Happiness At Work #125 – What is the work you can’t not do?

Untitled (Alice Cunningham, installation and performance 2009)

Untitled (Alice Cunningham, installation and performance 2009)

The title of this post is taken from Scott Dinsmore’s call to action at the end of his TEDxGoldenGatePark talk:

How to find and do work you love

In this passionate oration Dinsmore recounts his own refusal to accept a life of deferred happiness at work, which he decides is like “putting of having sex until your old age…” and resolves instead to saturate himself in everything he needs to learn about how to build a flourishing work life for himself.  His experience and his distillation of 300 books results in this 3 step approach to finding and making your own happiness at work…

1.  Self-Mastery: become a self expert

Create your own compass by finding out what defines your success by

  • finding out what your unique strengths are – for example from the VIA Character Strengths self-assessment;
  • finding out what your priorities for making decisions are by knowing what your values are – “what your soul is made of”; and
  • finding out what defines positive emotion for you, by learning to recognise what you love to do

Once you have this framework you can start to identify what makes you really come alive.

2.  Mindset: push your limits and do the impossible

Everything was impossible until someone did it.  The things we have in our heads holding us back are just milestones waiting to be achieved.  Strengthen your bravery and push your physical limits: what’s the worse that can happen?  Make little incremental pushes of what you can do.

3.  Relationships: surround yourself with inspiring people

Help yourself by surrounding yourself with passionate people – because the people around you really matter.  Be with people who inspire possibilities.

What is the work you can’t not do?

Discover that…

It’s about doing something that matters to you and making the difference that only you could make.”  Scott Dinsmore.

Here are 8 Top Tips from happiness at work expert, Shawn Achor:

1.  Quieten some of the noise

2.  Believe success is possible

3.  Practice gratitude

4.  Create a positive ripple

5.  Involve others

6.  Strengthen relationships

7.  Re-think stress

8.  Use negatives to grow from

And these are CEO of Switch & Shift, Shawn Murphy’s 11 Characteristics of Meaningful Work

  1. Basic needs are met
  2. Work is perceived to be fulfilling
  3. Seeing clear connections seen own work fits and the bigger picture
  4. Feeling included – informed and in on things
  5. Feeling respected by peers and managers
  6. Feeling valued by organisation and managers
  7. Being able to regularly play to your strengths
  8. Deepening self awareness & personal mastery
  9. Strong united team relationships and helping others to flourish
  10. Balanced autonomy (independence) and collaboration (interdependence)
  11. Efforts and accomplishments are recognised

And here are our top tips for increasing your sense of accomplishment – pride and recognition – which we have built and adapted from Tony Schwartz’s Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live

  1. Pursue what you love.
  2. Do the hardest work first.
  3. Prioritise – and then work to your top priorities.
  4. Get started…
  5. Practice intensely. Work iteratively.
  6. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses.
  7. Take regular renewal breaks.
  8. Ritualise your practice.

Happiness At Work edition #125

You can find more ideas and stories on this theme in our new collection…

Happiness At Work #109 ~ our ordinary power

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Power & Politics at Work – Mike Phipps

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

Eric Liu: Why ordinary people need to understand power

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

 

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

by Remi Alli

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

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

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

2. They are one of the most generous.

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

3. They treat each other with respect.

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

4. They don’t believe in income inequality.

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

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

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

6. They don’t support violence.

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

7. They believe that education is a right.

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

8. They are pretty advanced in social equality.

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

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

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

10. They hold socialist (and capitalist) values.

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

11. They understand and appreciate what their taxes subsidize.

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

12. They prioritize health.

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

Link to read the original article

Happiness: you can work it out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your attention is a scarce resource. Use it wisely …

All work and no play leads to regret …

Future happiness does not compensate for present misery…

…But do consider the present benefits of future decisions …

Change your environment …

Making decisions is difficult. Seek help …

Don’t think about the weather …

Minimise distractions …

Surround yourself with people who increase your happiness…

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

Link to read the full article

Ask Your Employees These 4 Simple Questions to Elicit Productive Feedback

by Susan Steinbreacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link read the original article

 

How To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness

by Jane Porter

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

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

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

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

~ Recognise your negativity bias…

~ Don’t just think positively.  Think realistically…

~ Know what’s going on in the brain…

~ Follow the 10-second rule…

~ Think of your brain like a cassette recorder…

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

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

Link to read the rest of this article

 

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

By 

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

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

Notice your body language.

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

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

Two words: Be mindful.

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

Realize the difference between humility and self-deprecation.

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

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

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

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

Store it in your memory.

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

Link to read the original article

The Irritating Reason That Overconfident People Get All The Breaks

by Dr Jeremy Dean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The authors conclude that…

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

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

Link to read the original article

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

by 

How to counter the gradual narrowing of our horizons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the rest of this  Brain Pickings article

Ziyah Gafić: Everyday objects, tragic histories

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

Happiness At Work edition #109

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

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

Happiness At Work #86 ~ resilience: the amour-plated twin of happiness

Resilience is becoming one of the loudest clarion calls across our lives: no longer just an application restricted to times of extreme trauma or crisis or the specialist domain of the armed forces, resilience now is being heralded as the must-have capability for us all.  It has suddenly become the leading capability for our professional survival as much as it is for the ongoing survival of the organisations we work for.  It is being handed back to us as the new first and increasingly only response to any problems we might be facing in our relationships, our mental health and now, too, our physical health, spanning out across our lives into our how we are expected to make and upkeep our families, our careers, our communities, our cities and our societies.

I have real concerns about this.  I am a long and passionate advocate for self-centred learning and have long championed the principle that the more choices and possibilities for doing things differently that we can find for ourselves, the greater will be the reach, range and positive effects we will achieve.  And this principle lies at the heart of all that 21st century intelligence is giving us about how to build our happiness – and its armour-plated twin, resilience.

But I worry that resilience is quickly and too unquestioningly becoming the new panacea for our times, a polished pretender to a final solution and a caveat to deflect any serious challenge to policies and programmes, leadership and governance, that leave people unequally equipped to grow and progress beyond the limitations of their circumstances, and silenced by the new rhetoric that tells us that our own happiness – and our resilient ability to bounce back from any misfortunes we may encounter – is entirely within our own gift.

I know about the immense and literally life-changing power of resilience and its ignition switch, optimism, from the research and testimonials of dozens of people who have done just this, and even come through their torture, trauma, loss, imprisonment, disability, illness and pain somehow stronger and feeling finer than they thought themselves to have been before their ordeal.  And I know about this from watching people I love face up to and get beyond life-threatening illness, drawing real strength,  courage, presence, stamina and renewed life-force through their skilful and disciplined resilience and optimism.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

Perhaps we need to remember extra well that resilience, as an armour plating to help us to withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’  does not stand in for, even less replace, the human being it protects.  Resilience, like armour, is what we suit up in to face hard, threatening and unusual circumstances.  It has to be made, fitted and worn in.  It has to be contoured to our special and particular selves and fit us well and comfortably enough to assist us to be our finest selves when we most need to be.  It must not, should not and cannot be our default, our everyday wear, our always on and in mode.  That would cripple us.

Happiness is an aspiration – a never-to-be-finally-arrived-at complex mix of ways of being and thinking and acting that we can constantly be leaning and lifting towards, and that replenishes as it polishes as it extends as it enriches and refuels us.  And happiness helps to forge and fit and finesse our resilience capabilities for when we might need them.

Resilience is for the tough times.  We will all face them, but for most of us these will be exceptional times.

Unless we start to allow ourselves to believe that resilience – especially in a narrowly defined ‘toughening up’ sense – is a universal everyday normal requirement, as much as is the requirement for most of us to have to work, to pay our taxes, to obey our laws and to bring no harm upon our neighbours.

So yes, let us all learn – and keep learning – new and better ways to become more resilient.  And let us all, too, look first to ourselves for what we might each do to expand our options and amplify our sense of control and influence over the circumstances and challenges we find ourselves facing.  But let us make sure we don’t stop there and assume that this is all that should be needed to make a good life, a good world.  Especially now for the times that are coming to us in consequence of the world we have made for ourselves.

On Happiness Inequality

Chris Dillow raises similar questions in this post in his blog, Stumbling and Mumbling

Do we need policies to reduce inequality, or should we simply allow economic growth to do so? This is the question posed by a recent paper by Andrew Clark and colleagues. They find that, in the UK and elsewhere, economic growth reduces inequality of happiness.

This isn’t simply because it reduces the amount of abject misery. Growth also reduces the number of people who say they are very happy. This might be because wealth increases our options and hence the opportunity cost of our preferred choice. For example, work isn’t too bad if it gets you out of a joyless slum, but it can be a misery if it keeps you off the golf course or guitar.

This finding is awkward for the left. If we believe that what matters most is people’s well-being, it suggests that the most important inequality should be addressed not by redistribution by simply by promoting growth.

So, what answers might the left have to this? I can think of three:

1. Policies to promote growth require redistribution, to the extent that wealth inequalities are an obstacle to growth. This is the thinking behind wageled growth and the asset redistribution ideas of Sam Bowles.

2. If people adapt their desires to their circumstances, or if other cognitives biases reconcile them to inequality, they might be content with injustice, but this would not necessarily legitimate the system: we would consider slavery wrong even if all slaves were content. As Amartya Sen said:

Consider a very deprived person who is poor, exploited, overworked, and ill, but who has been made satisfied with his lot by social conditioning (through, say, religion, or political propaganda, or cultural pressure).  Can we possibly believe that he is doing well just because he is happy and satisfied? (The Standard of Living lecture, 1785 (pdf), p12)

3. Inequality can matter for non-welfarist reasons – for example to the extent that it undermines equality of respect or the democratic system.

Personally, I think these are good answers. But Clark’s paper should force leftists to think more about why inequality matters.

Link to the original article

We know that inequality is one of the greatest destroyers of happiness.  We are also starting to realise better that it cuts away at trust between people, something which is becoming increasingly vital as more and more of us across the planet come together to live in cities.  And in a work context, too, perceived inequality is one of the fastest and most virulent ways that unhappiness and disengagement takes root, calcifies and becomes embedded.

We all need to know that my resilience is self-contained, where I can be resilient without any need for you to be resilient too.  Whereas my happiness is only possible if and when you are happy too, and anything I do to make you happier automatically makes me happier too.  Resilience draws from others but is mostly self-sufficient, whereas happiness depends upon a virtual reciprocity and co-creative interdependence.

So yes, let us all learn, and learn to help others to learn, to build the capabilities of resilience.  But let this be our back-up only, our ready-when-we-have-to get-out-of-trouble special clothes.  Much much more than this, let us keep learning and aspiring and stretching and wondering and imagining our own and each other’s greater happiness

For the rest of this post I have gathered an array of what seem to me to be genuinely helpful ideas and approaches for shaping and shining up our own and others around us resilience.

I hope you find something here you can use too.

Emotional resilience: it’s the armour you need for modern life

By 

The latest self-improvement technique is finding favour with everyone from anxious adolescents to stressed executives

First, there was mindfulness – a brain-training technique aimed at achieving mental clarity – which came to the fore in 2011. Fast-forward three years and it’s being taught at organisations as diverse as Google, AOL, Transport for London, Astra Zeneca and the Home Office, with high-profile users such as Bill Clinton extolling its benefits. Next, the great and good took up “transformational breathing”, a US craze that arrived on our shores last year to teach us how best to use our lungs.

But already there’s a new technique in town – and it’s fast-becoming the buzz word of 2014.

“Emotional resilience” is more hard-hitting than many of the other methods promising to keep us cool, calm and collected. Originally developed to help victims of natural disasters and massacres cope with catastrophe, it’s reached our shores and is slowly infiltrating offices, schools and communities.

Ten ways to build your emotional resilience

– See crises as challenges to overcome; not insurmountable problems

– Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family

– Accept that change is part of life, not a disaster

– Take control and be decisive in difficult situations

– Nurture a positive view of yourself – don’t talk yourself down or focus on flaws

– Look for opportunities to improve yourself: a new challenge, social situation or interest outside work. Set goals and plan ways to reach them

– Keep things in perspective: learn from your mistakes and think long-term

– Practise optimism and actively seek the good side of a bad situation

– Practise emotional awareness: can you identify what you are feeling and why?

– Look after yourself, through healthy eating, exercise, sleep and relaxation.

Link to read the full article

Is Happiness Up To Me? – Happiness & Its Causes 2013 Panel Discussion

– Where does happiness come from?
– How much impact do external factors such as work and relationships have on our wellbeing and happiness?
– How does the pace of life affect happiness?
– Are altruism and compassion the secret ingredients to a good life?
– How can we increase our overall wellbeing and happiness?

Panellists: Professor Ed Diener, Dr Helen Fisher, Carl Honoré and Jerril Rechter.
Moderator: Lynne Malcolm, Presenter All in the Mind, ABC Radio National

Ed Deiner

“Think about your hair colour – you inherited it but you can control it too.  Happiness is like this.” …

“Be more actively positive to others.  Express the gratitude you feel to them more often.  Express compliments to other people.  That makers them happier and it also makes you happier…”

Dr Helen Fisher

“Happiness evolved millions of years ago to help us to survive” …

“There is data now that giving compliments to others lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, boosts your immune system, so it’s giving to others but it’s also giving to yourself.  But if I had to sum it up in four words: marry the right person…”

Carl Honore’

“Turn around that old John Lennon quote that ‘Life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans’ and into Happiness is what happens to us when we’re making the right plans” …

 “I just suggest that people stop and breathe.  Just a few deep breathes and you get an automatic quick fix…Another suggestion is the ‘speed audit’ – as you’re going through your day, every once in a while, just stop and ask yourself ‘am I going at the right speed?’… And I think we need to look at our schedules and do less.  We’re all chronically trying to do too much…having it all is just a recipe for hurrying it all…”

Jerril Rechter

“In oder for an individual to be happy we need to live in a happy society” …

“Get involved in the arts.  We know from research that there’s really strong connectors via the arts.  You can build really strong relationships and you can express yourself as well…”

Daily Self-Improvement Exercises that will take you 5-10 minutes

This is a great set of possibilities for growing greater resilience and happiness from Ann Smarty the serial guest blogger running My Blog Guest, and her own personal blog ManifestCon

Many experts recommend taking ten to fifteen minutes daily to improve yourself or your life. This could take on literally any form. But here are ten suggestions that you might find helpful, or may at least assist you in thinking up your own.

1. Meditation

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to just slow down and breath, which is essentially what meditation is: the chance to calm your mind, focus on your breathing, and find the quiet within yourself.

Any time you are feeling stressed, just take a few minutes and meditate. This can be a spiritual action, or not. The important thing is that you are moving past the tensions of the day.

Featured tool: If you want something guided, try Calm.com.

2. Mini Workouts

Did you know you can burn a couple hundred calories in just ten minutes? There are mini workouts all over the web that help you do it. But there are many more benefits to taking these active breaks.

They will help keep you healthy, boost your energy, assist in your sleeping cycle, relieve stress and tension, and improve your mood, all in just ten to fifteen minutes a day. Amazing, isn’t it?

Featured tools: Sparkpeople has plenty of these short exercise videos, both strength and cardio. So does Tiffany RothePopSugar and many others.

3. Learn Something New

Knowledge is power, but it is also fun. Learning something new every day is a great goal to have, and incredibly easy to keep up with. Newsletters, websites and groups are all over the web, just waiting to let you know something you didn’t before.Featured tools: Some great places to start are Reddit’s Today I LearnedHow Stuff Works many articles and podcasts, and the Now I Know newsletter. You can even use a site like DuoLingo to learn a new language.

4. Go For a Walk

Sometimes a bit of fresh air is all you really need to improve your day. Going for one every day, even a small one, can help habitually clear your mind and eliminate stress.It gives you a chance to organize your thoughts, or think through a problem. Plus, it is just an enjoyable pastime that doesn’t cause any strain on the body (for most). Try using one of your breaks at work for a short walk, and see the difference it makes.

5. Write Down What You Think

I don’t mean a professional article; that doesn’t improve yourself at all. But write something for yourself, whether it is shared or private. Speak about something you are passionate about, something you enjoy.

Write a letter you never intend to send, to go back and see later. Write a poem or some prose. Write about something that is bothering you, or that made you laugh. Just write.

Featured tool: OhLife is one of the journaling tools that will help you organize your writing by sending friendly email reminders and inviting to write on what happened that day.

I also like 750words

6. Read Something

Prefer to be on the reading end of words? Then take a few minutes in blocks to read something. Maybe it is half of a chapter of a book. Maybe it is an article or editorial. Maybe it is a couple of poems from your favorite poet. Just read something that enriches you.

Featured tools: There’s a quick review of Goodreads and how to find friends there. There are a lot of reading FireFox addons to choose from. Here are more quick reading hacks for short time.

7. Speak to a Friend/Relative

I don’t mean online. Too much of our communication has become reliant on such technology that hides us behind a computer screen. Take ten minutes instead to speak face to face, or on the phone.

Connect with your loved ones and make it a priority. Not only will you feel great by the end of it, but it will strengthen your relationship with that person.

8. Watch TED Talks

TED Talks are amazing, and you probably already know that. They encompass every industry, with leaders in those industries speaking about any topic at all.

They come in all different lengths, in multiple formats such as podcasts and videos. You will be sure to find truly inspiring and even life-changing lectures here.

9. Clean and Declutter

So many things can be improved by having a clean work or living space. Just ten minutes a day can make a lot of difference in a room, no matter what that room might be. Even if the area is a disaster, doing little bits will make an impact over the coming days. Plus, it will improve your mood to be somewhere tidy, as clutter can really mess with your thinking and emotions.

10. Do Something You Love

Ultimately, it comes down to this: do something you love. No matter what it might be, engaging in things you enjoy is perhaps the best path to self-improvement. Even if it is only ten to fifteen minutes a day.

Link to the original Lifehack article

Working With Mindfulness: Overcoming the Drive to Multitask

Jacqueline Carter writes…

There is a good chance that at some point while you are reading this post, you will be tempted to do something else at the same time. Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally. I won’t think badly of you and I won’t even be particularly surprised. Every work place I visit, there is a prevailing modus operandi – multitasking.

Yet there is a growing body of scientific evidence that multitasking makes us less efficient, less effective, more stressed and more likely to make mistakes…

An experiment conducted by Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak and Ostergren looked specifically at the effects of mindfulness training on multitasking behavior of knowledge workers in high stress environments. They found that when asked to do multiple tasks in a short amount of time, those who had been trained in mindfulness, compared to control groups, were able to maintain more focus on each task and had better memory for work details. They were also less negative about the experience and reported greater awareness and attention. In short, they were able to perform multiple tasks more mindfully.

If you are familiar with mindfulness practices, this makes sense. One of things developed in mindfulness training is to become more aware of your attention and increase your ability to choose your focus. If we can train ourselves to have more awareness and control over our attention, it makes sense that we would be better equipped to deal with a demanding work environment.

So when you have a lot to get done and you are tempted to try to do more than one thing at a time you have the mental discipline to choose. Do you continue trying to type the email and answer your colleague’s questions? Or do you let go of either the email or your colleague so you can do one or the other more efficiently and effectively? It’s your choice. But it only becomes a choice if you are mindful of your attention…

According to Gallop’s 2011-2012 study of employees, 70 percent of Americans are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. As noted in the report, there is significant evidence that disengaged workers are less productive, make more mistakes, and can be more costly to employers in terms of absenteeism and sick leave.

A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior demonstrates mindfulness training can help improve employee attitudes towards work and specifically increase engagement. Again, this makes sense. One of the basic methods of mindfulness training involves paying attention to your breath with alertness, relaxation, and a sense of curiosity. If you can train your mind to be comfortable and curious attending to your breath, it stands to reason that you could choose to apply that same orientation towards any task at hand.

Let’s say you are faced with a large pile of invoices to process. If your mind starts to look for more interesting things to do, it is going to take you longer and you will likely make mistakes. If you could look at this task with a calm, clear, present and engaged mind, you will be more efficient and effective and you might even find some enjoyment in the process.

So if you managed to read to the end of this post without doing other things — good for you! If on the other hand, you had to come back to it a couple of times, don’t feel bad. Maintaining focus and interest on one task at a time is not easy. Whether we work in highly-demanding environments or are doing tasks that aren’t particularly stimulating, we can all benefit from training ourselves to be more mindful about where and how we place our precious attention.

Link the original Huffington Post Blog

Why You Really Need To Quiet Your Mind (and how to do it)

Meditation is an under appreciated practice, especially in a high-stress workplace – but that’s where it’s needed the most. Stephanie Vozza offers these guidelines for how to quiet your racing thoughts from Victor Davich, author 8-Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind, Change Your Life.

