Here is guide to through this week’s collection of articles, news, reviews, ideas, pictures and sounds linked to Happiness & Wellbeing in our work and in our lives.
The collection is published every Friday.
To view postings in the previous collections, go to Archives and choose 6 July for edition 1; 13 July for edition 2; and 20 July for edition 3.
We hope you find something here to delight, something you can use, something that confirms what you knew already, and something that improves your happiness. At least…
Out To Sea
Photo by Jason Owen, nathanowenphotography
“When was it, in his lifetime, that people first spoke of attitudes that are either positive or negative?
In his childhood, they were happy or sad, those people, depending on their characters. No one, then, described a miserable neighbour as having a negative attitude, and his limitlessly cheerful Aunt Rose, who looked on the bright side when there was no brightness visible, would have been mystified to hear that her attitudes to the problems she refused to acknowledge with more than a few slightly clouded moments of reflection was of the positive kind.”
from Paul Bailey’s novel: Chapman’s Odyssey (2011)
This Week’s Top Happiness Story
The Report itself…
This report presents experimental estimates from the first annual Subjective Well-being Annual Population Survey (APS) dataset, April 2011 to March 2012. Overall estimates of people’s views about their own well-being are provided as well as estimates for: key demographic characteristics (such as age, sex, ethnic group), different geographic areas and countries within the UK, aspects which are considered important for measuring national well-being (such as personal relationships, health and work situation) These first annual estimates of subjective well-being are considered experimental statistics, published at an early stage to involve users in their development. ONS is collecting subjective well-being estimates to complement existing socio-economic indicators to allow a fuller statistical picture of the nation’s well-being.
As part of the UK government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP, the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of detailed subjective data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary according to factors including sex and ethnic group.
Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile.”
As might be expected, these statistics are being given different spins by different reporters. Here are a range of these…
ACCORDING to Bobby Kennedy, speaking in 1968, the problem with GDP is that it “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” As he pointed out, GDP “counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programmes which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.”
Forty-four years later, one group is trying to catch up—the British government. This morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first provisional “national well-being report”, which attempts to measure the “subjective well-being of individuals, which is measured by finding out how people think and feel about their own lives.“ The idea started with David Cameron, who, back in the (possibly?) happier days of November 2010, denounced the “incomplete” GDP statistic, and called for a better measure of national happiness—dismissing the idea that it would be “wooly and impractical.”
So how has it turned out?
Surprisingly, black Britons are far less happy than other ethnic minorities or than white people. Londoners are also the grumpiest, least self-assured and most anxious of all—the capital comes out worse than all other regions (that may not be a surprise). And middle-aged people are also less happy than younger or older people—the mid-life crisis is not a myth, it seems.
All of which is interesting, but hardly ground-breaking. You don’t need an ONS database to know that if you make people healthier and give them work then they will be happier.
But an interesting thought is what will happen over time.
The Young Foundation
In this period of economic downturn, measures that focus on ‘wellbeing’ and ‘happiness’ may appear out of sync with the national mood and may not resonate with an anxious public. With public sector cuts, changes in benefits and reduced public services, there will be many who suggest that material deprivation is perhaps a more acute concern than the nation’s happiness and wellbeing. We would assert that a better understanding of the nation’s wellbeing and resilience will be one of many aspects that will help us to weather the current financial conditions.
Nonetheless, measures of wellbeing are a way of capturing the bundle of experiences and circumstances that add up to what is generally described as life satisfaction. The use of objective and subjective data – understanding the way in which people describe their lives, as well as objective indicators, provides a more rounded view of what is social progress.
First annual results of Measuring National Wellbeing Programme show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness…
Far more significant, however, appears to be the impact of work: not only not having it – which leads twice as many unemployed people to rate their satisfaction levels as low or very low as those in a job – but also what kind of work you do. The highest average life satisfaction was reported by those in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or law and was lowest among “process, plant and machine operatives”. Higher scores were given by groups of employees “with more responsibility and control over their work, as well as higher incomes”.
The Daily Mail…
- Scots and Northern Irish are happier than the English and the Welsh
- People aged between 16 and 19 and 65 and 79 are the happiest people in Britain
- Britons are most unhappy if they live in urban areas in South Wales, the West Midlands and London
Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary behind the survey, said the results showed it is ‘bliss’ to work outdoors. He added that the findings proved it isn’t just money that matters. ‘If you are working in forestry, or in agriculture, then you really are close to bliss,’ he said.
People who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives, the first national well-being survey says…
Three quarters of people aged 16 and over in the UK rated their overall “life satisfaction” as seven or more, with women more likely to report higher levels of well-being and a sense that their life is “worthwhile” than men but also higher levels of anxiety.
In the 19th century, when economics was first forming as a discipline, it was thought impossible to make reliable comparisons of happiness between people. So income was used as a proxy measure, and this way of thinking stuck.
