Here are some of our top stories and ideas from this week’s latest Happiness At Work #46
By exploring Achor’s and Lyubomirsky’s contributions, various considerations emerge:
- We are quintessentially emotional (not merely rationale) animals.
- Our mindsets determine how we experience reality.
- We focus and cope with the reality we experience, which requires timing, variation, motivation, effort and commitment.
- We are creatures of habit.
- We are social animals.
- Positive emotions fuel performance.
Advice for Living
“Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.”
Commencement season is upon us and, after Greil Marcus’s soul-stirring speech on the essence of art at the 2013 School of Visual Arts graduation ceremony, here comes an exceptional adaptation of one of the best commencement addresses ever delivered: In May of 2012, beloved author Neil Gaiman stood up in front of the graduating class at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and dispensed some timeless advice on the creative life; now, his talk comes to life as a slim but potent book titled Make Good Art
When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art.
Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art.
Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.
Happiness is to everyday humans what dark matter is to physicists. You know it’s out there, you know it’s important, but you can’t put your finger on how to get to it or what it even is.
Well, happiness has a language problem.
If you know Spanish, it’s like the difference between the verbs Estar and Ser. They both mean “to be” but not in the same way. One is a temporary state; the other is an identity. You can be both hungry and tall, but only one changes by the minute.
So, feeling happy and being happy are two colossally different things. One is happiness; the other is Happiness.
Mistaking happiness for Happiness is like trying to get one side of a Rubix cube done but neglecting the rest. It’s not that the one side is worthless, it’s just that there is more to the puzzle.
happiness vs. Happiness
happiness is the big smiles
Happiness is the little things
happiness is your outward mood
Happiness is your silent disposition
happiness is the raise you get
Happiness is the impact you have
happiness is an on/off switch
Happiness is on a dimmer switch
happiness is the found acorn the squirrel eats in the fall
Happiness is the stored acorn the squirrel eats in the winter
happiness is the nice things people say about you to your face
Happiness is the nice things people say about you when you’re not there
happiness is when you get what you expect
Happiness is when you get respect
happiness is what takes your breath away
Happiness is what no one can ever take away from you
happiness is the moment
Happiness is the story
You don’t need to feel happy to be Happy.
You don’t need to be Happy to feel happy.
It makes us glad to be alive and scientists say it has the power to heal and extend life. But it’s elusive.
“Happiness is as invisible as electricity and just as powerful,” says Lois Blyth, author of The Secrets Of Happiness: How To Love Life, Laugh More, And Live Longer (Cico books).
“The difficult bit for some people is choosing to step away from unhappiness and deciding wholeheartedly, and with total commitment, that happiness is something that they really do want — and that they deserve. The challenge for others is choosing to step out of the place of comfort and familiarity, and to start experiencing new challenges that inspire them to live their life in a different and vibrant way.”
Her guidelines include:
- Sensing Happiness…
- Think Like a Lottery Winner…
- Face the Fear…
- Healing Hugs…
- Reset your Grumble Reflex…
- and Don’t Delay…
As of 2012 the average attention span in 2012 was 8 seconds according to the Associated Press. That is 3 seconds less than reported in 2000 – a 25% decline.
It is now official that our attention span is LESS than the attention span of a goldfish!
I heard this statistic while listening to Sally Hogsheadtalk about the subject of Fascination and how we can capture that limited attention span. While as a business owner I continue to work hard to learn how to capture people’s attention so I have the opportunity to actually make a difference with them, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of this alarming statistic for my life.
We are bombarded daily with a staggering amount of information. If I printed my daily e-mails for a month I would probably be classified as a hoarder. Sure there are the spammers, but most of that information I have invited into my inbox in one way or another. There is literally a stack of books on my nightstand (and in my Kindle reader) that seems to grow much faster than it shrinks.
Truth be told I love all that input, including my beloved social media streams, most especially twitter.
But is it really a problem?
Said more personally, do I have a problem?
The song, “Get Happy,” famously performed by Judy Garland, has encouraged people to improve their mood for decades. Recent research at the University of Missouri discovered that an individual can indeed successfully try to be happier, especially when cheery music aids the process. This research points to ways that people can actively improve their moods and corroborates earlier MU research.
“Our work provides support for what many people already do – listen to music to improve their moods,” said lead author Yuna Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an MU doctoral student in psychological science. “Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction.”