“With technology, economic pressures, work, and family, it’s impossible to be on top of everything and it’s upsetting our natural balance.” says Victor Davich, and this overload and overwhelm often lead to anxiety, fear, and depression, and while you can’t check out of life and avoid responsibility, you can approach things in a gentler way.

“Meditation is one of the quickest tools for finding inner peace and quiet,” Davich says. “It’s an Eastern tool for Western results.”

Davich describes meditation as a state of mindfulness. “Being mindful doesn’t mean quieting your mind in the way most people expect,” he says. “The mind isn’t going to stop thinking. A zen master once told me the goal of mindfulness isn’t to suppress thinking, but to surpass it.”

The key is how you react to your thoughts. If you focus on your thinking, your mind is like an electric fan with thoughts blowing everywhere, says Davich. When you focus on your breathing or your body, however, thoughts can come and go like clouds across a sky. “You can look at them, realize they are just thoughts, and let them go,” he says. “You don’t have to have an emotional attachment to them.”

Being mindful means being present, explains Davich. “Once you are present and centered and here, your mind will naturally quiet down.”

Mindfulness isn’t another thing to put on the to-do list; it’s a daily commitment. Davich says an eight-minute meditation can have a profound affect on your wellbeing. An attorney, he says the practice helped him survive the stress of law school and boosted his GPA. He shares three simple steps you can take to quiet your mind:

1. Get into a good position

Take a deep breath and sigh it out. Sit comfortably and relax your body as much as you can. “We have these visions of needing to have a full lotus position,” Davich says. “It’s not necessary.”

2. Get in touch with your breathing

Close your eyes and find the place in your body where you feel your breath most prominently. Davich says it could be your abdomen, diaphragm, or under your nostrils. Start to focus your attention in a gentle way to your breathing–this will be your anchor point.

3. Detach from your thoughts

Within a few seconds, distractions like thoughts, body sensations, or images will start to bubble up. Realize that this is normal and gently return to the anchor point. Continue this for eight minutes. To keep track of the time and set the tone, you can use an app, such as Davich’s Simply8 or Buddhify or Headspace, a favourite of ours,

Davich says most people find morning to be a quiet and convenient time of day to meditate. Others do it before bed, to help them sleep. You could meditate during your lunch break or any other time that works for you.

There is just one rule: “Keep a daily consistent appointment with your mediation practice, just like brushing your teeth,” he says. “It’s a wonderful tool to help put space between you and the world’s distractions.”

How to Cope, Bounce Back and Thrive in Times of Change and Uncertainty

Some people seem to cope with change better than others, even though change is inevitable. Change is happening all the time. The ancient Chinese book of philosophy and guidance, The I Ching is known as ‘The Book of Change(s)’, recognizing that we are living in a state of potentiality. How we cope with change and how we bounce back is largely down to perception. Change can be a threat, an opportunity or a time for reflection.

Black and white categories and cognitive-economy

We make sense of the world, mainly through selective attention and simplification. We wouldn’t be able to cope if we had to process every bit of information that comes our way, so we run a sort of cognitive economy filter. One of the way we simplify is to carve the world up into black and white categories, just like those TV barristers who demand yes or no answers to their questions. These black and white categories are really a model of the world than an accurate representation of the world. …Seeing confidence as an ‘either-or’, ‘have-or-have-not’ state is not very useful. Often there is a lot to be gained by considering the grey area, the excluded middle. This is often where real-life is live and where we can find solutions.

In/tolerance of Uncertainty

…As with all aspects of psychology, the human experience inhabits a spectrum of difference. We all need structure to varying degrees, that same with our tolerance for ambiguity or uncertainty. Those who are more tolerant fare better in times of change. It’s tempting to use the ‘that’s just the way I am’ card, but it is possible to work our tolerances. We can adapt to change by changing our attitudes and perceptions.

Competing Needs: Novelty versus familiarity

If you’ve ever attended a training course, chances are you’ve encountered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. After our biological needs have been satisfied, one of the fundamental needs is our need for security. A key aspect of security is that things are familiar and predictable. However, just to mix things up, if you’ve ever observed a baby or a toddler you’ll know that they are drawn to new things. This doesn’t change as we age. Throughout our lives we balance novelty and familiarity. Often they are at odds with one another. We do a kind of mental accounting to assess whether we should play it safe and stick with what we know or take a chance.

The buffering effect of Psychological Hardiness

When I was writing and researching Unlock Your Confidence, I happened upon the concept of psychological hardiness (like resilience) and how it provides a buffering effect for health and well-being when dealing with stressful life changes and times of uncertainty. Much of the research was carried out with people in stressful jobs, such front-line services fire-fighters and people in the military. Three key attitudes were found that help some people cope with uncertainty and change better than others. These are the three Cs of:commitment, control and challenge.

  •  Commitment is the attitude of taking a genuine interest in other people and having curiosity about the world and getting involved with people and activities. The opposite of commitment is alienation, which involves cutting yourself off and distancing yourself from other people.
  • Control is the tendency to hold the attitude that control is something that comes from the inside and act as if you can influence the events taking place around you by your own efforts. It is The opposite of control is powerlessness which includes the perception that your life is controlled by external forces (fate, government) and that you do not have the means or capabilities to meet your goals. Our sense of control is often based on perception and not objective facts.
  • Challenge is the attitude that change is the norm, as opposed to stability and that change offers opportunities for personal development and not threats. The opposite of challenge is security, and the need for everything to stay the familiar and predictable, allowing you to stay in your comfort zone

Keeping a journal to cope with challenges and change

Journaling is a simple and effect technique of coping with challenges and change. When stressed our focus and thoughts narrow to survival options. This means that we overlook past experiences that could be the key with coping with a current situation. Journaling helps in two ways: (i) It helps you to organize your thoughts as you are going through the situation, (ii) It provides a permanent record of your personal coping strategies. Keeping a journal is also one of my top three tips for getting the most out of a self-help book.

Cognitive tricks for coping in times of uncertainty

It’s tempting to write off techniques as mental tricks. I’ve heard people claim that such methods are just fooling ourselves and are not authentic. I’d argue that the exact opposite is true. We use mental tricks all the time to make sense of the world. We actively filter things out. Taking control of our lives is in part about being aware of how we structure our experience. It’s also about being more aware of the range of our experience. One trick that I used when I moved home and found it difficult to settle into a new routine was to pretend I was on holiday. So I set myself a time limit of two to three weeks and I’d be as flexible as I have to be on holiday. …This change in attitude was all it took to help me to settle in. I’ve shared this idea with countless people (friends, family and clients) and it has worked for them too.

Another technique I use with clients is the personal experiment. When we agree a possible way forward or solution, I don’t ask clients to commit to it with every fibre of their being. It makes much more sense to treat it as an experiment and try it on for size. So we agree a time span and then after that we have a review and discuss how the experiment went. This removes an implicit sense of failure. At the end we are discussing the results as feedback, such as what didn’t work, what did work and what adjustments we can make.

Distraction is also a useful technique. When my parents moved house, my mother found it difficult to adjust. I’d tried for a few years trying to persuade her to do an evening course at college. They moved house in the middle of the summer and that year she decided to ‘take the plunge’ and sign up for a course in flowering arranging. It’s become her passion in life. Moving house became a blessing in disguise as it was her way to discover a passion and a new talent. Taking up a hobby is about choosing to do a newt hing. This sense of choice fits in with the psychological hardiness attitude of control.

Seeking Professional Help: Coach or Counsellor?

If you feel you can’t make a break through on your own then it maybe time to consider engaging the help of a professional. Obviously with something like a bereavement then a few cognitive tricks may not cut it. When the issue or problem sparks strong overwhelming emotions it may help to [get some coaching or counselling]. Keeping a journal is also useful as when things get better you will have a record of how you got through it.

…The beauty of coaching is that it’s a totally tailor-made personal development course. It’s not an off-the-peg experience. You bring the agenda and the coach provides the tools and techniques in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Coaching is a way to help you discover more ways in which you cope, adapt, bounce back and thrive.

[But you can help yourself too by reviewing] your life and writing down some ways in which you have coped with change and uncertainty in the past that rely on your abilities, skills and strengths. These become your own personal toolbox in challenging and uncertain times.

Link to the full article

The Neuroscience of Good Coaching

By Marshall Moore

“If everything worked out ideally in your life, what would you be doing in 10 years?”

new research suggests that nurturing a mentee’s strengths, aspirations for the future, and goals for personal growth is more effective at helping people learn and change; for instance, it helps train business school students to be better managers, and it is more effective at getting patients to comply with doctors’ orders.

recent study indicates why this more positive approach gets better results, using brain scans to explore the effects of different coaching styles. Based on what’s happening in the brain, it seems, a more positive approach might help people visualize a better future for themselves—and provide the social-emotional tools to help them realize their vision.

…As the researchers predicted, the students indicated that the positive interviewer inspired them and fostered feelings of hope far more effectively than the negative interviewer. Perhaps the more intriguing results, though, concern the areas of the brain that were activated by the two different approaches.

During the encouraging interactions with the positive interviewer, students showed patterns of brain activity that prior research has associated with the following qualities:

  • Visual processing and perceptual imagery—these are the regions that kick into gear when we imagine some future event
  • Global processing—the ability to see the big picture before small details, a skill that has been linked to positive emotions and pleasurable engagement with the world
  • Feelings of empathy and emotional safety—like those experienced when someone feels secure enough to open up socially and emotionally
  • The motivation to pro-actively pursue lofty goals—rather than act defensively to avoid harm or loss.

These differences in brain activity led the researchers to conclude that positive coaching effectively activates important neural circuits and stress-reduction systems in the body by encouraging mentees to envision a desired future for themselves.

Although the authors acknowledge that much more research needs to be conducted on the topic, their results offer a first glimpse at the neurological basis of why people coached by positive, visioning-based approaches tend to be more open emotionally, more compassionate, more open to ideas for improvement, and more motivated to pro-actively make lasting behavior changes than are those coached in ways that highlight their weaknesses.

Link to the full article

9 Stress-Reducing Truths About Money

If we’re struggling with money problems, these ideas may not alleviate our worries as completely as Joshua Becker seems to believe they will, but they are sure to do us no harm and very likely to help…

According to a recent survey, 71% of Americans identify money as a significant cause of stress in their lives. Of course, America is not alone in this regard.

Looking inside the numbers, we get a glimpse as to why the percentage is so high: 76% of households live paycheck-to-paycheck and credit card debt continues to grow. No doubt, these statistics contribute to the problem…

If you struggle with financial-related stress, begin thinking different about money by adopting a few of these stress-reducing thoughts. They have each worked for me.

1. You need less than you think. Most of the things we think we can’t live without are considered luxuries to most of the world—or even our grandparents. Think: cell phones, microwaves, cars, matching shoes, larger closets, just to name a few. The commercialization of our society has worked hard to stir discontent in our hearts. They have won. They have caused us to redefine their factory-produced items as legitimate needs. And have caused great stress in our lives because of it. Meanwhile, there are wonderful benefits for those who choose to own less.

2. Money won’t make you happy. It is simply an illusion that money will bring you happiness— study after study confirms it, so does experience. Some of the most joyful people I know are far from wealthy and some of the wealthiest people I know are far from joy. Now, certainly, there is a measure of stability and security that arises from having our most basic financial needs met. But we need so much less than we think we need. And the sooner we stop assuming more money will make us happy tomorrow, the sooner we can start finding happiness today.

3. Money is not the greatest goal of your work. Financial compensation does not succeed as a long-term motivator and the association between salary and job satisfaction is routinely shown to be very weak. In other words, a larger paycheck will not improve your satisfaction at work. There is a significant amount of work-related stress that can be removed by simply deciding to be content with your pay (assuming it is fair). Don’t work for the paycheck alone. Work for the sake of contribution and benefit to others. This approach is idealistic, but it is also fulfilling and stress-reducing.

4. Wealth has its own troubles. There are troubles associated with poverty, few of us would debate that fact. But there are also troubles associated with wealth. Unfortunately, we give little thought to them. As a result, we think the presence of money is always good, always a blessing. And we desire it. But money brings troubles of its own: it clouds moral judgement, it distorts empathy, it promotes pride and arrogance, it can become an addictionFears of the wealthy include isolation, anxiety, and raising well-adjusted children. In other words, if you are thinking money will solve your troubles, you are mistaken. And once we change our thinking on this, we can stop searching for answers in the wrong places.

5. The desire for riches robs us of life. We have heard the love of money is the root of all evil. But often times, the mere desire for more of it robs us of life as well. The desire for money consumes our time, wastes our energy, compromises our values, and limits our potential. It is wise to remove its desire from our affections. This would reduce our stress. But even better, it would allow true life-giving pursuits to emerge.

6. Boundaries are life-giving. Orson Welles once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” I agree. And the enemy of life is the absence of boundaries. Whether they be social, financial, or moral, boundaries provide structure and a framework for life. They promote discovery, invention, and ingenuity. Boundaries motivate us to discover happiness in our present circumstance. This is one reason a personal spending plan (budget) is such a helpful tool — the financial boundary forms a helpful framework for life. It allows us to recognize we don’t have to spend more money than we earn to be happy. There is no joy in living beyond your means — only stress. Live within the boundaries of your income. And find more life because of it.

7. There is joy in giving money away. Generosity has wonderful benefits. Generous people are happier, healthier, more admired, more satisfied with life, and have deeper relationships with others. Their lives are filled with less stress. It is important to change our thinking on this topic. One of the most stress-reducing things you can ever do with your money is give some of it away. And generosity is completely achievable today regardless of our current situation.

8. The security found in money/possessions is fleeting at best. Too many of us believe security can be adequately found in possessions. As a result, many of us pursue and collect large stockpiles of possessions in the name of security or happiness. We work long hours to purchase them. We build bigger houses to store them. We spend large amounts of energy maintaining them. The burden of accumulating and maintaining slowly becomes the main focus of our lives. Meanwhile, we lose community, freedom, happiness, and passion. We exchange some of the most basic elements of life for mere possessions. Our search for security and life and joy is essential to being human—we just need to start looking for it in the right places.

9. Money, at its core, is only a tool. At its heart, money is nothing more than a tool to expedite trade. It saves us from making our own clothes, tools, and furniture. Because of money, I spend my days doing what I love and am good at. In exchange, I receive money to trade with someone else who uses their giftedness to create something different than me. That’s it. That is its purpose. And if we have enough to meet our needs, we shouldn’t live in stress trying desperately to acquire more.

Stress has some terrible affects on our bodies. It results in irratability, fatigue, and nervousness. Unfortunately, money consistently ranks as one of the greatest causes of it. But that doesn’t need to be true of us.

Let’s change the way we think about it. And start to enjoy our lives a little more instead.

Link to the original article

How can I support my partner when they’re stressed with work?

by Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone

Work stress can affect our personal lives and our relationships, particularly if both partners are under significant stress. But learning to support each other in productive ways can strengthen the relationship, reduce stress and improve mood.

Research suggests that couples who actively manage stress together improve their relationship durability over time.

  • Listen and support: Questioning, challenge and offering solutions are important, but listening and offering support are most valuable. Research from eHarmony suggested that people who are supportive when their partners share bad events maintain relationship satisfaction and contribute towards an environment with fewer arguments.
  • Recognise and respect different coping mechanisms: People cope very differently with stress. Some people like to talk everything out as soon as possible, while others need silent downtime. It’s important to recognise you and your partner might not cope in the same way, and there isn’t necessarily a “right” way. Try to accept differences and find ways to accommodate and facilitate your partner to cope in their own way.
  • Kill comparisons: There are two types of comparisons couples make that enhance stress. The first is to compare yourself or your partner to others, professionally, which is a poor form of attempted motivation. The second is to compare your own stress levels with those of your partner. You should learn to listen and offer help to your partner, even when dealing with your own. The key is to solicit help and empathy from your partner without minimising and invalidating their own feelings.

Link to the original HRZone Article

If resilience is the question, is music the answer

by Joanne Ruksenas, a PhD Candidate in Music and Public Health at Griffith University,

A growing body of research from a number of diverse fields point to the benefits gained by actively making music. The most obvious field is music therapy. A relatively new therapy with its formal origins in the years following the second world war, music therapy is a complex and diverse field.

Not surprisingly, music therapists use music to form their therapeutic relationship and provide group and individual interventions in diverse settings including schools, prisons and hospitals.

Research by US researchers published last month points to improved positive health outcomes using music therapy.

The research, conducted with adolescents and young adults undergoing high-risk stem-cell treatment for cancer, used music therapy to target their resilience.

Stem-cell therapy is risky, painful, and causes high levels of distress in patients. This distress can have a heavy impact on the treatment outcomes – which are affected by the patient’s ability to cope with the illness and treatment, and their relationships with other people.

As with many resilience interventions, this intervention was “strengths based”, aiming to build on known protective factors for resilience and minimise risk. They found the individuals in the active music therapy group were able to cope better with the treatment, and had better relationships with their family and others. The effects of the music therapy intervention were still obvious 100 days after the intervention.

Resilience is an important characteristic often referred to as an umbrella trait. It does not remove problems – but it provides shelter and protection while people make choices about how they will deal with what they are facing.

It does this by pitting protective factors of resilience against the risk factors. A person exhibiting more protective factors than risk factors is resilient. A person who exhibits more risk factors is “at risk”.

The protective and risk factors are flip sides of the same coin. The three most prominent factors – self-regulation, initiative and relationships with other people – are the factors targeted in the US study. That’s why the music therapy intervention, which strengthened all of these, was particularly effective.

…Would education be more effective if resilience was fostered and developed from the earliest years, and what role does music play?

Active engagement with music has a number of intrinsic properties that mirror and enhance the protective factors of self-regulation, initiative and relationships with others. Resilience supports learning in other areas in the same way that it supported better health outcomes in the music therapy study.

Whether these skills translate for normal children on a normal day is yet to be seen.

What is understood is that 60% of people are naturally resilient. Even children who suffer horrendous abuse generally sort their lives out by the time they are 40. How different would the life trajectories of “at risk” children be if they were given the tools of resilience from the earliest ages?

How different would our schools be if we built on children’s strengths and gave all children tools for self-regulation, initiative and building better relationships with other people from the start of their education rather than applying remediation and punishment once problems occur?

What if the solution is engaging with music?

Link to the full article

Schools urged to promote ‘character and resilience’

By Patrick Howse, BBC News, Education reporter

Britain’s schools must be “more than just exam factories”, a cross-party parliamentary group says.

Its report argues that more importance should be given to the development of “character and resilience”.

It says schools should make it part of their “core business” to nurture pupils’ self-belief, perseverance and ability to bounce back from set-backs.

It is supported by the CBI, senior politicians, and the government’s social mobility adviser.

The Character and Resilience Manifesto is the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, and has been produced in collaboration with the CentreForum think-tank.

The main focus of the report is a need to avoid concentrating solely on academic measures of success as children move through the education system and into the workplace…

It also wants the standards watchdog Ofsted to build “character and resilience” measures into its inspection framework, and for teacher training and career development programmes to “explicitly focus” on the area…

‘Soft skills’

The report argues that a belief in one’s ability to succeed, the perseverance to stick to a task and the ability to bounce back from life’s set-backs are qualities that have a major impact on life chances, both during education and, later, in the labour market.

Speaking on behalf of the parliamentary group, Baroness Claire Tyler said they had seen “clear evidence that what are often misleadingly called ‘soft skills’ actually lead to hard results”.

“However many GCSEs you have, where you are on the character scale will have a big impact on what you achieve in life,” she said.

Damian Hinds, the chairman of the APPG on Social Mobility said self-belief, drive and perseverance were “key to achievement at school and at work”.

“But they are not just inherent traits,” he added, “they can be developed in young people.

Wide support

The Confederation of British Industry has been promoting a similar agenda for some time.

The CBI’s director-general, John Cridland warned that schools were in danger of becoming “exam factories, churning out people who are not sufficiently prepared for life outside the school gates”.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the report “tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people that have a sense of moral purpose and character, as well as being passionate, reflective learners?”

Link to the full article

Teaching – and Learning – Resilience through Reflection

By Kevin D. Washburn, executive director of Clerestory Learning, and author of “The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain”

Written as a guide for teachers, this article contains wisdom that we all can take and grow our resilience from…

In addition to imagination, fostering [our] reflection abilities helps develop resilience. We can become more equipped to think our way out of defeat and into healthy mind states where learning — deep learning, in fact — can happen.

Reflection

Reflection comprises the ability to monitor one’s own thinking — metacognition — and to engage strategies — self-direct — that make positive adjustments. It involves three phases.

