Happiness At Work #56 ~ this week’s highlights

Photo by Martyn Duffy

Here are some of the stories we especially like in this week’s new collection of

Happiness At Work #56 of 26th July 2013

Step Back, Relax and Enjoy Summer

Diane Lang is a frequent guest on TV and radio and has been featured in many magazines, newspapers, and blogs and has a website, dlcounseling.com.

How can we live mindfully? Here are some steps Lang recommends:

1. Be an active listener: When someone is talking to you, stay present. Don’t think about anything else. Stay focus. Give direct eye contact. Ask questions. Summarize. Show you’re listening by the non-verbal messages with you send tiwth your eyes, hands and face.

2. Do one thing at a time: We are a society of multitaskers, but to be mindful we need to slow down, focus on the task, get totally absorbed on what we are doing, get into “flow.”

3. Simplify your life: Don’t fill your day just to be occupied. That is just being busy without purpose. Do the things you enjoy and love. Don’t waste time and energy on things that are just “fillers.”

4. Take some time each day to do nothing: “I mean nothing,” Lang says. This doesn’t mean thought time or nap time. It means just sitting and observing. Try to clear your mind completely and enjoy the silence.

5. Embrace nature: Another way to be quiet is by being surrounded by nature. Sit outside. Take a walk. Go for a swim. Lay in the sun (but wear sunscreen!).

6. Avoid judgment: That takes away from the experiences of the season. Don’t look at mindfulness as a chore. It’s just a state of being. It’s enjoying every moment. It’s being alive in every moment. It’s being fully involved in every activity and conversation.

7. Mindfulness is awareness: Be aware that every moment of your life is important, no matter how big or small.

8. Truly accept your life: Accept where you are at this moment. Be aware of your emotions. Don’t push them down or avoid them. They will eventually rear there ugly head. Accept them, feel them and then you can move forward. Don’t intellectualize or repress your feelings. If you feel what is happening, the negative feelings will pass quicker. Use your negative emotions as a teachable moment.

9. Mindfulness means self-compassion: Have a “higher talk” with yourself. Watch the tape recorder playing in your head. Change your self-talk. Use positive affirmations.

Link to read more

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

How Naps Affect Your Brain and Why You Should Have One Every Day

Written by 

…Studies of napping have shown improvement in cognitive function, creative thinking and memory performance…the body clock and your body’s best time for everything, we’re naturally designed to have two sleeps per day…

…while the left side of your brain takes some time off to relax, the right side is clearing out your temporary storage areas, pushing information into long-term storage and solidifying your memories from the day…

Here are some tips to help you work out the best way to get the most from your nap:

  1. Learn how long you take to get to sleep…
  2. Don’t sleep too long…
  3. Choose the right time of day…
  4. Practice…

Link to read this article

Study: Happiness of British Teenagers is in Decline

Britons ages 14-15 were less likely to be happy about school, their appearance and the amount of choice and freedom they have, than the others surveyed, the report said.

The charity, which questioned 42,000 8-17-year-olds, said all of society has a part to play in boosting children’s well-being.

“The well-being of our future generation in Britain is critical. So it is incredibly worrying that any improvements this country has seen in children’s well-being over the last two decades appear to have stalled,” Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said in a statement.

“These startling findings show that we should be paying particular attention to improving the happiness of this country’s teenagers. These findings clearly show that we can’t simply dismiss their low well-being as inevitable ‘teen grumpiness.’ They are facing very real problems we can all work to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family conflict or being bullied.”

Link to read more

Happiness peaks during 20s and 60s, slumps in mid-50s: study

Backing up a popular well-being theory called the U-shape, new research shows people are happiest around age 23 and then again around age 69. Most people are the least satisfied with life in their 50s, but ditching regrets could help get them back on the happy track.


Schwandt’s data comes from more than 23,000 surveys that were conducted in Germany, among participants between ages 17 and 85. They were asked how satisfied they were with their current life, and how they expected to feel about life in five years.

The research also shows that people are bad at predicting their future well-being.

“The young strongly overestimate their future life satisfaction while the elderly tend to underestimate it,” Schwandt said.

Link to read more

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone…

Link to read more

11 Steps To Happiness At Work (in photos)

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont. So says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you, he says. “We create our own experience,” he adds.

Here are 11 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations…

Link to read more

Happiness in the Workplace: Enjoyed By Few, But Achievable For All

If you still have doubts about – or need to make the case for – the importance of happiness at work this excellent article by Kaitlin Louie summarises some of the key research into the link between professional and organisational success and happiness, and then goes on to outline some of the best advice about how to increase happiness at work from experts in the field…

Whether we realize it or not, happiness is one of the ultimate goals of everything we do. From the jobs we strive to obtain to the homes and cars we buy to the company we keep, many of our daily decisions are steps towards what we believe will bring us joy. Given the importance we place on achieving happiness throughout our lives, it comes as no surprise that workplace contentment is a topic of strong public interest and discussion. We spend a great deal of our waking hours at work, thinking about work and preparing for work. Books have been written on the subject, and there are numerous studies and articles that attempt to explain what it takes to find true and lasting professional happiness…

Link to read more

photo credit: mckaysavage via photopin cc

photo credit: mckaysavage via photopin cc

The Secret to Entrepreneurial Happiness

…if happiness cannot be bought — and yet we use it to measure our business success — what can we do to attain it? Over the last decade, researchers in Positive Psychology have discovered a number of behaviours that boost happiness. To boost your own, practice these four behaviours:

  1. Create a social circle of like-minded entrepreneurs…
  2. Give your time away…
  3. Set attainable goals…
  4. Practice gratitude…

Link to read full article

What Silicon Valley Developers Can Teach Us About Happiness At Work


…For some companies, like Mindflash, Agile has been a way to redefine success — an alternative to a workplace culture of stress and burnout that ultimately takes a toll on both employee well-being and the company’s bottom-line profits…

Here are four Agile principles that anyone can use to boost productivity — and happiness — at work.

Take breaks…

Focus on what you enjoy and what you’re good at…

Eliminate unnecessary work…

Take time to reflect…

Communicate face-to-face…

Link to read more

Are Shallow People Happier At Work?

A nice reflective piece by By Gretchen Rubin (which also includes video conversation about what helps to make happiness at work) …

One surprising thing about happiness? That it has such a bad reputation.

Happiness, many people assume, is boring–a complacent state of mind for self-absorbed, uninteresting people…

In fact, however, studies show–and experience bears out–that happiness doesn’t make people complacent or self-centered. Rather, happier people are more interested in the problems of other people, and in the problems of the world. They’re more likely to volunteer, to give away money, to be more curious, to want to learn a new skill, to persist in problem-solving, to help others, and to be friendly. They’re more resilient, productive, and healthier. Unhappy people are more likely to be defensive, isolated, and preoccupied with their own problems.

Some people are argue that it’s better to be interesting than happy. But that’s a false choice…

I often think of Simone Weil’s observation, adapted for unhappiness and happiness: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” …

Link to read more

Ed Diener’s ‘Science of Happiness’


…Guaranteed happiness boosters include meditation, doing exercise, helping others, having interests you’re passionate about … the list is long. Diener is very careful here to distinguish between lasting contentment and short-lived pleasure. “So we talk about it as sustainable happiness because sometimes people try the short and quick things that don’t work like drugs, and alcohol and lots of sex and sensation-seeking, and we say no, turn to the things we know work in the long run,” he says.

And what works better than anything else is having close supportive relationships. When Diener and founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman who presented at Happiness & Its Causes 2012, looked at the data, they discovered the top five percent, “the really, really happy people” all had very strong connections with others, “people who would really step up and help them and go to bat for them. And it was universal.” …

Link to read more

Bioeconomics: The Hidden Megascience

…If we conceive of human beings as Homo economicus, as non-sentient automatons whose behaviours can be described by algorithms, sentience will be ignored if not forbidden and felt experience will be seen as irrelevant. This is exactly what is happening.

By contrast, to see reality as a living process would literally change everything. This is the challenge of Enlivenment as a “transcendent paradigm.” Its insistence that our policies focus on living experience provides the deepest possible ethical leverage for intervening in our global system.3 Of course, this approach is moot in today’s political culture. But political change must start with our imagining of a different reality. Only by imagining a different world have people ever been able to change the current one…

Link to read more

The Art of Memory


…I’m very interested in hearing about any techniques that might help me do this, including those described here by accomplished memory athlete Daniel Kilov, who will be presenting at our Mind & Its Potential conference later this year.

Kilov says that when he tells people he’s a memory athlete, many wonder why he bothers given it’s so easy in today’s world to retrieve whatever information we want by clicking on Google or Wikipedia. He believes their question goes to the “heart of the conception we have of memory and of the relationship that we think it has to learning”, a conception that’s formed when we’re at school and asked to memorise through boring repetition. “It’s a conception of memory as being a dull, impersonal and ineffective parroting,” he says.

His preferred conception of memory is that it’s creative, personal, fun and highly effective. Moreover, he espouses the value of memory techniques as a potential revolution in education. Not that this would be the first time excellent recall skills have enjoyed high status in academia. As a matter of historical fact, the art of memory has its origins in ancient Greece where, says Kilov, it was practiced universally by the great thinkers of the time who “recognised that creativity, focus and critical analysis were the kinds of things that could only happen in the minds of well-trained mnemonics.”

Link to read more

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills


…Everyone prefers to learn a little differently, so unfortunately you might need to experiment with different methods as you’re taking on a new skill. The above list certainly doesn’t inlucde everything, but it’s a starting point to learning more effectively. You’re bound to hit plenty of barriers along the way, and sticking with it isn’t always easy, but the benefits are worth it: a bigger, smarter brain that can process things easily…

Link to read the full article of knowledge and guidelines about how to learn well

Leadership Lesson: Do You Hear Me?

by Andy Uskavitch

Listening requires you to stop what you’re doing and to have patience with the conversation.”

Leaders need to focus in order to keep listening, or else we’re just . . . hearing.  Too many leaders have so many things on their minds that if they don’t just stop and focus on listening, it’s not long before they’re thinking about other things and slipping into the hearing mode…

Link to read full article including practical Active Listening techniques

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

The Four Facets of Communication at Work

This article was written by Neil Payne, Founder and Marketing Director of translation services company Kwintessential.

Ask ten people what they think contributes to a successful working environment and you can bet your bottom dollar the majority will agree on one factor – communication. We recognise and value communication for its contribution to a better workplace through the efficiencies it brings, performances it enhances, trust it builds and morale it nurtures.