New research suggest an aesthetic experience that reflects a person’s mood can help calm emotional turmoil. Thus, sad music or books may help someone get through heartbreak.
“Emotional experiences of aesthetic products are important to our happiness and well-being. Music, movies, paintings, or novels that are compatible with our current mood and feelings, akin to an empathic friend, are more appreciated when we experience broken or failing relationships,” write the study authors.
Prior research has reported that individuals in a negative mood prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences (cheerful music, or comedies) to counter their negative feelings.
However, under certain circumstances, consumers in negative moods might choose aesthetic experiences consistent with their mood (sad music, or tear-jerking dramas) even when more pleasant alternatives are also available.
Hugh Mackay’s bestselling book, The Good Life: What Makes a Life Worth Living?, was prompted by his concern at the trend towards people believing they are entitled to happiness.
”We have been through gender revolution, IT revolution, cultural revolution, threat of global warming and the threat of international terrorism.
”When we feel as though everything is changing too fast we look for stuff we can control and that leads us to think ‘I am going to have the best life I can’.
”But the pursuit of happiness does more harm than good – it sells us a rather shallow and hollow idea, that if we work hard enough at it we can feel happy.”
The Good Life is all about engagement, and the idea that as social creatures we do better when we think of ourselves being socially engaged, rather than obsessing about ourselves and what emotional state we happen to be in.
They say it takes a village. This well-worn expression comes up again and again and its message is straightforward: our social connections and communities matter. They make us feel grounded and supported and, quite frankly, they make life both easier and better. Anyone who has moved somewhere new and has had to move a mattress up three flights of stairs without knowing anyone to call for help, knows how true this is. In other words, social connections make for a better life.
American author and explorer Dan Buettner studies what he calls “blue zones”. He coined the term to refer to regions in the world where people live the longest. Immortality, or at least longevity, has always been both an object of fascination and a popular objective. How to live longer? What to eat? What not to eat? Ikaria, a Greek island, is a blue zone. Buettner has closely studied the island’s population of nearly centenarians, what they eat, how much they drink and sleep and socialize. His findings further support the notion that community and social structure matter.
None of these blue zones have discovered the fountain of youth; instead, they demonstrate the importance of having both a raison d’être and a community. In Ikaria, Buettner says, even if someone is antisocial, they will never be alone. That person’s neighbors will always give a light push to get that neighbor out and to the local festival to get a share of the feast.
In July 2011, Bhutan introduced the only resolution it has ever presented at the United Nations. Resolution 65/309 was called “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development.” The country’s position was “that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and “that the gross domestic product…does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people.” The General Assembly passed the resolution unanimously. It was “intended as a landmark step towards adoption of a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet.”
The Bhutanese understand that well-being and happiness depend on a healthy environment. They vow to protect 60% of forest cover in their country, are already carbon-neutral (they generate electricity from hydro) and have vowed to make their entire agriculture sector organic. They have snow leopards, elephants, rhinos, tigers and valleys of tree-sized rhododendrons — and know their happiness depends on protecting them.
The people of this tiny nation see that money and hyper-consumption aren’t what contribute to happiness and wellbeing.
Lolly Daskal, Lead From Within writes:
In life and in leadership, we are constantly dealing with duality.
To learn, we need to be curious.
To lead, we need to have followers.
To be strong, we need to be vulnerable.
To give, we need to receive.
In the OLD way of thinking, we based our leadership on a set of shared values and principles aimed at achieving moral perfection while maintaining social order and well being.
What got left behind in the old approach are the things that we are coming to value and seek out in the NEW: authenticity, vulnerability, unity.
The old approach was built on the duality of contradictory opposites. In or out. Black or white. Right or wrong. We divided things, labeled them, decided their value.
In the new ethics of leadership opposites are about reconciling.
Instead of choosing one and rejecting the other, we accept both, we live with both, we seek to know both…
This theme also runs through David K. Hurst’s post in the Harvard Business Review Network Blog:
Humans engage with their world in two reciprocal ways: firstly as passionate participants and secondly as detached observers. As managers we cycle between these modes constantly. It’s the mark of a great manager to be able to judge, in a complex situation, when and how to use each of them.
The reality of organizations is that they are both social and technical systems, comprising both people and things. And they have twin tasks to attend to — the pursuit of “today’s business” and the creation of “tomorrow’s business”. The first task is usually more technical and the second is more social, but it’s always “both…and” and never “either/or”. The key to good management, then, is never to forget this duality; it is using both modes of engagement in dynamic situations, where our means are always threatening to run away with our ends.