Phase 1: What am I thinking now?

This seems basic, and yet this first step may be the most elusive. To redirect thinking, which precedes renewed effort, an individual must first recognise her or his current state of mind. …Self-awareness is not the mind’s default state.

A study conducted a few years back illustrates this. Researchers theorized that young people diagnosed with ADHD might be able to redirect their attention if they are made aware of their distraction. To test this, researchers set up mirrors near the work areas of several students. When a student became distracted and looked up from his work, the first thing he saw was his distracted self in the mirror. Once they recognized this, most students were able to redirect their attention and complete the assigned task.

This unawareness of one’s current mental state is not limited to individuals with ADHD. Research suggests most of us have blind spots where a mirror — literal or figurative — could help. Daniel Goleman explains, “…those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence, more able to stay unflappable in a crisis and to keep on an even keel despite life’s emotional waves.” Keeping on an even keel requires recognizing when the boat is being rocked. Awareness precedes course correction…

Phase 2: What can I tell myself to redirect my energy?

Self-talk is one of the most powerful cognitive tools available. As Jim Afremow explains, “thoughts determine feelings,” and “feelings influence performance.” Using self-talk effectively is an act of control. When [we] take control of our mental messages, we are on our way to redirecting our efforts and increasing our learning.

In the famous “marshmallow test,” researchers asked the children who resisted eating the marshmallow right away what they did to withstand the temptation. Several indicated that they talked to themselves. They told themselves messages like, “You can do this. Try to wait for one more minute.” and, “Make this fun. Imagine what else that thing could be besides a marshmallow.” What an example of using self-talk to distract oneself! “The mind guides action,” explains Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis. “If we can succeed in regulating our thoughts, then this will help our behavior.”

Instructive self-talk, the act of “talking” through the details of how to do something successfully, is more effective than self-esteem boosting messages (e.g., “I’m the best!), in part because the brain has difficulty accepting a compliment that doesn’t have an associated accomplishment. But also because instructive self-talk increases the mindfulness with which a student approaches a challenge…

Phase 3: What went wrong?

[Working] through the process of self-awareness and redirecting [our] mental energies creates a powerful learning opportunity. When our brains do not achieve an expected outcome from our efforts, be they cognitive or physical or a combination, we experience a feeling of disappointment. That feeling indicates that at that moment we are primed for learning, but — and this is critical — only if we are willing to attend to and examine our errors.

That means that when [we] make errors, when we struggle, we have a great opportunity to spark deep learning, but only if we respond to [our] mistakes effectively and [reflect on what went wrong and analyse what we can learn from this].

Link to the full article with  Kevin Strategies for working with students

Professor Toni Noble ‘Build self-respect, not self-esteem’ at YoungMinds 2013

Highly recommended to update your thinking about what matters more in growing our resilience and success and helping the people around us to do the same.

Despite the unfortunate audio noise from Toni Noble’s earring against the mic, and even though it is directed at teachers and students, this is a richly-packed talk that challenges many of the assumptions a lot of us still carry about the primary importance of self-esteem that will reward the time and attention you give to its hearing.

 – What is the difference between self respect and self esteem?
– Has an emphasis on self-esteem at home and school been detrimental to our children’s wellbeing?
– What strategies can we use to build young people’s self respect?

Professor Toni Noble, leading educator and educational psychologist with expertise in student wellbeing and positive school communities; Adjunct Professor, School of Educational Leadership, Australian Catholic University

Resilience: An HR Manager’s Guide

Building resilience in your workforce takes just five ‘Rs’, according to Cranfield School of Management and Airmic, the association for risk management. They are: risk radar; resources; relationships; rapid response; and review and adapt — and it is not enough to have just one, employers need to adopt them all to truly achieve resilience…

“Resilience isn’t just about avoiding risk or being risk averse; it’s about actively taking it on, learning from it and understanding the business gain,” he says. “It’s a task for all our leaders, from the chief executive to our frontline supervisors, to provide a transparent and open culture in which people feel confident and able to flag when things don’t go well.”  John Scott chief risk officer at Zurich Global Corporate.

Link to read the full article

Sound of success: finding perfect acoustics for a productive office

Sound in a space affects us profoundly, claims acoustics expert Julian Treasure. He offers his tips on creating positive soundscapes

Overlooking sound can cause a lot of difficulties. An otherwise well-designed collaborative space can get scuppered by poor sound management. Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business and chairman of The Sound Agency comes across the problem often.

“We experience every space in five senses so it’s strange that architects design just for the eyes,” he says. “Sound in a space affects us profoundly. It changes our heart rate, breathing, hormone secretion, brain waves, it affects our emotions and our cognition.” His research suggests that trying to perform knowledge-based tasks in a space in which other people’s conversations are clearly audible is difficult. “Productivity can be degraded by up to two thirds,” he says.

This isn’t just a case of unfocused workers. If someone is talking right next to someone else, it’s instinctive for the passive listener to process their words. The issue is that, according to Treasure, people have the bandwidth to process 1.6 conversations at any one time. So if they’re already processing one happening just next to them, they have limited capacity for their actual task.

“There is also a lot of research to demonstrate that noise in offices changes people’s behaviour – it makes them less helpful, more frustrated, absenteeism goes up and so does the rate of sickness.”

So we need to work in silent offices, right? Actually that’s a no-no, too. “People often mistake our mission at The Sound Agency for a crusade for silence, but actually silence is in many ways just as bad as too much noise,” says Treasure.

He was visiting a client recently and the environment was completely silent and it was positively oppressive. “In a room full of 60 to 70 people which is open plan and absolutely quiet, it’s very intimidating to make a phone call. And if you do so, you’re upsetting about 15 to 20 people because they’re put off by your phone call.”

The answer is to have the right level of ambient noise – referred to as a masking sound. “It needs to be there in order to mask those conversations so that you can get on with some work without your concentration being degraded by other conversations,” he explains. Too much of this noise and the stress levels increase. Most offices work best at around 50 to 60 decibels, he explains. “So if you were to introduce some masking sound that doesn’t require cognition – nature sounds, bird song, rainfall or some very slow-paced soundscapes played by a computer – you release the productivity.” This masking sound can be played through earphones just as easily if it’s difficult to negotiate among a group.

However, raw noise is only one thing to analyse when you’re evaluating your workspace. Acoustics are also very important – few employers and managers will be aware of the reverb rate of their meeting room, but if the sound comes back to you in, say, one second it’s going to be annoying to work there. If two people are in there talking, they can become frustrated and end up with what’s known as the Lombard Effect, where it all escalates. Think about shopping centres, where there’s an echo and people have to shout to be heard while having a coffee, even when they’re sitting opposite each other.

The issue can be cumulative, as in the Lombard Effect, or just a combination of things. The first step to take is just to listen to the office and what’s going on in it. Walk around. Treasure sometimes advises people to get someone to walk them around with a blindfold or at least to close their eyes, and just ask whether the sounds are the most conducive to getting tasks done.

The results can be surprising. People don’t always go and listen to the fridge, the printer, the air conditioning unit or any number of other things – they can all be masked with acoustic absorbers. There may be a need for a sound system to create masking sounds. Treasure advises considering the communal areas and their objectives – people go to the café space to converse but find they can’t because the music is too loud and there’s too much chatter.

Treasure says: “I was at a workplace the other day where they had commercial radio in the canteen so you had the DJ’s chatter, you had advertising and you had loud music.”

Above all, ask people what they think. Noisy environments are among the biggest complaints people have in workspaces – and many bosses are in sound-insulated offices and unaware there’s a problem. Don’t forget to revisit the issue as well. Hearing changes over time and if you’ve employed someone for a long period their hearing and ability to process sound won’t be the same at 45 as it was when they were in their late 20s.

It’s not just hearing that changes, explains Treasure: “The difficulty of extracting signal from noise does get worse as you get older,” he says. “If you’re trying to listen to one person in an office and the background noise is very loud, it becomes harder and harder. It’s a listening thing, the brain is having a struggle.”

In an era in which we have an ageing demographic, this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. And yet in office design, sound comes into consideration a poor second – if it comes in at all.

“We need architects to start designing offices that are fit for the ears as well as the eyes,” says Treasure. “We really need to start designing for all the senses and end up with offices that are truly fit for purpose.”

Link to the original article

Radical Wellbeing: Where We Need To Get To (Part 2)

by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Hanzi

Radical well being jettisons the model of body as machine for something closer to reality: a model that is living, dynamic, fluid, and adaptive. This new model leads to a state of higher health controlled and monitored by each person. The reason that directing your own health is so powerful can be summarized in a few insights that have taken decades to develop. As we emphasized in our book “Super Brain”:

• Every thought, feeling, and sensation in the mind sends a message to every cell in the body.
• Cells operate through feedback loops that mesh with the feedback loops of tissues, organs, and the body itself.
• Disease begins with subtle imbalances in these feedback loops.
• The brain’s ability to consciously direct a person’s life depends on intelligence embedded in every cell.
• Behaviour today has consequences for our genes, altering their expression in profound ways.

Which leads to the conclusion that each person must decide to take advantage of the new model. The things that health-conscious people already do aren’t negated. It remains of primary importance not to smoke, avoid excess weight, and minimize use alcohol (with perhaps an exemption for drinking a glass of wine a day, at most). If you already have taken these steps, the new model also supports other familiar advice: exercise moderately, eat a good, balanced diet, and avoid environmental toxins. But these steps bring us only to the very edge of radical well being.

The really fascinating area to explore is known as “self-directed biological transformation,” which has enormous implications for your present health and everyone’s future evolution. Change is inevitable, and transformation is taking place in your body many thousands of times a second. For the most part, each of us has played a passive role in our own transformation, allowing biological processes, governed by our genes, to run automatically. The problem is that, as miraculous as the body’s feedback loops are, they deteriorate over time and are susceptible to imbalances that aren’t self-correcting. The result is unhealthy aging and disease. Short of that, the level of well being you experience is vulnerable to degradation biologically, much of which can be avoided.

Intervening in the body’s feedback loops comes down to a simple principle: The more positive the input your body receives, the more positive its output. Your body, down to the genetic level, is altered by the events of everyday life. (It’s already known that positive lifestyle changes directed at preventing and healing heart disease alter as many as 500 genes.) The time is right for proving just how much overall control we have over this enormous potential in the mind-body connection. One can foresee the future as self-directed biological transformation.

The platform for self-directed transformation is available to everyone. It includes yoga and meditation, exercise for strength, agility, endurance and play, a balanced farm-to-table and Mediterranean diet, good sleep, and stress reduction. These are well-established ways to improve bodily function. But there’s more to explore, given another basic principle: Every experience in consciousness has a physical correlate. A mystic experiencing deep inner silence, a Buddhist monk meditating on compassion, or a saint having a vision of angels isn’t exempted from this principle, because the label of “spiritual” doesn’t diminish the mind-body connection – that connection is actually amplified.

Whatever activity you undertake is a step in self-directed biological transformation. Knowing this, how should you choose to live? Certainly a higher priority should be given to those things that make you more conscious, with the aim of being more centered, free of psychological deficits, capable of experiencing love, bonding with others, and pursuing happiness with the dedication we show in pursuing success.

Link to the full article

15 Quotes To Help You Smash Your Negative Thinking

by Aidan Tan, Pick the Brain 

Here are 9 of these quotes to help you smash negative thinking

1) “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”   ― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

2) “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”   ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

3) “Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings and emotions” – Will Smith

4) “Always think extra hard before crossing over to a bad side, if you were weak enough to cross over, you may not be strong enough to cross back!”   ― Victoria Addino

5) “If you are positive, you’ll see opportunities instead of obstacles.”   ― Widad Akrawi

6) “If we are not currently experiencing the danger of war, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, the pangs of starvation, we are ahead of some 500 million people in the world.” -Unknown

7) “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t either way you are right!”   ― Henry Ford

12) “Take a walk outside – it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind.”  ― Rasheed Ogunlaru

13) “Start thinking positively. You will notice a difference. Instead of “I think I’m a loser,” try “I definitely am a loser.” Stop being wishy-washy about things! How much more of a loser can you be if you don’t even know you are one? Either you are a loser or you are not. Which is it, stupid?”  ― Ellen DeGeneres, The Funny Thing Is…

Link to read the full set of 15 in the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #86

All of these stories are included in this new collection of articles about happiness and resilience at work and in our lives.

Link to the Happiness At Work Edition #86

Happiness At Work #85 ~ “Perspective Is Everything…”

~ 'Afternoon Light' ~ photo by Sue Ridge

~ ‘Afternoon Light’ ~
photo by Sue Ridge

Reality isn’t a particularly good guide to happiness…”

I have lifted the title for this week’s post from Rory Sutherland’s TedTalk (below) in which he makes an eloquent and persuasive case for how we need to recognise that the way we choose to see and think about things – and then what we say about them – matters far more than the things themselves.

Here are the key principles that Sutherland wants us to accept and work from:

More and more studies are reiterating this same principle that how we frame things fundamentally affects what we make happen, as much as it does what ‘actually’ happens to us.  This is now core to the intelligence coming from a growing agreement across the combined research fields including neuroscience, positive psychology, genetics, psycholinguistics and behavioural economics.

For example, new research in psychology and neuroscience shows that we become more successful when we are happier and more positive. Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost 3 times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking a maths exam far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are in positive.

Here is what Shawn Achor tells us in his inspirational book The Happiness Advantage

The old formula is broken and waiting to happy actually limits our brain’s potential for success – whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more resilient, creative and productive…

A leading expert in this research is psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who has found that positive emotions broaden our visual focus, our thoughts and our behaviour.  This makes our thinking more creative, inclusive, flexible and integrative.  Experiments have shown that inducing a positive mood (e.g. by showing participants a funny movie or reading them a funny story) increases our scope of attention, our abilities to solve problems accurately, and our interest in socialising and in strenuous and leisurely activities.  By feeling more positive we change the way we perceive things, broadening our focus and beneficially affecting our physical health, our relationships, our creativity, our ability to acquire new knowledge and our psychological resilience.

Making our best mental maps

We see the world through the mental maps we make of it and most of what we see depends less on what is there and far more on what we expect to see.

On every mental map after crisis or adversity we always have a choice of three possible mental paths:

One that circles us around and around where we are now and keeps us stuck, seeing only the narrowest view on the problem:  “Nothing will ever change – there’s nothing I can do and I will never get out of this”

A second path expects to see even worse things and greater disaster still to come: “It’s just going to get worse and worse no matter what I do.”

The third path is the one that will start to lead us away from our problems to a better place:  “This moment will pass, it will get better eventually, and there will be things that I can do to improve things if I look for them.”  In its best form, we go further still to look for what we might need or be able to learn as a result of getting ourselves back up again: “There must be a way I can use this to learn and grow from somehow…”

Our perspective on what happens to us has also been studied by psychologists like Martin Seligman, who have found that pessimists and optimists have very different explanatory styles (the ways they explain bad and good events to themselves and to others.)  Optimists tend to respond to adverse events by viewing the consequences as temporary and limited in scope – “It could be worse and it will get better” – and they favour words such as “sometimes” or “lately.”  Optimists tend to have an internal locus of control – the belief that they can influence events in their lives and what happens to them is largely done to what they, themselves, do or don’t do, unlike pessimists who tend to be much more fatalistic, seeing control as largely outside themselves and their own influence.  And studies are now showing repeatedly that optimists get much better outcomes: by expecting to get good results we get more of them.

A famously extreme test of the power of how we choose to perceive things is told by holocaust survivor and neuroscientist, Viktor Frankl In his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning.  He was able to deliberately shift the way his awful reality seemed by shifting his ways of thinking about it, including using his humour as…

“another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.  It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human makeup can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if for just a few seconds.”

For Frankl, humour provided a life-saving means to gain perspective.  And with perspective comes the capacity to reappraise and generate alternative approaches and solutions to problems.  Like other positive emotions, humour tends to broaden our focus of attention and thereby foster more exploration, creativity and flexibility in our thinking.

Humour manages to present positive and negative wrapped together into one package, combining “optimism with a realistic look at the tragic.”  Consider director and screenwriter Woody Allen musing on mortality:

“I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Or the classic exchange:

“Does it hurt?”

“Only when I laugh.”

“What one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Take, too, The Pygmalion Effect, the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform, named after the myth that tells of the sculptor, Pygmalion, who came to so love the sculpture he was carving, that he was able to breathe her into becoming the living breathing Galatea,  a real woman who lived with him for the rest of his life.

Social psychologist Robert Rosenthal and his co-author, school principal Lenore Jacobson coined the term ‘The Pygmalion Effect’ to describe the striking results of an experiment they carried out in a California school in 1965. Students took a test and then teachers were given the names of those identified as “growth spurters” – students who were poised to make great strides academically. And sure enough, these students showed a significantly greater gain in performance over their classmates when tested again at the end of the year.

But here’s the thing: the “growth spurters” were actually chosen at random. The only difference between them and their peers, Rosenthal writes, “was in the mind of the teacher.” And yet the expectations held in the mind of the teacher — or the parent, or the manager, or the colleague — were everything needed to make an enormous difference.

Research conducted since Rosenthal and Jacobson’s original study has determined that the Pygmalion Effect applies to all kinds of settings, from sports teams to the military to the corporate workplace.  Here are four different behaviours we can each draw from to create our own Pygmalion Effect…

  • We give more warmth to people we regard as high-potential, through non-verbal signals: a nod, an encouraging smile, a “tell me more…” interest.
  • We communicate more, and more complex ideas, to people we see as especially promising.
  • To people we see as up-and-coming, we give more opportunities to contribute, including additional time to respond to questions.
  • With people we see as “special” we offer more personalised feedback and more detailed information than just a generic “Well done.”

It can be difficult to deliberately change our expectations of others.  But we can consciously change our behaviour, and, as great teachers know, by incorporating these approaches into more of our interactions, we act as if the people we are with have great potential — potential that they will then more than likely live up to.

The circumstances of our lives matter less than the sense of control we feel we have over our circumstances…”

Several studies have now found that our IQ – what you know – predicts – at most – only 25% of our success at work.  The remaining 75% of our job success is predicted by our level of optimism, the social support we have, and our ability see stress as a challenge rather than a threat.

In other words the way we think about things and the ways we respond to the situations and circumstances we find ourselves in is what makes the largest amount of difference.

~ 'Let There Be Light' ~ photo by Sue Ridge

~ ‘Let There Be Light’ ~
photo by Sue Ridge

Rory Sutherland: Perspective is Everything

The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says Rory Sutherland. At TEDxAthens, he makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness.

In this talk, Rory Sutherland, ‘advertising guru’ and Vice Chairman of the Ogilvy Group, argues that we need to rebalance our previously asymmetrical precedents and make many more solutions from what he calls ‘the sweet spot’ that lies in the intersection between our economic, technological and psychological thinking.  Why are we not given the chance to solve problems psycholocally rather than just from an economic and/or engineering perspective? he asks, citing several examples including the provocation that 0.01% of the £6million spent reducing the travel time from London to Paris on Eurostar would have installed WiFi into all of the trains, substantially improving the travel experience and negating against the need to make it shorter far beyond the perceived benefit of getting there 40 minutes faster.

Other things he says in this talk that stand out for me:

Before Kahneman we didn’t have a good psychological model to give a lattice on which to hang things.

Behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize winning ‘Prospect theory’ emphasises the value we give to our perceived sense of potential gains and losses when we make decisions, over and above the actual value of the final outcome in and for itself.

One of the great mistakes that economics makes is that it fails to understand that what something is, whether its unemployment, retirement, cost, is a function not only of its amount but also its meaning…

I think the danger we have today is that the study of economics considers itself to be a prior to the study of human psychology, but …’if economics isn’t behavioural I don’t what the hell is’…

We all tend to look at value in two ways: there is the real value when you make something or provide a service, and then there is what is perceived to be the more dubious value which you create by changing the way people look at things.  But Austrian economist and praxeologist Ludwig von Mises refutes this completely, giving this analogy:  if you run a restaurant there is no greater value from the person who cooks the food than from the person who sweeps the floor – one creates the primary product and the other creates the context in which it can be enjoyed…

“If your perception is worse than your reality then why are working on trying to change the reality?”

Sutherland’s example here is when the UK Post Office made great efforts to raise their next-day delivery performance from 98% to 99% it almost broke the organisation, despite the fact the most people scored their next-day delivery at 50-60%.  Any achievement they made here was doomed to fail until our perception of what they were achieving was radically improved, and this calls for completely different strategies.  Leveraging up the psychological value, Sutherland suggests that telling the us that more mail arrives the next day in Britain than it does in Germany would have a much better guarantee of making us happy.

