This week’s Happiness At Work takes another look at resilience – the tougher, stronger, beefed up cousin of happiness.
Resilience is becoming one those things we are all expected to be good at – and it may even be starting to be seen as some kind of new panacea
Last year Forbes predicted that it would be one of the key new trends in business
The UK Government is calling for resilience to be taught in schools and resilience is being looked to for our economic recovery and future success.
In their book, ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,’ Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy feature a type of workplace resilience which has caused innovative CEOs all over America and abroad to hire Marketplace Chaplains
Zolli described the thinking in a recent New York Times piece, Learning to Bounce Back “[A] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.”
Here is an extract from the article Yes Teach Workers Resilience – but they still have a breaking point too published in The Guardian in January this year…
This “global race” business is no laughing matter. It’s as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics want us all to stay in training. The language of fitness and athleticism is everywhere: we have to be flexible, we have to be agile, we have to be nimble.
And now, it seems, we have to be resilient too. The civil service is the latest organisation to support “resilience training” as a way of helping staff deal with the pressures of work. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice, told the FT that colleagues could benefit from developing coping skills in today’s tougher climate.
Who could be against resilience, or greater fitness come to think of it? The healthy worker may be more resistant to colds and flu, and will have the energy to keep going when others start to tire. Economists continue to worry about the chronic poor productivity in the UK. A lack of resilience may have something to do with it. Whether you are on a late or early shift, there is work to be done and targets to be hit. That means being ready and able to perform.
But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”? Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, says this. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” He supports “any training which can equip staff with the skills they need to help look after their own mental wellbeing”.
There is a caveat, however. Resilience should not be seen as a way of putting up with anything. “Nobody should be expected to cope with ever-increasing demands, excessive workloads and longer working hours,” he says.
What really adds to stress and a sense of powerlessness at work is a loss of autonomy, either as a result of poor work organisation or the impossibility of being able to speak up. And while it might seem refreshing to hear a senior civil servant discussing the need for a more open culture and better two-way communication between bosses and employees, if in practice this doesn’t happen then stress levels are likely to rise.
But a positive mindset can help individuals to overcome the most difficult of situations.
Resilience is definitely something that can be learned and is worth cultivating – it increases our power and range of choices over our circumstances – whatever they nay be – and therefore, ultimately, the outcomes we produce.
Zolli and Healy define resilience as “the capacity … of a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances…”
Resilience has been defined as an attitude that enables the individual to examine, enhance and utilise the strengths, characteristics and other resources available to him or her.
Other definitions of resilience include:
An individual’s response and methods used to allow them to successfully navigate through or past an event perceived to be stressful.
“The flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences” (Tugade et al, 2004) or “a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversities which can be unusual or common place.” (Neenan, 2010).
“The capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).
The term “bouncing back” is used to describe resilience, but this belies the struggles and adaptations that an individual has to make in order to emerge stronger from a stressful situation and the growth that is part of resilience.
Here are the essential components of resilience that we teach in our training, mapped into our model of Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities:
Essential Elements of Resilience
Emotional ~ organisation, problem solving, self-determination.
“Approaching life’s challenges in a positive, optimistic way by demonstrating self-control, stamina and good character with your choices and actions.”
When faced with an event we will appraise the situation reflecting on our own skills and make an assessment of whether or not they are sufficient to navigate the event successfully. If we feel there is a deficiency, this can lead to reduced optimism and positivity. Having prior experience of successful problem solving provides confidence and can assist in the development of a positive attitude. People with high levels of determination are strong self-believers; they believe that they will be able to tackle most things, which gives them positive feelings.
Psychological ~ vision, self-confidence, self-determination.
“Strengthening a set of beliefs, principles or values that sustain a person beyond family, institution and societal sources of strength.”
Having a vision gives a sense of purpose and direction to one’s life. Without a life vision, activities and actions have a reduced value and therefore affect the effort and determination that will be applied to overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of achieving the goals associated with the vision.
It also means that when competing demands arrive it is easier to allocate time and energy when appraising them according to goals/vision, which will direct what takes precedence. Having a vision can contribute to self-confidence, hope and excitement about the future. Having goals has been stated as being essential to our survival.
Physical ~ self-determination, vision, self-confidence.
“Performing and excelling in physical activities that require aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, healthy body composition and flexibility derived through exercise, nutrition and training.”
