Happiness At Work #45 ~ some highlights from this week’s collection

Happy People

Happiness At Work Edition 45 of 10th May 2013

This collection features a number of stories about smiling and laughter – why it’s good for us, how we can smile more, and looking through Steve McCurry’s latest pictures featuring people smiling we think is guaranteed to bring your own smiles out:

Steve McCurry’s Blog: The Universal Language

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but
sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Just see how many of these of his pictures you can look at without smiling yourself…

Businesspeople Laughing in Meeting

Insights from Brené Brown, Cal Newport, Gretchen Rubin & more at the 2013 99U Conference

Embrace vulnerability.  Stop chasing a passion.  Cultivate a “get better” (rather than a “be good”) mindset.  That’s just a taste of the counter-intuitive insights on idea execution that were shared last week at the 2013 99U Conference, presented by GE.

Researcher and writer Brené Brown dug into the vulnerability inherent in the creative process by sharing a bit of personal experience. After her TED talk went viral, the negative comments started to affect her process until a Theodore Roosevelt quote changed her entire perspective: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” …

When everyone else heard Steve Jobs’ now-legendary commencement address at Stanford in 2005, the common takeaway was that we should “follow our passion.” But writer, computer scientist, and professor Cal Newport argues that following your passion isn’t actually the path to happiness…

Tony Schwartz began with the question, “How do we solve what feel like are impossible problems?” (e.g. world hunger, climate change, poverty). He believes that these big, nagging problems will never be solved by a single approach; instead, we must embrace a more holistic way of viewing the world and the creative process. On a practical level this means training ourselves to strategically switch between right-brain and left-brain thinking when problem solving…

Whether it’s going to the gym, making time for passion projects, or quitting your email addiction, we’re always trying to make and break new habits. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, explains that determination alone won’t get the job done — the key to success is having insight into your own nature before going after a goal…

For Tina Seelig, bringing ideas to life is all about reframing perspective. As executive director for the Standford Technology Ventures Program and author ofinGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, she helps entrepreneurs challenge assumptions and use an “Innovation Engine” to reframe a problem and boost imagination…

Upon reading story after story about geniuses, prodigies, and other successful people, Heidi Grant Halvorson found herself noticing that people in the U.S. tend to attribute failure and success not to controllable factors such as work ethic, but rather to innate ability or talent. She walked attendees through a series of studies and experiments that show how powerful your perspective can be in pushing toward success…

Happiness Is Up To You, Authors Say

Tal Ben-Shahar, a well-known author and professor, was one of the influential figures who brought the concept of embracing optimism into the mainstream. His class on positive psychology at Harvard University has been wildly popular, attracting national attention.

But even Ben-Shahar, who has a doctorate in organizational behavior from Harvard, hit a wall recently. Demands for his happiness seminars had skyrocketed over the last 10 years as the economy tanked and more clients ended up in crisis. After what he termed an exhausting year, the sage of happy described himself as worn out, burned out and unhappy.

So, the man who had written “Happier” and other popular books decided to write yet another book.

This time, he went beyond concepts of positive psychology, giving readers of his new book an easy-to-follow road map to a life of contentment. He based his latest writing on the idea that the small choices we make day in and day out have a big impact on our overall happiness…

Tal Ben-Shahir - Choose the Life You Want

Kahneman and Bentham’s Bucket of Happiness

Daniel Kahneman, who has plausibly been called the “most important psychologist alive today,” has spent a decade experimenting with “hedonimetrics,” which analyzes “single happiness values” assigned to each moments felt pleasure or pain. Commendably candid, he concludes: “we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled.” Despite eons of thinking, happiness has become a low-resolution word, unhelpful in seeing useful distinctions.

It’s time we pulled happiness out of Bentham’s befuddling bucket, which seems of dubious utility. Biological realities require restraining the maximization of pleasure within healthy limits. We’d feel better if our sovereign minds pursued healthier happiness rather than the heedlessly hedonistic sort.