However, as Robert Kennedy pointed out during his 1968 presidential campaign, economic measures are a very narrow guide to policy – they count spending that leads to “air pollution and cigarette advertising” but not “the health of our children or the quality of their education”.
Over the past 30 years, a wealth of scientific evidence has built up showing that we can now measure people’s overall happiness with life.
This sort of evidence has led to growing calls for wellbeing indicators to be used as headline measures of national progress, to help judge the success of overall government policy.
The results of the first “happiness index” reveal that age, sex and ethnic background impact peoples’ satisfaction across the UK.
The director of the Measuring National Well-Being Programme, Glenn Everett, said: “By examining and analysing both objective statistics as well as subjective information, a more complete picture of national well-being can be formed.
“Understanding people’s views of well-being is an important addition to existing Official Statistics and has potential uses in the policy making process and to aid other decision making.”
People in Torfaen were the least happy with their lives, with nearly a third giving a low score for their levels of satisfaction with live and a quarter not feeling the things they do were worthwhile.
Councillor Bob Wellington, leader of Torfaen Council, said: “It’s no surprise to see that those areas hit hardest by the decline of industry in the 80s are at the lower end of this index and, of course, the associated social issues have been made worse by the ongoing recession.”
“As a council we’ve got an important role to play in protecting and supporting our most vulnerable people, particularly during the current economic situation. We will continue working with our public sector partners in police and health to help make Torfaen a safe, prosperous, sustainable place where everyone has the opportunity to be the best they can be.”
and The Rutland Times…
NB Orkney and Shetland are the happiest places to live in the UK. Or so say these statistics..
The top five was made up of:
- Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland
- West Berkshire
The bottom five, meanwhile was:
- North Ayrshire
- Blaenau Gwent
- County Durham
Values and Action For Happiness
Richard Layard, Friday 20th July 2012
What is needed is one single principle which can guide and inspire us in all that we do. In a secular age that principle should be “Produce as much happiness in the world as you can, and as little misery”. That is the great Enlightenment idea that brought Europe out of the Middle Ages and needs to be at the centre of our culture for the 21st century. It should guide us personally in the decisions we make about our families and our work. And it should guide our politics. The whole debate about specific values and specific policies should be conducted with reference to that objective.
Can we measure wellbeing scientifically?
Economist Richard Layard, supporter of the new national happiness index, believes we can; philosopher Julian Baggini is having none of it…
Richard Layard: Unless people have the feeling they are making their own way through life, they can’t be happy. This is not a formula for a totalitarian system, which we know empirically produces the most miserable societies
Julian Baggini: You could only have an international index if it were constructed around one specific idea. That is the fundamental danger of this. It is not credible that there could be a single understanding of wellbeing that all people at all times would settle on…the moment you try to create this single wellbeing index, you’re trying to nail down wellbeing to one conception, and I think that is in a way totalitarian.
Here is David Cameron in 2010, quoting Bobby Kennedy with some passion, and setting out his intentions to begin measuring Gross National Wellbeing in the UK…
More Happiness & Wellbeing News and Stories
When the World Health Organisation (WHO) compiled a list of the 10 leading causes of global disease, comparing 2004 with predictions for 2030, it came up with some surprising results.
In 2004, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease were the world’s No 1 and No 2 causes of ill health and premature death. But by 2030, depressive disorders and heart disease are forecast to replace them at the top of the global morbidity and mortality table.
By 2030, Depressive Disorders And Heart Disease Are Forecast To Be At The Top Of The Global Morbidity And Mortality Table
In many countries, job cuts have left fewer people in work. Those who remain are having to cope with almost unmanageable workloads, increased job insecurity, and longer hours. Their managers are often under increasing pressure, too, leading to more abrasive and aggressive management styles. This, in turn, leads to greater stress for workers.
But we shouldn’t despair. There are solutions to these workplace issues, such as training managers to improve their social and interpersonal skills, or using technology to create more flexible working arrangements. We can learn to work smarter, not longer, and create “engagement cultures” where employees and managers work together more collaboratively.
Breaking the decline starts with ending austerity. But it has also to include a fundamental effort to improve energy efficiency, and the provision of sustainable, decent work. That would mean a plan to transform the economy – shrinking finance, investing in green infrastructure, creating jobs.
A high-level government review into the City of London has concluded that it is riven by short-termism and staffed by too many people earning too much money.
A report commissioned by business secretary Vince Cable was made public this morning and finds a financial sector that is no longer fit for purpose.
In particular, Mr Kay says that regulation needs an overhaul and that traders seeking short-term profits are not acting in the wider interests of the public and should be marginalised.
Is it possible to combine the words love and business in the same sentence? I ask this question because of the self-censorship that is prevalent in the corporate world. While business is made up of human beings, its mechanised approach has turned many of us into human doings. For far too long employees have been expected to leave large parts of themselves at home before they head off for the office or factory.