Communication is good, and as a result most organisations seek to promote it in one form or another at the heart of their affairs. However, as we all know, sometimes things are not as we would like them to be; communication can be inconsistent, non-existent or simply poor. The consequences are on the whole negative and can lead to an organisation with problems…

Although there are many facets to communication, a simple approach is to look at the four key areas of the organisation, the culture, the people and the platforms…

Link to read more

Steve McCurry’s Blog: Eye Witness

The latest eye-opening photos from master photographer of human life around our planet…

Eyes speak a universal language, and no
interpreter is needed

Link to these photos

Fishes and Trees: Timely Mindfulness Tips from Albert Einstein

Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Albert Einstein

12 Tips on Mindfulness From Albert Einstein

    1. I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. Use your passionate curiosity! How to begin? Use mindfulness. Settle into yourself, hear those whispered truths.
    2. Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. Are you trying to drive and kiss? Trying to work a “job” and hold your dreams ’till some future whenever? Stop that. Start kissing.
    3. Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.** Fish who are paying attention, being mindful, know that trying to climb a tree is a waste of a life. Smart fish go for the water, that place from which one happily thrives.
    4. The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious — the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Is there any room in your life for the mysterious? If not… bummer. That’s the space wherein fish understand that trying to climb a tree is pretty stupid. Mindful awareness can help you see the mysterious body of water that’s right in front of you.
    5. Any fool can know. The point is to understand. Any fool fish intellectually knows that climbing a tree just isn’t going to happen. But. To understand the ramifications, and make a different choice, well… that’s where mindfulness comes in handy.
    6. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. Cultivating a mindful awareness practice helps us manage those inevitable difficult times. It helps us get in the water rather than trying to climb trees.
    7. Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. If all the fish around us are crazily trying to climb, it’s more challenging to see with our own eyes that it’s a no-win effort. Feeling our way with our hearts is the minority position. (70 percent disengagement in the workforce?) Mindfulness goes a long way toward giving us the courage to do what needs doin’.
    8. The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. Yes, you’ll need to do something different in order to swim in your own little pond (or big fat ocean). What can help you make the necessary changes? That’s right… mindfulness.
    9. The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.Mindful awareness helps develop the ability to drop into the gift of your intuitive mind. If more fish cultivated this practice… well, just imagine the results!
    10. I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am. Most fish aren’t stopping long enough to know how they feel about anything. Mindfulness helps us feel into what is true. When we understand that, we can begin making better choices for ourselves and the people we love.
    11. Imagination is the highest form of research. Imagination? Feeling into your heart? Intuition? None of these concepts is high on the list of most organizations. What might be wrong with this picture? Start asking yourself what you need to know. Do it through mindful awareness. Align with Einstein.
    12. The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. How much of you is dying inside while you’re madly trying to climb a tree when you really belong in the water? Develop your mindfulness muscle. Start living.

Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all for everything on the planet. But it sure does help. With almost everything…

Link to read more

For all of these articles, plus many more, please see this week’s new collection of stories about happiness and wellbeing at work, resilience & self-mastery, learning & creativity, leadership and artistry …

Happiness At Work edition #56 of 26th July 2013

We hope you find things in this to enjoy and use.

Happiness At Work #54 ~ this week’s highlights

Moon over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Happiness At Work Edition #54

Several of the stand-out stories we’ve collected highlight mindfulness in this week’s new collection.  This is partly because I am drawing together a selection of ideas for a post about mindfulness I hope to have written in time for a collection in the next week or so, but also it seems because this subject is featuring across the air waves just at the moment.  Michael Mosley has had a new Horizon programme that featured this practice, more and more organisations are starting to notice the prevalence of mindfulness practice in some of the most successful companies on our planet, and a new study has found that mindfulness has a great deal of benefit to offer students, especially during this time of year of stressful exam taking.

But we start with some good news for women in particular who face an end of their relationship…

Women Happier Than Men After Divorce, Study Finds


Ongoing survey of 100,000 people found that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages.

Despite the hellishness of divorce — emotional turmoil, disrupted living arrangements, and a shrinking income — there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, especially for women, a new study has found.

Research published in the journal Economica has found that women are much happier and satisfied with their lives following divorce…

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin cc

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin cc

Personality Traits Of A Successful Woman Leader

Pam Johnson is an HR professional in the furniture industry, as well as an adjunct professor for her local community college .  She is constantly seeking out people with leadership qualities to fulfill management positions.

In a the male dominated world in which we live, it becomes increasingly important that strong women leaders take charge and make themselves known. They should use their strong personality traits to be a role model to other women and young girls. What, you ask, are the personality traits that tend to make a woman a good leader? Take a look at these personality traits and see if you, or someone you know possesses these traits. If you or someone else does possess these traits, encourage that person or challenge yourself to become an outward role model for other females.

  • Confidence…
  • Intelligence…
  • Interpersonal skills…
photo credit: f.stroganov via photopin cc

photo credit: f.stroganov via photopin cc

Your glass really can become half full: The documentary that shows how you can train your brain to become an OPTIMIST in seven weeks


  • Michael Mosley has investigated the science of personality and discovered that our outlook on life is not fixed and unchangeable
  • By regularly practicing two mental exercises – mindfulness and cognitive-bias modification – and with no drugs or therapy he felt happier
  • Cutting edge tests showed that within just seven weeks his brain activity became less characteristic of a pessimistic and anxious person
  • Study has shown that on average, being optimistic can add more than seven years to a life – four years more than if a cure for cancer was found

If you’re a pessimist who thinks a leopard can’t change its spots, just read on.  For researchers claim you can teach yourself to be an optimist in as little as seven weeks.

And there are even more reasons to be positive: the training consists of two simple excercises. One involves looking at smiley and angry faces and the other is a 20 minute meditation exercise…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Enlightenment Engineers


Meditation and mindfulness are the new rage in Silicon Valley. And it’s not just about inner peace—it’s about getting ahead.

More than a thousand Googlers have been through Search Inside Yourself training. Another 400 or so are on the waiting list and take classes like Neural Self-Hacking and Managing Your Energy in the meantime. Then there is the company’s bimonthly series of “mindful lunches,” conducted in complete silence except for the ringing of prayer bells, which began after the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh visited in 2011. The search giant even recently built a labyrinth for walking meditations.

It’s not just Google that’s embracing Eastern traditions. Across the Valley, quiet contemplation is seen as the new caffeine, the fuel that allegedly unlocks productivity and creative bursts. Classes in meditation and mindfulness—paying close, nonjudgmental attention—have become staples at many of the region’s most prominent companies…

These companies are doing more than simply seizing on Buddhist practices. Entrepreneurs and engineers are taking millennia-old traditions and reshaping them to fit the Valley’s goal-oriented, data-driven, largely atheistic culture. Forget past lives; never mind nirvana. The technology community of Northern California wants return on its investment in meditation. “All the woo-woo mystical stuff, that’s really retrograde,” says Kenneth Folk, an influential meditation teacher in San Francisco. “This is about training the brain and stirring up the chemical soup inside.”

It can be tempting to dismiss the interest in these ancient practices as just another neo-spiritual fad from a part of the country that’s cycled through one New Age after another. But it’s worth noting that the prophets of this new gospel are in the tech companies that already underpin so much of our lives. And these firms are awfully good at turning niche ideas into things that hundreds of millions crave…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Mind over matter is the key to happiness in workplace


‘Contemplation is the new caffeine’ – thus ran the headline in a recent piece in Wired magazine in which the tech journal observed a growing trend amongst large US corporations for incorporating mindfulness, meditation and creative thought into their battle plan for tackling rising workplace stress.

Google has lead the charge recently with a series of ‘mindful lunches’ and other companies have followed suit. The co-founders of Twitter and Facebook have made contemplative practices key components of their office cultures, holding regular in-office meditation sessions and arranging for work routines that maximise mindfulness…

So in some ways the timing could not be better for award-winning poet and psychotherapist Christina Reihill to launch her new initiative into the corporate market here in Ireland. ‘Soul Burgers’ won the prestigious Allianz/Tile Style Business To Arts Bursary Award and is the latest incarnation of a project that has already been adapted for musical performances, stage productions and urban art productions.

Reihill – the daughter of Tedcastles tycoon John Reihill who died earlier this year – describes it as “a one-hour mindfulness and well-being seminar to address issues of awareness, personal responsibility, anxiety and problems of addiction, in a unique, gentle and thought-provoking way”…

“Too many HR departments deal with people as products and then wonder why productivity, motivation, change and false expectations remain unresolved”, Reihill tells the Sunday Independent. These issues need a more subtle and soulful approach.

The latest research from America backs up the idea that mindfulness increases workplace happiness, productivity and emotional intelligence. And if Reihill and her team have anything to do with it, Dublin-based corporations will be right on trend.

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc

Mindfulness in the workplace on the rise

By Jane Kennedy, Geoff Cannon, Glenn Barndon

Workplace stress and general anxiety has become far more prevalent with the increase in technology, digital communication and a change in attitudes towards our work life.

…Large corporations such as Google, Apple, Nike and Target are encouraging its staff to practice mindfulness at work.

“Mindfulness is all about the reality of what’s happening here and now, so if we just pause to come back to our senses, back to reality, that’s all we really need to do,” Dr McKenzie explains.

Studies show that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress, improve productivity and increase general happiness in the corporate world…

Mindfulness at Work by Dr Stephen McKenzie is out next week. And you can hear him speak more about mindfulness and stress with the ABC’s Glenn Barndon in a podcast inside this article…

How to Manage People Mindfully

The new comedy The Internship pokes fun at the quirky, innovative, utopia-like work environment of Google headquarters. We have all heard stories about Google’s carefully designed “adult playground,” where brilliant minds are nurtured with a creative mix of work and play. The stimulating and seemingly self-sustaining “community” created by Google captivates imaginations with visions of the ideal workplace. And with the ideas that are born on site, it’s easy to see why.

Where we work has a heavy impact, not only on our personal well-being, but on our value to the company we work for. One of my favorite things about attending the fourth annual Wisdom 2.0, a conference that brought together CEOs and experts on mindfulness, was the overwhelming sense that people care. Too often in the world today, people use their power in destructive ways. At Wisdom 2.0, however, business and spiritual leaders from around the world collaborated to discuss the intersection between explosive technologies and personal well-being. Their mission for attendees was “to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”

What struck me about the gathering was that a group of driven and powerful figures from our society were there in hopes of learning how they can have an impact, how they can use their power for good. This spirit of community is one that would greatly benefit any business hoping to survive today’s economy. Mindfulness is a practice that can help individuals feel more integrated, both personally and interpersonally. By mindfully forging a sense of connectedness and camaraderie, employers not only enhance the well-being of their employees but of the business itself…

As managers, we can learn to be mindful in our decisions, policies and practices. The best way to start is by thinking about what our values are and choosing to live by them. If all of us were to do this in each of our interactions, we would find that our attitude is contagious. We will communicate more clearly, relate more personally and create a more integrated environment that benefits the businesses we work for and the lives of the people who surround us…

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

Mindfulness Means Nothing: Lose the Word, Find a Habit

This is a really helpful introduction to mindfulness by Mark Bertin, M.D.