“Choose your frame of reference and the perceived value and the actual value is transformed.”

He cites Google as a company whose success is grounded in the understanding that psychological impact is as critical as their technological prowess.  Taking and exploiting the insight that ‘people who do only one thing have got to be better at doing that thing than anyone who is trying to do that thing and something else too,’ make Google seen to be ‘only search engine’ worth using.

“Our perception is leaking…”

Another illustration Sutherland notices is when we have our car washed it always seems to go that much better.  Of course this is logically unlikely to be really happening, but try this for yourself and see if you can stop yourself from believing that your car is running better when you drive it away after a thorough wash and polish…

 

One proposal Sutherland makes to leverage the benefits of perspective is, rather than making a course of antibiotics into 24 white pills, making them 18 white pills and 6 blue pills and telling people to take the white ones first.  The likelihood of people completing their whole course is increased by an innate desire to get to the blue pills and then to finish them off.  This is based on the idea that ‘chunking’ what we have to do down into smaller more manageable goals with a milestone somewhere in the middle dramatically increases our likelihood of getting us to the end.

And this tallies with insights presented in this week’s BBC Two Horizon programme about the latest research into why and how the Placebo Effect works – as it now is fairly universally accepted that it does.  There are limits to what a placebo can do  – it won’t fix a broken leg or shrink a tumour.  But here are just some of the attention-grabbing findings this programme highlights about what can be achieved, simply through harnessing the power of our own expectations:

  • Olympic cyclists, asked to race a second time in the same day despite this never normally happening, were randomly selected to take either a nutrient supplement pill or a caffeine pill to test which made a positive impact on their performance.  Even though they expected to race slower than their earlier times, most of the athletes made a faster time, with one even making a new personal best record.  And all of the pills were placebos, containing nothing more than a little cornflour.
  • In a more controversial trial a surgeon tested the actual benefits of a kind of ‘cement injection’ that was seeming to bring significant relief to particular kinds of back injuries.  As is usual, patients who opted on to the trial didn’t know whether they would were getting the actual treatment or not, and conditions were scrupulously simulated to keep the suggestion that they were high.  All patients were prepped and anaesthetised the same, and only then did the medical team discover that patient’s draw.  Those who got the fake treatment still got the nail polishey smell as the cement was opened and the apparent pressure sensation of the injections.  And many of these patients achieved the same benefit they could have expected, despite getting a placebo treatment.  One woman, who had previously benefited from the actual treatment, was on the golf course and returned to most of her usual physical activities within days of her spinal fracture being treated with nothing more than an elaborate hoax and the incredible power of her own self-belief.
  • In another trial a man with Parkinson’s Disease, which affects the part of our brain responsible for making our movement, told how he was able to get most of his mobility back within half an hour of taking his first pill of what he supposed was his prescribed drug but was really a placebo.
  • Most surprisingly of all, an American doctor ran a trial where the patients knew they are taking nothing more than a placebo, and still managed to experience significant improvements to their condition.  Despite having knowledge of both her condition and the drug treatments available and knowing she was only taking a sugar pill twice a day, one  woman said she got complete relief from all of her Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms for the weeks she was taking them.
  • And in another trial IBS patients were given placebo acupuncture treatment with fake needles that only seemed to be piercing the skin within one of two contrasting setups:  some patients were given the fake acupuncture with the absolute minimum interaction from their physician, and  the other group of patients were treated to the highest quality time from their physician before their fake acupuncture, who listened with their fullest interest and attention to how their condition was affecting them.  Most of the trial patients across both groups showed some improvement in their symptoms from the placebo treatment.  And – I am very happy a perhaps a nit relieved too -to be able to report that the patients who received the high quality interaction experienced about 20% greater benefit, leaning up the case for how the power of good communications and relating well with people will amplify the benefits we can get from our own positive expectations.

Horizon: The Power of the Placebo

They are the miracle pills that shouldn’t really work at all. Placebos come in all shapes and sizes, but they contain no active ingredient. Now they are being shown to help treat pain, depression and even alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Horizon explores why they work, and how we could all benefit from the hidden power of the placebo.

Link the BBC Two site for this programme

Happiness At Work Edition #85

Here are some more top picks linked to this theme from this week’s new collection of stories about happiness, resilience, creativity and making great relationships in our 21st century work and lives…

Link the Happiness At Work Edition #85 collection

Human Body Distinguishes Between ‘Hedonic’ and ‘Eudaimonic’ Happiness on Molecular Level

By Tamarra Kemsley

Even on a molecular level, the human body is able to distinguish between a sense of well-being derived from a profound, “noble” purpose versus simple self-gratification, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Led by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina, the researchers looked at the biological influence of the two forms of happiness through the human genome.

“Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a ‘hedonic’ form representing an individual’s pleasurable experiences, and a deeper ‘eudaimonic,’ form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification,” wrote Fredrickson and her colleagues.

It’s the difference, they explained, between enjoying a good meal and feeling connected to a larger community through a service project.

While both offer a sense of satisfaction, each is experienced very differently in the body’s cells.

“We know from many studies that both forms of well-being are associated with improved physical and mental health, beyond the effects of reduced stress and depression,” Fredrickson said. “But we have had less information on the biological bases for these relationships.” …

While eudaimonic well-being was associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile.

Fredrickson said she found the results initially surprising since study participants themselves reported overall feelings of well-being.

One possibility for the discrepancy, she suggested, is that people who experience more hedonic than eudaimonic well-being consume the emotional equivalent of empty calories.

“We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ’empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

(Link to the original article)

From Enron to Advocacy: How Women are Transforming Corporate Culture

By Nicole Alvino, Co-Founder and SVP at SocialChorus

When you look at the companies pioneering advocate marketing and other social media strategies, you’ll notice a common theme: women are leading the charge. Although women are underrepresented in C-level and VP-level roles, they are disproportionately creating entire marketing, sales, human resources and customer service strategies grounded in social connectivity. As powerful women translate company values, goals and brand identity into actions, social media has become their medium of choice. By championing advocacy within their organisations — by making their customers and employees the motors of company participation, inspiration and appreciation — I believe women are transforming corporate culture on an unprecedented scale. The results will redefine our notions of leadership for years to come and recreate brands as a source of community and inspiration, not just profit, products and employment.

Women, I would argue, are strongly attracted to businesses that foster a sense of community through open sharing and transparent leadership. The rise of advocacy is in large part a rejection of corporate cultures that elevated achievement and competition above these values. This is what I discovered in my own journey to advocate marketing, and I believe many women have shared in this experience….

When I started, Enron had a culture of people who wanted to change the world responsibly. But success became a cloud of hubris. We thought highly of ourselves, and we began to lose sight of our customer. Instead of delighting customers, Enron began to take advantage of them. Torn between vision and vanity, Enron corporate culture became a moral time bomb. The thought process became: “We’re changing the world. And, we’re the smartest people in the room. Therefore, we can do what others don’t.” The extent of the company’s ethical decay was hidden behind a thick wall of secrecy…

After my Enron experience, I vowed to only get involved with companies where I could guide company values and culture, lead by example and inspire others…

Advocacy—both customer and employee forms— … works when customers and employees love a brand and are encouraged and empowered to advocate to their network of friends, family and social media followers. The women pioneering advocacy at Dell, Virgin America, IBM, Oracle and Stella &Dot strive to make their customers, employees and partners into thought leaders, networkers, connectors and relationship builders—the type of people who can build community, inspire their network and win appreciation from anyone who interacts with the brand. These women are helping the business world transcend the Enron culture that ultimately led to criminal behavior and bankruptcy. While we once thought of leadership as an accomplishment within a business or team, the women driving advocacy are putting their customers, employees, bloggers, new social media influencers and even partners into a bigger game. By turning the natural ethic of social sharing into business strategies, women are asking their colleagues to become leaders in their industries and networks. As women turn entire organizations into groups of leaders through advocacy, they certainly will transform our expectations of corporate culture and forever change how brands build respect, loyalty and community among people.

Link to read the original article in full

Why the Office is the Worst Place for Work

by Lisa Evans

Despite the fact that many of us spend 40 hours or more a week in offices, it’s likely not the place where you’re most productive.

Jason Fried, author of Remote: Office Not Required says the majority of office workers don’t actually get their work done at the office. “Offices have become places where interruptions happen,” he says. Fried claims offices, and especially those with open floor plans, offer chunks of work time – 15 minutes here, a half hour there – between meetings, conference calls and other interruptions, but the real creative work, the type that requires concentration, happens during non-peak times or when employees are away from the office in an interruption-free zone.

“If you ask people where they go when they really need to get something done, very few people will ever say the office and if they do, they’ll say really early in the mornings or really late at night or on the weekends when no one’s around,” says Fried. This, of course, cuts into people’s family and personal time.

Although it seems we’re working more, Fried says we’re putting in longer hours but accomplishing less because we’re not actually getting anything done at the office. Stepping away from the office, says Fried, is the best way to get meaningful work done. While for some, that place may be a coffee shop, for others it may be a library or a home office.

But a coffee shop can be noisy too, so why would it be better than working in an office?

Fried says the reason some people can work more effectively in a coffee shop than their office is because the type of noise is different. “If you’re in an office working on a project and other people around you are talking about the project, it’s very difficult to block that out, but if you’re in a coffee shop and there’s white noise and people are having conversations that don’t involve you at all and have nothing to do with the work you’re doing, it’s easy to block them out,” he says.

The anonymity the coffee shop creates is also a draw. The constant buzz of activity generates a productivity-inducing energy, but since the activity has nothing to do with your own work and you aren’t concerned someone is going to come up to you and ask you to do something or pull you into a meeting, you’re better able to feed off that energy and get work done.

This doesn’t mean we should do away with the office entirely. Fried admits face-to-face time is still valuable. “There are benefits to social interaction at work, but most work is ultimately solo work,” says Fried. While it makes sense to have a gathering place to brainstorm ideas every once and a while, once tasks have been delegated, everyone disperses to their own areas to do the real work.

Enlightened managers can help turn their office into productive work space in three stages:

1. Provide private areas for individuals to retreat to when they need the space to be creative and time to think.

2. Schedule silent time: an afternoon without meetings, conversations, knocking on doors, or emails, just employees working in a quiet environment on the tasks they’ve been assigned.

3. Offer the option to take work outside the office. Fried suggests starting slow, providing the option to work away from the office one day per month, advancing to twice a month, then once a week. “It may not work for everybody but most people will probably find they got a lot more work done the day they were away from the office,” says Fried.

Link to the original article

How Millennials are Redefining the Workplace

by Stephanie Krieg

As companies gear up for millennials in the workforce, middle managers are removing their beer goggles and realizing that their layer of the organizational chart may no longer be needed.  The biggest complaint read on Glassdoor.com?  Middle management is pretty useless, even at companies known for having great corporate culture.  Most middle managers aren’t natural-born leaders; they are typically the rock stars of their position who got a promotion into management.  Great companies realize that more emphasis should be placed on who you work with, not who you work for.  Furthermore, as terms like agile become more popular it can be determined that bottlenecks occur at the middle management level, slowing companies from innovation.  When monitoring clock punches, lunch breaks, and bathroom breaks was a necessity on the job, middle managers were absolutely necessary.  Most companies with great cultures have come to realize that it’s not about where you work or how long you work, it’s about the quality of work you produce. The middle management position is becoming about as popular as MySpace.

Employee is another term that is starting to be redefined as millennials don’t flock to Wall Street, but nerd out over startups and the appeal of startup culture.  Younger generations aren’t sprinting to jobs that scream stability as studies show most will forgo a fat paycheck in lieu of other cultural perks.  How does this trend affect the term employee?  The appeal of hiring contract employees is becoming more prevalent and can be beneficial to both the company and the person under contract, depending on the situation.  Intrapreneurship (corporate entrepreneurship) is on the rise as more companies are setting aside funding for fresh ideas from their employees combined with giving employees creative time to generate ideas.  Companies understand the value of serving as an incubator for their employee’s startup ideas, as it could benefit their bottom line.  Company hackathons are increasing in popularity and are essentially becoming internal startup competitions.  Taking this a step further, most millennials graduate college with a side business, such as a blog, a college project that launches a new product, or another creative way of making money like becoming a Tasker on TaskRabbit.  As millennials are bringing in income from other sources, they are becoming more like [TV reality show] contestants; they will use your company to get their 5 minutes of experience, but they probably won’t be around for the final rose ceremony.

Diminishing bureaucracy by overthrowing middle management and redefining the term ’employee’ will create big shifts in the structure of companies in the next few years as more millennials enter the job market.  Couple this with other cultural trends like eliminating or never having job titles and posting everyone’s pay and it will be quite a different corporate cultural landscape in the not so distant future.

Link to read the original article

see also:

How to Remake the Traditional Performance Review & Reap Deep Benefits

by Derek Irvine

It must be nearing annual performance review season. My reader is filling up with news articles and blog posts on the topic – all of them reiterating just how broken the traditional process is. Why is the traditional annual performance appraisal broken? There’s several reasons, including too much emphasis on feedback from just one person (the manager) and far too infrequent giving of needed feedback (both praise and constructive refocussing).

The good news is these “breaks” can be fixed – add in the “wisdom of the crowd” through positive feedback from peers and colleagues and you to overcome the single point of failure of manager-only feedback. Make this ongoing peer feedback specific, timely and, critically, frequent, and you help employees refocus and stay focussed on your most critical priorities…

Link to read this article

Roselinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader

There are many leadership programs available today, from one-day workshops to corporate training programs. But chances are, these won’t really help. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

“Many of us carry the image of the superhero leader who carries his (sic) followers.  But that’s an image from another time…

“In a 21st century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of complex matrix, relying on traditionally development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.  In fact traditional assessments ,like narrow 360 degrees or outdated performance criteria will give you false positives lulling you into thinking that you are more prepared than you really are.

“Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced by three questions:

1.     Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?

The answer to this question is on your calendar.  Who are you spending time with on what topics?  Where are you travelling? What are you reading?  And then how are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities?  And then making a decision to do something right now so that you’re prepared and ready.

Great leaders are not head down.  They see around corners, shaping their future not just reacting to it.

2.     What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?

This question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.

Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is greater source of pattern recognition and also of solutions because you have people who are thinking differently than you are.

3.     Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Great leaders dare to be different.  They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it.

The development that has the greatest impact comes when you are able to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naive or reckless to just plain stupid

These stories are collected with many more in Happiness At Work Edition #85

Happiness At Work #80 ~ January is International Creativity Month

This week’s post celebrates International Creativity Month with an array of ideas and challenges and questions and techniques to stimulate us all into upping our creativity at work at least a little bit more.  Enjoy…

International Creativity Month

For one month each year the world celebrates International Creativity Month – a month to remind individuals and organizations around the globe to capitalize on the power of creativity.

Unleashing creativity is vital for the personal and business success in this age of accelerating change.

January, the first month of the year, provides an opportunity to take a fresh approach to problem-solving and renew confidence in our creative capabilities.

International Creativity Month was founded by Randall Munson and is celebrated around the world annually in the month of January.

Take advantage of International Creativity Month to refocus your attention to creatively improve your business and personal activities.

Link to International Creativity Month website

The Link: International Creativity Month

Creativity is reflected in human innovation and problem-solving endeavors throughout history. It is present in arts, education, technology, science, and in almost everything we do.  Creativity encourages children’s curiosity and helps them learn to think independently and critically. For adults, creativity inspires innovation, progress, and joy.  As we evolve as a species, creativity helps us evolve as a society.

January is International Creativity Month. Founded by motivational speaker and author Randall Munson, International Creativity Month is geared towards celebrating the power of creativity across the globe…

link to read the original article with its many creativity-related links

Ten Skills That Will Be Critical for Success in the Workforce

Anna Davies, Devin Fidler, Marina Gorbis

Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media are just some of the drivers reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future. We have identified ten skills that we believe will be critical for success in the workforce.

Sense-making

Definition: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed

As smart machines take over rote, routine manufacturing and services jobs, there will be an increasing demand for the kinds of skills machines are not good at. These are higher level thinking skills that cannot be codified. We call these sense-making skills, skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.

Social Intelligence

Definition: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions

While we are seeing early prototypes of “social” and “emotional” robots in various research labs today, the range of social skills and emotions that they can display is very limited. Feeling is just as complicated as sense-making, if not more so, and just as the machines we are building are not sense-making machines, the emotional and social robots we are building are not feeling machines.

Novel and Adaptive Thinking

Definition: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor David Autor has tracked the polarization of jobs in the United States over the last three decades. He finds that job opportunities are declining in middle skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs, largely due to a combination of the automation of routine work, and global offshoring. Conversely, job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in both high skill, high-wage professional, technical and management occupations and in low-skill, low-wage occupations such as food service and personal care. Jobs at the high-skill end involve abstract tasks, and at the low-skill end, manual tasks

Cross Cultural Competency

Definition: ability to operate in different cultural settings

In a truly globally connected world, a worker’s skill set could see them posted in any number of locations.  They need to be able to operate in whatever environment they find them- selves. This demands specific content, such as linguistic skills, but also adaptability to changing circumstances and an ability to sense and respond to new contexts.

Computational Thinking

Definition: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning

As the amount of data that we have at our disposal increases exponentially, many more roles will require computational thinking skills in order to make sense of this information. Novice-friendly programming languages and technologies that teach the fundamentals of programming virtual and physical worlds will enable us to manipulate our environments and enhance our interactions. The use of simulations will become a core expertise as they begin to feature regularly in discourse and decision-making. HR departments that currently value applicants who are familiar with basic applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, will shift their expectations, seeking out resumes that include statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning skills.

New Media Literacy

Definition:  ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication

The explosion in user-generated media including the videos, blogs, and podcasts that now dominate our social lives, will be fully felt in workplaces in the next decade. Communication tools that break away from the static slide approach of programs such as PowerPoint will become commonplace, and with them expectations of worker ability to produce content using these new forms will rise dramatically.

Transdisciplinarity

Definition: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

Many of today’s global problems are just too complex to be solved by one specialized discipline (think global warming or overpopulation). These multifaceted problems require transdisciplinary solutions. While throughout the 20th century, ever-greater specialization was encouraged, the next century will see transdisciplinary approaches take center stage. We are already seeing this in the emergence of new areas of study, such as nanotechnology, which blends molecular biology, biochemistry, protein chemistry, and other specialties.

Design Mindset

Definition:  literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

The sensors, communication tools and processing power of the computational world will bring with them new opportunities to take a design approach to our work. We will be able to plan our environments so that they are conducive to the outcomes that we are most interested in. Discoveries from neuroscience are highlighting how profoundly our physical environments shape cognition. As Fred Gage, a neurobiologist who studies and designs environments for neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons), argues, “change the environment, change the brain, change the behavior.

Workers of the future will need to become adept at recognizing the kind of thinking that different tasks require, and making adjustments to their work environments that enhance their ability to accomplish these tasks.

Cognitive Load Management

Definition:  ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques

A world rich in information streams in multiple formats and from multiple devices brings the issue of cognitive overload to the fore. Organizations and workers will only be able to turn the massive influx of data into an advantage if they can learn to effectively filter and focus on what is important. The next generation of workers will have to develop their own techniques for tackling the problem of cognitive overload. For example, the practice of social filtering—ranking, tagging, or adding other metadata to content helps higher-quality or more relevant information to rise above the “noise.”

Virtual Collaboration

Definition: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Connective technologies make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation. But the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies.   As a leader of a virtual team, individuals need to develop strategies for engaging and motivating a dispersed group. We are learning that techniques borrowed from gaming are extremely effective in engaging large virtual communities. Ensuring that collaborative platforms include typical gaming features such as immediate feedback, clear objectives and a staged series of challenges can significantly drive participation and motivation.

To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.

Link to read the original article

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

“Eat, Pray, Love” Author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

12 Ways to Be More Creative at Work

In today’s knowledge-based economy, coming up with new ideas under pressure is essential

By 

Many people think creativity occurs naturally. Marty Sklar, the former executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, the group that designs Disney theme parks, knows better.

Sklar holds regular “gag sessions” in which all kinds of ideas are encouraged and none are dismissed as stupid. He provides employees with time and budget restrictions so they don’t waste energy on the impossible. And he seeks diverse perspectives from employees ranging in age from their early 20s to late 80s. “It’s about listening and bringing out the best in people,” he told participants at a conference. Those strategies helped create Epcot’s spacecraft simulator, the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion, and a Disney resort in Hong Kong.

