Happiness At Work #121 ~ Freeing Your Voice

This week’s theme gathers recent stories and videos that all speak to the importance of freeing our voices and finding effective ways to be heard, seen and understood, along with some helpful techniques for going about this with courage, credibility and charisma.

Some of the stories and commentary that caught my attention from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos make our headline stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.  I have highlighted those that carry the new voices that can be heard with increasing resonance and authority amidst the more familiar agendas and rhetoric we might expect to come from a gathering of the great and good from the global business world, still predominantly older men in in suits.

These voices include a call to action to release and harness the still much much greater power and presence that women have to play in our work and leadership, the need to mix things up with a richer diversity of voices from the outside, from the fringes, from the edges, and the need to make conversations that join voices and unify thinking into the complex new solutions for the world we are continually having to reach for.

From outside the happenings of Davos 2015, I have also included some remarkable people who have found their voices – Morgana Bailey’s courageous stepping out of hiding, and Martin Bustamante, one of the prison inmates from Cristina Domenech’s poetry classes performing his own poem for a TED audience – as well as Julian Treasure’s practical masterclass in how to free and fire up your voice so that people will listen.

What it Feels Like to be a Woman at Davos in 2015

As Poppy Harlow reports from the event for The Guardian…

Davos is a gathering of great minds and change-makers from across the globe, and its theme this year was “the new global context”. The focus takes in everything from fighting terror to addressing the growing income divide. But this year just 17% of participants at this invitation-only summit are female; an increase on 15% in 2014, but still far too small a number. Meanwhile, on the Fortune 500 list, just 3.4% of corporations have female CEOs. Clearly, there is work to do.

In 2010 WEF introduced a new policy allowing corporations to bring a fifth senior leader to the summit (as opposed to the general limit of four), as long as both men and women were in the delegation. Progress has been made with initiatives like this, but the event remains dominantly male.

Facebook’s VP of global marketing Carolyn Everson thinks change will come. She told Fortune, “In the coming years, the number of attendees who are women will rise, as the conversations that are taking place all around us today are going to fundamentally impact the path for women in the future.” …

There’s a lot of work – game-changing work – being done by the women here at WEF. This is a place that humbles just about everyone because it’s hard to digest the calibre of many of the attendees and the magnitude of change for the better they are striving for.

WEF’s mission statement says it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.” And as Ann Cairns tweeted: “men and women make truly productive teams.” Let’s hope in the coming years they will also be equal in number.

Link to read the full article

Why We Need New Allies For Gender Equality

In her address to the conference, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said…

Given the paucity of women currently in positions of political leadership (just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women), it is hardly surprising that obstacles – practical and psychological – remain to more women joining them. We know that in too many cases still, girls are leaving school without competitive qualifications, and that even when girls do make it to tertiary education, gender-based violence and intimidation on campus is a daunting prospect.

Yet these young people are the change agents of our future, and this recognition is reflected in initiatives springing up globally, large and small.

Read the full article

Derek Handley: Davos Has A Diversity Problem

In this video clip you can hear maverick world changer and frustrated partygoer, Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor for AUT University, talking about his work, his dreams for a more socially and environmentally proactive business model, and his view disappointment in the lack of diversity at Davos….

“I spent most of the time outside the main event meeting people in all the different environments,” he said. “My main takeaway is it’s a really interesting place and there are amazing people here, but there is a diversity problem, and I think it’s a significant issue.”

He took issue with the fact that most attendees of Davos are men, and also said the annual meeting lacks artists – people who are in the problems themselves.  Because those people can’t afford to be here.

The best ideas always come from the fringe…  Let’s mix up the really interesting and powerful people who are here with some very diverse perspectives and focus hard on that if we really want to create a very productive and flourishing century.

Link to watch this video

3 Forces Shaping the University of the Future

In her address, Drew Gilpin Faust said “Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-ecomonic mobility…

Higher education is essential for a thriving society: it is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility and the locus, through research universities, of most of the major discoveries of the last two centuries.

At a time when access and affordability are more consequential than ever before, the world’s colleges and universities are facing a changed landscape. Three forces are creating possibilities and challenges that will define the future of one of humanity’s most enduring and most trusted institutions:

The influence of technology…

Residential education—working and living alongside one’s peers and mentors—cannot be replicated online. When I speak with alumni, they often reflect on serendipitous moments that changed the way they thought about themselves and their place in the world. More often than not, those moments happened in a common space or a classroom, a dining hall or a dorm, laboratory or lecture hall. Being together and sharing experiences no matter one’s surroundings.

The changing shape of knowledge…

What matter most in these moments, and in so many others, is recognising the extraordinary scope of expertise that humanity has at its disposal—and bringing the best minds together to work through problems and develop solutions, amplifying the possibilities for discovery inherent in all of their dimensions.

The attempt to define the value of education…

Higher education lifts people up. It gives them a perspective on the meaning and purpose of their lives that they may not have developed otherwise. Is it possible to quantify this experience, to communicate its value through a set of data? No. But it is among the highest and best outcomes of higher education. We must continue to prepare the next generation of thinkers and doers to navigate the world using evidence and reason as their guide, understanding their work in the broadest context possible as they imagine and define their purposes. We must continue to help humanity transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilisation has been and where it hopes to go.

So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods.

As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.

Link to read this article

And in 3 Ways To Fix Our Broken Training System Alexis Ringwald, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of LearnUp, signals the changing times in her call for training that is more employer-driven, responsive an on demand.  She writes…

In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.

Let the change begin.

Link to read the full article

From Spreading Happiness to Saving the Planet, the Rise and Rise of Pharrell

Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell Williams had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip.

“I think you guys know how serious the global warming thing is, and so for us we’re taking it very seriously, and we wanted to do something very different this time,” Pharrell said in Davos. What he means by having “humanity harmonise all at once” might remain slightly mysterious, but organisers say they expect 100 acts performing before a broadcast audience of two billion people across seven continents, including Antarctica.

Pharrell, whose song Happy was the bestselling single of 2014 and who was recently described by US GQ as “a quiet little Egyptian space cat of a dude”, is known for getting things done – at least in music.

As the magazine recently described, besides being a pop star in his own right he has become a kind of a musical consultant for other artists who guides you toward your “twinkling star”…

Pharrell says the trick in producing other people is to drop his ego. “I say to the artist, whether it be Beyoncé or Usher, what do you want to do? And when they tell me, I say, OK, let’s do it like this. It’s real simple.”

Like Prince, Pharrell surrounds himself with women – his assistant, Cynthia Lu; art director Phi Hollinger; and Fatima Robinson, his choreographer.

“Women have a way of expressing themselves that I can relate to more honestly,” he told GQ. “I am a sensitive person, so I want to be with sensitive people.”

Pharrell appears to be settling into his role as a multimedia prophet. He has given himself over to invocations of pseudo-mysticism, recently explaining: “It’s all math. You have a certain number of bones in your body. You have seven holes in your face. There are nine planets, a sun, trillions and trillions of galaxies. Everything quantifies to numbers.” He’s been described as pop’s Bill Clinton – “a masterclass in charm and empathy”.

Link to read the full article

Morgana Bailey: The Danger of Hiding Who You Are

Inspiring and deeply moving, Morgana Bailey’s presentation shows the vital importance of openness, embracing difference and daring to be heard for our happiness at work – and much much more…

Morgana Bailey has been hiding her true self for 16 years. In a brave talk, she utters four words that might not seem like a big deal to some, but to her have been paralyzing. Why speak up? Because she’s realized that her silence has personal, professional and societal consequences. In front of an audience of her co-workers, she reflects on what it means to fear the judgement of others, and how it makes us judge ourselves.

Cristina Domenech: Poetry that frees the soul

We all have a voice and we all have things of power and beauty to say with it.  But some of us will find it harder than others to find, free and trust our own voices.  Here is a success story of great empowerment where this has been achieved.

“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

In this presentation sound and listening expert Julian Treasure provides his guide for releasing your full voice at its best sets, and his vocal warmup for tuning up before an important speaking engagement – see from 4’16”

Before this he sets out his top tips for increasing your impact and influence as a speaker.

Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening?

Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.

To Change the World: Steve McCurry’s Photos

Steve McCurry’s collection of photos showing moments of study and learning across the globe…

“Only the educated are free.”  Epictetus

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  William Wordsworth

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

Happiness At Work #121

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #121 which you can see here

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Happiness At Work #95 ~ curiosity, innovation and performance mastery

Little question

Happiness At Work – edition #95

Here are some of the highlights you can find in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.

Curious by Ian Leslie book review

The headline story reviews a new book I heard about this week: Curious: the desire to know and why your future depends on it by Ian Leslie

Drawing on fascinating research from psychology, sociology and business, CURIOUS looks at what feeds curiosity and what starves it, and uncovers surprising answers. Curiosity isn’t a quality you can rely on to last a lifetime, but a mental muscle that atrophies without regular exercise. It’s not a gift, but a habit that parents, schools, workplaces and individuals need to consciously nurture if it is to thrive.

Curiosity has been identified as one of the seven essential character strengths that are fundamentally essential to our success academically, professionally, in life and in our relationships.

Leslie suggests that there are two kinds of curiosity:

~ diversive curiosity, which is about seeking the new and novel;

~ epistemic curiosity, which is about acquiring, building and deepening knowledge.

Curiosity, Leslie reminds us, starts with questions, and these days, thanks to the wonderful worldwide web, we can instantly get answers to any question we think of. This means that our diversive curiosity can be easily and constantly satisfied, but at the expensive of our epistemic curiosity for deeper more substantial knowledge – because when our questions are answered too quickly, this muscle doesn’t get worked and strengthened.

 

Here are 5 more of the headlines from this collection:

Women in European Business London Conference – 2013 (video)

The ideas you can hear in this short 8minutes are rich and diverse, and you might like to see what stands out for you…?

This compilation of highlights and responses to last year’s event at the Barbican by some of its speakers and participants is especially notable for its emphasis, not on money making, but on themes that we have been continually exploring and turning over in these Happiness At Work collections: the vital necessity for passion, creativity, playing to your strengths, self mastery and a style of leadership that biases inclusion, involvement, interest and recognition for people and the ideas and work they bring.

For example, this from Wendy Tan White, Co-founder and CEO, Moonfruit

“I’m an entrepreneur but I’ve also worked in corporates and I’ve recently been acquired myself, and what I can see is that if we don’t create the opportunities for people and staff within organisations, we’re going to lose them. There’s going to be a brain-drain. It’s too easy now to get funding, to be inspired and to set up your own company. And people are looking for a different work-life balance in their lives.”

Violin_2_-_Picture_of_Silence

The Science of Improving Your Performance at Almost Anything

by 

Amateur musicians … tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces…

Practice might make perfect, but much depends upon how we practice. This article offers insights from great artists about how we can all achieve higher levels of mastery.

The need to use feedback loops, to work in chunks, the need to adopt the right mindset, and the importance of sleep are essential formastering technical skills.

For softer skills the recipe for excellence includes speeding things up so that we are required to improvise, following routines and rituals, fine-tuning our focus, exercising as well as time just being idle, making the most of the start of our day, and the delicate and difficult challenge of finding a balance.

Peter Drucker’s 9 Functions of a Mentor

I don’t care who you are or what you do. Be a mentor. Have a mentor.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand mentoring. Just go engage in one of the nine behaviours that follow…

These nine tenets for making great mentoring conversations have been distilled from “Drucker & Me,” by Bob Buford, the story of their 23 year relationship. And, just as Peter Drucker says, the ideas here are not just for formal mentoring. They have great application to strategic thinking and team working and career planning and many other situations too.

Interview with Shawn Achor

You probably already know that we are fans of Shawn Achor because this is not the first time I have featured him, and we use many of his ideas in our resilience and happiness at work workshops. The groundbreaking, practically helpful and erudite wisdom he brings from his long studies into what helps or hinders our happiness and success at work have enormous value to making our 21st century working lives work better..

In this email interview, Achor explains how presenters can utilise the wisdom in his most recent book, Before Happiness, to overcome the fear, stress and self-doubt that often accompany public speaking

As speakers you especially have the chance to work on what researcher Michelle Gielan calls the Power Lead, starting every conversation with a positive like “I’m having a great day how about you” instead of telling people how unprepared or nervous you are.  This changes your interactions and your brain follows your words.  The more you say you’re stressed or tired, the more stressed and tired you feel, right?  Same is true for happiness.

Positive Communication Leads to a Culture of Innovation

Innovation is not about doing an old thing in a new way. It’s about creating a new way to do something new, or a new way to do something better. Inherently, innovation must be disruptive – unaccepting of the status quo and committed to transforming a new approach into reality. Innovation isn’t just a new way of doing. It’s a new way of thinking…

This article asks us how comfortable we are with the new, and reminds us that communication and culture are inextricably linked, and transforming a culture takes time, bravery, risk taking and a willingness to feel uncomfortable for a while.

Question - holding it together

And as well as these articles, you will find the usual mix of stories, new research, practical techniques and insights from people’s own work and lives, including…

11 Simple Tips to Effective Email Management

10 Ways to be Happier with Your Work Life

10 Questions You Should Ask When Facing A Tough Career Decision

The Link Between Creativity and Happiness

20 Facts About Happiness That Will Surely Impress You

and

Forbes: Can Happiness Become the World’s Most Popular Course?

question - sitting on it (blue)

Happiness At Work – edition #95

All of these stories and more are collected in our Happiness At Work collection #95.  

We hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from…

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies – rethinking our organisations

 

This post draws together a handful of articles published in the same week between the 16th – 24th April 2014 that all challenge our existing organisation practices, and point the way to an already-here future.

In this post you will find ideas about how we might need to keep ideas, learning and communications in a much more open, free and constant flow into and out from our organisations;

the eleven qualities Google look for in recruiting their employees;

why the smartest organisations and their people are increasingly taking time off and unplugging from being always working;

a better way to think about motivating and energsing employees who appear to be lazy and incompetent;

and five steps for aligning your organizational culture to drive strategic development and change.

And I have taken its title from an article published in CNN Money by Gary Hamel, co-founder of the MIX (Management Innovation eXchange) and author of “The Future of Management” and “What Matters Now.” He’s a visiting professor at London Business School.

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies

By Gary Hamel

Eventually, every firm will discover that it’s quite possible to manage without managers.

The web has delivered a dramatic shift in bargaining power from producers to consumers. What’s coming next is an equally dramatic and irreversible shift in power from institutions to individuals. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is just the beginning. If your organization is going to attract and engage the most creative individuals in the world, then you have to think about how you might help facilitate SYOG—Set Your Own Goals, DYOJ—Design Your Own Job, PYOC—Pick Your Own Colleagues, AYOE—Approve Your Own Expenses, or CYOB—Chose Your Own Boss.

More generally, you should ask yourself, “What sort of value could I create for my organization if I were as committed to reinventing my firm’s management model as I am to further optimizing the operating model or the business model? What would happen if my team fully exploited the revolutionary potential of big data, cloud services, mobile technology, and the social web to dismantle formal hierarchy and empower every associate and team member? And where would I start?”

Inevitably, more and more of the work of managing and leading – the work of setting priorities, devising strategy, reviewing performance, divvying up work and allocating rewards – is going to be distributed to the edges of the organization. Every firm will discover, as some already have, that it’s quite possible to manage without managers

Human beings are resilient, inventive, and passionate, but our organizations mostly aren’t. Our bureaucracy-infused management models have left us with organizations that are less capable than the people who work within them. Therein lies the imperative and the opportunity: creating organizations that are fit for the future, by creating organizations that are fit for human beings.

Link to read Gary Hamel’s article in full

puzzle pieces What if our thinking is wrong?

puzzle pieces
What if our thinking is wrong?

What If We’re Thinking About Organisations All Wrong?

 

11 Qualities Google Looks for in Job Candidates

Drake Baer writes in Business Insider:

Google receives between 2.5 and 3.5 million job applications a year.

It only hires about 4,000 people.

Senior vice president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock presides over the ultra-selective process.

In interviews with The New York Times, the Economist, and students on Google+, the hiring boss sheds light on how the search giant evaluates candidates.

We sifted through those interviews for the most surprising takeaways.

Google doesn’t look for experts. 

“We would rather hire smart, curious people than people who are deep, deep experts in one area or another,” he says, noting that people with strong learning ability can generally find the right answers to unfamiliar questions. “But somebody who’s been doing the same thing forever will typically just replicate what they’ve seen before.”

Google does want people with high “cognitive ability.”  

“If you hire someone who is bright, and curious, and can learn, they’re more likely to come up with a new solution that the world hasn’t seen before,” Bock explained in a Google+ Q&A. “This looking for cognitive ability stems from wanting people who are going to reinvent the way their jobs are going to work rather than somebody who’s going to come in and do what everybody else does.”

Google seeks out people with “grit.”

As breakthrough research in education shows, grit — the ability to keep slogging through difficult work — is more important for success than raw IQ.

Google wants to know whether candidates can tackle difficult projects.

The company used to be famous for asking cranium-crashing brainteasers, like “what is the probability of breaking a stick into three pieces and forming a triangle?” But it found they weren’t that helpful, and have since moved on.

Now, Google’s interviews include questions about the candidate’s concrete experiences, starting with queries like “give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

By asking people to speak of their own experiences, Bock says, you get two kinds of information: “You get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Google wants candidates with analytical skills. 

“Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market,” he says.

Google expects people to meet ridiculously high standards. 

“We don’t compromise our hiring bar, ever,” Bock says. Because of this, job listings stay open longer at Google than you’d expect, he says — they have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding The One.

But Google doesn’t care about test scores.

While in school, people are trained to give specific answers. “It’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock says. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Google wants to know how much candidates have accomplished compared to their peers.

When Bock was explaining how to write resumes to Thomas Friedman at The Times, he said that most people miss that the formula for writing quality resumes is simple: “I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.”

For example, Bock explained that a lot of people would just write, “I wrote editorials for The New York Times.”

But a stand-out resume would be more specific about their accomplishments and how they compared to others. Bock gives a better example: “Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.”

Google looks for employees who know when to step up and take a leadership role. 

“What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Google wants to see people who take ownership of projects. 

With that sense of ownership, you’ll feel responsible for the fate of a project, making you ready to solve any problem. But you also need to defer when other people have better ideas: “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”

Google wants to see humility, too. 

You need “intellectual humility” to succeed at Google, he says. “Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

Success can become an obstacle, Bock says, since successful, Google-bound folks don’t often experience failure. So they don’t know how to learn from failure.

Instead of having an opportunity to learn, they blame others. Bock explains:

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. …

What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’

Link to read this article in full

 

jigsaw2 metaphor for organisations and their people

jigsaw2
metaphor for organisations and their people

Don’t Miss Out On The Well-Being Revolution

by Kim Farbota

The idea that working less could actually advance our careers is gaining traction.

In her recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, The Huffington Post President and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna Huffington, describes a definition of success that goes beyond money and power to include a “Third Metric” that embraces self-nurturing, connectedness and attention to the elements of our lives we most value. The book points out the importance of sleeping more, setting technology limits and taking time to step back and reflect.

These things don’t just make people happier, they are associated with longer, more fulfilling careers and more profitable companies.

But there is a sense of fierce competition in the current market, and an antiquated cultural ethos suggests true success is reserved for those willing to sacrifice the most. Furthermore, there is a fear that young pioneers of a Third Metric approach will be penalized in the workplace. One “Strive Meets Thrive” attendee described it as a prisoner’s dilemma: If we all agree to take Sundays off and not check our email after 8 p.m., the promotion will go to whomever cheats.

This might be true if the only difference between two employees is a willingness to stay plugged in 24/7. But this is flawed logic; regularly unplugging to get a restful night’s sleep is correlated with improved decision-makingbetter focus and higher quality work product. Over time, the employee respecting the limits will likely outshine her always-on-call counterpart.

Being a top performer without sacrificing wellness requires discipline.

After a long day of work, it’s hard to go straight to bed without taking time to unwind. But journaling or meditating for 30 minutes before going to sleep at a reasonable hour will make for a better next day than binge watching House of Cards. Even staying up to work more hampers efficiencyemotional intelligence and constructive thinking skills.

There is a lingering and mistaken acceptance that tough choices must be made between success and happiness. Yet the science is here, and the revolution of well-being is already underway. Leaders across the world in the public and private sector alike are implementing email limitsreducing hours and promoting employee health.

We as individuals can invest in our careers by investing in ourselves. By identifying and prioritizing the things that keep us healthy, grounded and fulfilled we ensure consistent, long-term achievement and a life of success.

Link to read this article in full

 

A Better Way To Think About Lazy and Incompetent Employees

by Sam McNerney

In Switch, Dan and Chip Health discuss the research of James March, a professor of political science at Stanford University. According to March, we rely on one of two models when we decide: the consequences model and the identity model. The consequences model is what you use at the grocery story. It’s analytical. As we stroll down the aisle we weigh the costs and benefits of each item. The identity model is more existential. It revolves around three questions: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?

Generally, the identity model runs the show, which explains why we gravitate towards certain brands even when they are not cost-effective.

March’s distinction could be a helpful tool in terms of motivating employees…

Motivation is usually an identity problem.

We underperform not necessarily because we’re lazy or incompetent but because we don’t feel a tight connection between work and identity.

If turnover (or performance) is a problem, try showing people that their work matters and that it affects other people. Threats and pressure might be ineffective because they don’t connect the dots.

We’re at our best when we’re shown that what we do aligns with who we are…

Link to read this article in full

Jigsaw 4 metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

Jigsaw 4
metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

5 Steps to Align Culture to Get Your Employee’s Strategic Buy-In

by 

Culture eats strategy… strategy trumps culture… on which side of the culture/strategy divide do you fall?

I tend to side with culture – primarily because culture drives the behaviors of individuals who are the one that achieve your strategy (or not). But culture is the driving force.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s undeniable culture and strategy are deeply intertwined in organizations large and small, global or local, public or private, for-profit or non-profit.

Towers Watson defines culture as “the shared beliefs (either explicit or implicit) that exist within a company and drive behaviors. They write, ”The real question we should be asking is: “How do we understand, manipulate, redirect or recreate the shared beliefs in such a way to drive the real behaviors we need to succeed?”

5 steps to a strategy/culture connection

I recommend a five-step process (using the “Customer Service” strategy as an example):

  1. Redefine the culture attributes into actionable core values. (Information Sharing, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Leadership, Decision Making, Taking Action)
  2. Define behaviors associated with each of those core values. (Teamwork behaviors: Committed to common goals, active participation and leadership, open communication up and down the chain, willing sharing of resources)
  3. Frequently and very specifically recognize any and all employees who demonstrate those behaviors by calling out clearly the core value demonstrated and explaining how those behaviors impacted you, the team, the customer or the company for the better. (Sam, you really lived our value of Teamwork when you went out of your way to locate the necessary research materials needed to move the Juno project forward. You didn’t have the information yourself, but you knew who did and how to get that information in the right hands. By doing so quickly and without prompting or direction, you helped us beat project deadlines, thrilling our client and making them a partner for years to come.)
  4. Share that recognition across the organization so it can serve as training for otherson what desirable “Teamwork” behaviors look like in the daily work, encouraging others to demonstrate similar actions.
  5. Closely monitor, measure and report on areas where values are being more or less recognized to intervene where necessary with additional training or resources to ensure all employees both understand and are committed to achieving the company’s strategy – in their own work, every day.

What is the primary strategic goal for your organization?

How are you aligning your culture (and the associated daily behaviors of employees) to achieve your strategy?

Link to read this article in full

jigsaw3 metaphor for organisations and people working together

jigsaw3
metaphor for organisations and people working together

Happiness At Work edition #93

You will find all of these stories in this weeks new Happiness At Work edition £93 collection, along with several more that explore ideas from whether procrastination is genetically inherited, to a report that single parented children and just as happy as their two parented peers, to the new science that explains why chocolate and being by the the ocean is very good for us.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy…

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Happiness At Work #87 ~ sometimes it’s good to be up in the clouds

This post invites you to put your head in the clouds for a while and think about creative thinking…

'Sometimes its good to be up in the clouds' photo by Sue Ridge

‘Sometimes its good to be up in the clouds’
photo by Sue Ridge

This week’s title comes from a new photo by artist Sue Ridge, which heads up this selection of stories that invite us to think about what our thinking, and especially our creative thinking, might ideally be made of…

Insight test – how much do you know about insightful working?

To get started with this, here’s a quick and surprising challenge to test your existing thinking by Gary Klein, author of Seeing what others don’t: the remarkable ways we gain insights:

Our ability to create insights is critical for innovation and adaptation.

Otherwise we would remain stuck in mental ruts formed over our lifetime. Insights let us see things in new ways. Many people, however, have the wrong ideas about insights. Here is a short test, only 12 items, to assess your knowledge of insights. For each item, note down the number at the left if you agree with the statement and think it has been sufficiently established.

  1. Brainstorming is an effective method for groups to generate insights.
  2. Insights depend on having fresh eyes, which is why greybeards – the so-called experts – tend to be trapped by their previous experience.
  3. Organizations desire insights and encourage their workers to come up with out-of-the box ideas.
  4. The way insights emerge is that we run into an impasse, struggle for awhile, then let our minds wander until suddenly there is a flash of illumination.
  5. Correlation doesn’t imply causality, so we shouldn’t get sidetracked by coincidences.
  6. A major barrier to insights is when we have flawed beliefs and assumptions.
  7. To correct flawed assumptions we should use critical thinking methods such as listing all the important assumptions we are making, to see which might be wrong.
  8. Scientists generate insights by running controlled experiments to test their hypotheses.
  9. Good scientists work carefully so that they won’t make erroneous claims.
  10. To handle a challenging project we should start by pinning down the goals so that we can systematically achieve success.
  11. Good ideas often come about by accident so we should expose ourselves to lots of different fields and different types of specialists.
  12. A well-designed computer workstation, tailored to the way we work so that it filters out irrelevant data and highlights the important cues, can boost our chances for having insights.