Mindfulness: A Dictionary Definition
Mindfulness According to Oxford:
The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

Dr. Kabat-Zinn created his “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) program to introduce centuries-old Buddhist concepts into the secular West. Mindfulness is not a spiritual practice unless you want it to be. Whether you’re an intense business leader, an inner-city kid from Baltimore or living on a mountaintop in Tibet, mindfulness builds skills and perspectives that cultivate a larger sense of equilibrium around basic facts of life such as everything is always changing, nothing stands still, and uncertainty rules.

The concept behind the entire MBSR program can be unintentionally misleading. Give us eight weeks and we can fix your stress problem. It can sound very… advertising driven. As any MBSR teacher would say, in reality stress is going to continue whatever we do. And even when your stress level does improve (as research suggests it may), MBSR does not immediately alter anything for some people or eliminate stress forever for anyone; it is not cure-all or a quick fix.

The eight-week program is an introduction to a lifelong training. Stick to it, even when practice is difficult and not much seems to happen, and your experience changes. Mindfulness is more analogous to long term physical fitness than anything more immediate such as knee surgery or a dose of antibiotics.

The Language of Mindfulness
Mindfulness According to Grandma:
Learning how to “be in the moment” and familiar with what you are experiencing so that you become more focused and less reactive in your behavior.

There’s often confusion about the relationship between various related concepts such as “mindfulness” and “mindfulness meditation” and “mindfulness-based stress reduction.” Are they all the same or different? Do they all depend on each other? If I take a mindfulness class do I have to sit quietly for hours on end and pretend to be happy about it?

First, what is meditation? Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation that breaks a habit. We all live much of life distracted and not quite paying attention to what’s actually going on. We exist on autopilot, generally relying on habitual and often reactive behaviors. Through meditation we aim to build a capacity to attend fully to real life, as it is, for better or worse, without any escapism or striving for a totally still mind. Not only can you meditate if you have a busy mind, it’s expected that you’ll have one…

Mindfulness refers to the whole package, a particular set of cognitive skills we develop that help manage our lives. Mindfulness doesn’t require meditation, but it’s built through meditation. It does not require a particular program. You can practice mindfulness at any time through the day, bringing your full attention to whatever you’re doing, with a particular attitude of openness and acceptance (whatever that means)…

Mindfulness is more than attention training.

Mindfulness According to Siri:
The trait of staying aware
(of paying close attention) to your responsibilities.

Stress results when real life does not fit our idea of what should be. Which might mean something as huge as “I imagined I’d be in a happy marriage forever but now I’m getting divorced” or as simple as “I had my heart set on a cheeseburger but they are out of cheese.” Recently back from vacation we may feel particularly magnanimous, accept our disappointment, and move forward. After an awful night sleep and a fight with our boss the no-cheese experience causes a meltdown. A lot of the time, if not all the time, our perspective matters.

When we discuss paying full attention to our immediate experience, it means not only to external forces (no cheese today) but all our internal chatter…

Mindfulness may be a proactive version of the traditional serenity prayer, without the God reference. Being open and curious means acknowledging the reality of the moment, however we feel, without excessive wrestling. Equanimity, a sense of peace and ease, often follows. May I develop for myself the ability to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom always to see the difference.

Mindfulness is a skill set. 
Mindfulness According to Dr. G, Pediatrician/MBSR participant:
Mindfulness is a state where one accepts the past as unchangeable and the future as theoretical, where thoughts are just thoughts
and the present moment is all there is.

So what is mindfulness already? Mindfulness is the ability to live life more fully aware of what’s going on both around us and in our minds. Through that awareness, we become more familiar with our ongoing mental habits. That awareness increases our ability to pick and choose (without expecting total success) which ones to continue and from which we might step back at any moment…

Mindfulness for a healthy brain.

Mindfulness According to basketball coach Phil Jackson:
The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game — and life — will take care of itself.

I don’t work out because I want stronger lungs or legs or arms in particular. I want my body as a whole to stay in shape. And I don’t practice mindfulness because I expect better focus or less stress or more responsiveness in isolation. I support a general state of mental well-being through ongoing effort. That hopefully improves life not just for me, but for my family and anyone else who deals with me day to day…

Mindfulness is a word, and a less than perfect one at defining anything in particular. The concepts behind mindfulness matter far more. Try it and find out.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

How Meditation Works

From the many complexities of mindfulness to its inherent simplicity, here Liz Kulze, within a summary of research evidence and case studies,  puts its practice within a less complicated and so easier reach…

…In a practical sense, “sitting” is really all there is to the meditation aspect of mindfulness meditation. For anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour (or more) each day, whether alone or with a group, you sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath as it moves in and out. Your mind will inevitably wander, which is where the mindfulness aspect comes in. Instead of growing frustrated with your lack of focus or getting caught up in the web of your thoughts, you train yourself to observe the thought or emotion with acceptance and curiosity, and to calmly bring your focus back to the breath…

Emotional Intelligence ~ 20 Years On ~ Part 2

In Intentional Workplace ~ transforming work one conversation at a time Louise Altman, Partner writes helpfully and with passion about the connections between mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence (EI)…

…What are the barriers to open expression of emotional learning in most institutional systems?  In Part 1 I shared my assumption that any organization committed to EI learning and widespread application must be willing to act as an “open system.” Too often people are asked to open up and share their thoughts and feelings in systems they believe are inauthentic and closed.

Some EI practitioners have asked whether deep EI practices can flourish in systems that are rigidly hierarchical.  It’s an important question that often gets to the heart of assumptions and behavior in authoritarian-based relationships and structures.  The engine that runs these systems is often based on fear – and most EI advocates would agree that fear is antithetical to EI learning and practice. Because so many managers still mistake compliance for engagement, EI can sometimes be seen as a solution for lack of cooperation or enthusiasm among employees…

…One of the most important lessons I have learned since I began studying EI has been to get out of head and into my body.  Body awareness is typically low in most corporate audiences – and it’s essential to any real EI learning….

…Unfortunately most workplace cultures still require us to ignore the needs of our bodies. Long hours, not enough breaks, lack of access to the outdoors, endless sitting and increasing work loads and demands conspire to reinforce the mind-body split. Most EI learning does not sufficiently deal with these conflicts. I’ve facilitated many EI programs and team meetings in dreary, windowless rooms with heavily distracted workers who wonder why they are so chronically stressed…

…Mindfulness is a tool to build emotional intelligence not a corollary of the learning.  In a use and discard culture, mindfulness training is just another tool that can be downloaded and applied to get whatever is needed to make the deal. It’s a cold and cynical view of an ancient practice that must enter sacred territory to succeed – the body and the mind.

In my work, the essence of EI  is  emotional freedom. I know that many managers are attracted to competencies like Emotional “Regulation” (ah, at last we can train them to control themselves) but the heart of EI must be internal truth-telling.  Too often, leaders expect that EI learning will get employees to “comply” and engage even in cultures that do not support emotional honesty.

Still Asking the Wrong Questions

Twenty years on, some of the questions people ask about emotional intelligence still surprise me.  Is it really useful for business?   Should all levels of the organization have it? …

…As we move forward into the future of EI in the workplace, we need to begin asking different questions. These questions should be premised on something deeper than the bottom line. What do people need to come alive through their work? What kind of culture is needed to create an atmosphere of emotional safety and courage? What are the beliefs that hold us back from changing – personally and collectively?

Emotions are deep and complex. The cold, hard calculus of business demands short-term solutions and quick-fixes. Practitioners can’t install  EI nor can they provide the “deliverables” without  a change in the mindset of business culture.   Yes, you can improve your emotional intelligence. No, you cannot do it in a day or even a week. Yes, it’s really useful, even essential for every business, in every industry. When we stop asking the wrong questions, we’ll know we’re making progress…

photo credit: Night Owl City via photopin cc

photo credit: Night Owl City via photopin cc

School Mindfulness Programs May Reduce Stress — And Make Teens Happier, Study Finds


It’s at the most stressful times of the school year — like during exam periods — that strategies to relieve academic pressure mean the most. And recent research is shedding light on an effective way for schools to help manage students’ stress: mindfulness, a mental practice that aims to develop greater awareness of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry this month found that mindfulness programs could reduce stress and lessen symptoms of depression among secondary school students, as well as increase well-being…

How to teach … mindfulness

The Guardian Teacher Network has resources to help introduce the concept of mindfulness to pupils, to help them be calm, focused and creative.  A wonderful set of resources we can all tap into from Guardian writer 

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

6 Ways to Be Happier at Work This Summer

For most of us, more of our waking hours are spent at work than anywhere else. In fact, the average American spends approximately 100,000 hours at work over the course of his or her lifetime. That stat alone is a pretty sobering reminder about just how important it is to be happy at work.

The novelty and excitement of starting a business tends to wear off after the first year, as we become focused on the less-than-optimal aspects of running a business. However, there are some simple things you can do to change this mindset and have a more positive outlook at work this summer:

  1. Make time to exercise…
  2. Take control of your time…
  3. Appreciate others…
  4. Challenge yourself…
  5. Start something outside of work…
  6. When all else fails, smile…

Meditate Away the Sizzling Stress of Summer

Meditation is about being mindful of your spirit enough to focus inward for the serenity and guidance you need. It’s having a moment to hear yourself think. We have the answers within us, and with a steady routine, we can harness a personal power that will remove much of the emotion that stress can cause. The only steadfast rule is slow breathing. Proper breathing is an advantage to handling life and health matters, and is especially helpful for dealing with overall stress. I have outlined a simple method of breathing to get you started so that anyone, at any age, can enjoy meditating…

photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

8 Ways to Cure Over-Thinking and Regain Your Happiness

Some straightforward simple yet effective tips from 

Let’s face it — over-thinking leaves you drained. It robs you of your peace and poise of mind. It’s mental exhaustion on the level of running a marathon every day. It’s a mind-numbing habit that keeps you stuck from leading a happy, healthy life. And who doesn’t want to be happier? Here are eight proven strategies to help you kick the over-thinking habit.

