Happiness At Work #78 ~ inspiring ideas for the new year

As we head through the week that will take us out of 2013 to begin the year that will be 2014, here are some of our favourite stories from this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #78 collection, which we hope will give you something helpful to vein your own new year with…

photo credit: thetaxhaven via photopin cc

photo credit: thetaxhaven via photopin cc

Smarter, Happier And More Productive Teams…Without Spending A Cent

By 

By cultivating ‘thinking habits’, you strengthen your brain and enable yourself to grow and adapt throughout life. And the same goes for your business. Encouraging your employees to increase their brainpower will make them better at solving problems and developing profitable new ideas.

You can increase the productivity of your colleagues with these three simple and virtually cost-free strategies:

1. Tell employees they can get smarter and they will…

…You will not motivate or encourage your team by putting them down. In What the Best College Students Do, Ken Bain from University of the District of Columbia conducted a study that found the most creative, successful people have the conviction that their intelligence is expandable…

2. Get employees to step outside their comfort zones…

Showing people they can accomplish tasks they may feel are beyond their abilities boosts confidence and helps fire up brain cells…

“[People] who saw themselves as being able to solve the problem did so more frequently because they thought about things longer and kept trying out various solutions until they found one that worked. Neurologically, this effort expands brain cells and makes you better at solving problems.”

3. Allow for free discovery time…

Opening your mind to subjects and experiences that take you off the predictability of a normal workday shakes up the brain and makes it work harder….Encourage employees to take walks, or read and research projects and ideas that captivate them. There is nothing to lose, but the potential for gain is great.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Five Strategies For Reenergizing Your Team’s Next Meeting

Freelance health and science writer, John Nickelbottom, writes…

Weekly or regularly scheduled team meetings can serve a variety of important purposes. In addition to allowing team leaders to better manage workflow, improve productivity, share information and address any questions, team meetings also help members build and maintain social ties with each other.

However, just as with anything done on a weekly or daily basis, team meetings can become stale and unproductive if left unchanged week after week.

So how do you keep team meeting focused and productive while still allowing time for creativity, exploration, interaction, and relationship building?

If you’re looking for ways on how to energize meetings, here are a few tips…

Branch Out

One of the easiest ways to break the monotony caused by regularly scheduled meetings is to branch out from your usual meeting location to somewhere different…Keep in mind, you don’t need to move around every meeting, just occasionally to break up the status quo.

Invite a Guest

…To help add a fresh perspective to your meetings, consider inviting someone from outside to occasionally address the team.

This could be the head of another department or team your working with on a project or a member of human resources to answer questions team members have about benefits or changes in company policy. A fresh voice added to the mix could help generate fresh ideas and stimulate a little more creativity.

Make Time for Brainstorming

…Whether this relates to a current project the team is working on, the way work assignments are handled, or suggestions on the use of new apps and tools in the workplace, budget some time during each meeting to let team members bounce new ideas off each other.

To prevent team members from becoming discouraged, institute a policy that keeps any idea from being immediately dismissed. Instead, once an idea has been brought up, tell the team to think it over until the next meeting and then readdress the idea the next time you meet.

Make It Quick

…Meetings that stay at a brisk pace help prevent staff from zoning out and encourage team members to be focused and involved.

Make It Fun

While everyone on your team has a job to do, they also have a life outside of work. Before starting a meeting, take a few moments to ask members about their kids, interesting things they did on the weekend, movies they’ve seen recently, or to discuss the latest development on a popular TV show.

…Find what shared interests your team has in common so you can talk about things that nearly everyone can take apart in the conversation.

Ask for Suggestions on How To Energise the Meeting

There’s no better way than to personally ask them what you can do in order to make your meetings more fun and exciting for your employees. Listen to their suggestions, you might get surprised with their ideas.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: hectorir via photopin cc

photo credit: hectorir via photopin cc

How life in the digital fast lane has made us lose touch with our senses

It’s no wonder that companies are training their staff in mindfulness techniques

…William Powers expressed a simple but astute observation about the impact of technology use on his behaviour in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry. The digital consciousness, he wrote, can’t tolerate three minutes of pure focus. “It had become hard for me to stay focused on a single task of any kind, mental or physical, without adding new ones. While brushing my teeth, I would wander out of the bathroom in search of something else to do at the same time. I’d be organising my sock drawer with one hand while trying to reach my wisdom teeth with the other, and even then I could feel myself craving still another job.”

We all recognise that kind of twitch; the instinctive check of the mobile phone (each of us does that every six minutes throughout the day, on average), the trouble concentrating for an entire film, or for a whole book. The arguments for technology ruining our brains and destroying our ability to focus have, thankfully, been superseded by research into neuroplasticity, that our brains are far more flexible and open to re-wiring than we ever previously imagined. But the restlessness of Powers’s observation of his own behaviour resonates. What is the toll of this constant distraction and lack of digital discipline on our relationships, on our wellbeing, on our productivity?

Unsurprisingly, with the maturity of the technology industry and the appetite for a healthier way of dealing with digital overload, the mindfulness and meditation movements are undergoing a significant revival of interest. It feels as opposite to that state of restless online anxiety as it is possible to feel. And though you don’t have to look far to find the hippy culture these practices have become known for, these thousand-year-old disciplines are far bigger than that. Certainly the corporate world is taking it seriously, and they might be expected to show little tolerance for anything that doesn’t pay its way towards the bottom line…

“We are humans, not robots,” Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein told Fast Company recently. “We’re engaged in a creative endeavour that requires a lot of energy, and so if you’re constantly involved in the output – in the exhale – then you’ll run out of breath.” The nub for his company, which runs a project management service, is that balance is about the wellbeing of his staff, and means more than just productivity. Mindfulness is seen as an enquiry for objectivity, a way to claw back some of the equilibrium of how we exist in the real world, rather than the hyper-mediated place we create for parts of ourselves online.

Real world productivity for mere mortals outside Silicon Valley is more likely to be incentivised with cheap cakes and bad coffee. But in this ongoing battle to regain some control over the demands technology makes of us, mindfulness is a powerful tool in creating an invaluable bit of space and perspective.

The next time you find yourself lost in a mindless web, maybe mindfulness is worth a thought. It’s about exploring the sensory experience of being alive, rather than the superficial sensations of being online.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: katieblench via photopin cc

photo credit: katieblench via photopin cc

My 10 Favorite Inspirational Quotes by Women

by 

It’s resolution season, people. One of my goals for 2014 is to realize my Full Potential as a woman. Because I am an unabashedly feminine feminist, that means finding my power color signature red lipstick and turning to some of my favorite writers, politicians, and mavericks for a little independent woman inspiration.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” -Virginia Woolf

“Being born a woman is my awful tragedy… Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with the road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars — to be part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording— all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery… Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.” -Sylvia Plath

“A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.” -Diana Vreeland

“In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: either she’s a feminist or a masochist.” -Gloria Steinem

 ”I believe that the rights of women and girls are the unfinished business of the 21st century.” -Hillary Clinton

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde.” -Dolly Parton

“When people say: She’s got everything. I’ve only one answer: I haven’t had tomorrow.” -Elizabeth Taylor

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” -Anais Non

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: imran_m via photopin cc

Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off

Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.

6 Secrets You Can Learn From The Happiest People On Earth

 writes

I’ve posted a lot about happiness. Looking back, what can we learn from the happiest people to make our own lives better?

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

What happens when you look at the happiest people and scientifically analyze what they have in common? Researchers did just that.

There was a clear answer to what differentiated these people from everyone else — and it wasn’t money, smarts, age, gender or race.

It was strong social relationships.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Turns out, there was one—and only one—characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships. My empirical study of well-being among 1,600 Harvard undergraduates found a similar result—social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race. In fact, the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3. The point is, the more social support you have, the happier you are.The Grant Study (which followed a group of men for their entire life) found that“the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty.”

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Vaillant’s insight came from his seminal work on the Grant Study, an almost seventy-year (and ongoing) longitudinal investigation of the developmental trajectories of Harvard College graduates. (This study is also referred to as the Harvard Study.) In a study led by Derek Isaacowitz, we found that the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty.If you do one thing today to be happier, spend time with friends

Do More, Not Less

The happiest people are those that are very busy but don’t feel rushed:

Who among us are the most happy? Newly published research suggests it is those fortunate folks who have little or no excess time, and yet seldom feel rushed.I know, you’re tired. You want a break. But doing nothing is not the answer. Too much time is a burden:

…surveys “continue to show the least happy group to be those who quite often have excess time.” Boredom, it seems, is burdensome.So what do you need to be doing?

Things you’re good at

Signature strengths” are the things you are uniquely talented at — and using them brings you joy.

People who deliberately exercised their signature strengths on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full month later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.Signature strengths are the secret to experiencing more “flow” at work and in life. Exercising them is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

Do Not Stay In A Job You Hate

Karl Pillemer of Cornell University interviewed nearly 1500 people age 70 to 100+ for his book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.”

What piece of advice were they more adamant about than any other? More adamant about than lessons regarding marriage, children and happiness?

Do not stay in a job you dislike.

Via 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans:

You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out? Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake. There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful. Over and over they prefaced their comments with, “If there’s one thing I want your readers to know it’s . . .” From the vantage point of looking back over long experience, wasting around two thousand hours of irretrievable lifetime each year is pure idiocy.Take a lesson from people who have already seen most of what life has to offer: do not waste time in a job you hate.

Plan Your Happiness

It’s ironic that we treasure happiness so much yet often treat it as this random bit of alchemy we luck into. That’s silly.

Passively waiting for happiness is a losing proposition. Happiness needs regular appointments.

Schedule the things that make you happy.

Is this overly simple and obvious? Yes. Do you regularly do it? Probably not.

In my interview with Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, author of The Dragonfly Effect, she explained:

what is interesting is that there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend their time… you find a large percentage know what projects and people energize them, but do not in fact spend much time on those projects and with those people. once you identify the activities and people with whom you want to spend more time, calendaring your time thoughtfully becomes critical.  When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to actually do that activity – partly because you’re less likely to have to make an active decision whether you should do it – because it’s already on your calendar. Look at the things that make you happy and plan them into your calendar and schedule.

Do not wait for happiness. Game the system. Happiness card-counting. Happiness Moneyball. I refuse to leave it to chance.

photo credit: charliecurve via photopin cc

photo credit: charliecurve via photopin cc

Happiness Isn’t Everything

No one confuses the type of happiness ice cream brings with the positive feelings one gets from raising a good kid.

Happiness is a vague word. We need happy feelings but we also need meaning in our lives.

And research shows they are related but distinct:

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others.Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan did a 7 year study of over 43,000 adults age 40 to 79 asking if they had ikigai (a Japanese term for meaning in life) and then tracked their health.

People with ikigai were much more likely to be alive 7 years later.

Via Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology:

Even when likely confounds were taken into account, ikigai predicted who was still alive after 7 years. Said another way, 95% of respondents who reported a sense of meaning in their lives were alive 7 years after the initial survey versus about 83% of those who reported no sense of meaning in their lives. The lack of ikigai was in particular associated with death due to cardiovascular disease (usually stroke), but not death due to cancer.

Running marathons is painful. Completing them is awesome. Studying is boring. Having a degree feels great.

Happiness in the moment is not everything.

In his TED talk, Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow discussed two different types of happiness that sound very similar to the distinction between happiness and meaning.

The first is being happy in your life. It is happiness that you experience immediately and in the moment.

The second is being happy about your life. It is the happiness that exists in memory when we talk about the past and the big picture. Stories are key here. This is closer to “meaning.”

Give — But *Not* Until It Hurts

Giving makes us happier than receiving. In fact, it can create a feedback loop of happiness in your life.

Helping others reach their goals brings joy. Doing nice things for others today can literally make you happier for the rest of the week.

However, being a martyr stresses you out and is bad for your health.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

Research shows that on the job, people who engage in selfless giving end up feeling overloaded and stressed, as well as experiencing conflict between work and family.This is even true in marriages: in one study of married couples, people who failed to maintain an equilibrium between their own needs and their partner’s needs became more depressed over the next six months.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

What to do? Do all your giving one day a week.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

The chunkers achieved gains in happiness; the sprinklers didn’t. Happiness increased when people performed all five giving acts in a single day, rather than doing one a day. Lyubomirsky and colleagues speculate that “spreading them over the course of a week might have diminished salience and power or made them less distinguishable from participants habitual kind of behavior.”

How much should you give? Remember The 100 Hour Rule. One hundred hours a year — in other words, 2 hours per week.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

One hundred seems to be a magical number when it comes to giving. In a study of more than two thousand Australian adults in their mid-sixties, those who volunteered between one hundred and eight hundred hours per year were happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who volunteered fewer than one hundred or more than eight hundred hours annually. In another study, American adults who volunteered at least one hundred hours in 1998 were more likely to be alive in 2000. There were no benefits of volunteering more than one hundred hours. This is the 100-hour rule of volunteering. It appears to be the range where giving is maximally energizing and minimally draining.

A hundred hours a year breaks down to just two hours a week.Research shows that if people start volunteering two hours a week, their happiness, satisfaction and self-esteem go up a year later.

Link to read the original article

The “Pursuit of Happiness” Myth

 writes…

…Victor Frankl wrote in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Happiness (or pleasure) is not something as simple as knowing what you want then chasing after it. In other words, you cannot simply pursue happiness. Rather, happiness/pleasure cannot be acquired directly, it can only be acquired indirectly. This is an idea coined by the 19th Century, utilitarian philosopher Henry Sedgwick in his Methods of Ethics.

For example, Shawn goes into a career that he heard will make him lots of money and earn the admiration of others. This career will maximize his pleasure. Shawn gets the job and begins to earn a lot of money and everybody he meets admires him. Shawn feels happy about this for a while but eventually the honeymoon fades and he becomes unhappy in his job. The reason for his unhappiness is because his original intention of pleasure is focused on himself, not others or of a greater cause.

In another example, Sarah strongly believes in fair trade coffee, not only because of her love of coffee, but because she believes people should earn fair wages and in protecting the environment for future generations to come. As a result, Sarah takes a job working for a nonprofit that does third-party evaluation of coffee plantations. Sarah makes less money than Shawn and her job is not as respected. However, Sarah is happy in her life. Why? Because Sarah’s actions are a result of her beliefs, not for the sake of her happiness.

And how does this all relate to health? Being in the healthcare field, I see hundreds of people who want to lose weight because they think being thin like celebrities in the media is going to make them happy. They take shortcuts like bariatric surgery, anorexia, diet pills, and the Ab Belt. Though these people may lose a small amount of weight in the initial phases, they eventually become unhappy and gain their weight back. These people are obsessed with nothing but numbers on a scale and their physical, yet superficial ideas of body image. Being thin does not necessarily equal being healthy, and being thin does not necessarily equal being happy.

While it is important to have goals in life, having ideals is more important. One’s action should not be chasing after what he or she wants because it will make them happy, but rather, these actions need to be a reflection of one’s ideals and core values. In addition, the intention of doing good outside of one’s self and for a greater cause will lead to far more sustainable pleasure then chasing immediate gratification.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #78

You will find these stories and more in this week’s new Happiness At Work  collection, online from Friday 27th December.

Adam Grant’s 12 Business Books to Read in 2014

Adam Grant, Wharton professor and the author of Give and TakeNew York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller on the hidden power of helping others, gives his Hot Tips for the coming year…

The 12 Business Books to Read in 2014

Here are 12 books with big implications for the world of work that are likely to make a splash in the coming year:

1. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek (January 7)

After taking the world by storm with his captivating message about purpose in Start With Why, Simon Sinek has turned his attention to critical questions about the how. What does it take for leaders to transform paranoia and cynicism into safety and trust? Is a common enemy necessary for cooperation? I can’t wait to read about what he’s learned from military and corporate leaders.

2. Quick and Nimble by Adam Bryant (January 7)

In an increasingly competitive and dynamic economy, every organization is charged with building a culture that supports innovation. Whereas most books on innovation take a deep dive into one company’s success or failure, New York Times Corner Office columnist Adam Bryant casts a more comprehensive net, interviewing hundreds of executives to identify what’s effective across industries. Bryant offers an expert guided tour through the minds of the world’s most innovative CEOs, sharing insights that are both enlightening and immensely practical.

3. Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold (January 16)

When I go to bookstores, I usually steer clear of the self-help section. In this case, I would have missed a gem. Small Move, Big Change is a rare self-improvement book that actually works. With the right mix of research evidence and practical examples from her experience as a technology leader on Wall Street, Caroline Arnold provides compelling advice for motivating ourselves to save more, eat less, get organized, boost our willpower, and even keep our New Year’s resolutions. It’s the most useful guide to getting things done since Getting Things Done.

4. Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao (February 4)

When I work with leaders, I often ask them about the biggest challenge that they face. The most common response, by far, focuses on spreading and multiplying success. If you have one team that’s thriving while others are sinking, how do you export their best practices to other teams across your organization? This pair of eminent Stanford professors is the first to shed systematic light on the pervasive problem of scaling with a landmark book full of rich case studies, powerful research evidence, and actionable ideas for anyone who cares about making groups or organizations more effective.

5. Everything Connects by Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer (February 21)

Philosophy, business, and history come together in this look at leadership, creativity, innovation, and sustainability from a successful serial entrepreneur and a cutting-edge journalist. With takeaways for large global companies and small startups, this book examines what leaders can learn from Eastern wisdom, Da Vinci, and contemporary psychology.

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen - Thanks for the Feedback

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen – Thanks for the Feedback

6. Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (March 4)

This is a potentially life-changing look at one of the toughest but most important parts of life: receiving feedback. Doug Stone and Sheila Heen, coauthors of Difficult Conversations, show how to take an honest look in the mirror, and gain invaluable insights about the person staring back at you. I’ve already taught the principles in the classroom and applied them in my own life, and the payoffs include less defensiveness, more self-awareness, deeper learning, and richer relationships.

7. Thrive by Arianna Huffington (March 25)

In the quest for success, many people end up taking paths that they come to regret. Climbing up the ladder in pursuit of money and power, leaders and managers sacrifice their health and well-being, and miss out on meaningful opportunities to give back. Building on her celebrated Third Metric conferenceHuffington Post cofounder and president Arianna Huffington is on a mission to redefine success beyond money and power to enhance well-being, giving, wisdom, and creativity. This book may be the Lean In of 2014—for women and for men.

8. The Humor Code by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner (April 1)

Humor is an invaluable resource at work: it helps leaders defuse the tension in moments of crisis, managers temper the sting of tough feedback, and employees generate creative ideas in brainstorming sessions. Thanks to the global adventures of a zany social scientist and a perceptive journalist, we can all figure out how to become funnier, and laugh out loud along the way. This book is so good that I wish I wrote it. In fact, I’ve already started telling people I did. Luckily, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner are givers, so they won’t mind. They’ve given us a remarkable look at what makes us laugh, with the perfect blend of science, stories, satire, and sweater vests.

9. Brilliant by Annie Murphy Paul (April 8)

You’re either born smart or you’re not. Most people hate this notion, but never question whether it’s true. Science journalist Annie Murphy Paul shows us that it’s false: intelligence is a renewable resource. In Origins, she revealed that the nature-nurture debate has overlooked the formative nine months that we spend in the womb. Now, she marshals two decades of evidence from psychology and neuroscience to explain how we can make ourselves and our kids smarter. This book is poised to shake up our parenting habits, our schools, and our workplaces.

10. Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (May 13)

It’s one thing to admire the genius of the rogue economist and perceptive journalist who brought us Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomicsIt’s another thing entirely to understand how they come up with their brilliant ideas. Their latest book takes us behind the curtain with studies, stories, and illustrations that enrich our abilities to solve problems in our personal and professional lives.

11. Invisibles by David Zweig (May 15)

Why do some of the world’s most talented, accomplished people choose to fly under the radar, hiding in the shadows rather than clamoring for the spotlight? In his nonfiction debut, journalist David Zweig introduces us to some of the most successful people we’ve never heard of, from cinematographers to skyscraper engineers to United Nations interpreters. It’s a clarion call for work as a craft: for carefully honing expertise without hogging attention, for generously contributing knowledge without claiming credit, and for prizing meaningful work above public recognition.

12. Smartcuts by Shane Snow (September)

Although details are still under wraps, this book by journalist and tech entrepreneur Shane Snow promises to uncover unconventional patterns among rapidly successful businesses and people, from innovators and hackers to daredevils and revolutionaries. Snow is one of my favorite writers, a maven of creative productivity who holds the keys to becoming an expert in less than 10,000 hours..

Link to read the original article

Happiness At Work #78 ~ The 2014 Happiness Calendar

Happy New Year 2014

The 2014 Happiness Calendar

by Henry S. Millerauthor of The Serious Pursuit of Happiness: Everything You Need to Know to Flourish and Thrive, and Inspiration for the Pursuit of Happiness: Wisdom to Guide your Journey to a Better Life.

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be” (Abraham Lincoln)

Amp up the amount of happiness in your life each and every month of the year by intentionally focusing on 12 strategies that the science of happiness and well being has proven can increase your feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Even better: know that, if you add these actions to your life, your feelings of increased positive emotion can last for days, weeks, and even months! If this is the year you decide to get serious about adding happiness that lasts to your life, here are 12 happiness strategies for 2014 and suggestions to make them work for you.

For the best results, remind yourself of each month’s happiness strategy by adding these topics to your calendar – every day of each month. Then, each day of the year, find creative ways to act on these strategies – and enjoy your reactions and your increased feelings of happiness. You’ll notice that these feelings will last far longer than the happiness you feel from just partaking of the pleasures of life – and will be more meaningful to you.

No matter what your situation, remain hopeful about increasing your happiness. The truth is that no one is ever out of the game when it comes to living a happier and more fulfilling life! As the months of this year unfold, continue all of the 12 strategies that work best for you. If you do, a year of increased happiness can be yours.

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

January: A Month of Hope and Plans

The beginning of the year is traditionally about new years’ resolutions. This year, write one positive goal you have for the coming year down on your calendar each morning of each day of January. Also write your plan to make it a reality. Then, resolve that you will intentionally invest your time and energy to work on your resolutions during the year and to live a happier life by implementing these 12 happiness strategies – one each month.

photo credit: PRAVEEN VENUGOPAL via photopin cc

photo credit: PRAVEEN VENUGOPAL via photopin cc

February: A Month of Gratitude

Gratitude is the antidote to greed, envy, and jealously. We feel much happier when we are being grateful for what we have, rather than envious of what we don’t. Remember, no one has everything! This month, each night before going to bed, take a daily gratitude inventory. Write down three things you are grateful for about your life – your relationships, your work, your character, your family, your country, the world around you, your life.

photo credit: [Duncan] via photopin cc

photo credit: [Duncan] via photopin cc

March: A Month of Kindness

Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And, if you look around, it’s still true today. This month, find one opportunity each and every day to perform some kind act for someone else – even the simplest act of holding a door open for another will do. And, each day, after your act of kindness, enjoy the feeling that, for at least one shining moment, you are the personification of all that is good about the human race.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

April: A Month of Optimism

Each day this month, be more conscious of your negative thoughts – if you have any. And every time you do, immediately “dispute” it by intentionally replacing the negative thought with a positive one. Do this each time you think a negative thought for a month, and notice how your thinking might change.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

May: A Month of Friendship

Close relationships are one of the longest-lasting of happiness-increasing strategies. But, sometimes, we take our friends for granted – or are “too busy” to see them. This month, at least one time per week, reach out to a friend and arrange to spend time with them. This can be as simple as a walk, a meal, coffee, drinks – whatever you choose. But find the time to visit with your friends face-to-face this month.

photo credit: All Kinds of New via photopin cc

photo credit: All Kinds of New via photopin cc

June: A Month of Love

Traditionally, June is a month of weddings – and love is all around us. Each day this month, call, write, or email someone you love or care deeply about – one per day – and tell them how much they mean to you – and how happy you are that they are a part of your life – even if you haven’t been the best communicator up to now. Notice reactions – yours and theirs.

photo credit: Jen's Art & Soul via photopin cc

photo credit: Jen’s Art & Soul via photopin cc

July: A Month of Spirituality

Studies have proven that people who have spirituality in their lives – whether it’s their own secular belief system, their own faith, or some organized religion – are happier. We don’t know if it’s because of the fellowship of a caring group of like-thinking folks, or the spiritual beliefs themselves. This month, make a conscious effort to spend some moments each day – perhaps during lunch – repeating to yourself at least one “prayer” or belief you hold.

photo credit: kt.beyondperception via photopin cc

photo credit: kt.beyondperception via photopin cc

August: A Month of Health, Fitness, Skill

Summer is a great time to focus on increasing your health and fitness – and on using your skills and abilities to their max. This month, begin some daily fitness regimen (check with your doctor first if needed) – even if it’s only walking. In addition, make a list of your top skills, talents, and abilities and assess if you are using them to their fullest. If not, take one step per day to begin doing so.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

September: A Month of Contribution

Making a meaningful contribution to make the planet a better place is one of the longest-lasting, happiness-increasing strategies known. What are you contributing? This month is your chance to decide what difference you’d like to make in the world. Spend a few minutes each day at lunchtime and write down ideas about how you can make a positive difference in the world. At the end of the month, decide on a plan of action – and begin! The world needs you and your contribution!

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

October: A Month of Savouring

Autumn is a season to enjoy the changing foliage in many parts of the world. Consciously spend at least five minutes each day focusing your attention exclusively on something of beauty outside – changing leaves, trees, clouds, sky – something. Five minutes of complete attention to savour the beauty of life around you – each day, every day.

photo credit: thesullys via photopin cc

photo credit: thesullys via photopin cc

November: A Month of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful, although a slightly more complicated, happiness strategy. We forgive others to make us feel better. This month, examine your life and see if there are any lingering resentments you are holding on to that are holding you back from joy. If so, do two things: First, write the apology letter you would have liked to have received from the person who has wronged you. Second, rise above your desire for revenge, and write your letter of forgiveness to them. No need to mail it, just recall the hurt or violation, write about your feelings. End the letter with your statement of forgiveness. Just this simple act of writing a forgiveness letter can often grant you freedom from your negative thoughts and give you increased happiness.

photo credit: mezzoblue via photopin cc

photo credit: mezzoblue via photopin cc

December: A Month of Generosity

The end of the year is a time for giving – a time to donate your time, your money if you can, your skills, your positive energy, your attention – to others to help make their life a little better. Each day, find one opportunity to give something of yourself to help another – and notice your feelings.

Link to the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #78

You will find  selection of stories about happiness at work, leadership, creativity, resilience and self-mastery in our latest Happiness At Work collection #78, online from Friday 27th December.

Happiness At Work #77~ ending & beginning and the space in between

This week’s post takes its inspiration from Steve McCurry’s latest collection of photos of people Leaving and Coming (see below), drawing on this time when we celebrate out one year and in the next to mark some of the in-between spaces and places and thinking and ways of being….

C OK

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Deadly Conformity Is Killing Our Creativity. Let’s mess about more

People’s lives  would be more fulfilling if they we were given greater freedom in the workplace writes 

I began to notice the creativity of the manager of the Pret a Manger coffee shop, close to where I live, after he showed extraordinary kindness to a woman with Down’s syndrome in her 20s. Well, maybe it wasn’t that remarkable, but it was certainly natural and spontaneous and beautifully done…  [When she wanted] some attention from the manager, he stepped from behind the counter and gave her a big, affectionate hug.

It was moving and she was evidently delighted, so I took a comment card from the holder on the wall and wrote a note to the CEO of Pret telling him he had a gem on his staff.

The company told me that they would give the manager some kind of reward and since then I have taken a secret pleasure at being the unseen agency of a little good fortune. However, this is not the whole point…

Ten days ago, I found him on the floor with two-dozen paper coffee cups figuring out how to make a Christmas star from the cups and red lids. I have to say it didn’t look too promising, but the next time I went in, there was a Christmas tree made entirely of cups and lids, which wasn’t bad at all.

The Pret man came to mind when last week I heard the latest report from the Office of National Statistics which suggests we are currently using just 15% of our intelligence during work and that the nation’s human capital – a slightly artificial construct of skills, knowledge and continuous learning – is way down on five years ago. There appears to be a slump in the nation’s creativity.

And what has the Pret man got to do with this trend? Well, the way he does his job embodies several of the necessary requirements for creativity: the confidence to experiment, openness and time to play. Clearly the company allows his character to express itself but you can well imagine the grimmer coffee shop chains seeing his restless experimentation and goodwill as being a challenge, maybe even a threat to the orderly running of the business.

Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the British commitment to single issue causes and how all the originality with which these are prosecuted fails to be expressed in the political life of the nation. It seems that the same is true of our working lives. It is just short of a tragedy that, on average, people are only required to use 15% of their intelligence at work – depressing for each one of us, for the economic health of the nation and the general sense of well being.

We could be so much more and have lives that were greatly more fulfilled if we only started to find ways of allowing people to be a little more creative in whatever they do. I am not talking about web companies and media agencies, where a creative environment is a priority, but all those humdrum offices we find ourselves in, where the power structures, politics, sexism, fear, orthodoxy, imaginary pressure and bloody stupid rules prevent us from making the most of what we are, or becoming what we could be.

A few months ago, I was at a large meeting of about 25 people, which after a couple of hours produced very little. We were all there for the same purpose and believed in the same thing, but some stood on ceremony, others were too afraid to speak openly or kept their powder dry so they could better fix things by email later. Then a group went to the pub. They were at play, inhibitions fell away and ideas started flowing, and this was because there were no hierarchies; no one was defending their position; and, crucially, people listened with respect and encouragement. The golden moment is usually short-lived, especially in a pub, but that kind of open exchange, in which no one dominates and the default cynicism of British life is absent, can be terrifically creative, as well as fun…

Sooner, rather than later, the subconscious, [if it gets] left to get on with the problem in its own way, produces the thing that you want, or you didn’t even know was there. And that applies to unpressured groups of people, who are at play but maybe also a little focused, and ingenuity wells up from the subconscious and people find themselves speaking the idea before they knew they’d had it – the idea that is born on the lips, as Pepys once said.

There are countless inspiring videos about creativity on the web, likeElizabeth Gilbert’s Ted talk of 2009 Sir Ken Robinson’s of 2006 and the excellent lecture by John Cleese from 20 years ago. All of them come to the same conclusions about the importance of play, the absence of a fear of failure; openness and lack of pressure.

I would add to these the quality that my friend and the founder of Charter 88 and openDemocracy Anthony Barnett emphasises: generosity of spirit. And that takes us back to the manager of Pret a Manger, who, I believe, would not be nearly as creative if he were not so generous and kind-hearted.

Where does that leave us? Well, apart from encouraging the well-appreciated conditions for creativity in the workplace, we perhaps need to understand that the structures for taking decisions and driving things forward are not the same ones we should use to find innovation and make the most of the unexploited 85% of our intelligence. Power and hierarchies are the enemy of creativity.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Dreaming Makes You Smarter

Annie Murphy Paul writes in her Brilliant Blog

…It might sound like science fiction, but researchers are increasingly focusing on the relationship between the knowledge and skills our brains absorb during the day and the fragmented, often bizarre imaginings they generate at night. Scientists have found that dreaming about a task we’ve learned is associated with improved performance in that activity (suggesting that there’s some truth to the popular notion that we’re “getting” a foreign language once we begin dreaming in it). What’s more, researchers are coming to recognize that dreaming is an essential part of understanding, organizing and retaining what we learn—and that dreams may even hold out the possibility of directing our learning as we doze.

While we sleep, research indicates, the brain replays the patterns of activity it experienced during waking hours, allowing us to enter what one psychologist calls a neural virtual reality. A vivid example of such reenactment can be seen in this video, made as part of a 2011 study by researchers in the Sleep Disorders Unit at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. They taught a series of dance moves to a group of patients with conditions like sleepwalking, in which the sleeper engages in the kind of physical movement that is normally inhibited during slumber. They then videotaped the subjects as they slept. Lying in bed, eyes closed, the woman on the tape does a faithful rendition of the dance moves she learned earlier—“the first direct and unambiguous demonstration of overt behavioral replay of a recently learned skill during human sleep,” writes lead author Delphine Oudiette.

Of course, most of us are not quite so energetic during sleep—but our brains are busy nonetheless. While our bodies are at rest, scientists theorize, our brains are extracting what’s important from the information and events we’ve recently encountered, then integrating that data into the vast store of what we already know—perhaps explaining why dreams are such an odd mixture of fresh experiences and old memories. A dream about something we’ve just learned seems to be a sign that the new knowledge has been processed effectively…

Robert Stickgold, one of the Harvard researchers, suggests that studying right before bedtime or taking a nap following a study session in the afternoon might increase the odds of dreaming about the material. But some scientists are pushing the notion of enhancing learning through dreaming even further, asking sleepers to mentally practice skills while they slumber. In a pilot study published in The Sport Psychologistjournal in 2010, University of Bern psychologist Daniel Erlacher instructed participants to dream about tossing coins into a cup. Those who successfully dreamed about the task showed significant improvement in their real-life coin-tossing abilities. Experiments like Erlacher’s raise the possibility that we could train ourselves to cultivate skills while we slumber. Think about that as your head hits the pillow tonight….

This Week’s Brilliant Quote

“Penalties, and rewards, change the meaning of the task to which they are applied. When you’re deciding whether to motivate someone, you should first think about whether your incentive might crowd out their willingness to perform well without an incentive. Crowding out could occur because of a change in the perception of the task, or because you have insulted the person you are trying to encourage or discourage. Cash, in the end, really isn’t king; some things can’t be bought. Rewarding people on the basis of what they really value—their time, their self-image as good citizens—is often much more motivating than just slapping down, or taking away, a couple of bills.”

—Uri Gneezy and John A. List, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Art Elevates the Mind by Increasing Empathy, Critical Thinking and Tolerance

A new large-scale experiment on over 10,000 students finds that a one-hour tour of an art museum can increase empathy, tolerance and critical thinking skills…

The results showed that, compared with those who had not been to the museum, students who had visited:

  • Thought about art more critically.
  • Displayed greater empathy about how people lived in the past.
  • Expressed greater levels of tolerance towards people with different views.

The museum had clearly been a mind-expanding experience for the young people.

Interestingly, the improvements were larger when the students were from more deprived backgrounds.

Visiting the museum also made students more likely to want to visit art museums again in the future. This could create a cascading effect over their lifetime, continuing to boost critical thought, empathy and tolerance.

What is art for?

Field trips are often seen by teachers and students as purely for pleasure, rather than for educational purposes.

But the authors point out that museums are about more than that:

“We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.” (Greene et al., 2014)

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards: Personal Development

The entries were submitted, the books were read, the shortlists determined, and we are now ready to announce the category winners of the 2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards!

In the Personal Development category…

Springboard: Do What You Were Meant To Do

Springboard: Do What You Were Meant To Do

G. Richard Shell’s Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success from Portfolio takes the top spot.

“There is no ‘secret’ you need to discover. And you do not have ‘one true purpose’ for your life that is your duty to find or die trying. The raw materials for success are tucked away inside you and your next big goal is probably within arm’s reach—if only you have the clarity of mind to see it”
Springboard, page 10-11

Success is an oft-tackled subject in business literature, so it’s easy to be cynical about there being any new angle to take on the matter. But G. Richard Shell, author of the classic Bargaining for Advantage and The Art of Woo achieves it in Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by presenting us with a book that doesn’t define success as much as it provides readers with tools to define it accurately and authentically for themselves.

Shell, who literally teaches the course on success at Wharton, opens his book with a retelling of his own circuitous path to success, written with great humility and insight, and the entire book is told in a voice that is both instructive and generous. “What is Success?” and “How Will I Achieve It?” are questions you will be able to answer for yourself once you close the covers of this book.

The other books in our Personal Development shortlist are all books whose writers I have featured over this year in this blog…

Link to read the original article

2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards: Leadership

In the Leadership category…

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin from Harvard Business Review Press is our top book.

“The essence of great strategy is making choices—clear, tough choices, like what business to be in and which not to be in, where to play in the business you choose, how you will win where you play, what capabilities and competencies you will turn into core strengths, and how your internal systems will turn those choices and capabilities into consistently excellent performance in the marketplace. And it all starts with an aspiration to win and a definition of what winning looks like.” Playing to Win, page 46

This book relays the strategic approach P&G used over the 10-year period Lafley (with Martin as advisor) led the company to increase its market value to $100 billion. But this isn’t an industry book as much as it is a “story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.” And that’s truly what makes this book so good. It is, indeed, a story, and its two authors are invested in communicating the impressive work done at P&G and teaching this approach to others.

The other books in our Leadership shortlist are…

Link to read the original article

The Secret To Happiness

Happiness starts here:  How much control do you really have over your happiness, and how effectively are you pursuing it?

American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks distills 40 years of social science research into a surprising set of answers, suggesting the four essentials are:

  • Faith
  • Family
  • Community
  • and Work through earned success ~ the belief that you are accomplishing something worthwhile and valuable

A Formula For Happiness

Arthur Brooks writes in the New York Times…

HAPPINESS has traditionally been considered an elusive and evanescent thing. To some, even trying to achieve it is an exercise in futility. It has been said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness…

About half of happiness is genetically determined. Up to an additional 40 percent comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past — but that won’t last very long.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work…

…rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not…

…the secret to happiness through work is earned success.

This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way. And these differences persist after controlling for income and other demographics.

You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure — or in kids taught to read, habitats protected or souls saved…

If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work.

There’s nothing new about earned success. It’s simply another way of explaining what America’s founders meant when they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that humans’ inalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This moral covenant links the founders to each of us today. The right to define our happiness, work to attain it and support ourselves in the process — to earn our success — is our birthright. And it is our duty to pass this opportunity on to our children and grandchildren.

But today that opportunity is in peril. Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to rise…

This is a major problem, and advocates of free enterprise have been too slow to recognize it. It is not enough to assume that our system blesses each of us with equal opportunities. We need to fight for the policies and culture that will reverse troubling mobility trends. We need schools that serve children’s civil rights instead of adults’ job security. We need to encourage job creation for the most marginalized and declare war on barriers to entrepreneurship at all levels, from hedge funds to hedge trimming. And we need to revive our moral appreciation for the cultural elements of success.