The lexicon of the corporate world has been dominated by the words of war and scarcity; battling for market share, hostile takeovers, invading new territories and the like. That loud and crude battle cry has largely shut out the quieter voice of community and collaboration and, dare I say it, love.
I know of many management consultants and sustainability professionals who bring spirituality into their work but do it under a cloak of business speak for fear they will be ridiculed and ostracised.
As companies recognise their connection to society goes deeper than the impacts of their share price movements, the time has come to tear down this particular defensive wall that many businesses have built around themselves. All the signs, from the collapse of financial markets to the Occupy Wall Street movement, are highlighting the need to return to core values and a better way of doing business.
Children today are more depressed than they were at the height of the Great Depression, researchers say, and second-hand stress is a major culprit.
Too much visual stimulation from devices such as television, computers and video games are partly to blame, Dr Shanker says. But high parental stress from factors including economic crisis, marital breakdown and urban living are significantly affecting a child’s ability to self-regulate.
“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing,” he says.
“The solutions are real easy, the solutions themselves are not rocket science. Get your kid to bed, have your kid eat properly,” he says.
He also says some activities can help children to “top up the gas” when they are depleted of energy. Sports, music, yoga and non-competitive Tae-Kwon-do all play an incredible role at helping kids regulate themselves.
Personal Happiness and Wellbeing
Defining wellbeing is not straightforward – not least because the word mutates a lot around the context in which bis being used, for instance, in health terms there will be emphases on diet, exercise, and mental health; whereas in a work context the focus will be more on confidence, autonomy, sense of meaning or purpose, contribution and accomplishment, high quality relationships, feeling respected and recognised, and continuous learning and growth: a feeling of being able to achieve our full potential.
Our baseline framework continues to be Martin Seligman’s Flourishing framework: Positive Emotion + Engagement + Meaning + Accomplishment + Relationships
This article provides a helpful enough explanation of wellbeing to help get a sense of what it means…
The term wellbeing is very popular. If you type the word wellbeing or well-being in Google then a multitude of pages will be displayed. However, it is not easy to define the term wellbeing. Wellbeing is not the absence of illness.
Wellbeing is not simply maintenance and survival; it also includes growth and fulfillment (the actualization of potential). A wellbeing person has good physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Such people has sound health, more energy, feels satisfied, spreadhappiness and command respect from others.
Attributes of wellbeing: the various attributes of wellbeing are highly correlated.
1. Understanding others’ difficulties and situations ( empathy)
2. Honesty and reliability in behavior ( ethical conduct)
3. Seeing positive features in others and being positive ( positive thinking)
4. Taking cognizance of realities of life and dealing with them accordingly( realistic orientation)
5. Having confidence in oneself ( self-respect)
6. Taking care of what one says or does ( self-discipline)
…it seems that we experience two different kinds of happiness. The calm type of happiness is related to a focus on the present moment, and is most common in older adults. The excited type of happiness is related to a focus on the future and is most common in younger adults.
Although we are unaware of it, these types of happiness also affect our preferences. We seem to like products that will maintain the type of happiness we are experiencing right now. So, if we are experiencing calm happiness, we select calm products. If we are experiencing excited happiness, we select exciting products.
As a woman, my subjectively female theory is that women are no less happy now than past generations were. I have interviewed over 100 women for articles and for books. They ranged in age from those in their 20’s to those in their 60’s, and they were from all walks of life and educational levels. Not being happy had no age, educational or social limit. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing activity.
As much of Britain basks in longed-for sunshine one senses that, despite all the economic gloom, our national spirits have been lifted. We instinctively believe that warm weather makes us happier. But is it true?
Yesterday’s well-being statistics suggested the opposite. The happiest region of the whole UK is the most northerly – Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Some islands see only around 1,000 hours of sunshine a year compared to a UK average of 1,340 hours.
Science is still trying to make sense of what is going on. The link between cold, dark climates and depression seems so plausible and yet Icelanders exhibit remarkably low levels of SAD. Some suggest this might be down to a genetic factor (Canadians of Icelandic origin also appear to have lower levels of SAD), while others think they may be protected by eating lots of fish, a diet high in Vitamin D.
The British public, it seems, remains largely committed to the view that if it lived in a warm, sunny environment instead of enduring waves of Atlantic cloud and rain, everyone would be a lot happier. For proof, people confidently assert that suicide rates are higher in countries straddling the Arctic Circle.
But proportionately, far more people kill themselves in the warmth of South Korea than in the ice of Scandinavia. Finland, which has the highest suicide rate of the Nordic nations, has a similar level to France and Belgium.
Probably not then. Still feels like it does though.