Let’s see how you did. Review your responses, changing any that don’t seem quite right. And here is the answer key: Zero. None of these items has been clearly established. Some are just wrong, contradicted by the data. Others seem unlikely and have not been supported by evidence. Here are some brief explanations:

  1. Brainstorming is a popular technique but the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that groups using it get fewer ideas, and less creative ones.
  2. Experience doesn’t get us into a rut unless the task is so repetitive and mindless that we tune out. A study of insights that I conducted found that experience was essential in 2/3 of the incidents.
  3. Organizations resist insights because they are dis-organizing and disruptive, and get in the way of smooth management. Most people view novel ideas as impractical and unreliable.
  4. This impasse strategy sometimes holds, but it is only one of several different ways that insights emerge. In a sample of 120 insights, only 25% involved impasses.
  5. Correlation doesn’t prove causality but many important insights started out when someone noticed a coincidence.
  6. People who gain insights often held flawed beliefs. What set them apart is that they were able to abandon these beliefs whereas others fixated on their flawed beliefs and were trapped by them.
  7. The strategy of listing assumptions has never been shown to improve performance, and it doesn’t even make sense because the beliefs that trap us are often based on hidden assumptions that we aren’t aware we are making. So we would never list them.
  8. When scientists run experiments and get results that support their hypotheses they haven’t gained any insights at all. Only when the results don’t work out as expected do scientists have to seek insights. Other parts of the scientific method, such as just observing the phenomenon of interest, are richer sources of insight.
  9. Claims that can’t ever be wrong are usually pretty bland. Scientists would do better to make the most extreme claims they can defend. Unfortunately, too many scientists are so risk averse that they censor themselves.
  10. Many challenging projects involve “wicked problems” that don’t have a clear goal. The only path to success is to gain insights about the goal along the way. Locking in on the initial goal is likely to lead to failure.
  11. There is no clear evidence that deliberate exposure to lots of diverse ideas will result in more insights.
  12. A well-designed workstation may feel comfortable but it will trap us in our traditional routines and make it harder to have insights about better ways to do the job. If the workstation filters out “irrelevant” cues, it may filter the cues that might spark insights.

The field of insight is marked by myths and superstitions. Only by exposing these outdated ideas can we expect to make progress in using our uniquely human talent to make discoveries and achieve insights.

Link to  the original article

Mindfulness Bell: a 5 minute meditation

This 5 minute mindfulness bell meditation is wonderful for whenever you want to clear your mind, relax and then get on with your day.

The recording contains nothing but the pure sound of a Tibetan singing bowl being repeatedly struck with a soft mallet. It was taken from Mindfulness Bells Volume 1. Christopher Lloyd Clarke recorded this bowl in his personal studio in 2011 using some of the most high-end microphones and audio processing equipment in his collection. Christopher is known for being a bit obsessed with sound quality, so we hope that you can appreciate the lovely tonal balance and detail that is present in this recording, even if it’s just in YouTube video format.

This calming sound is a wonderful focal point for meditation. Simply absorb your attention in the sound of the mindfulness bell. No mantra is required, no special breathing techniques are needed, just let your awareness be consumed by the sound of the bell.

Your mind will become clearer and more calm with each and every bell strike, and as the bells fade into silence, your mind is given the opportunity to experience a very natural state of stillness.

A high bell sound rings out at the conclusion of the meditation.

Please come back often and enjoy this 5 minute meditation anytime you want to clear your mind and relax!

For more information or to download the full 60 minute version, please visit http://www.the-guided-meditation-site…

career maze4

The Golden Ratio for Productive Creativity in the Workplace

by 

Perhaps the most defining barrier in the modern workplace is the ability to seamlessly integrate creative and productive processes. The challenge is faced by both leaders and employees. Though they welcome constructive creativity, the former find it difficult to integrate workflow beyond simple productivity. Creative solutions are often seen as an experimental indulgence, though no less desired from team members. Employees on the other hand find the productivity warp-drive seems to rule their every move, particularly in environments where managers are less project-focused and more task-focused. In fact, an Adobe study called “State of Create” showed that an estimated 75% of participating employees felt like ‘their employers put more pressure on them to be productive than to be creative. Simply put, this group finds little time for (or reward in) creative pursuits.

An organization’s survival is based not only on its productivity, but also on quality and ability to innovate – two traits that are pivotally dependent on creativity. An organization’s ability to integrate productivity with creativity is entirely dependent on taking an “outside” point of view, a broad scope of the entire structure from top to bottom. Here is where you’ll find a golden ratio of creativity-based productivity measures that will help you finally fill this elusive gap.

Hard-wired to be Creative: How Creativity Precede Productivity
It all begins with reimagining creativity as a concept. Some would protest they’re not gifted with creativity. However, while some people have more raw talent than others, creativity is a tool of the mind that (like any other mind-based approach) can be sharpened though disciplined practice.Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, comments that while “Creativity shouldn’t be seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn’t be thought of as a process reserved for artists and inventors and other ‘creative types.’ The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code.” Creativity, as Lehrer discusses in an article withMashable writer, Josh Catone, can be taught. Lehrer adds definition to the kindled realization that imagination can be cultivated and improved upon.Programmed to be creative, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by eliminating it from our corporate culture – and moreover, from the fundamental way in which we do business. If we’re hard-wired to be creative, then aren’t we performing at diminished levels if we proceed without this deeply incubated and inherent capacity to create and perform?
On the Shoulders of Giants: How Leaders Are Responsible for Fueling Creative Productivity
As leaders, we set the benchmarks. Our role in spearheading creative productivity is by recognizing that “true leadership requires original thought and imagination that can motivate others, solve problems, and cultivate innovation and initiative along the way.” Pulled from a Forbes article entitled “The Content You Read Shapes How You Lead”, by Glenn Llopis, succinctly highlights why it’s critical for leaders to place the first proverbial stepping stone laying the foundation for a creatively productive corporate culture.Leaders are encouraged to treat creativity as a tool necessary for innovation. For those with an aversion to a word that has been associated with crafting and a flood of Pinterest-inspired ideas, know that a creative mind is a strategic mind. As I mentioned in an earlier post entitled, “The Creativity-Productivity Paradox: Play and Time”, creativity is the ability to connect the dots. To add weight to the argument, I quote Liane Davey’s Harvard Business Review post entitled “Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles”, in which she writes, “Strategic people see the world as a web of interconnected ideas and people and they find opportunities to advance their interests at those connection points.” The individual (and the organization) that is able to flex this type of creative thought has a higher chance on coursing through a path that is more result-driven rather than task-driven. In a nutshell, the creative mind has produced the productive mind.

Link to the original article

WHY Music: The New Power Shake – Blending Creativity, Well-Being and Learning

by Frank Fitzpatrick, multi-Platinum record producer, Grammy-nominated songwriter, social entrepreneur and award-winning filmmaker

As the world continues to spin in more unpredictable and exponential ways, the worlds of ideas-once-separated are being tossed into the same blender.

What is great about the omnipotent ingredient of music is that music is the juice that can make it all work together: cognitive and social development, motivation and emotional engagement, and mindfulness and well-being. Maybe it is because, as Beethoven taught us, music understands humankind in a way that humankind is yet to understand music. Sadly, because music has been so devalued and misunderstood by those leading in these other fields, it is underutilized at best.

One of the emerging trends …that I find encouraging is the desire to move toward creating greater well-being for the individual learner – being more conscious about what we put into the mix and shifting the values around priority outcomes. It is reassuring to have health, well-being and mindfulness be part of a dialogue that too often gets dominated by test scores and brain capacity.

We still have a long way to go, however, to get music fully embraced as a critical and omnipotent ingredient for education, successful learning, and the well-being of [today’s young people]. Music here has been removed from school curriculums, and public funding for the music-based arts programs has all, but disappeared. In one of my weekend meetings with the education gurus, I learned about an upcoming two-day global think tank that will help set the framework for open learning analytics to be used to measure learner outcome in education for the next fifteen years. Of the 50 experts at the table, music and the arts don’t have even one representative. Shocking! With all the evidence about the impact of music on learning and creativity, the development of the human brain, and the vitality of the human spirit, it should be a no-brainer to insist on music as an integral part of every child’s education.

So, as I head off to Austin for another education forum, armed with the latest in new technology, leading scientific research, a box of power tools for emotional engagement, and enough creative ideas to fill a 747, I will take my WHY Musicsoapbox with me. Maybe if I throw some magical ingredients into the blender and sing my mantras at the top of my voice — like “There is no M in STEM without Music!” — I might get a few more music warriors to join the movement.

Link to the original article

12 Questions to Exponential Knowledge

One of the very best ways to think about anything is through questions, and the fine art of asking really great questions is perhaps one of the most important capabilities for us to keep practising, practising, practising.

I have adapted some of these really great questions from the Leadership Freak to increase their openness and relevance for us all…

Knowledge and questions:

‘The opportunity of knowing is “not knowing,” effectively.’

Few things surpass the beauty of questions from someone with knowledge. You learn the most about others by the questions they ask, not the statements they make.

Use what you know to know more. Even ignorance can ask great questions.

7 ways to gain knowledge:

  1. Argue to apply. Theories are wonderful. Application brings them to life.
  2. Challenge to prove right.
  3. Go with not against.
  4. Explore for clarification not to devalue. It’s easy to shut others down and learn nothing.
  5. Understand purpose before discounting ideas. Knowledge seeks the reason behind reasons and ideas.
  6. Bring context to discussions. How might supervisors view this, for example.
  7. Pursue clarity until action emerges.

‘Action creates it’s own clarity.’

12 questions toward exponential knowledge:

  1. What impact has this had on your life and/or work?
  2. How did you come to these ideas?
  3. How could others put these ideas into practice?
  4. What difference does it make?
  5. Why does this matter?
  6. What are you trying to accomplish?
  7. Who else is affected by this, and how?
  8. Who benefits? Why? How?
  9. What happens if you try?
  10. What happens if you don’t try?
  11. What if you fail?
  12. What if you succeed?

How can we grow our knowledge, especially when we think we know enough already?

Link to the original article

Mary Lou Jepsen: Could future devices read images from our brains?

As an expert on cutting-edge digital displays, Mary Lou Jepsen studies how to show our most creative ideas on screens. And as a brain surgery patient herself, she is driven to know more about the neural activity that underlies invention, creativity, thought. She meshes these two passions in a rather mind-blowing talk on two cutting-edge brain studies that might point to a new frontier in understanding how (and what) we think.

Can Cognitive Training Make You Smarter?: Interview with Author Dan Hurley

An interview by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D with author Dan Hurley exploring the promise of cognitive brain training.

Dan Hurley‘s popular feature in The New York Times Magazine, “Can You Make Yourself Smarter?” brilliantly presented multiple perspectives in the cognitive training debate. In his latest book, “Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power“, Dan expanded his investigation of the cognitive training literature and also reviewed other interventions that attempt to increase intelligence. 

How do you define “intelligence”?

Psychologists define it with tests. But those tests are ultimately designed to measure the real-world ability to figure things out, solve problems, and see meaningful patterns in the world around us. And it’s not just “book smarts.”  It includes our ability to understand ourselves and those around us, to handle whatever life throws at us, to make sense of things. Intelligence is what allows us to learn from our experience, to gain insight into life, to juggle multiple demands. With the internet these days, information is everywhere. But intelligence is how we make sense of all that information.

You spend some time in the first chapter defending the importance of intelligence. Why did you feel the need to do that. Do you think intelligence is underrated in society?

If you’ve ever been called “stupid,” as I was a kid, you know how intensely personal and important it is. If you’ve ever had a learning-disabled child, or if your parent is becoming impaired by Alzheimer’s disease, you know how important intelligence is. …These days, it’s become politically incorrect to talk about intelligence. The intelligentsia (pun intended) prefer to talk about grit and determination, or “emotional” intelligence. But wishing away the importance of intelligence doesn’t make it go away.

What areas of the cognitive training field are most contentious?

Even some of the psychologists who have found strong benefits for training feel nervous about the commercial advocacy of companies like Lumosity. We all know that physical exercise builds muscles…but we don’t yet know exactly which kinds of cognitive exercises work best. That said, I have counted about 75 randomized, placebo-controlled trials (and they’re all cited in my book) demonstrating significant benefits from various kinds of cognitive training—from “working memory” training to physical exercise, learning a musical instrument, mindfulness meditation, transcranial direct-current stimulation and more. I found only four randomized, placebo-controlled trials that found no benefit whatsoever. That’s pretty overwhelming.

You spoke to K. Anders Ericsson, who studies the development of expertise. Does he think that cognitive training increases in intelligence are irrelevant to the development of world-class expertise?

Ericsson believes that the benefits you get from practice apply only to the specific skill you’re practicing. He published studies showing that even if you practiced memory tricks to learn how to remember a hundred random numbers in a row, you still were no better at remembering a hundred letters in a row, or anything else. In the lingo of psychologists, he believes that training doesn’t “transfer.” Malcolm Gladwell made Ericsson famous in “Outliers” by describing his so-called “law” of 10,000 hours of practice. Ericsson has published studies suggesting that talent doesn’t matter, and that the only thing that does matter is practicing for 10,000 hours in order to become an expert. Whether you want to be a concert pianist or a world-class chess player or anything else, supposedly all you need to do is practice for 10,000 hours and then you’ll be a master.

What do you think of Ericsson’s perspective?

Ericsson’s claims have not been supported by other researchers who have found that talent does matter, and that training in certain tasks does result in “transfer” to improvements in other abilities. Some chess grandmasters practiced for much less than 10,000 hours before they reached the top, whereas other people can practice for much more than 10,000 hours and still not make it. The same is true of intelligence as a trait. Just because you study and study and study doesn’t mean you’re going to get into Harvard. We all know that. Some people are smarter than others. The real question is whether you can increase your intelligence so that the hard work you put in will pay off better.

What kind of effect does cognitive training have on the brain?

There is no question that training causes structural and functional improvement in the brain, as seen on MRI. Most of the changes are seen in the frontal areas of the brain, where high-level thinking occurs. Mindfulness meditation, for instance, has been shown to produce increased white-matter connections between the anterior cingulate cortex, an important region for complex decision-making, and the rest of the brain.