One frequently finds complex human systems lumped together with inanimate ones (like the weather!) and the position of the detached observer is still privileged. This violates one of the few certainties in managing human organizations: that the blurring of task and person marks the road to ruin. The two must be kept distinct, yet joined. The role of the passionate participant must always embrace that of the intellectual spectator. The “who” and “why” of our concerns should constantly enfold the “what” and “how” of our methods. We must seek explanations, but only in the perpetual pursuit of meaning.
With maturity, a person gains the ability to detach from passionate participation in a system and rigorously observe its overall shape and workings. But the most detached observers do not make the best managers; the wise ones know that after all the analysis is done, they still have to throw themselves back into the mix. We need a hybrid vigor for our mongrel discipline of management: one that draws its energy from both the ways we engage with our complex world.
How to Live in the Present Moment
We can think of our anxious thoughts as if our mind were running on a hamster wheel. Round and round it goes, and the harder we try to fight the thoughts, the faster our mind races. Every time we try to stop our anxiety, we draw attention to it and spin the wheel faster and faster. If you’re experiencing a panic attack, trying to stop it will often make it seem that much worse. How do you get off the wheel? You stop running.
Matt Rosenman gives his top five ways that he has found work to help you live in the present moment and stop worrying…
Artist Allie Brosh is back with the second installment in her poignant illustrated account of what depression actually feels like:
As I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren’t the same.
I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse’s Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled. I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.
Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything…
Being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort.
Sensational photos as always from Steve McCurry telling different stories of work, too many of them more of intense unhappiness than joy…
Whether it is men fishing, nuns washing dishes, miners digging beneath the earth, or working in the heat of a steel mill, work is universal, yet intensely personal. Millions work in order to survive, and for them, there is no debate about how to achieve a life/work balance.
Working for long periods under extreme stressful work conditions can lead to
sudden death, a phenomenon the Japanese call karoshi. The word in China is guolaosi.
Many find their identity in the work they do. Some enjoy intense satisfaction in their work.
For others, the line between work and play is hard to find.
All happiness depends on courage and work.
Honore de Balzac
Hand-drawn maps are enjoying a renaissance as contemporary artists use their imagination, creativity and humour to breathe new life into the traditional craft of cartography. Here are 10 of the best…
“Maps and memories are bound together; a little as songs and love affairs are,” writes Adam Gopnik in the preface to newly-released picture book Mapping Manhattan. “The map is a stronger version of the trip than a video might be; it is almost a stronger version of the trip than the trip is. I look at the subway map of New York, see the dull line of numbers – 33, 42, 51, 59 – and they fill you at once with memory. Maps, especially schematic ones, are places where memories go not to die, or be pinned, but to live forever.“
Mike Jay reviews Permanent Present Tense: The Man with No Memory, and What He Taught the World by Suzanne Corkin
A long but fascinating story about the nature of memory based on neuroscientist Corkin years of study of as lead investigator and ‘sole keeper’ of famous amnesia patient, Henry Gustave Molaison…
Memory creates our identity, but it also exposes the illusion of a coherent self: a memory is not a thing but an act that alters and rearranges even as it retrieves. Although some of its operations can be trained to an astonishing pitch, most take place autonomously, beyond the reach of the conscious mind. As we age, it distorts and foreshortens: present experience becomes harder to impress on the mind, and the long-forgotten past seems to draw closer; University Challenge gets easier, remembering what you came downstairs for gets harder. Yet if we were somehow to freeze our memory at the youthful peak of its powers, around our late twenties, we would not create a polished version of ourselves analogous to a youthful body, but an early, scrappy draft composed of childhood memories and school-learning, barely recognisable to our older selves.
Henry had occasional episodes of frustration, anger or panic, but was usually good-natured and accepting of the scene around him. In many respects he displayed the serenity and detachment promised by the Buddhist ideal of living in the now, freed from regrets about the past or anxieties for the future. He was certainly more content than his most extreme opposite, Solomon Shereshevsky, the subject of A.R. Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist. Shereshevsky’s inability to forget became a life-destroying torment. ‘The trail of memory can feel like a heavy chain,’ Corkin observes, ‘keeping us locked into the identities we have created for ourselves.’ Henry was, by contrast, ‘free from the moorings that keep us anchored in time’...