Yellow Flowers in Bucket

Rick Hanson on the Neuroscience of Happiness (podcast)

The best-selling author and psychologist discusses how we can literally re-wire our brains to cultivate positive emotions, inner peace, and lasting happiness…

Buddha's Brain


10 Reasons Why Meditation Is America’s New Push-Up for the Brain

The push-up is an incredible tool to help you get in great physical shape; that’s why it’s used in almost every gym in America. With all the scientific evidence pointing to mindfulness meditation, the practice is literally becoming America’s next push-up for the brain.

Here are 10 reasons why you should do the practice…

Office Worker Meditating at Work

3 Simple Ways to Enter the Present

The calm of the present moment is always available and getting to it is deceptively simple.

In fact, it is more complicated to escape the present moment than to be in it.

The problem is, we are naturally complicated!

We learn early in life to avoid the simplicity of the moment and live inside an entangled mind-mess.

So, back to basics!  Listen.  See.  Feel.

We connect to the present moment through our five senses. In this article, we’ll review simple ways to use three of your senses to sweep away the mind-mess and just be present. No drama. Just present.

The trick is to avoid making meaning. When you make meaning, you must go inside your mind. It is so easy at that point to make meaning that is emotionally upsetting.

All of us need a break from the internal commotion…

water dropping into pool


Career Advice: Give

Givers focus on others, takers on themselves, and matchers care most about fairness. Studies show that most professional success, not just satisfaction, goes to givers.

Only 8% of people describe themselves as givers at work. That’s because most people think it’s safer to operate like a taker or matcher at work; givers, they think, are chumps who will fall behind in the game of life.

Adam Grant explodes that myth in his book, Give and Take, showing that givers are among the most successful people in business. They may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” Grant tells me “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”

This is important considering that Americans spend most of their waking hours — most of their lives — at work. The average American man works 8.4 hours per day and the average American woman works 7.7 hours a day. How they feel in those hours is a major determinant of their well-being. But, according to the American Psychological Association, nearly 70 percent of Americans cite work as a major source of stress in their lives and four out of ten say that they experience stress at work on a daily basis. One report indicates that over half of working Americans are unsatisfied and unhappy with their jobs. The top person people don’t like being around is, according to the National Time Use survey, their boss. Bosses and work seem to be significant sources of unhappiness for many people.

When people are stressed out, their first instinct is to protect themselves — or to retreat into a taker mentality. But operating like a giver may actually be more effective in buffering against stress and enhancing well-being. On its face, this is counter-intuitive. Time is a scarce resource, especially for people who are stressed. Being a giver involves taking time away from yourself to help someone else. This could seemingly aggravate stress levels, but it actually alleviates them…

giving a daffodil

7 Tips for making Other People Feel Smart and Insightful

We all want to get along well with other people, and one way to do this is to help people feel good about themselves. If you make a person feel smart and insightful, that person will enjoy your company. The point is not to be manipulative, but to help other people feel good about their contributions to a conversation.

Here are some suggestions…

Social Connections Drive the ‘Upward Spiral’ of Positive Emotions and Health

People who experience warmer, more upbeat emotions may have better physical health because they make more social connections, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research, led by Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bethany Kok of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences also found it is possible for a person to self-generate positive emotions in ways that make him or her physically healthier.

“People tend to liken their emotions to the weather, viewing them as uncontrollable,” says Fredrickson. “This research shows not only that our emotions are controllable, but also that we can take the reins of our daily emotions and steer ourselves toward better physical health.”

couple fly a kite together at the seaside

Happiness At Work

Secret to happiness: “I want this job for a week”

How can we be fulfilled at work? A British theorist argues that we should experiment, not specialise

Krznaric’s book “How to Find Fulfilling Work” is an entry in the School of Life, Alain de Botton’s series of self-help books for people who wouldn’t be caught dead in the self-help section. In it, Krznaric argues that the way we’ve been trained to find our life’s work is completely wrong. He takes issue in particular with the personality tests administered by career counselors to judge one’s strengths and interests. They’re complete bunk, Krznaric argues, pointing out that you’ve got a 50 percent chance of being placed in a different personality category if you retake the test.

Instead of pondering your ideal occupation long and hard, Krznaric says, just pick something. Nearly anything will do. “We need to act first and think afterwards,” he said. Once you’ve tried something, you’re in a much better position to decide whether you like it or not.