What cognitive functions did you find are most trainable?

Working memory is the ability to juggle multiple items of attention, to manipulate and analyze information. If you try to multiple 26 by 37 in your head, the reason it’s so hard is because of the demands it puts on your working memory. Tons of studies, including the latest one by Randy Engle, show that by training on certain kinds of working-memory tasks, you can improve your working memory overall. This is profoundly important for your ability to multi-task and think through complicated problems.

What interventions are the most effective in improving cognitive ability?

Working-memory training has proved really useful, although exactly which kinds of working-memory tasks are most useful remains unclear. Susanne Jaeggi has focused on the N-back task, which anyone can check out online at www.soakyourbrain.com.  Others prefer various other kinds of working-memory tasks. But plenty of research also shows that physical exercise, learning a musical instrument, and mindfulness meditation can all bring significant benefits. One of the coolest parts of my training was learning to play the Renaissance lute.

Teenagers everywhere want to know: are there any cognitive benefits of first-person shooter games?

Absolutely. These games are so good at improving reaction times that they are used by the U.S. military to train pilots and operators of drones. These games can also improve the “useful field of view,” your ability to see and respond to stimuli at the periphery of your vision, which is incredibly important when driving a vehicle. Other computerized games have been shown to improve older people’s ability to distinguish very fine differences in shades of gray. Strangely, this ability has been shown to be one of the single most important markers of longevity. So if you get better at it, will you actually live longer? That’s not yet clear. But improving your ability to see and respond to your environment can be potentially lifesaving.

How important is exercise?

Research has proved beyond doubt that the brain is actually connected to the heart and lungs via something called the “neck.” Physical exercise is perhaps the best-proved method for improving cognitive function in older people. It’s also critical for children and middle-aged sloths. Some researchers believe that cardiovascular exercise is best, while others insist that strength training is more important.

What about vitamins? Which one should take the most of if I want to think more quickly? Or should I just continue to drink lots and lots of caffeine?

I know that many people believe in the benefits of vitamins and dietary supplements. But there are no good studies showing that any of them really help cognitive function. Large studies of fish oil given to pregnant women have even suggested that there might be some risks to the intellectual abilities of their children. Caffeine, on the other hand, has been repeatedly shown to enhance not just attention, but motivation and even, most recently, memory. And if you can believe it, nicotine also helps. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are of course extremely dangerous and greatly increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and much more. But studies in both humans and animals confirm that nicotine, given through a patch or gum, can be a great cognitive enhancer. I actually started using a 7 mg nicotine patch and found it useful, without any noticeable addictiveness.

Can mindfulness meditation make you smarter? What cognitive functions are most affected by mindfulness meditation?

A series of studies by Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang have shown that mindfulness meditation can enhance all kinds of cognitive abilities. Mind-wandering is not helpful when you’re trying to write an article or take a test. On the other hand, some recent studies have suggested that allowing your mind to wander can also be helpful when you need a breakthrough. Some of the greatest scientific insights have occurred when scientists were spacing out.

How transferable are improvements in specific cognitive functions to intelligence more generally?

It’s easy for psychologists to give you a series of tests, have you practice some exercises, and then run follow-up tests to see if you improve better than people who didn’t do those exercises. But figuring out what the real-world benefits are to those improvements is much, much harder. A recent study of older adults given just ten hours of training found that even ten years later, they still enjoyed significant benefits in daily functioning. A hundred years of studies have proved that IQ tests and other tests of cognitive function are very, very predictive of real-world abilities. They’re not perfect—no test is—but on average, just like blood-pressure tests, they’re pretty good at predicting how you’ll do in the future. Many large corporations, as well as the U.S. military, give these tests not because they love tests, but because they really help pick out people who can be successful from those who just lack the ability to learn and function.

After you assess the results of your own cognitive training, you put it all in perspective by saying:

“And so what? Those are just numbers on a test. In the end, for all of us, the best test of cognitive abilities is one for which there is no answer key. It’s called life.”

Link to the full original article

What’s so positive about positive psychology?

asks Robert Biswas-Diener in Psychology Today

Chances are, if you are reading this then you are at least passingly familiar with the emerging field of positive psychology.

Although every religious and philosophical tradition through antiquity has offered insight into the “good life” it is only in the last couple decades that we have truly been able to turn scientific attention to this important topic in a sophisticated way. Modern scientists have used careful research designs, validated assessments and rich theory to produce new and sometimes counter-intuitive ideas about age-old topics such as happinessresilience, and hope.

Among the set-pieces of this modern movement are so-called “positive psychology interventions.” These are, more or less, simple behaviours in which a person can engage to improve her own well-being. The most famous of these is the “gratitude exercise.” In this exercise people are instructed to jot down “three things” for which they are grateful. The list might include a reliable automobile, a sunny afternoon, or a healthy child. The list will change from person to person and from time to time. The results are in, however: the gratitude exercise appears to boost individual happiness and buffer people from the deleterious effects of depression. This finding has been replicated and most famously so with a randomised controlled study conducted by positive psychology founder Martin Seligman and his colleagues.  

Since that initial study appeared in 2005 there have been other positive psychology interventions that have been tested and have shown—at least in a preliminary way—evidence for small boosts in happiness. One of these is the “counting kindnesses” intervention conducted by Keiko Otake and her colleagues. As the name implies people who kept a tally of their daily kindnesses felt a little spring in their step as a result.

The publication of the counting kindnesses intervention set me to wondering what the causal mechanisms were that might form the foundation of positive psychology interventions. Could it be, for instance, that the gratitude exercise actually boosts appreciation and this improved mindfulness translates to a better mood? Or might it be that gratitude works primarily by reminding people to appreciate things they overlook, and in this ways functions primarily by acting as an antidote to the natural human tendency to adapt.

Privately, I have been worried by what I see as the uncritical acceptance of these intervention techniques by some coaches and other human service professionals. It’s nice to know that these techniques work — for the most part — but isn’t it even nicer to understand how they work?

For months I harbored a sneaking suspicion that positive psychology interventions such as counting kindnesses and the gratitude exercise were simply “listing interventions.” That is, I was curious to know if we might find the same rise in happiness if we had people simply list anything positive. Imagine having people keep a daily “courage diary” in which they listed three ways they didn’t let discomfort hold them back. Or picture a scenario in which people tally hopes, such as “three things that are likely to happen in the next two weeks that you are eagerly looking forward to.” Could it be that any instance of pen, paper and positivity constitutes an effective positive psychology intervention?

Interestingly, this exact premise was tested in a study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The researchers replicated the classic Seligman study using a sample of nearly 1,500 adults ranging in age from 18 to 72. They included the gratitude exercise, a “positive placebo” in which they had participants write for 10 minutes each evening about a positive memory, and a control placebo in which they had participants wrote for 10 minutes each evening about an early life memory (not necessarily a positive one). Using the same happiness assessment employed by Seligman in the original study, the researchers discovered that the positive memory exercise performed roughly in the same way that the gratitude exercise did: both boosted happiness and did so over three and six month follow-ups.

Now, on the one hand, it would seem that the researchers have created yet another positive psychology intervention. Hooray! We can now add the “positive memory exercise” to the stable of happiness boosting activities.

In the end, however, the researchers draw much the same conclusion I do: there is some common factor that acts as the therapeutic mechanism for many of these “listing interventions.”  According to the researchers, engaging in any activity that makes positive self-information more accessible is likely to have a tonic effect on people. This does not mean that we should dismiss positive psychology exercises as somehow “fake.” It does mean that we should not rush to mental closure on their effectiveness or the ways in which we use them. This is an important study because it opens the door to exciting new research questions:

  • Are there different types of positive psychology interventions?
  • Will some types work better with certain people than with others?
  • Are there people for whom these activities are contra-indicated?
  • Is salient positive self-information as powerful as positive information about loved ones?
  • How might these interventions be modified to be more effective across cultural boundaries?

We are just scratching the surface of these tools.

Link to the original article

A Calling To Be Creative

by Douglas Eby

What leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?

Given that everyone is creative to some degree, why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?

Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.

One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.

In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”

She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”

Creating can be more or less dispassionate, guided by engineering, product development or social needs, for example – but much of what we value in the arts comes from a place in the soul as well as mind.

“Acting is hardly a common career in Kenya for the child of a powerful politician, but Nyong’o’s father, one-time health minister Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, said the family had always supported her dreams.

“She started acting very young, right from kindergarten, and even at home with just the family, she would come up with make-believe stories and perform them for us. She was always imaginative and creative.”

She “was inspired to follow an acting career after working as a production assistant on the 2005 drama ‘The Constant Gardener.’ Actor Ralph Fiennes then told her only to get into acting if she couldn’t live without it. “It’s not what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear,” she said.

That idea of pursuing acting – or another art, of course – only if you “can’t live without it” or be happy unless you do it, is something many of the actors and other artists I have quoted over the years say fits for them and their own “calling.”

In her article “The Special Challenges of Highly Intelligent and Talented Women Who Are Moms,” Belinda Seiger writes that in her private psychotherapy practice and her personal life, she has “known many gifted women who seem to possess what I refer to as the ‘rage to achieve.’

“They are constantly driven to learn, to create and to be intellectually productive even while raising young children. Many of these women face periods of frustration when the demands of family and their need for intellectual immersion collides.”

But, Seiger adds, being a mother and actively engaged in other work is not easy: “As one friend who was getting her second master’s degree put it: ‘mass chaos’ ensues when one attempts to become immersed intellectually while simultaneously remaining attentive and available for family responsibilities…”

She notes that “Like gifted children and young adults; gifted adults are distinguishable not only by their IQ’s but by their intensity, multiple talents, high energy, curiosity and obsessive need to increase in-depth knowledge in subjects that interest them. Trying to ignore these qualities can result in a depressed mood, anxiety and feelings of being unfulfilled emotionally and intellectually.”

Link to the original article

Mindfulness Can make You More Creative

by Jeremy Dean, a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick“.

An ‘open monitoring’ style of meditation can promote divergent thinking, a crucial aspect of creativity, finds research published in the journalFrontiers in Cognition (Colzato et al., 2012).

Divergent thinking is the kind which is often used at the start of the creative process, in which new ideas are generated.

The typical psychological test of divergent thinking asks participants to name as many uses as they can for a mundane object like a brick or a pen.

In the study by Dr. Lorenza Colzato and colleagues, participants who’d been meditating in an ‘open monitoring’ style came up with the most uses for the mundane object.

An ‘open monitoring’ style of meditation is where you don’t focus on a particular object or sensation, such as your own breath; rather you pay attention to whatever thoughts or sensations you are experiencing at the time.

Problem-solving

The results are fascinating because the study of how meditation affects creativity has had mixed results over the years.

Part of the problem is that there are many different types of creativity and many different types of meditation, which are not often delineated by the studies.

However, this is not the only study to make finer distinctions and show the benefits of meditation for creativity.

A study by Ren et al. (2011) has looked at another crucial area of creativity: problem-solving.

This requires different skills because it’s about gaining a vital insight into a problem that’s already defined.

In this study, people were given insight problems to try and solve.

The results showed that, compared with a control group, those who learned a simple meditation technique, involving focusing on the breath, solved more of the insight problems.

Benefits of meditation

Together these two studies suggest that different types of meditation may be useful for different aspects of creativity.

For generating new ideas, an open monitoring style performs best, then for solving an existing problem, a more focused attention style provides the best results.

It also may begin to show why the previous studies on the connection between meditation and creativity have provided such mixed results.

→ Read on: the benefits of meditation.

Link to the original article

The Heart of Mindfulness

by Marina Illich, Co-founder and Principal at Broad Ventures Leadership

A Sioux saying has it that the longest journey we’ll ever make is the journey from our head to our heart. As an Ivy League-trained academic, some part of me still winces when I hear this kind of adage, thinking it sounds a bit trite or misguided.

But if there’s one thing that more than 20 years of mindfulness training has taught me, it’s this: Few challenges are more important than making that short and inestimably long trip from head to heart.

What brings me to this topic? America is in the throes of a “mindfulness revolution” (see Time magazine’s cover article and Wisdom 2.0). In every sector from business to politics, education, parenting and the military, people are using mindfulness techniques to become more self-aware.

This is good news. Across the nation, women and men are learning simple practices to handle the overwrought stresses of post-modernity with more grace and aplomb. Corporations are teaching executives how to increase focus and attention. Schools are teaching children to be more self-aware and self-regulating. And books offer sage counsel to help parents navigate modern child-raising without losing their marbles. In myriad ways, mindfulness is offering us critical and fabulous skills to slow down and reconnect.

But I also see a worrisome trend afoot. Increasingly, mindfulness is being equated with stress reduction or learning how to center under pressure to enhance performance. This is cause for alarm.

The intention of mindfulness is not to make us more “chill” with the insanities and inanities of our post-modern lives.

It is not designed to help us better tolerate the steam-rolling experience of 12-hour work days and three-hour commutes, short shrift meals and dwindling hours of sleep. It is not there to make us endlessly up our performance inside a crushing cascade of information overload. And it is certainly not designed to have us watch calmly as the earth’s weather patterns erupt into a contagion of calamity.

Mindfulness is not meant to make us better at living lives that drain our ingenuity, silence our compassion, or demoralize us into a state of collective catatonia.