Sklar is part of a growing number of businesses, organizations, and individuals trying to boost creativity, driven largely by the fact that today’s economy requires it. “As the knowledge part of the economy grows, evidence seems to be showing that businesses are demanding more and more conceptual thinking,” says Charles Hulten, professor of economics at the University of Maryland.

In other words, it’s not just Walt Disney designers who need to be creative at work—it’s all of us…

If you find yourself wondering how to constantly create at your own job, here are a dozen ways to rev your creativity engine:

Branch out. Read a magazine you would never normally look at, suggests Henry. “You need to be intentional about experiencing new things in your life,” he says. Collect ideas and interesting articles in a folder that you review regularly for inspiration.

Recharge. Henry says people tend to think about time management but neglect energy management. Take time out between meetings. Avoid socializing with people who leave you feeling drained. Set aside time each week for relaxation.

Protect your time. Don’t let anyone interrupt the creative time you set aside for yourself. For Henry, it’s at 5:30 a.m., before the rest of his family wakes up.

Get into a “relationship” with art. Whether it’s museums or music, Gregg Fraley, creativity consultant and author of Jack’s Notebook, a novel about creative problem solving, suggests incorporating art into your life because it can inspire you to approach your work in new ways. Fraley recently started playing guitar.

Write down your ideas. Fraley says people have lots of good ideas, but they ignore and then forget them. He suggests keeping a notebook handy.

When you’re stuck, take a break. Brad Fregger, author of Get Things Done: Ten Secrets of Creating and Leading Exceptional Teams, says whenever his employees were struggling with a creative problem, he asked them to work on something else for an hour. That mental break allowed them to see their problem with a new perspective and make a breakthrough, he says.

Seek support from your supervisors. Marty Sklar, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, says employees can waste valuable time and energy worrying about whether management will support their creative endeavors. Feeling supported by higher-ups is essential to productivity.

Work with people across a variety of experience levels. Some of the best ideas for Disney theme park adventures have come from people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, Sklar says, so don’t count out the older generation. Younger workers can often learn from their experience.

Never dismiss someone’s idea as stupid. “If you tell someone they have a stupid idea, you’ll probably never get another one from them,” says Sklar. Plus, he adds, ideas that appear dumb at first often generate new, useful ideas. When listening to ideas from coworkers during brainstorming sessions, try to be encouraging so no one feels shut down.

Connect with your passion. If people are working on projects they enjoy, they will be more creative, says Fregger

Think like a boss. “We encourage our employees to think like owners … It frees up a lot of the boundaries,” says Wendy Miller, chief marketing officer for Bain & Co.

Embrace diversity. Miller says Bain recruits people from top business schools as well as concert violinists and top athletes. “That diversity is very helpful in not getting too narrow and bogged down,” she says.

Link to read the original article

We need to talk about power

Creativity is intrinsic to humanity. The ability to creatively adapt to and adapt our environment lies at the core of our genetic success (or at least the success of our genes.) We can’t help ourselves. We make, we compose and play, we organise in new ways, we invent new institutions and adapt old ones, we research and discover, invent and improve, we apply knowledge to material and systems in new ways developing new technologies in the process and so it goes on. It’s a mystery how an attribute so basic to human character has been sectioned off and made into an exclusive trait found in ‘creatives’, the ‘creative class’, the ‘creative economy’. We don’t have the ‘language elite’, the ‘language class’ (other than in language schools!) or the ‘language economy’. Yet creativity is just as strong a part of who and what we are as language.

If we accept that more creativity is not only a desirable thing but a necessary thing also, as my colleague Adam Lent argues in his invigorating new year blog, then it’s important that we understand its true nature. If it is intrinsic to our humanity, then it must be a democratic rather than elitist concept. This then raises the questions: why don’t we see more of it? Why are we all not exploiting our creative potential to the full? Could it be that we aren’t powerful enough?…

We all need that foundational power to take risks, experiment, explore and create. That comes from community and it comes from the collective institutions – democratic, legal, economic, social, and educational – that we create….

…The institutional structure matters if you want the power to create to be really dispersed rather than concentrated. That’s why we need to talk about power, its form, the ethos that seeks to deploy it, and its purpose: our purpose as individuals who wish, need, and should create.

Link to read the full original RSA article

See also

Can you have too much creativity?

Creativity? That’s Not For Me.

by 

…Firstly, and perhaps crucially, does it matter then that people claim not to be creative? And often vociferously so.  Is it because they default to the narrow association of creativity = art?  Who are these people?  And what implications does this have for our growing mission of the ‘power to create’ and the broadest definition of creativity.

Secondly, and perhaps fundamentally, I have to throw into the concept driven mix that creativity is FUN!  Don’t we all want to be more creative?  Personally and professionally?

Creativity enables us to solve problems, to meet people, to feel more human, to relax, to use our hands, to express ourselves, to experiment, to get dirty, to learn a new skill, to be brave, to get something wrong, to have a laugh, to feel fulfilled, to innovate, to feel a sense of achievement, to take a risk, to grow inside, to allow us to think a bit bigger.

But in case you were wondering , think you are not creative? Oh yes you are. It is in us all, it is innate. Embrace it. Follow it. See where you go…

Link to this article 

and ‘s original RSA post that has stimulated both of these responses

Why is creativity the most important political concept of the 21st Century?

Fun Palaces: Joan Littlewood’s dream for culture gets second chance

 writes in The Guardian…

As the Olympics did for sport, a nationwide project could show that art, culture and science are also core passions for Britain

“Choose what you want to do … dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at the sky”

 In 1961, Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price conceived the fun palace, a revolutionary venue, housing culture and science, encouraging engagement, debate and enjoyment. The cybernetician Gordon Pask later added to their dream. Joan knew she had not yet discovered a way to welcome those who found buildings and institutions daunting – the fun palace was about public engagement at its most inclusive.

 It was never built.

Buildings cost and continue to cost, but we have plenty already: museums, theatres, libraries, shops, schools, universities, tents and caravans. The spaces to make fun palaces are already there, often standing empty for part of the day or night.

 Joan would have been 100 on 6 October 2014. The weekend before her centenary, 4 and 5 October, will see hundreds of pop-up fun palaces across the UK and beyond. The radical difference between Joan’s never-built fun palace and our new Fun Palaces project is that we don’t want to make a new building; we want to make a new attitude, based on what we already have, breaking out into what we need – true engagement.

More than 150 venues and companies are already enlisted, with independent artists, theatre-science makers and producers also signed up. These creators will work with local people and organisations, combining arts, culture, technology and science to create local fun palaces. Our aim is to connect them all in tone and spirit, and also digitally through an online fun palace that will be part-game, part-content, but all-engagement…

In this time of austerity we have been encouraged to think smaller, to dream less, but small visions are no good for culture and they are no good for science. If we want to make the breakthroughs many of us came into creative work to make, and if we want to be as engaged and inclusive as we say we do, then we have to do more, and soon.

This is a campaign of cultural participation that calls for a fundamental change in our thinking about creative work, not as something that is done for us, but as something we all do. As the Olympics did for sport, fun palaces could show that arts, culture and science are also core passions for Britain. We’ve all been looking for the next big thing in culture and creative work. This is it, only it was here all along. It’s all of us, working together. If you would like to join us, you can. It’s that simple.

Link to read the original article

And here is the link to find out more about becoming involved in Fun Palaces 2014

Every Child Is An Artist

 A FAST COMPANY CREATIVE CONVERSATION BY 

What do Disney Television honcho Anne Sweeney and internationally renowned education theorist Sir Ken Robinson have in common?  Ideas for unlocking creativity in both children and adults.

ANNE SWEENEY’S 3 RULES FOR BEING A GREAT LEADER

1. SHOW UP

“Walk around the halls. Eat in the cafeteria. When you show up, it means you are paying attention. It means you want to make sure people know how their world connects to the bigger whole..

2. HOLD EVERYONE ACCOUNTABLE FOR EACH OTHER

“We are stapled together. We live and die by each other’s successes and failures.

3. COMMUNICATE AS A PERSON, NOT SIMPLY AS A BOSS

“Have a conversation. Don’t have it be a reporting relationship.”

KR: The continuum, as I see it, starts with imagination. It’s the most extraordinary set of powers that we take for granted: the ability to bring into mind the things that aren’t present. It’s why we are so different from the rest of life on earth. That’s why we’re sitting in a beautiful building, drinking from these cups. Because human beings make things. We create things. We don’t live in the world directly; we live in a world of ideas and of concepts and theories and ideologies.

SIR KEN ROBINSON’S 3 RULES FOR BEING A GREAT LEADER

1. ADOPT A GROWTH MIND-SET

“If you’re always thinking about possibility, you’ll find it. You’ll keep creating the future.”

2. CREATE YOUR OWN LIFE

“The ‘element’ is where natural aptitude meets personal passion. It’s great if you’re in your element at work, because you get energy from that. But for people who aren’t, finding this elsewhere is important.”

3. UNLOCK OTHERS

“People get locked into their job descriptions. If you create a culture where they feel encouraged to unleash their various talents, they’re more engaged.”

AS: … a couple of weeks ago I just had time on my hands. I never have a couple of hours in the office that aren’t totally scheduled. And I just asked a couple of people to come in and sit. And they came in, they all had their notebooks or their iPads. After about half an hour, everybody relaxed and realized no, this really isn’t a meeting. This is really just sitting around, talking. When they left, I thought it was one of the most enjoyable meetings, maybe the most enjoyable meeting, I’d had in a long time. I loved how much we’re going to accomplish because we had this very unstructured, very meandering conversation about many different things.

Link to read the original article

Ken Robinson: Out Of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative

…One of the core themes of the book is the rate and nature of change in the modern world. The last ten years have offered dramatic demonstrations of this theme. Just think of the breathtaking innovations in technology and digital culture. Ten years ago, Google was still a novelty; there were no smart phones, no IPods or IPads; no Twitter or Facebook or any of the social media that are transforming life and work today. Then think of the increasing pace of population growth, the growing strains on the environment and the effects of all of these on people’s lives and future prospects and the fact is that the world is becoming more complex and unpredictable than ever…

…In the last ten years, I’ve worked with business of all sorts all around the world. For all of them, cultivating creativity is a bottom line issue. Last fall, IBM published a report on the challenges facing business in 2011 and beyond. The report was based on survey of 3000 CEOs. It showed that the top priority for CEOs everywhere is to promote creativity systematically throughout their organizations. The reasons are clear enough. In a world of rapid change, companies and organizations have to be adaptable as circumstances change and be able to develop new products and services as new opportunities emerge. Most people occasionally have a new idea. For companies that isn’t enough. To remain competitive, they need to develop cultures where creativity is a habit and innovation is routine. The new edition of Out of Our Minds sets out the core principles for doing this and for leading a dynamic and reliable culture of innovation.

…What changes do you hope Out of Our Minds will bring about in the long term? 
I say in the Foreword to the new edition that “my aims in this book are to help individuals to understand the depth of their creative abilities and why they might have doubted them; to encourage organizations to believe in their powers of innovation and to create the conditions where they will flourish; and to promote a creative revolution in education.” I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Link to read the original article

Study: Reading a Novel Changes Your Brain

College students experienced heightened connectivity in their left temporal cortexes after reading fiction.

Scientists have proven in the past that reading stimulates many different parts of the brain. In a 2006 study, for example, research subjects read the words “perfume” and “coffee,” and the part of their brains devoted to the sense of smell lit up. While these studies have focused on brain activity while a person is reading, a new study suggests that reading doesn’t just make a fleeting impression. It may make long-term changes to to the brain.

The new study out of Emory University looks at how the brain changes function and structure over the course of reading a novel. Researchers asked 21 Emory undergraduates to come in for fMRIs over 19 days. For the first five days, researchers took baseline fMRIs of the students’ brains. Over the following nine days, participants read 30 pages of the Robert Harris’s novel Pompeii at night and then completed a quiz to ensure they had completed the reading. They underwent fMRIs the next morning. After finishing the novel, participants continued to come in for fMRIs for five more days…

The fMRIs after the reading assignments revealed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, the area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. Heightened connectivity in other parts of the brain suggested that readers may experience “embodied semantics,” a process in which brain connectivity during a thought-about action mirrors the connectivity that occurs during the actual action. For example, thinking about swimming can trigger the some of the same neural connections as physical swimming.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said Gregory Berns, the lead author of the study. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

The changes persisted over the five days after finishing the novel, suggesting that reading could possibly make long-lasting changes to the brain. The researchers wrote that it remains an “open question” how long the effects would last, but that their results suggest reading could have long-term effects on the brain through the strengthening of the language-processing regions and the effects of embodied semantics.

Link to read the original article

You May Not Be Able To Force Creativity But You Can Certainly Invite It

by Tanner Christensen

When we look at children we can see that they don’t let biases or existing information get in their way of asking questions, poking and prodding, and generally just trying something.

Successful creatives are the same. So we, too, must find various ways to be more inquisitive.

We could try changing our perspective of the work to force a mentality of discovery. Looking at the microscopic or macro elements of our work – like painting with tiny dots rather than big brush strokes, or imaging what a novel would read like as a part of a quadrilogy – helps.

We can also try changing our environment or tools. If we’re used to working in a studio or office, getting out and attempting to work in a fancy restaurant or at a park, might be all we need to shake up how we view the work.

Link to read the full original article

Why Your Creativity Needs Boundaries To Thrive

BY 

…An interview with Seth Godin appears in the book, Manage Your Day-to-Day, put out by 99U. The book includes insights from artists, entrepreneurs, academics, and psychologists on how to carve out a daily creative practice. Here are five key takeaways from the experts featured in its pages:

1. PUT CREATIVE WORK FIRST.

Setting aside time every day to do creative work keeps your momentum going. One way to do this is creating “hard edges” for when your workday starts and ends, suggests Mark McGinness, a U.K.-based creative business coach. Within that framework, prioritize your creative work first. “The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second,” McGinness says.

Cal Newport, a writer and professor at Georgetown University, calls these periods of uninterrupted creative work “daily focus blocks.” Put them on your calendar and treat them as you would a formal appointment. Newport recommends starting out with an hour of uninterrupted work time and gradually adding 15 minutes every two weeks, never allowing distractions like email or Facebook to interfere.

2. YOUR INBOX CAN WAIT. SERIOUSLY, IT CAN.

Most of us compulsively check email without stopping to think about it. Why? The same reason it’s hard to resist piling your plate high with bad-for-you foods at a buffet. It’s right in front of you, waiting to be nabbed up, says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. Email and social media also offer what Ariely calls “random reinforcement.” Usually when you check your inbox or Facebook, there’s nothing exciting waiting for you, but occasionally, there is–that random excitement keeps us coming back compulsively.

Resisting the urge to check email and social media while concentrating on creative work can feel next to impossible, especially first-thing in the morning. But your inbox can almost always wait. “It’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox,” says McGinness.

3. RECOGNIZE YOUR BODY’S LIMITS.

Our bodies follow ultradian rhythms, cycles that last around 90 minutes–at which point most people max out their capacity to work at their optimal level, according to Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project. In other words, your body can only take so much concentrated work at a time before you start seeing diminishing returns.

That means getting enough sleep (more important than food, Schwartz says) and taking breaks is essential if you want to be at your creative best. Instead of slumping over your Facebook or Instagram feed, get away from your desk and phone. “Screen time feeds into a vicious cycle of chronic stress in a way that most of us don’t even realize,” according to writer, speaker and consultant, Linda Stone.

4. SET BOUNDARIES AND DIVE DEEP WITHIN THEM.

Try making rules for yourself and see what happens. George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles, told himself one day that he would pick up a book at random, open it and write a song about whatever words he read first. Harrison saw the words “gently weeps,” set down the book and wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” long considered one of his best songs.

“Whether or not they’re created by an outside client or you yourself, a set of limitations is often the catalyst that sets creativity free,” says Scott McDowell, founder of the consulting and executive search firm, CHM Partners.

5. START TODAY.

Striving for perfection in everything you do can be so daunting it keeps you from getting started in the first place. “To a perfectionist, settling seems worse than not completing the piece, which is why perfectionists often produce very little,” says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, time coach and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment.

Stop worrying about getting the beginning right and just start. You’ll need to experience chaos before you reach the calm. Define the minimum requirements needed to finish whatever you’re working on and use those as a way to press on, suggests Saunders. Keep moving forward. Relinquish your fear of negative feedback and see it instead as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Link to read the original article

The art of reflection

A key question about reflection isn’t ‘what do I see?’ it is ‘what do I look for?’ writes psychologist, Dr Nina Burrowes

Reflection is an important piece of internal feedback – a way of learning and growing from my mistakes, noticing and celebrating my successes and spotting whether I’ve wandered off my chosen path. It’s an essential skill for anyone who wants to lead others: you need to be sure that you are on the right path if you want others to follow.

Yet reflection is more art than science. When I look in the mirror I can’t assume that what I see is an accurate representation of reality. My visual system is inaccurate and incomplete. My range of vision is limited to a narrow spectrum of visible light and I take the information that is in front of my eyes and I mould it.

I don’t see; I perceive. I make the information meet my expectations. I fill in the gaps. I can be blind to the things I don’t want to see. I create the image just as much as I see it.

The openness to bias and interpretation is even greater when I’m doing something as abstract as reflecting on myself. I won’t see my reflection – I’ll create it. What will I create? Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugliness and unworthiness. If I focus on all the things I haven’t done over the last year, that’s what I’ll see staring back at me. If I only focus on my successes and remain blind to areas of improvement then I’ll only see that. Neither image will be accurate.

Given that reflection is an important skill, how can I reflect in a way that is useful and helps me grow? One of the first things I can do is to notice how I approach the task. A key question isn’t “what do I see?” but “what do I look for?”

When I look back on my year, do I immediately focus on what I did or achieved rather than the choices I made? Do I immediately focus on “areas for improvement” and forget to celebrate or even notice the successes? Does the experience of reflecting feel like getting a report card from a particularly strict schoolteacher or a glowing song of praise from a close friend? Knowing the answer to this helps me be aware of my own bias.

Having noticed how I automatically reflect, the next useful thing I can ask myself is “how do I want to reflect?” Whatever my natural default reflection process is, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can choose what questions I ask when I look in the mirror.

If I want the ultimate lesson in reflection, I can turn to the ultimate moment of reflection. One day I may be looking back at myself and reflecting on my life in the knowledge that I am near the end of it. In that moment, how do I hope to approach the mirror? Will I have learned to reflect with awareness and self-compassion, or will I still focus on the many things I have failed to do?

My hope is that I’ll focus on the questions that are truly important to me. Did I live my life in accordance with my values? Did I live my life as if I was the person I aspire to be?

It’s the answers to these questions that help me grow.

Link to read the original article

Henry James on Aging, Memory, and What Happiness Really Means

by 

“I have led too serious a life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one’s youth.”

What does it take to live a good life, to flourish, to be happy? The art-science of happiness has been contemplated since the dawn of recorded thought, and yet no agreement seems to have been reached: For Albert Camus, it was about escaping our self-imposed prisons; for Alan Watts, about living with presence; some have pointed to learned optimism as the key, while others have scoffed at optimism and advocated for embracing uncertainty instead. But if there is one immutable truth about happiness, it’s that it is never a static thing — not a permanent state, but a constantly evolving experience of being, one that George Eliot believed had to be learned, transformed in each new moment and sculpted by the passage of time.

One of history’s most beautiful and crystally aware meditations on happiness, specifically in terms of how it illustrates the schism between the experiencing self and the remembering self, comes from The Diary of a Man of Fifty  — one of the finest, most timelessly resonant notable diaries of all time — by literary legend Henry James.

“I have led too serious a life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one’s youth. At all events, I have travelled too far, I have worked too hard, I have lived in brutal climates and associated with tiresome people. When a man has reached his fifty-second year without being, materially, the worse for wear — when he has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing relatives — I suppose he is bound, in delicacy, to write himself happy.”

Link to read the original article

Here is one of our all-time favourite TEDTalks on creativity:

Julie Burstein: 4 Lessons in Creativity

Radio host Julie Burstein talks with creative people for a living – and shares four lessons about how to create in the face of challenge, self-doubt and loss. Hear insights from filmmaker Mira Nair, writer Richard Ford, sculptor Richard Serra and photographer Joel Meyerowitz.

Daring Greatly to Unlock Your Creativity with Brené Brown on #cjLIVE

Wed, Jan 15 6pm GMT

10am PT/1pm EDT]

by 

I can say with clarity that the most defining moments of creative/professional success for me have required overtly pouring my most honest, imperfect, afraid, guts-and-all parts of myself into my work. In short – those successes were built on vulnerability – on being real. They were built on daring greatly. What do the viewers / consumers of your art really want? YOU. The want to see YOU. And in seeing YOU, they see themselves.