We must also clear up misconceptions. Free enterprise does not mean shredding the social safety net, but championing policies that truly help vulnerable people and build an economy that can sustain these commitments. It doesn’t mean reflexively cheering big business, but leveling the playing field so competition trumps cronyism. It doesn’t entail “anything goes” libertinism, but self-government and self-control. And it certainly doesn’t imply that unfettered greed is laudable or even acceptable.

Free enterprise gives the most people the best shot at earning their success and finding enduring happiness in their work. It creates more paths than any other system to use one’s abilities in creative and meaningful ways, from entrepreneurship to teaching to ministry to playing the French horn. This is hardly mere materialism, and it is much more than an economic alternative. Free enterprise is a moral imperative.

To pursue the happiness within our reach, we do best to pour ourselves into faith, family, community and meaningful work. To share happiness, we need to fight for free enterprise and strive to make its blessings accessible to all.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

Link to read the full original article

C OK

photo credit: Jus Wilcox via photopin cc

Leaving and Coming, Steve McCurry’s photo collection

 Doors
Are both frame and monument
To our spent time,
And too little has been said
Of our coming through and leaving by them. 
– Charles Tomlinson

Steve McCurry celebrates the season with another sublime evocative collection of his photos, themed around coming and going, the spaces of transition, the not-places between places, and in these moments of passing thorough he catches and hold our attention in these images, inviting us to stop mid-stream, mid-thought, mid-moment and – well, perhaps just to notice what we notice before we move on with our day…

Since the beginning of time,
doors have symbolized both great opportunities and thwarted dreams.
The open door is a metaphor for new life, a passage
from one stage of life to another, and metamorphosis.
Closed doors often represent rejection and exclusion…

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

C OK

photo credit: The Integer Club via photopin cc

Are You Really Listening?

by 

Listen: ˈlɪs(ə)n/

Verb: To give one’s attention to a sound.
Synonym: hear, pay attention, be attentive, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear to, and to be all ears.

We all understand the mechanics of listening. But too often today, when we have the opportunity to listen, we’re content with just passively letting sound waves travel through our ears. That’s called hearing. Listening is something entirely different. It’s essential for leaders to pay attention when others around us have something to say. Why? Because developing better listening skills is the key to developing a better company…

However, when input actually arrives, how authentic are you about listening? Do you pretend to care, just for the sake of getting at what you think you need? Or are you receiving, absorbing and processing the entire message?

We’ve all had moments when we politely smile and nod throughout a dialogue. The speaker may feel heard and validated, but we miss out on potentially valuable information. Or how about those moments when we greet someone in passing with a quick, “Hi. How are you?” and continue moving forward without waiting for a response.

Occasionally, that may happen. But what if it’s a habit? What if others in your organization learn to expect that behavior from you? When people assume their ideas and opinions don’t matter, communication quickly breaks down. This kind of moment isn’t just a missed opportunity for meaningful interaction — it’s a legitimate business issue that puts your organization at risk.

Why Don’t We Listen?

When we’re part of a conversation, but we’re not paying attention, we send the message that we just don’t care. However, our intentions may be quite different. These are the most common reasons why we fail at listening:

  We’re developing a response. Instead of maintaining a clear, open mind when others speak, we quickly start composing our reply or rebuttal. Many smart people tend to jump into that response mode — usually less than 40 words into a dialogue.

  We’re preoccupied by external factors. In today’s multitasking environments, distractions abound. We’re bombarded with noise from things like open floor plans, and a constant barrage of texts, tabs, emails, calls, and calendar notifications.

•  It’s not a good time for the conversation. Have you ever been rushing to prepare for a meeting when someone stopped you in the hallway with a simple “Got a moment?” While it may be tempting to comply, it’s wise to simply schedule the discussion for another time. You’ll stay on track for the meeting, and can focus on the request as time permits.

Checked Out? Ideas For Stronger Communication

I ask my team questions and invest time in discussions because I’m interested in their answers. Actually, I need those answers. After all, employee feedback is critical for a more engaged, productive, fulfilled workforce.

To foster better understanding, try asking follow-up questions to verify what people intend to convey, and discover how they feel about what they’re saying. This simple gesture will cultivate a culture of openness and camaraderie. Also, we can use tools to streamline the communication process and help us ask smart questions that reveal more about employees.

However, there’s no point asking questions if we only respond with a nod and then move on. If your mind is too cluttered and your day too busy to engage fully, be honest with your team. Assure them that you’ll get back to them when you’re able. And of course, don’t forget to follow up.

How To Make Mindful Conversation a Habit

Still, many leaders struggle with the art of active listening. That’s why it’s important to learn useful techniques and make practice a part of your life.

Deepak Chopra, MD, observes that leaders and followers ideally form a symbiotic relationship. “The greatest leaders are visionaries, but no vision is created in a vacuum. It emerges from the situation at hand.” Effective leadership begins with observation — knowing your audience and understanding the landscape. Even the most eloquent, powerful speech will fall on deaf ears if the speaker doesn’t listen to the pulse of the audience.

It’s never too soon to start practicing this art. Here are 4 easy tips to improve your ability to listen and lead:

1) Repetition. Repeat anything you find interesting. This helps you recall key points after a conversation ends. It’s also a smart technique when you meet someone new. Repeat their name throughout the discussion. This not only solidifies the name in your memory, but also helps build rapport and trust.

2) Read Between the Lines. Pay special attention when a speaker changes tone and volume, pauses, or breaks eye contact. These subtle signals are clues that can reflect emotional highlights or pain points (anger, sadness, happiness). And body language often reveals what words don’t say.

3) Mouth/Eye Coordination. Looking a speaker in the eye establishes a connection and lets them know you’re listening. But don’t hold their gaze too long. Recent research suggests that eye contact is effective only if you already agree with a speaker’s message. Instead, try looking at the speaker’s mouth. That may feel awkward, but this keeps you focused on what they’re saying — and they’ll know it.

4) Reflection. Seal the deal by thinking back to extract meaning. You may be exhilarated by a great conversation — but without a mental debrief, much of it can be forgotten. Reflection is critical in developing the takeaways (and subsequent actions) that make the discussion valuable. Try mentally organizing important points by associating them with a relevant word or two. Then, in the future, you’ll more easily recall the details.

The art of listening is about much more than exchanging facts. Active listening helps those in your company feel validated and connected with you and your organization. Genuine conversations weave their own path. Give them your time and attention. Along the way, you’ll solve problems and generate new ideas that will have a lasting impact on you, your team and your business.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

17 Tips To Help You Expand Your Influence

CJ Goulding offers these great guidelines…

In his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey explains that truly effective people who expand their influence live a life focused on things that they can change—their circle of influence—and not things they have no power over, which can be categorized in a circle of concern. He says:

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Great tip! And here are some others that will help you to both live within that circle and expand your influence simultaneously!

1. Be proactive.

Expanding influence is not something that happens to people who sit still….Being deliberate and proactive about trying new things, forming new connections, and meeting new people are all ways to become more influential.

2. Be a good listener.

…influential people must first be good listeners. Improving your listening skill allows you to collect new information, build trust and rapport, and makes it easier for others to align with your causes.

3. Stay consistent.

…Consistent people are reliable and are the first ones trusted with new tasks, ideas, projects, and responsibilities.

4. Practice empathy.

Being able to recognize, understand, and share in the emotions and experiences of another person gives you the ability to relate to people on their level. You become a more caring individual who is in tune with the feelings and attitudes of the people surrounding you. And when you can relate to someone, you can influence them, though careful not to manipulate the feelings and emotions you were trusted with.

5. Seek for solution.

…when you are associated with solutions, you will be the first person called, the first person asked to consult, and the first option to resolve issues.

6. Accept responsibility.

…as the old adage states, “take blame when things go wrong, and give credit when things go as planned.” Taking responsibility for your actions and even for the actions of those people you manage allows you to expand your influence by building the trust others have in you and your word.

7. Appreciate others.

A simple THANK YOU goes a long way in person and even further when done publicly. Choose to recognize the efforts of others and lift them up as shining examples for others to see. By doing so you are influencing others by reinforcing what works and what was done right. We all want to be valued and appreciated.

8. Have a vision.

…Without a goal, people may follow your lead for a short time, but the facade will eventually fall apart.

9. Ask the right questions.

Don’t ask why something is happening, ask how you can make it better.

Ask questions like:

How can I leave this situation better than I found it?

How can I meet and get to know people better?

How can I help and inspire the people around me?

How can I be a solution in this situation?

10. Have passion, a fire for what you do.

…alert people to the fire inside. Your enthusiasm for what you do will also draw others alongside you in your quest.

11. Filter the information that you take in.

There is an information overload, an “infobesity” that exists in today’s society. As you expand your influence, realize that there will be information coming in from all sides and at all angles, but that not all of it is useful or well intended. Screening the TV shows and movies you watch, the books you read, and the people whose advice you take allows you to stay focused.

12. Increase your value through education.

Read and educate yourself on areas where you want to grow. … Take classes, read books, do training and anything else possible to round out and expand your life experience, and thus expand your influence.

13. Fine tune your skills.

Constantly work on mastering your skill set. Influential people are not mediocre. Like a bank account, skills need constant deposits to continually grow, so even after you feel you have attained some level of mastery, continuous work is still required to continue to grow and develop.

14. Be upbeat and enthusiastic.

…Upbeat and enthusiastic people attract other upbeat and enthusiastic people… A positive attitude is also extremely contagious, and will carry your influence with it as it spreads.

15. Be a person of integrity and values.

Your description of who you are and your actions should broadcast the same message…

16. Go above and beyond.

Raise the bar… successful and influential people are never mediocre. They never settle for “ok” when great is an option. As Steve Jobs said, “In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great.” Make what you do great!

17. Use your influence to bring out the best in others.

…Once you gain influence in a certain area, use your sway to do good things for others and bring the best out in them. Pay your experience forward, whether it is in sharing what you have learned or providing opportunities for them to follow in your footsteps.

Link to read the full original article

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photo credit: seier+seier via photopin cc

Guess What! You Can Measure Motivation, and Here’s How!

The Motivation Guy  (also known as Dr. David Facer) writes…

One of the most persistent beliefs leaders tell themselves and employees is that if you can’t measure something, it does not matter.

I can easily refute that belief with two questions:

1. Do you love your partner/spouse, mother, father, or children?

2. If yes (no one has answered no yet), then tell me precisely how much.  And when you answer, please pick an amount and a unit of measure.  So your answer would be something like, “I love my children 12 gallons,” or “I love my husband six kilometers.”

Naturally, that’s absurd.  The love you feel matters a great deal and yet seems impossible to measure.

Employee motivation is a bit like that.  It matters a great deal to the well-being of your employees and the financial success of the company.  And yet it seems impossible to measure.

But that’s the thing—it is remarkably easy to measure.  Here’s how.

  1. Using yourself as a test case, the first thing you will want to do is upgrade how you think about measurement.  Most often you’re thinking in terms of numbers.  Instead, think first in terms of categories.  Then you can think of numbers.
  2. Specifically, think in terms of these six categories—or types—of motivation.
    • Inherent – You do something because it is fun for you personally
    • Integrated – You do something because the purpose and deep meaning of it serves others and is in harmony with your own deep sense of purpose
    • Aligned – You do something because it is compatible with your goals and values
    • Imposed – You do something because you want to avoid a hassle, drama, or feeling guilty
    • External – You do something to gain something outside the task and yourself such as money, status, or reputation
    • Disinterested – You do not do something because it just does not matter to you.
  1. Create a table featuring the six categories above and tally your thoughts, feelings, and what the running dialogue in your head is saying about what type of motivation you experience on each specific situation, task, or goal.
  2. What pattern do you notice?  Most coaching clients with whom I have used this simple technique notice a pattern pretty quickly.  In fact, for everything on their to-do list, they usually realize they are experiencing one or two types of motivation.  In time, one of them will become the most clear.
  3. BAM!  You just measured your motivation by discerning what type you are experiencing.  And, the tally you came up with reveals how intensely you feel one type over the others.

Now you may ask does measuring your motivation using that simple technique even matter?

It absolutely does, because the type of motivation you experience has a big influence on how you go about your daily work—and your probability of success.

More specifically, research reveals that your motivation type has a lot to do with how much creative, out of the box thinking you bring to your work. It greatly influences how persistent you are in the face of tough challenges.  It not only explains, itdetermines how enthusiastic, frustrated, or bored you feel about the minutia of your work.  And over time, the type of motivation you experience has a lot to do with the decisions you make to stay with the company or leave for somewhere better…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: bumblebeelovesyou via photopin cc

Why It’s Hard To Be Yourself (And How To Do It)

We’ve all been told to “just be yourself” at some point in life.

It’s good advice, but deceptively hard to follow.

“Hive Mind” Compels Us To Think Or Act Like Someone Else

…The term ‘Hive Mind’ comes from the way that honeybees, though individuals, act as a cohesive whole, as if they have a single consciousness. In humans, it happens when a group of people want to get along to the point that they actively suppress their true thoughts and feelings. The unanimous agreement may start from one person saying, “That’s a great idea!” Then the people merge their unique perspectives into a single group perspective. In business, this might mean fewer quality ideas. In life, it could mean losing your identity.

Stereotypes Exist Because Of “Hive Mind” 

It’s human to want to belong and find your place in the world. That makes it tempting to “tweak” yourself to be like a stereotype to assure you can fit in with others. If you don’t know yourself, it can be tempting to take on a personality template. But it’s a pretty incredible fact of life that every person is unique, and we need to embrace that! If you don’t embrace it and explore your identity, you might end up living someone else’s life, and feel empty inside as a result.

The way you present yourself to the world is a declaration of your identity. If you dress and act like a stereotype, your unique traits will be hidden behind this more obvious label that everyone is familiar with. I’m not saying it’s wrong to dress in any certain way – that would be contradictory to this article – I’m saying it’s best to avoid “hive mind” in life.

When you purposefully dress and act as a well-known stereotype, there is a greater chance and temptation for you to embrace that cookie-cutter persona instead of being yourself. 

When people do this, it’s like they’re actors, playing a role that someone else created. They learn the dialect. They mimic the clothes and body language. And their real traits are held hostage behind this image.

Being Unique Can Be Uncomfortable At First, But It’s Better Long Term

…Diversity is why it’s so important to be yourself. It is one of the most interesting parts of life, and it expands our knowledge and ideas. And the more stereotypical, conforming clones we have in the world, the fewer unique and interesting people we’ll have to learn from. People label themselves because it’s easier at first, but later they feel trapped to live up to this image that isn’t really them.  

Security Is Knowing Who You Are

If you live according to a persona or stereotype, some amount of confidence comes with it, because you know how you’re supposed to act in most circumstances. Gangstas are tough and foul-mouthed, hippies are easy-going and peaceful, etc. So when you have any self-doubt, you can simply act your part. But this is a cheap substitute for reacting dynamically from your true identity.

The safety in being yourself comes from knowing yourself better than anyone else. And the more you act like yourself, the more you’ll get to know yourself. And for personal development, knowing your true self equips you to change yourself. The reason most adults are more confident than children is because they’ve had more time to get to know themselves, so they’re less sensitive to the world’s opinion. But as a kid, you’re new and impressionable, and it’s for this reason that so many kids will resort to being an image of someone else rather than themselves. It feels safer.

If you had a precious gem that nobody else in the world had, some people would claim to know about it. Some people might talk bad about it. But only you know the truth about that gem, because that gem is you!

The best tip for being yourself is simple. Don’t try to be anyone else…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Flyinace2000 via photopin cc

Do You Know What Life Will Be Like In 5 Years? IBM’s Top Scientist Does

In the 5 in 5 report IBM’s top scientists report on what the world, supported by smart sensing and computing, will look like in five years. Last week, Fast Companypreviewed the report with the physicist who heads up the research team: Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow, and Vice President of Innovation.

In five years, cities will be sentient. More buses will automatically run when there are more people to fill them. And doctors will use your DNA to tailor medical advice and smart computing to diagnose and plan treatment for big diseases like cancer not in months, but in minutes.

In five years, physical retail stores will understand your preferences and use augmented reality to bring the web to where shoppers can physically touch it. Sophisticated analytics will allow the classroom (not just the teacher) to track your progress in real time and tailor course work. Digital guardians will protect your accounts and identity, proactively flagging fraudulent use, while maintaining the privacy of your personal information.

In five years, we will have analytical models that allow us to actually change the future and prevent the traffic jam that would have happened if 20 minutes from now if we hadn’t already rerouted lights to stop it.

Here are details about the ways these five predictions will define the future and impact us at a personal level:

The city will help you live in it…

Doctors will use your DNA to keep you well…

Buying local will beat online…

You will have a digital guardian…

The classroom will learn you…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Dominic’s pics via photopin cc

Beat Holiday Stress With These Two Easy Meditation Techniques

Regina Bright writes…

Holidays can be stressful. The hustle and bustle of work, parenting, in-laws, guests, shopping, traveling, and cooking can seem pretty hectic this time of year.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I take a timeout to relax and do short meditation exercises. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Deep breathing.

Begin in a quiet, comfortable area with no distractions. Remember, your goal is to quiet your mind and to remain in the moment. Don’t get discouraged if you are not able to do this the first time.

 Sit up straight and tall, feet on the floor, and hands on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth and release. Notice your ribs expand while the rest of your body is motionless. Breathe deeply, slowly, and smoothly. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale.

Focus solely on your breath. If a thought comes up, bring your attention back to your breath. You are in control – resist distractions. Try this exercise daily. Remember meditation is a practice.

Focus on your senses.

Next time you are at the coffee shop, make your focus a cup of hot coffee. Notice the sounds around you – people talking, the steam from the cappuccino machine, the sound of whipped cream topping off a cup of coffee. Notice the colorful ceramic cup, the steam, and the creamer swirling around the rim. Notice the fragrant aroma of the dark coffee beans. Notice the warm liquid going down your throat and warming you. Notice how the warmth of the cup is warming your cold hands. Notice the taste of your favorite winter drink.

Notice what it feels like to slow down and live in the moment – it isn’t a race to get through life!

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

Happiness At Work – edition #77

All of these stories and more are collected together in this week’s Happiness At Work #77 collection, online from Friday 20th December.

Enjoy and have a very happy rejuvenating and connected holiday…

Happiness At Work #76 ~ a parcel of practical ideas for the festive season

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

‘Tis the season of gift giving and in this spirit I have tried to make this week’s post a Santa’s Sack of tools, techniques and practical approaches with – I do hope – a treat for everyone.  I hope you will find something here to make your festive season just that little happier, less stressful and more enjoyable…

The Power of Empathy (RSA Shorts)

What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

This sublime animation of sorts out the difference between empathy and sympathy and provides the basics on how to give it well.

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

4 Critical Skills for a Changing World

BY 

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in the midst of the cultural and political upheaval of the 60s. What I remember most about those days were the endless fights with my parents over my long hair, my frayed bellbottom jeans, the Vietnam War, and, of course, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

We had a name for our extreme differences in perspective back then. We called it “the generation gap.” I doubt if it’s any consolation to Millennials – especially coming from a baby boomer – but we’ve sort of been here before. Each generation has its own ideals, behaviors and challenges.

 While there’s nothing new about generational change, when you’re in the thick of it, that’s a different story. It’s unsettling, exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time.

Related7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Don’t Do

The high-tech revolution of the past few decades certainly fits that description. Having “grown up” in that industry, I can certainly look back and see how far we’ve come. Not only that, I’m proud that I made the transition – that I successfully adapted to this brave new world.