  1. Stop!  Enough!  The next time your monkey mind begins to produce a drama worthy of an Oscar, silently shout: “Stop! Enough!” Change the channel to something peaceful.
  2. Visualisation.  Visualise a happy memory or simply allow your mind to sink into its happy place…
  3. Just Breathe.  Turn your attention and focus on our breath. Focus on your inhales and exhales. Slow your breathing down. Take deeper breaths. Relax your jaw. Unclench your fists. Just Breathe….
  4. Go For A Walk.  Get out of your head, move your body. Swing your arms. Do a few lunges. Walk it out. Focus on each step. Pay attention to the way your foot makes contact with the pavement. Tune in to the movement of your body and not the replay of last week’s argument.
  5. Journal.  If the complaint or drama even has the inkling of being persistent, I write it down. As a response, monkey mind goes quiet. Once written, the need to be heard has been met. No need to revisit….
  6. Engage In Your Favourite Hobby.  Over-thinking produces no results and offers no solutions. Switch gears and do something you enjoy!
  7. Be Mindful.  Whatever you decide to do, engage your full attention on that activity….Keep your focus on whatever it is you’re doing. It will help prevent your monkey mind from wandering….
  8. Be Present.  Over-thinking is all about dredging up the past and/or borrowing trouble from the future. The best cure for over-thinking is to simply be present. Be here right now….

Why I’ll Never Write Another Top 10 List About Happiness

Britt Reints writes in her blog In Pursuit of Happiness

…you aren’t taking your happiness seriously if you need a top ten list. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with being in a place where you take other stuff more seriously. Truly.  Maybe you’re researching how to cure cancer, or raising six kids, or focusing all of your energy on putting food on the table this month. Those lists that make happiness seem like something you can slip in between appointments probably just piss you off anyway, and that’s OK.

But maybe you are at a point where happiness is important.

Maybe you’re restless, searching, and always feeling not quite right.  I don’t know what that “OK, it’s time now” moment feels like for you; for me it felt like “screw it, let’s just blow up my entire life and start over.”  Whatever it is, you know.  And you know those shorthand missives about how to be happier are crap.

You know there’s more to it.

So do I.

And I’m promising you right now to stop pretending otherwise.

Let’s do this…

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Beyond McMindfulness

Not all commentators are unequivocally positive about this mindfulness movement.   suggest some reasons for caution…

Suddenly mindfulness meditation has become mainstream, making its way into schools, corporations, prisons, and government agencies including the U.S. military. Millions of people are receiving tangible benefits from their mindfulness practice: less stress, better concentration, perhaps a little more empathy. Needless to say, this is an important development to be welcomed — but it has a shadow.

The mindfulness revolution appears to offer a universal panacea for resolving almost every area of daily concern…

While a stripped-down, secularized technique — what some critics are now calling “McMindfulness” — may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots.

Most scientific and popular accounts circulating in the media have portrayed mindfulness in terms of stress reduction and attention-enhancement. These human performance benefits are heralded as the sine qua non of mindfulness and its major attraction for modern corporations. But mindfulness, as understood and practiced within the Buddhist tradition, is not merely an ethically-neutral technique for reducing stress and improving concentration. Rather, mindfulness is a distinct quality of attention that is dependent upon and influenced by many other factors: the nature of our thoughts, speech and actions; our way of making a living; and our efforts to avoid unwholesome and unskillful behaviors, while developing those that are conducive to wise action, social harmony, and compassion.

This is why Buddhists differentiate between Right Mindfulness (samma sati) and Wrong Mindfulness (miccha sati). The distinction is not moralistic: the issue is whether the quality of awareness is characterized by wholesome intentions and positive mental qualities that lead to human flourishing and optimal well-being for others as well as oneself…

Up to now, the mindfulness movement has avoided any serious consideration of why stress is so pervasive in modern business institutions. Instead, corporations have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon because it conveniently shifts the burden onto the individual employee: stress is framed as a personal problem, and mindfulness is offered as just the right medicine to help employees work more efficiently and calmly within toxic environments. Cloaked in an aura of care and humanity, mindfulness is refashioned into a safety valve, as a way to let off steam — a technique for coping with and adapting to the stresses and strains of corporate life…

One hopes that the mindfulness movement will not follow the usual trajectory of most corporate fads — unbridled enthusiasm, uncritical acceptance of the status quo, and eventual disillusionment. To become a genuine force for positive personal and social transformation, it must reclaim an ethical framework and aspire to more lofty purposes that take into account the well-being of all living beings…

These thoughts are picked up and challenged back by  in her post in Psychology Today, which summarises and champions the heart and hope our western interest in mindfulness is centred and moving from:

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Beyond McMindfulness: Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Ever since mindfulness began spreading its wings in Western culture, there has been the fear that it would be stripped down, diluted and packaged for sale by greedy money-hoarding capitalists just wanting to make their bank accounts fatter. If this happened, inevitably it would just become a passing trend that the public would eventually grow weary of. The most cautionary piece about this was an article published on Huffington Post called Beyond McMindfulnessWhile the sentiment of commodifying mindfulness into a marketable technique is alive, and worth cautioning against, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…

Ultimately, a program has to be marketed to meet people where they are. The 15th century Indian poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are that’s the entry point.” For people to enter into the experience of mindfulness, it helps to package it for stress reduction, reducing depressive relapse, increasing productivity, increasing attentional focus, or lowering blood pressure. These allow people to be attracted to it and then have a genuinely beneficial experience that can guide them toward what matters.

Can you imagine if you walked into a corporation and said, “We have a program that integrates ancient practices from a Buddhist context that embeds moral and ethical guidelines for the benefit of all beings.” I don’t think you’d find many takers. But, rest assured, most of the leading programs out there are taught by people who hold these moral values in mind and integrate them in a way that can be understood and accepted…

Ultimately, the reason mindfulness will not just become another trend is because too many people at this point are experiencing how it not only reduces stress, but gets you in touch with what matters. It’s intentionally not tied to the Buddhist context, so maybe we call it “Western mindfulness.” More and more people are being trained under a more secular perspective and with the intention of it being a benefit beyond the egoic self.

In fact, there’s now an entire magazine called Mindful that’s dedicated to these more secular perspectives and how it is changing the face of business, education, mental health, medicine, and all these various sectors of life. Take heart, the magazine was started by people who have a deep appreciation for mindfulness as a movement that is globally transformative.

A very popular conference called Wisdom 2.0 that is all probably the leading conference for mindfulness and business has a subtitle that says, “How do we live with greater awareness, wisdom and compassion in the digital age?” My sense is that the trend is not heading toward McMindfulness, but is deeper than that. The folks that are just packaging it for a buck are more likely going to be the ones whose voices get drowned out by the leading programs.

I appreciate the cautionary notes in Beyond McMindfulness since we need to be aware when someone is just using the term as a buzz word without ties to a deeper moral purpose. But I want to make sure it’s balanced out with the reality of how a secularization of mindfulness, while not explicitly tied to Buddhist principles, is a vital movement for individuals, businesses, medicine, mental health and education…

Boys and men commit the vast majority of violent acts, from domestic violence to murder. We’ve got to get at the root causes.

…Men practice high levels of mindfulness in a variety of arenas in our society. At  military boot camps and police academies, men learn to control their breathing and focus on a target before firing a weapon. Sports are a great training ground for mindfulness: Basketball players are taught to clear their mind by going through a routine when shooting a free throw. Being in “the zone” is active meditation in its highest form.

Notice, however, that in all of these mindfulness practices, compassion is removed from the equation. These boys and men are being trained for win-or-lose competition. “It has been historically dangerous for a man to be vulnerable,” says Elad Levinson, who suggests that men’s resistance to explore interior emotions like compassion is the result of hundreds of years of conditioning…

While some argue that this is the result of a biological predisposition, contemporary research in neuroplasticity, by scientists like Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s  Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, finds that even short-term compassion meditation training (30 minutes a day for eight weeks)  alters the brain activity in regions associated with positive emotional skills like empathy. That is true for both men and women. As Davidson  says, “Compassion is indeed an emotional skill that can be trained.”

We understand the benefits. The need is there. But how do we get men to participate in mindfulness and compassion training? Here are five ways to plant the seeds of compassion in boys—and cultivate its growth in men…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

The power of shutting down your senses: How to boost your creativity and have a clear mind

Written by 

John C. Lilly’s original floatation experiments involved people wearing uncomfortably tight suits and breathing masks while being completely submerged. The tanks also made lots of noise, so complete sensory deprivation wasn’t possible.

The modern scenario sounds much more comfortable, and goes something like this:

You strip off, shower and step into a pod-like tank full of water and 850 pounds of Epsom salts. The salts make sure you float and prevent the risk of drowning by making it extremely difficult to roll over…

The long period of nothingness leaves you with only your mind, essentially. Once your body starts to get used to the lack of sensory input, the stress-centers of your brain relax and release less cortisol—the main brain chemical related to stress. Graham Talley, who owns a sensory-deprivation tank center in Portland, explained it like this:

Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play.

Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. “Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness,” Graham continues. “Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Without the gravity pushing you down, your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest.”

…One of the coolest advantages of floating is how much it boosts creativity and nurtures inspiration. After floating in complete isolation, your senses are heightened… colors are more vibrant, scents more aromatic, and food taste better.

When part of your brain stops getting input—e.g. if one of your senses is deprived—other parts of your brain will pick up the slack. Many floaters experience hallucinations as their brains respond to not getting sensory input. This is part of the vivid mental imagery I mentioned earlier—your brain is relaxed enough to visualize strong images you wouldn’t see normally.

Are you curious enough to try it now? I certainly am. But, if you’re not quite ready to give it a go, or you’re not lucky enough to have a tank nearby, you can actually try some mild forms of sensory deprivation at home…

photo credit: cosmonautirussi via photopin cc

photo credit: cosmonautirussi via photopin cc

Mindful Photography: A Simple and Fun Exercise That Boosts Well-Being

Here’s another to add to the list.

It’s based on the idea that happiness is boosted by being grateful for what you have.

Unfortunately we often ignore what we have in the rush through everyday life.

One way of combating this is to take photographs of whatever is important to you as a reminder. Here are the instructions for ‘mindful photography‘, by positive psychology experts Jamie Kurtz and Sonia Lyubomirsky:

“Throughout the course of the day today, you will take photographs of your everyday life. […] think about the things in your life that are central to who you are. If you wanted someone to understand you and what you most care about, how would you capture this? While this is highly personal, some examples might include sports equipment [or] a memento from a favorite time spent with your romantic partner [..]. Have your camera or camera phone handy and take at least 5 photographs of these things today.” …

photo credit: HORIZON via photopin cc

photo credit: HORIZON via photopin cc

Harrison Ford Is A Carpenter


Wise and practical ideas from actor, lawyer, Russian language student Michelle Witton about how to make a path through to your dreams that can be built from doing things you like and feel good at while you’re waiting to do the thing you love and feel passionate about…

…Both law and acting are working with language. Law is about creative problem-solving, generating options to deal with issues. It’s given me the knowledge to deal with contracts, raise money for shows, do free legal work for The Actor’s Centre. I don’t advocate it for all. I’m sharing about a path – just one of many – that I’ve found creatively sustaining and rewarding…

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

SHAWN ACHOR Author of the international bestseller, The Happiness Advantage and Positive Psychology Expert!