And so its the perfect way to kick off the 2014 chasejarvisLIVE season with a very special guest, a woman who might just hold the keys to the thing that’s been holding back your unbounded creativity…her name is Brené Brown. You’ve probably seen her on the TEDstage (millions of views), or perhaps as a regular on Oprah (they’re pals), and at damn-near every bookstore (where Daring Greatly is a best-seller). But it’s not necessarily for all her accolades that you’ll want to tune into #cjLIVE this coming Wednesday January 15th. You’ll want to join our LIVE broadcast because you’ll have full access to Brené in a way that few other forums can grant — interactive Q&A with you from wherever on the planet you might be — and she just might have the keys to unlock the thing that’s been holding back your creativity. It was the missing link for me – and I’m guessing it’ll help you too.

SHOW DETAILS
WHAT: Interview, discussion + a worldwide Q&A with Brené Brown
WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 15, 10:00am Seattle time (1pm NYC time or 18:00 London)
WHERE: Tune into www.chasejarvis.com/live. It’s free — anyone can watch and we’ll be taking YOUR questions via Twitter + Facebook, hashtag #cjLIVE

This won’t be a marketing lesson or a therapy session, but it will be be THE shortest path between your most authentic self and the professional / personal hold-up-the-mirror, tear-down-the-barrier “success” you crave. Hello, New Year.

A FEW KEY CONCEPTS WE’LL COVER ON THE SHOW
~ Vulnerability does NOT equal weakness – it equals strength (the world’s best artists are living proof)
~ How to cultivate creativity, “gratitude” & “worthiness”
~ Personal + professional transformation happens when we ask the hard questions
~ Explosive creativity happens when we have the courage to share our struggles
~ How to harness the space between our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, feel + become) and our practiced values (what we’re actually doing)

Link to the original article

Happiness At Word Edition #80

You will find all of these articles and many more in this week’s new Happiness at Work collection,  – plus more stories about leadership and learning, and happiness and productivity and resilience at work.

We hope you find much here to enjoy and use.

Happiness At Work #74 ~ good news, bad news, and more food for thought

Happiness At Work Edition #74

Here are some of the highlights in this week’s stories about happiness – and unhappiness – an our current state of flourishing in this time of (at least in America) collective Thanksgiving…

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

Happiness: the silver lining of economic stagnation?

A study suggests that national wellbeing peaks at £22k average income. But that doesn’t mean there’s no point in pushing for wealth

 writes in The Guardian

It’s time to rewrite the story of the financial crisis. Far from being a disaster movie, it was in fact a tale of salvation. As for the green shoots of recovery we are now seeing, they are virulent weeds to be stamped out.

That would seem to be the conclusion to draw from a new studythat suggests ever-rising national wealth is the source of decreased life satisfaction. Looking at data from around the world, Warwick University’s Eugenio Proto and Aldo Rustichini of University of Minnesota conclude that average wellbeing rises with average income only up to around £22k per head per annum. After that, it slips back again. Britain is more or less at that sweet spot, which suggests economic stagnation may be an excellent way of avoiding the problems of poverty without acquiring the problems of wealth.

You may well be sceptical. Even the authors acknowledge that many people “still prefer to live in richer countries, even if this would result in a decreased level of life satisfaction”. In other words, people are overall more satisfied by less life satisfaction, which suggests we should take the whole concept of “life satisfaction” with a pinch of salt…

What the data does appear to show, and which almost all studies support, is that having a low income is more of a problem than having a high one is a benefit. From a public policy point of view, that suggests the priority should continue to be raising the life chances of the worst off, not those of the better off, or even the “squeezed middle”…

In short, the problem is explained by the familiar idea that money is not valuable in itself, but only for what it can do. The failure of western societies to convert greater wealth into greater wellbeing is in essence a failure to use our wealth wisely. This should not surprise us. The majority of people alive today and throughout history have not been accustomed to plenty. Humanity is on a steep learning curve and many of the lessons we need to learn go against our natural tendency to acquire first and ask questions later.

That’s why the debate about the relative merits of increased GDP and “gross domestic happiness” are misguided. They are not mutually exclusive options. The optimal strategy would be one in which we grew wealth but harnessed it better to enable people to really flourish, rather than just have more stuff. What we should be afraid of is the pointless march of a narrow materialism, not the resumption of economic growth in itself. A richer world in which the money was well spent is something with which we should all be well satisfied.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Study Reveals Higher Levels of Control and Support at Work Increase Wellbeing

Research from Queen Mary University of London reveals positive aspects of working life – such as high levels of control at work, good support from supervisors and colleagues, and feeling cared for – support higher levels of wellbeing among Britain’s workers….

Stephen Stansfeld, Professor of Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London (Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry), comments:

“The so-called ‘happiness debate’ has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with economists, politicians and psychologists all hypothesizing on how to create a happy society. If the Government proceeds with the idea of measuring wellbeing as an indicator of Britain’s progress, it is crucial they know what impacts a person’s wellbeing.

“This study shows the quality of our working conditions and personal relationships are key to the nation’s happiness. We believe any policies designed to improve the workplace should not just minimise negative aspects of work, but more crucially, increase the positive aspects, such as a creating a greater sense of control and support among employees.

“The quality of the working environment has a very important effect on how a person feels and greater  may also be related to greater productivity and performance at work, increased commitment and staff retention as well as effects on physical health and lifespan.”

Link to read the original article

Wealth Inequality in America

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

Americans at Work: The Best and Worst Jobs 2013

Most Americans spend more time working than doing anything else.  The average employee spends more than 2/3 of his or her day at work or on work-related activities. That’s more time than we spend sleeping or raising our children.  Americans work an average of nearly one month more per year now than in 1970.  In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, in 70 percent of American households all adults work.

America vs. the world:

  • Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers
  • 260 more hours per year than British workers
  • 499 more hours per year than French workers
  • Average productivity for American workers has increased 400% since 1950
  • In every country included except Canada and Japan (and the U.S., which averages 13 days/per year), workers get at least 20 paid vacation days. In France and Finland, they get 30 – an entire month off, paid, every year.

So it matters what you do… doesn’t it? Because Americans work so much….

Here are the 10 Best AND 10 Worst Jobs in America, 2013 (with median salaries)

Link to see the info graphic and which jobs feature high and low

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Anarchist, Activist and London School of Economics anthropology professor David Graeber traces the 20th century promise of a 4 hour day and how we got unproductive labour instead.

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers….

…productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

…While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

…Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless?

…There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for … a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties … they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well….

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

10 Simple and Easy Ways To Give Thanks To Your Employees

Randy Conley writes…

In the spirit of today’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I thought I’d share ten simple and easy ways to tell your employees “thank you.” Telling an employee “thank you” is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to build trust, yet it doesn’t happen near enough in the workplace.

Whenever I conduct trust workshops with clients and discuss the role that rewards and recognition play in building trust, I will ask participants to raise their hands if they feel like they receive too much praise or recognition on the job. No one has ever raised a hand.

So on this day of giving thanks, take a few minutes to review this list and commit to using one of these methods to tell your employees “thank you.” I’ve used many of these strategies myself and can attest to their effectiveness.

1. Let them leave work early – This may not be feasible in all work environments, but if you’re able to do it, a surprise treat of allowing people to leave early does wonders for team morale and well-being…

2. Leave a “thank you” voice mail message – …The spoken word can have a tremendous impact on individuals, and receiving a heartfelt message from you could positively impact your employees in ways you can’t imagine.

3. Host a potluck lunch –  …Sharing a meal together allows people to bond and relax in a casual setting and it provides an excellent opportunity for you to say a few words of thanks to the team and let them know you appreciate them.

4. Give a small token of appreciation – Giving an employee a small memento provides a lasting symbol of your appreciation, and although it may cost you a few bucks, it’s well worth the investment…

5. Have your boss recognize an employee – Get your boss to send an email, make a phone call, or best-case scenario, drop by in-person to tell one of your employees “thank you” for his/her work. Getting an attaboy from your boss’ boss is always a big treat. It shows your employee that you recognize his/her efforts and you’re making sure your boss knows about it too.

6. Hold an impromptu 10 minute stand up meeting – This could be no or low-cost depending on what you do, but I’ve called random 10 minute meetings in the afternoon and handed out popsicles or some other treat and taken the opportunity to tell team members “thank you” for their hard work. The surprise meeting, combined with a special treat, throws people out of their same ol’, same ol’ routine and keeps the boss/employee relationship fresh and energetic.

7. Reach out and touch someone – …Human touch holds incredible powers to communicate thankfulness and appreciation. …Unfortunately, most leaders shy away from appropriate physical contact in the workplace, fearful of harassment complaints or lawsuits. Whether it’s a handshake, high-five, or fist bump, find appropriate ways to communicate your thanks via personal touch.

8. Say “thank you” – This seems like a no-brainer given the topic, but you would be amazed at how many people tell me their boss doesn’t take the time to express thanks. Saying thank you is not only the polite and respectful thing to do, it signals to your people that they matter, they’re important, valuable, and most of all, you care.

9. Send a thank you note to an employee’s family – A friend of mine told me that he occasionally sends a thank you note to the spouse/significant other/family of an employee. He’ll say something to the effect of “Thank you for sharing your husband/wife/dad/mother with us and supporting the work he/she does. He/she a valuable contributor to our team and we appreciate him/her.” Wow…what a powerful way to communicate thankfulness!

10. Give a handwritten note of thanks – Some things never go out of style and handwritten thank you notes are one of them. Emails are fine, voice mails better (even made this list!), but taking the time to send a thoughtful, handwritten note says “thank you” like no other way…

What other ways to say “thank you” would you add to this list?

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

How To Think Like A Wise Person

by Adam Grant

If I asked you to judge how smart someone is, you’d know where to start. But if you were going to assess how wise that person is, what qualities would you consider?

Wisdom is the ability to make sound judgments and choices based on experience. It’s a virtue according to every great philosophical and religious tradition, from Aristotle to Confucius and Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Buddhism, and Taoism to Hinduism. According to the book From Smart to Wisewisdom distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the pack. So what does it take to cultivate wisdom?

In an enlightening study led by psychologists Paul Baltes and Ursula Staudinger, a group of leading journalists nominated public figures who stood out as wise. The researchers narrowed the original list down to a core set of people who were widely viewed as possessing wisdom—an accomplished group of civic leaders, theologians, scientists, and cultural icons. They compared these wise people with a control group of professionals who were successful but not nominated as wise (including lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, and managers).

Both groups answered questions that gave them a chance to demonstrate their wisdom. For example, what advice would they give to a widowed mother facing a choice between shutting down her business and supporting her son and grandchildren? How would they respond to a call from a severely depressed friend? A panel of experts evaluated their answers, and the results—along with several follow-up studies—reveal six insights about what differentiates wise people from the rest of us.

1. Don’t wait until you’re older and smarter. The people with the highest wisdom scores are just as likely to be 30 as 60. …. Cultivating wisdom is a deliberate choice that people can make regardless of age and intelligence…

2. See the world in shades of grey, not black and white. …

Wise people specialize in what strategy expert Roger Martin calls integrative thinking—”the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads”—and reconcile them for the situation at hand. In the words of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

3. Balance self-interest and the common good… It’s neither healthy nor productive to be extremely altruistic or extremely selfish. People who fail to secure their oxygen masks before assisting others end up running out of air, and those who pursue personal gains as the expense of others end up destroying their relationships and reputations. Wise people reject the assumption that the world is a win-lose, zero-sum place. They find ways to benefit others that also advance their own objectives.

4. Challenge the status quo. Wise people are willing to question rules. Instead of accepting things as they have always been, wisdom involves asking whether there’s a better path…

5. Aim to understand, rather than judge. By default, many of us operate like jurors, passing judgment on the actions of others so that we can sort them into categories of good and bad. Wise people resist this impulse, operating more like detectives whose goal is to explain other people’s behaviors. …Over time, this emphasis on understanding rather than evaluating yields an advantage in predicting others’ actions, enabling wise people to offer better advice to others and make better choices themselves.

6. Focus on purpose over pleasure. In one surprising study, Baltes’ team discovered that wise people weren’t any happier than their peers. They didn’t experience more positive emotions, perhaps because wisdom requires critical self-reflection and a long-term view. They recognized that just as today’s cloud can have a silver lining tomorrow, tomorrow’s silver lining can become next month’s suffering. However, there was a clear psychological benefit of wisdom: a stronger sense of purpose in life. From time to time, wisdom may involve putting what makes us happy on the back burner in our quest for meaning and significance.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

What does it Mean to be a Citizen at Work?

In his 2013 Chief Executive’s Lecture, Matthew Taylor puts the focus on good employment, and how to move this from an idea with general support but very mixed take-up into something which is available to all employees and supported by wider society.

Béatrice Coron’s Daily Battles in 3D

French artist Béatrice Coron creates stories from cut paper. And while this one—told in stunning 3D, with a soundscape—contains castles and fire-breathing dragons, it tells a tale we all can relate to: of the constant, everyday battles we face. Says Coron, “It seems there is always a dragon to slay, a kingdom to be won, a Holy Grail to find … I win some battles but the war is never over.”

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

What To Do If You Don’t Feel Grateful

 shares a story along with her suggestions for building a sense of gratitude when times are tough…

Sometimes circumstances we consider to be horrendous turn out to work in our favor. We usually don’t see the big picture until much later, if ever. The following parable illustrates this concept:

There is an ancient story of a farmer whose only horse ran away.  Later that evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was thought to be such bad luck. “Your farm will suffer, and you will not be able to plough your fields,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible thing to have happened to you.”

 The farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The next day the horse returned but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came to congratulate him and exclaim his good fortune. “You are much richer than you were before!” they said. “Surely this has turned out to be a great thing for you.”

 The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 Then, the following day, the farmer’s son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses. He was immediately thrown from the horse and broke his leg.  With this injury he couldn’t work on the farm. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy to the farmer for the incident. “There is more work than only you can handle, and you may be driven poor,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible misfortune.”

 The old farmer simply said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of his broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected.  When the neighbors heard this they came to visit the farmer and said, “How fortunate you are!  Things have worked out after all.  Most young men never return alive from the war. Surely this is the best of fortunes for you and your son!”

 Again, the old man said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 …Who knows but that you were let go from your last job so that you could put some time and energy into contemplating and pursuing your real passion? Perhaps a relationship didn’t work out, and thus you developed greater inner strength and autonomy. Maybe that addiction you’ve battled for so many years will lead you to effective treatment, a support group, and the ability to help many other people, based on your own experience and recovery. You can make your mess your message.

So, be kind to yourself if you’re having a tough time feeling gratitude at this moment. This is a great opportunity to practice self-acceptance of your full spectrum of emotions and to also practice “acting as if” you’re grateful. Although you may be gritting your teeth, you can still ask yourself, “What’s the good in this?” As has been said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but only if we’re able to learn from the experience. Your lesson may come to light down the road, so no worries if you don’t see it now – but keep your eyes open.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

Link to the full Happiness At Work Edition #74 collection of stories

All of these stories and more can be found in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #74.

Happiness At Work #70 ~ creativity and finding the happy space to play in

photo credit: orangeacid via photopin cc

photo credit: orangeacid via photopin cc

This week’s Happiness At Work #70 headline theme considers the power and importance of creativity and play to our happiness and success.

What does playing mean in a work context?

What new ideas can we get about how to ‘play to our strengths’?

What are the benefits – for ourselves, for our organisations, for the people we play with and the people we play to – of making more time to be creative, for fun, and for finding a space in the middle of the circle?

And, if we are convinced of the worth of any of this, how might we go about trying out and extending and mastering any of these practices?

To help answer these questions, here are some of our favourite articles from this week’s collection…

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

Happiness Means Creativity: One Company’s Bet On Positive Psychology

BY MEG CARTER

Rather than just fix what’s ailing you, positive psychology looks to actively improve individual and organizational well-being. Here’s how Havas Worldwide is working to build a happier, more resilient–and ultimately more creative–workforce.

Cultivating a more positive outlook is a better way of boosting creativity than indulging a tortured genius, according to consultant psychologist and professor Neil Frude who has begun working with ad organization Havas Worldwide London to provide “positive psychology” training to the agency’s staff.

It’s all about creating a virtuous circle.

“There is a strong relationship between employee happiness and a workforce that is productive, creative, and flourishing,” he says, pointing to lab studies designed to test creativity after participants have been made more and less happy, which shows creative levels improve when people are happier.

Furthermore, the positive effect of creative satisfaction produces, in turn, a further emotional uplift that feeds what’s known as “contagion of emotion,” which benefits a group of people as a whole–be that an organization or simply a collection of friends and acquaintances…

“‘Positive psychology’ is about playing to strengths–enhancing positive emotions, rather than the old approach of using psychology to fix problems,” Frude explains.

“How we are using it is to demonstrate skills that help boost an individual’s sense of well-being–for example, ways of building resilience, or becoming more positive, or better managing your emotions in a positive direction by understanding what boosts or rewards you can give yourself to generate a positive emotional uplift.”

Build happiness and well-being among staff and an organization will benefit from a more emotionally intelligent workforce: people who not only understand their own and other people’s emotions but can more effectively manage their own and other people’s emotions, too.

photo credit: markchadwickart via photopin cc

photo credit: markchadwickart via photopin cc

Which is what inspired Russ Lidstone, CEO of creative agency Havas Worldwide London–whose clients include Credit Suisse, Santander, and Durex–to bring in Frude and his company, The Happiness Consultancy, to help boost levels of happiness, well-being, and resilience in his agency’s 240-strong workforce…

“The notion that 40% of your brain can be trained to adapt is an interesting one. Another selling point for me is that a liberated mind in a more confident and secure individual is more likely to feel free to express itself in different, innovative, and ultimately more creative ways.”

What all this means in practice is that, between now and the end of the year, every member of the 240-member staff based at Havas Worldwide’s offices in London and Manchester will undertake a four-week course in positive psychology run by Frude…

“This isn’t about ‘fixing’ a specific problem but making the organization work even better,” Professor Frude insists.

“It’s about empowering individuals to get more out of their lives and enabling managers to recognize the potential positive (and negative) impact that can come from putting people with a particular outlook into a team. And it’s about providing those involved in communications with sharper tools to understand and engage through the positive messages they create.”..

“My hope is for a wave of little interventions across the agency over time that will lead, in turn, to both a healthier outlook and better output for us all–as a business and also at a personal level–by getting the best out of ourselves and each other.”

Or to put it another way, Frude adds: “Learning to manage your emotional well-being is like teaching a person to fish–a skill that will keep you going for a lifetime.”

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

One of the essential elements of positive psychology is Engagement – what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has termed ‘flow‘ to describe the ecstatic state of being completely at-one with and absorbed in what we are doing. It is when we are stretched enough to feel challenged and stimulated but not so far beyond our confidence that we become over-stressed and anxious.

photo credit: anoldent via photopin cc

photo credit: anoldent via photopin cc

It is worth knowing that Csikszentmihalyi began to develop his model from the question: “Where in ordinary people’s lives are they really happy?” He went and talked to a great many creative people and noticed how very happy they were when they talked about their work, and how ready they were to continue what they were doing for years and years despite having little hope of ever achieving any fame or fortune. Despite any hardships and difficulties their work brought them, these artists and scientists reported a very high level of happiness in the sense of meaning and purpose their work gave to their lives, and often described working as a kind of ‘ecstasy’. Ecstasy in the original Greek meant ‘to stand to the side of something’, but it has come to mean a ‘mental stepping into an alternative and heightened realty.’

Here is how one of the artists Csikszentmihalyi interviewed talked about his experience composing music:

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.”

Often, when in this state of complete flow, our emotions are in fact neutral and in it is only afterwards that we will remember back and feel we have just been having a wonderful time. This is because our concentration and consciousness merges with what we are doing, we have no self-consciousness, and we lose all sense of time.

Csikszentmihalyi goes on to explain that there are a range of different states we can find ourselves in, made up of the mix between our level of skill and the level of the challenge in what we trying to do:

  • too little skill mixed with too high a challenge and we feel anxious
  • too little challenge mixed with a surfeit of skill and we feel bored
  • high challenge matched with high skill and we have the possibility of feeling in flow

flow diagram

There are two states that are most easy to lean ourselves into flow from:

  • pushing ourselves over the edge of control and we can fall into flow. This is the optimum condition for leaning out beyond our comfort
  • and adding the ignition of discipline – a technique or structure or rule – can optimise our state of arousal into a flow state. This explains why absolute freedom – or only going with your instincts – are not sufficient to optimum engagement.

