resilience Capability #2

Can we prevent or undo fear conditioning?

What happens if you don’t get back on the horse right away? Does there come a time when it’s too late? The answer appears to be no. Until recently it was believed that once a memory had been consolidated into long-term storage it remains essentially permanent. However, newer research suggests that every tie a memory is retrieved it once again becomes unstable for a brief period of time until it is reconsolidated. This unstable period provides another window of time during which the memory can be updated and transformed.

Focus on the goal or mission

“What are my goals? What is my mission? What is the mission of my group? In order to meet my goals and accomplish my mission, I know that I must make a choice, either back down and fail, or face this fear and forge ahead. It’s that simple.

Acquire information about what is feared

“A big part of true fear is the fear of the unknown, when you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. You can’t anticipate, but you think it’s going to be horrible. But most scenarios that we face, we have already learned about from people, from our own experience, or whatever.

Learn and practice the skills necessary to master the fear

“Of all the autonomic responses to the adrenaline rush – including heart rate, respiration, skin conductivity, and muscle tension – the one that we can best control consciously is respiration. Deep, controlled breathing is largely incompatible with the other elements of the fear response. Physical relaxation can get you to the point where mental relaxation, and therefore outward focus, can be re-established and maintained.” (West Point instructor Col. Thomas Kolditz)

Face fear with friends or colleagues

Most people find it easier to face fear with other people, especially those that they know and trust.

Get someone or an organisation to push you

“After you do one thing and conquer it, the next thing will be a little bit easier.”

Fear is ubiquitous. No one escapees its grip. But what is the best way to deal with it? The bottom line: the best way around fear is through it. To conquer fear one must face fear. That’s what resilient people do.

 3. Moral Compass

Moral Compass, Resilience Capability #3

Moral Compass, Resilience Capability #3

In their interviews Southwick & Charney found that the most resilient individuals possessed a keen sense of right and wrong that strengthened them during periods of extreme stress and afterward, as they adjusted to life following trauma. And they also showed high levels of altruism – selflessness, concern for the welfare of others, and giving to others with no expectation of benefit to the self – often stood as a pillar of their value system, or their “moral compass.”

Actively identifying your core values, assessing the degree to which you are living by these values, and challenging yourself to adopt a higher standard can strengthen character and build resilience.

Training for moral compass

Courage is a learned quality, an acquirable set of skills, a practiced competence. If I want to develop my moral courage, where do I begin? In his book Moral Courage Rushworth Kidder outlines a three-step process.

  1.  First, I must perform a candid self-assessment by examining myself, openly and honestly. We all have core values and beliefs. What are mine? Which are the most important to me? Am I living by these principles and values? Am I falling short, and if so, where? Am I motivated to change? Do I have the courage to do so?This self-assessment is only the first step.
  2. Next Kidder recommends that I discuss these questions with highly principled people whose ethics I admire. These discussion can then help me recognise and analyse the numerous situations in life where my actions have moral implications, and to honestly evaluate the risks and dangers involved in defending my core values.
  3. In the third step I practice my moral values and try to uphold them in challenging situations. I need to remain vigilant because it is all too easy to relax our values, make compromises. By repeatedly doing what I know to be right and by taking a stand I solidify my moral compass and grow stronger.

 

Adherence to our own moral compass and resilience are often inextricably linked to one another. We can become more faithful to our moral compass by taking an inventory of our most closely held beliefs and values, by learning from the writings and examples of ethical men and women, by discussing our beliefs with people whose values we respect, and by practising our values, particularly in times of adversity. Step by step we can build our moral courage. When we most need to do the right thing, we will be ready.

4. Spiritual Practice

Spiritual Practice, Resilience Capability #4

Spiritual Practice, Resilience Capability #4

Perhaps more than any of the other resilience factors, religion and spirituality are deeply personal matters about which people have strong feelings. As a potential source of strength and resilience, religion and spirituality, mindfulness and meditation are practiced by billions of people across the planet.

 

There is no one best way to explore the spiritual dimensions of your life or to build spiritual practice. Here are some approaches that may be useful if this is something you do want to try:

  • Set aside a time for contemplation, meditation or prayer as a part of your daily routine. This is often first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or both.
  • Make a regular habit of reading writings pertaining to your beliefs or practice.
  • Designate a physical location for you daily spiritual practice.
  • Practice a physically active form of spirituality such as walking prayer, yoga, martial arts or liturgical dance.
  • Practice a creative form of spirituality such as chanting, singing or playing music, painting or drawing or writing poetry.
  • Become part of a group – physical or online – that worships or practices together.

5. Social Support

Whenever we look at learning to be happier and more resilient we repeatedly find the importance of having strong relationships. They are essential for our happiness at work, they are essential for our success and productivity and they are an equally essential element in our repertoire of resilience capabilities.

In order to thrive in this world, people need other people.

Giving & Getting Social Support, Resilience Capability #5

Giving & Getting Social Support, Resilience Capability #5

Far from signifying weakness, interdependence with others can provide a foundation for resilience.

Social neuroscience provides clues to the biology of relationships

Researchers have found that oxytocin is released during social situations where it appears to facilitate interpretation of social signals, enhance recognition, increase feelings of affiliation, and promote social approach. Oxytocin’s actions to reducing amygdala activation and arousal may help to explain why positive support from others can reduce stress.

Supportive social networks have the power to protect us and strengthen us.

Those who know how to build strong social support networks reap many benefits. Strong positive relationships are associated with better physical health, protection against depression and stress disorders, enhanced emotional wellbeing, and longer life. In our experience most resilient individuals take advantage of the profound strengthening effects of positive social networks.

But for most of us, our support network, even if it is extensive and strong, will not automatically reach out to embrace us when we are most in need. Rather, we would be wise to follow the example of the resilient people in this study by taking action, reaching out, and ‘leaning into’ those who care about us most.

Very few resilient individuals go it alone, and neither should you.

6. Imitating Resilient Role Models

All of the resilient individuals interviewed have role models whose beliefs, attitudes and behaviours inspire them.

Imitating Resilient Role Models, Resilience Capability #6

Imitating Resilient Role Models, Resilience Capability #6

Role models need not be perfect. Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and we believe that searching for the perfect role model is futile.

How can I use role models to become more resilient?

When trying to model behaviour begin by carefully studying the behaviour. Then:

  1. Break it into simple segments: if you want to use modelling to learn a complex skill, it helps to subdivide it into simple segments and then focus on one segment at a time. If, on the other hand, you try to model the entire complex behaviour (e.g. becoming more resilient) you will likely be bombarded with too much information, will make many errors, and will have great difficulty mastering the skill.
  2. Observe the skill in a variety of settings: breaking a complex skill into simpler segments will require time and concentration. You will need to observe the skill numerous times and in a variety of settings.
  3. Practice: you will find it helpful to practice between observations. You may do this by imagining that you possess a particular attitude, personality style or behaviour that resembles that of your role model, or by actually enacting the desired attitude, style or behaviour. Both forms of practice appear to be effective, although real life enactment is eventually required for successful imitation.
  4. Obtain constructive feedback whenever possible. An expert, or someone with a trained eye, can point out similarities and differences between what you are doing and what you are attempting top model. This expert can then recommend steps to correct deviations from the model.