At its root, Krznaric wants to flip our idea of what success looks like. Instead of aspiring to become “high achievers,” he argues, many of us would be more happy as “wide achievers” — dabbling in many fields rather than becoming an expert in one. And with the disappearance of stable jobs in almost every field, cultivating skills across a range of occupations could be a smart move.

According to Krznaric, the only career advice you really need comes from Aristotle: “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” Finding those talents — well, that’s up to you…

balance - couple walking across a log over stream 2balance - couple walking across a log over stream

Getting Closer To Work~Life Balance

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of

balance, order, rhythm and harmony. 

Thomas Merton

The good news is that you can have better in both worlds. You can work hard and still find time to enjoy your family and friends, and your life. You must take the initiative and  decide that you need to create a better balance for yourself.


You will need to adopt a few essential strategies. And, no, it is not always simple, especially in the beginning. Work-life balance is about finding new ways to balance the demands of your work with the demands of your personal life. You actually can be successful and happy doing both; or at least happier…

Bored With Your Job? How To Get the Spark Back

If you’re finding it hard to drag yourself to work, maybe you need a new job – but maybe you just need to adjust your attitude.

After the initial “honeymoon phase” of a new job wanes, it’s easy for the day-to-day grind, or a difficult boss, to take a toll on your job satisfaction, leaving you with a negative attitude.

“Workplace happiness is finding the right job, the right culture and the right boss,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace coach and founder of theworkplacetherapist.com, which is based in Atlanta. “The challenge is that when one of those is out of line, you have to find ways to manage that.

Some people, in fact, are more prone to negative thinking, which can make them even more unhappy at work than others in the same situation.

One type of therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy, is based on the theory that you can improve your mental health, or in this case your level of happiness at work, by reframing the way you think about things and taking steps to improve how you cope. It helps you change your thinking to make it more accurate and less tinged with emotion.

Here are some common “mindset traps” that can sabotage your level of happiness at work, and tips on how to reframe your thinking about the situations…

Blue sky and white sun clipart

Honoring Happiness: What Bhutan, a Cowboy Hat, & the Economy Have in Common

“What does happiness have to do with sustainability?”

The short answer is, everything. As Lovins delved deeper into ecological economics, it became apparent that happiness was a serious topic and that the meaning of happiness was being refined. The kind of happiness that Lovins was presenting was not just a fleeting feeling, but rather it was the notion of happiness as currency

Happiness needs to become part of the business dialogue. It needs to become a part of our national debate. However, the world cannot wait for corporations and governments to adopt GNH. In the spirit of Hunter Lovins, I remind you that the power is in your hands. What can you do to increase your happiness and how can you incorporate the nine happiness principles into your organization?

person with rain

Happiness At Work: Applied Happiness

Zappos.com built a  hugely successful brand and company through outstanding customer service and an unusual company culture, but even more inspiring is the fact that they succeeded in doing this by using happiness as a business model. Drawn by the notion that anyone can apply the science of happiness to work, communities and our everyday lives, happiness has become the organizing principle behind a new business and now, a movement.  Watch her fascinating TED talk and decide for yourself if she is worth listening to.

Six Ways To Stop Worrying and Find The Work You Love

Most of us spend the majority of our day at work so it is crucially important that the work that we do makes us feel happy and fullfilled.  This article by Roman Krznaric from Yes magazine, which was originally published in The Huffington Post, looks at 6 ways to stop worrying about what to do to find a fulfilling job and some simple steps we can take to improve our sense of fulfillment at work.  Romans has also written a book on the subject entitled How to Find Fulfilling Work if you would like to read about this topic more.

Looking For Happiness At Work? Consider these three things

We spend 35% of our waking hours at work. That’s a lot, right?  If finding happiness at work seems as elusive as chasing down the holy grail, here are three thoughts that may help you..

Millennium bridge, looking towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Here are some suggestions to keep up the Motivation and Happiness…

It’s no surprise that happy workers bring good results. They are more motivated and driven in anything they do. However, with the high amount of concerns and uncertainties in the workplace today such as increasing work pressure, under-staffed teams, and boundary less career; it’s hard to keep the vibe up all the time.