This dimension implies that a healthy body composition is an essential requirement of the physical aspect of resilience. However, the literature on physical exercise suggests that resilience derives from the degree of effort required in each session, and the commitment to an exercise programme over a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of significant effort three times per week over three to four months (Leith, 2010).
This model was developed for the US army, so it may be that the dimension reflects that cohort. A commitment to an exercise programme as described requires self-determination. The actual achievement of this goal contributes to mood control, creates positive emotions and raises self-confidence and, consequently, self-belief.
Social ~ interaction, relationships, self-confidence.
“Developing and maintaining trusted, valued relationships and friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication including a comfortable exchange of ideas, views and experiences.”
We need others to survive, and our methods of interacting will affect the degree to which we obtain our needs. Mowbray advocates strengthening our ability to create reciprocity, the ability to respond, understand and assist in the needs of others and, in return, the “other” will respond to your needs.
Our own personal resilience can be hugely affected by relationships at work, including the effect of line managers. If our manager is limiting our progression, subtly or overtly, it will be a challenge not to allow this to affect how we feel about ourselves, avoid feeling “hard done by” attitude, and remain connected and engaged in our work. On the other hand, a manager who is capable and invests time in encouraging and nurturing us makes it easier us to build up our psychological capital and to be more resilient.
Family ~ relationships, interaction, vision, self-confidence.
“Being part of a unit that is safe, supportive, loving and provides all the resources needed for all members to live in a healthy and secure environment.”
Everyone needs a relationship where they feel safe enough to “just be themselves” without any fear of belittlement, ostracising or other forms of behaviour that make the individual feel that they need to adapt and modify their behaviour. Usually this comes from within the family structure and it is these relationships that can be the most punitive and damaging, in which case the individual will need to develop considerable resilience.
10 tips for building resilience
assembled by The American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association has assembled information from topnotch experts and developed 10 tips for building resilience.
1. Make connections.
Having good relationships gives us the social support we need in order to bounce back from the inevitable trials and tribulations we must face. Having someone who listens to our stories is essential to our well-being. Knowing that we have a friend who will support us when we’re struggling and celebrate with us when we’re successful is one of the most important ingredients for having a happy life.
If you want to strengthen this aspect of your life you’ll benefit enormously from working to improve your skills around showing empathy, which enables others to know that you understand how they’re feeling. Being able to recognize and respond in a caring manner when other people express emotions is the key to being a friend, which is the best way to surround yourself with people who’ll be there for you when you need them.
- Help others.
When we do something to help another person make progress on a project we often make the difference in their being able to achieve success. This gives us a sense of having the power to make the world a better place. Studies show that the happiest people on earth are those who take time to make a meaningful difference in the lives others.
- Maintain a daily routine.
Creating rituals that we follow every day is crucial for developing and maintaining healthy habits. Brushing your teeth is a good example of a healthy daily ritual that, once established, we feel compelled to do.
- Plan times to take breaks.
The adult human brain can maintain concentration for a maximum of 90 minutes. Regular breaks are important for alleviating the anxiety that accumulates as we feel the pressure to do well, fit in, please others, etc. If you walk around 10 minutes 3 times during the day you’ll burn off significant amounts of stress chemicals.
- Promote a balanced lifestyle.
Learning to have a healthy balance in life is crucial to your well-being. Learning to eat properly, get enough exercise and rest, and have fun in ways that involve people rather than electronic devices provides a foundation for being a high-functioning individual.
- Keep moving toward goals.
Setting reasonable goals and then taking one step at a time to move toward them builds confidence that we can slowly but surely overcome the challenges we face in life. Focusing on progress and effort keeps us motivated to continue moving forward.
- Nourish a positive self-view.
How people feel about themselves is based on how they talk to themselves about their present situation as well as how they envision their future. Quiet your inner critic by reviewing how you’ve successfully handled hardships in the past. Use those lessons to see how to deal with your current problems.
- Cultivate an optimistic outlook.
Often we have a difficult time looking beyond our present situation. We need a long-term perspective that enables us to see that it’s possible to move on to recreating good things in life even after bad events have occurred. Everyday take a few minutes to envision life as you’d like it to turn out.
- Develop your character strengths.
We have the opportunity to learn the most as a result of the tough times we encounter. Appreciate those character strengths that you’ve developed while struggling with the challenges of life.
10. Keep learning. Accept change as a constant.
Change automatically evokes the fear response. Happy people control their fear by giving themselves quiet time to figure out how to adapt successfully to their new situation.