7. Physical Fitness

Training, physical fitness and strengthening

Training, Physical Fitness & Strengthening, Resilience Capability #7

Training, Physical Fitness & Strengthening, Resilience Capability #7

It’s no secret that physical training is good for your health.

Physical training and mastering physical challenges can also improve mood, cognition and emotional resilience.

Exercise makes us tougher, boosts recovery after trauma and improves our physical and mental health.

How can you use exercise to increase your resilience?

In his book The Power of Full Engagement Jim Loehr writes:

“Growth and change won’t occur unless you push past your comfort zone, but pushing too hard increases the likelihood that you will give up. Far better to experience success at each step of a progressive process. Building confidence fuels the persistence to pursue more challenging changes.”

Building physical fitness habits

  • Learn as much as you can about how physical fitness can improve your health and wellbeing.
  • Consult a physician before beginning a physical fitness programme.
  • Try different forms of physical exercise. Find what works best for who you are and the lifestyle you live.
  • Develop a set of well-defined goals for your physical exercise regimen and try to stick to those goals. Record the details of your workouts to ensure you are achieving your goals.
  • Reward yourself as your goals are met.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your cardiovascular and strength training. While continually repeating the same comfortable routine with the same level of intensity each time you work out may help you ward off some medical illnesses, but it will not do as much to enhance your physical resilience. To increase your physical as well as your mental and emotional strength, you need to stress yourself and your body beyond your normal comfort zone, but not to the point of damage.
  • After each workout allow your body to recover adequately before beginning your next workout.
  • Practice healthy eating and sleep habits.
  • Find friends or family who will support your physical training. Even better, train with a friend or family member who also has the goal to become more resilient.
  • Notice and focus on the positive feelings and greater sense of self-esteem and mental toughness that typically accompany increases in physical resilience.
  • Try to reach the point where being physically fit becomes part of your sense of self, a part of who you are.

There is no easy way to becoming physically fit and resilient. It takes planning, desire, drive, consistency, perseverance and the willingness to live with discomfort. But the benefits are many.

8. Mental Fitness

Challenge your mind and heart

Brain Fitness, Resilience Capability #8

Brain Fitness, Resilience Capability #8

In challenging situations it helps to be mentally sharp. It helps to focus on the problem, process information quickly, remember what we already know about coping with related challenges, find strategies to solve the problem, make wise decisions, and learn new information. It also helps to regulate our emotions; to control them rather than being controlled by them. These mental and emotional abilities equip us to face challenges, find solutions and recover from setbacks – in essence, to be more resilient.

Just as we train our body to become fit and resilient, so we can train our brain. Southwick & Charney found the most resilient people tended to be lifelong learners, continually seeking opportunities to become more mentally fit.

Brain plasticity: a possible key to brain fitness

One of the most exciting findings of brain research over the past decade has been the observation that we can enhance brain fitness. This means that through a series of brain exercises we may be able to improve our cognitive abilities. The vast majority of us do not reach our full brain potential.

Training the emotional brain

One effective technique that can help regulate emotions is the practice of mindfulness. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present and non-judgementally.” (J. Kabat-Zinn in Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness, 1990) The practitioner of mindfulness learns to develop calm and accepting awareness of thoughts, feelings, perceptions and bodily functions. Through this practice we learn to tolerate negative emotions better without impulsively acting upon them.

Emotions and brain activity

In most but not all studies mindfulness meditation has been shown to help individuals cope with the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation has also been associated with improved ability to focus attention, increased flexibility of thinking, more rapid speed in processing visual information, and improving verbal memory as well as greater feeling of psychological wellbeing.

Researcher Richard Davidson raises a fascinating question:

“Might meditation strengthen the cortical circuitry that modulates the activity of the limbic system, like a thermostat regulating the furnace of emotions? Might mental training rewire the brain’s emotion circuits and alter forever the sense of wellbeing and contentment? … Just as people now see the value of exercising the body consistently and for the rest of their life, it’s similar with emotional skills. … Training is seen as important for strength, for physical agility, for athletic ability, for musical ability – for everything except emotions. The Buddhists say these are skills, too, and trainable like any others.”

If mindfulness is something you haven’t tried yet but want to learn about, you will find lots of different exercises on the internet

As with all of these skills, keep experimenting and exploring to find out what works best for you.

Taking responsibility for your own brain fitness: practical applications

Change requires mental and/or physical activity.

We cannot become physically stronger simply by wishing for larger muscles. Similarly, we cannot develop or enhance mental skills by allowing the mind to wander randomly from one thought to the next. Instead, change requires focus as well as systematic and disciplines activity. The principles are simple, but the execution demanding. To change in a desired direction you have to identify what needs to be changed, develop a rigorous but realistic training schedule and then follow that schedule. Becoming more resilient may require training in multiple areas, such as mindfulness and meditation, physical strengthening and endurance. It may require adopting new styles of thinking in order to view hardship and failure as opportunities. The process of systematic self-initiated change, while challenging and often difficult, is highly rewarding and can foster a powerful sense of mastery.

In a brief book titled; Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises, Duke University neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz describes simple, everyday ways to build and maintain brain fitness, such as writing or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or getting dressed with your eyes closed. When you make these small changes in your daily routine…

“Suddenly your brain is confronted with a new task that’s engaging, challenging and potentially frustrating.

“Neurobics require you to do two simple things you may have neglected in your lifestyle: experience the unexpected and enlist the aid of all your senses in the course of the day. By doing so, rarely activated pathways on your brain’s associative network are stimulated, increasing your range of mental flexibility.”

By placing ourselves in environments that are conducive to learning, by surrounding ourselves with people who stimulate our personal growth, and by systematically practicing specific desired skills, we have the capacity to influence the structure and function of our brain and acquire new skills.

9. Mental & Emotional Flexibility

People who are resilient have to be flexible.

Mental & Emotional Flexibility, Resilience Capability #9

Mental & Emotional Flexibility, Resilience Capability #9

They are flexible in the way they think about challenges and flexible in the way they react emotionally to stress. They are not wedded to a specific style of coping. Instead, they shift from one coping strategy to another depending on the circumstances. Many are able to accept what they cannot change; to learn from failure; to use emotions like grief and anger to fuel compassion and courage; and to search for opportunity and meaning in adversity.