A summary of some of Shawn Achor’s writing and speech topics, including:

The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance

Most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy. This formula is scientifically backward. A decade of research shows that training your brain to be positive at work first actually fuels greater success second. In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.

By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.

Positive Leadership: Restoring a Culture of Confidence

Confidence, trust and job satisfaction are at historic lows. When the economic collapse began, the world’s largest banks called in Shawn Achor to research how to restore confidence and forward progress. While many managers succumb to helplessness, with their teams and clients quickly following suit, Shawn researched those who maintained high levels of success and leadership during the challenge. He found that our brains create confidence based on the belief that our behavior matters to the outcome we desire. To develop this trust, we must create “wins” for our brain necessary to overcome learned helplessness and must train our brains for rational optimism.

Based on the science of positive psychology and case studies of working with companies in the midst of an economic collapse, Shawn provides practical applications for raising the belief that individual behavior matters and helping leaders to keep teams motivated and engaged.

The Ripple Effect: How to Make Positive Change Easier

Common sense is not common action. This is because information does not necessarily cause transformation because we require a certain level of “activation energy” to start a change. Shawn Achor’s research in the field of positive psychology has revealed how changes in our own brain due to mindset and behavior can have a ripple effect to a team and an entire organization. This positive ripple effect can create a more productive, positive work culture making positive change easier. Audiences will learn about the latest scientific research on mirror neurons and mental priming to explain how positivity and negativity spread, case studies on how to become a lightning rod for change, and findings on how a positive ripple effect profoundly affects an organization’s ability to transition and change.

Rethinking the Formula for Success: The Power of Positive Education

At schools and companies alike, we are sometimes taught to think: “if I work harder, then I will be successful, and then I will be happy.” This formula–which undergirds much of our educational and professional world–is scientifically backwards. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, explains how positive brains reap a unique advantage raising nearly every educational and business outcome–but only if we get the formula right. By demonstrating how happiness is a choice, we can help students not only cultivate positive habits and mindsets, but achieve higher levels of success as a result.

Shawn’s study on 1600 Harvard students and his seven years as a Freshmen Proctor gave him a unique window into the thinking of success-driven and sometimes overwhelmed students. His subsequent work at schools and companies in 51 different countries now reveals how very simple changes to our mindset and habits can result in positive changes that cascade to others around us. Using his new research which made the cover of Harvard Business Review, interactive experiments, and humorous stories, Shawn shows how we can bring this research to life for our schools and for ourselves.

Shawn Achor photo credit: luci.mckean via photopin cc

Shawn Achor
photo credit: luci.mckean via photopin cc

Inside Bhutan: Is Happiness More Important than Economic Growth?

Max Johnson

As Bhutan heads to its second round of elections this weekend, Max Johnson reports on the mountainous nation and its commitment to Gross National Happiness

‘WE ALL WANT happiness: the question is, how much happiness does economic development bring you? Gross National Happiness is more important to us than GDP. We want to develop, but not at the expense of losing our culture, our identity.’ …

‘Look, all human beings want their lives to improve of course. But when we are on our death beds and we look back, we want to know that we lived a fulfilled life, a life without laziness, greed, arrogance, wrath and desire. The pursuit of wealth does not lead to the satisfaction of the soul. In the end, ashes to ashes, as you Christians say.’  …

But what exactly is Gross National Happiness? President Jigmi Y Thinley said in his party’s manifesto that the central tenet of GNH is about balancing the needs of the body (material gains) with those of the mind (spiritual growth).

GNH is thus based on four pillars: equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation (72 per cent of the country is covered by forests and 60 per cent is protected), preservation and promotion of culture and good governance…

photo credit: Risto Kuulasmaa via photopin cc

photo credit: Risto Kuulasmaa via photopin cc

And here’s an interesting exercise…

The 7-Word Autobiographies of Famous Writers, Artists, Musicians, and Philosophers


John Irving, Joan Didion, David Byrne, Rem Koolhaas, Madeleine Albright, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Dennett, Andrew Sullivan, Ed Ruscha, Brian Eno, and more…

What seven words would you choose to describe you?

Happiness At Work #54

These and many more stories can all be found in this week’s collection.


Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Happiness At Work and/or Engagement ~ what’s the buzz?

Office workers in meeting

We are noticing more and more noise about the necessity of what is being termed ’employee engagement’ – why it is so necessary, what it makes it so hard to achieve, and what is likely to help and hinder it happening.

Of course we whole-heartedly applaud this emphasis on the human dimension of organisational life.  But at the same time, we wonder why ’employee engagement’ is perhaps being credited with a higher, harder-edged validity than happiness at work.  Are they the same?  Is one an aspect of the other?  Are the two symbiotically dependent upon each other?  Should we be concerned about the use of the more distanced, abstracted and objective-sounding ’employee engagement’ in preference to the more straightforward-sounding everyday recognisable un-jargoned idea of happiness at work?

This post won’t necessarily answer these questions, but rather, deliberately leave them hanging, suspending them above a series of new articles from this week’s latest Happiness At Work Edition #54, in the hope of encouraging more conversation about what we really want and what really matters to us in our work.

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

This week’s HRZone publishes a new toolkit of ideas to help organisations to build engagement amongst their people, which they title: Employee Engagement Is the Secret Sauce of Business Success…have you got the bottle for it? and from which we have drawn heavily in this post.  In it in his conclusion to his chapter, Professor Cliff Oswick makes a call for a radically new ‘Art of Non-Leadership’, writing:

Better decisions are made by groups than individuals. All the research tells us that. So why not allow the ecosystem of employees to be decision makers? Leaders of a truly engaged workforce create the conditions where people feel they have a voice and a stake, where organisations have forms of internal crowdsourcing, and where the leader facilitates employee-instigated behaviour rather than delegates responsibility.

In truly engaged organisations, employees take decisions and implement solutions for themselves. It’s the route to a more successful organisation.

And it’s still leadership. But not as we know it.

Employee Engagement is the Secret Sauce of Business Success… have you got the bottle for it? 

The link attached to the above heading will give you the HRZone’s free download guide –

an employee engagement toolkit with insight from leading academics, it’s a practical roadmap for organisations looking to engage their staff…

There is much valuable resource in this and here are some of the highlights that stood out for us.

In the introduction, Tom O’Bryrne, CEO of Great Place To Work writes:

…The truth is that it’s actually quite hard to do. Although there are a number of approaches to engagement there are no guarantees of success. For every organisation that creates a workplace of motivated, engaged people improving business performance, there are many others who struggle and fail. Many businesses today are too busy focusing on the short term – the order books, the bills – to have the time or resource to focus on engagement. The irony is of course that focusing on the people side of the business will ultimately help drive the business outcomes in the long term…

Employee engagement, as much as happiness at work, is situational, and what will be right and relevant in one place and time is likely to be very different than any other specific place, time and people.  In their opening chapter, Engagement Across The Globe – The Importance of Local Context, the authors summarise the findings from their recent study to show that even though engagement matters in every conext, what helps of hinders engagement changes according to the situation:

…As one director remarked, employee engagement is much easier in times of growth, when the aims of the company can be easily aligned with those of the employee, since both parties can benefit from growth. However, one of the MNCs in the study had had to reduce its workforce by 20% following the financial crisis, and in a period of such significant downsizing the drivers of employee engagement became very different. Managers felt that they needed to direct their energies towards maintaining and/or rebuilding trusting relationships with the workforce and the trade union representing them…

One of our favourite Happiness At Work experts in Jessica Pryce-Jones, and we notice a very strong correlation with the research conclusions of the top factors that affect people’s happiness at work that she outlines in her excellent book, Happiness at Work: Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success:

Pryce-Jones defines happiness as “a mindset which allows you to maximise performance and achieve your potential. You do this by being mindful of the highs and lows when working alone or with others.”

Happiness at work has five major components, called the 5Cs:

  1. Contribution: what a person does in the workplace and her view of it.
  2. Conviction: a person’s ability to stay motivated.
  3. Culture: how well a person fits within the ethos and dynamic of the workplace.
  4. Commitment: a person’s general level of engagement with his work.
  5. Confidence: a person’s level of self-belief and how well she identifies with her job.

The 5Cs are accompanied by three supporting themes: PrideTrust, and Recognition.

Notice the similarity to the list of the most important factors for success in being a highly engaging manager, as identified by Katie Truss, Professor of Human Resource Management, Kent Business School, in the second chapter of the HRZone report, What Can Line Managers Do To Raise Engagement Levels?

Research suggests that these cluster around five core interconnected domains:

  1. the design of work,
  2. trust,
  3. meaningfulness,
  4. interpersonal respect, and
  5. voice. 

It is really interesting to see the word ‘voice‘ being used in this list of essential factors for employees.  During our work with schools we came to understand the immense importance and difficulty of encouraging and really listening to student voices talking about what they needed to flourish and learn at the best.  At the moment we working again with the wonderful Hackney Museum to help make a series of arts-based learning events with local community members, and again we are discovering the complexities of keeping an alert curiosity and interest in what the people in the room want and think and believe and feel about their own lives and aspirations, especially when our own ideas are trying to get out and into the room.

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

This idea is well illustrated in the American case study written up by  in his story:

Want To Help Kids Solve Problems? Have Them Design Their Own Solutions

… Their journey began with a simple question: What change do you want to see in your community? It ended with their answer, which they created collectively over 12 class periods as part of their marketing class…

It aimed to help them learn the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity…

The idea of recognising employee voice made in this Employee Engagement  guide remind us of the necessity alongside the challenge of making time to ask into and listen closely to the people whose lives we seek to affect…

…Studies have shown that where employees feel they are able to express their views on work-related matters and know that these views will be listened to, then levels of engagement will be high. Some organisations are particularly good at encouraging employees to share ideas. One award-winning financial services firm has a scheme they call ‘Why on earths?’; if employees find themselves asking, ‘why on earth are we doing this?’ and bring this to the attention of managers, along with some proposals for improvement, then they are eligible to win a prize…

The aforementioned Jessica Pryce-Jones is emphatic about the distinction between engagement and happiness at work, as she writes in her introduction to her book, Happiness at Work: Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success:

Myth 2: Happiness is Job Satisfaction or Engagement in Another Guise

Engagement in its purest sense refers to the relationship you have with your working environment and the strength of your connection to it.  Thought to be the opposite of burnout, it’s been broadly defined as “vigour, dedication and absorption” and has been widely used by organisations and consultants for improving retention…At its best engagement has been researched through using the concept of flow at work…

 But here’s the central issue:  in crunching through all our statistics – and we now have over 300,000 data points – we can see that engagement relates to 10% fewer items than happiness at work does…Although its something that matters – who doesn’t want to feel engaged at work? – it’s not as “large” a concept as happiness at work is…Engagement – and job satisfaction – are both things which happiness appears to encompass…

The starting point of happiness at work is that it is self-initiated:  we know that you want to make your working world better and enjoy contributing to it if you are given that opportunity…Being happy at work operates best from the ground-up because you know most about managing and affecting your world…

Be honest: would you rather be satisfied, engaged or happy at work?  You decide…

photo credit: Leonrw via photopin cc

photo credit: Leonrw via photopin cc

Pryce-Jones’ contention that engagement is primarily concerned with getting the right environment appears to be corroborated by Amy Armstrong, Research Fellow, Ashridge Business School, in her chapter of the HRZone engagement guide, Overcoming The Barriers To Senior Leader Engagement, which begins by citing the MacLeod Report Engaging For Success

Engaging leaders create work environments where employees are more committed, stay longer and give more to their organisations, which means that leaders are the ‘climate engineers’ by setting a culture and tone for engagement across the entire organisation. That said, UK engagement levels remain stubbornly low, therefore it is important to understand what prevents some leaders from taking responsibility for engagement. This was one of the objectives of a fascinating piece of research launched earlier this month by Ashridge Business School in partnership with Engage for Success, a Government-sponsored movement that is seeking to improve levels of engagement and well-being across the UK, and in which, it is suggested that it is the skills and capabilities of top management that is a key barrier to engagement.