More than anything else, building resilience relies upon us recognising that how we choose to think about and explain what happens to us matters much much more than the actualities of what happens to us, no matter how severe, unexpected or apparently outside our control this might feel. This idea is encapsulated in what experts are now identifying as a ‘growth’ versus a ‘fixed’ mindset…
It’s a little bit like “nature vs nurture”:
People in a fixed mindset believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.
People in a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.
This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly deep. The fixed mindset is the most common and the most harmful, so it’s worth understanding and considering how it’s affecting you.
In a fixed mindset, you believe “She’s a natural born singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing.”
In a growth mindset, you believe “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”
The fixed mindset believes trouble is devastating. If you believe, “You’re either naturally great or will never be great,” then when you have any trouble, your mind thinks, “See? You’ll never be great at this. Give up now.”
The growth mindset believes trouble is just important feedback in the learning process.
Can you see how this subtle difference in mindset can change everything?
In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure.
In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve.
In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence.
In a growth mindset, you keep up your confidence by always pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning.
In a fixed mindset, you look inside yourself to find your true passion and purpose, as if this is a hidden inherent thing.
In a growth mindset, you commit to mastering valuable skills regardless of mood, knowing passion and purpose come from doing great work, which comes from expertise and experience.
In a fixed mindset, failures define you.
In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks.
In a fixed mindset, you believe if you’re romantically compatible with someone, you should share all of eachother’s views, and everything should just come naturally.
In a growth mindset, you believe a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.
In a fixed mindset, it’s all about the outcome. If you fail, you think all effort was wasted.
In a growth mindset, it’s all about the process, so the outcome hardly matters.
In this Working Families video Julie Hurst distils the resilience intelligence into a robust triangle of: Control, Well-Being and Bounce Back…
A short film from Working Families exploring practical tips and insight from experts and working men and women across the generations about how they build their energy and resilience to be the best they can be at work and enjoy a full life.
• Get the balance right for you
• Find focus and energy when work gets tough
• Keep relationships alive
It might surprise you to know that that your daily dose of little hassles like traffic snarls and annoying arguments can also add up over time and become lethal.
A Shocking Rise in Mortality
To come to this conclusion, a new study led by Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, looked at 1,293 male veterans, following them for as much as two decades. The research team tracked the veterans’ levels of everyday stress, as well as high stress incidents such as a divorce or losing a job, and analyzed their effects on mortality.
What they found might shock those harried by a pile up of seemingly small daily stresses.
Accumulating a lot of these annoyances over time can be as deadly, it seems, as a devastating life event – at least for older men.
Those study subjects who reported low levels of everyday stress had a 28.7 percent mortality rate. And how about those with high numbers of little stressors? By the end of the study, 64.3 percent had passed away.
That’s an alarming jump in the mortality rate, but if your life isn’t exactly a model of calm and peacefulness, don’t get too worried. You still have time to change. It takes a while for little stresses to do their damage. “We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress–if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality,” Aldwin comments.
Fighting Back Against Stress
There are also countermeasures you can take, according to Aldwin–and don’t worry, these don’t involve the often impossible-seeming task of removing all those little annoyances from your life.
The key to not having stress impact your health is simply how you think about it.
“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems. Taking things in stride may protect you,” Aldwin says, adding: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”
That might not sound like the most scientific advice even given, but other research backs up Aldwin. The same stressors can have wildly different effects depending on how you mentally process them, according to this fascinating TED talk from Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress,” she explains.
Not making mountains out of molehills seems to be pretty powerful medicine after all.
Two concepts we tend to lump together are laziness and being unproductive.
But it is possible to be lazy and be productive at the same time; it just depends what areas of your life you’re seeking to improve.
Here are 10 examples of times when it’s okay to be lazy while still improving yourself and your life.
1. When your spouse wants to spend time with you
…The time you spend with your significant other can drastically impact your relationship, so make sure that you put it higher on your priority list than paperwork or household chores.
2. When you’re stressing yourself out
…If you’re stressing yourself out about managing bills, work or your home life, take an hour or two to chill out. You’ll be doing something beneficial for your health and you’ll also find that when you return to the tasks you want to get done, you can focus on them a lot more calmly, thus making your work more productive.
3. When you’re missing the little things
…Take a few minutes to watch the sky change colors and then get back to work.
Watching the sun set, or just making time for the small pleasures in life in general, is thought to have a number of healthy benefits. Plus, they can serve as a great source of inspiration and motivation for future productivity.