As entrepreneur and motivational speaker Pete Koerner observes: “Life = change. If you’re changing anyway, why not change for the better? Better or worse are your only choices; you can’t stay where you are forever.

Applying cognitive flexibility in your own life

Recent research on coping has shown that successful adaptation depends less on which specific strategies are used, than on whether coping strategies are applied flexibly in response to the liveness of the situation. Sometimes it is wise to accept and tolerate a situation, while at other times it is better to change it. Similarly, emotion theorists argue that expression of emotion is not necessarily better than suppression. What helps people to cope is having the flexibility to express or suppress emotions in accordance with the demands of a given situation.

We can summarise the strategies for cognitive and emotional flexibility as:

  • acceptance;
  • reappraisal;
  • dealing with failure; and
  • generating humour.

Here are some suggestions that may be useful if you wish to further develop your cognitive flexibility.

Using Acceptance to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Acceptance to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Acceptance

Accepting the reality of our situation, even if that situation is frightening or painful, is an important component of flexibility. To remain effectively engaged in problem-oriented and goal-directed coping, we must keep our minds ‘wide open’ and acknowledge, rather than ignore, potential roadblocks. Avoidance and denial are generally counterproductive mechanisms which may help people cope for a while, but ultimately they stand in the way of growth, interfering with the ability to actively solve problems.

Sometimes acceptance not only involves acknowledging the reality of our situation, but also assessing what can and cannot be changed, abandoning goals that no longer seem feasible, and intentionally redirecting efforts toward that which can be changed. Thus, acceptance is not the same as resignation and does not involve giving up or quitting. Instead, acceptance is based on a realistic appraisal and active decision-making.

The well-known Serenity Prayer captures the essence of the kind of acceptance that contributes to resilience:

“Give me the courage to change those things I can change,

the strength to accept those things I cannot change,

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

Using Cognitive Reappraisal to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Cognitive Reappraisal to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

The science of cognitive reappraisal

Studies have shown that individuals who frequently use positive cognitive reappraisal as a mechanism to change their emotional reactions to stress report greater psychological wellbeing and more positive outcomes compared to individuals who do not use positive cognitive reappraisal as a coping mechanism.

Reappraisal

The technique of reappraisal is at the heart of Cognitive Behaviour Therapies. But even without working with a therapist, great questions we can ask to help us in to reappraise a testing situation include:

 

  • How else can I think about this?
  • How would someone else think about this?
  • What was it like for the other people involved?

Questions like this help to get us out of our own narrow view of a situation and open up new possibilities for coping and problem solving.

In their book Resilience At Work: How To Succeed No Matter What Life Throws At You, Salvatore Maddi and Deborah Khoshaba outline seven steps for a type of reappraisal they call transformational coping:

  1. Fully describe the stressful situation
  2. How could the situation be worse?
  3. How could the situation be better?
  4. Create a story about a worse version of events.
  5. Create a story about a better version of events.
  6. What can you do to create the better?
  7. Place the situation in perspective.

The US Forces Resilience training has a shortened three step version for reappraisal:

  • What is the worst case scenario?
  • What is the best case scenario?
  • What is the most likely scenario?
Learning from Failure to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Learning from Failure to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Cognitive reappraisal of failure

 

Resilience demands the emotional stability to handle failure, what Admiral James Stockdale referred to as “ability to meet personal defeat with neither the defect of emotional paralysis and withdrawal nor the excess lashing out at scapegoats or inventing escapist solutions.”

People who are who are most resilient generally meet failure head-on and use it as an opportunity to learn and to self-correct.

 

 

Remember Thomas Edison’s advice that “Creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”? He also famously said in this classic example of reframing:

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Learn from failure

In their book Mental Toughness: A Champion’s State of Mind Kark Kuehl and his co-authors point out:

“The ability to make adjustments begins with attitude, and the first attitude is accepting that failure is an education, then learning from the experience rather than becoming engulfed in frustration.”

Using Humour to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Humour to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Humour: another form of cognitive reappraisal

In his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning, holocaust survivor and neuroscientist, Viktor Frankl referred to humour as “another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human makeup can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if for a few seconds.”

For Frankl, humour provided a healthy means to gain perspective. And with perspective comes the capacity to reappraise and generate alternative approaches and solutions to problems.

Like other positive emotions, humour tends to broaden one’s focus of attention and thereby foster exploration, creativity and flexibility in thinking. In so doing, humour may incorporate a number of other resilience coping mechanisms such as cognitive reappraisal, active problem focused coping, and infusion of positive meaning into everyday events.

Humour manages to present positive and negative wrapped into one package, combining “optimism with a realistic look at the tragic.” Consider director and screenwriter Woody Allen musing on mortality:

“I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

In Toughness: Training For Life Jim Loehr recommends:

“Think nutty, goofy, funny, silly, off-the-wall thoughts. In almost every situation, being able to laugh puts you in emotional control.”

In sum, people who are resilient tend to be flexible: knowing when to accept that which cannot be changed; knowing how to positively reframe life’s challenges and failures; using humour to reframe the tragic and that which is frightening; regulating emotions by sometimes suppressing feelings and at other times expressing them. In many respects, resilience requires creativity and flexibility: creativity to explore multiple viewpoints and flexibility to embrace a positive but realistic assessment, or reassessment, of a challenging situation.

10. Meaning, Purpose and Continual Learning

Meaning, Purpose & Continual Learning, Resilience Capability #10

Meaning, Purpose & Continual Learning, Resilience Capability #10

And the 10th and final essential of high resilience is having a strong sense of Meaning, Purpose and continuing growth and development

And this connects up back to our very first Module when we looked atThis connects with Jessica Pryce-Jones central importance of Achieving Our Fullest Potential in her definition of happiness at work work, and, too, to two of Martin Seligman’s five essentials for flourishing: Meaning and Accomplishment.

In psychological research, studies have found that having a clear and valued purpose, and committing to a mission, can dramatically strengthen one’s resilience.

When philosopher Frederick Nietchze wrote: “He who as a why can endure almost any how,” he was referring to the power of meaning. Other renowned scholars have also recognised the power of meaning, of having a worthy goal or mission in life. As Carl Jung wrote in his classic book, Man and his Symbols,

“We can stand the most incredible hardships when we are convinced they make sense.”

South African dissident Nelson Mandela will shine forever as an inspiring example: tolerating 30 years of imprisonment with grace and dignity because of his dream of equality that he never lost his conviction for, and of course was ultimately able to help bring to his country.

Meaning can give us strength and meaning can give us courage.

Hopefully throughout our lives we will have the freedom to choose a direction that allows us to see our own talents, strengths and interests, and hopefully we will have the option to periodically re-evaluate our talents and strengths, particularly when we encounter a setback or event that shakes our world view. It is through this process that we can, in the words of Ann Graber, “become more than we were before.”

