Happiness At Work #109 ~ our ordinary power

 

Several years ago while I was enjoying the fun and reward of making learning programmes with him, Mike Phipps posited this great question, which turned out to be compelling enough to found a new leadership development practice, Politics at Work

“As you go about your day-to-day activities, where do you get your power and influence from…?”

I have always loved this question, and this week’s Happiness At Work theme considers the potency and power to be found in the ordinary and the everyday.

How can we learn to be happier with what we already have, without having to make any radical changes or costly additions to our current circumstances and without having to depend upon the decisions, actions or behaviours of other people?

What is perhaps already there, right under our noses and within our reach, that we might draw from to advance our own and each other’s success and happiness?

What new potency and life can be discovered in the everyday material of our lives if we would just give ourselves a bit more time and attention to notice?

These are the questions that this collection of articles helps to highlight…

 

Power & Politics at Work – Mike Phipps

Imagine what you could do if you no longer had to ‘play politics’ at work to get things done? How much time would you save?

Eric Liu: Why ordinary people need to understand power

Far too many Americans are illiterate in power — what it is, how it operates and why some people have it. As a result, those few who do understand power wield disproportionate influence over everyone else. “We need to make civics sexy again,” says civics educator Eric Liu. “As sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement.”

 

12 Things People in Denmark Do That Make Them the Happiest People in the World

by Remi Alli

On March 20th — the International Day of Happiness — the United Nations recognized “happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” And when it comes to the happiest people, the “World Happiness Report 2013” identified the bacon-loving country of Denmark as holding the highest levels of happiness … but why?

1. They understand the meaning of “It takes a village …”

The Danes place tremendous importance on social, economic and overall security, thus this common quip holds true. In general, volunteerism is given high priority. Ultimately, it appears that community support helps Denmark the most.

2. They are one of the most generous.

Denmark ranks third in the most recent figures for foreign aid expenditure per capita, very generously providing for developing countries and disaster relief.

3. They treat each other with respect.

The Danes are often extremely proud when another Dane launches a successful career, regardless of where they are in the world. For example, the actors Scarlett Johansson (Danish father) and Viggo Mortensen are very popular. Perhaps their cultural regard towards one another also leads to the low reported incidence of corruption in their leadership too.

4. They don’t believe in income inequality.

With an unofficial but recognized $20 minimum wage rate, workers have many reasons to be happy. In addition, their roughly 80% unionization provides them relatively decent leverage if they don’t receive worker benefits. Even still, there are quite a few wealthy people along with a high standard of living, and many wealthy job providers don’t consider their businesses successful until they are able to pay for their workers to have comparable lifestyles to themselves. Employers often cover employee health insurance, too. Denmark is also known for its large GDP per capita.

5. They view certain milestones in reverse (to the U.S.).

Perhaps the Danes are well versed in the psychological reasoning that banning something only increases its desirability. There is no minimum drinking age, for example; Denmark allows parents to decide for their children under age 16. At 16, certain types of alcohol can be bought, while at 18 any legally sold alcohol can be purchased. Eighteen is also the legal age to drive.

6. They don’t support violence.

Other than soldiers in the United Nations, Denmark is not currently involved in any wars, which many believe often create more problems than they resolve, including generations of despairing, disillusioned and forgotten veterans. They also do not have guns readily available and boast an estimated 90% voter turnout rate.

7. They believe that education is a right.

The Danes teach their youth not only Danish but English, giving them a wide perspective and ability to relate as global citizens. Also, university is mostly free to willing students and these students also receive grants towards tuition as an educational incentive. Specifically, the government provides around $1,000 monthly for 70 months towards a degree and students can often easily sign up for loans.

8. They are pretty advanced in social equality.

Denmark outlawed job discrimination against gay people in 1948 and hold values such as tolerance and community accountability quite high — no victim mentalities here.

9. They believe in a military relative in size to its population.

A proportional militia allows more government funding to flow directly to its citizens, rather than subsidizing real or perceived threats.

10. They hold socialist (and capitalist) values.

The Danes believe that people come before profit. Thus, the Danish government provides quite a lot in pensions, unemployment, subsidized child care, free education for professionals, quality infrastructure and sickness benefits, which the Danish understand and appreciate.

11. They understand and appreciate what their taxes subsidize.

Danes pay a pretty penny in taxes: anywhere in range of 36% to 51% in state taxes, along with a 25% sales tax, and around a 1% voluntary church tax. Their Government is also quite astute in managing these particular financial affairs, allowing Danes fairly decent retirement funds and sound infrastructures. While most European countries’ middle class pay more tax than in the United States, the Danish belief in taking care of its citizens means the wealthy pay more in taxes than the working class.