The Institute of Leadership & Management published a study recently on the social behaviour of employees within an organisation. Results have shown that employees are most satisfied and happy within the first 2 years of their current employment where they find it being most exciting, challenging and enthusiastic. This level of motivation drops significantly after 2 years on average with employees finding their duties repetitive.

Employee Happiness Should Not Be An Impossible Task

Fortunately or unfortunately, employee engagement is a hot topic.

Don’t get me wrong, engagement is important. There’s a proven link between engagement, productivity and profits. Companies should want to have engaged employees.

It’s virtually impossible to have an engaged employee who isn’t happy. So step one in the engagement formula should be creating happiness at work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s not realistic. But it’s not unreasonable to strive for more happy days than not happy days.

As an employee, I should be able to tell my employer “With rare exception, I’m happy coming to work.”

When was the last time someone asked “What makes you happy at work?

Do you know the answer?

Self Mastery

woman presenter

What On Earth is the Power of You?

With courses abounding to ‘be yourself’, and attendance numbers sky rocketing, why do so many of us remain poor communicators, continuing at the same time to be both terrified and dull? Well, perhaps quite simply, because many of us, no matter what course we’ve done have not actually discovered authenticity!

‘Being you’ won’t be easy, our work, society and sometimes even our families encourage us to fulfil prescribed roles. And it requires contemplation and consideration. Don’t be driven by corporate gain, it’s merely a valuable by-product. Be driven by the simple fact that, unless you have some need to hide your identity, like you’re under police protection or a spy, not being yourself is plain bloody ludicrous…

3 Tips to Connect With Your Authentic Self for a Happier Life

Selflessness is disconnecting from ego and connecting with your essential self. It’s being in your element, without trying to be something other than what you are.

And the good news is you can learn how to be selfless by simply observing nature. If you can, take a few minutes and walk outside.

Notice how every flower, every plant, and every tree is an exquisite expression of itself. Each one is what it is. A rose is a rose. A tree is a tree. They aren’t trying or struggling to be anything other than what they are. And that’s what makes them beautiful.


Animals also are magnificent manifestations of themselves. They don’t fight against their true nature. They are what they are. And that’s why we love animals.

So too, we are who we are. Yet, unlike nature and animals, our ego gets in the way and prevents us from being ourselves. It wants us to believe that we are someone we are not. When I craved acceptance and approval from others. I wanted to fit in and be liked by everyone I met. I put on an act to impress, while trying to camouflage awkward feelings of inadequacy.  To avoid this from happening to you, you need to connect with who you really are.

Here are 3 steps that will help you connect with your authentic self…

3 Tips To Win the Battle Against Your Inner Perfectionism

Think every project you work on has wrapped up perfectly in a neat little bow? Think again! Sure, you’re a professional and you can obviously produce stellar results, but you’re also human. If you’re constantly battling your inner perfectionist, you’re killing your productivity. Follow these three tips to win the battle against your “perfect” mindset and make your business more productive and profitable…

Explore: Genius Is… (poster)

Genius Is poster

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends Upon

Each moment, each situation, each turn of events presents you with an opportunity to build the self you are capable of being.  It’s just a matter of accepting opportunities, implementing ideas, taking action, and actively expressing the purpose that is uniquely YOU.

You are stronger than any barrier standing in your way, because you have a purpose that cannot be denied.  You can be adaptable, innovative, hard working and tenacious.  You can imagine the possibilities and then work to make them real.

Here are five life skills that will help you do just that – the real fundamentals of being an empowered, self-directed human being:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Creativity
  3. Resilience
  4. Patience
  5. Self Reliance


Brain & Skeleton

Innovation Excellence: Cultivate Mental Confusion

When it comes to our daily job, we also become very proficient at it over time. Our brains develop routines and we stick to them because they work. That said, by not challenging the way we do things we invariably plateau and reach a state of pleasant comfort, sometime without even realizing it. However, there is nothing more dangerous in life than comfort because it can quietly kill your creativity, desire to innovate and aspiration for a better tomorrow.