 

Using these 10 Essential Capabilities to develop and grow your own resilience

Here is how you can use this model as a tool to develop and strengthen your own resilience capabilities.

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Work through each of the 10 elements and …

A – score yourself out of 10 according to how strong you believe you are in each

Once you have scored all 10 elements you will be able to join up your numbers to draw your own resilience starfish to see see very clearly which of its arms are fully extended, and which ones you might want to invest some new time and action into developing and growing strong.

B – identify up to five actions you can take to grow those capabilities that will best strengthen your resilience.

C – And then the challenge is to take action – to actually put your ideas for building your resilience stronger and stronger into what you are doing – first to get you started and then to keep building them over time.

Top Tips for Increasing Resilience, BridgeBuilders STG Ltd 2014

Top Tips for Increasing Resilience, BridgeBuilders STG Ltd 2014

Remember – Creativity – choosing to think and act differently – takes courage

This painting by Spanish painter Goya called The Dog is still one of my favourite images for resilience – whatever happens next you just know from looking that this dog is not beaten yet.

And my absolute favourite picture is this self-portrait drawing Goya made when he was in his 90s and exiled from his Spanish homeland and living in France, nearly blind and unable to walk without sticks, but here he is going out into the world

And the title he has given this is “Aun Aprendo” which means “I am still learning”

Goya: "Aun Aprendo" (I am still learning)

Goya: “Aun Aprendo” (I am still learning)

 Happiness At Work edition #118

You can find several other articles about resilience, as well as this week’s new ideas about happiness at work, creativity and learning, leadership and collaboration in our new Happiness At Work collection here

Happiness At Work #117 ~ Positivity & Overcoming Self-Doubt

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”

I happened to notice this Forbes Thought For The Day on Tuesday 18th November by French statesman and defender of Louis XVI, C. Malesherbes, and it chimed with many of the articles I have been reading this week.

Most especially it connected me with the video I watched of an interview with Oprah Winfrey by a Stanford student.  I heard much in this to be inspired and motivated and emboldened by, and so I am making this this week’s lead story and keynote to this week’s self-mastery theme around building our self-confidence and self-belief and self-determination as the heart and engine room for our happiness and highest aspirations.

Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership

During a student-led interview at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Oprah Winfrey shares seminal moments of her career journey and the importance of listening to your instincts. Winfrey also offers advice to students on how to find their calling:

“Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you.”

Here are some of the words from Oprah Winfrey that stood out especially for me, and might perhaps resonate for you too…

During this interview Oprah tells stories from her career that end with her thinking: ‘I will never do this again.”

“I started listening to what felt like the truth for me…From the very first instant I have listened to my instinct and stayed attuned to what felt like the right truth for me… If I fail I will find out what the next thing is for me.”
On how you navigate on paths when you feel alone…
“I am often the only woman in a room of white men and I love it…
When I have to do something especially demanding, I call on those that come before me, especially those women who have forged a path that has helped to get me here, and so when I walk in, I never walk in as just myself and I have all that energy with me.  And I love it.
If you wrote a book on women and leadership what would you call it?
“Step Up and Into Yourself
You can only change the world if you know yourself.  You have to take the time to know who you are and what you want your contribution to he planet to be…Mine is to raise consciousness….  You cannot fulfil your purpose unless you know how to listen to your own inner voice.  Every time I got into trouble it was when I overrode my instincts with my head.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction‘ is my religion.  And the intention propels the action and decides what the reaction, result or consequence will be.
What are the qualities of your leadership that works in so many areas?

“My leadership is fuelled by my being and it works the same in all areas.  It comes from my passion, because that’s just my nature – it comes from my need to understand and to be understood, and it comes from my desire to connect…I keep grounded in myself…I work at staying awake.

What is your spiritual practice?  What do you do to take care of yourself? What do you do to keep yourself centred?

Everybody wants to fulfil the highest truest realisation of yourself as a human being…

I have interviewed more than 30,000 people.  At the end of every interview, from the murderer to Beyonce’, everybody asks ‘Was that ok?’.  Everybody wants to know ‘did you hear me?, did you see me? and did what I said mean anything to you?’.  Every human being is looking to confirm ‘are you fully here with me, or are you distracted?’

The success I have is because I pay attention.  When you’re at home with yourself…you have unlimited power.

I am here to connect people to ideas and stories so that they can see themselves and live better lives.

How do you strike a balance between emotion and logic – especially when you’re giving?

“You need both.  At the beginning I was purely emotional and I made a lot of mistakes…

You first have to change the way a person thinks and sees themselves.  So you’ve got to first create a sense of aspiration, a sense of hopefulness so a person can begin to even have a vision for a better life.  And if you can’t connect to that then you lose and they lose.

You have to decide how you are going to use your money, your talent, your time so that it’s going to serve you first, because if it doesn’t help you to be filled up, you get depleted and you can’t keep doing it.  So my decisions now are emotional and logical…

You don’t have anything to give that you don’t have, so you have to keep yourself full…

I say to my daughters, the number one thing you have to do is to figure out where your power base is, and to work on the alignment between your personality, the gift you have to give, and your real reason for why you’re here.  And to fill yourself up, and to keep yourself full.

I used to be afraid of that, particularly when people would say ‘oh she’s so full of herself.’  Now I embrace it, I consider it a compliment to be considered full of myself because only when you’re full to overflowing and not afraid of honouring yourself, and have the ability to honour yourself do you he ability to offer yourself, your full expression of who you are to the rest of the world.

After 26 years making her show Oprah said

“Gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take with me from this experience.”

Is there anything left that you’re scared to try?

No, but I know what my lane is.  I know what my calling is, I know what I’m here to do.  But I still haven’t done what I’m here to do, I haven’t yet hit my supreme moment of destiny.

Resilience and post traumatic growth

Watching people step out of tragedies and define triumph for themselves, those are the people who have shaped me and made me a better person.

Call to action for us all

Align your personality with your purpose and no one can touch you.

You real job is to find out what you are here to do…

Every body has a stage.

What’s your stage?  Use it.

How can you start and keep living the highest fullest truest version of yourself?

What would you say to your younger self?

What everyone would say, in one form or another: ‘relax – its going to be okay’

Know that your life is not defined by any one moment.  The way to get through a challenge is to be still and ask ‘what is the next right move?’  And then from that space make the next right move, and then the next right move.

(One stitch at a time)

Link to read an article with more insights from this interview

See also Oprah Winfrey’s current interview show Super Soul Sunday which can be a streamed – interviews with thought leaders around he world and asking the questions that really matter…

The 3 Entrepreneurial Traits Kids Should Learn for a Successful Life

Sharing the values of entrepreneurship with your children can be a great way to teach them some very important character tools they’ll need and use for a lifetime ahead. Here are three character traits that entrepreneurship will help instill in your children and how to teach them.