12. They prioritize health.

Many food additives are banned, such as the trans fats that are mostly found in cheap, fried food items. To top it off, with plenty of flat land and a small population, much of Denmark is ideal for the avid bicyclist. The Danes also boast a healthy life expectancy.

Link to read the original article

Happiness: you can work it out

Ditch the guilt, banish your inbox and stop blue-sky thinking. As we return to our desks after the summer fun, Richard Godwin finds the formula for feeling good in the office

Early on in his new book, Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan relates a conversation he once had with a friend who is (or rather, was) a high-powered media executive. She spent most of the evening complaining that her line of work made her miserable. Her boss, her colleagues, her commute — all of it brought her down. When she came to pay the bill, however, her final statement took him by surprise. “Of course, I love working in Medialand!” It is apparent contradictions such as this that illuminate Dolan’s central thesis.

A professor of behavioural sciences at LSE, Dolan came from what he describes as a “lower working-class” family in east London to become one of the world’s leading experts in the emerging study of happiness. Daniel Kahneman, the fabled Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, views him as something of a protégé. The Office for National Statistics has employed him to help establish the framework of David Cameron’s national wellbeing survey.

He is part of a wave of social scientists whose discoveries at once confound your expectations and provide an appreciable way of acting on that knowledge. It’s self-help for pseuds, in other words, in the best traditions of Kahneman’s own Thinking, Fast and Slow, or Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, and full of facts that make you go: “Huh.”

Did you know, for example, that accidents among small children — which have been in decline for decades — have risen since the invention of the smartphone? (Distraction is one of the most significant barriers to happiness, as well as to responsible parenting.) Or that people who tweet about how they’re trying to lose weight actually lose more weight than people who don’t? The rate is 0.5 per cent of weight loss per 10 tweets. Dolan includes that as an example of how peer pressure may be turned into a positive — if losing weight is indeed what makes you happy. The evidence suggests that it does not in the long term.

Dolan’s central insight is that how we evaluate our happiness is very different from how we actually experience it. His media friend thought she was happy (“I love working in Medialand!”). But what was really important, Dolan argues, is her day-to-day experience of it. “[We] generally pay more attention to what we think should make us happy rather than focusing on what actually does,” as he puts it. If we want to be happy, we should get better at working out what makes us happy in the moment.

For this he cites what he calls the “Pleasure Purpose Principle”. We need to balance both pleasure and purpose to experience happiness. It explains why we “solve” a crappy day at work (purpose) with an evening in front of the TV (pleasure). However, when pleasure has no purpose, that doesn’t make us happy either — which is why we’ll often choose to watch some worthy documentary over a silly romcom. Likewise, if there is no pleasure in our purpose — for example, if we’re working on something that we know is a pointless waste of time — it makes us unhappy. Take the dreaded “unassigned” Hooli staff in the sitcom Silicon Valley. Making money from doing nothing does not make them happy. As Dolan counsels: “Happiness is ultimately about the pleasure-purpose principle over time.”

And while the insights are applicable in many areas of life, it’s at work they are most acute. It’s where we spend most of our conscious lives, after all. Here are 10 of the take-home lessons.

Your attention is a scarce resource. Use it wisely …

All work and no play leads to regret …

Future happiness does not compensate for present misery…

…But do consider the present benefits of future decisions …

Change your environment …

Making decisions is difficult. Seek help …

Don’t think about the weather …

Minimise distractions …

Surround yourself with people who increase your happiness…

…But do not compare yourself too much with people around you …

Link to read the full article

Ask Your Employees These 4 Simple Questions to Elicit Productive Feedback

by Susan Steinbreacher

[It is all too easy to become] caught up in the “bigger picture” and the intricacies of your role. But by doing so, it is possible to become disconnected from the day-to-day operations of your business, particularly your impact on employees, customers and suppliers.

When you are only thinking about this broad view, you may notice a downturn in sales, more customer complaints, or employee productivity taking a dive. You may begin to question the way in which you [are working], spending many long, exasperating hours trying to determine why [you are] not moving in the right direction. That is when the “human-side” of the operation — the satisfaction of employees, customers and others who interact with the company — is negatively impacted.

It’s at this point that you’d better start asking questions.

To improve employee engagement and make positive changes in the workplace, leaders should be asking employees for their honest opinion about what is working — or not working — in the organization. If handled properly, the results can yield feedback that may enable you to bolster morale, streamline systems and increase customer satisfaction.  It may even help you to become a better leader.

To get employees talking, you don’t need to have them fill out a huge questionnaire. Instead start with these four simple questions.

1. What are we doing when operating at our best? The goal here is to extract out best practices. The answers you receive will also speak to the culture of the organization and will allow you to leverage those best practices in your marketing collateral as well as when recruiting employees.