If you have reached that dangerous level of comfort or don’t want to get even near it, let me offer a solution: Mental Confusion.

7 Japanese Aesthetic Principles to Change Your Thinking

Japanese Tsukubai Fountain

Exposing ourselves to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideas — notions that may seem quite foreign to most of us — is a good exercise in lateral thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. “Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perception,” says de Bono. Beginning to think about design by exploring the tenets of the Zen aesthetic may not be an example of Lateral Thinking in the strict sense, but doing so is a good exercise in stretching ourselves and really beginning to think differently about visuals and design in our everyday professional lives.

 The principles are interconnected and overlap; it’s not possible to simply put the ideas in separate boxes. Thankfully, Patrick Lennox Tierney (a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007) has a few short essays elaborating on the concepts. Below are just seven design-related principles (there are more) that govern the aesthetics of the Japanese garden and other art forms in Japan. Perhaps they will stimulate your creativity or get you thinking in a new way about your own design-related challenges…

Bridge at Shinsen-en Sacred Spring Garden


Few Executives Are Self-Aware, But Women Have The Edge

The single area where both female and male managers need to improve is in self-awareness. While women did outperform men on that metric, notice how low the rates for both genders are — under 20%. “If you think about most people in our day-to-day lives we tend to run on auto-pilot,” says Malloy. “We often are not mindful about our impact on others or how and where we spend our time. We can easily get caught up in the task or the day-to-day distractions” and pay less attention to ourselves and effect we may have on others.

“Improving self-awareness requires getting some source of credible feedback, and being open to that feedback,” she advises. “Find a trusted colleague or someone from your personal life who can give you constructive feedback in real-time.”

Malloy continues, “Developing self-awareness also requires reflection… Schedule time every week on your calendar to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how could you react differently in the future.”

Self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. A leader must know herself — her abilities, her shortcomings, and her opportunities for growth in order to be able to provide direction, guidance and inspiration to others.

Leadership demands strong interpersonal skills. And while research may show that women leaders have the edge in certain areas, the lesson I take from this study is that both men and women have work to do in order to become the leaders their followers need…

Young Couple Talking in Cafe

A Gen Y Definition of Leadership

Gen Y is the next generation of leaders, and we bring with us a fresh outlook on leadership.

If you read this and scoffed, then I wish you luck as you descend into irrelevance. If, however, you’re reading this, wondering how it will affect your organisation, you may want to consider the following:

  • How do my company’s programmes support Gen Y in leadership roles?
  • What is likely to become redundant or obsolete?
  • What frustrations might Gen Y leaders face, and can anything be done to alleviate them?
  • What are the implications of changing nothing?
  • How will newer leadership styles mesh with more traditional styles? What might be the impact on employees transitioning from a traditional-style manager to a Gen Y?

Dealing With A Change That’s Hard To Swallow

If you’re struggling with a change on your team, start by asking what it would look like if you did believe in the change.  How can you increase the likelihood this will work instead of increasingly the likelihood that it will fail? Then don’t wait until you believe it, just start behaving it.  And in one of the most fascinating examples of the complexity of our human brains, once you are doing it, you will start to believe in it.

young girl looking down road

The Ripple Effect You Create As A Manager

Each one of us holds a set of beliefs and attitudes — a mindset — that determines how we interpret and respond to situations. That mindset shapes how we interact with others, and therefore it also affects the people we work with — in ways both subtle and profound. A person with a distrustful mindset, for example, views situations at work as competitive and acts to advance his own interest at others’ expense by politicking: shifting allegiances, taking credit, assigning blame, withholding or distorting information. These behaviors drive up stress and burnout in others, and undermine organizational effectiveness.

On the other hand, a mindset of openness, trust, and generosity promotes behaviors that have beneficial effects on others. In his new book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant marshals an impressive body of scientific evidence to show how a mindset of generosity radiates to yield broad gains.

Here’s one powerful research example: a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy employees found that people with social support from coworkers were two and a half times less likely to die prematurely than those without. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that by being supportive of people at work, you’re not just brightening their day — you’re literally helping to save lives…

Two Young Women in Front of the Computer Talking

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