The research, a year-long study which explored engagement through the eyes of 16 UK CEOs, suggests that for senior leadership, engagement is one of the most difficult parts of the leadership task, requiring them to possess specialist skills and attributes and often having to manage seemingly contradictory demands. The research also suggests that a new leadership model should be found given that the ‘command and control’ style of leading, with its emphasis on organisational hierarchy, has declining relevance in many organisations.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

The three main obstacles this research identified for leaders in their attempts to build engagement in their organisations…

…shortcomings in leadership capability, such as poor self-awareness on the part of leaders, facets of leaders’ personality and values that prevent them from being engaging leaders and the culture and system in which we operate, seen in some ways as antithetical to engagement…

1. Developing Leadership Capability
…Leading engagement can be characterised as walking a fine line. There may be a dichotomy in leading engagement whereby leaders feel an expectation to project confidence, while admitting that they do not have all the answers. Equally, they need to be decisive while giving voice to people across the organisation and they have to be resilient yet emotionally attuned.It is therefore important that we focus on developing leaders who are encouraged to experiment with new ways of leading to discover a personal style that is emotionally-attuned, contextually-relevant and is borne from self- insight…
2. Get To the Heart of Leadership
Engaging leaders also lead with authenticity and purpose and in a way that is aligned to their personal values. Leaders are not simply mouthpieces for their board of directors; rather they find ways of leading that are congruent with who they are and what they believe. However, leading in this way requires a level of personal self-disclosure, which some leaders find deeply uncomfortable. Some leaders may be inherently shy, or be more comfortable with ‘managing the numbers’ than with entering into conversations in which they reveal their own fallibilities…
Leaders need to be encouraged to enter into conversations at work where they are open about who they are and how they feel, since it takes a confident leader to disclose, empower and engage.
3. Change the System
In the UK, we have a task-oriented culture, valuing hard work and output above almost all else. In this kind of environment it is the tangible business outcomes that are valued, so the push on senior leaders is to get things done in a systematic way in order to drive business results. Consequently, it is easier for senior leaders to be judged on measurable outcomes, such as increasing turnover, as opposed to being judged on their ‘softer’ skills of engagement such as inquiry, conversation and interaction. These issues are further compounded within the current economic climate where some leaders have become pre- occupied with addressing questions of short-term viability and survival, as opposed to focusing on the long-term processes of engagement.
However, leaders should be encouraged to move the dial to the longer term to encourage a system in which the invisible processes of engagement are valued just as highly as the tangible outcomes of it.
4. Calling for New Ways of Leading

We have for a long time talked about the role of leader as though it were static, yet this is far from being true – generational shifts, social and demographic change and the impact of declining trust have all contributed to new and different demands being placed on those who lead. Tomorrow’s leaders may look very different, which is likely to have significant implications for how we identify and select leaders for the future.

In the past, individuals may have been promoted into senior leadership positions for possessing skills such as rationality, order, control and toughness, but these are skills that have declining relevance in many organisations. Future leadership models need to have engagement at their core, particularly given the differing expectations of a multi-generational workforce.

The absence of a single ‘right way’ to lead opens the path to more individual ways of leading. It is also time to try genuinely different approaches to leadership development and to encourage a new generation of leadership experimenters who have the courage and the attributes to play their part in defining leadership for the future.

Her conclusion is a clear call to action that chimes with the things that we, too, deeply care about…

By exploring what characterises engaging leaders and engaging leadership, leaders should be encouraged to experiment with new ways of leading to discover their own personal styles that are emotionally-attuned, contextually-relevant and borne from self-insight. Ultimately, through leading with engagement at its heart, there becomes a better way to work that releases the full capabilities and potential of people at work, while at the same time enabling organisational growth and ultimately economic growth for the UK. 

Photo by: KaliFire (Maroc) kali.ma photo credit: kali.ma via photopin cc

Photo by: KaliFire (Maroc)
photo credit: kali.ma via photopin cc

In his chapter, Developing Leadership Styles That Facilitate Employee EngagementProfessor Cliff Oswick identifies Engagement as the latest in a progression of E’s that begins in the 1970’s with Enrichment, which required leaders to help create work that was more meaningful;
and developed in the 1990’s into Empowerment, which meant leaders delegating work and responsibility within agreed boundaries, and proved more of a struggle and less often a success for most managers.

Which leads us to today and engagement, a process where employees feel a sense of commitment and an affinity to their organisation. Employees feel that they have stake in the organisation, feel part of it and care about it…

And here again is another voice making the call for a new style of leadership…

When you have high levels of employee engagement people self-instigate; they do things because they think it is right to do so, because they feel they have a responsibility. Not out of a sense of compliance. There is a more collegiate atmosphere and a greater sense of community. This feeds into a more innovative culture, and better performance.
Once again, with engagement, a change in management approach requires a change in leadership approach. Engagement is more about political engagement, people having a stake in their organisation, and in its decision-making, democratising the workplace. It requires a different style of leadership…
photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

Oswick’s paper goes on to discuss what he calls Bad Leadership, Good Leadership…

Certainly there are some popular and prevalent leadership styles which are a bad fit with engagement. One is the highly controlling and autocratic directive style, often dressed up in more acceptable language as strong leadership. Strong leadership is the polar opposite of what is required to create the conditions for employee engagement.

Equally bad, but different, is the highly charismatic leader. Charismatic leadership is often described in terms of vision and highly developed interpersonal skills. The leader has a vision, knows the direction everyone should head in, and persuades others to follow. Although different to the directive style, it is similar in the sense that employees are still following the direction set by the leader.

Perhaps surprisingly these two leadership styles are still common in organisations. The higher up you go in organisations the more you see these styles exhibited. Senior executives, for example, are often described as “strong leaders” with this being considered a positive attribute…

…if they want to engage their workforce leaders should avoid these leadership styles for much of the time. There are more effective ways to lead people to get high levels of engagement. They represent, to varying degrees, what I refer to as the art of non-leadership.

The ‘better forms of leadership’ he advises then include ‘distributed leadership,’ where the leadership role is shared and rotated with the situation; and ‘servant leadership,’ which emphasises what the followers need and makes it the leaders job to satisfy these.  But he is critical of both of these because they don’t go far enough.  And again we get the call to revolutionise leadership practice:

If we really want employee engagement to flourish, to get the very best from the workforce, we need leaders to be braver. A more radical approach is required.

The Art of Non-Leadership

Non-leadership is a form of leadership. It’s a form of leadership which involves deliberately not intervening. Non-leadership is the active non-engagement leadership approach – it’s not intervening and not imposing a direction or view. You don’t construct a problem and you don’t constrain the solution. As things arise you don’t step up and take responsibility.

How does it work in practice? …

Increasingly work in organisations is open and ambiguous, with many alternatives, rather than closed and predictable. So processes of organisational change, of innovation and creativity, matters relating to social responsibility, these are ambiguous and hazy. In the early stages of a project you may find yourself asking questions such as ‘how do we improve our processes of customer service?’ or ‘what new products and services should we be developing?’ These are divergent type thinking situations, where there are a number of possible answers. These cry out for a non-leadership approach.

Next, frame the problem or the situation in the broadest possible terms to create the best conditions for engagement. “How can we become more sustainable?” is a more broadly framed topic than “how can we reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging on a particular product?” This allows people to be very creative and generative in their thinking around problem solving. It allows more people to get involved and to interact, so you get a ‘wisdom of the crowd’ effect within the workplace.

With a non-leadership model, not only do you not constrain employees over identifying the problem and the solution, you don’t constrain them on the implementation, either…

When the team is busy devising problems and implementing solutions, what is the leader doing? Apart from the mundane resource-type decisions, leaders should be facilitating and accommodating employees in their problem-solving activities. It is more of a non-directive counselling role, available to provide resources and advice if required, and actively encouraging and supporting the creativity that people exhibit.

It takes courage to adopt a non-leadership approach, and to resist the temptation to step in and direct, to retain and exercise a degree of control. That is one reason why this style of leadership has taken so long to start to develop. Managers like to be in control. Psychologically, it feels far more secure…

Non-leadership may seem a radical approach, but the workforce is changing in radical ways. Employees want to be included in the decision- making process. They want the workplace to be more democratic in orientation and more inclusive. Traditional ‘leader knows best’ models do not work with the new generation of employees.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

This guide ends with the Editor of HRZone Jamie Lawrence’s 10 Thoughts To Take Away With You.  These are the ones that stand out especially for us…

2. For engagement to succeed, it must form part of an organisation’s DNA, owned by everybody, with the understanding that the benefits will be felt in the future.

3. Organisations looking to engage employees must consider what they are trying to achieve and where they are trying to achieve it – successful engagement depends on taking into account contextual economic, social, political and local factors

4. Across different national contexts and employment groups, effective communication and the critical role of line managers emerge as universal drivers of engagement

5. To become engaged, employees need to appreciate the connection between their own work and the overall aims of the organisation and, ultimately, society

9. Senior leaders will not become engaging leaders until they find ways of leading that are congruent with who they are and what they believe in

10. Ultimately, change is required at all levels of an organisation in order to foster the trust and behaviours necessary to build a long-term culture of engagement


5 Ways Leaders Build A Culture of Trust

JENNIFER MILLER offers these practical guidelines for developing greater trust…

Is your organization built on a culture of trust?