These are, suggests Matthew TorenSelf-Confidence, Durability and Creativity and here is what he has to tell us about the first of these…

1. Self-confidence

A belief in yourself and your ability to get through life’s challenges is the building block of adult success and a huge component to children’s healthy growth into adolescence and young adulthood.

According to Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, kids with a strong sense of self through internal motivation develop into adolescents who are less likely to engage in dangerous social activities such as drugs and alcohol and perform better in school.

Entrepreneurship embodies self-confidence based on your own internal motivating factors better than perhaps any other activity. It taught me the importance of believing in my ideas and believing in my ability to find solutions. It taught me how crucial good and honest relationships are. Those are values I want my children to have and that you can teach your kids, too.

How? When you foster entrepreneurship in your kids, you have to let them make decisions and support them through those choices. Even when you know they may not be the right decisions from your adult perspective, allow your kids to think up their own ideas and start to take the steps to see them through.

If you child wants to start a lemonade stand or paper route, work with them as a parental partner, but not necessarily as an authority figure.

When you give your kids the space to learn and make decisions, it increases their confidence in themselves and in their own decision-making. They already know you know the answers, encourage them to find their own that don’t involve you making the choices for them when and where it’s appropriate.

When my kids ask me questions I like to challenge them by asking right back, “I’m not sure, what do you think?” This encourages them to think through problems, builds their own sense of self and develops their voice.

Link to read the rest of this article and how to teach durability and creativity

How To Overcome Self-Doubt

by Tony Farhkry

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare

Taming the monkey mind

You cannot remove doubt any more than trying to eliminate negative thoughts. Doubts are woven into our psyche during childhood as we learned to integrate into our surroundings. Similarly what begins as the voice of reason echoed through loved ones, soon becomes the doubtful inner critic given the passage of time.

Did you know that by the time you reach adulthood, you would have heard the word ‘NO’ repeated 50,000 times throughout your life? In contrast the word ‘YES’ is only heard 7,000 times. It is no wonder doubt manages to weave its way into our minds with such intensity.

We are notorious for falsifying tales about ourselves. Doubt is one such story often repeated through adulthood. Whilst it is healthy to entertain doubt from time to time, being at the mercy of the debilitating thought is not conducive toward living a fulfilling life.

In a similar vein, doubt can become self-deprecating while wreaking havoc with your personal confidence if left unchecked.

“Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.” – Dan Millman

Feeding the doubt

Self-doubt requires examination if it prevents you from living an enriching life.

Some people are quite content to shy away from honouring their highest potential. They conceal their emotions deep within, hoping they will miraculously vanish.

Unfortunately as time passes by, the buried emotions may resurface in the form of illness, destructive relationships, addiction to substances or unhelpful behaviour, etc.

In his book Spontaneous Evolution, author Bruce Lipton states that 95% of our behaviour is controlled by our subconscious mind. In many ways our behaviour is reflected in the blind decisions we make every day without a moment’s consideration. Reflect on how much of your daily life’s decisions are automated – that is devoid of conscious intent?

In another example, author Michael S. Gazzaniga further illuminates this point in his book, Who’s In Charge: Free Will and The Science of The Brain. As a neuroscientist investigating split brain personality, he offers the following observation about the choices we make, “Your interpreter module accounts for as much of your behaviour as it can incorporate and it denies or rationalises the rest.”

Overcoming the inner critic

Overcoming self-doubt requires taking affirmative action while being attentive to the inner critic – that is, you choose to take action in spite of the doubt.

In a recent documentary highlighting the sport of accelerated free falling, the jumper was asked by a reporter if he entertained fear prior to his jumps. He reassured the reporter that fear was present during every jump and served to remind him of the inherent dangers associated with the sport. He managed fear by choosing to turn down the volume on it so as not to overwhelm him.

Take a moment to consider the spectrum of doubt inherent in your life. What tools or resources do you frequently call upon to navigate self-doubt when it emerges? It should be stated that doubt is merely a self-imposed speed bump in your life’s journey. As you know speed bumps are intended to slow you down, not halt your progress.

If self-doubt is wreaking havoc in your life, you may wish to reconnect with your vision or purpose. Your vision cannot be blocked by obstacles.

Attributing self-blame in relation to past failures leads to more of the same destructive thoughts. Instead, choose affirmative action with respect to your goals and attend to your doubts with self-compassion. It is your responsibility to reconcile them in a peaceful manner free of guilt.

You’ve heard it said that it isn’t the goal that fuels our desire. It is the journey towards whom we become that ignites our passion and sustains us in attaining inner victory.

Remember, your journey towards inner peace and fulfillment is lined with many detours. Embrace your challenges with attentiveness and enthusiasm.

Link to read the original article

Science-based strategies for using positivity to feel better by Jonathan Fader

1. Look through your camera roll and select pictures, such as that of a pet, children or friends that trigger a joy response. Once you have settled on a picture, name a few reasons why looking at the picture brings you joy. Does it remind you of a funny experience or remind you of a source of happiness and nurture? Studies indicate that thinking about previous events and the actual sensory experience which made you happy in the past will bring those same emotions to the present, immediately increasing your mood. What I also love about this tip is that it’s also customized: those photos of your kids or your dog resonate most with you because it’s something real drawn from your life and nobody else’s

2. Start your day off with a positive self-statement based on fact. This is a tip drawn from my experience as a sport psychologist—instructional and motivational self-talk have been linked  to enhanced athletics performance—but the concept can be applied equally well to all situations. The underlying truth, that what we think influences our actions and emotions, is universal.

Note that I say “based on fact” for a reason. If you start your day by saying, “I’m the perfect parent, no exceptions!” – well, it may be true, but if you’re in a bad mood, odds are that you won’t believe yourself. A better example of effective self-talk is “I am an excellent parent because I brought my daughter to the park after school and saw how happy she was.” The more specific the statement, the better the chance that you will actually believe it—and the better the chance that it can actually help you.

3. Compliment three people every day. By complimenting others you may also gain new friends and newfound confidence. A study  had college freshmen give three compliments a day for twenty days to see how it affected them. After this was completed, the subjects reported higher levels of self-confidence that resulted in an increased sense of belonging. The study believed that this was due to the fact that compliments are often reciprocated. So by complimenting others, you can induce a cycle of happiness.

Link to read the original Psychology Today article

The Skill of Self-Confidence (Dr. Ivan Joseph)

In this inspiring TEDTalk, athletics coach Ivan Joseph reminds us of the power and necessity of praise and  positive feedback to build our courage, risk taking and self-confidence – further endorsement of the potency and worth of Appreciative Inquiry, or deliberately recognising and learning from what is already working best.