The Psychology of Flow

Applications and Examples of Flow

While flow experiences can happen as part of everyday life, there are also important practical applications in various areas including education, sports and the workplace.

Examples of Flow in Education: Csíkszentmihályi has suggested that overlearning a skill or concept can help people experience flow. Another critical concept in his theory is the idea of slightly extending oneself beyond one’s current ability level. This slight stretching of one’s current skills can help the individual experience flow.

Examples of Flow in Sports: Just like in educational settings, engaging in a challenging athletic activity that is doable but presents a slight stretching of one’s abilities is a good way to achieve flow. Sometimes described by being “in the zone,” reaching this state of flow allows an athlete to experience a loss of self-consciousness and a sense of complete mastery of the performance.

Examples of Flow in the Workplace: Flow can also occur when workers are engaged in tasks where they are able to focus entirely on the project at hand. For example, a writer might experience this while working on a novel or a graphic designer might achieve flow while working on a website illustration.

photo credit: Emily Raw via photopin cc

photo credit: Emily Raw via photopin cc

The Benefits of Flow

In addition to making activities more enjoyable, flow also has a number of other benefits.

Flow can lead to improved performance. Researchers have found that flow can enhance performance in a wide variety of areas including teaching, learning, athletics and artistic creativity.

Flow can also lead to further learning and skill development. Because the act of achieving flow indicates a strong mastery of a certain skill, the individual must continually seek new challenges and information in order to maintain this state.

photo credit: Thundershead via photopin cc

photo credit: Thundershead via photopin cc

My favourite illustration of flow is improvisation, whether they be jazz musicians or actors or dancers playing together. Improvisation is a set of disciplines and techniques that can be learned and mastered to deliberately deployed to generate and sustain a state of collaborative creative flow.

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

Paul Z Jackson is the man who taught me the first skills of improvisation, and he has just launched a new training facility: The Improvisation Academy. In his new blog he writes:

Habits or Choices – A New Perspective From Improvisation

We are all creatures of habit, and one of the great benefits of improvisation is how it can call habits into question. We can make choices when we notice ourselves up against the automatic, the habitual or the scripted.

An improvised moment is one when we are asked for a new response. We are either facing something we’ve not experienced before or we are doing something different in the same old circumstance.

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

Many of the best improvisation activities create just such moments of choice. For example, the members of the group stand facing each other in a circle. The aim is to take the place of another person by calling their name and walking into their place in the circle. You can take their place only after they have moved away, but they cannot move away until a space is opening up for them. So there is a chain of name calling, which creates a strong – some might say irresistible – impulse to move before you are meant to.

The game puts your attention into that moment of choice: to move or to resist the urge. And by enjoying the game – in which mistakes have absolutely minimal consequences – we can build our skills of paying attention, interrupting habitual responses and making a mindful decision of when to take a first step.

There are clear overlaps here in the philosophy and practice of improvisation with the Alexander Technique and Mindfulness. So is it time for you to build some good new habits?

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: daystar297 via photopin cc

Improvisation is a skilled form of play and brings with it all the potential for abundant joy and delight that we get from play for both its players and its audience.

Play is something that most of us seem to unlearn as we get older, but there is a growing case for why this might be to our disadvantage…

Don’t Be All Work and No Play – Liven Up Your Workplace

by ANDREA DEVERS

Humans are designed for play and I think its important to incorporate elements of fun into your daily routine. First and foremost I think it allows others to get to know YOU as a real person and second I think it actually helps to improve productivity. You’ll need to help to shape and define what is appropriate in your environment and culture for your employees, but also help to provide some outlets for release and rejuvenation for your teams and employees.

In the past, whenever I heard “have fun at work,” my mind immediately went to “team building activities” — which often involve some kind of trust fall (which I always hate doing and then when I try to opt out I feel like not a being a team player) or some kind of “party” off-site. But let’s face it, off sites and trust falls take time and money which means that its not always feasible to do all the time. Even if you’re fortunate enough to do such an event once a quarter, I think it still “falls” a little short.

Those larger off site events are still important — if you’re doing them, don’t stop. However, I’d suggest finding some other smaller events and activities to help stave off the dullness… and it doesn’t have to cost an arm or a leg. The key is to be regular and consistent.

First get a good understanding of your team and what kind of activities they enjoy and how they like to be recognized and engaged. Consider taking a quick survey of ideas from your team’s “favorite things.” Keep them on file when you need ideas or as reminders about what individuals prefer. Another cool idea — and way to engage your team — start a “fun jar” where your team can put in ideas of things that they’d like to do as a group. You’ll just need to provide a jar and a short template of requirements (i.e. budget, length of time for the activity) for their suggestions and then some guidance on how and when to pull an idea from the jar…

Link to read the original article and Andrea’s 10 suggestions for making fun at work

photo credit: pierofix via photopin cc

photo credit: pierofix via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness: A Taboo for Adults?

writes about the power of play for our creativity, engagement and happiness…

It’s a vision problem that no laser surgery can cure, a hyperopia that keeps us from seeing the central source of happiness right next to us. That problem is called adulthood. Those who are afflicted with this condition have trouble focusing on nearby objects of amusement and the realm that delivers the most enjoyment per square inch: play. Adults are oblivious to what they knew as kids — that play is where you live.

Grownups aren’t supposed to play. We have problems. We’re too busy. We have important things to do. It turns out, though, that there are few things more important to your happiness than frequent doses of play. As a study led by Princeton researcher Alan Krueger found, of all the things on the planet, we’re at our happiest when we’re involved in engaging leisure activities…

We live in a culture obsessed with wringing an external result from everything we do. Play doesn’t operate on that metric. It’s not about the end but the experience. This has made play one of the last remaining taboos, an irrational deviation from gainful obligation. What we don’t realize, though, is that it’s precisely the lack of a quantifiable result that allows play to tap a more meaningful place that satisfies core needs and reveals the authentic person behind the masks of job and society.

Anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed that the fixation on making everything productive and rational cuts us off from the world of the spontaneous that is home to real knowledge. Wisdom, Bateson believed, is to be found in the realms outside intentionality, in the inner reaches of art, expression and religion. “The whole culture is suffering from overconscious intentionality, overseriousness, overemphasis on productivity and work,” psychologist and cultural explorer Bradford Keeney told me. “We’ve forgotten that the whole picture requires a dance between leisure and work.”…

Studies show that play reflects more of who you are than your work. When you’re engaged in activities of “personal expressiveness,” ones that are self-chosen and that reflect intrinsic goals, you’re operating from the “true self,” says Alan Waterman of the College of New Jersey. This leads to optimal psychological functioning (i.e., happiness). We’re talking about something far from tangential to your existence. Play scholar John Neulinger called passionate play pursuits none other than the “central life interest.”

Play brings you back to life — your life. “Adults need to play because so much of our life is utilitarian, the University of South Alabama’s Catherine O’Keefe explained to me. “We need to reconnect with the things of our lives that ground us in who we really are and why we like our lives.”…

…the animating spark of play is the fast track to happiness. There is no quicker transport to the experiential realm and full engagement than through play, which brings together all the elements you want for the optimal moment.

  1. Play is 100-percent experience.
  2. It’s done for the intrinsic pleasure, for the participation.
  3. With no judgment or outcomes needed, play grounds you in the now.

Researchers say that the more absorbed we are in activities we like to do, the happier we are. Abraham Maslow and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pinpointed the power of full involvement in the moment to produce optimal experiences. Maslow called optimal moments the time when we are most attuned, “more integrated and less split, more perfectly actualizing.” He argued that these instants of sublime activation had all the hallmarks of the religious or mystical but were triggered by intensely felt, secular experiences.

photo credit: Egui_ via photopin cc

photo credit: Egui_ via photopin cc

Contrary to stereotype, engaged play is the gateway not to time-wasting but to times that let you contact deeper realms. When you paint a canvas or play volleyball, you’re in a creative improvisation that calls on inner fortitude and commitment and that reflect your values through self-expression. Play satisfies core self-determination needs, such as autonomy and competence, as little else can, connecting you with your mandate to explore and challenge yourself. That’s the integration Maslow was talking about. You tap the true you, not the performance identity of the job or the presentation identity that we display to others. Play relieves you of the burden to be someone you’re not. There’s nothing on the line; it’s just play. Just you.

When it comes to beefing up your happiness, it’s hard to do better than engaged play. Not only does it align you with your deepest needs and deliver fun in the moment, but the social component of play is a huge predictor of increased daily well-being, the research shows. Participating in recreational activities has been connected to increased positive mood and experiencing pleasure. And play increases the odds that you’re going to have more fun in your life because it’s a huge stress buffer, reducing strain and burnout, boosting your immune system and pumping up vitality and energy.

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It also cut through stagnation at the office. Studies show that playfulness can increase performance on the job and stoke creativity by breaking up the mental set that keeps us stuck. It resets the brain.

This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

This passion and belief in the power of play is shared by Stuart Brown in this TEDTalk:

Stuart Brown: Play Is More Than Fun

“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression…” Stuart Brown

photo credit: Felipe Morin via photopin cc

photo credit: Felipe Morin via photopin cc

I have been trying out the method surgeons use for washing their hands after seeing this – and the amount of germs we carry on our hands when we haven’t washed them thoroughly – on Dr Michael Mosley’s BBC Four programme: Pain, Pus and Poison: The Search for Modern Medicine. Apparently surgeons are taught to sing “Happy Birthday’ through twice to time a complete hand wash.

The surprising and quite unexpected result has been to find every time, in the very pleasurable relaxation of sinking in to the duration of the song twice through, is that all sorts of of creative ideas have fallen into my head at the same time.

And here is some of the science behind why this might be…

photo credit: Arlington County via photopin cc

photo credit: Arlington County via photopin cc

6 Purely Psychological Effects of Washing Your Hands

Wash your hands, wash your mind: recover optimism, feel less guilty, less doubtful and more…

Washing your hands doesn’t just keep you healthier; it has all sorts of subtle psychological effects as well.

Hand washing sends an unconscious metaphorical message to the mind: we don’t just cleanse ourselves of physical residues, we also cleanse ourselves of mental residues.

Here are six purely psychological effects of washing your hands…

1. Recover optimism

In a study by Kaspar (2012) participants who failed at a task, then washed their hands, felt more optimistic afterwards than those who didn’t.

Unfortunately washing their hands also seemed to reduce their motivation for trying the task again.

Still, hand washing can help boost optimism after a failure.

2. Feel less guilty

One study had participants think about some immoral behaviour from their past (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). One group were then told to use an antiseptic wipe, and another not.

Those who washed their hands after thinking about an immoral behaviour felt less guilty. The antiseptic wipe had literally wiped away their guilt.

3. Take the moral high ground

When people in one study washed their hands, they were more disgusted by the bad behaviour of others (Zhong, Strejcek & Sivanathan, 2010):

“…”clean” participants made harsher moral judgments on a wide range of issues, from abortion to drug use and masturbation. They also rated their own moral character more favorably in comparison with that of their fellow students.” (Lee & Schwarz, 2011)

So, when people feel clean themselves, they take the moral high ground and are harsher on the transgressive behaviour of others.

4. Remove doubt

Sometimes, after people make the wrong decision, they try to justify it by pretending it was the right decision.

It’s a result of cognitive dissonance, and it’s one way in which people lie to themselves.

However, hand washing may wipe away the need for self-justification in some circumstances, leaving you better able to evaluate your decision the way it really is (Lee & Schwarz, 2010).

5. Wash away bad luck

When participants in one study had some experimentally induced ‘bad luck’ while gambling, washing their hands seemed to mentally wash away their bad luck (Xu et al., 2012).

In comparison to those who didn’t wash their hands, hand washers carried on betting as if their bad luck was forgotten.

6. Guilt other people into washing their hands

A public health study flashed different messages onto the walls of public toilets as people entered, including “Water doesn’t kill germs, soap does,” and “Don’t be a dirty soap dodger.” (Judah et al., 2009)

The most effective overall message, though, was: “Is the person next to you washing with soap?”

So it seems when you wash your hands in a public toilet, you help guilt other people into washing theirs as well.

A clean slate

All these studies are demonstrating that when we wash our hands, we also wash our minds clean:

“…the notion of washing away one’s sins, entailed in the moral-purity metaphor, seems to have generalized to a broader conceptualization of wiping the slate clean, allowing people to metaphorically remove a potentially broad range of psychological residues.” (Lee & Schwarz, 2011)

Link to read the original article in full

5 Tips to Tap Into Your Creative Self

Psychiatrist Carrie and orthopaedic surgeon Alton Baron, authors of The Creativity Cure, believe passionately in the power of using our hands to unleash our creativity and allow our happiness to flow.

In THE CREATIVITY CURE: A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness, husband-and-wife physicians Carrie and Alton Barron draw upon the latest psychological research, a combined forty years of medical practice, and personal experience to reveal that creative action is integral to easing depression and anxiety and to fueling long-term happiness and wellbeing. The need to create – to produce something using our minds and hands – is fundamental. It connects us to our inner selves and to our environment and offers the deep satisfaction of accomplishment. But too often, in our technology driven, fast-paced society, we neglect this need. The Barrons show that creative processes facilitate insight and healing, connect our mental and physical selves, supply satisfaction and meaning and thereby yield life changing results.

The five steps of THE CREATIVITY CURE—Insight, Movement, Mind Rest, Using Your Own Two Hands, and Mind Shift—lead the way to a more meaningful, fulfilling life by simultaneously developing self-understanding and self-expression. With the Barrons’ detailed tools and strategies for cultivating creative outlets, overcoming unconscious fears and barriers to happiness, and linking internal thought to external action, readers will build the mindset and habits for happiness and positive change…

photo credit: J. Star via photopin cc

photo credit: J. Star via photopin cc

David B. Goldstein on creativity and playing to your personality strengths

We discovered David B. Goldstein this week and his ideas correlating the intelligence we can get from knowing our Myers-Briggs Personality Type and understanding the nature of our own individual creativity. This provides more detail about creativity we all have within us, and and the many different ways of being creative.

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photo credit: sgs_1019 via photopin cc

Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong

We tend to think that creativity is innate — you’ve either got it or you don’t. Our “creative type” friends are artsy, full of wonder and always wanting to dig into something deeper. The rest? They’re investment bankers.

Contrary to popular belief, no one is born without a creative bone in his or her body, and not all creative types are starving artists. In other words, we’ve all got it, but our personalities play a role in the kind of creative we are, and how we best feed into it.

“Our creative process is how we see the world and how we make decisions,” David B. Goldstein, artist, researcher, management consultant and the co-author of “Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive” told The Huffington Post.

While we might typify creativity, Goldstein says this is limiting. “There’s more than one way to be creative — everyone is creative and can be creative in their own way.”

In his book, Goldstein reveals 16 different paths in which people can unearth their creativity, all of which depend on their psychological preferences. The author connects the personalities dictated by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, a test developed on the basis that we all have particular preferences in the way we translate our life experiences and values…

Goldstein also challenges Some of the myths we might hold about creativity:

Stepping “outside of your comfort zone” is the best way to elicit creativity.
“Creativity comes from finding our comfort zone and standing in it,” Goldstein says. “When we’re comfortable and acting in our preferences, we have the courage to take risks.” The artist explains that when you’re not comfortable, you’re less likely to take the risks that could lead to that bright idea.

Plus, some of our best ideas come in the most unexpected places – like in the car driving home — where we feel mighty comfortable. These physical locations aren’t new to us, but they give our minds the “OK” to wander…

Brainstorming sessions are the best ways to come up with brilliant ideas.
Some, namely extroverts, feel most alive when surrounded by a group of people. But this is not the case for all – especially the introverted types who experience a sense of draining when they’re around others for too long, Goldstein explains. The trick is to find what setting works best for you…

Being creative means being spontaneous.
Some of the most inspiring, creative works came with a set of plans. Painter Henri Matisse, for example, constructed all of his paintings before he began. He even wore a suit and tie while he created – not exactly the splattered, ragged overalls we associate with artsy folk…

Creative people must invent something new.
Only 30 percent of the population have the personality of the “intuitive types.” These are the Einsteins and the Edisons – big picture thinkers who create something out of nothing. (The lightbulb, for example, did not exist until Edison decided it should.) Goldstein says these kinds of thinkers are abstract and impractical – they contemplate the future and solve “future problems.”

And yet, the “sensers” – the majority of us – aren’t any less creative, just a different kind. Sensers create by combining existing ideas. Think of Henry Ford, who didn’t invent the car, but thought up many ways to improve it.

Of course, a person isn’t necessarily strictly a senser or an intuitive: “There’s an overlap,” Goldstein explains. “The intuitives can pay attention to detail and do think in the moments, and sensers can look into the future and see the bigger picture.”

Creativity means having a finished product.
You don’t need to create something worthy of display to be considered creative. Those with a “perceiver” personality type tend to never see things as entirely complete, because they’re always inspired to add more. “If you’re a perceiver, you prefer endlessly modifying, editing, repainting and revisiting since there is an unlimited and continuous flow of data to consider,” Goldstein writes in his book…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

Increase creativity at work and still have work life balance

Cindy Krischer Goodman writes:

Do you wish you were more creative? Creative people get ahead in business. They’re always coming up with a new way of doing things. For some of us, creativity flows easily. For others, we have those days where we struggle with it and it zaps our time and energy. Guest blogger David Goldstein is co-author of Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive. which addresses how personality types influence our creative abilities and how we can get better at it. David is an artist, entrepreneur, and researcher with a science and business background. He also writes a popular blog Courageously Creative.

…today, creativity isn’t just for people doing art or advertising – it’s for all of us and it’s about inventing better ways to do our jobs. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all naturally creative and by acting more creatively at work, we can be more engaged and happier.

One simple way to do this is to know your creative style — and this can help you get unstuck when you get blocked. While there are so many different ways to be creative, there are just as many ways to feel blocked in expressing ourselves…

The first way to overcome a block is to relax and not let it get the better of you and realize that we can’t always be inspired. Next, knowing your personality type is like having jumper cables to give you the spark to get going again.

Knowing your personality type can help you find your own balance. It can also help you to unlock your creativity and lead to happiness at work — it’s just a matter of balancing the right amount of information we take in with the decisions we make.

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: © Salim Photography/ www.salimphoto.com via photopin cc

22 Tips To Better Care for Introverts and Extroverts

by Belle Beth Cooper

‘[We] should not strive to eliminate [our] complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs [our] conduct in the world.’ -Sigmund Freud

…If we go a bit further back, we find that the terms introvert and extrovert (originally spelled extravert) were popularized by Carl Jung in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, their meanings got confused between then and now, and we started thinking that everyone belongs to one camp or the other. But actually, Carl’s point was that these are the very extremes of a scale. Which means that most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. – Carl G Jung

…introversion and extroversion actually relate to where we get our energy from.

Or in other words, how we recharge our brains.

Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.

Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.

Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs. For extroverts, their brains respond more strongly when a gamble pays off. Part of this is simply genetic, but it’s partly the difference of their dopamine systems as well…

The nucleus accumbens is part of the dopamine system, which affects how we learn, and is generally known for motivating us to search for rewards. The difference in the dopamine system in the extrovert’s brain tends to push them towards seeking out novelty, taking risks and enjoying unfamiliar or surprising situations more than others. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotional stimuli, which gives extroverts that rush of excitement when they try something highly stimulating which might overwhelm an introvert.

More research has actually shown that the difference comes from how introverts and extrovertsprocess stimuli. That is, the stimulation coming into our brains is processed differently depending on your personality. For extroverts, the pathway is much shorter. It runs through an area where taste, touch, visual and auditory sensory processing takes place. For introverts, stimuli runs through a long, complicated pathway in areas of the brain associated with remembering, planning and solving problems…

For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.

Introverted people are known for thinking things through before they speak, enjoying small, close groups of friends and one-on-one time, needing time alone to recharge and being upset by unexpected changes or last-minute surprises. Introverts are not necessarily shy, and may not even avoid social situations, but they will definitely need some time alone or just with close friends or family after spending time in a big crowd.

12 quick tips to better care for an introvert (graphic)

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photo credit: dogrando via photopin cc

On the opposite side of the coin, extroverts are energized by people. They usually enjoy spending time with others, as this is how they recharge from time spent alone focusing or working hard.

10 quick tips to better care for an extrovert (graphic)

Ambiverts exhibit both extroverted and introverted tendencies. This means that they generally enjoy being around people, but after a long time this will start to drain them. Similarly, they enjoy solitude and quiet, but not for too long. Ambiverts recharge their energy levels with a mixture of social interaction and alone time.