2. What are you hearing customers say about our business? The objective of this inquiry is to capture — directly from the front line — what customers or clients are saying. Look carefully for emerging patterns.

3. If you were in my shoes and could make all the decisions, what would you do and why? The purpose of this question is three-fold. First, it engages the employee and demonstrates that management cares about what they think. Second, it puts part of the responsibility on the employee to think more like a leader and put themselves in your shoes. Not only does this instigate creative thought, but it also generates empathy for the responsibilities of company leadership. Most importantly, since the employee is closest to the customer, they will be able to suggest clearly-defined opportunities for improvement.

4. What is the “one essential thing” I need to know in order to make this business a success? This question gets to the heart of how your organization’s time, resources and initiative should be directed in order to prosper. Once again, look for patterns and, if possible, further validate those findings through customer surveys or focus groups.

Be aware that some associates may be fearful of backlash and not be willing to tell it like it is. To avoid this response, meet in small groups, one-on-one (or even allow anonymity) during the process. Determine what works best for your company and don’t forget to show appreciation for the feedback you receive. Recognize that you may be inclined to disagree or provide an explanation for some of your employee’s reactions — so try to keep an open mind.

This exercise achieves multiple benefits. You acquire worthwhile data and, at the same time, the employee will feel that they are recognized, heard and respected.

Take your employee’s feedback and work with it. Build a supportive environment that promotes creativity. Get clear about the relationships between associates, suppliers and customers. Keep it positive and let your employees know that you are receptive to new ideas. Finally, do a little soul searching on your own contribution. Use your insight and focused attention to instil confidence and commitment in your employees that will support them in their efforts to do their very best for your organization.

Link read the original article

 

How To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness

by Jane Porter

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?

Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. “It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences,” says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. “As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better.”

Hanson assures he isn’t just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. “This is not just ‘smell the roses,'” he says. “I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”

Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:

~ Recognise your negativity bias…

~ Don’t just think positively.  Think realistically…

~ Know what’s going on in the brain…

~ Follow the 10-second rule…

~ Think of your brain like a cassette recorder…

…Our brains are working just fine, you might be thinking. Why mess with something that’s not broken? But the fact of the matter is happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you can teach your brain to experience more fully.

“We should not fool ourselves,” says Hanson. “We’ve got a brain that is pulled together to help lizards, mice, and monkeys get through the day and pass on their genes. We’ve got a brain that’s like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. Be muscular from the inside out. Grow the good stuff inside yourself.”

Link to read the rest of this article

 

How To Accept A Compliment (Without Just Giving One Back)

By 

We’d be lying if we didn’t admit that getting a compliment is an instant mood booster. While we all know there’s a difference between meaningful compliments and ones that are more surface-level, how you act on the receiving end of praise is just as important as how you act when offering it.

A recent survey found that the majority of us know how to properly respond to a compliment, but do we really know how to accept them? For those who get squeamish, self-deprecating or just all-around awkward when someone applauds you, here is how to master the art of accepting a compliment:

Notice your body language.

How we carry ourselves is key to any conversation, but when it comes to really accepting compliments, body language could be your greatest ally. Our bodies can sometimes say way more than the words we speak — and they can also influence our thought patterns. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in her TED Talk on the power of body language, standing confidently, even when you don’t feel that way on the inside, can influence cortisol levels in the brain and can potentially influence success.

Bonus: Research shows that when we flash those pearly whites,we’re instantly boosting our mood. The same goes for our posture — standing straight can boost our self-esteem. No room for bad thoughts when you’re too busy feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Two words: Be mindful.

At its core, mindfulness is about having total awareness of your thoughts as they happen — and with this awareness also comes alack of judgment or categorization of these thoughts. By practicing mindfulness, we’re recognizing the compliment and our initial thoughts on it — and then choosing not to react in a negative manner. Need help incorporating more mindfulness in your everyday life? Try these tricks.

Realize the difference between humility and self-deprecation.

There’s a quiet power in modesty — it helps you see the good in others, it makes you more conscientious and a better leader. However, there’s a fine line between being humble and putting yourself down.

Even women with high self-esteem reject compliments, but mainly because they want to appear more modest, social psychologist Laura Brannon told TODAY. But in reality, humble people accept themselves for who they are. “Many people think of humility as … thinking very little of yourself, and I don’t think that’s right,” Mike Austin, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, previously told HuffPost Healthy Living. “It’s more about a proper or accurate assessment. A big part of humility is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses, morally or otherwise.”

Don’t compliment them back right away.
How many times have you been paid a compliment only to feel compelled to return the favor? This behavior — while inherently kind — isn’t the most effective way to help you accept genuine praise better.