As the Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, Dr. Joseph is often asked what skills he is searching for as a recruiter: is it Speed? Strength? Agility?  In this TEDx Talk, he explores self confidence and how it is not just the most important skill in athletics, but in our lives.

The easiest ways to build self-confidence: repetition, repetition, repetition…

Or maybe the word should be persistence: do what you want to do and do not accept failure as a reason to stop you.

The other way is through self-talk…We all have this negative self-talk that goes on in our head.  With so many people ready to tell us what we cannot do, why do we want to add to it?…  We know that our thoughts influence our actions… We need to get our own self-affirmations…There need to be quiet moments with ourself when we reaffirm “I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate.”… If I don’t believe it, who else can?

How do you build self-confidence?  Get away from the people who will tear you down…

How to Change Your Self-Perception to Leverage Your Hidden Strengths

by Eric Ravenscraft

Our self-perceptions are often instilled in us before we have a say in them. Learning to change how we see ourselves helps us find our hidden strengths, or improve weaknesses we didn’t know we had, to get along better in life.

Accurate self-perception is a necessary component of self-improvement. If you don’t know where your strengths or weaknesses lie, you don’t know what areas you need to work on. Or how to leverage your assets! Self-perception is simply being aware of who you are, what you’re like, and what you’re capable of. Your self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, though. It may involve acknowledging your shortcomings (“I suck at playing the violin, and that’s okay”), adjusting how you view your skills, (“This skill I thought was boring is actually useful and neat!”), or recognizing your problem areas (“I’m not as hard working as I like to think”).

Adjusting your self-perception comes down to being honest with yourself. Recognizing your weak points helps you identify when you need to ask for help. Acknowledging your strengths can give you the courage to assert yourself even when you don’t feel like you deserve to. What you do with the knowledge is a whole different can of worms, but here’s how to adjust when your perception doesn’t line up with your reality.

Prep Work: Identify Your Own Self-Image Fallacies

Often, we have self-perception problems because our emotions or misconceptions lead us to false conclusions. Anyone who’s ever argued on the internet for more than a minute knows how easily logical fallacies can sneak in. When those leaps in logic face inward, though, they can alter how we perceive ourselves. For example:

  • “I screwed up, so I am a screw up.” This all-or-nothing mentality lends itself to low self-esteem, but it’s a false correlation. We’re good at dwelling on our mistakes, but bad at remembering when we got it right. The negative doesn’t eliminate the positive.
  • “I’m not good at this yet, so I never will be.” Everyone sucks at everything until they don’t anymore. Failing a hundred times at something is discouraging, but it’s incorrect to assume that those failures mean you’re not good enough. In fact, those failures are how you get better.
  • “Someone doesn’t like me, so no one likes me.” People who like or approve of us may not say it as often as someone with a grudge, so it’s easier to focus on the negative.
  • “I’ve never had any complaints, so I must be good.”Unfortunately, those closest to us may not always be the most objective reviewers of our talents. Until your skills have been put to the test in an arena free of bias (like the workplace or public performances), a lack of complaints doesn’t prove talent.

You’ll probably never be completely free of internal logical fallacies. However, identifying when you’re making a logical leap can kickstart the process to learning the truth. From there, you can start making the necessary changes.

Step One: Perform a Self-Assessment

The first step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. One way to get started is a technique from cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) programs. Psych Central recommendswriting ten of your strengths on one side of a paper, and ten weaknesses on the other. This exercise forces you to take an honest look at yourself:

This is your Self-Esteem Inventory. It lets you know all the things you already tell yourself about how much you suck, as well as showing you that there are just as many things you don’t suck at. Some of the weaknesses you may also be able to change, if only you worked at them, one at a time, over the course of a month or even a year. Remember, nobody changes things overnight, so don’t set an unrealistic expectation that you can change anything in just a week’s time.

You may need to seek outside input from others if you can’t come up with ten for both sides. Once you’re done, keep the list because it will come in handy for the next thing you can do.

Step Two: Seek Outside Input (and Listen to It)

Outside input has the ability to either validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. If you think you’re not that great of a singer, but the crowd at karaoke disagrees, you might start to change your opinion. For that reason, if you really want to adjust your self perception, seeking outside input is absolutely necessary.

Author Scott H. Young offers some tips on how to get honest feedback. As it turns out, not everyone is completely forthright when you ask for an opinion (often for good reasons). Depending on the topic, you may need to coax out the full answer, or explain that it’s okay to be honest:

  • Read Between Lines. Look for what they didn’t say, not what they did. I’ll admit this can take practice, but when you receive feedback where you question the sincerity, notice what wasn’t said. If you wrote a how-to book, did they actually use the advice? If you gave a persuasive speech did they enjoy it or did it change their opinion?
  • Pull Out Gradual Honesty. Some people need encouragement to give you their honest opinion. Make it clear that you are okay with the harshest of their remarks and give them an opportunity to reveal more.

You can check out Scott’s post here for more specific tips. Most importantly, though: once you get feedback, listen to it. One of the most common mistakes we make when getting input from others is filtering out the stuff we don’t like. I can totally play the guitar, they’re just jealous, right? Nope. You asked for feedback, now accept it. If it’s true, you’ll probably hear it from more than one person. Be prepared to accept that the feedback you get is at least somewhat true, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Step 3: Challenge Yourself and Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Of course, feedback from others is only one way to find out what you’re capable of. There is a faster, more effective way, too: doing it. You may not think that you’re good enough to get a job as an actor. However, nothing will prove you wrong faster than getting hired.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that someone with asthma and high blood pressure should join the Army on nothing but a wish (unless your name is Steve Rogers). But having a realistic approach to what you can do, coupled with some optimism that things could work out alright, can be a key to making it happen. One psychological researcher named Sophia Chou at the National Taiwan University examined this concept of the realistic optimist. To put it simply, people who understood the risks but chose to be hopeful about the outcome not only performed better, but were happier:

Interestingly, the realistic optimists also got better grades, on average, than their less grounded peers — probably because they didn’t delude themselves into thinking they would do well without studying or working hard, Chou said.

Traditionally, a more realistic outlook is paired with poorer well-being and greater depression, yet the realistic optimists managed to be happy.

As Chou explains, people who evaluate their situation, but still challenge themselves anyway find that they’re better equipped to handle those challenges. The result is a more successful outcome due to their preparation, but also an increase in satisfaction due to their moderate expectations.

Step 4: Emulate the Habits of Others

How you perceive yourself may affect how you behave, but the relationship also works in reverse. We’ve discussed before how something simple like faking powerful body language can help you feel more confident. This concept works fairly broadly. If you think you’re too cynical, try being intentionally optimistic on social media. If you start deliberately hunting for the good in something, you may find it.

