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…
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.
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…
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.
…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.
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
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.
ERIC BARKER 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.
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.”
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?
“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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
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
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.
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.
What to do? Do all your giving one day a week.
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.
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.
Allen Hsu 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.
You will find these stories and more in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection, online from Friday 27th December.