And I’d like to help you do the same. I’d like to help the entrepreneurs of today and the business leaders of tomorrow make the transition to a world that never stops changing. Here are four critical capabilities I think you’re going to need to distinguish yourself – to become the leaders, the innovators, the success stories of a new age:

Truly connect with real people in the real world
Any successful executive or business leader will tell you that among their most critical assets are their ability to communicate and network. Not only that, but success in business is all about relationships. Every business transaction has a human being on both ends.

These days, people think they’re connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, when in reality, they’re just blasting gigabytes of superficial sound bites and links at each other. It’s the Internet equivalent of talking at someone. Actually, it’s not even one-to-one, it’s generally one-to-many, and, by many, I mean thousands.

The truth is that social networking isn’t even fractionally effective when compared with a simple real-time discussion or face-to-face meeting. One real relationship with a real person in the real world is worth a thousand virtual connections.

Related: 9 Steps to Becoming a Great Writer

Shut out the noise
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a world of unprecedented information and communication overload. We’re expected to be on 24/7. The urge to text, tweet and email is constant, addictive, and nearly irresistible.

And yet, you have to find a way to resist all that. You have to figure out how to manage distraction without completely shutting yourself off. You have to learn to shut out the noise without missing out on what matters, what’s relevant, and what’s critical.
It’s never been more challenging to prioritize and focus, to be effective and productive, to get things done, than it is today. And it’s only going to get harder.

Recognize the bullsh*t
Everyone’s aware that “I saw it on the Internet so it must be true” is a fallacy. And yet, quoting, posting, forwarding and retweeting information from unreliable sources has become the norm. It’s pervasive.

When you question assumptions and claims, challenge conventional wisdom, and avoid collectivism and groupthink, that’s called critical thinking. It dates back thousands of years to the teachings of Socrates and Buddha.

Critical thinking is fundamental to smart decision-making. It’s in short supply … and getting shorter all the time.

Be the genuine you
All the personal branding hype has turned people into Internet avatars: social-media sound bites that are nothing more than two-dimensional fabrications of how they want others to see them. The problem is you’ll never get anywhere by trying to be something you’re not.

It’s never been more challenging or more important to be the genuine you, to possess the humility and self-awareness to realize that you’re not who you hold yourself out to be, you don’t have all the answers, and calling yourself an entrepreneur or a CEO doesn’t make you one.

In a world of indistinguishable lemmings, where everyone imagines they’re unique while behaving exactly like everyone else, the true innovators will be those who possess the courage to know who they really are and become the best version of themselves that they can be.

No matter how much the world changes, your personal journey is the one that will matter most. Keep it real.

Link to read the original article

C OK

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5 Surprising Ways Writing Makes Your Life Better

Want to have a clearer head, a more engaged workday, and get wiser faster?  Then you might want to write this down…

BY 

What are we “putting down” when we “put it down on paper”: a current of thought, a torrent of emotions, the first incisions of a decision? Flannery O’Connor said that she writes in order to discover what she knows. And as research into writing shows, the act of tracing your thoughts across a page can make you more productive, more emotionally aware, and a less irrational decision maker.

Here’s why.

1. WRITING CLEARS THE CLUTTER FROM YOUR MIND

Getting Things Done author and TED speaker David Allen emphasizes that your mind is for processing, not for storage. Storage of information, after all, can be outsourced in any number of ways, including writing down your to-do list on a pad of paper. The insight underlying this is that attention is a finite resource, one that gets depletedover the course of a day. So if you’re walking around thinking about what you need to do next–rather than thinking about how you’re getting to get it done–you’re misspending your neurotransmitters.

2. WRITING LETS YOU MAKE A BANK OF KNOWLEDGE

Productive people take better notes: if somebody is dropping knowledge on you, writing down what they say allows you to commit your attention to next insight–rather than trying to remember the last one. Like the Chinese proverb says, you can trust the faintest of ink more than the strongest of memories.

As you take more and more notes on awesome things said and read, you can amass an awesome bank of knowledge. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

3. WRITING HELPS YOU SEE YOUR OWN GROWTH

Journaling in particular helps you see how you have grown. Harvard Business School research director Teresa Amabile has discovered that people feel more engaged, more productive, and have a greater sense of meaning in their work when they record even the most miniscule of accomplishments within their days. She calls this the Progress Principle: the more you’re aware of your progress, the more involved you’ll feel in making it continue to grow–another reason to make a ritual of writing about what’s happened.

4. WRITING HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR LIFE

University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker has found that writing about their lives helps people to organize their thoughts and find meaning in their traumatic experiences–from people diagnosed with HIV to Vietnam veterans. This is crucial, since the more meaning you find in your difficulties, research shows, the more resilient you’ll be in over-coming them, which reminds us of how the happiest people often have the hardest jobs.

5. WRITING HELPS YOU BECOME MORE WISE

The last reason to write about life: it helps you study your emotions, which makes you wiser, faster.

“What we construct as wisdom over time is actually the result of cultivating that knowledge of how our emotions behaved,” says USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, “and what we learn from them.”

This reinforces Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s recommended first step for making better decisions: buy a notebook.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: bloody marty mix via photopin cc

7 Ways to Find out What You Really Want in Life

…If you don’t know what you really want in life, you’re not alone. Thousands, if not millions, of people wander the earth every day without a quest. If you don’t want to spend your life wandering aimlessly, you can use the following 7 tips to find out exactly what you want in life.

Be selfish

You can’t pinpoint exactly what you want in life if you’re constantly sacrificing your time and dreams for other people. You have to put yourself first. Ask yourself: If you weren’t tied down by your job, family, friends, or anything else, then what would you be doing right now? Always remember that it’s okay to put yourself first, because if you don’t, then no one else will.

Regret nothing

Don’t feel bad for being selfish. It’s your life. It’s time for you to live it exactly the way you want to. If you constantly regret things you did or didn’t do in the past, then you won’t be able to move forward. Don’t live in the past. Live in the present…and the future!

Figure out what you need

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you need. Sit down and think about what you need the most. Is it your family? The freedom to express yourself? Love? Financial security? Something else? If it helps, you can make a list of priorities. Also think about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Determine what really bothers you

You can soar only by pushing back against something you don’t want. Figure out what upsets you, and be specific about it. Don’t just say that you hate your office job. Pinpoint exactly why you hate it. Could it be your micromanaging boss? Your workload? Your meaningless job title? Or all of the above? What bothers you, and how can you fix it? How much do you want to fix it?

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

Determine what makes you truly happy

There’s no waste to life if you’re happy living it. Your happiness is the root of your desires. So take a few moments and really think about what makes you happy. Is it traveling? Being around children? Owning a successful business? Your significant other? Financial freedom? Once you pinpoint the one thing that makes you happy the most, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what you should strive for in your life.

Let people around you know what you’re trying to achieve

Don’t keep your goals and desires to yourself. Voice it all out! If you tell people what you’re trying to accomplish, they will most likely support you and give you new ideas. Sometimes mother does know best!

Stay positive.

Life doesn’t always go how you want it. Don’t feel dismay as your plans stray. Take control. Instead of freaking out, try your best to roll with the changes. You will get there someday. You’re just taking a little detour. Sometimes a positive attitude is all you need to keep going.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

Creating A Great Place To Work

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

It’s become almost an industry itself – judging organizational culture and creating lists of great places to work. The most recent I’ve read is fromGlassdoor, as reported in FAST Company Online this morning. The findings and lists are worth reading, but perhaps not surprisingly, I want to talk about how we as leaders can impact these ratings.

So let’s do exactly that.

Quoting from the article, here are the top six themes, Glassdoor found from the top rated companies:

  • Mission: a sense of purpose in coming into work
  • Collegiality: working with awesome people
  • Challenging work: being stimulated by the work to be done
  • Meaningful advancement: the promise of growth
  • Confidence in senior leaders: a sense of trust–and transparency–with management
  • Perks: good pay, free food, a beer cart or two.

Read this list with your leadership hat on and you will see that if you are a senior leader, you have impact on all six. More importantly though is the message if you are leaders from somewhere else. Whether you lead from the shop floor, the phone room, or any middle to upper middle level, you can directly impact the first four, and influence the fifth one, from your perspective as a manager, too.

Read this list as an employee, and my guess is that is your list, too – attributes describing where you want to work.

So your job as a leader, if you want to create a great place to work (and why wouldn’t you?), is to focus on:

  • Giving people (and helping them see) the purpose in working in your organization. Help people see the biggest and most powerful picture for their work.
  • Selecting and cultivating a great team of people that others want to work with.
  • Creating challenging and stimulating work for all team members
  • Leading for growth, so there will be opportunities for people to grow their roles and contributions moving forward.
  • Being trustworthy and offering greater trust to your team members.

I know that this list isn’t simple, yet all of these are things that you can do regardless of your organizational level. To not focus on these is to deny your ability to make the difference you were hired to make.

My message?

As a leader, stop wishing you could have a better workplace. Start creating it today. The steps are clear and in front of you, and they are yours for the taking.

Greater results, higher productivity, less turnover, more job satisfaction, and more fun await.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: daveypea via photopin cc

How Positive Psychology Can Help Your Organisation

Leslie Sachs writes…

Positive psychology is providing a new focus on effective ways to ensure that teams exhibit the right behaviors in a group or organizational setting. Closely related to many agile and lean concepts, these emerging practices are helping teams to improve communication, collaborate, and emerge as highly effective groups. Leslie Sachs explains what positive psychology is all about and how to start using these practices in your organisation…

If you want an effective and healthy organization, then it seems obvious that it is essential to focus on promoting healthy organizational behavior. Psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have pioneered a new focus on a positive view of psychology, and this article will help you to understand and begin to apply these exciting and very effective techniques…

Seligman delineates twenty-four strengths, ranging from curiosity and interest in the world to zest, passion, and enthusiasm, which he suggests are the fundamental traits of a positive and effective individual. Notably, playfulness and humor, along with valor, bravery, and a sense of justice, are also listed among these traits that Seligman describes. So, how do we apply this knowledge to the workplace and how can we use this information to be more effective managers? The fact is that we all know people whom we admire and we have all had more than a few employers who seemed less than completely effective.

Effective leaders do indeed exhibit valor, bravery, and a sense of justice in identifying barriers to organizational success. The best leaders are not afraid to deliver a tough message and also use their positional power to help teams achieve success. Leaders are often particularly motivated by curiosity, interested in the world, and most certainly exhibit enthusiasm and passion for their work.

Other traits observed in strong leaders include kindness and generosity, along with integrity and honesty. Successful leaders also exhibit perseverance and diligence as well as a love of learning. It hardly comes as a surprise that so many of these strengths are specified as beneficial traits. In fact, many of these aspects have been discussed earlier by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers in their work on humanistic psychology, a discipline that focuses on helping people achieve success and realize their full potential.

Positive psychology is providing a useful framework for understanding the traits that lead to success, both at an organizational level and also for each of us individually. Much of what positive psychology advocates aligns well with agile methodologies and the agile mindset in which many organizations are finding to be so effective, especially in creating an environment where each stakeholder feels empowered to do the right thing and speak up when there are problems or barriers to success.

Quality management guru W. Edwards Deming noted long ago the importance of healthy behaviors, such as driving out fear, in order to ensure that your employees are willing to speak up and warn of potential issues [4]. Clearly, positive behaviors lead to highly effective teams and successful organizations.

Positive psychology cannot solve every problem and there is no doubt that many organizations have cultures and environments that just do not foster success. However, if you are a technical leader (or wish to emerge as a technical leader), then understanding the significance and impact potential of encouraging positive traits is essential for your success….

Link to read the original article

adapted from photo credit: qthomasbower via photopin cc

adapted image from photo credit: qthomasbower via photopin cc

Get Your Free VIA Me! Character Strengths Profile

Here is a link to a great online site where you can find out the ranked order of your own 24 character strengths, mentioned in the above article.  Your top 5 strengths are recognised as your Signature Strengths and here is Martin Seligman’s activity that helps us to hugely increase our level of engagement and happiness at work, and thus our success and productivity, using the power of our Signature Strengths:

Playing To Your Strengths

A.) Identify your top 5 Signature Strengths

B.) Over the next week create a designated time in your schedule when you will exercise one or more of your signature strengths in a new way at work.  Decide what you will do for this.

C.) Write about your experience…

How did it feel before, during and after engaging in the activity?

  • Was the activity challenging? easy?
  • Did time pass quickly?
  • Did you lose your sense of self-consciousness?

What plans can you make to help you repeat, develop or build on this experience?

Link to get your Via Me! Character Strengths Profile

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

How to beat the female leadership stereotypes

Mother or seductress, pet or battle-axe: 30 years after research first identified these roles we’re still living by them

by Judith Baxterprofessor of applied linguistics at Aston University. She researches the relationship between language, gender and leadership in educational, business and professional contexts.

recent Gallup poll states that if given the choice between a male or female boss when taking a new job, Americans strongly lean towards men as their preferred choice. The figures highlight that issues with female authority have not gone away. The stereotype of the “horrible female boss” persists because expectations for women in power are set so high that it’s nearly impossible for any human being to meet them.

 The explanation is usually psychological: both women and men unconsciously view men as leaders and women as followers, so that when a woman is promoted to senior leadership, she disrupts unconscious collective norms.

Yet this unconscious bias must emanate from somewhere, and I suggest that this “somewhere” is rooted in the language we use to represent women and men.

 We have been raised in a culture that has historically constructed successful leaders as male. The “great man” theory of leadership prevails in the western world heralding male leaders as heroic, charismatic, commanding, competitive, creative, cut-throat, masterful, and sometimes just plain quirky. Think Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, even Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

 There is simply no room for women to fit into masculine archetypes of leadership. Female leaders are seen as the exception and often as socially and professionally deviant. Consequently, women get pigeonholed and labelled by narrow and limiting language. They become caricatures.

 In 1983, American businesswoman Rosabeth Moss Kanter famously identified four “role traps” for women in the public domain: the pet, the mother, the battle-axe and the seductress. Today, if you look at the way women are represented in the media, these role traps heavily influence the way we see female leaders.

 A woman falling into the pet role-trap is viewed as cute, sweet or girly. We all like her, she may be a favourite of the boss, but ultimately she is not seen as serious. Think Tory MP Louise Mensch, famously the pet of David Cameron before she fell from grace. A pet will rarely make it to the top of her chosen field.

 The mother or schoolmistress is perhaps the most traditional leader role-trap. She is routinely described as school marmy, bossy, frumpy or mumsy. Think Fern Britton before her makeover on Strictly Come Dancing. The mother may command authority and respect but her manner is characterised as too arch, parental or humourless for serious leadership positions.

 The seductress is disliked by both men and women, and gets described as a bitch, witch, cow, vamp or man-eater. Think MP Nadine Dorries or presenter Carol Vorderman. She eats men for breakfast and no boyfriend or husband is deemed safe. If she flirts with senior men, her behaviour is condemned as inappropriate, unprofessional, distracting and misjudged.

 Finally, the most opprobrium is reserved for a woman who falls into the battle-axe role-trap. She has historical form in the tradition of Lady Macbeth or more recently, Margaret Thatcher. She is caricatured as scary, tough, mean, bossy, or just like a man. While she patently can make it to the top, she is then viewed as “a horrible female boss”, although her reputation may be redeemed over time.

 Can female leaders escape from these role-traps? Research I conducted in 14 multinational businesses compared seven women and seven male board directors chairing meetings with their senior teams. One notable finding from the research was that colleagues represented women leaders in stereotyped ways using words such as “scary”, “tentative”, “flirty” or “bossy”. However, in my own observations, I saw senior women refusing to be entrapped by such monolithic stereotypes but rather, turning them to their advantage to be effective in the workplace.

 I saw women leaders move skilfully between the four roles, using them as resources to draw on to achieve different business and political goals. Recent media representations of Angela Merkel, known by the Germans as “the Mother”, depict her moving flexibly between the iron-fisted chancellor and the charming token female bantering with male heads of state.

 But it is a dangerous game. Ultimately the fact that such role-traps continue to thrive in our collective unconscious, and are daily reconstructed in media representations, is a barrier for women. Now we have to ensure that such media representations are challenged, and to create multifaceted leadership archetypes for both women and men.

Link to read the original article

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The History of the To-Do List (And How To Make It More Effective)

BELLE BETH COOPERY writes…

…As I researched this post, I realised how hard it is to pinpoint the origin of something as simple and widespread as the list (to-do or otherwise), but I did find out some interesting stories about how lists have been used in the past and why we find them useful in everyday life.

Why Do We Make Lists in the First Place?

Philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco is a big fan of lists and has some fascinating ideas about why they’re so important to humans:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists…

Umberto explained in an interview that lists are often seen as relics of primitive cultures — simplistic devices that don’t belong in our modern day and age. However, the simple form of the list prevails again and again over time, because, as Umberto says, it has “an irresistible magic.”

When we struggle to express ourselves, we use lists. Like Umberto says, lists help us to make sense of the world around us. We create lists of the sights we see on vacation, the places we want to visit, the food we need to buy at the grocery store, and the tasks we need to get done. It’s a simple habit of increasing our day to day productivity. We pack all the madness and ambiguity of life into a structured form of writing. In short making lists is a great way to increase our overall happiness and feel less overwhelmed.

Not only that, but we also form and challenge definitions of the things around us by making lists of their characteristics. For instance, if we were to describe an animal to a child, we would do so by listing characteristics like colour, size, diet and habitat. Regardless of whether this matches the scientific definition of the animal or not, that’s how we make sense of it.

Benjamin Franklin, the Godfather of the To-Do List?

Benjamin Franklin is a great example of someone known for using lists to encourage his own self-improvement. He famously detailed a thirteen-week plan to practice important virtues such as cleanliness, temperance, etc. Each day he tracked his progress on a chart.

Benjamin also set himself a strict daily routine, which included time for sleeping, meals and working, all set for specific times of the day. Unfortuantely, the demands of his printing business made it difficult for him to always stick to his routine.

Lists for Productivity

These days, we use lists for productivity as much as anything else: shopping lists, reminders, planning for events, and the to-do list are all variations on a productivity-based list that we use to help us get past procrastinating. The to-do list in particular is one that we spend a lot of time and energy on perfecting. Somehow, we don’t seem to struggle when it comes to making a shopping list and buying everything on it, but getting the tasks on our to-do list done is a whole other ball game.

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4 Tips for a To-Do List That Will Actually Help You Get Things Done

Looking at the history of lists and how they’re used, we can glean some insights about how to create a to-do list we can actually complete.

Break Projects into Tasks and Don’t Succumb to the Zeigarnik Effect

We kind of have a reminder system built-in to our minds that nags us about unfinished tasks called the Zeigarnik effect. It sounds pretty cool that we already have this, but it’s actually not that reliable or healthy for us.

What really happens is that there’s a disconnect between our conscious and unconscious minds — the unconscious mind can’t plan how to finish the task, but it gets annoyed with the feeling of it being unfinished. To shake off that feeling, it nags the conscious mind with reminders about the task — not to finish it, but simply to encourage us to make a plan.