As The Guardian explains, our perceptions of our self and our relationships can be manipulated by things as simple as having a cell phone out at dinner. Putting the device away may make us feel as though we’re more “in the moment” and strengthen the bonds we have with others. That means (somewhat ironically, in fact) that if your perception of yourself doesn’t line up with reality, changing your external habits can influence how you perceive yourself:

It’s weird enough that a phone on the next table at a restaurant might reduce the chances of two people hitting it off on a date. But the Swedish study points towards something weirder: not just that we’re subconsciously influenced by our environments, but that we infer our very sense of who we are from our behaviour. Normally, we assume things work the other way: that a person who thinks of herself as compassionate will therefore act compassionately. But “self-perception theory” proposes that the opposite’s also true: we observe our behaviour, then reach conclusions about who we are. “After purchasing the latte, we assume that we are coffee connoisseurs,” as the psychologist Timothy Wilson writes on edge.org. After returning the lost wallet, we conclude that we’re honest. In reality, many pressures shape our behaviour – maybe, Wilson writes, we “returned the wallet in order to impress the people around us”. But we conclude “that our behaviour emanated from some inner disposition”. Or we’re tricked into believing we answered a survey favouring one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and assume that must be our view.

In practice, this can be something as simple as getting a new wardrobe, or starting a new habit. Say, for example that you don’t feel very confident. Try working out. Get a piece of clothing that you think makes you look cool and start wearing it. Learn how to enter a room with confidence. The more you walk in the habits of confidence people, the more you’ll start to feel confident yourself.

Our perceptions of ourselves will probably never be perfect (and a little self-delusion can sometimes help). However, many of us go years without fulfilling our potential or trying new things because we simply don’t perceive ourselves as able. Or worse, we live with flaws because it never occurs to us that they’re problematic. If you don’t think you can go after your dream job, you’re worried you can’t attract that person you’re really into, or you simply lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception. Your ideas about yourself determine the course of your life, so don’t leave them to chance.

Link to read the original Lifehacker article

see also: Parker J. Palmer – What is a Divided Life?

“There are pieces of ourself that we don’t dare bring into the world for fear that something bad is going to happen to us.  So we try to get by, we try to pass, we try to play a role that’s acceptable.  But then there comes a point in life where that divided life, that gap between who we really are and the face we put on to the larger world

Do you want to show up in the world with more of your true values and gifts, connecting with others in authentic ways?

In this short introduction to the vision of the Courage & Renewal approach, Parker J. Palmer, talks about how as human beings we are born whole, integral, with no distinction between what’s going on inside of us and what’s going on outside. As adults we may ask, “Whatever happened to me? How did I lose that capacity to be here as I really am?”

We have to find a way to build a bridge between our identity and integrity as adults and the work that we do in the world.

see also: Parker Palmer on Power and Powerlessness

Parker Palmer is interviewed about the power of the human heart.

How Guessing Helps You To Learn, Even If You Guess Wrong

Things To Remember To Overcome Low Self-Esteem

Whether you’re going through a low self-esteem phase in your life, or you just occasionally feel bad about yourself, it’s important to have some mental tools to help you recalibrate your thoughts so you can live with confidence and joy.

Here are 25 things to remember when you have low self-esteem…

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This week’s top practical tips and techniques

Here is this week’s toolbox of the practical techniques that have especially caught our attention this week…

9 Moments the Happiest People Have Every Day

by Dave Kerpen

Here is great new Daily To Do List to maximise your happiness at work and, as a result, your productivity and performance success too…

  1. Make a moment of laughter…
  2. Make a moment of celebration…
  3. Make a moment of reflection…
  4. Make a moment of stillness…
  5. Make a moment of pride…
  6. Make a moment of humility…
  7. Make a moment of connection…
  8. Make a moment of joy…
  9. Make a moment of gratitude…

The Secret To Loving Your Work

Five simple questions, all taken from my just released book Screw Finding Your Passion: It’s Within You, Let’s Unlock It by Susanna Halonen

5 Questions to Lead You to Loving Your Work

1. How is the work you’re doing, or the company you’re working for, aligned with who you are?
Think about how your values and beliefs are aligned with the work you’re doing or the company you’re working for. Explore what attracted you to take the job in the first place. Really make sure you come up with some concrete answers on this one as this is the critical foundation for you learning to love your work. And I’m not taking “Nothing at my work is aligned with who I am”, as an answer. I want a list of at least five things. I guarantee you that you can find them if you look for them.

2. What is the positive impact you’re creating with the work you do, or by being a part of this company?
Connect with the why behind your job (or your company). What kind of positive impact are you creating when you’re with your colleagues, or working with suppliers, or providing something to the end customer? Acknowledge that you’re a small but powerful piece in the bigger wheel which drives the world forward. Whatever you are doing right now is having an effect on someone in a good way (otherwise why would you be doing it?). Connect with that why and you’ll create a meaningful bond with your job that will be hard to break.

3. How is your work helping you to learn and grow as a person daily?
You don’t need to be in a training workshop to learn and grow (though they do help, especially the Happyologist workshops ;). With every challenge, with every human interaction and with every email send you can learn something new – if you choose to do so. Life is the best teacher of all but only if you actually make time to reflect and digest the learning. Do this at work regularly and you’ll realise how much you’re learning whilst coming up with new ideas on how you could keep learning even more.

4. Who are the people in your work that you connect with in a way that they form a part of your tribe?
Having friends at work is one of the key drivers of engagement in the workplace so make sure you make some friends if you haven’t got any. This doesn’t mean you have to force it. This is about getting to know your colleagues on a personal level. Who are they outside work? What do they like to do? What kind of holidays do they like to go on? You might find similarities that you didn’t even know existed and these similarities will help you create connections with your coworkers. Are you a self-employed entrepreneur without a team? Go out there and find other entrepreneurs who are looking for fun, ambitious people to brainstorm with – or simple have a drink with them. Our relationships are a key driver of our passion, happiness and fulfilment so making sure that these relationships exist through our work makes it easier for us to love what we do.

5. How do you use your natural strengths in a variety of ways in your work daily?
Become more aware of how you are using your best, natural abilities at work in different ways. Own up to what you’re good at and play with these strengths in new ways to challenge yourself and to keep your days exciting. Make time to do what you do best daily and you’ll not only perform better but also enjoy your work more – and even learn to love it!

10 Books on Happiness at Work

Unhappy employees spend only 40% of their time on task, according to research from iOpener. This means that unhappy employees are only working two days a week. Besides slowing down production and innovation, unhappy employees are sharing their negative perceptions with the rest of your workforce and consequently spreading discontent. No one enjoys working with a “Debbie Downer.” More importantly, no one enjoys being a “Debbie Downer.”

Building good will, showing genuine care and valuing employees should be a priority at every organization. Employees are responsible for their own happiness, but this does not preclude organizations from providing the tools, resources and culture that will inspire more joy at work. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 books that offer advice, strategies and tips to help managers and employees improve workplace happiness.