4. When you feel a cold coming on
With the seasons changing, most of us are likely to experience a slight onset of sickness. However, if you handle the early signs of a cold by allowing yourself a lazy day, you’re much less likely to get an all-out illness.
Some people actually try to work harder when they feel a cold coming on, believing that they’ll be able to get all of their work done before they start to feel truly awful. However, there will always be more work to do; nipping your cold in the bud is the best thing you can do to keep your health and productivity maxed.
5. When you’re no longer being productive
Sometimes we confuse productivity with simply doing things. And that’s an oversight. Just because you’re working on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s productive work.
If you’re no longer interested in what you’re working on or you’re experiencing a mental block, your time may very well be better spent taking a nap or grabbing dinner. That way, your mind gets time to recharge and you can resume your task later and with better results.
6. When you’re feeling exhausted
There’s a difference between simply not wanting to do something and actually being exhausted. Whether you’re exhausted mentally or physically, it’s wise to listen to what your body is telling you.
If you’re physically exhausted, take a night to veg out in front of the TV or plan a relaxing evening playing board games. If you’re mentally exhausted, just the opposite may be true for you. Exercise is a great way to let go of stress and release some extra endorphins to make you feel good.
7. When you’re spending too much money
While soup and sandwiches might not be ideal for dinner every night, they can definitely be ideal if you’ve been going out to eat often. …Having a lazy meal at home can be a nice change of pace – for both you and your wallet.
8. When you’re planning to aggressively
…Many unexpected things will likely happen to you in the next few weeks, so don’t waste your energy trying to plan and organize everything in advance. Be lazy and go with the flow. You’ll be less stressed and the weeks ahead of you will seem more interesting.
9. When you’ve run out of ideas
New ideas and boosted creativity come much more easily to a rested, lazy mind than to a frantic, overactive one.
If you’ve got some serious mental blocks about an upcoming project or task, play a mini-game on your computer or browse your favorite websites for a while until you feel nice and rested. Then go back to brainstorming and see what new and creative ideas you can come up with.
10. When you’re done
Our society places a lot of value on the number of hours we spend working each week. But the number of hours you spend working at your job shouldn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of work you produce.
If you can produce high quality work in less time than the next guy, I say well done. If you need more time to achieve high-quality work, I still say well done.
The point is that it’s useless to work towards a time-centric goal when you should be working towards a quality-centric goal. Working for quality and not hours can not only improve your career, but also your satisfaction with yourself and the options available to you later in life.
If you’re done with your to-do list, you deserve some lazy time. You just need to hold yourself accountable for the quality of work you’ve produced.
I hope this list has given you a new perspective on what it means to be lazy, and the ways in which it’s okay to be lazy in your own life.
This article pulls together the different intelligences we now have from psychology, neurology, biology and economics to provide an excellent guide to building our happiness…
by Irene Becker
Here are some facts you need to know:
1. Neuroscience confirms that optimizing our cognitive potential means priming our brain to be happy. Old school: Get successful then you will be happy New school: Prime your brain to be happy in order to optimize your potential and succeed.
2. Happiness leads to greater productivity. “A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.” Shawn Anchor, Harvard Business Review, June 2011
4. Studies conclude that certain aspects of our ancestral environment are important to health and wellbeing; sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important to physical and psychological health (CJ Fitzgerald, KM Canner, Department of Psychology, Oakland University)
Here are five simple, practical, actionable steps to kickstart results to experience more happiness in your life.
1. Reduce emotional and cognitive exhaustion. Find new ways to see changes, challenges and problems that help you build greater emotional and cognitive dexterity. Impossible, think again.
2. Take time to take time. Taking even five minute breaks (zone out time, no stress, no pressure, no problems) every 90 minutes will go a long way in driving greater productivity and happiness. Here are a list of great exercises that take less than 3 minutes. Enjoy!
3. Reset your GPS. Become solution focused. Start looking or the solution amidst the problem because your brain is an idiot savant that will seek out confirmation of what you are thinking and believing.
4. Embrace your ability to become a possibility thinker because the greatest solutions are born of the most challenging problems. Success is all about seeing things differently. Each time you can catch yourself falling into a habitual pattern of thinking, and step forward by looking at a challenge or problem with new eyes you are building resiliency as well as cognitive and emotional adaptability.