If you’ve heard of David Allen’s GTD method, you’ll be familiar with his concept of “next steps,” which is pretty much the same thing. It’s the process of breaking down a project or task into smaller tasks, and planning which one will be the next step towards completing the whole thing. This abates the nagging of the unconscious brain, as it’s satisfied that at some point we’ll get onto that task, and we know exactly how we’ll do it. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings says the essentials of creating these do-able next steps are to make “a few very specific, aactionalbe, non-conflicting items.”

Prioritise Ruthlessly

Maria’s post on the history of the to-do list also describes the story of a psychologist who gave a talk at the Pentagon about managing time and resources. Before the talk began, the psychologist asked everyone in the group to write a summary of their strategic approach in 25 words. Apparently, 25 words was too little for the men to express their strategies, and the only response came from the single woman in the group, whose summary read as follows:

“First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.”

…To-do lists invariably crop up when we have so many things to do that we can’t keep track of them all in our heads (Aha! We’re back to Umberto’s thoughts on how lists help us to create order from the chaos of our lives!). Which means that we end up with lists far too long for us to complete. Prioritizing ruthlessly seems to be the only way to actually get done what’s most important in the little time that we have.

Plan Ahead

Here’s another story of how to-do lists evolved in the workplace:

Almost 100 years ago, the President of the Bethlehem Steel company in the USA was Charles M Schwab. His company was struggling with inefficiency and Schwab didn’t know how to improve it, so he called in Ivy Lee, a well-known efficiency expert at the time. Lee agreed to help the company, with his fee being whatever Schwab felt the results were worth after three months. Lee’s advice to each member of the company’s management team was to write a to-do list at the end of each day, which consisted of the six most important tasks to be done the following day. Then they were told to organise the list based on the highest priority tasks.

The next day, the employes worked through the list from top to bottom, focusing on a single task at a time. At the end of the day, anything left on the list would get added to the top of tomorrow’s list when the employees once again planned for the following day. As the story goes, the company was so much more efficient after three months that Schwab sent a check to Lee for $US25,000.

In your own planning, you can take Lee’s advice for free and use the night before to plan your workday. Setting out the most important tasks you want to complete the following day will help you to avoid time-wasters and distractions by knowing what to work on immediately.

Be Realistic

…If we’re struggling to complete our to-do lists on a regular basis (we’ve all been there at some point!), we need to make a change to the list — make it more realistic. Although a to-do list can be infinite, our time is not. We need to match the tasks we require of ourselves to how much time and energy we can afford to spend on them. This is where prioritizing can really come in handy, as well.

Starting to develop your own, personal daily routine is one of the most powerful ways to become a great list maker. You might find some inspiration from these 7 famous entrepreneurs and their routines.

Find a Way That Works for You

As with pretty much any kind of lifehacking or productivity topic, individual mileage will vary. We all need to take into account our unique situation when experimenting with advice like this. For me, prioritizing and planning the night before has really helped. For you, being realistic might be more useful…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

The 5 Best and Worst Things About Working from Home

For those trapped in a cubicle or an open plan office, working from home may sound like pyjama-clad heaven.  But there are two sides to every coin.  Here the trials and triumphs of the home office…

Is working from home a blessing, or a curse?

That’s what we wanted to find out last week. So we put out a call on Facebook and Twitter asking for your input. Many of you, after all, have experienced both sides of the coin.

The results came streaming in and after just a few days we received over 100 detailed–and passionate–responses.

Below, we’ve singled out some of the most common positives, and negatives that you have found. We’ve also listed respondents’ Twitter handles so you can continue the conversation!

The Good:

1. FREEDOM

My rules. My way. My pace. My goals.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to me that I’m working for something I personally care about in a creative manner. When I create I get messy and my bosses usually were too psycho-rigid… @Alan_RY

Freedom to use your time as you see best fit, and working only as much as you need to. @nagra__

2. THE AMENITIES

Sitting on my patio on a warm summer’s day with Wimbledon on my iPad in the background whilst I worked! @thewheelexists

3. BEING CLOSE TO LOVED ONES

My grandparents and I live in the same apartment building. Being at home working gives me the chance to just drop by to share a meal together or even sometimes cook for them. I would not trade those precious moments for a job that pays me enough to buy a Porsche. @Alan_RY

No question–being near my family. For eight years I worked more than an hour away from home, so there were many early mornings and late nights. Working from home, I am able to help around the house and experience life with my family–like watching my daughter take her first steps. @trent_scott

4. WORK HOW YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT

The greatest benefit from working from home is the ability to work on any project at any time. You can start your day early or late and finish when you like. You have the flexibility to plan your day and include your errands and be there for others. @imediaexposure

I’ve worked in offices for about 40 years. I was recently hired in a great job working from home. It took me a while to not to worry about ‘looking busy’ during slow periods. No one is watching and judging! What freedom that is!@lmpratscher

5. NO COMMUTE

No commute during Chicago winters, no office politics except when one of my dogs decides he no longer likes the other, being able to take a guilt-free break whenever I want and having complete control over my environment–noise, temp, decor/aesthetics, etc. @ResuMAYDAY

I save a lot of money on the days I work from home. Not having to spend money on buying lunch or a subway ticket or gas is a HUGE benefit.@jaiathomaslaw

My morning commute now consists of walking from the bedroom to the office, which has saved me gas money, and there’s no line for my morning cup of coffee. @salesbuddy

The Bad:

1. THE STIGMA

Dealing with managers (and CEOs) who are set in the antiquated way of thinking that if they can’t see you, you can’t possibly be doing work.@jaynawallace

2. NO BOUNDARIES

When I have relatives over while I’m working, it’s hard for me to say: Sorry, I’m busy now… but they just take my presence and open door as an invitation to just talk to me openly without my consent. I’m an introvert, I hate when my thoughts are interrupted! @Alan_RY

Sitting down at your computer as soon as you roll out of bed only to realize upon opening the door to the courier at 4 p.m. that you are still in your bathrobe and have not eaten lunch. And possibly not brushed your teeth. Not sure if that’s the best or the worst thing about working from home: high on productivity but low on the social health scale.@aromacentric

Friends and family think that when you’re working from home, you’re available to help with other things. While this has gotten better over time for many people, I still get occasional lists of things that I don’t have time for through the day.

3. ISOLATION

Loneliness and inability to work face-to-face with others to talk creatively, bounce ideas, etc. Distractions are plentiful, so it’s always a challenge to avoid them. @LouMongello

There are moments of loneliness. That deck I’m working on, the copy I just wrote; while I can email it to a friend or co-worker there’s no one in person to sit and review/collaborate/iterate with me on it. I can’t exactly have my dog review it. The companionship that you get by going into an office and developing live relationships is something that I miss. @icyfrance

4. THE DISTRACTION

The worst is definitely having friends and neighbors think that because I’m home, we can “hang out”, get coffee, go run errands, or the flatmate who thinks that because I’m home, it’s not an issue to expect, rather than ask, me to walk her dog twice a day, because I’m home anyway, when I actually have work to do or calls to make.
@michelejmartin

Sticking to a schedule is the hardest because there a tons of distractions while at the same time not being “watched over” gives my lazy side more temptation. Inconsiderate friends and relatives and who assume you don’t really work and call you out to help them move or pick them up from the airport. @Kapilbulsara

Very little intellectual mind stimulating discussion with like minded work colleagues–really miss that! @Kapilbulsara

5. STAGNATION

Sitting too much, which is very bad for my health. I know I need to get up and walk (run, dance) around more, but I get into what I’m doing on the computer and forget. @escapeartist02

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

How To Boost Your Self-Confidence After Failure

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s nothing like good old-fashioned failure to send your self-confidence into a nose dive.

I’m not talking about the little flubs and foibles of life.

I’m talking big, fat, fall-on-your-face failure.

Failure like . . .

getting fired from your job;

loosing a major account;

flunking the final exam;

forgetting your big speech;

your business going belly-up;

your marriage ending;

not following through on a major goal;

making poor life choices that hurt yourself or others.

If you’ve experienced a major life failure, as most of us have, the memory of the experience likely still stings. And perhaps your self-confidence has never fully recovered from the blow.

When you fail to live up to expectations, your own or others, it’s like stepping into an open manhole and landing in the pit of despair. At first you simply want to huddle at the bottom and pray someone will cover the manhole and leave you with your misery.

But eventually you must face the light of day and find a way to resume your life and regain your dignity. After a big life failure, it’s natural to feel shell-shocked and insecure. Your weakness, inability to perform, or bad decisions have been spotlighted for the entire world to see. It seems nothing will boost your self-confidence ever again.

For some people, the wounds of these fiascoes are so profound they never recover their confidence. Their self-esteem is compromised, and they sink into malaise or depression which further undermines their feelings of worthiness and competency.  This becomes a vicious cycle driving them further and further away from success and happiness.

Fortunately, most people eventually recover from life failures and can move past them. But the scars are ever-present and flair up again when one is faced with the prospect of taking risk or attempting any endeavor similar to the previous failure. They live a compromised life, never fully reaching their potential or experiencing the richness of life for fear of failing again.

However, low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence, even after a colossal bungle. It is possible to boost your self-confidence and recover more quickly from failure when you are determined to do so — if you know how.

Here are some thoughts on building confidence and self-esteem after the initial shock of failure passes.

Pick over the ashes

Once you are back on your feet, revisit the failure to find nuggets of information and areas of personal growth. What did you learn from this failure to help you become a stronger and better person in the future? What would you do differently? How do you need to make amends, right a wrong, or correct a mistake?

It’s not pleasant to look at the evidence of your failure, but this analysis and reflection show emotional maturity and resolve. Facing your failure forthrightly and learning from it will boost self-confidence immediately.

Put it in context

A big failure does not define your entire life. It may feel that way at first, but try to perceive it within the context of everything else in your life. You’ve had plenty of successes. You’ve accomplished many things and done well in many areas of your life.

The pain of failure taints your perceptions and paints your life with the broad brushstroke of negativity. But consciously regain control of your perceptions, and remind yourself of these positive things. Remind yourself that failure doesn’t define your essential character, your intelligence, or your future.

You likely will need to practice this positive thinking repeatedly until you begin to believe it and feel confident again. But eventually your feelings will catch up to your thoughts.

Build your skills

One of the best cures for low confidence is gaining mastery or proficiency in areas where you failed. If your failure was caused by lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of skill — then figure out what you need to do to gain the preparation, knowledge or skill — and go do it.

With practice and time, you will feel more confident in your abilities. As you study other people who are successful at the endeavor you are polishing, you’ll set a standard for yourself which will make you feel more secure about the likelihood of success the next time.

Cut your losses

Sometimes failure is a painful clue we’re doing the wrong thing, with the wrong person, or working against our authentic selves. This is a great time to examine whether or not you need to move in a different direction entirely.

Ask yourself the deeper questions that will lead you to the best decisions and choices.

Is this the career I really want?

Are these the people who feel like my “tribe?”

Am I really suited for a management position?

Is my former spouse (or business partner) really the right type of person for me?

Taking the time to know yourself, your inner desires, your aptitudes and preferences, will help you avoid future failures. In general, it is best to play to your strengths, live according to your own values, and follow your inner wisdom — rather trying to be something or someone you’re not.

Face your fears

Once your self-confidence has a small foothold, begin taking small and manageable steps to stretch yourself, to try again. Act in spite of your fear of failure, which will not truly dissipate until you challenge it.

Use what you learned from your failure to help you recalibrate, and then get back in the saddle again and take a few steps forward. Push yourself slightly past your comfort zone every time you try. This is a great time to have an accountability partner or coach who can help you continue to move forward by challenging and supporting you.

Lean into your fear and accept it as a natural response to the aftermath of failure. But don’t allow it to control you. If you allow fear to have the upper hand, your self-confidence will remain harnessed to it. View your fear as a small child that needs comfort, but one that also needs a firm hand and mature direction. Let your higher self, the self who knows you to be strong and capable, be in charge.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

Manage Your Email, Manage Your Life—3 Ways to Get Started

by , a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance, productivity, and self-leadership

What is one of the biggest time wasters leaders deal with on a regular basis? For many, it is the daily barrage of email. How much email do you send and receive each day? How much time is spent reading, writing, or responding to email? Here’s some practical advice for managing your email instead of letting it manage you.

This advice falls into three basic categories: Reduce the amount of email you send and receive, Send clear, concise messages, and Keep your inbox clean

Reduce the Amount

Sure, it sounds easy enough, but how do you do it? Believe it or not, the easiest way to reduce the amount of email you receive is to send less. The less email you send, the less you receive. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:

  • Pick up the phone. When you expect a conversation, don’t use email. Pick up the phone or get up and go talk to the person.
  • Use cc: and Reply All sparingly. Only copy or reply to people who really need the information.
  • Use No Reply Needed in the subject line or in your signature. Too many emails are sent just to say thanks or to let the sender know their email was received. If you don’t need someone to reply, let them know in a prominent spot.
  • Create an alternate email address for junk mail. Create an email account to give out to people or companies you don’t need to interact with on a daily basis. Once a month, go to that account and do a quick scan to see if there’s anything you need to read or act on.

Send Clear, Concise Messages

Clear, concise messaging can dramatically cut down on the time we spend on email. Consider the following:

  • Use descriptive subject lines. Help readers know the intent of your email in the subject line.
  • Put required action in first paragraph. For example, you might type Approval needed,Information Only, or Need Help Immediately to let the receiver know what you expect.
  • Only send email that’s okay to forward. If you wouldn’t want the message to be sent to others, use the phone or communicate face to face. It also helps to go with the assumption that your email will be permanently stored.

Keep Your Inbox Clean

Manage your email so your inbox stays empty. A full inbox is a major time waster.  To keep your inbox clean, each time you open an item for the first time, do one of three things with it:

  • Act on it. To act on an email, you can:  handle it immediately; delegate it by forwarding it to another person; schedule it as a task for later; or schedule it as an appointment in your calendar. Once you have acted on it, either file it for later or delete it.
  • File it. If you think you may need the email later, put it into a specific folder for that client, project, or individual. Consider saving attachments and deleting the email. If you are unsure whether you will need it later, create a 30- or 60-day Hold folder for items you might need to go back to. Periodically clean up this folder or simply set it up to automatically delete mail older than 30 to 60 days. If necessary, make a note on your to-do list or calendar to remind you where you filed the email.
  • Delete it. If you don’t need the email after you’ve read or scanned it, simply delete it.

I hope you find one or more of these ideas for managing your email helpful in the New Year. Let me know any other best practices you use to manage your email.

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

How To Fight Afternoon Exhaustion Without Coffee

…It can be hard keeping up with your work when you’re feeling tired, and sugary foods and energy drinks just leave you feeling groggier when they wear off.

The best solution is to try some of the many natural, healthy ways to fight midday exhaustion.

Get your Blood Pumping

You’re most likely spending a large part of your day sitting and working at your desk without much variation. This relaxed, steady state can lull your body and mind into relaxation and make it even harder to stay awake.

Whenever you’re feeling especially tired, start by taking a few minutes to get up out of your chair and get your blood pumping by doing some simple, easy workouts. Exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even some light, full-body stretches will help you wake up.

Just getting up and moving a little bit will help to keep you alert throughout the day.

Use Aromatherapy

Smell is one of our most powerful senses, and we can use it for everything from recalling powerful memories to staying awake during a long, tiring day.

Bright, strong scents like eucalyptus and peppermint can be a great pick-me-up in place of that second cup of coffee. Try getting a few essential oils to keep around, but use them only when you’re feeling tired or else you risk getting used to the scent.

The smell of fresh herbs like rosemary can also be useful in staying alert.

Drink Green Tea

If you’ve tried other methods already and still find that you need caffeine to make it through the day, green tea is a great alternative to coffee.

Green tea contains a smaller dose of caffeine when compared to coffee, but it might be the perfect amount to help give you that energy boost without the extra sugar or the jittering that can come along with coffee.

Green tea also has no calories, is a great source of antioxidants and alkaloids, and contains vitamins like A, D, B and B5. It’s also quick and easy to brew.

Healthy Smoothies

Smoothies packed with healthy, high energy ingredients like almond milk and protein powder can give your body the energy it needs to keep going. They also have the benefit of being cold and refreshing, so you’ll feel more alert from the first sip.

You can make your smoothies using whatever fruits you like, or you can even make them using vegetables like spinach or avocados for a super healthy variation.

Snack Right

Snacking is a good way to stay awake, but candy and heavy, starchy foods like potato chips will just make you more tired. Foods high in protein are the fuel your body needs to provide consistent, lasting power throughout a long day.

Try snacking on a mix of lightly salted nuts with raisins or dried apricots to give you a boost while staying healthy.

Listen to Something Engaging

It can be easy to zone out when you’re very focused on one single task. By providing a little background noise, you’ll be giving yourself some much needed variation and helping to keep your brain active.

Listening to podcasts or audiobooks can be a great way to stay awake. The conversational nature of these things requires more concentration, making for a more engaging and energizing experience.

If your work requires more focus from you, though, listening to music is another good option. Listen to any of your favorite songs that get you energized, but instead of cranking the volume up, listen to them quietly so your brain stays active and works to pay attention.

Turn up the Lights and Open the Windows

Dark, dreary offices will immediately put you in the mood to go to sleep instead of doing any work. Open the blinds or turn on all the lights to help stay alert and convince your brain that it’s the middle of the day and not time for sleep yet.

Fresh air can be another great way to perk up your senses, so open a window if you can.

Consider a Short Nap

If you’ve tried everything else and you just can’t shake that feeling of lethargy, consider taking a short nap during your lunch break.

The key to productive napping is to set an alarm and sleep for only 15 to 20 minutes. This time frame gives you the perfect amount of rest so you’ll wake up feeling more alert and revitalized.

If you sleep longer, you’ll not only take more time out of the day, but you’ll have a higher chance of waking up during your deep sleep cycle and end up even groggier.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

4 Things To Avoid for a Good Night’s Sleep

By 

Good sleep can mean the difference between crazy and sane the next day… Between crying between meetings at work or lashing out at your husband over laundry and a semi-functional person who can fake it enough to keep her marriage and her job intact.

It’s one of the members of my holy trinity of good mental health (along with a good diet and regular exercise).

Over the ages, sleep and depression have proved to have a dysfunctional, angry relationship…

But getting your zzzzs is a tad like a chess game: do I get up, don’t I? Do I check my email? No? Do I count sheep? Will those vicious animals keep me up? I had been engaged in a list of bad behaviors until I read “Quiet Your Mind & Get to Sleep” and set myself straight.

Don’t Do These 4 Things to Try & Sleep

Here are just four things you should avoid to hit the sheets and stay there:

1. Stay in bed when you can’t sleep.

Despite sometimes-conflicting advice, it is important to leave the bed when you find yourself awake. Leave the bed within 15 to 20 minutes of waking up or when you realize you won’t be able to fall back asleep.

If you are upset about anything, leave the room. That action sends the message to your brain that there is a separation between the place of rest, which is your bed, and feelings of being awake. Although it seems counterintuitive, it is recommended that you stay out of your room until you feel like you can sleep.

By continuing this behavior night after night, you are strengthening the connection between sleeping and your bed.

2. Watch the clock.

For some people, watching the clock feels like counting sheep, or, in my case, praying the rosary; however, this activity can be very arousing, making it that much more difficult to nod off again. We are programmed to live by the clock, allowing it to direct our actions throughout the day.

However, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it is better to base your decision strictly on how you feel.

