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…
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?
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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).
by Maria Popova
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?”
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…