On the eve of the Olympics and Paralympics, Christian Jarrett dives into the psychology of competition
The secrets of Endurance. Rasmus Ankersen, Rachel Sussman, Marek Kukula. 21 July 2012
Sat, 21 Jul 12
24 days remaining
Why is it that so many top long distance runners are from Kenya? Is it genetics that leads to the high performance we can expect to see in the London Olympics? Or maybe the stamina of the world’s best athletes is above all about their mental attitude, the ability to deliver excellence, no matter what. Just some of the aspects of endurance we are exploring on the Forum this week with high-performance anthropologist Rasmus Ankersen. Also on the programme, award winning photographer Rachel Sussman takes us hunting for the longest living organisms on Earth. And endurance that dwarfs anything found on our planet: the mind boggling staying power of the stars in the sky. The UK’s Public Astronomer Marek Kukula is our cosmic guide.
New research offers hope for those seeking a durable boost in happiness…
The idea that a person can get happier and stay happier after a major life change has taken major hits in recent decades, with researchers finding that lottery winners are no happier than nonwinners after 18 months and the happiness boost that follows marriage fades, on average, in about two years.
But a new wave of research is suggesting that the picture is more complex, and rising above your long-term happiness level or “set point” may be possible, at least for some individuals.
“Long-term levels of happiness do change for some individuals,” Diener and his colleagues wrote. “The more intriguing question, then, is why happiness set points change for some individuals more than for others.”
The jury is still out on that one, but Sheldon’s study suggests that some of us may be better at savoring positive changes and that some changes may create a more durable happiness than others.
A list satisfyingly worthwhile clicking through.
When facing adversity, we can either shut down or we can open up. Our immediate, defensive inclination is to close, to follow the seductive but narrowing pull of emotions such as anger or fear. Opening up is better for clear-headed decision-making and creative problem solving (so the data show). But it is difficult. It requires a good measure of self-compassion and a softness toward the situation and those involved.
Sound familiar: Mind racing at 4 a.m.? Guiltily realizing you’ve been only half-listening to your child for the past hour? Checking work email at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed? Dreading once-pleasant diversions, like dinner with friends, as just one more thing on your to-do list?
Guess what: It’s not you. These might seem like personal problems — and certainly, the pharmaceutical industry is happy to perpetuate that notion — but they’re really economic problems.
Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life
When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life. Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.
A traumatic event doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.” (Jane McGonigal)
Although now eight years old – and that’s a long time in the science of happiness of wellbeing – this special edition of Psychology Today contains some really helpful background to the genesis of Positive Psychology in its first article, Positive Psychology: Fundamental Assumptions…
FOR the last half century psychology has been largely consumed with a single topic only – mental illness – and it has done fairly well with it. Psychologists can now measure with some precision such formerly fuzzy concepts as depression and alcoholism. We now know a fair amount about how these troubles develop across the lifespan, and about their genetics, their biochemistry and their psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve some of these disorders. But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable has relegated building the states that make life worth living to a distant back seat.
plus the later article Trauma and Personal Growth, is helpful reading around the idea and development of resilience, especially as it manifests as Post Traumatic Growth…
It has been found that between 30 and 90 per cent of people who experience some form of traumatic event report at least some positive changes following trauma, with the figure varying dependent on the type of event and many other factors. These positive changes can underpin a whole new way of living that embraces the central tenets of positive psychology. People may
- change their life philosophy, learning to appreciate each day to the full (i.e. positive subjective experience) and renegotiating what really matters to them in the full realisation that their life is finite;
- believe themselves to be wiser or act more altruistically in the service of others (i.e. positive individual characteristics) and have a greater sense of personal resilience and strength, perhaps coupled with more acceptance of their vulnerabilities and limitations;
- dedicate their energies to social renewal or political activism (i.e. positive institutions and communities); or
- report that their relationships are enhanced in some way, for example valuing their friends and family more (i.e. positive social relationships).
plus some of the initial research that was happening in 2003 linking wellbeing with organisational life, leadership style and work loads in the article Positive Organisations…
Many staff now seem to be granted greater autonomy over when they work and how they achieve their work goals. Many academics, for example, now primarily work at home. Kanter (1997) and Handy (1995) argue that it is now commitment to common values that forms the glue that keeps the modern organisation together.
But at the same time increasing workloads plus an increase in measurement of the work being done has led to greater stress for many workers. It appears to be largely for this reason that job satisfaction measures have tended recently to go down rather than up.
“Ordinary people have the power to live lives just as dramatic and driven as those of superheroes, overcoming traumas no less daunting.” So claims Dr. Joseph, who uses part of Nietzsche’s time-tested phrase “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” as part of the book’s title. His experience, research, and writing back up this proclamation and provide perspective and hope for everyone who has, is or will, experience a traumatic event(s) in their life. That includes about 75% of humanity who must face some form of trauma during their lifetime.
The government supports charitable giving because it wants to encourage individuals to contribute to social wellbeing. With the dust settling on the coalition’s ill-fated attempt to cap personal tax relief on giving, now is an opportune moment to look, not only at ‘how we do good’, but whether we are doing it as well as we could.
The UK is one of the most generous nations in the world, but how far can our charitable impulse meet the gaps in social wellbeing arising from austerity measures? A new research report from the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) concludes that to increase the impact of philanthropy in our troubled times, we have to address its geographical, attitudinal, ethical and policy dimensions.