3. Doing arousing activities in bed.

Falling asleep with the laptop in hand not only will keep you awake, but will give you bad work nightmares. So will bringing a carton of ice cream to bed. You’ll dream about a big cow coming after you.

Other activities to be avoided: listening to music, texting or talking on the phone, smoking cigarettes, watching television, planning your day, working, and paying bills. The bed should be for sleeping and sex. That’s it. Again, by establishing the connection between your bed and sleeping, you are conditioning your body and mind to sleep.

4. Try to sleep.

If you breathe and eat, there has most likely been a time in your life when you have tried your best to nod off. The primary difference between good sleepers and bad sleepers is that the latter group tries to sleep, while the former group doesn’t have to. There are a few ways you can condition your minds not to try so hard:

  • Go to bed at a normal bedtime, no earlier.
  • Do not linger in bed after the alarm goes off.
  • Do not nap.
  • Do not stay in bed when you can’t sleep.
  • Challenge catastrophic thoughts about sleep with true statements such as: “It’s okay to be awake; it’ll pass. I’ve survived it before.” Or “I can be at peace while awake during the night.”

It’s best to keep in mind a famous study from the 1980s, where a group of subjects were told to think about anything but a white bear. The results: they all thought about a white bear.

Link to read the original article

5 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Position

Jobsearch advice by WILL THOMSON

As a recruiter, I encounter candidates in different stages of their job search. I talk to people who haven’t looked for a job in years, and I also who talk to people who change jobs regularly. It could be personal preference/choice, or it could or it could be necessity. If you work for the State, you may never change jobs. If you are a recruiter, you may change jobs every 18 months because you have to go where the hiring is hot. If you are a Java Developer, you need to keep your skills sharp in a rapidly changing technology world. You may need to change jobs to learn new things just to keep up, and keep your skillset relevant.

The other day, a candidate fell into the bucket where she did not change jobs very often and felt very uncomfortable with the whole negotiation process. Before you say “Yes” to an offer, you need to talk about the basics such as 401k, Benefits, Time off, etc. Here are 5 things that you may have not thought of that are important questions to ask before you accept an offer.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE ACCEPTING A POSITION

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF ME AS AN EMPLOYEE?

This sounds so basic! What happens often is that an employer will expect much more than you can give. You have made it through the process and they want you. Great. Do you want them? So- you CAN do the job. So what?! Do you have the time to do what is expected of you on a day- to- day basis. If the manager wants you to work until the job is done and you have a family that needs to be fed at 6 PM, is this going to work? No!

WHAT IS YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE?

Double & triple check this one. This should have been covered, but make sure that how they manage is how you want to be managed. Some people may need constant guidance. Some people may need to be left completely alone. Some people are very detail oriented, others may not be. Who are you? Can you work with this person? Different styles CAN complement each other and bring out the best in both, or it can be a disastrous situation.

WHAT DO YOU FORESEE THIS DEPARTMENT LOOKING LIKE IN A YEAR?

So, they are going to ask you what you want to do in 5 years. Why don’t you flip the question right back on them? If you are going to be in sales, what exciting things are coming to the company that could help you in your sales efforts? This is two sided! Find out as much about what the future holds as what today holds.

TELL ME ABOUT PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN PROMOTED?

If you are joining a company and you want to make more money in the future, how realistic is that at this company? Are you getting hired for $50k and will you make $50K the entire time you work here? Is that okay with you? It may be, but it may not align with your goals. You may get frustrated because there is no upward mobility. Do people move up within the company or is it a place where there is constant turmoil. What is the longest tenured employee that works here and in your department?

WHY ME?

Seriously. There is a reason they want to hire you. If you are going to succeed at this company, you need to know what you need to bring to the table. If you are a social media expert, be prepared to really help the company in that area.

Link to read the original article

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An Introvert’s Guide To Better Presentations

Improving Your Public Speaking Despite Hating Crowds

Matt Haughey writes

I am an introvert and I have always feared public speaking, and despite having given an industry conference presentation every year for the last fourteen years, it’s only gotten marginally easier for me. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about myself, I’ve noticed a few things that have helped me greatly and I wanted to share some of those here.

Equip yourself with some knowledge

There are good biological reasons why no one likes public speaking. Knowing this changed the game for me personally and maybe it will for you too.

Think about this: is having 30 or 300 or 3,000 pairs of eyes staring at you from the darkness while you stand alone on stage good for you? Deep down, you know it’s bad right? Did you ever stop to think why that is? I have heard this hypothesis from lots of people but in the normal course of human existence, any more than 5 or 6 pairs of eyes on you means trouble. If there are 300 pairs of eyes looking at you, you are about to be ambushed — you are someone’s dinner. That is why your palms get sweaty thinking about a stage and where butterflies in your stomach come from and once I realized that, I started to became ok with this.

I suggest you embrace this curse of biology. The next step is to realize that those hundreds of pairs of eyes aren’t there to kill you, but to learn from you. They’re not lions and you’re not a zebra separated from the pack, they’re all monkeys and you’re the prettiest monkey and they desperately want you to tellthem where the best bananas are located that will turn them into pretty monkeys as well.

“You’re a pretty monkey, and you know where all the bananas are.” That’s what I tell myself before I go on stage to hundreds or thousands of people. I really do. It makes me laugh and it calms me down.

Stamp out your self-doubt

Introverts shy away from the spotlight in more ways than one. We don’t blow our own horns, we don’t network at events, we’re not handing out business cards, or shaking strangers’ hands. We don’t brag, and if pressed, we’ll likely become self-deprecating to attempt to deflect your attention with humor. But it gets worse: while introverts are self-deprecating on the outside, we’re also self-doubting on the inside. …

Conference organizers asked you to speak (and sometimes even paid you!) because you’re good at something and have knowledge worth sharing. Embrace that, and know that everyone that flew to the conference, paid hundreds-to-thousands for a ticket, woke up early and walked to the auditorium all are pulling for you and want you to succeed and give the best presentation possible. You’re not going to let them (or yourself) down because you’re going to tell a story, practice the shit out of it, and make it look good.

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photo credit: Tatiana12 via photopin cc

Craft a story

This may seem like an obvious point, but when I learned about basic story structure, it changed my presentations forever. If you don’t create a narrative with an introduction, some semblance of a plot, and a resolution, your audience will attempt to do those things in their heads for you, because that’s how humans share knowledge. We love stories and patterns that look like stories and you can look at anything and see storytelling tying it all together…

When it comes to presentations, Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson is your new bible. This book’s premise is trashing typical Powerpoint usage we’ve all had to suffer through in meetings: those giant slides filled with 5-10 bullet points and hundreds of words of text, as the speaker just reads from their slides. And while the book does a fantastic job helping you create better looking slides, the opening chapters begin with describing basic story structure going back to the origin of theater in ancient Greece, and bring it back to a model for organizing your presentations that will change your life…

At first, it feels silly to learn about how a basic 3-act story structure works and the book furnishes you with a presentation template (here’s a Google Docs version I whipped up) that is literally fill-in-the-blank. Despite the structure feeling forced at first, I swear if you follow the advice, you will give much better presentations. Once I read this book and began following the advice within it, everything got easier and audiences started enjoying my talks much more (my feedback honestly improved overnight).

…the gist of it is building your presentations around a basic story structure by outlining your story in three stages, writing an introduction where you set up a thesis and a challenge to it along with an ending that restates the introduction but reinforces your solution to the challenge. The book also offers step-by-step advice on making beautiful slides (full bleed photos with just single words or short phrases on them), and using those beautiful slides as a jumping off point to support the thesis statements you made in your introduction in a very organized way.

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

You can’t over prepare

One of the ways I ensure I’m at my best for any presentation is by thinking back to my very worst ones. The one or two bad experiences I’ve had on stage were due to me procrastinating for weeks as the date approached (while getting increasingly nervous about disappearing time), throwing together something in the last few days, practicing the talk a couple times, then winging it up on stage. I noticed this pattern led to sub-par results about 7 years ago and since then I’ve taken on a more serious approach of spending three months working on every major talk I do. My typical timeline follows this pattern:

  1. Three months out, I start with a title and a basic thesis I am going to build a presentation around. I begin to create a basic outline in Google Docs, adding major points and sub-points for a week or two. After I’ve got a fairly full outline, I transfer it to a Beyond Bullet Points template for a talk, filling in the blanks as much as I can.
  2. Two months out, I start to lay out my presentation into slides. It’s pretty straightforward to go from an outline to slides. This is also the fun part, where I can start picking nice looking photos and illustrations for slides. I use presenter notes in Keynote/Powerpoint and typically write a paragraph or two about each slide below. I begin practicing the talk this month by myself, editing along the way, adding, removing, and rearranging slides to fit my thesis.
  3. One month out, I give my talk to a few friends and my spouse, asking for feedback. I continue editing and refining the talk, working on timing, jokes, and incorporating feedback from those that have seen it.

Three months might sound like a lot of time, but I typically spend about 10 hours a week on the talk during the lead-up, just doing a little work on it here and there through my normal week. By the time I’m a week or a few days away from the presentation, I’ve given the talk 100 times in my head and often a dozen times out loud to myself and peers. I’ve typically added half a dozen slides, modified a dozen to make my points clearer and removed a few. I know it forwards and backwards and refined it through weeks of editing. I take the stage with confidence due to all the preparation leading up to it, exuding expertise instead of undercutting my command of the subject. I don’t think it’s possible to over prepare, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll sabotage yourself if you under prepare.

Don’t skimp on the visuals

The greatest free stock photography source is probably one you don’t even know exists. It’s the Creative Commons licensed archive at Flickr, where you can search through hundreds of millions of photos. I personally stick with an extremely permissive attribution-only license (cc-by). Here is the URL in large text so no one misses it:

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/by-2.0/

Go ahead and pop any word you can think of in the search box and you’ll likely find some impressive results (here is one for “Yosemite”). You can also sort results by interestingness, relevance, and time. The attribution license requires that you give the photographer credit and typically presenters will either put a small photo caption in the corner of each slide or include a list of Flickr source URLs on their final slide.

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

Fewer words = better

Nice, full-bleed images with just 5-10 words max, with fonts at very large sizes. You rarely want to have more than a short sentence of text on any slide. About the only exception is when I want to share a really important quotation, and I’ll typically have it close by to read from instead of having to read off my slides.

In the last few years, most of my presentation slides don’t even have words on them, they’re just images (sometimes screenshots) that are somewhat related to whatever point I want to make. My presenter view looks like this on stage, with the current slide shown, time elapsed, and my notes.

Timing

… I typically shoot for about 5-10% less than the allotted time, to ensure that I finish early instead of running long, and getting the timing right is a major component to practicing a talk for months leading up to a presentation.

Some final technical bits

Find out as much as you can about the presentation venue and specifics of the A/V setup as early as possible. Travel with a bag of every connector your laptop will need, and format your presentation to the final presentation screen size. Have copies of your presentation on your laptop, in the cloud (I save mine to Dropbox), and on a USB stick just in case. I also create a plain exported PDF backup of my slides in case everything goes wrong and I have to borrow someone’s laptop.

Some Examples

Over the years I’ve uploaded a few presentations to Slideshare and you can view them and see a lot of the tips and approaches I’ve covered. If you’d like to see the actual talks I’ve given, I like how my Webstock 2012 talk about turning 40 and having a long term project turned out:

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

How To Champion Learning In Your Organisation

Written by: global innovation insurgent and author, Jorge Barba

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo

Innovation is increasingly becoming something businesses strive for, yet most cannot define. Innovation is messy and complex. It is not something that can be scripted with a predictable outcome. It involves throwing out the rules and rethinking solutions. It involves being creative and reaching beyond the 5-year calendar and targeted sales goals. It involves creating a culture that invokes passion, creativity, and thinking.

Innovation is often something that is felt rather than taught. It’s something that happens when a group of people come together to solve a problem. And it often starts at the top, and trickles down to every department of an organization—large or small.

So how do leaders go about creating an environment for innovation and innovative thinking? …

Here are five ways to always be learning:

1. Learn by doing. There is no better way to learn than through action. With the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it’s now very easy to gain new knowledge at minimal cost—all that is needed is time. But, acquiring knowledge without doing is only half the battle. That’s why it’s important to act, learning in the process, while uncovering personal insights. It’s about putting ideas into action.

2. Learn by asking. If you’re not asking questions, you’re not going to find answers. Questions open the mind, and the more questions you ask, the more insights you’ll uncover. The best questions are those that provoke—not with the intent of irritating, but of exploring the boundaries of what is known and unknown. Probe, and then probe some more. The only boundaries that exist are those that go unquestioned.

3. Learn by networking. We all network, however it’s not the size of the network you have that matters, but how diverse it is. To think differently and become more valuable, you need to know and understand multiple topics. You need to develop an idea network, which feeds you insights and ideas, and will keep challenging you and helping you grow.

4. Learn by observing. There is much being said around you, and it has nothing to do with the words people say, but rather how they act. Listening doesn’t just happen with your ears, but with your eyes too. True attention makes use of all of our senses, so make an effort to take a step back and soak it all in—there is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

5. Learn by sharing. Doing is great, but sharing what you’ve learned with others is even greater. When you share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, your influence expands dramatically, not to mention that you’ll also learn more because others will do the same with you.

Innovation certainly starts from the people at the top—people who need to walk the walk and take responsibility into their own hands to become a champion for change. Curiosity is the engine of creativity and innovation, and if you can be the champion of curiosity, there is nothing that will stand in your way. Get uncomfortable, roll up your sleeves, open your eyes, ask why, then why again, and share what you’ve learned with your network.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative (Infographic)

Don’t consider yourself creative?  Nonsense.

James Webb Young likened the production of ideas to the production of cars – there is a definitive process involved.

Here are a few simple steps you can take next time you’re in need of an idea.

Step 1 – Gather the Raw Materials…  Remember, gathering is a lifelong activity…

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”  (Leo Burnett)

Step 2 – Digest…  Sift through the gathered materials and look at them in different lights…

“Creativity is just connecting things.” (Steve Jobs)

Step 3 – Don’t Think…  Let your thoughts unconsciously bubble away…

“Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.” (Ray Bradbury)

Step 4 – Wait For Eureka… Out of nowhere an idea will appear.  It’ll happen when you least expect it, so be ready and keep a notebook handy…

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Step 5 – Bring The Idea To Reality… Submit the idea to criticisms.  Be pragmatic when adapting the idea as a viable creative solution…

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” (Edward de Bono)

Tool and Techniques To Try

  • Oblique Strategies…
  • Lotus Blossom Technique…
  • Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats…

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  (Albert Einstein)

Link to the original article and find the tools and techniques to try

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

5 Simple But Often Forgotten Ways to Keep a Relationship Strong

 sifts through the wisdom gained from first making a relationship work at long-distance, and then living every moment together…

I truly believe that we learned and practiced the universal truths that are essential for every relationship regardless of the distance.

Trust

…If you are in the relationship for the long term, you simply cannot afford to have trust issues. There is no room for doubt. You have to trust with a full heart that your partner loves you.

Quality time

…Quality time is essential. Whether you are in a long-distance relationship or just live a busy life with full-time jobs and outside activities, you may not be able to spend as much time as you’d like with your loved one.

Do something fun together, do something meaningful, have meaningful conversations, pay attention to each other, and express your love like crazy.

Communication

Communication is always crucial, especially when you communicate through Skype. We quickly realized that the way we communicated with each other was key to maintain a loving conversation.

When you communicate with your loved one, remember that love is the key. Speak from the heart.

Have good intentions and be clear. Discuss problems in a peaceful and loving manner.

Practice effective active listening skills; do not interrupt the other person, listen and watch. Be mindful.

Remain calm. Be respectful. Be loving.

Small acts of kindness

Small acts of kindness have always been a big part of our relationship. When we were apart we sent each other postcards, eCards, handwritten letters, and songs over email. When we were in the same country we bought each other flowers and made each other some wonderful meals.

Small acts are vital. Whether it is a small gift, doing the dishes, or giving a hug, it shows your love and support.

Send flowers, send an ecard, or leave a small note on the table. Bake cookies or make breakfast in bed. Give hugs and kisses for no reason other than to show your love.

Express Your Love

Expressing our love for each other was probably the most crucial thing in our relationship. It still is. We always make sure to tell each other how much we love each other, and do it with meaning.

Love is always the foundation. It’s nearly obvious, but sometimes so obvious that couples tend to forget about it, and saying “I love you” becomes monotonous. But love is the basis and the reason of your relationship.

So express your love through actions, words, and non-verbal communication. Don’t make “I love you” a routine, but instead always, and I do mean always, say it from the heart.

Link to the original article

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #76

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #76.

We wish you a very happy celebrations and a great yuletide cauldron of pride and shared sense of accomplishment for all that you have achieved and made and made happen in 2013. 

Happiness At Work #75 ~ stress, happiness and productivity

This week our Happiness At Work theme considers some of the growing knowledge we are getting about the effects that work-related stress is causing us in our always-on-and-available 21st century lives.  And we give particular focus to ideas that can help us to learn better ways to think about and respond to pressure without harming, but rather increasing our productivity.  And our happiness too.

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

Nelson Mandela, 18th July 1918 – 5th December 2013

And, on the day the world remembers and mourns the death of an extraordinary human being, you will also find a photo tribute to Nelson Mandela, from The New Yorker, and an article from Fast Company highlighting

Nelson Mandela’s Most Innovative Moments:

+  When you have a just cause, go global…

+  Be open and forgiving, trust the truth to bring progress…

+  To maintain the health of what you’ve built, know when to step aside…

+  It’s never too late to make up for mistakes…

+  You can embody courage while still feeling fear…

Nelson Mandela: Barack Obama Pays Tribute

“…so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him…

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, so it falls to us, as best we can, to follow the example that he set.  to make decisions guided not by hate but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice..”

How To B More Productive and Happier During Times of Stress

Laura Shin writes…

Few deadlines are quite like the end of the year…  It’s the perfect storm for stress.

But stress isn’t the dreaded beast we all make it out to be.

In a study conducted with two Yale researchers, Shawn Achor, positive psychology researcher and author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness,  found, “if we could get someone to change their mindset around stress to see it as a challenge instead of as a threat, they had 23% fewer stress-related symptoms like headaches, backaches and fatigue. The stress was still there but the effect upon the body was completely changed. So stress is inevitable but its effects on us are not. The question is how can we take things like holiday stresses and see them as enhancing instead of as a threat or something that takes us away our energy.”

Here’s how to make it through this stressful time happier, more productive and better prepared to take on the new year.

1. Use the “add vantage” technique.

If you’re facing what seems like a mountain of tasks, try to think of as many descriptors as you can for each activity. Take, for example, washing dishes. You might start with “bore” or “soul-draining,” but as you go on, you might also remember it’s a chance to feel productive, that you enjoy the feel of warm water, or that it’s nice to engage in a mindless activity for a while.

“The more you do this, the more you realize that there’s not just one reality but multiple realities at any point, so the key is to pick the most adaptive reality,” says Achor. “You could view your work as hectic — and that’s true, it is hectic, but you could also view it as a source of opportunity, and that’s also true. The way we describe that event to our own self and to other people changes the way we think about it. If you are about to have a holiday meal and listing off all the stresses and all the negative parts of that holiday, your family will remember it as a stressful, panicked, unhappy time. But if you focus on meaning, connection, how beautiful things look, then you have a different brain and social script for that event.”