The purpose of mindfulness is to wake us up. It’s designed to reconnect us with our intrinsic ingenuity and our indestructible, innate excellence. The Buddhist world that modern mindfulness practices emerged from is explicit about this: human beings are wired for excellence.

It maintains six ways — known in Buddhist Sanskrit as paramitas — that we are designed to be extraordinary.

1) We are wired to do the right thing, no matter how much the world tests us.

2) We are wired to tolerate what feels intolerable to become fearless in making the world a better place.

3) We are wired for stamina, the kind that has us stand by our vision, unflagging, even when no one believes in us.

4) We are wired to be decisive, acute and undeterred in pursuing what really matters.

5) We are wired to see ourselves and others with the wisdom of kindness and tolerance.

6) And, finally, we are wired to kindle greatness in others through our generosity of spirit.

I’ve taken some liberty in translating from the Sanskrit to make a point: Mindfulness is not about retreating into some bastion of heady, personal calm. Mindfulness is about courageously turning our hearts inside out so that we can actualize our deeply human ability to find solutions and stand in our universal goodness, no matter what the circumstances.

Practice mindfulness to be calmer. Hone your breathing meditation so you can be more resilient at work and more present with your kids. Do your noting practice so that you know yourself better. But more than anything, practice mindfulness to break your heart open to your extraordinary excellence and the excellence of everyone around you.

Maybe, just maybe, if we do this kind of work – thankless, heartbreaking, and upending though it may be – we can usher in the kind of collective ingenuity that our world calls for.

Link to the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #87

All of these articles, along with many others, are included in this week’s new collection of ideas about creativity and learning and leadership and resilience and happiness, when the new collection publishes online on Friday 7th March.

Link to the full Happiness At Work Edition #87 collection

mnmn

Engagement At Work – a reflection of being in and out of flow

photo by Sue Ridge: 'sunbathing grape'

photo by Sue Ridge  ‘sunbathing grape’

I am just coming out of three months of making my first eLearning training programme. It has been huge, intense, wonderful, knackering, all-consuming, richly rewarding and quite definitely the hardest work I have done in one concentrated quarter of a year for a very long time.

At the end of each video I invite participants – still my preferred identity for the people who come to learn with me – to reflect back over what they most remember and want to take and use from their experience. And I decided it might be useful and of some interest, too, I hope, to step myself through these questions.

And I cannot even begin to want to do this to and for myself alone, and so I am using this post as a platform to come sit for a moment to reflect back out loud over what has been a huge three months of learning, making, experimenting, producing, crafting, failing, repeating, reworking, labouring and finessing this nearly-finished-now programme of learning videos.

Just like making a show in a multitude of ways, and completely different and unfamiliar for me in one ineluctable aspect: making a show is entirely collaborative and this experience has been entirely solo.

Question 1: What happened? What do I most remember from this experience? What stands out as significant or especially memorable?

I remember having to keep learning something new, every day, then every week. And every time I thought I’d learned everything I needed to produce this work, discovering something else I hadn’t realised I didn’t know that I needed to learn or figure out or muddle my way through or solve or fix or experiment with until I found a way to make it work. I love learning and this played right into one of my top strengths, but there were days when I felt like you can have too much of a good thing.

The programme itself consists of 6 x 70minute videos of me talking to powerpoint slides. My learning curve has been stretched to the maximum for weeks. First I had to learn all the technical skills of powerpoint (as complex as you want to make it), Quicktime screen recording (very simple) and iMovie video editing (a series of failed experiments and a great deal of scrolling through online Help conversations not really knowing what question to ask to get the solution I needed.) And there is still far more I do not know and will probably never know about video making than the tiny bit I now do know. I know that people who really know about these things would be able to do things with them in a trace of a moment and make them better. But I learned enough to make what I wanted to make good. And I learned that that was good enough.

But then I realised with a kind of Mr Stupid clunk, that in all my years of making and delivering learning programmes, I’ve never really been the expert at the podium with all the answers. I excel at participative facilitative learning. People don’t pay us to come and tell them all the things I know, they pay me to help them unlock and extend what they know and can do. So, although I joyfully help dozens of people become more persuasive and compelling speakers, I have never concentrated on delivering seminar or presentation-based teaching. This demands thinking through and ordering and finding the right articulation of all the theory and the ideas and learning you want to bring in advance and in the absence of the people it is designed to provide for. This involves making and sticking with a zillion decisions about the development and contours and cadences of the story to be told, enriching and vitalising it with the right images and preparing carefully constructed sentences. I thrive and am energised by keeping lots of different options in the air, multiplicity and then interactively weaving out meanings with the people in the room from the ideas we are creating in the space between us. Proactive independent decision making and narrowing and fixing things down are not my strong suit nor my preferred operating style, and this, more than anything else, exhausted me. I am good-on-my feet and being in-the-moment and I did initially try to make these speaking extemporaneously. The takes were hours long and then even the heavily and lengthily edited final results just sounded uncertain, graceless and irritatingly arhythmic and idiosyncratic. While I would never teach scripting a presentation, this turned out to be the winning solution, but this meant that I had to bring everything I had from my actor’s training to make it fly off the page.

‘Being in flow’ has always had a performance sensibility about it for me: the flow of a good conversation, the flow of ideas being conjured in the act of talking and listening together, the improvisational “yes – and…” (accept and build) flow of being in a group and riding the wave of what is actually happening as it is actually happening in the live here-and-now, the flow of movement, flux, emergence, dialogue, co-creation. Collaboration. This was altogether different, and it took me a surprisingly (now I think of it) long time to recognise that just because I was making this thing at 2am on a cold dark January night didn’t mean it still didn’t have to feel for the listener that it was being thought and spoken and presented as a compelling idea or an invitational springboard in that moment of them hearing it. I tried to remember (and steal from) what playwrights do. And designers do. And directors do. I could have done a lot more stealing from what stage managers do to galvanise and co-ordinate and plan and keep on track my scheduling and logistics, but I suppose I can accept being a one-person team means some things are going to fall short.

But it was a great advantage to have performance making to pull from.

And I have (nearly) got there. I have done it and I’m proud of what I’ve made. Time and the programme participants will tell with more authority on this but I dare to believe trying to practice what I teach has served me well.

As well as this I remember images: hundreds of pictures I have searched through looking for the best (creative commons licensed for commercial use) images to convey the multiplicity of ideas this programme incorporates: happiness, engagement, great relationships, meaning & accomplishment, positivity & creativity, and resilience at work are my six titles to give you a flavour of the ground I have tried to cover. And searching for the right image for each slide that is hopefully not too obvious nor too obscure, evocative without being just weird, and meaningful without being cliched has been one of the most exhausting and satisfying parts of this experience. My primary creativity is not visual, and yet it has been an immense and constant pleasure to have continually had to immerse myself in pictures and be repeatedly stimulated by all their colour and wonderful metaphor.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 1

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 1

So, above all else it seems, I remember learning, constantly and consciously in a way that I haven’t done for years.

Question 2: What new meanings, insights or conclusions can I take from any of this experience?

I have learned that, despite being a devoted follower of the less-is-more principle, I continue to be rubbish at practicing it.

I have learned that despite my love of going-with-the-flow and being spontaneous and gregarious, when I am working alone I become a zealot of perfectionism (my not-very-detailed version of it) and capable of working myself beyond and then some anything I would accept from another human being, or expect of another human being.

I have learned again that I am not at my best in extended periods of working in solitude and that I really do need to keep getting out into the world and interacting with people to keep my energy levels restocked, and my focus open and alert to incoming wide-range signals, and my sense of perspective balanced and broader than the minute ramifications of whether to align a photo credit along the left or the right hand margin. Oh yes – and that I continue to be utterly dependent upon feedback (read ‘praise’) to really know if what I am doing is good or not and to feel that what I am doing has any worth or purpose. (how do you introverts do it? how do you writers do it???) Happily I have been luxuriously favoured by my client and devoted family with enough cheering to keep me going, but I do realise that, in the absence of regular, emphatic and high quality appreciation, I could easily run myself into the doldrums and get lost in drift. (I heard in a documentary about Blondie that when rock performers get a level of repeated popularity and excitement from their audiences it helps them to hone and polish what they do. I get this. I learn best from praise and affirmation. Don’t we all? Give me the new 5-to-1 positivity ratio please. I will be so much better at responding productively to one criticism when it comes with 5 specific convincingly conveyed compliments. This is also perhaps what makes making fringe theatre great so impossibly hard – there is never enough performances to really polish a show in collaboration with its audiences: you work for months making it and you get it as good as you possibly can in the 7, 14 or 21 performances it gets to play. This isn’t enough to really find its proper orchestration. But I digress too far off road here…)

I have learned, too, and despite asserting the contrary case in one of the videos, that I can run out of creativity. By Module 6 I had squeezed out every last possible idea for what materials to include or leave out, in what order, with what images, framed alongside which model and with which ideas clustered together. But that this was only temporary and already my mind is percolating next and new ideas and making new possibilities and dreams for me to play with and/or chase down. So scratch that – it’s true – we don’t use up our creativity, or if we do run it dry, it restocks itself automatically.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 2

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 2

I have reconfirmed that engagement really is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines in his idea of ‘being in flow’, and is best experienced for me when I am deeply and completely immersed in a creative project that I care about stretched to the outer limits of my capabilities and able to spend uninterrupted periods of time being fully absorbed in what I am doing without competition from other demands. And that I am very lucky to have a husband who insists on pulling me out of this state at least once every day to eat and appreciate his delicious cooking. (And as an extra bonus I have learned to approximate the right pronunciation of Csikszentmihalyi, altho I have had to teach and rely on my spellchecker to spell it for me.)

And I have reconfirmed the irreplaceable reliability of my unconscious brain to bring me some of my best insights and ideas, but only if and when I take my foot off the pedal for a bit a make a space to hear the messages it is sending through. This means for me not drowning it in exhausted sleep – my project dreams tend to be fierce re-firings of existing ideas and anxieties. And it is not drowning it out with the noise of other media. TV and radio help me to fall asleep when my brain is on overdrive but they do not yield me any new insights. What works for me is my Qigong exercise and my fledgling novice mindfulness attempts to drop my thinking into my breathing and just stay with that. Then the thoughts fly out and at me, but I am learning that the best ones will hang around in my consciousness, ready and waiting to be worked with after my exercise. I did not manage to make this time nearly as much as I wanted to or aimed to but I made it more than I might have. And this too was good enough.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 3

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 3

Question 3: What could I do as result of any of this learning? How can I use or apply any of these ideas? Who could I share any of my learning with?

I have been able to use in practice many of the principles and techniques that I have been championing in my teaching and this has been doubly good: good for me to confirm experientially that they seem to hold up and bring real benefit in their application, and good for me to get the benefits they have provided. Techniques taken from Positive Psychology such as knowing and playing to my Signature Strengths to optimise my performance and productivity, and the capabilities of resilience that I have been able to draw from when the going’s got tough, such as staying resolutely and, hopefully, realistically optimistic and facing my fears. And, too trusting my creativity and using my slow emergent collage-based way of making to incrementally sculpt out the matter from the materials I was working with. To not need to be original in everything but, again I hope, to be original enough.

All of these capabilities become better with practice. So I will aim to keep practicing. And to keep making my practice better. And to remember to keep alive and as true as I can the artist’s holy discipline of being a practitioner.

And this above all others… Whatever aspect of happiness you look at you will find the predominant necessity of having strong relationships, to give and receive love and support.. It is key to our happiness and success at work as much as it is central to our health and being able to live a flourishing life, as it is, too, to building and sustaining resilience. This has been an especially tough time for some of the people I love most in the world – way beyond any of the challenges I have been facing in this piece of work – and it has been essential and nourishing for me to be a part of their lives and actively involved and exercised in getting their love and giving them mine.

So then this above all others – to remember in less heightened times that the people in my life are my life. They make me possible and they make matter. Not for who I am or anything I may do, but for what happens between us, in our connections and in how this affects and changes us. This surely is the finest flow to be in, and, if I am to have another time working in solitude I hope to remember that this must be without withdrawing too far from the people I love. Memo to self: the less collaborative your work activity the more engaged you better make the rest of your time.

As to the last part of this question, in this instant that turns out to be you dear reader. And thank you for your interest.

The question: “who could you share this with?” is exactly the kind of question we learning facilitators love to hand out to the people we work with, but are perhaps less likely to take up ourselves. Or at least I am. Which is what got me writing this piece, as a way to try and unravel and uncover a little more intelligence about what has just happened and what it means and what it could lead to than I might have scooped down to notice without stepping through these questions. This is why we give out these questions, And extraverted me needs an audience to have any reason to start to talk before I hurtle off into whatever will be next.

Actually, what will be next for me is learning to facilitate live online webinars as part of the weekly provision of learning elements that accompany the programme I have just made and packed into modular video instalments.

And in this, very much like making a show, the programme is only just being begun. Just as a show needs its audience to truly discover itself and find its real worth in the interplay and rhythms that happen between performance and audience, now my learning programme will have to find its actual relevance and interest and usefulness and enjoyment in the weave that happens in the space where learners – participants – bring their questions and existing knowledge and challenges and expectations to the programme I have made for them. It is, I am pleased to remind myself, only there and then that this programme exists and has a life. Let the new experience begin…

Thank you for listening. This has been a good thing for me to do. And I wouldn’t have done it without you.