As psychologist Susan Quilliam tells the Daily Mail, many women do this because it gets the attention off of them — another habit that could reinforce the idea that you don’t deserve the compliment in the first place (and you do). Complimenting others just for the sake of it can also feel disingenuous — so it’s better to leave it at a simple “thank you.”

Store it in your memory.

When we have self-critical thoughts after hearing kind remarks, it usually stems from the delusional idea that people don’t really mean what they say — or worse, they’re wrong about your positive qualities. And simply put, that’s just not true. Next time someone pays you a genuine compliment, file it in your memory and think about it when you’re feeling inadequate. The sooner you start believing you’re worth the praise, the easier it will be to accept it graciously — and you’ll be much happier for it.

Link to read the original article

The Irritating Reason That Overconfident People Get All The Breaks

by Dr Jeremy Dean

People who are overconfident in their own abilities are considered more talented by others than they really are, a new study finds.

These overconfident individuals are probably more likely to get promoted, to become the leaders of organisations and even nations.

On the other hand, people who are not so confident in their abilities are judged as less competent than they actually are.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, provide evidence for a controversial theory of the evolution of self-deception (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

Being better at deceiving yourself makes you better at deceiving others, some have argued, and this study provides evidence for the theory.

Dr. Vivek Nityananda, who co-authored the study, explained:

“These findings suggest that people don’t always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived.

We think this supports an evolutionary theory of self-deception.

It can be beneficial to have others believe you are better than you are and the best way to do this is to deceive yourself — which might be what we have evolved to do.”

The study shows how belief in your own abilities doesn’t just affect you but also those around you, who also pick up on your levels of self-belief very quickly.

The authors conclude that…

“…[since] overconfident individuals are more likely to be risk-prone, then by promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk.

From our smallest interactions to the institutions we build, self-deception may play a profound role in shaping the world we inhabit.” (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

Link to read the original article

The Psychology of Our Willful Blindness and Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril

by 

How to counter the gradual narrowing of our horizons.

In Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, serial entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan examines the intricate, pervasive cognitive and emotional mechanisms by which we choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to remain unseeing in situations where “we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.” We do that, Heffernan argues and illustrates through a multitude of case studies ranging from dictatorships to disastrous love affairs to Bernie Madoff, because “the more tightly we focus, the more we leave out” — or, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz put it in her remarkable exploration of exactly what we leave out in our daily lives, because “attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator.”…

“Whether individual or collective, willful blindness doesn’t have a single driver, but many. It is a human phenomenon to which we all succumb in matters little and large. We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial. We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs. It’s a truism that love is blind; what’s less obvious is just how much evidence it can ignore. Ideology powerfully masks what, to the uncaptivated mind, is obvious, dangerous, or absurd and there’s much about how, and even where, we live that leaves us in the dark. Fear of conflict, fear of change keeps us that way. An unconscious (and much denied) impulse to obey and conform shields us from confrontation and crowds provide friendly alibis for our inertia. And money has the power to blind us, even to our better selves…

“Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. And what’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty. We think we see more — even as the landscape shrinks…

And yet wilful blindness, Heffernan argues, isn’t a fatal diagnosis of the human condition — it may be our natural, evolutionarily cultivated tendency, but it is within our capability to diffuse it with the right combination of intention and attention. She reflects on the heartening evidence to which the various studies reviewed in the book point:

“The most crucial learning that has emerged from this science is the recognition that we continue to change right up to the moment we die. Every experience and encounter, each piece of new learning, each relationship or reassessment alters how our minds work. And no two experiences are the same. In his work on the human genome, the Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner reminds us that even identical twins will have different experiences in different environments and that that makes them fundamentally different beings. Identical twins develop different immune systems. Mental practice alone can change how our brains operate. The plasticity and responsiveness of our minds is what makes each of us most remarkable… We aren’t automata serving the master computer in our heads, and our capacity for change can never be underestimated…

“We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking. The very fact that willful blindness is willed, that it is a product of a rich mix of experience, knowledge, thinking, neurons, and neuroses, is what gives us the capacity to change it. Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?”

Link to read the rest of this  Brain Pickings article

Ziyah Gafić: Everyday objects, tragic histories

Ziyah Gafić photographs everyday objects—watches, shoes, glasses. But these images are deceptively simple; the items in them were exhumed from the mass graves of the Bosnian War. Gafić, a TED Fellow and Sarajevo native, has photographed every item from these graves in order to create a living archive of the identities of those lost.

Happiness At Work edition #109

All of these stories and many more are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection

We hope you enjoy the surprise of unearthing something delightful that was already there sometime over the coming week…

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