Where markets fail, philanthropy needs to go beyond mere charitable hand-outs to mobilise the skills and expertise of successful entrepreneurs behind struggling communities. It also needs to provide financial support and safety-nets to help innovative smaller-scale enterprises move beyond grant dependence to long-term sustainability.
“Society’s tendency is to maintain what has been. Rebellion is only an occasional reaction to suffering in human history: we have infinitely more instances of forbearance to exploitation, and submission to authority, than we have examples of revolt.” (Zinn, 1968)
In addition to confirming the expansion of time, the study shows that awe can ease impatience and actually make you more willing to volunteer time in the name of others. People also begin to prefer an actual experience over a material good. And just in case that wasn’t good enough, an awesome moment can increase your overall satisfaction and happiness in life.
How much is enough for you to live a happy and fruitful life? How we are better to think about how we can maximise our lives rather than maximise our incomes.
If we spent one-third of the energy that we spend on chasing happiness on getting better at being in pain, our experience of being alive would dramatically expand. We’d need to chase less and run away from less. We’d be open to a wider range of experience and not slapping assessments on these experiences and what they mean for our worth in society. We’d actually be able to drop into deeper states of happiness and bliss when they arise because we’re not fending off the pain that is just around the corner or seeping through the cracks of our high state. We’d be able to more fully, authentically and intimately show up for the events of our lives because we wouldn’t be spending the majority of our energy and attention on trying to dodge, stuff down, sidestep or prevail over pain.
Happiness At Work
HR Magazine’s response of ONS National Survey of Wellbeing brings a comparison with…
separate analysis by the CIPD suggests the finding that work affects happiness, only holds true if people are managed well and engaged with their work.
The CIPD’s Employee Outlook survey includes the four subjective wellbeing questions asked by the Office for National Statistics. The survey of more than 2,000 employees found that employees who agree they trust their senior managers and feel they are consulted about important decisions have much higher levels of wellbeing than those that disagree.
Getting more people into work should boost national happiness – but there’s also a huge amount more happiness to be had if people who already have jobs can be managed better.
Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said: “How people are managed on a day to day basis is central to their wellbeing beyond the workplace. Good managers spend time coaching and developing, providing high quality feedback, and rewarding and recognising good performance. Managers also need to have an interest in people as individuals and where possible provide flexibility and support if they are going through difficulties in their lives outside work.”
Generation Sell – a provocative Creative Mornings talk by William Deresiewicz
This is an intelligent thoughtful critique of today’s creative entrepreneurial culture and a lament of the lack of any true avante garde in art or thought that it has brought with it. An excellent lecture fully worth the investment of time it asks for: the talk itself is 28minutes, followed by the Q&A, also worth hearing. Highly recommended listening…
Artists and salespeople are fundamentally different people. It’s the nature of being an artist to be always consumed with doubt. That’s the nature that fuels your exploration. And it’s the nature of the salesperson to suppress all doubt and to speak in exclamation points. Now those functions have to exist in the same person.”
Here are two stories that bring the other side – the excitement and enthusiastic case for the new technology-driven entrepreneurialism…
Founder Leah said TaskRabbit and similar companies are gaining in popularity as consumers change their views about ownership and sharing. “We are at the beginning of a change on the Web where more companies are popping up that allow people to share resources,” she said. “You see people swapping clothing, sharing cars and bicycles. TaskRabbit is allowing people to share their free time. We can empower people to share themselves.”
See the TedTalk video of Leah Busque talking about the changing habits of consumers, and urging all of us to take the leap with anything we feel passionate about.
There are truly excited inventors, designers and programmers here, some of the brightest people in the United States, who are trying to build something that will fix a problem in the world. This is why I love working in Silicon Valley.
Luckily for people who live outside the bubble of Silicon Valley, there is a wonderful group of creators here who believe that everything is broken and that technology, creativity and guts can actually fix it.
So why is it so important for every aspiring creator to turn pro?
Because if you don’t, then you won’t have what it takes on those days – and trust me, there will be plenty of them – when you wonder why you’re doing this, and you’re tempted to give in to Resistance. Or to give up altogether.
It turns out that the outside world and all its demands aren’t just distractions from writing, as most writers tend to think, they are also buffers for our bruised psyches. They pull us away from our muse, to be sure, but they also protect us from our own demons. When there are phone companies to fight with, deadlines to meet, aging mothers to be nursed, eyebrows to wax—who has time to schedule in soul searching?