If you want to find out more about your own top Signature Strengths, I like this VIA Me online self-assessment questionnaire a lot. It will give you a free report of your ranked order of the 24 character strengths based on the five virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence and Wisdom. Our top 5 are our Signature Strengths, and the guide is that exercising our Signature Strengths is a really great way to increase our sense of being in flow, as well as giving us increased energy, happiness and fulfilment, confidence, energy and resilience. (This site also offer an option to purchase a more detailed report.)

Link to VIA Me Character Strengths Profile

The programme I made and will continue to lead is called the Mini MBA in Peak Performance and Productivity, and will launch in mid-February from the IME: inspire motivate and engage online learning platform. If you’re interested in this do let me know and I will make sure you get any updates about it.

Link to the IME; inspire motivate and engage website

This post was originally written for Shaking Out – the Shaky Isles Theatre blog

Happiness At Work Edition #84

And you will find more stories about learning, creativity, productivity, self-mastery and happiness at work in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #84

Link to read Happiness At Work #84

photo by Sue Ridge: the view from Guy's Hospital cancer centre

photo by Sue Ridge:
the view from Guy’s Hospital cancer centre

Happiness At Work #82 ~ breaking the binaries

photo credit: psd via photopin cc

photo credit: psd via photopin cc

Breaking the binaries is one of the ideas that has emerged during some wonderful facilitation work I am doing with Rajni Shah Projects.  You know – like right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, task or relationship, reason or feelings, happy or sad, your way or my way, here or not here…?  And I am carrying the invitation to break the insistence of these enforced choices into this week’s Happiness At Work  headline theme:

How much of our thinking is governed by either/or expectations?
And what does this leave out, or push us into or away from, or force us into making unnecessarily limited or just plain bad decisions and choices?

The following stories from this week’s collection all play with this theme somehow, across of spectrum of different contexts, from debunking the myths that separate creative people from analytical people, and several stories that rattle the supposed high income OR do-what-you-really-love career choice we are supposed to have to make, and a couple of different stories that trouble some of our assumptions about what employees should do to impress and delight their managers and what managers should be thinking and doing in today’s organisations, and a fresh look at how to think intelligently and helpfully about getting and keeping a good work-life balance.

I am headlining with this post written by our lovely friend Stella Duffy, questioning a great deal of what we assume are fixed either/or alternatives in our work…

photo credit: sara~ via photopin cc

photo credit: sara~ via photopin cc

Stella Duffy publicly outed her new breast cancer this week, and, in doing so, breaks a whole rulebook of unwritten (and quite probably rotten) conventions about keeping illness hidden and private and ‘away from work’ (now there’s a phrase that needs interrogating).  In the same week as Radio 4’s Women’s Hour also highlighted professional women who speak out about having cancer, Stella courageously challenges our stereotypes about how ill people are, or or are supposed to be.  Perhaps this is especially so for women, historically expected to suffer invisibly in silence and carry their loads without any palaver to bother our expectations for keeping business-as-usual.  Her honest unapologetic straightforwardly “this is just how it is announcement” challenges, too, our probably outmoded ideas about the relationship between illness and work, and recovery and work, as well as resilience and work.

And it makes me wonder just how many working women are out there in the world at this moment, doing extraordinary work and making small and wonderful miracles happen, beneath an enforced mask of inordinate difficulty and hardness in another part of their lives?  Men too.  But today I am wondering about the unheard unseen experiences the women of the world are quietly carrying, to the benefit of the rest of us?

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

my news (and onwards)

So. I have breast cancer again.
This is rubbish, depressing, worrying and also kind of amazing – 14 years since the last one! My body (and the medics) did good…

Please don’t tell me to rest. Why? IF this is a bad one (and we won’t know until post-surgery) why on earth would I live my life any less than I’m already doing? Work (writing, speaking, Fun Palaces) is not WORK, as in a horrible thing, to me. It is WORK, as in what I care about, what I believe in, what I am driven to do and passionate for, what I am living for. I AM passionate and driven. I do not see these as bad things. (And yes, of course I’ll rest post-surgery, but after that, no, I won’t be cutting back on LIVING.)

What does it do to Fun Palaces? Nothing at all, except make me even more passionate about inclusion, engagement. Can we get more hospitals engaged? Can we enthuse more venues to engage with medical scientists? Can we make sure our Fun Palaces are accessible for sick and/or disabled people too? Can we do it all, and more? (Also had a wonderful conversation about Fun Palaces and arts and medicine with doc WHILE he was taking biopsy the other day. Really inspiring and hopeful for our professions, our missions, working together.)

There’s also a brilliant team of already-engaged, already-enthused volunteer Fun Palaces maker-mates, who are ready and willing to take over the email-answering while I have a couple of weeks to get my strength back post-op. (But hey, post-op from-bed emailing is what laptops are all about, right?!)

And of course there is Sarah-Jane. My work partner, my friend, my co-believer in the brilliance, strength and NECESSITY of the project. If I happen to be too tired to come to those speaking engagements we’ve already talked about, she’ll do it. Fun Palaces is hers too….

What does it do to my writing work? Nothing at all. It all stays on track, new book to deliver (third draft!) to agent in spring. And I’m totally up for all the same events/workshops etc as soon as I’m recovered from surgery. The mentoring continues – that one can be done prone!

What does it do to my directing work? See above. Working on the new idea with Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence will continue. Work with Shaky Isles will continue. Times and people are flexible and willing.

So, finally, what does it do to my life? Everything and nothing.

I had cancer 14 years ago. It was terrifying and awful. In many ways the worst part about it was that chemo led to my early infertility and me not being able to be a mother.

Having had cancer means I’m fore-armed. I know loads now. I know my surgeon and breast care nurse. I know they know me. I do not have to persuade them that I’m freelance and need to work. They know that, just like last time, I have no sick pay. And unlike last time, I’m not about to go to the US to do a show (and taking chemo with me!)

I have never felt like I was “all clear”. I had a grade 3 breast cancer, surgery, chemo and radiotherapy at 36. OF COURSE I have always known it might come back. I think my body has done so well to get me this far. I trust it will get me through this and on to the next part of my life.

It is horrible for Shelley, it is horrible for my family and friends, it is horrible for me. None of us wants to go through pain and illness.

BUT, even when I’m down and sad about this (and I have been, and will no doubt be again), I know I have waves of love and determination coming at me from those who love and care for me.

I know I have a HUGE dream – the Fun Palaces project – to achieve. I believe that my being ill now can feed that dream, can help us make even better Fun Palaces, more inclusive Fun Palaces, I don’t think this will detract from the project at all, not my ability to create it, nor OUR ability to make it the best we ALL can.

Link to read the original  article

photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc

photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc

Earning vs. Happiness: The Mutually Exclusive Myth

by , Author of ‘Being Human‘, International Speaker, and Life Coach

At what age did you go from being loved unconditionally to feeling that you have to earn someone’s love? Conversely, how old do you have to become to automatically earn respect? I believe the whole earning concept is at the bottom of many of our self-worth issues. Think about it.

I understand the notion of earning an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, but where did that translate into earning a living? The thought that we are not good enough to enjoy the good life until we have accomplished a goal (a number on the scale; the honor roll; acceptance into a particular college; a sales target or a salary; a square footage in our home) sets us up to feel inadequate from the start. Even if we persevere long enough to reach our chosen goal, more often than not, we are still unhappy. Perhaps our goal wasn’t high enough, and we then feel inadequate for setting such a feeble goal. If your inner critic is half as mean as mine, you don’t need to feel any more inadequate.

I am not, by any means, saying that we should not leap out of our comfort zones, aspire for great things, hold ourselves to a higher standard and strive for excellence. After all, I’m a coach and I help people do this on a daily basis. But what happened to enjoying your life while pursuing your goals? Why have we self-imposed this weighty condition that we will never be good enough until we have earned our happiness, our partner’s love or our coworker’s respect?

Some things are a birthright.
Like human rights. … The right to rest and leisure is a birth right — look it up. You are allowed to have fun while pursuing your goals.

Some things are a gift.
A gift is defined as a thing given willingly to someone without payment. And here I want to elaborate that a gift does not require payment of money, a favour, or reciprocation of any kind. I like the definition of grace even more: a free and unmerited favour – unmerited being the important part. … A sunset is a gift. A child’s giggle is a gift. Happiness is a gift that you are allowed to indulge in as much as you like without having to prove anything to anyone.

Some things don’t matter.
The opinion of others – your in-laws, your neighbors, or anyone who doesn’t share your values or the vision for your life’s purpose, these opinions do not matter. Yes, we are social animals, and most of us would prefer to belong to some sort of tribe or social circle, so I am not advocating that you tell everybody to take a hike. But, within your own inner conversations and your thoughts, don’t give weight to the unreasonable expectations of the heights you must climb to earn the approval from the toxic people in your life.

Happiness is not earned, it’s a choice every step of the way towards whatever life goals you have set. Delight in your journey.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: 50 Watts via photopin cc

photo credit: 50 Watts via photopin cc

How To Get A Promotion: 11 Bosses Spill

In this report from interviews with bosses about what made the positive difference in someone’s performance, one or two of these tips might be expected, but many will rattle and recalibrate our preconceived ideas about what the terms of engagement between employees and their managers are supposed to be…

…nearly a dozen bosses, in fields ranging from marketing and tech to new media, executive recruiting, and financial planning spoke to LearnVest on the condition of anonymity, to share exactly why they’d promoted a direct report in the past. From telling the boss when she’s wrong to schmoozing at happy hour, their answers just might surprise you.

Tell Me I’m Wrong
“I love when someone smart challenges my thinking,” says one boss.

That’s not to say you should be arguing with your supervisors on a regular basis, but if you have a well-thought-out point that disagrees with your boss’s plan, consider bringing it up directly. As this boss says, “I love it even more when a person has the data/facts or examples to actually make their point.”

Bring the Bad News First
“Don’t tell me how fantastic you are. Tell me what is going wrong and, even more importantly, what it is you are going to do to fix it.”

Ultimately, a mistake or issue is your boss’s responsibility, so make sure your supervisor is aware of any large-scale or constant problems. This doesn’t mean you should email every time the printer is a little wonky, but you should make sure your boss is apprised of any serious issues.

This serves two purposes: First, it lets your boss know you’re on top of the problem and working to fix it. Second, it gives your boss the time to work on her own solution, or at least prepare for a different course of action, and to present it to her boss.

Be Drama-Free
“I don’t care if you don’t like the person you sit next to or think the the Post-It notes should be yellow, not blue. Bring me drama and I am certain that you are not worthy of the next step.”

Especially in an office environment, we have to work closely with different personalities and in less-than-ideal situations. Unless there’s a real problem (read: you feel unsafe or can’t complete your work), keep complaints to yourself. As one boss says, “Your job is to make your boss’s life easier, not plop your drama on his or her lap. Save that for your friends and family or your diary.”

Another boss agrees: “If you gossip a lot, it’s a problem.”

Smile
“Your boss would like to harbor the fantasy that you actually like your job, since she is paying you, spending more time with you than her family, and helping you more than you realize,” one boss told us. “You can at least smile and seem like you are enjoying things in return.”

You don’t need to blind every passerby with your pearly whites, but remember that no matter how close your deadline or how heavy your workload, other people will take their cues from you. If you’re snapping at co-workers and frowning, they’ll snap and frown right back. Instead, take a breath, put on a smile, and show your boss you appreciate the opportunity.

Take Notes
“We hate having to tell you things over and over. No boss should ever have to go over directions more than once. If you don’t understand the direction when it is being given, clarify right then and there and take good notes instead of depending on your memory.” 

We’ve all been there — nodding and smiling and filing away the tasks we’re given in a meeting, only to get back to our desks having lost those mental files. Impress your supervisor by keeping a paper and pen (or laptop, if that’s acceptable at your office) at hand, ready to record the things you need to remember.

Taking the time to write things down is especially helpful, as it gives you a minute to process your instructions and think of any questions you need to ask then and there.

Never Skip the Office Party
You know how they say that as many business deals are made on the golf course as in the office? That same principle applies to the office party. One boss points out that skipping the chance to socialize with your co-workers means you’re missing basic office news (think: who is preparing to leave) and alienating yourself from the people who sit next to you eight-plus hours of your day.

When it comes time to pick a team member for an advantageous project or conference in Hawaii, who will be chosen? Not what’s-her-name, that girl who never comes to the party.

Don’t Expect to Be Rewarded
“In order to get a promotion, you need to actually be worth it!” says one boss. “Don’t walk around with the air that you deserve it, because that sense of entitlement is going to get you nowhere.”

Confidence is one thing; arrogance is another. Yes, you were the top of your class in college and yes, you dominated your last project, but it’s a fine line between letting your work speak for you and duct-taping it to your boss’s computer. Worried your boss doesn’t notice your achievements? Set up a meeting to talk about what you’ve been working on, and ask for feedback.

But don’t get too worried your accomplishments are going unnoticed. As one boss says: “Let’s be honest — I promote people with good personalities. Your ability to be professional and also eager, motivated, and thoughtful about decisions and interactions with others is significant.”

Hold Up Your End
“It’s awful when you claim to be a team player, but complain when you are given responsibilities to help on a project.”

“Team player” is cliched for a reason — because every boss wants to see that quality in a potential employee. In recent years, “team” has come to replace every office unit from department to entire company, and every employee is expected to be a team player.

Complaining about your role on the team is both futile and aggravating to your boss. Where is she supposed to find you a sub? If you aren’t a team player, the real fix is to learn the rules of the game, and fast.