5. Start your day the right way… with a smile. The way you start the day is important. If you get up on the wrong side of the bed, start again. Find something that shifts your mood, so that you start your day on the right foot.
6. Take five minutes or more a day to put your brain in an alpha state. Here is a practical transformative exercise you can do in less than 2 minutes. Bonus, if you stick to it and try it consistently for a week you will see that it works! Simple, practical and powerful!
7. Make happiness a priority for yourself and for others. Become purpose centred. Understand what really drives you, what gives you the greatest sense of fulfilment and use this self knowledge to find new ways to live and work purposefully.
8. Improve your relationship with yourself and others. Find new ways to socialize, to develop social bonds of trust and kinship at work and in your personal life. Enhancing the quality of your interaction with others adding a human and social dimension to your work and life is critical on a number of levels.
9. Create an environment that makes you happy. sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important. Determine what you need to feel better and adjust your work and or living environment accordingly.
10. Put on a happy face. Believe it or not the simple act of smiling is a mood elevator. Use your smile more frequently. It helps and it works!
by Mark Lukens
All business has a human side. Part of it is the obvious one – human resources. Part of it is the fundamental one – customers. Part of it is what makes work satisfying rather than draining – acting like a human being.
The human side of business isn’t easy. It can be difficult to get right and is sometimes emotionally gruelling. But those difficulties are a challenge that we have to rise to, and sometimes they’re what makes the human side worthwhile.
Accepting Your Discomfort
Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism emphasise accepting rather than struggling against discomfort. Stress prevention techniques such as mindfulness draw on this same tradition. Acceptance can be a valuable part of rising to the human challenge.
It often feels easier to avoid a difficult situation or piece of work than to tackle it. This instinct can lead to destructive behaviour, pushing back against the discomfort and the relationship causing it. Trying to seize control, sabotage the situation or evade it.
But that pushing creates conflicts. Better to accept that discomfort is part of being human, and if a relationship or piece of work is causing you discomfort then that’s a sign that it matters to you. Try to accept that discomfort, to use it to work out what’s going wrong, and to find ways to fix the situation. Better to work hard at one difficult situation and see it through than to give up on a dozen because you were uncomfortable.
Working at Relationships
Hollywood has taught us to see human relationships as things that just happen. You meet someone and you immediately feel that spark, whether it’s love, hate or something in between. Or perhaps fortuitous circumstances push you together and transform that dynamic.
But just as a cowboy won’t ride into town to save you at the end, high quality relationships don’t really appear out of nowhere. They involve hard work. When they’re going well that work feels easy. When they aren’t it can feel unbearable. But because they’re built on work they can be fixed.
Fixing a damaged working relationship isn’t easy, but it is one of the most important challenges of the human side of business. You have to recognize what’s going wrong, accept that you may be part of the problem, and find common ground to rebuild from. The combination of humility, empathy and hard work required is a challenge, but it’s always better than just giving up and sinking into acrimony.
Embracing What’s Best
This doesn’t mean you should just passively accept every aspect of how people behave. It means embracing what’s best in people and working to tap into that. Some things are inevitable, like some moments of discomfort and occasional conflicts in the workplace. But others can be challenged.
For example, one of the biggest obstacles to change is the human instinct to seek familiar patterns and the discomfort we feel when those patterns are disrupted. That instinct means that we’re programmed to avoid change, even though it’s a vital part of modern business. So accept the discomfort, not the instinct of avoidance. Embrace change and all the possibilities it can unleash.
That kind of differentiation is part of the human challenge.
A More Human Business
As human beings we are not always comfortable, or wise, or right. We all face difficulties and we all make mistakes. Facing those difficulties in ourselves, in our relationships and in the space around us can allow us to build better relationships and a better business.
So rise up to the challenges that make us who we are and make your business more human.
Steve McCurry’s newest photo collection puts the focus on hands and, as ever, evokes in this collection a deeply intimate portrait of the wonderfully grand and many textures of what being human means…
Behold the hands
how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate,
refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command,
mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of
variation which makes the tongue envious.
– Michel de Montaigne
4th & 5th October 2014
Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist
The first ever international celebration of Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood’s inspirational Fun Palaces ideas goes live the weekend after next. If you’re in the UK there’s bound to be at least one happening near you. And whatever Fun Palace you go to, it will be an extraordinary special and not to be missed experience.
Visit the website and find out what is going on where and how you can be part of it…
You can find all of these articles, and many more, in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #112 collection, published on Friday 26th September 2014.