The good news is that when you face down the demons, the muse gets inspired by the fight. One morning, I woke up pickled in melancholy. Why am I so sad? I kept wondering as I wandered around the cottage. I’m supposed to be in lady writer heaven. I’m supposed to be productive as all hell. I’m supposed to be ecstatic, my fingers dancing across the keyboard…
As Woolf wrote about a woman’s experience of finally being alone: “All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others…it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”
Whether you love your job or not, there are times of the work day that just aren’t as enjoyable as others. The typical work day is full of ups and downs, times of the day that fly by and others that you just can’t wait until they’re over with. When you’ve “hit the wall” and feel like you’re accomplishing nothing, or when you are just hating life at work, here are a few things that you can do to cheer yourself up and get back on track.
This straightforward set of guidelines for improving people’s happiness at work suggest three key things to get, which we have given alternative headings to, drawing from Martin’s Seligman’s framework of five essentials for what he calls Flourishing: Engagement in what we are doing; a sense of Meaning beyond and unrelated to our own egos from what we are doing; and high quality Relationships, feeling a part of strong supportive network, team or family. The other two essentials are Positive Emotion, or the emotional feeling of happiness; and Accomplishment, the satisfaction and fulfilment of a job well done.
Here are Margaret Hefferman’s Top Three…
Learn these three strategies to make your employees happy, and extravagantly execute them. You’ll create a better business…
Professional growth (Engagement)
People want to stretch, to develop their natural talents, feel their life has a narrative and is going somewhere. When they feel that they are growing, they may be exhausted but they’re also inspired, energetic, and willing to take on a great deal. (That’s one reason why investing in people can deliver a higher return that investing in new technology.) Anyone who reports to you (and anyone who reports to them) should have a professional development plan. That will keep everybody engaged, busy, and–eventually–happy.
Strong community (Meaningful Work)
Everybody wants to be proud of where they work, to feel that they are investing the most precious thing they have – time – in something that matters. Superficial social-responsibility projects won’t fill this gap for you. You need to create direct links between the success of the business and the community you serve. These need to involve the entire work force and should be active, public, visible, and long lasting. Many companies get their staff to choose the causes or charities they support. The more they’re engaged in these commitments, the more meaningful they will be to them–and your company community.
Fair treatment (Strong Relationships)
“Everybody here is somebody.” That’s how one call-center rep once explained to me why he loved the company where he worked. The job wasn’t thrilling, the pay wasn’t great, but every single person was treated with love and respect. Just walking through the door, he said, made you glad to come to work. When people got sick, co-workers worried. When someone was due to retire, she most likely came back to work part time, just for the camaraderie. Sooner or later, everyone in a company like this talks about it as being like “family.” The CEO knows everyone’s name–even the names of everyone’s kids and pets. This kind of fair–and kind–treatment also means startlingly low turnover rates, which also saves money. But it’s not really about the money.
Six key components of well-being seem to capture what it means to function positively. One is positive self-regard, what I call “self-acceptance.” Another is having high-quality relationships with other people – “positive relationships with others.” Another is having a sense of direction in your life – “purpose in life.” Another component is feeling that you’re making the most of your talents and potential, utilizing your capacities, which I refer to as “personal growth.” Feeling you can make choices for yourself and your life even if they go against conventional wisdom is referred to as “autonomy.” The last one is managing the demands and opportunities in your environment in ways that meet your needs and capacities. We call that “environmental mastery.”
Embedded within these reflections is the idea that varieties of well-being around the world each are prone to their own forms of excess and inadequacy. However, until we look at well-being in multiple contexts, we may be blind to what these forms of excess are. The way to gain this understanding is to look at the experiences of, and ideals about, well-being around the world.
It’s like looking in a mirror. We see ourselves and our own views about what it means to be well by looking in a different cultural mirror. Maybe that helps us we see that what we do isn’t always the best. Maybe it needs to be slightly shifted this way or that.
That’s a bias I bring. I think learning about cultural differences enriches everybody.
In the current employment market, small and medium enterprise (SME) employers need to do everything possible to attract and retain the best staff. And while it’s true that SME organisations have traditionally scored well on important points such as employee satisfaction, there are always opportunities for gaining an edge over the competition and demonstrating how staff are valued.
Compared with 20 years ago, employers are now much more likely to be open to the view employee well-being is a mainstream business issue. Some are even becoming more comfortable with the notion that they have some role to play in supporting their staff to make and sustain lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or eating more healthily. But there remains a dark corner of the wellbeing landscape where almost nobody goes, even though it affects a shockingly high proportion of the workforce.
I am referring to domestic violence, a topic that, for too many, remains a taboo; and I realise that just by raising it, I am exposing the uncomfortable boundary between an employee’s private business and an employer’s duty of care. So why is domestic violence a workforce wellbeing issue at all?
One in four women report being victims at some point in their lives and 20% of women at work report taking a period of absence as a direct consequence of domestic violence.
If your strategy is focused on healthy options in the canteen or subsidised gym membership, perhaps it is time to assess whether there are less obvious threats to employee wellbeing, to which you should also be giving priority…
The central concept to the study’s links between well-being, performance and retention is a word coined by the project team: presenteeism. They describe presenteeism and its connection to well-being:
We believe, and our initial evidence suggests, that your employees’ well-being, satisfaction with elements of jobs and satisfaction that their reasons for working are being met lead to higher performance through reduced presenteeism, heightened engagement and increased feelings of inclusion.