Two activities that help you add vantage points are to cross-train your brain by visiting art museums (seriously — 20-some medical schools require their students to take an art class because a study found it increased students’ ability to detect important medical details by 10%), and changing your patterns so you drive a different way to work, talk to a person you wouldn’t normally talk to, etc.

Achor writes in Before Happiness, “Research shows that by simply changing your perspective in the workplace you can achieve greater long-term growth, 37 percent higher sales, and 31 percent more productivity, and perhaps even increase your likelihood of living to age ninety-four by up to 40 percent. “

2. Think about the meaning behind the stress you are experiencing.

If you only think about the stress of an activity, and not its larger purpose, you’ll reap only its negative effects, says Achor. “So if you are stressed about a job interview, refocus on the chances to advance your career, and if you are stressed about a presentation you have to give to an organization, think about how your involvement with that group is making a difference,” he writes.

Similarly, social connection has been proven to help us overcome stress and fend off depression in a variety of settings ranging from work settings to addiction programs, says Achor. He recommends that, when considering your holiday tasks, focus on how they will deepen your relationships instead of viewing them merely as items to be checked off.

If certain triggers distract you from the meaning behind your work and take you down a counterproductive mental path of destruction — for instance, Achor found negative reviews of his books killed his productivity — banish these mental hijackers. For Achor, he kept good reviews of his book at hand and would read some each morning to remind himself of the meaning in his work and jumpstart his productivity.

3. Decrease noise.

Two researchers from the University of San Diego found that the amount of information consumed per capita by Americans has increased 60% from 1980 to 2008 — from 7.4 hours a day to 11.8. Shockingly, these figures exclude working hours.

Achor says that studies show that when your brain is overwhelmed with information, it’s harder for your brain to see positives. What he suggests: “Decrease the noise a little bit — for the first five minutes you get into the car, turn off the radio, or mute the commercials during the football game. Or, have two to three hours a week that you reserve as no cell phone and computer time — turn your brain into basically like noise-canceling headphones, so you can quiet some of that noise and allow your brain to work better at meaning in your life so you can find the positives to move forward in your life.”

4. Set yourself up for success.

See that drawing? The two circles in the center are actually the same size. But the one on the right looks bigger simply because it’s surrounded by smaller circles. People putting golf balls into the center holes were more likely to score with the hole on the right than the one on the left, because they perceived their likelihood of making the putt as higher.

How do you re-create this effect at work? When you face a difficult task, remind yourself of times when you’ve succeeded in similar situations. When you think of your competitors, think of as few as possible. (A study found the greatest predictor of performance on an academic test is the number of other test takers in the room, with students competing against fewer students doing better.)

Likewise, when many leaders come up with contingency plans in case of problems, they’re setting themselves up for failure. Instead, think of all the ways you can succeed at your challenge first. “Because what you map first is more likely to become the reality, you should spend your brain’s valuable resources looking for an escape route only once you have mapped multiple paths to success,” he writes.

5. Get a full night’s sleep, and don’t go hungry.

“If you memorize sets of positive, neutral and negative words and then sleep for seven to eight hours, you’ll remember about 80% of all the words a day later,” writes Achor. But  if you miss a night of sleep? You’ll still remember a majority of the negative and neutral words but will remember almost 60% fewer positive words. Your brain perceives your lack of sleep as a threat and starts scanning the world for more threats.

On a similar note, a study found that judges have been found to grant many more paroles after lunch than before. “As sugar levels were dropping, their willingness to see the positive and that change is possible dropped, and as soon as they ate again, they could start to see what was possible,” says Achor.

He says there are four barriers to creating a positive reality, which he’s nicknamed HALT — being hungry, angry, lonely or tired — so if you feel any of those things, you need to eat, calm down, talk to someone you love or sleep.

6. Give yourself a head start.

If a store gives someone a buy-ten-get-one-free coffee card, it speeds up that person’s purchasing of coffee, says Achor. But if a store requires 12 coffees to get the free one but gives you the first two stamps for free, you’ll actually buy coffees even faster. Why? Even though you still have to buy 10 coffees, you perceive that you’re already 1/6 of the way toward your goal.

“So as as you make to-do lists for the holidays or resolutions,” says Achor, “the biggest mistake we make is we start at 0%, and we don’t show our brain any of the progress we made. So now when I write down checklists, I write down what I’ve already done this day — I already had breakfast, had a couple phone calls. By perceiving that progress you’ve already made, it speeds your brain to achieving the rest of the goals.”

Ditto with New Year or resolutions. When you write yours, note down the accomplishments you’ve already achieved this past year so it’s not a list of things you haven’t done yet.

7. Train your brain to be more positive.

Achor details five steps to happiness and more productivity in his TED Talk,The Happy Secret to Better Work. Every day during the holiday season, write a gratitude list of — you guessed it — things for which you are grateful. Spend a few minutes every day journaling about a positive experience in the last 24 hours. Exercise. Meditate. And finally, send an email expressing your appreciation to someone you love, or perform other acts of kindness.

By doing these things, “your brain’s optimism will stay high for the next six months,” says Achor. That not only sounds like a great way to spend the holidays, but also a great way to start the new year.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Joel Bedford via photopin cc

photo credit: Joel Bedford via photopin cc

Are Happy Workers More Productive?

Alexander Kjerulf and Jan Kristensen debate the issues

Would you agree with the statement: ‘Happy people are more productive?’

Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo inc., Alexander Kjerulf presents the evidence that convinces him why this is true, taken from his perspective reviewing and writing about the research on this subject, and Jan Kristensen, Director of Lean Leadership at Novo Nordisk, presents his refute from his critique of and perspective as an occupational psychologist, before they both going on to debate these issues in discussion…

Here is a summary of the evidence that Alexander Kjerulf presents for the affirmative:

‘”In the workplace we know that happiness causes more productive and creative workers…” – Ed Deiner, ‘the grandfather of happiness research

There is a significant amount of research that organisations with high personal wellbeing will get better results…an increase of 1 point on the Personal WellBeing (PWB) scale is associated with an increase in productivity of 8.8% – a significant amount.” – Cary Cooper, Manchester University and author of ‘Wellbeing, Productivity and Happiness At Work’

Happy people of more and better work: Daniel Sproy, University of Warwick found people who watched a short comedy clip before doing maths equations worked harder at it and performed 10% better than their neutral peers.

Happy people are more creative:  Teresa Amabile, Harvard University, found people who were in a good mood on Monday had more ideas on Monday and on Tuesday, even if they were in a bad mood on Tuesday.

Happy people are more productive, braver, more resilient, sell more, give better customer service, are more open and empathetic, and more generous…  On all of these areas happy people outperform their less happy peers.

A huge Gallup study involving 8,000 people found that happiness at work leads to lower absenteeism, lower employee turnover, higher productivity, higher customer satisfaction, higher sales and higher profits. (‘Well-Being In The Workplace and Its Relationship To Business Outcomes – a review of the Gallup Studies‘, James K. Harter, Frank L. Schmidt and Corey L. M. Keys)

Causation: Alexander Kjerulf says it looks at though it goes both ways but effects caused by happiness at work is stronger than the other way around.

Stock Price: companies who measure as the Best Places To Work  also show the highest share prices and the causation here has been well established.

Jan Kristensen’s presentation firstly winds its way through a personal history from wanting to live up to his grandfather’s achievements, to his work in management development.  He presents some of the same research as Alexander but interprets its findings differently.

His first objection is the problem of correlation which. he says. ignores the higher degree of variation and his second objection seems to be that many of the studies have actually led to false conclusions and brought about the conditions of self-fulfilling prophesy.

“if we continue to fake a correlation between happiness and productivity, eventually there will be no HR, there will be no organisations.  The only real alternative is to figure out different ways of thinking about management and then helping leaders to move into that…”

Here is what fell out from the discussion for me…

Kristensen: Our conclusion about the link between happiness and productivity is based on inaccurate reporting of 14 original studies that actually proved the opposite…

Kjerulf: Later studies (e.g. Diener & Seligman) have shown that these original studies were wrong and have found much higher correlations.  And a seemingly small percentage increase can actually lead to a very large actual benefit in terms of real productivity measures.

Kristensen: LEAN was invented in the 1950s and concentrates on work processes rather than people to increase productivity, and “the funny thing about that is the only way you can make that improvement is by making people unsatisfied about their work … because the only way you can get people involved in saying ‘how can we do this better?’ is if they believe that the way that they are working is not good enough…”

No no no no no no no no

Kjerulf:  “I would argue that a large part of happiness is involving people in meaningful work and give them a chance to say ‘how can we do this better?’  And i would argue that one way to be ridiculously happy at work would be to get someone to create an 800% improvement on something…  And the whole ‘you gotta be unhappy to improve’ – you can be unsatisfied and improve but as we see from teresa Amabile’s studies, if you need people to be creative, we are more creative when we are happy, when we are experiencing positive emotions.  So saying the unhappiness drives company innovation is actually wrong…”

“There is a fundamental flaw in your argument and that is happiness has been used before to trick people and therefore happiness is bad, but this not logically follow…”

And here is Alexander Kjerulf’s self-addmitted biased summary of the case for the negative…

…after having read Jan’s phd thesis and done the debate, it’s clear that there is ample evidence that happiness makes us more productive in the workplace and very little evidence against this.

As best I can tell, Jan offered 3 specific arguments for his assertion that happy workers are no more productive than unhappy ones.

1: 14 original studies
Jan claims there are 14 original studies, which everyone in this field cites as proof that happy workers are more productive but that those 14 studies in fact show the exact opposite.

He only mentions one of those 14 studies (hawthorne) so it’s hard to evaluate his claim. But let’s say we grant him this. It still doesn’t support his position. Even if every single one of those 14 studies could be invalidated, it would not serve at all to disprove all the studies that have come since them. I quote several of those studies in my presentation.

2: Low correlation
Jan states that the best correlation found in meta-studies shows a correlation between happiness and productivity of 0.25, which is too low for his liking.

But a low correlation is still a correlation, so at the very least we can say that happiness and productivity are connected. And as I showed in my presentation, there are also studies showing causation, i.e. showing that happiness causes productivity.

3: Difficult to implement
Jan’s final argument is that he and his HR colleagues have tried to implement happiness in Novo and that it has failed every time.

The logical flaw in this argument is clear: People’s ability or inability to implement it has no bearing on whether or not the theory is true.

As best I can tell, Jan offers no further arguments in support of his position.

Your take

What’s your take on this – are happy people more productive? Are happy workplaces more profitable? What evidence have you seen that supports your position?…

Link to read Alexander Kjerulf’s original article

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

U.S. Employers Rank Stress as Top Workforce Risk Issue

Press Release: Understanding employee views is key to addressing issue

Stress is the number one workforce risk issue, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity, according to the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson, and the National Business Group on Health. However, only 15% of employers identify improving the emotional/mental health (i.e., lessening the stress and anxiety) of employees as a top priority of their health and productivity programs.

While stress can energize workers to meet challenging goals, it can also overwhelm them and interrupt business performance. Despite the negative consequences, many employers do not fully understand employee views of its causes.

“Employees seem to be saying, ‘support me, pay me, and direct me,’ but employers are focused on other stress factors,” said Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson. “Stress has a strong link to physical health, emotional health, personal purpose and community — all contributing factors to workplace performance. Employers that fail to understand employees’ views on stress risk diverting time and resources to fixing the wrong problems and, at the same time, alienating employees.”

Causes of Stress: Employer and Employee Disconnect

Employers rank the top three causes of workplace stress as lack of work/life balance (86%), inadequate staffing (70%) and technologies that expand employee availability during nonworking hours (63%). Employees rank inadequate staffing as the number one source of stress, followed by low pay or low pay increases, and unclear or conflicting job expectations... Inadequate staffing includes lack of support or uneven workloads and performance in groups.

This is where the disconnect starts to take shape. Only inadequate staffing is ranked in the top three causes of stress from both employer and employee points of view. Based on 10 drivers of workforce stress, employees ranked lack of work/life balance fifth, while employers ranked it first. Furthermore, employees ranked low pay or low pay increases as their second-biggest source of stress, while employers ranked it ninth.

Solutions: Establishing a Workplace Culture That Proactively Manages Stress

While employers feel that the employee assistance program EAP is a primary way to address stress issues, only 5% of employees say they use this resource. Also, only about four in 10 employers (39%) offer overt stress management interventions to employees (e.g., stress management workshops, yoga or tai chi). Employees turn to leisure/entertainment activities (47%), social support (42%) and physical activities (39%) to help them cope.

There is a strong recognition that the workplace experience can both contribute to and reduce employee stress. By pursuing a holistic approach that covers both health and well-being programs and the employee value proposition (EVP), organizations can foster a healthy and productive work environment.

“Employers need to understand their employees’ stress drivers, assess their health and productivity programs in light of the findings and leverage what employees are already doing to cope with stress,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health.

In addition, organizations need to take a closer look at their EVP, including employee compensation, lack of adequate staffing levels, unclear or conflicting job expectations, and organizational culture. Improved manager training, clear direction on the job and a review of compensation practices could help alleviate the stressors.

Link to read the original Press Release in Wall Street Journal

Paula Davis-Laack follows up this story with some practical solutions we can all look at to better navigate and balance our stress levels with our needs and ambitions to produce and perform to our best…

Life Is Stressful: 10 Things To Stop Tolerating

…A Catalyst work report shows that most employees feel stress in four main areas: workload levels, interpersonal issues, job security, and juggling work and personal life.  Does this sound familiar?  If so, it’s time to examine what you might be tolerating in your life; those things that may be driving some of your unhappiness and lack of productivity.

photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

Here are the top ten:

Being Burned Out.
Burnout is the chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of your life, and the result is a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.  If the causes of your burnout are not immediately addressed, your physical health and mental well-being will likely deteriorate.

Inaction.
People often get stuck because of fear, guilt, or simply not knowing which way to go next. In order to achieve bigger goals, take smaller steps. If you are staring down a goal that seems overwhelming, keep breaking down the goal until you can say with confidence, “Of course, that’s so easy I can get that done!”

Negativity.
Given how hard the professional world is today and how often you are barraged with negative information, it’s easy to be tuned into pessimism and negativity. Fight back with humor. Early studies of humor and health showed that humor strengthened the immune system, reduced pain, and reduced stress levels. Since humor builds positive emotion, it can also help reduce feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety (McGhee, 2010). Additional research in this area shows that positive emotions predicted increases in both resilience and life satisfaction (Cohn et. al., 2009).

Disorganization.
Disorganization is a barrier to productivity. If you continually say, “I don’t have time to do x,” you can get more organized by creating schedules and systems that become habitual. The business book E-Myth, by Michael Gerber, does a wonderful job of describing the importance of systems in the business world, and the idea is transferable to non-work situations as well. Good systems are fluid, measurable, and can and should be changed as better methods are established or as missing pieces are learned.

Link to read the original Forbes article 

photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

Penn Study: How Women’s Brains Differ From Men’s

Stacey Burling, reports…

Forget right-brain or left-brain thinking (or even up and down thinking)

What may be more important from a gender standpoint is back-to-front or side-to-side thinking.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania used diffusion tensor imaging, a type of brain imaging that shows how brain cells are connected, to study young men and women. The team’s maps of major information highways were noticeably different for the two genders.

Men had more pathways that ran the length of each hemisphere, to parts within a hemisphere and across the cerebellum, which coordinates movement. Women had many more powerful communication links between the two hemispheres.

What this means is that, at any given moment, a woman is likely to be using her whole brain while a man is using half of his, said Ruben Gur, a neuropsychologist who was one of the study authors. He struggled when asked if this structure makes men superior at anything.

In fairness, he said, “each hemisphere is really a complete human being,” so it’s possible to function at a high level while using one hemisphere. It does mean, though, that men really are more likely to be right-brained (more intuitive) or left-brained (more logical) than women.

The strong link with the cerebellum might make men more action oriented, better at tasks that require quick response time or an “I-see-and-then-I-do” attitude.

The side-to-side thinking likely boosts women’s memory and social skills and seems designed, the authors said, to combine analytical and intuitive thinking. Communication within the hemisphere facilitates connection between perception and coordinated action…

The connections between right and left let women’s brains “more easily integrate the rational, logical, verbal mode of thinking and the more intuitive, spatial, holistic mode of thinking,” Gur said.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be in one mode or the other. Gur said scientists don’t know why men are more likely to use a particular side or even how to test whether you’re a right-brained or left-brained guy.

He said women’s thinking is likely to be more contextual. “Their brains are better connected between their decisions and their memories,” he said. “For men, memories are memories. Decisions are decisions.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Emilie Ogez via photopin cc

photo credit: Emilie Ogez via photopin cc

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

Wait But Why‘s very funny and wise words and cartoons that get to the root of procrastination and what we might to do to overcome it…

Who would have thought that after decades of struggle with procrastination, the dictionary, of all places, would hold the solution.

Avoid procrastination. So elegant in its simplicity.

While we’re here, let’s make sure obese people avoid overeating, depressed people avoid apathy, and someone please tell beached whales that they should avoid being out of the ocean.

No, “avoid procrastination” is only good advice for fake procrastinators — those people that are like, “I totally go on Facebook a few times every day at work — I’m such a procrastinator!” The same people that will say to a real procrastinator something like, “Just don’t procrastinate and you’ll be fine.”

The thing that neither the dictionary nor fake procrastinators understand is that for a real procrastinator, procrastination isn’t optional — it’s something they don’t know how to not do…

…The fact is, the Instant Gratification Monkey is the last creature who should be in charge of decisions — he thinks only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether, and he concerns himself entirely with maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment. He doesn’t understand the Rational Decision-Maker any better than the Rational Decision-Maker understands him — why would we continue doing this jog, he thinks, when we could stop, which would feel better. Why would we practice that instrument when it’s not fun? Why would we ever use a computer for work when the internet is sitting right there waiting to be played with? He thinks humans are insane.

In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out — if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight — he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.