Ask How You Can Help
“You should be asking me if there is anything else you can be working on to help grow the company or the project, instead of waiting around for me to tell you what to do.”

There’s another word for that, one that appears next on the cliched-for-a-reason list: initiative. Clearly, you shouldn’t be asking your boss to hold your hand during every step of a project, but a well-timed “What can I do to help?” or “I noticed that [task] needs doing — I’ll tackle that,” is much appreciated.

Have a Solution
Wrong: “You tell me you have a problem — well, actually, you whine about something which I understand means you have a problem — and you come in with zero solutions on how to fix it.”

Right: “You come up with new and successful ideas on your own and take initiative to do something we already do and do it better without being asked.”

One boss told us she’s happy to give advice to people who ask for it, but she’s “looking to promote people who can think their way out of something on their own.” To please a boss like this, you can follow one rule of thumb: Never bring up a problem without a possible solution to recommend. Brainstorm feasible, reasonable solutions to the problem you have (tips on being a better brainstormer here). When you present it to your boss, launch right into what you recommend as a solution.

Know Your Job — and Do It
“If I have asked you twice and you don’t pay any attention to what you need to do as a part of your job, I will not see you as valuable or smart,” says one boss.

Since you’re already taking notes (see: tip 5), make sure you scribble somewhere exactly what your responsibilities are, and make sure you prioritize them. Along the same lines, it’s important to know which tasks are crucial, and which can take a backseat.

One boss had the following recommendation: “I think the best candidates for promotion are those who best can gently ‘manage up’ within their ranks and can find the balance needed to do gold star work while still knowing when to draw the line and say, “I can do this for you, or I can do that for Mr. Smith, but I cannot get both done today. I feel like [this task] is the priority — would you agree?”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

And in the interests of balance – here are…

Ten Radical Shifts in Thinking All Leaders Face

Leaders fail when they don’t think like leaders.

Leaders who think like individual contributors demoralize their team and devalue their leadership.

Lousy leaders think like individual contributors.

10 radical shifts in thinking:

  1. From “I” to “we.”  Leadership begins with we.
  2. From controlling people to aligning passions. Raise your hand if you enjoy being controlled. I didn’t think so. Successful leaders align the passions of their teammates with organizational mission.
  3. From complexity to simplicity. The courage to cut away at complexity until simplicity emerges is a rare gift. Most just muddle through. Some leaders enjoy the feeling of importance that complexity creates. But, any fool can make something complex.  Leaders simplify.
  4. From who is right to what is right. In one sense leadership isn’t personal at all. The issue is the issue. It doesn’t matter who comes up with solutions. The person who screwed up last week, may be this week’s genius.
  5. From talking “at” to talking “with.” Engagement requires “with.” The more you talk “at” the more you lose “with.”
  6. From right and wrong to better and best. Complex issues have more than one answer. Usually, there is no “right” solution.
  7. From symptoms to causes. The reason you’re always putting out fires is you haven’t addressed the root issue.
  8. From feeling confused to pursuing clarity. Most people don’t have the discipline or endurance to bear the frustration of pursuing clarity. They just want to get something done.
  9. From how can I step in to how can I step out. Fixers struggle to make room for others. Stepping in means you’re in the way.
  10. From receiving praise to giving it.

Link to read the original article

The 3 myths about creativity in business

Creativity is vital in business; far too important to be left to a special cadre of ‘creative people’. Charles Andrew, joint managing director at Idea Couture outlines three myths about creativity in business that impede success and three key steps to overcome it

A business whose only ambition is to continue doing tomorrow what they did yesterday, will wither as both its competitors and customers change around it. The central role of creativity in business survival was recognised in an IBM survey of more than 1,500 chief executive officers from 60 countries. They reported that – more than rigour, management discipline, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity. But despite the focus on creativity and the proliferation of good advice, the solution still seems to be illusive. Maybe this is because there are three underlying cultural beliefs about what creativity really is, who has it, and how it can be managed (or not) that are acting as unseen barriers.

Myth 1. Analytical thought and creative thought are fundamentally different

Neuroscience is giving us ever deeper insight into the mysterious processes of the human brain. It is revealing that new ideas often emerge from the juxtaposing of existing information in the parts of the brain that we associate with more ‘rational’ processing and analytical thought. Understanding this, we can elevate the pursuit of creativity to a discipline that mirrors this neural process; systematically assembling, analysing, and challenging data about today in order to develop new possibilities for tomorrow…

Myth 2. Analytical people are generally not creative people

This often follows from the first myth. If the modes of thought are so different, then maybe the people having those thoughts must be different too. So if businesses need more creativity, it is a problem to be solved either through recruitment or external consultants. Either way, this perpetuates the division between ‘creativity’ and the core disciplines of business. And as we learn from organisational psychology, this cultural separation means that creativity, where it occurs, will remain largely peripheral and low impact.

By contrast, smart companies such as Procter & Gamble and GSK are especially strong at integrating scientists (often seen only as strong rational thinkers) into the early stages of innovation where capabilities in consumer empathy and imaginative thinking are equally vital.

Myth 3. Creativity is about making great leaps of imagination

The myth of the creative genius suddenly arriving at great ideas in a puff of brilliant inspiration continues to do much harm because it prevents us from recognising what is really necessary in the creative process; the on-going, painstaking, development of fresh perspectives and the nurturing of initially small ideas in order to gradually create something significantly innovative.

The problem with our observation of change is that we tend to see only the end result and we don’t see the process that led to it. Beethoven, for instance, would gradually develop a whole symphony based on taking a short melody which he would then adapt and restate. This process of continually building on, and nurturing, an initial (small) idea is more realistic and systematically effective.

Top tips:

  • The first step to an idea is not to try to have one, but to marshal the perspectives and inspiration from which ideas originate. Focus on collecting, not judging; the relevance may only occur to you later
  • Think ‘outside in’: use empathy to view your business from the customer’s point of view. Stop seeing them as merely a chooser and user of your services, but as a real person. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Systematically challenge everything that’s important to the way you do business now. Nurture ideas that initially seem flawed to explore whether they lead you somewhere significant.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc

photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc

Engaging And Sustaining Creativity And Innovation: Part I

“The first step toward being creative is often simply to go beyond being a passive observer and to translate thoughts into deeds.  With a little creative confidence, we can spark positive action in the world.”  -Tom and David Kelley Creative Confidence

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack and Jill were very sure why they were going up the mountain and what they were after.  As to whether that well and pail of water existed at the top of the hill, we will never be sure.  For, according to Wikipedia…”the rhyme has traditionally been seen as a nonsense verse, particularly as the couple go up a hill to find water, which is often thought to be found at the bottom of hills.

Which provides us with an interesting perspective as we determine how to better infuse and engage creativity and innovation…in our schools and our organizations.

Unlike Jack and Jill

Do we always know why we are going up the hill?  Do we even really and truly know what we are after? Is the hill even where we need to go?

Or, are we making our way up the hill in search of answers to questions that we haven’t even truly clarified for ourselves, let alone for others…and our organization as a whole.

And even if we make up it to the well (network), have we equipped ourselves with the necessary questions (the pail), to pull up and gather the water (ideas) that can drive us towards the vision and direction that we seek.

As we consider our next steps…

We understand and see the necessity and need for infusing and weaving creativity and innovation into all that we do. but we struggle to visualize what that truly looks like…or even means.

So, in regards to creativity and innovation, we’ve sounded the trumpets, we’ve rolled out the red carpet, we’ve even opened the gates of the kingdom wide to welcome both of them in.  The only problem…

Neither creativity or innovation may be standing at the gate waiting to come in…and if they are, we may struggle to recognize who they are…

Which is why it will be so important for us to push forward in our efforts to infuse and engage creativity and innovation at all levels of our organizations…

So even though we know it, we say it, and we expound their benefits…it often comes to a screeching halt at this point.  Knowing about the importance and benefits of something is much different than taking action and determining ways to experiment with, incorporate, and weave it into the processes of what we do…on an ongoing and daily basis.

And while we know they are both necessary, needed, and important…we are still often not sure how to truly infuse and engage creativity and innovation…especially as sustainable and scalable processes across our schools and organizations.

Which is why we not only have to determine and define for ourselves what creativity and innovation is, but where it comes from, and even what it looks like…

We have to look at those methods, strategies and processes that allow them to cascade and flow across and at all levels of the organization.

And that begins first…with our mindset.

And unfortunately, most of us fail to consider ourselves to be either creative or innovative.  We lack what Tom and David Kelley refer in their new book as Creative Confidence.  Which is where the discussion must begin…our starting point.  Especially, if we are going to move towards increased creativity and innovation across the organization.  If we are going to move it beyond small pockets and just a few individuals…

Which will require us to figure out what that looks like, sounds like, feels like, is like…when engaged and active.  To determine how we, as educational organizations, districts, classrooms, teams, and individuals…create that necessary “Creative Confidence” that the Kelley Brothers refer to.

So, instead of trying to take it all on, maybe we need to just start here…

We need to make sure we know why we are going up the hill.

To overcome inertia, good ideas are not enough. Careful planning is not enough.  The organizations, communities, and nations that thrive are the ones that initiate action, that launch rapid innovation cycles, that learn by doing as soon as they can.  They are sprinting forward, while others are still waiting at the starting line.” 

Tom and David Kelley Creative Confidence

Link to read the original article

Why Google, Facebook and Twitter Execs Are Meeting With a Monk

In an age when we’re constantly being distracted, being able to focus is the golden goose.

We may thank technology platforms like Twitter and Facebook for shrinking our attention spans down to nanoseconds, but the executives of those selfsame companies know that to grow their businesses, they need to put a priority on focus.

At the Wisdom 2.0 conference being hosted in San Francisco next month, a group of tech heavyweights will come together with yoga practitioners, mindfulness specialists and even a Benedictine monk to learn how to work and live within the demands of technology more effectively….

The growing interest in the conference mirrors a growing trend in our relationship with technology: As we become increasingly dependent on mobile devices and social networks, we struggle to not feel controlled by them. These questions and struggles pervade both our personal and professional lives, but business leaders and executives at the Wisdom 2.0 conference will specifically address how to perform more efficiently in the workplace.

For example, last year, Gopi Kallayil, the chief evangelist for Google+, talked about how to integrate the fundamentals of a yoga-practice to be a more productive professional. Kallayil, who was born in India and grew up practicing yoga, has five fundamental rituals that he implements in every single day:

focus on the essential,

do one thing at a time,

take time to listen to your own body’s needs,

make at least one minute for mindfulness each day

and set appointments for the activities that will help you stay mindful.

Link to read the original article

Work-Life Balance Is A Lie – So Here’s A Better Way To Think About It

…As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, the line between our work and our personal lives is often blurred. Nearly half of American workers have jobs suitable for part-time or full-time telecommuting (aka working from somewhere outside the office). That means more people are checking work email at the dinner table and typing up project reports in their pajamas. In fact, the physical separation between our work and our personal lives (aka an office building) may be somewhat outdated. One survey found that as many as 70 percent of college students believe it’s unnecessary to be in an office regularly.

For younger workers, these relaxed boundaries may actually be desirable. When they look for a job, many millennials say flexibility (in terms of where and when they work) is especially important. That’s possibly because employees in this age bracket want the freedom to develop relationships and pursue personal hobbies: Research suggests millennial workers place a higher value on being able to spend time with friends and family than Boomers (people born between approximately 1946 and 1964) did when they were younger. Likewise, millennials are less likely to define themselves by their careers.

But flexibility in the form of having constant access to work email and never technically “clocking out” for the day can have some negative repercussions. Research suggests it’s important to take breaks from professional demands and to recover from a busy workweek in order to reduce stress.

Unfortunately, there’s no one “right” approach to balancing work-related and personal commitments. For those worried about whether, where, or how to draw the line between work and play, follow the practical steps below to create a life that’s all-around fulfilling.

1. Pick and choose.
One of the hardest parts of achieving work-life balance is recognizing that we’ll never have it all. That is, we’ll never make it to every social event while also working extra hours and making home-cooked meals every night. Once you’ve decided which responsibilities and relationships you find most important (see number two), it’s all about prioritizing. So cut yourself some slack when it comes to other achievements in your personal and professional life, and remind yourself that you’re making progress where you believe it really counts.

 Credit: Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images

Credit: Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images

2. You do you.
The definition of work-life balance varies pretty widely between individuals. Instead of trying to conform to someone else’s lifestyle, figure out what’s personally meaningful to you, whether that’s developing a relationship with a new partner or working toward a promotion at a new job (or both). As long as you find your life fulfilling, it doesn’t matter if your schedule looks different from someone else’s.

3. Be open to change.
Even once you’ve searched your soul to figure out what truly matters to you, accept that those priorities might change over time. Maybe you’ll start a family, take a new job, or pick up a new hobby — whatever the situation, be prepared for your values and schedule to shift, and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Accept imperfection.
Let’s say you’ve established that friendships are the most important aspect of your life right now. That still doesn’t mean you need to freak out if you miss your BFF’s boyfriend’s birthday bash because you’re working late on a big project. Know that you’ll make mistakes, and that obstacles and challenges will pop up unexpectedly. Instead of feeling like a terrible person, try to enjoy yourself and be productive and present with whatever you’re doing. Then refocus on your main priorities as soon as possible.

5. Take it day by day.
One clever tip is to combine your work and personal calendars so you don’t necessarily prioritize one set of responsibilities over the other in advance. Each day, you can decide whether the staff meeting is more important than getting lunch with an old high school buddy, or vice versa.