Presenteeism comes from the term “absenteeism” and refers to being at work physically, but unable to concentrate fully. This notion comes from the health and wellness literature, where it originally meant coming to work sick and therefore not performing well. We expanded the concept to consider lack of concentration due to a series of work-related and personal factors. Low well-being in any area of one’s life may cause presenteeism, which impacts performance.
In addition to presenteeism and engagement, the study also comprehensively measures well-being, satisfaction, performance and intention to quit. The researchers plan to follow up in six months to see whether those who intended to quit actually do.
The lowest levels of intention to quit were for those with high overall life well-being and high satisfaction that the job was meeting the employee’s purpose for working.
The next lowest levels of intention to quit were for anyone with high well-being, regardless of their levels of job-specific satisfaction.
For hundreds of years, people have felt the world was changing faster and faster. You can find writing from two hundred years ago lamenting the rate of change that you would believe was written yesterday, yet with the perspective of history, there is no question that the rate of change today, in nearly any category, is greater than it has ever been before.
While all this change may seem daunting and cause you frustrations or stress, the reality is if we want to succeed, we must learn to do more than just “live with” or “deal with” change – we must learn to understand and master it. The full-on task of learning to understand and master change is a much larger topic than can be addressed here, yet there are five key ideas that will help you when you apply them.
At a time when we always seem to be in a hurry, we need reminding that taking a break is a simple but effective tool for boosting creativity. To come up with creative solutions to problems, your chances are increased by incorporating breaks into your work-flow.
“Our results show that regardless of how open minded people are, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty either because they have an immediate goal of reducing uncertainty, or feel uncertain generally, this may bring negative associations with creativity to mind which result in lower evaluations of a creative idea. Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas… yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.”
Adrienne Burke talking about the two types of working style identified by Howard Green concludes that happiness for all us depends on our sense of doing something that matters, whether we prefer ‘administrative’ style work or ‘entrepreneurial’ style work…In the end, what makes people happy is probably in large part irrelevant to the question of entrepreneurship and working in small companies. More often, what we find is that people think about happiness independent of their vocation. More relevant are questions like: What are your passions? What gets you excited? What will make you feel you have added value?
Do you just want to make a lot of money and then kick back? That works for some people, but it’s striking how many people we encounter who have done well in their careers still say they arelooking for something to do with their lives. They now have the financial freedom they chased, but it has not made them feel their lives are worthwhile. “Worthwhile” seems to come from doing something that feels like it is adding value, helping other people or somehow making the world a better place. That, at least, seems to be the common thread among the people we meet who are on fire, at any age. The mission can be almost anything, but in every case it is something.
In hi s twice-weekly blog Action Trumps Everything he is suggesting that more of us are set to lose our jobs in the changing world, and identifies only three categories who can reasonably rely on having future work:1) skilled trades people;2) people who can tolerate how their jobs are going and3) people who can afford to coast into the sunset
Download the very first edition of the new nef Perspectives magazine…
Perspectives explores some of the latest insights into human behaviour and how they can help organisations make better decisions.
Most adults are producers as well as consumers. In fact we spend the majority of our waking hours working. And work is often a social activity: we usually produce alongside others, in teams. We started to gather perspectives on this line of inquiry with the premise that individuals at work are just as irrational as individuals at the shopping mall.
How do we form and instil habits within the organisations we work for? How does an organisation balance its instinct to survive while exploring new opportunities? Corporations are not engines that robotically maximise shareholder value; nor are charities machines that blindly deliver an altruistic purpose. Both rely on the power of fallible minds to achieve their goals.
This edition of Perspectives stems from our ambition to better understand what makes organisations effective – and that means understanding the individuals that work in them.
As a leader how and what do you do to maintain resiliency in leadership? By resiliency, I mean, recover speedily from problems and maintain elasticity, bend, stretch and not break during challenging situations.
All organizations encounter challenges, issues and difficulties everyday including financial shortfalls, downsizing, increased workloads, and succession issues.
These challenges force the organization to turn inward and look at itself and its effectiveness. It is a time to regroup and assess where the organization stands.
If the organization embeds and nurtures a culture based on mutual trust and where all members of the organization strive to be trustworthy and treat one another with respect and caring then you have a solid foundation to deal with the challenges and issues you face. But where do you begin? It begins with a focus on people and a focus on building and enhancing positive relationships.
Most peoples want to be part of the solution. They would like to have a sense that their ideas are heard, not necessarily accepted but considered with some action taken. They want to be part of the team, participating, engaging and solving some of the challenges.
Here are 6 steps to take when you face leadership challenges…
How Far Along Are You in These 3 Components?