It’s a mess. And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.*

The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.**

Link to the full article and pictures 

How To Beat Procrastination

And here is the link to Part 2 with practical ideas and more great drawings to help you break free and through procrastination…  HINT:  It’s all about Planning, Doing and the all-important – increasing Self-Mastery…

Practices for Resilience and Development

Curtis Ogden writes…

…My thinking and reading often takes me back to the work of Barbara Fredrickson, the emotions scientist based at the University of North Carolina, as well as to a host of others in the fields of positive and social psychology.  Having revisited some of these writings over the break, here are 10 recommended practices for personal and social resilience and development:

  1. Ritualize gratitude: Fredrickson defines gratitude as noticing the gifts and blessings in our lives. One way to notice is to keep a gratitude journal. The suggestion is to, at the start or end of each day, write at least one thing for which we are grateful.  Studies show that this helps to develop our ability to handle adversity and grow possibility.
  2. Write for 15 minutes a day, especially after or during a difficult or challenging situation:  Research has shown this can help with meaning making and resilience.
  3. Practice 3-5 acts of kindness every day: A practice that I like to invite groups to engage in is to note what assets we have that we can pass on to those in our networks.  As the world’s wisdom traditions have long known, this has tremendous personal and social benefit.
  4. Get the body moving: Go for a 20-30 minute walk.  Do yoga.  Maira Kalman among others has demonstrated the power of movement as a generative force of intellect, awareness, and creativity.
  5. Laugh:  Drs. Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin have noted the connection between creativity and humor in people who are resilient.  Check out some of these laughter exercises.
  6. Visualize success: In appropriate doses, optimism has been shownto broaden our view on life and possibility. Consider doing the best possible future self exercise.
  7. Get into natureResearch shows that getting out into nature promotes positive emotions and that viewing and walking in nature have been associated with heightened physical and mental energy.
  8. Use the mantra, “Be open”Fredrickson’s research in particular suggests that if we try to force ourselves to be positive or happy, this can backfire.  Much better to try to keep an open mind.
  9. Reach out and connect to others who feed us: We are social beings, and who we associate with has implications for our outlook on life.
  10. Meditate:  Increasingly we hear about the health and outlook benefits of mindfulness practice, including loving kindness meditation.  Fredrickson’s web page has links to several different guided meditations.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Susanica via photopin cc

photo credit: Susanica via photopin cc

Talk Yourself Into Success

Learning expert and writer, Annie Murphy Paul, writes in her blog, The Brilliant Report about self-talk and how we know it works…

In the privacy of our minds, we all talk to ourselves—an inner monologue that might seem rather pointless. As one scientific paper on self-talk asks: “What can we tell ourselves that we don’t already know?” But as that study and others go on to show, the act of giving ourselves mental messages can help us learn and perform at our best. Researchers have identified the most effective forms of self-talk, collected here—so that the next time you talk to yourself, you know exactly what you should say.

Self-talk isn’t just motivational messages like “You can do it!” or “Almost there,” although this internal cheering section can give us confidence. A review of more than two dozen studies, published in 2011 in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that there’s another kind of mental message that is even more useful, called “instructional self-talk.” This is the kind of running commentary we engage in when we’re carrying out a difficult task, especially one that’s unfamiliar to us. Think about when you were first learning to drive. Your self-talk might have gone something like this: “Foot on the gas pedal, hands on the wheel, slow down for the curve here, now put your blinker on…”

Over time, of course, giving yourself instructions becomes unnecessary—but while you’re learning, it does three important things. First, it enhances our attention, focusing us on the important elements of the task and screening out distractions. Second, it helps us regulate our effort and make decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when. And third, self-talk allows us to control our cognitive and emotional reactions, steadying us so we stay on task.

Link to read the rest of Annie Murphy Paul’s article

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

The Science of Great Ideas – How To Train Your Creative Brain

 writes…

The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; —James Webb Young

In his book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young explains that whilethe process for producing new ideas is simple enough to explain, “it actually requires the hardest kind of intellectual work to follow, so that not all who accept it use it.”

He also explains that working out where to find ideas is not the solution to finding more of them, but rather we need to train our minds in the process of producing new ideas naturally.

The two general principles of ideas

James describes two principles of the production of ideas, which I really like:

  1. An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements.
  2. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.

This second one is really important in producing new ideas, but it’s something our minds need to be trained in:

Set aside time

John Cleese says your thoughts need time to settle down before your creativity will feel safe enough to emerge and get to work. Setting aside time to think regularly can be a good way to train your mind to relax, eventually making this set time a safe haven for your tortoise mind to start putting together connections that could turn into ideas.

Find a creative space

Setting aside time regularly sends a signal to your brain that it’s safe to work on creative ideas. Finding a particular space to be creative in can help, too.

This is similar to the research on how the temperature and noise around us affects our creativity.

LET YOUR BRAIN DO THE WORK

This may be one of the hardest, yet most important parts of the process of producing ideas. I think James Webb Young says it best:

Drop the whole subject and put it out of your mind and let your subconscious do its thing.

Something  else John Cleese talks about is how beneficial it can be to “sleep on a problem.” He recalls observing a dramatic change in his approach to a creative problem after having left it alone. He not only awoke with a perfectly clear idea on how to continue his work, but the problem itself was no longer apparent.

The trick here is to trust enough to let go.

As we engage our conscious minds in other tasks, like sleeping or taking a shower, our subconscious can go to work on finding relationships in all the data we’ve collected so far.

The Aha moment
James Webb Young explains the process of producing ideas in stages. Once we’ve completed the first three, which include gathering material and letting our subconscious process the data and find connections, he says we’ll come to an “Aha!” moment, when a great idea hits us:

It will come to you when you are least expecting it–while shaving, or bathing, or most often when you are half awake in the morning. It may waken you in the middle of the night.

How To Have More Great Ideas

Understanding the process our brains go through to produce ideas can help us to replicate this, but there are a few things we can do to nudge ourselves towards having better ideas, too.

Criticise your ideas–don’t accept them immediately

The final stage of James’s explanation of idea production is to criticize your ideas:

Do not make the mistake of holding your idea close to your chest at this stage. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious.

James says this will help you to expand on the idea and uncover possibilities you might have otherwise overlooked.

Here it’s especially important to know whether you’re introverted or extroverted to criticize your ideas from the right perspective.

Overwhelm your brain–it can handle it

Surprisingly, you can actually hit your brain with more than it can handle and it will step up to the task.

Robert Epstein explained in a Psychology Today article how challenging situations can bring out our creativity. Even if you don’t succeed at whatever you’re doing, you’ll wake up the creative areas of your brain and they’ll perform better after the failed task, to compensate.

Have more bad ideas to have more good ones

It turns out that having a lot of bad ideas also means you’ll have a lot of good ideas. Studies have proved this at both MIT and the University of California Davis.

The sheer volume of ideas produced by some people means that they can’t help having lots of bad ones, but they’re likely to have more good ones, as well…

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

What If Performance Management Focused On Strengths?

Marcus Buckingham writes

In previous posts I praised Microsoft’s rejection of individual performance ratings as the building block for an effective performance management system, and described why rating people on a list of competencies is a flawed method for improving their performance.

Obviously we need a new system. And what can we say about the new system that would serve us better? Well, the specifics of the system will depend on the company, but we do know that it must have the following six characteristics, each of which follows logically from the one preceding.

First, it must be a real-time system that helps managers give “in the moment” coaching and course-correcting. The world we live in is unnervingly dynamic, where we are on one team one week and another the next, where goals that were fresh and exciting at the beginning of Q1 are irrelevant by the third week of Q1, and where the necessary skills, relationships, and even strategies have to be constantly recalibrated. In this real-time world, batched performance reviews delivered once or twice a year are obsolete before we’ve even sat down to write them.

We need much more frequent check-ins—weekly or, at most, monthly. Luckily, we now live in a world where most of us are armed with a device that knows exactly who we are, and into which we can record pretty much anything we want. This device—your mobile phone—will enable you, the employee, to input what you are doing this week and what help you need; and, because it knows you, it will be able to serve up to your manager coaching tips, insights, and prompts customized to your particular set of strengths and skills.

Second, it must be a system with a super light touch. If we expect our employees to share their weekly or monthly focus, and if we expect our managers to react to and adjust this focus as needed, then there can be no complicated forms to complete, no narrative sections requiring writing wizards to supply the right words, no conversation guides, no input required from a requisite number of peers. None of that. For this performance system to be as agile as it needs to be, it must be wonderfully simple. Just two questions answered by the employee—”What are you going to get done this week? And what help do you need from me?”—and a chance for the manager to speak into these answers. Counter-intuitively, the simpler the form, the richer the coaching.

Third, it must feel to the individual employee that it is a system “about me, designed for me.” Even if it is light-touch, managers will reject any real-time system that they have to initiate. Instead, the employee has to be the one to drive it. And the only way to achieve this is to make its starting point and ongoing focus: me, my strengths, where I am at my best, and how I can get better. At present, we don’t do this very well at all. For example, most companies’ employee profile pages are clearly a company tool and not a “me” tool, and as such are updated infrequently and inauthentically, and wind up reading like a computer-generated resume.

With a little creativity, there is every reason to believe that we can design for each employee a place to positively present her strengths, her skills, her accomplishments and her aspirations. Although current “profiles” are clinical, superficial, and out of date, it is entirely in the company’s interest that they not stay this way.

And besides, given that we live in a world where we expect all content, from our news, to our entertainment, to our healthcare, to be aware of our individual needs and desires, this “start with me” positioning is the least we will expect.

Fourth, and crucially, it must be a strengths-based system. Current systems are explicitly remedial, built on the belief that to help people get better you must measure them against a series of competency bars, point out where they fall short, and then challenge them to jump higher. While this feels practical, and rigorous – even “tough” – it is also depressingly inefficient. Although we label weaknesses “areas of opportunity,” brain science reveals that we do not learn and grow the most in our areas of weakness. In fact the opposite is true: we grow the most new synapses in those areas of our brain where we have the most pre-existing synapses. Our strengths, therefore, are our true areas of opportunity for growth.

More to the point, if we want employees to take responsibility for their own performance and development, what better place to start than with their particular strengths? The new performance system must find myriad ways to challenge employees to contribute their strengths more intelligently over time. (To be clear, this does not mean ignoring my weaknesses. It simply means acknowledging that my weaknesses are actually my “areas of least opportunity for growth.”)

Fifth, it must be a system focused on the future. Our current systems are fixated on feedback about the past. You are asked to write a review on yourself, then your manager writes his review. Often he will be required to sit with his peers to calibrate your review with others at your level; sometimes even your peers will be called upon to share their insights about your personality and performance. Your manager will be trained on how to deliver this feedback to you so that you will see it as “developmental” rather than overly “critical.”

The new performance system will dispense with all of this – on one level, simply because these feedback systems are plagued by a terrible signal-to-noise ratio. Managers are, and will always be, highly subjective providers of feedback; peer feedback when anonymous is just gossip, and when public is sugarcoated; your own self-ratings are more than likely generously distorted; and calibration sessions merely turn up the volume on the noise.

On another level, though, better performance management dispenses with all this because future-focused coaching is demonstrably a better use of time than past-focused feedback. To accelerate my performance tomorrow, don’t try to grade my personality with feedback from all sides—it will always be hard to give, hard to receive, and net a disproportionately small performance return. Instead, coach me on the few specific work-related activities that I could usefully add to my strengths repertoire tomorrow. Or tell me what skills I should go acquire next week. Or advise me which specific contacts I should seek out next month. None of these will necessarily be easy for me to do, but at least they will be something that I can do. They are in the future. In the new performance system, this is where most of our time and creativity will be focused.

Finally, it must be a local system. Current performance management systems are centralized. Their express purpose is to cascade the defined company strategies and values down through all levels. First, this flies in the face of the previous characteristics. Worse:  a fixed, cascaded strategy prevents the company from being agile (even if, ironically, one of the company values is “agility”); I care a great deal more about my own success and strengths than I do about “alignment”; and allocating each of my goals to one of the company’s values or strategies is inevitably both heavy-handed and retroactive. Any company with the courage to mine its HCM data will discover that many of us end up shoehorning our goals into one of the company’s categories only after the goals have been completed.

But more significantly, most of the company’s best intelligence about the future of its products, people, and customers can be found in each local team. So in place of cascading down, the new performance system must be designed to capture this local intelligence, and then aggregate it up. Goals should be set at the team level and aggregated up; compensation should be allocated by local leaders and then aggregated up; employee opinion surveys should be triggered by the local team leader and aggregated up. Only then will the company be agile enough to stay relevant.

So, that’s a blueprint for a better system. Lighter, more creative, more flexible, strengths-based, and ultimately more human – with current technologies available to you so you can start designing your version of this within your company.

And, frankly, you can do this even before your HR department has retired your existing human capital management system. Current systems are thankfully so infrequent, and a strengths-based system so light-touch, that the two can coexist for a while before the two start to get in each other’s way. With luck, by that time, HR will have taken a hard look at the performance of the old HCM system, and it will be on its way out.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: . SantiMB . via photopin cc

photo credit: . SantiMB . via photopin cc

Happy Cities, The Chapman Brothers and Gandhi (Arts & Ideas, Radio 4)

The first 16 minutes of this broadcast involves a discussion of what makes a happy city including Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, who we featured a story on in a previous post…

Rana Mitter looks forward to an Age of the Happy City with innovative urban scholar, Richard Burdett, and journalist and urban experimentalist, Charles Montgomery. What can Rio de Janeiro teach Mumbai or Copenhagen teach Vancouver or Bogota have to say to Shanghai? Why should density replace sprawl? Can planning bridge the gap between efficiency and sociability? The world is witnessing unprecedented urban growth; fifty three per cent of us live in cities today – heading towards seventy per cent by the middle of the century. The form these new and growing cities take will have a huge effect on global resources and the living conditions of billions of people.

Link to read Susan Perry’s article about Charles Montgomery: Cities, Cars, Cycling – and Human Happiness

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

Debunking the Myth of Happiness

Kevin Roberts writes…

…People think that as we achieve our hopes and dreams, somehow our daily problems, annoyances, disappointments, and anxieties will magically disappear. Unfortunately the truth is not so utopian. Negative emotions and experiences can affect our daily lives, and despite having it all, even the “stars” among us are subject to depression and disappointment at times.

In his new book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, neuropsychologist at Berkeley University, Dr. Rick Hanson, contends that this phenomenon can be explained.

Hanson’s evidence is drawn from the biology of human survival. He describes how our neural pathways are constructed to activate on negative emotions with greater intensity than positive ones. In other words, evolution has driven us to respond more strongly to predators and environmental threats than when we experience something pleasant. With this understanding, it makes it more difficult to create permanent neural pathways for our positive experiences, thus this dilemma with achieving lifelong happiness.

So how can we navigate life without melancholia, considering our own minds afflict the pursuit of happiness?

The answer is not simply positive thinking, but rather the pervasive adoption of radical optimism. I have used the phrase “radical optimism” for years, meaning we must go beyond simply a positive disposition and commit to a program of action and activities that continuously put oneself into a good space, and avoiding negative ones. The truth is that it is possible to harness our biology, since the desire for long term happiness is also part of who we are.

Simply stating that you are an optimistic person does not induce true psychological and physiological change. One must internalize that sense of self that meets our three core needs “safety, satisfaction, and connection”. True change takes persistent radicalism and constant optimism. It takes the will to lift your head up, look around and realize that happiness and success are ALWAYS within your control.

Although the molecular make-up of the brain and the chemical reactions that determine neural pathways are complicated, sometimes something as simple as a fast walk around the block will do you wonders!

Link to read the original article

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Podcast #075: My Top Productivity Hacks

by Michael Hyatt

…I love the topic of productivity. I collect productivity hacks like some people collect stamps. I am always looking for the edge that will make me more efficient and, even more importantly, more effective.

Based on my recent 2013 Reader Survey, 75 percent of my readers want more productivity content. So here are my top ten favorite productivity hacks of all time, in no particular order:

  1. Eliminate online distractions.
  2. Schedule time alone.
  3. Batch similar tasks together.
  4. Identify your must-dos.
  5. Eliminate, automate, delegate.
  6. Hire virtual assistants.
  7. Invest in coaching.
  8. Acquire better tools.
  9. Get better at saying “no.”
  10. Use templates for everything.

Link to hear the podcast and the links to resources linked to this list of tips

photo credit: Akshay Charegaonkar via photopin cc

photo credit: Akshay Charegaonkar via photopin cc

6 Ways To Banish End-of-Year Stress At The Office

Judy Martin writes…

The festivities have begun, but the merrier trimmings won’t likely override the underlying state of the workforce. A Gallup poll this year found that 70% of the workforce was either disengaged or miserable. An uncertain labor market, work overload, and nudging thoughts about career advancement are enough to have you thinking about jumping on the next sleigh away from the office.

Generally, we all get a bit sensitive with more work-life conflict during the holidays. But workplace stressors like year-end deadlines, office politics, and expectations from the corner office can burn you out and make your eggnog go sour.

While taking it in stride, here are six tools to bring you comfort and joy this time of year, making your workplace holiday experience a little more manageable.

1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

For many people, the holidays can be tough. Old memories or wounds tend to surface, some miss loved ones, and December acts as a reminder of yet another year gone by. Unless you’re a mind reader, you won’t know what’s going on with your colleagues in any given moment, and it’s unrealistic to try to figure it out. Instead, it’s extra important to give people the benefit of the doubt this time of year—accepting that they may be more stressed or pained than usual, and trying your best not to jump into defensive mode if someone lashes out at you.

That’s not to say you should be a doormat. But consider the source before taking things to heart.

2. Determine What Can Wait

With year-end reviews and deadlines on the horizon, we often spend the end of the year stressing over finishing last-minute reports, wrapping up back-burner projects, and squeezing in just one more meeting before the holidays—knowing full well in the back of our minds that it’s not all going to get done.

This year, try this: With any item on your to-do list, ask yourself, “Is it a high-level priority that will impact my good standing at work—or can it wait?” For those second-tier projects, approach your manager with a few solutions, as well as more reasonable timelines in which you can get them done. 

3. Practice a Growth Mindset

Whether you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or wondering how to approach a problem at work, positive psychology research smiles upon working through the lens of a “growth mindset,” which opens your mind toward reframing thoughts that make you feel stuck. For example, think of a colleague you’ve perceived as indifferent, difficult, or just set in his ways. Rather than concentrating on his faults or judging him, try focusing more on learning new ways to work with him.

By using a more curious approach, you’ll persist in the face of setbacks, learn from feedback, embrace challenges, and realize your effort can help you achieve more successful results—all of which creates positive emotions that can help reduce your year-end stress.

4. Use Breath as a Daily Stress-Busting Ritual

Incorporating regular deep breathing into your daily routine is the cheapest, easiest way possible to foster a sense of calm throughout your workday. Try setting your phone alarm twice a day for a breathing break (preferably, late morning and late afternoon). Take three deep breaths into the pit of your belly, evenly inhaling to a count of three, holding for a moment, and exhaling to a count of three. Do two rounds of that. Then on a third round, double the length of your exhalation, which triggers a physical relaxation response. Try it—and see how much better you feel about the task at hand afterward.

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5. Find Moments of Solitude

It’s almost counterintuitive to imagine that the office can be a respite from the holiday bustle, but finding small ways to take a break throughout the day can really help your sanity this time of year. Take a walk, listen to some music for a few minutes—or if you can—just close your door for some quiet time. You could even try working in a conference room or telecommuting for a day or two.

If it’s hard to take a break throughout the day, place a small trinket on your desk that reminds you to shift your mind to a calmer place, or display a family picture on your desk to help you remember the good people around you.

6. Savor Positive Experiences at Work

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect, so take time to look back on the better moments from the last year at work. Were there projects that you influenced in a profitable or creative way? Were there relationships that enhanced your working experience?

Even if you don’t particularly like your job, writing a list of the good points associated with your position can enhance your skills of gratitude and positive thinking. In fact, research shows such behavior helps to activate the feel-good neurotransmitters of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in your brain. This then triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to reduce stress.

Don’t let troubles at the office get in the way of enjoying the holiday season. By proactively managing your work stress, you’ll finish the year—and start the new one—in an all-around happier place…

Link to read the original article

Give and Take with Adam Grant

Professor Adam Grant talks about a revolutionary new approach to success in business and in life at an Action for Happiness event in London on 19 May 2013.

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

Here’s a lovely way to approach Christmas, each day helping to make your world a happier place – and yourself happier and probably more productive along the way too…

Link to the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

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Happiness At Work Collection #75

All of these stories and many more are in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection , out from Friday morning (GMT)

I hope you find much to here to enjoy…