Look around you; there are plenty of clues as to whether trust abounds. How quickly are decisions made? How many people do you copy (or worse, bcc) on e-mails? Do executives check in on the “troops” even when on vacation?

Given that 82% of workers don’t trust their boss, trust is a scarce resource in many organizations.

When it comes to creating a trusting workplace culture, the best place to start is with you. As a leader, you either believe in someone’s trustworthiness or you don’t. Leaders who try to split the difference with “trust but verify” won’t build a culture of healthy organizational trust…

Trust is about creating space for people to thrive; excessive verifying diminishes that space. Use these five tips to reduce the amount of verifying happening in your company so that trust will flourish:

  1. Assume positive intent, until proven otherwise…
  2. Banish bureaucracy…
  3. Look at your company’s written word…
  4. Tell employees: “I trust you to make a good decision.”…
  5. Eliminate “we” and “they” when describing other teams…
photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail

On the subject of leadership development, Peter Bregman, writing in Forbes magazine has this to say…

…There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting a leader who didn’t know enough about leadership.

What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.

In other words, the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage…

We’re teaching the wrong things in the wrong ways.

If the challenge of leadership is emotional courage, then emotional courage is what we need to teach. You can’t just learn about communication, you have to do it, in the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, and your emotions are high…

The only way to teach courage is to require it of people. To offer them opportunities to draw from the courage they already have. To give them opportunities to step into real situations they find uncomfortable and truly take the time to connect with the sensations that come with that…

Alongside their toolkit for engagement that I have extensively quoted from above, HRZone also publish a success story from the field:

Interview: Emma Pinker, General Manager, London Vision Clinic, on employee engagement

in this HRZone feature Emma Pinker says what this much-talked about idea of employee engagement means to their organisation…

…employees are passionate, enthusiastic and happy to work at our clinic.

Talking about how they achieve this so successfully – good enough in fact to be included in the latest  2013 Best Workplaces List, she cites their annual team building event as the most important thing they do…

…This was introduced in 2010 and involves a half-day clinic. The clinic departments will be placed in a mix of different teams prior to the day and they will immediately start with coming up with a team name and theme. Each team is given a set of 20 tasks and clues/riddles to solve together. A time frame is normally given and teams need to photograph evidence or perform various tasks to obtain points. The themes involve London landmarks and history so not only do they work as a team but also get to explore and learn about the city as well. The team with the most points win. Needless to say, there is a great level of competition, team building, laughs and many memories made on the day of this event and to date, I believe it bonds the team and brings them closer together…

Reading this makes us wonder whether, even though we are using to some new words to headline the development agenda these days, if perhaps some of the solutions we already know about continue to be worth investing in.  Over the years we have seen dozens of team building events give people time out and away from their day-to-day demands to refresh and revitalise themselves and their relationships and bring an extremely high return rate, and perhaps, now more than ever, people need these moments to re-fire and sustain their commitment to the hard work and hard work days of 21st century professional lives.

Improve Your Happiness At Work

Whereas Jessica Pryce-Jones sees engagement as a subset of happiness at work, Kevin Kruse sees it exactly the other way around.  What difference does this make?  In the end we notice more similarities than difference in what Kruse and Pryce-Jones are advocating.

Here are some thoughts extracted from Skip Pritchard’s interview with Kevin Kruse for his blog Leadership Insights

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, former CEO, speaker, and a blogger.  His newest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone.

…”Engagement is similar to being happy at work, but it’s a little deeper. Engagement is the emotional commitment someone has to their organization and the organization’s objectives. When we care more, we give more discretionary effort. Whether we are in sales, service, manufacturing or leadership, we will give more, the more engaged we are. Not only is this good for a company’s bottom line, but when we are engaged at work, we also end up being a better spouse and parent, and we have improved health outcomes…”

“Communication is one of the top drivers of engagement. It is sort of the “backbone” that runs through the other primary drivers of Growth, Recognition and Trust….”

“The biggest impediment [to having an engaged culture] is the senior leaders themselves. Either they don’t truly get why engagement is important, or they think it’s important but think the answer lies in corporate-driven initiatives like casual Fridays or a summer picnic. Instead, they need to realize that most of engagement comes from one’s relationship with his or her boss. It has to be a grassroots effort driven at the front lines…”

“…People who are engaged use the word “we” a lot. In fact, that was the title of my first book on the subject of engagement….”

photo credit: tronathan via photopin cc

photo credit: tronathan via photopin cc

Workplace Happiness

Dr Izzy Justice writes about the confusion between engagement and happiness in his latest blog post…

Last week, Gallup revealed troubling survey results in its 2013 State of the American Workplace Report on employee happiness and engagement. Both at dismal levels. 70% of employees are not inspired or engaged at work.

I have been writing about this trend since 2008 when workplace power shifted dramatically from the employee, who was just grateful to have a job during a paralyzing recession, to the employer. No point in rehashing the mistakes that were made in leadership across many organizations as I am pleased to note a renewed focus on happiness as a key element in workplace performance.  A happy worker, and engaged worker, is simply a more productive worker.  The Gallup Report gave many examples of creative programs that some companies are doing. Everything from game rooms, to nap rooms, to flexibility in schedule – all popular with employees. But I believe these are merely band-aid solutions to a much larger issue no one seems to want to discuss.

Why do we think that what is needed for a human being to be happy at work is somehow different than what is needed for happiness in general? Happy people generally tend to be those who have very healthy relationships with people in their lives. The quality of human relationships far outweighs the ping pong table, pool table, free lunch and whatever else employers are providing to engage their employees. Quality human relationships are almost entirely an emotional experience. There are no real set of quantitative metrics to check off to determine quality relationships. The American worker, leader, and workplace are mostly bone-dry of human emotions, many even discouraging emotions in the workplace. The level of emotional literacy, emotional intelligence, and emotional training/programs are dismal. I submit that as long as this is the case, then employee engagement levels will continue to drop. We have to have the courage to accept the powerful role of emotions in all we do – not just at work – and to embrace EQ as a foundational competency…

For more stories that connect with these ideas you might like to check out our weekly Happiness At Work  collection.  Here is this week’s latest edition, which includes all these stories:

Happiness At Work #54


photo credit: Ant1_G via photopin cc

photo credit: Ant1_G via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #53 ~ highlights in this collection

Photo: Sue Ridge www.sueridge.com

Photo: Sue Ridge

In this week’s headlines, several articles report new findings that show the importance of continuous learning at every stage of our lives to keep our brains fit and healthy, especially in our older years…

Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age


A study published on July 3 in Neurology revealed that reading, writing and doing other mentally-stimulating activities at every age helped stave off memory problems.

“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a press release…

Top 14 ways to increase your IQ

14 ways to increase your IQ and improve the way in which your brain functions.

1. Walk Around the Block

2. Take Deep Breaths...

3. Keep a Journal…

4.  Explore New Things…

5. Take Frequent Short Breaks…

6. Improve Your Memory…One of the best ways to remember information is by using acronyms…

7. Eat breakfast...

8. Use Your Body to Help You Learn. Movement is a key part of the process of development and learning… Brain Gym exercises can help with things such as:

  • Comprehension
  • Concentration
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Memory
  • Mental Fatigue
  • Completing tasks…

9. Meditate…

10. Stay Away From Sugar

11. Cultivate Your Emotional Intelligence…

12. Use Downtime…

13. Engage All of Your Senses.  Researchers have found that the human brain learns best through multi-sensory association…

14. Load Up on Antioxidants

Not The Same Old Garden Path – How We Can Literally Think Differently

 by William A. Donius.

As we age, neuroscientists tell us, our thoughts and patterns become more ingrained. The way our brains process, sort and ultimately respond to questions is akin to taking the same path through the garden over and over.

We get to know the path very well, and it becomes familiar to us. As long as the problems we face are familiar, so are our approaches to solving these problems. We are in our intellectual “comfort zones.” …

When we’re asked to think differently, we’re essentially being asked to take a path through the proverbial garden we’ve never taken before. It’s a bit uncomfortable, for we’re no longer in familiar territory. If asked to deviate too far from our comfort zone, we may even experience a mild panic.

How, then, do we break out of our intransigent ways of thinking? Research demonstrates that we can indeed learn to think differently…

The Science of Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone (and Why You Should)


You’ve seen inspirational quotes that encourage you to get out and do something strange—something you wouldn’t normally do—but getting out of your routine just takes so much work. There’s actually a lot of science that explains why it’s so hard to break out of your comfort zone, and why it’s good for you when you do it. With a little understanding and a few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and do great things…

Outside your comfort zone can be a good place to be, as long as you don’t tip the scales too far. It’s important to remember there’s a difference between the kind of controlled anxiety we’re talking about and the very real anxiety that many people struggle with every day. Everyone’s comfort zone is different, and what may expand your horizons may paralyze someone else. Remember, optimal anxiety can bring out your best, but too much is a bad thing.

Here are some ways to break out (and by proxy, expand) your comfort zone without going too far…


Researchers found that the stress induced by running prevents the activation of new neurons in response to stress, at least in sedentary mice. Can exercise make you stronger in your ability to handle stress –less sensitive to the stresses of daily life? …

A research team based at Princeton University has found that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function…

Why Neuroscience Matters To You


The reality is that we are humans, period. If we think we can separate our humanity from our career – we’re only fooling ourselves. We bring all of our humanity to bear on behaviors and decisions in our lives, careers and families. So why not learn what makes us humans “tick” so that we can be better at everything we do? That makes more sense to me than trying to shut down our humanity – which we can’t do anyway.

Since I started studying practices such as neural linguistic programming, quantum biology, quantum mechanics and more, I’ve learned so much about how and why we think and behave as we do – especially the seemingly irrational decisions

and behaviors. For example, did you know that:

    • Our unconscious mind directs ~ 95% of our behaviors and decisions…
    • We’re programmed to hang onto the status quo until we see that the status quo as being unsafe…
  • We also have a program called the herd instinct…

There are many other programs that drive our lives. Finally, we know the truth. Life really is all in our minds!

Here are three steps to begin to upgrade your mindware. Try them for a month and you will see a change!

  • Ask questions instead of making statements...
  • Make the status quo unsafe. ..
  • Step away from the herd…

What if you could upgrade every program that bounds your perceptions and your potential? What if you could see new and exciting choices about everything in your life? What would you rewrite? …

10 Ways to Find Your Own Personal Strengths


Our personal strengths are part of what makes us unique as individuals, and part of the value we offer to the world around us. If we’re not aware of our personal strengths, however, we don’t always utilize them as fully as we could, and we potentially miss out on true fulfilment in our lives and careers.