- Empowered Learning Culture. Employee engagement starts and flourishes in a learning culture where all question, explore, are accountable, and learn from mistakes. When formal training occurs in this culture, the participants both apply it themselves and teach it to colleagues through the engagement that occurs each day. Leaders realize the results of the training as it spreads throughout the organization.
- Engage for Accountability. If you mistakenly implement employee engagement primarily as rewards and recognition, you miss the true benefit — employees who are excited to be accountable. From this vantage point, any training the employees receive feeds back into the business in thorough application. Conversely, if as leaders you are delegating rather than engaging, you once again miss the true return on training — ownership to apply where appropriate.
- Skin in the Game. Perhaps the most controversial component is offering advanced training to those who have shown personal initiative to learn some on their own. Of course there are training programs that you would want all employees to take. Yet for the advanced training that everyone hopes for, you must know how you will choose. Current job description has a been a default for years. Yet for leaders to truly realize company results of training, it makes sense to consider initiative and action as an indicator of developmental success.
Coaching is the process of preparing your employees to succeed. Good coaches can create the mental resources, emotional resilience, business skills, and career development that employees need to achieve their goals.
Unfortunately, while coaching is a well-established part of the sports world, it’s a neglected art in the world of business. Much of the time, coaching is relegated to a five-minute conversation at the end of a yearly performance review.
There’s a better way to handle business coaching. Try this five-step process…
Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” (Simon Sinek)
Art, Performance and Sound
East Side StoryThe “other London”—gritty, gratified, but with a rising cool index—gets ready for its close-up as the venue of the Summer Olympics.
Neil Harbisson: I Lsten To Colour (TedTalk)
Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely color blind, but these days a device attached to his head turns color into audible frequencies. Instead of seeing a world in grayscale, Harbisson can hear a symphony of color — and yes, even listen to faces and paintings.
Something to smile through. Enjoy…
“How are we so optimistic, so careful Not to trip and yet Do trip, and then GET up and say O.K.”
This one is PANTS
Yoko Ono on NBC Nightly News: “I envisioned the world smiling together”
YOKO ONO: “If we all start to smile in the world something will happen. I think that it will be better for the world maybe.”
Hear and/or read an extract from Rachel Joyce’s new novel: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry …
Rachel Joyce’s novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryis about a man who very suddenly, with no warning or planning, sets off on a pilgrimage from the very southernmost part of England to the very northernmost part…
The unlikely pilgrimage is also utterly spontaneous. Harold originally intends only to mail a letter to his friend, but he walks past the mailbox … and just keeps walking, north to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border… and ‘this is a man who’s only ever walked to the car,” says the book’s author, Rachel Joyce, “And without his mobile phone, and wearing completely inappropriate shoes, and just with a light waterproof jacket,” Joyce says. “He sets off with no props. …
For the millions of visitors who are expected to pass through Tate Modern’s doors between Tuesday 24 July, when the work opens to the public, and 28 October, when it closes, the experience of being stopped and spoken to by a complete stranger may be uncomfortable. For Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, it is “the most complex, difficult and dangerous project we have ever put into this museum”.
According to Sehgal the work is about the relationship between the individual and the mass: “It is about what it means to belong to a group, which is also quite a personal question for me.”
Cities are full of noise and scuffle, and they don’t always reveal their history.
Armed with a fistful of maps from 1901 and a smartphone bristling with data-recording apps, one man tries to uncover a city’s secrets…
Mark Ware will produce a multi-channel soundscape installation that will be sited within the Cathedral’s Chapter House for three consecutive days during March 2013. The sound installation will feature only sounds that have been in existence for 900 years (for example, the sounds of the sea). The work will last ninety minutes and will be repeated throughout the day. The aim will be to create a piece of work that encourages contemplation and relaxation.
To celebrate the birthday of Carl Gustav Jung, founder of analytic psychology and explorer of the collective unconscious, born on July 26, 1875 in the village of Kesswil, in the Thurgau canton of Switzerland…we present a fascinating 39-minute interview of Jung by John Freeman for the BBC program Face to Face. It was filmed at Jung’s home at Küsnacht, on the shore of Lake Zürich, and broadcast on October 22, 1959, when Jung was 84 years old. He speaks on a range of subjects, from his childhood and education to his association with Sigmund Freud and his views on death, religion and the future of the human race. At one point when Freeman asks Jung whether he believes in God, Jung seems to hesitate. “It’s difficult to answer,” he says. “I know. I don’t need to believe. I know.”
Stephen Covey has given us a lasting legacy of habits, principles, and cornerstone concepts, as well as a rich vocabulary to think about, express, and live our personal leadership. The language that Covey gave us is all about choice and change, commitment, continuous learning, discipline, efficiency and effectiveness, happiness, integrity, freedom, listening, personal development, perspective, principles, time management, trust, spirit, values, and vision.
It’s a big deal. It’s a lifetime of contribution. His legend lives on through his legacy.
Here is a taste of that legacy and the wisdom that Stephen Covey has shared with the world …