6. Pursue your passions.
Just because you’re working a lot doesn’t necessarily mean your life isn’t awesome. Some of us (ideally, all of us!) love our jobs, so much so that we’re willing to spend hours brainstorming, emailing, and sitting in meetings. If it makes you happy to bring your laptop home and continue working after dinner because you feel like you’re making a difference in the world or you simply love the work, go for it!

7. Keep track.
One of the first steps to figuring out how we can spend more time on the things that are really meaningful to us is learning how much time we currently spend on all our activities. For one week, try keeping a log of everything you do, from washing laundry to browsing Pinterest. Then go over the lists, pinpoint potential “time sucks,” share your concerns with your family and coworkers, and create an action plan for refocusing on the activities that really matter to you.

8. Open your options.
A growing number of workplaces allow employees to work remotely or have flexible schedules. If that possibility interests you, and if you think a new work style could make you less stressed, talk to your employer and see what you two can work out. (The worst that could happen is your boss will say no.)

9. Rock to your own rhythm.
Researchers are increasingly paying attention to the topic of chronotypes (biological schedules that determine when we feel tired and awake), and they’ve found that people vary widely in terms of when they’re most creative, energetic, and productive. Think about how your own abilities evolve throughout the day — if you’re most alert in the mornings, try getting to the office early; if you really come alive after 9pm, consider creating a less traditional work schedule (see number eight). That way, you won’t feel like you’re wasting valuable time at work when you’re half-zoned out anyway.

10. Reconsider your commute.
The physical trip to and from the office can be more draining than work itself. If standing like a sardine on a crowded subway is making you sick, consider moving closer to your workplace: You’ll have a better attitude toward work and feel less like you’re wasting a big chunk of your day. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of a long commute if it means going home to a neighborhood you love and feeling happier in general.

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

11. Seek support.
Ultimately, work-life balance is about finding a way to juggle all the different kinds of relationships in our lives. So don’t be shy about asking other people to help you manage your responsibilities. Talk to coworkers about filling in for each other when one of you has an outside commitment, or to family members about sharing dog-walking or babysitting responsibilities on days when someone needs to stay late at the office.

12. Don’t tear down this wall.
Working from home can be liberating, but it comes with challenges, like potentially getting distracted by the pile of dirty laundry on the floor. To avoid these issues, set up a physical boundary between work life and home life by designating a whole room (or even just a corner) as your office space. Try to keep all work-related paraphernalia and tasks contained to just this area.

13. Squeeze it in.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to spend two hours lunching with pals every day and attend salsa lessons every night. But sometimes it’s more realistic to grab coffee with a friend and go dancing every other weekend. This schedule might not be exactly what we’d like, but it’s certainly preferable to not socializing or letting loose at all. Let yourself enjoy the time you do have, instead of lamenting the time you don’t.

14. Find fun anywhere.
These days, lots of workplaces are embracing the idea of organized fun, like bonding activities for staff members. And nearly three quarters of millennial workers say they want their coworkers to be a second family. If you enjoy the workday and the company of your coworkers, this experience in itself can count as socializing. Don’t feel like you have to create “balance” by spending your weekends and weeknights doing non-work-related activities unless you really want to do them.

15. Tackle technology.
Smartphones, laptops, tablets, spaceships: All these tools are designed to improve our productivity and our lives overall. But when these gadgets make us feel like we’re supposed to be responding to work emails or finishing up projects at home, we can start to get overwhelmed. On the other side of the spectrum, constantly checking our Facebook feed while at work can lead to some serious FOMO. Manage all this technology-induced stress by unplugging for a little while or by setting limits on when and where to use it.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

THE TAKEAWAY

The most important thing to remember in the quest for work-life balance is that we’ll never achieve perfection. There will be nights when we miss dinner with our partner because we stayed late at the office, and days when we skip a staff meeting to bring a pal to an emergency dental appointment. What matters is that we create a personally meaningful life that helps us feel happy and healthy overall.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: dullhunk via photopin cc

photo credit: dullhunk via photopin cc

Art in good health: how science and culture mix the best medicine

Why are so many health organisations funding art projects and what can artists and scientists gain from close collaboration?

Anna Dumitriu turns bacteria into art. She has stitched strains of MRSA into a quilt; she has crocheted with the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis, found on her own bed. For her latest exhibition, The Romantic Disease – just opened at the Watermans arts centre in Brentford, west London – she has made a series of tiny lungs out of felt, dust and tuberculosis samples.

Dumitriu is at the vanguard of a new wave of collaboration between artists and scientists. There has, in recent years, been a surge in the number of projects, across all artforms, with a health or scientific issue at their heart, and a scientific or medical organisation as a key funding source.

Take, for example, Mess, the 2012 show by theatre-maker Caroline Horton, drawing on her own experience of anorexia; or Our Glass House, a compelling, immersive piece of theatre about domestic abuse, staged in various cities around the country with the financial backing of local NHS services.

To see artists and scientists working together in this way is nothing new. Historically, both artists and clinicians were often polymaths, with their feet firmly in both camps, and the distinction between science and the arts can be viewed as a modern one, imposed by an education system that requires children to specialise at an early age.

But to see scientific organisations choosing to fund art – stating, in effect, that it is through art that a particular scientific message can best be communicated to the public – is a relatively recent, and intriguing development. So why are these organisations choosing to fund arts projects? And what do both artists and scientists get from the close working relationship that should, in theory, result…

Can art play a wider role in enhancing health and wellbeing? In a speech last September, Arts Council chief Peter Bazalgette quoted Alan Yates, former chief executive of Mersey Care NHS Trust, as saying that “if the arts had not been invented, we would now do so, as a front line NHS service”.

That was certainly the feeling I got from Lesley Johnston at NHS Lothian, one of the funding bodies behind Our Glass House, an immersive theatre piece exploring the impact of domestic abuse. “Theatre is a really powerful tool,” she said. “We’re working in this field day in, day out. [But] seeing something visual like this gets you at a much deeper level.”

This is also part of what drives Anna Dumitriu as an artist: the desire to take her own fascination with microbiology and other areas of science, harness scientific expertise, and communicate that knowledge to the wider public – together with the history and emotions that underpin it.

Ultimately, Dumitriu believes it’s something only art can do. “Art, for me, is a way of investigating the world,” she says. “In that way, I see no real distinction between art and science at all.”

Link to read the original article

Yes, teach workers resilience – but they’ll still have a breaking point

As the global economic race sets in, it is leaders’ responsibility to organise work in a way that does not harm people’s health

 writing in The Guardian

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 that resilience can be a useful term when it refers to ways of boosting your mental wellbeing. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” he says. 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.

If only there were a large piece of research into workplace health conducted over many years to provide the evidence we need to know how to organise our work better. But of course this research does exist: it is the decades-long study led by Sir Michael Marmot into the health of… civil servants.

What Marmot has shown is that it is status and control that matter more than resilience, cognitive skills or attitude. It may be tough at the top, but it is considerably tougher lower down. “The high-status person has a lot of demand,” says Marmot, “but he or she has a lot of control, and the combination of high demand and low control is what’s stressful.”

So while we should be encouraging employees to develop skills to help them cope with workload pressures, which will include “framing” techniques and building a more resilient outlook, it is the responsibility of leaders to organise work in a way that does not harm people’s health.

Health at work turns out to be another revealing indicator in the biggest story of our times: inequality. As Marmot says: “Health inequalities that are judged to be avoidable by reasonable means and are not avoided are wrong, they’re unjust, they’re unfair.” Tell the boss, if you dare.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: geekcalendar via photopin cc

photo credit: geekcalendar via photopin cc

It gets easier, it gets harder and it stays the same…

Martyn Duffy reflects in the Shaky Isles Theatre blog on professionalism and what it means in 2014 Britain.  He is talking about theatre and performance, but a lot of what he says carries through into many other work contexts in the new economy we are tolerating at the moment.  See what you think…

There has been a lot of talk recently about professionalism and just what the word “professional” actually means. 

The dictionary says:

noun

§  a person engaged or qualified in a profession:professionals such as lawyers and surveyors

§  a person engaged in a specified activity, esp. a sport or branch of the performing arts, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

§  a person competent or skilled in a particular activity:she was a real professional on stage.

Seems straightforward, then.  But it’s not as black and white as the dictionary seems to suggest.  There are several shades of grey to navigate through before this semantic snapshot comes anywhere near the clear focus that a simple definition suggests.

In years gone by we as theatre practitioners insisted that getting paid was the marker for professionalism.  We assumed that the idea of the starving artist in her garret working by candlelight (and consequently so much more creative for that) was a concept long dead and buried. Now we have “interns” and people doing “job experience” which seems to translate as: “You will work for nothing and be grateful for the opportunity.”   All well and good if this leads on to better career opportunities and networking and profile raising and being taken on permanently, but sometimes  – and this is my biggest worry – it leads to organizations getting cheap labour and replacing one intake with the next for purely commercial reasons.

So, yes you can argue that the idea of the professional has evolved and now means something more like:

noun

§  a person engaged in a specified activity, esp. a sport or branch of the performing arts, as either a main paid occupation (rather than as a pastime) or engaged  in this activity with an understanding that there might be a paid opportunity at some future date.

But if this truly is now the case then we really do have to fight for the principle that a job well done deserves commensurate reward.  What that reward will be has become less tangible.

So many of us do produce work for nothing or practically nothing and that is our choice.  The reality is that there is not enough paid work out there for members of our profession and yet we still need to do what we do because we are driven to do it and that drive and that passion isn’t so much “our choice”.   We make daily compromises and generally do the best we can to offset all the demands and strains that our “real lives” throw at us.  Somehow we make it work.  Sometimes less so…

…Theatre is a strange world where we are often trying to bring life to imaginary worlds in different places, different times and different dimensions.   We do this in order to give our audiences an unforgettable experience.   I often think of this as a reflection of our own lives where we juggle different priorities and the various aspects of ourselves in the hope that we are truly making work that has meaning and that makes a difference.

For artists throughout the ages I think it has always been thus.  Some things do get easier, and yes, some things do get harder, but mostly they remain the same.

And mostly that is a good thing.

Link to read the original article

Rosie Hardy also has something to say on the theme of following what you love to do and making it your work, even when you feel like you will fail, in her inspiring, exuberant and energising TEDx talk from Youth@Manchester 2014

Rosie Hardy TEDx talk: “Creativity and Happiness”

“We live in a society where qualifications are valued more highly than happiness…”

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #82

These and many other stories are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #82 out from Friday 24th January 2014.

Happiness At Work #75 ~ stress, happiness and productivity

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

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

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

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

Nelson Mandela’s Most Innovative Moments:

+  When you have a just cause, go global…

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

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

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

+  You can embody courage while still feeling fear…

Nelson Mandela: Barack Obama Pays Tribute

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

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

How To B More Productive and Happier During Times of Stress

Laura Shin writes…

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

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

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

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

1. Use the “add vantage” technique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Decrease noise.

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

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

4. Set yourself up for success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Give yourself a head start.

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

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

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

7. Train your brain to be more positive.

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Joel Bedford via photopin cc

photo credit: Joel Bedford via photopin cc

Are Happy Workers More Productive?

Alexander Kjerulf and Jan Kristensen debate the issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what fell out from the discussion for me…

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

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

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

No no no no no no no no

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your take

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

Link to read Alexander Kjerulf’s original article

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

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

Press Release: Understanding employee views is key to addressing issue

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

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

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

Causes of Stress: Employer and Employee Disconnect

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

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

Solutions: Establishing a Workplace Culture That Proactively Manages Stress

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Press Release in Wall Street Journal

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

Life Is Stressful: 10 Things To Stop Tolerating

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

photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

Here are the top ten:

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Forbes article 

photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

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

Stacey Burling, reports…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Emilie Ogez via photopin cc

photo credit: Emilie Ogez via photopin cc

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

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

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

Avoid procrastination. So elegant in its simplicity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the full article and pictures 

How To Beat Procrastination

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

Practices for Resilience and Development

Curtis Ogden writes…

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Susanica via photopin cc

photo credit: Susanica via photopin cc

Talk Yourself Into Success

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

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

 writes…

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

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

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

The two general principles of ideas

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

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

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

Set aside time

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

Find a creative space

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

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

LET YOUR BRAIN DO THE WORK

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

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

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

The trick here is to trust enough to let go.

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

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

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

How To Have More Great Ideas

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

Criticise your ideas–don’t accept them immediately

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

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

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

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

Overwhelm your brain–it can handle it

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

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

Have more bad ideas to have more good ones

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

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

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

What If Performance Management Focused On Strengths?

Marcus Buckingham writes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: . SantiMB . via photopin cc

photo credit: . SantiMB . via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

Debunking the Myth of Happiness

Kevin Roberts writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Don McCullough via photopin cc

Podcast #075: My Top Productivity Hacks

by Michael Hyatt

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Akshay Charegaonkar via photopin cc

photo credit: Akshay Charegaonkar via photopin cc

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

Judy Martin writes…

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

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

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

1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

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

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

2. Determine What Can Wait

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

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

3. Practice a Growth Mindset

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

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

4. Use Breath as a Daily Stress-Busting Ritual

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

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5. Find Moments of Solitude

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

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

6. Savor Positive Experiences at Work

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

Give and Take with Adam Grant

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

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

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

Link to the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

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Happiness At Work Collection #75

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

I hope you find much to here to enjoy…