In this post, you’ll discover 10 ways to find your personal strengths. You might find that some of the methods below are more effective for you than others, so cherry-pick the techniques that resonate…

5 ways to boost your career with happiness

In this hilarious and insightful speech, Rowan Manahan explains that happiness at work (in Danish: arbejdsglaede) is not a pipe dream but the best way to get your dream job, boost your career and become more successful.

Why don’t people pay a little more attention (and a whole lot more respect!) to their own happiness — and what happens when they do?

Rowan argues that this is the next evolutionary leap that mankind will make and has some simple, practical, and actionable steps that you can take to come out of the Dark Ages in your working life and into the Age of Enlightenment…


The global happiness research aiming to make the world smile (and live longer)

Psychologist Ed Diener is considered to be the foremost expert on the science of happiness. The Smiley Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois (named after Joseph R Smiley, not the expression), Professor Diener studies happiness on a global scale as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organisation.

Gallup’s World Poll investigates international levels of happiness through a huge worldwide study, which Professor Diener describes as ‘the first representative sample of humanity’.

The survey encompasses over a million people from 160 countries (unfortunately the Vatican and North Korea didn’t make the cut).

‘We’ve learned a great deal about the universals,’ Professor Diener says. ‘We find for example that basic needs like having enough food are important across the world—that’s not surprising. But we also find social things [are important] like being respected and being able to trust other people.’ …

His happiness research over the years has uncovered some interesting trends, including work he’s done with the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman on what it takes to be extremely happy.

‘We looked at like the top 5%, the really, really happy people.  And we found one universal that applied to all of them and that is they all had close, supportive relationships, people who would really step up and help them and go to bat for them.’ …

‘Happy people are healthier, they have more friends and better social relationships, they are better citizens and they are even more productive at work. We know this by doing lots of kind of studies—one is we get happiness ratings from young people in young adulthood and we follow them over time and we find out that years later the happy people live longer, the happy people get sick less.’

‘Their immune system is stronger; we see that certain cardiovascular parameters are healthier.  So we know both from experimental studies and from longitudinal studies that it’s causal that happiness is making people better off.’

Professor Deiner believes that while some are born happier than others, everyone can alter their level of happiness…

The Latest Findings on Workplace Happiness

This past weekend some of the top social scientists in the world gathered to present the latest research on human flourishing and well-being. More than a thousand people packed an L.A. hotel to listen to luminaries such as Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson dissect empirical findings on what it means to be happy. Literally hundreds of papers were presented in a variety of forums, and my goal was to sift through them and bring you a few nuggets on work and happiness

…looking to find places where positive psychology produces business results is not easy. In more than five years of studying and writing about happiness and work, I have yet to come across the randomized, controlled, large-scale study that establishes once and for all the causal connection between workplace happiness and shareholder value. It is like diversity or engagement – we know it helps, but it is tough to prove. That said, here are a few things I learned in L.A…

  • Organizations with strong values perform the best. Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan’s school of Positive Organizational Scholarship presented data from 40 financial services firms …Comparing the top performers against the bottom, he found that almost half the variance could be explained by “virtuous” HR practices at the top companies, such as encouraging teamwork and focusing on employee strengths. Things that make us happy at work…
  • A daily vacation improves your performance and happiness. Take a vacation every day, at least mentally. …German researcher Sabine Sonnentag presented data showing that deplugging psychologically from work needs to be daily to improve well-being and your overall attitude about your job. Turn off the smartphone and the computer at home – at least when you are finished reading this blog.
  • Character strengths predict performance, but in different areas. …using your strengths of character at work are good predictors of performance and overall well-being. Claudia Harzer, a postdoctoral student at the University of South Carolina, is more specific. At the conference, she showed how different strengths predict performance in different areas. High levels of self-regulation means you are good at task performance, for example, and are well-suited for task-oriented assignments. If your strengths are more in the emotional intelligence arena, relationship and team-based activities get you going…
  • Finding meaning and purpose in your job is essential. Happiness at work requires that you draw some link between what you are doing and something larger, according to numerous presenters at the conference…Maybe it is a sense you are paying off your student loans and meeting new people. Maybe it is the satisfaction of mastering a new skill. Maybe it is knowing that people depend on you. Keep it simple, but look for some meaning…The truth is that you aren’t going to be happy if you see absolutely no reason or purpose for what you do.
  • Tweet nice to live longer. Or write nicer emails if you don’t tweet, says researcher Margaret Kern. A big data review of the language used by more than 70,000 social media users indicated that negativity and aggressiveness are bad for your health…

4 Secrets To Being Happy At Work

Kevin Kruse

What truly makes someone happy at work?

Think back to the best job you ever had. What made it so great? Often people will answer that it was when they had a great boss, but when pressed further they’ll say things like, “the work was fun and challenging.” Or, “we were really making a difference.”

In my book, Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment At Work, I detail the drivers of happiness and engagement based not just on my own experience as a Best Place to Work winner, but also on surveys of more than 10 million workers in 150 countries.

Although there are many different factors, and each individual has unique needs, the vast majority of engagement—how you feel about your job and your work—comes primarily from four things:

1. Communication
Is there consistent two-way communication? Do your ideas count? Does your manager provide the information you need to do your job well? Is she transparent?

2. Growth
Do you believe that you are learning new things? Are you advancing in your career? Is your work challenging?

3. Recognition
Do you feel appreciated? Do your manager and peers recognize extraordinary effort? Do they recognize extraordinary results?

4. Trust
Do you trust your leadership to get the company to a brighter future? Do you have confidence that they can navigate the storms of today, to reach the ultimate destination? Do you know what the destination is?

Life is too short to be unhappy at work.  Think about what is most important to you, and how your current job compares in these areas…

For Real Influence, Listen Past Your Blind Spots

by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen

More than ever before, people see through the self-serving tactics and techniques that others use to persuade them. They don’t like being pushed, played or nudged to comply, and they resist and resent agenda-driven influencers.

The alternative is to use real influence to inspire buy-in and commitment. To learn how the best-of-the-best do it, we conducted over 100 extensive interviews with highly respected influencers from all walks of life for our recent book.

We found that great influencers follow a pattern of four steps that we can use too. An earlier post covered Step 1: Go for great outcomes. Later we’ll cover Step 3: Engage them in “their there;” and Step 4: When you’ve done enough… do more.

Here we cover Step 2: Listen past your blind spots. Including…

  • Level One: Avoidance Listening = Listening Over
  • Level Two: Defensive Listening = Listening At
  • Level Three: Problem-Solving Listening = Listening To
  • Level Four: Connective Listening = Listening Into …

Why Empathy Can Sometimes Help More Than Advice

Even though I did not know it at the time my mother’s simple empathy and acknowledgement of the difficult situation was the thing I needed. 

I wanted a magical solution but it didn’t exist. Her empathy and acknowledgement of the challenge was all I needed. Like most advice, we seldom know we need it when we receive it. If it’s truly useful we absorb it and use it without thinking about it…

Remember, when someone calls for personal advice the most valuable thing we can do is acknowledge the situation without judgment and remind them that we care deeply…

…most people do not want the instructions on “what to” or “how to” fix their problems, but rather to be reminded we care, are willing to listen and understand that sometimes life’s problems are not easy to solve.

Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity

by John Baldoni

While people define engagement in various ways, I prefer a plain and simple definition: People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.” …

Considering the benefits, why do companies still struggle to foster engagement? Harter writes, “Many organizations measure either the wrong things, or too many things, or don’t make the data intuitively actionable. Many don’t make engagement a part of their overall strategy, or clarify why employee engagement is important, or provide quality education to help managers know what to do with the results, and in what order.”

So where do you begin if you’re committed to improving engagement — but feel intimidated by that laundry list of pitfalls? One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose…

10 Ways to Reduce Stress at Work That Could Save Your Life

Some practical suggestions by Enrique Stone.

Rather than waking up every morning and feeling the wave of stress and tension flow over you here are 10 easy ways to reduce your stress level that you can start using today…

  • Accept criticism
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Communicate with others
  • Use lists to your advantage
  • Cut the caffeine
  • Exercise
  • Designate a block of ‘tech-free’ time
  • Give yourself a massage
  • Unwind by laughing
  • Change …

10 Ways to Be Productive in the Summer

…Most of us become accustomed to the inevitable summer slow-down. Key people aren’t available (holidays); projects stall, waiting for Fall to roll around, and a general sense of lassitude begins to creep in.

Summer doesn’t need to be a write-off however. Here are 10 ways you can use those months to get ahead of the game…

Happiness Means Creativity: One Company’s Bet On Positive Psychology


Rather than just fix what’s ailing you, positive psychology looks to actively improve individual and organizational well-being. Here’s how Havas Worldwide is working to build a happier, more resilient–and ultimately more creative–workforce…

The impact of noise on creativity

by Adi
A new site is based around the idea that we need a bit of background noise in order to work well.  The site, called Coffitivity aims to replicate the noise we experience in our favourite coffee shops from the comfort of our desks. The site was inspired by research showing that the noise made by coffee machines and so on is actually just the right amount of background noise to stimulate our creative juices…

Why Should Children Study the Arts?

By Thalia Goldstein

We look to cognitive, social, creative, emotional and brain-based outcomes as a result of visual arts, theatre, dance, music and creative writing classes.  A comprehensive and thorough look at the evidence and reasons why art is important for its own unique benefits as well as possible transfer effects to other areas, this book will be of interest to artists, educators, policy makers and academics…
However, we argue firmly that arts education should not need to be justified in terms of its effect on non-arts skills. The arts are important in their own right, for all students to learn, which is why we called our book Art for Art’s Sake…

A treat for literature lovers:

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: The Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice


36 seconds of timeliness from a rare wax-cylinder capsule of timelessness…

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Did You Know A Woman’s Right To Vote Was Sparked By Two Brave Women On July 4, 1876?

It’s well understood that the point of celebrating the 4th of July is its significance to the history of America. Once the Continental Congress approved the resolution on July 2, 1776 that declared the United States separate from England, all attention turned to the Declaration of Independence, the written statement outlining and defining that decision. After two days of writing, editing, debating and tweaking by the Committee of Five led by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration was penned to completion and approved on July 4th; hence, our many and mighty celebrations on that day.

But a lesser known fact of history is that it took another 100 years for women – a demographic so underrepresented in American government at the time – to create, approve and disseminate their own Declaration of Rights, but it did happen… exactly 100 years later, on July 4, 1876, and it became as crucial to the growing feminist movement as the first Declaration had been to the country at large…

Wearing my writer’s dress of entitlement

…all I’m saying is why not wear it, wear your entitlement to be your creative self, to be expressive, and fulfilling your creative life. It may be a real thing you put on, it may be an image of a thing or it may only be a feeling, or a choice. There is a whole wardrobe out there full of your creative potential, try something on! …
Cloak of Entitlement
All of these stories – and others – can be found in this week’s collection:

Happiness At Work #53