7 Simple and Actionable Ways to Be Happier At Work

  1. Work On Improving Yourself…
  2. Think More Than You Work…
  3. Take Advantage of Benefits…
  4. Celebrate Together…
  5. Take Frequent Breaks To Avoid Burnout…
  6. Give Your Time To Help Others, Even When You’re Busy…
  7. Become Happier By Finding A New Best Friend…
  8. Bonus Tip:  WellnessIs Important – Get Some Exercise…

Are You a Great Listener?

by 

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear. Mark Twain.

To succeed in today’s business world, we must be proactive, skilled listeners. Leaders who make themselves accessible for conversation and listen regularly are well informed of the goings on in their workplaces. They better understand others’ opinions and attitudes and are able to take this information into consideration when making decisions.

There are other benefits to listening well. One is demonstrating care. Effective listening conveys a sense that the we are interested in the person we are with, their thoughts, opinions and concerns. A leader also builds stronger commitment within others when people feel that she cares about them personally as well as in how they fit within the organisation.

Here’s what we can do to become better listeners and gain the feedback, confidence, support and buy-in that we seek…

  • See eye to eye…
  • Use receptive body language…
  • Stop talking and start listening…
  • Humbly take on their point of view…
  • Summarise and clarify…
  • Leave the door open…
  • Thank them for approaching you…
  • Create a listening culture…

Coaching models explored: VISTA

by Tim Hawkes

Here is a great practical framework for making a coaching conversation that both keeps the other person actively in their own driver’s seat, and at the same time moves the thinking from creative thinking through reality checking and into next steps action…

V – Visualisation: The client should build a clear mental picture of the subject of the conversation, whether that be the solution to a problem, a goal to be reached, a decision to be made; whatever is relevant.

I – Insight: The client is invited to explore the causes or the purpose of what has drawn them to seek coaching.

S – Self-Awareness: At this point the client should be asked to recognise what their contribution to the issue might be. For instance, in the case of a problem, were they in fact contributory to the problem having arisen?

T – Thinking: This is the point of the conversation during which the self-exploration turns towards finding a solution. An exploration of how much they already know about how to find and implement a resolution.

A – Action: Once the client has recognised that they may have one or more possible avenues to explore in order to take themselves in the direction of the visualised result, the coach invites them to define steps and timetables to achieve the stated goal, thus putting the matter firmly in the hands of the client, and giving the coach a means by which they can hold the client accountable should that become necessary.

As models go, I rather like this one. It’s elegant, and it encourages the client to focus on themselves and their own ability to recognise and deal with issues. It doesn’t shrink from having the client accept responsibility not merely for the fix, but also for whatever lies at the root of the matter.

Debunking 7 Common Public Speaking Tips That Do More Harm Than Good

A set of terrific tips for making your presentations great from Gary Genard that remedy some of the worst guidelines that have taken a toxic hold of public speaking guidelines…

7. PowerPoint Prescriptions

You’ve probably heard this advice before: Use no more than 10 slides in a PowerPoint presentation. Don’t go longer than 20 minutes. No slide should have more than six bullet points. Use only six words per bullet point.

Dizzy yet?

Instead of these ironclad rules, here’s what you should remember: Every time you speak, you need to tell a story. PowerPoint is a tool that can help you tell that story—but only if you use it as a visual tool and not a literary one…

6. Memorise Your Presentation So That Nothing Can Wrong

Everything will go wrong if you follow this advice! Your audience is hoping for a speaker who can share something you all have an interest in. For any talk to be interesting, the speaker needs to be fully present in the moment—not trying to retrieve information that was memorised in the past.

Write down key words and phrases to remind yourself what comes next in the talk you’ve outlined. Memorisation—which of course can fail—is a high wire act without a net.

5. Look At One Person for Each Sentence

Here’s another artificial prescription for public speaking effectiveness. The one-person-for-one-sentence rule is simply too rigid and metronomic for a speech or presentation.

That’s because we write in sentences, but we speak in ideas. An idea may take three sentences to express; or a single sentence may encompass three ideas. Just remember to include your entire audience at one time or another in your eye contact. That’s the simple and natural solution to connecting with everyone.

4. Start Out with A Joke

I once conducted group training in presentation skills for 11 vice presidents of a leading manufacturer. As part of the workshop, each executive gave a 10-minute videotaped presentation, and then received instructor and peer feedback. One of the participants told a 3 ½-minute joke at the start of his talk which, believe me, had nothing to do with his topic.

What was wrong with this? First, taking up a third of your presentation time with a joke is not a good idea. Worse is the fact that the joke was unrelated to his subject. When I asked why he’d made this choice, he said he once took a public speaking class and was told to always start out with a joke.

But jokes are dangerous. If you want to get an audience on your side, use some gentle humor and always be sure it’s related to what you’re there to talk about. A joke with a failed punch line will make you look foolish, which of course is a terrible way to launch your presentation.

3. Don’t Greet Your Audience

Some public speaking trainers suggest that you dispense with any sort of greeting. “Good morning,” “It’s nice to be here with you today,” and similar pleasantries should be banned in favor of a power opening that hits the audience immediately.

Banishing a greeting from your talk, however, is a mistake. Your greeting is the segment of your speech where you first connect with listeners. It’s the moment when you talk to people with nothing else—i.e., your topic—between you and them. It’s also when you express your personal pleasure at being there. Most important, it’s when you let the audience know you’re a trustworthy speaker because you have their interests at heart.

So say hello and indicate you’re pleased to be speaking . . . then give them that grabber that you know will seal the deal and open up their ears and their hearts.

2. Tell Them If You’re Nervous So They’ll Be On Your Side

Speakers sometimes think they can disarm an audience by announcing their nervousness before anyone notices it. But the even better news is they may not see it at all.

Most nervousness isn’t visible because it’s an internal state. When you tell people you’re nervous appearing in front of them, chances are they’ll look for signs of it from that point on. Why undermine your own credibility?

1. Imagine The Audience Naked Or In Their Underwear 

This, of course, has been touted as a “cure” for speech anxiety since time immemorial. But was there ever such a ridiculous and counter-productive solution to public speaking fear?

Maybe you think differently from the way I do, but mentally undressing audience members isn’t going to do much to improve my focus and mindfulness. Instead, remind yourself that the people in this audience are the same ones you talk to effortlessly and without any self-consciousness in personal conversations. Speaking to them as a group is simply a wonderfully efficient way to get your message across to as many of them as possible.

So the next time you’re chatting with a friend on the street and someone taps you on the shoulder to offer public speaking advice, refer to the list above. You’ll be doing the world of your listeners a genuine service.

Happiness At Work edition #117

As usual, all of these articles are collected together in this week’s Happiness At Work collection of articles and research news