Though ambiverts seem to be the more boring personality type, being in the middle of everyone else, this balance can actually be a good thing.A study by Adam Grant, author of *Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success found that ambiverts perform better in sales than either introverts or extroverts. Ambiverts actually closed 24% more sales…

Most of us will be one or the other, but writing with your right hand doesn’t render your left hand inert. Similarly, an extroverted person can still do things that aren’t typically associated with extroversion. Meanwhile, introverts can learn to adapt to more extroverted scenarios, even if it might not come as naturally.

“The absolute worst thing you can do with either type is use a single word to define your approach.” Understanding the tendencies of ourselves and others is just the beginning. Effective communication means we need to take into account each person’s personality as well…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Finding the X Factor – the neuroscience of presence

Jan Hills writes

You will have experienced the feeling of a person, maybe a leader, shop assistant or friend who is completely focused on you and your needs. Their level of connection is palatable. For me it is best summed up in the words of a West African greeting, ‘Sawa bona,’ which translates to ‘I see you.’

The traditional response is ‘I am here’.

This exchange denotes that until you are ‘seen’ you do not exist and when you are seen you are brought into existence. This is the skill of deeply connecting to another and giving them attention. Many believe this speaks to a basic human need to be seen or validated. For many of us it is the X factor in business; people who can be present also connect deeply with others. It is an invaluable skill whether you are an HR leader, business partner or in shared services.

Everyone is capable of this level of connection. When we achieve it we understand more of what is going on in the business, are more influential, and increase engagement and ultimately productivity within the team.

Presence is a feeling state and one of the characteristics is that the experience feels spontaneous. There is no power play, posturing or self-consciousness and past experience is not interfering with the interaction. There is also an element of energy.

Energy

Research by the Institute of HeartMath shows that the heart, like the brain, generates an electromagnetic field. Director of Research Rollin McCraty says that: “The electrical field as measured in an electrocardiogram is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brainwaves recorded in an electroencephalogram.” One of their significant findings is if people intentionally generate positive emotions by changing their state the electromagnetic heart information also changes.

According to the US National Institutes of Health in the USA the study of bioenergy is receiving increasing scientific attention. This research looks at the effect of electromagnetic heart fields that result in levels of heart-rate synchronization. It has been established that mothers synchronize with their baby’s heart rate.

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

What stops presence

The ability to connect therefore should be a learnable skill. But what gets in the way of achieving presence? In our discussions with clients we find these are the main issues:

  • Distractions: This covers a fairly broad area including people checking their mobile phones.

  • Internal dialogue: There is a lot of noise in most peoples’ heads. This ranges from self-conscious worry to planning what to say next, through to wondering what the other person thinks of us.

  • Threat response: Being emotionally comfortable is important to staying present. You may start being engaged with the person but lose it when you feel “threatened.” The CORE model helps here both to manage and to diagnose triggers.

  • Judgment: This often separates us from others. It blocks our ability to listen, closes down curiosity and reduces empathy. We judge all the time. The issue is hanging onto judgements; letting them interrupt the connection and break the presence.

  • Habit: It’s my theory that we can get into the habit of not fully connecting, and only through practice will this habit be overcome.

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

The research

Psychology has for many years emphasised the importance of not just the words but also the body language and tone of voice that goes with communication. People watch and make judgements on what is real, what is important and what is for show. This is intuitive but research from Sandy Pentland at MIT is able to verify and even put numbers on these factors. He has found that we act on and are influenced by the ‘honest signals’ people send. That is, the unconscious and non-verbal language including tone and energy. His team have developed a means of measuring these signals using an electronic badge.

Pentland says honest signals impact the success of individuals and teams and can account for as much as 50% of the performance of a group. …He found that a particular type of person is most effective in teams. He calls these people ‘charismatic connectors’ and they have many of the characteristics we associate with presence. They talk to everybody and drive the conversation around a team. They mainly work to connect people and information. The other interesting discovery Pentland made is that people can be trained to modify their honest signals to put in more energy or to communicate more effectively with their non-verbal signals. Making these changes improves the productivity and success of the team potentially by as much as an extra 8% in productivity improvements in call centre teams. You can see Pentland talking about his work here

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

Presence requires practice

I believe these are the elements that create the ability to be present.

  • Personal Awareness: Being aware of ‘What do I do, how do I do it and why do I do it?’ You can’t be present to others if you are not self-aware. Because presence depends on your emotional state at any given time, increasing your ability to change your emotional state is also critical. Mindfulness can help here and practice noticing your state and naming it.
  • You speak through your body and as Pentland found people pick up on this and respond both consciously and unconsciously. Everyone needs the Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying,” somewhere close to hand. Like in our exercise, going into an interaction in the right state with the right degree of energy and relaxation in the body helps to achieve presence.
  • Emotional control: Read my HRZone article on emotional control and success for more about this. Presence requires a willingness to be honest with yourself about what is going on in the moment. The most skilled are able to step outside the immediate interaction and sense that is working and what is not and make minute adjustments. Being curious is a great aid. It is nearly impossible to disconnect, judge or listen to your own internal dialogue if you are deeply curious about the other person. This is especially hard but crucial in conflict, which is when you need it most.

Further evidence that adopting the right attitude and body language works comes from research by Amy Cuddy. When people adopt new postures such as appearing more powerful or more interested in others, the brain also starts to change and the adopted approach can be integrated into everyday behaviour. This is useful evidence for any development programme suggesting that we can help people to change their style and their presence, not just what they do. You can watch her excellent video on her research here which investigates how people perceive and categorize others. Warmth and competence, she finds, are the two critical variables. They account for about 80% of our overall evaluations of people (i.e., Do you feel good or bad about this person?), and shape our emotions and behaviors toward them. Her warmth/competence analysis illuminates why we hire Kurt instead of Kyra, how students choose study partners, who gets targeted for sexual harassment etc.

My message is, presence takes practice and intention. Monitor your own impact; when you are present with someone versus when you are distracted. Note the difference in results on your influence and understanding. This will motivate you to identify the triggers, adapt and practice ‘seeing’ the other person..

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: { pranav } via photopin cc

Patsy Rodenberg – The Second Circle

One of our great voice expert heroes is Patsy Rodenberg, author of several great books including Presence: How To Use Positive Energy For Success In Every Situation. Presence for her lies in the middle of three circles:

  1. In First Circle we are closed in on ourselves and failing to communicate out beyond our spheres. This is the withheld personna.

  2. In Second Circle we are in a dynamic state of balance between enough sureness about ourselves and what we have to bring and a concentrated alert attention and responsive to the people around us, constantly and minutely adapting to connect with what we receive. This is presence.

  3. In Third Circle we are pushing ourselves out into the world with such a force that have not attention or energy left over to receive anything back from from it. This is the overly presented personna.

A Working LIfe: The Voice Coach

writes in The Guardian

From actors to execs, Patsy Rodenburg’s mantra of psychology and Shakespeare helps them to master the power of speech

…After the lesson, she leads me to a tiny office. As she sits in a white rocking chair, it becomes clear that for her, training the voice is a complex business, involving not just breathing exercises, but a fair amount of psychology and lashings of Shakespeare.

“The voice encompasses so many things,” she says. “Everyone comes on to the planet with a fantastic voice, but people lose it. The voice is about communicating, engaging, how you show yourself, how you speak, how you listen.”

photo credit: MrAnathema via photopin cc

photo credit: MrAnathema via photopin cc

She gives a quick overview of her concept of “the three circles of energy”. The first is where a person withdraws into the self. The opposite is the third circle, the loud and boorish. The second circle is the ideal state, where a person’s energy is focused.

“It moves out towards the object of your attention, touches it then receives energy back from it,” she explains in her book, Presence. “You are living a two-way street – you reach out and touch an energy outside your own, then receive energy back.” …

She emphasises the importance of breathing from the lower abdomen, saying that a person’s voice should come from that part of the body: “The body houses the voice and the breath energises it.” …

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: josef.stuefer via photopin cc

Are audiences killing art and culture?

If the most important thing about art is its newsworthiness, says Sarah Kent, how do we engage with it on any other level?

…This is one of the questions to be addressed in BBC Radio 3‘s Free Thinking festival at the Sage Gateshead on Sunday in a panel debate: Are audiences killing culture?

Art is often promoted as a leisure pursuit, something fun to see on a wet Sunday afternoon. And it is achingly fashionable. On the first Thursday of each month, galleries in east London stay open late – hundreds descend on Vyner Street in Bethnal Green, sparking a street party complete with food, beer and sound systems; the event is so cool that even school kids hang out there…

Nowadays, artists are caught between a rock and a hard place. Market domination stifles creativity by seducing artists into producing glitzy commodities that shriek: “Buy me! Buy me!”…

Since an important part of their remit is to attract large audiences, museums and galleries unwittingly create a trap of a different kind – encouraging artists to woo the public with accessible art. Often the result is bland mediocrity; mirrored maizes are my bête noire. Occasionally, though, an artist responds with something both playful and profound.

When Olafur Eliasson projected a yellow disc onto the far wall of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003, hundreds came to bask in the light of the artificial sun. The Weather Project tapped into the collective psyche by encouraging people to dream, which is what good art can do – visitors wore swimsuits, brought picnics and lay on towels as if they were on a beach in midsummer. The work demonstrated the power of illusion and people’s willingness to play.

If you visit Derry-Londonderry over the next few months you can earn a couple of quid discussing the market economy with some locals. Not down the pub, but at the Turner Prize exhibition where Tino Sehgal is staging This is Exchange…

If Seghal wins the Turner Prize it won’t be because his performers argued well or told moving tales, but because he provokes questions about the nature and value of art and the institutions that house it. Audience participation may be crucial, but pleasing the crowd is not; you may enjoy it, but his work is not about having a good time.

Antony Gormley‘s invitation in 2010 for people to take their place on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square was similarly memorable not because someone struck a fine pose or told a good joke; it was not Britian’s Got Talent. Fundamentally it was a conceptual piece that held up a mirror to our lust for celebrity, our desire to be in the frame. And it highlighted the fact that no-one has the faintest idea any more what public monuments and public art are for. What or who is worth commemorating?

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

New thinking and ideas about the relationship and potential collaboration between artists and their audiences is part of this interview, too:

Arts Head: Henry Little, Chief Executive, Orchestras Live

Interview by

…it’s interesting to think for a moment about what we consider a “concert” to be. The notion of a concert is quite a formal construct that makes people (and not just young people) immediately think that it might not be for them. Orchestras talk about “concerts” because that’s what they mostly do.

We talk about activity and events and sometimes they take the form of a traditional concert, but more often than not, they don’t. For example, we are working with young people in Cumbria on an event that could well see an orchestra performing in the local cattle market!

Our starting point is always the audience. We see programming as a two-way process involving both promoters and orchestras. We work with a wide range of British symphony and chamber orchestras, from early music ensembles to contemporary music groups, and we gather a complete picture of their plans to discover programmes that suit our partners’ needs. This can cover the full spectrum, from a traditional concert setting right through to a community performance involving hundreds of participants….

There’s a perception that teenagers and orchestral music don’t mix or that when they do, it’s a bit like oil and water. Many in our business lament the fact that audiences for classical music are getting older and that young people appear not to be interested in attending concerts. However, the fact is that they are and they do, so long as you involve them by allowing them to choose what music is played, how it is presented and when and where it takes place.

We also recognise the research that tells us that exposure to music from an early age is key to lifelong engagement and for us, enabling very young children to experience live orchestral music remains a priority. For me, it comes down to the question of with, rather than by and for. I think there’s too much of the latter when it comes to British orchestras’ approach to work with young people…

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

How To Slow A Racing Mind

An agitated mind leads to stress and a whole host of health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It even disrupts our relationships and sleep.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem. No matter how fast your mind is racing, you can learn how to cultivate a calm and serene mind, and the good news is that it’s a lot easier than you might think…

There are four main sources of mental agitation: 1) Too many commitments, 2) background noise, 3) painful memories, and 4) worrying. There are short-term solutions for dealing with too many commitments and background noise. Painful memories and worrying will take more time to overcome, but they will resolve themselves through a regular meditation practice.

1. Too many commitments

…With many of our commitments, we have no choice in the short-run. We can’t quit our jobs or abandon our families, but we can consider more carefully what we truly need to survive and be happy. For example, do all our material possessions really make our family happier, or do they take us away from our loved ones? With mindfulness, we can determine the real sources of happiness and strive to incorporate them into our lives.

2. Background Noise

…There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or listening to the radio. The problem arises when we simply use them as background noise. Of course, we should also use some discretion concerning what we watch or listen to. Remember, whichever seeds in your mind you water, those will be the ones that grow.

I would suggest turning off the radio or television (or any other entertainment device) when you’re doing something else. This will help you concentrate on what you’re doing. Try it for a week. I think you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes…

3. The Calming Power of Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a simple tool for keeping your mind from racing out of control. Practicing mindful breathing is very easy and doesn’t take long, and it will interrupt the acceleration of your mind. This will enable you to think with greater clarity, since you’ll have less mental agitation.

All you have to do is stop occasionally and take three to five mindful breaths. You don’t have to strain to concentrate on your breathing, but rather just pay attention to it…

4. Mindful Walking

Practicing mindful walking is also very easy. Most of us do a great deal of walking through our daily activities: at home, work, school, or when tending to our family’s needs. These are all wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness, instead of allowing ourselves to get lost in our thoughts, many of which are either worrying or simply rehashing the same thoughts repeatedly.

When doing mindful walking, we generally walk more slowly than usual. Make your walking a smooth and continuous movement, while being mindful of each step. This can have a tremendous calming effect because it forces your mind to slow down.

As with mindful breathing, simply pay attention to your walking. With each mindful step, observe the sensation on your feet, the contraction of the muscles in your legs, or even the sensations of your clothes against your skin. Not only will this calm your mind, but it will also help you return to the present moment…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: katiecooperx via photopin cc

photo credit: katiecooperx via photopin cc

A Classroom In The Now

IN THE EARLY 1990s, scientist, writer, and world-renowned mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinnencountered Cherry Hamrick, a teacher in the small town of South Jordan, Utah, who wanted to bring mindfulness—the act of paying attention on purpose in the present moment—into her elementary school….

Cherry Hamrick taught mindfulness through techniques such as ringing a bell and having the students slowly raise their hands when they could no longer hear the sound of it; having them carefully eat a small portion of a candy bar and notice the way sugar sparked their taste buds; and setting aside time for “mindful walking,” in which they strolled around the school yard in silence and simply noticed each step. Gaining self-awareness through these types of exercises, Kabat-Zinn pointed out, is crucial to managing stress and finding success both inside and outside the classroom in a world where children are constantly bombarded with technological stimuli such as texts, e-mail, and Facebook.

“Self-distraction is at absolutely epidemic proportions—and it’s not the iPhone, it’s the thought of, ‘I wonder if anybody texted me,’” he said. “There’s always this digital domain—this virtual reality—and kids are even more challenged [to pay attention] than we were when we were young.”

The founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulnessin Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Kabat-Zinn has been a strong supporter of groups like Mindful Schools that use mindfulness to teach children how to focus, manage their emotions, handle their stress, and resolve conflicts. Instead of simply telling children to pay attention, for example, Kabat-Zinn said that adults should show children how to pay attention through direct experience, because that allows them to make wiser decisions in the heat of the moment, rather than only in retrospect. “Mindfulness is like a muscle, and without exercise it will lose its strength,” he said. “Our world is so much about doing that the being gets lost.”

With stress in children in the United States at high levels, incorporating mindfulness into school curriculums is imperative, he asserted, adding that students can tap into “their profound capacity” for awareness if they are taught to do so.

Although Kabat-Zinn pointed out that mindfulness is becoming more mainstream—displaying a chart that showed the number of publications and studies on the subject rising drastically in the last 10 years—he said he hopes it will gain even more steam and become a part of every school curriculum. “Many kids come to school and they haven’t had breakfast, or they’ve seen acts of violence, and [yet] they are expected to learn optimally,” he said. “If you are going to be in an environment like a classroom, why not help [students] actually get into an alignment, calmness, clarity, and emotional regulation where they can be open to what is available for them? Then you create a community of learning.”

Link to read the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #70

You will find all of these stories – and more – in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection…

I hope you find things to enjoy and use to carve out at least a little more space in the middle – to play, to think, to connect, to create, to be happy…

Happiness At Work #69 ~ focus, attention and making a happier world

This week’s post brings our focus and attention into the spotlight, and includes stories about the importance of how we use our minds and what we put our main thinking energies into, as well as what we should perhaps be giving greater attention and energy to in order to make a happier and more flourishing nation, world and planet.

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

Happiness: the next big business metric?

Kristine A. Wong writes:

Happiness is gaining popularity as a measurement of success for governments – and for some businesses, including Zappos, Southwest and BT

Whether it’s words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama, guidance from an empathetic career counselor or advice from a friend, we’re often told that it’s more important to be happy than anything else.

But for the more than 1 billion people around the world fighting hunger and poverty, happiness seems fairly irrelevant – a luxury for the middle and upper classes. Does happiness matter if daily needs are not met? Certainly the primary focus should be on taking care of the basics. Happiness is a bonus.

Most, it seems, would agree. But increasingly, the answer depends upon whom you ask. In certain academic and human development circles, the stock in happiness has been rising. So much, in fact, that in the last two years, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network(run by UN Millennium Development goals guru and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs) has published the “World Happiness Report,” researchers’ attempts to measure happiness in 150 countries around the world.

That raises the question: As more thought leaders pay attention to happiness, should companies also consider happiness as one measure of their social impact?

“All businesses should care about happiness,” said Mark Williamson, founder and director of the London-based Action for Happiness Project, who joined Sachs in New York last week to release the latest report. “The happiness of a company’s people is vital to their business success.”

Companies with happier staff outperform their competitors, Williamson said, and a happier staff is sick less often, more engaged, more creative, more productive and better at working collaboratively.

Government will likely play a role in driving the happiness agenda, if it progresses. “There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their wellbeing,” said Sachs, one of the report’s co-editors…

But is a goal to improve the life satisfaction of people around the world really a means to an end? How would this accelerate or enhance ongoing work to secure access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, a sustainable food supply and a stable source of education?

“Wellbeing is really the driver that underpins all the development goals,” Williamson said. “Whether we’re aiming to alleviate poverty, ensure maternal health, support gender equality, or promote sustainability, the reason that all these things matter ultimately comes down to their impact on human wellbeing.

“If we get them right, wellbeing goes up,” he said. “If we fail to deliver on them, wellbeing goes down.”…

Sub-Saharan Africa – along with Latin America – is counted in this year’s report as one of two areas where happiness levels are increasing the most. The reasons? Higher levels of social support, generosity and the freedom to make key life decisions, the report said.

“Social relationships matter much more for happiness than possessions,” Williamson said. “Every organization should recognize that human wellbeing is at the heart of success and progress – and that they can play a role in contributing to this by the way they treat their people, the products and services they offer and the impact they have in the community.”

Some organizations, like John Lewis, have always put employee wellbeing at the heart of their business models, Williamson said. Buthappiness is gaining ground: companies such as Southwest AirlinesBT,SemcoMarks & SpencerZapposInnocent Drinks and NixonMcInnesare increasingly taking it seriously, he added.

Happiness hasn’t yet become a top priority for sustainability-minded companies, but Williamson expects the trend to persist. And if its popularity continues to rise among nonprofits, policymakers and thought leaders, we could soon see it become a common corporate social responsibility metric as well.

Link to the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

A lecture by  explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

…Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them…

…the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:

The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different…

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need…

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the “only country’ where … our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce…

We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things…

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Link to read the original Guardian article

These ideas by Neil Gaimon make a strong chime with what Daniel Goleman talked about in his Action for Happiness hosted talk in London this week.  Here are my notes of what he said…

An Evening With Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman, the internationally acclaimed psychologist and expert in Emotional Intelligence, explains the importance of Emotional Intelligence in modern life and also share some of the ideas from his exciting new book Focus, a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to fulfilment and performance: attention.

Most of the news we get is for the amygdala – firing up our sense of threat.  If you feel pressured you just don’t notice a lot – and we are living now as if in a constant stage of being under siege
A Harvard experiment found that our minds our most unfocused commuting, at a computer, at work
Social emotional learning has now been going on in schools for over a decade.  Studies have found that this learning brings anti-social behaviour down by 10% and pro-social behaviour up by 10%.  And academic success up by more than 10%.
Another study found that Leaders in the top ten per cent of effectiveness compared to least effective ten% had 80-90% of competences that are Emotional Intelligence (EQ)-centred.
EQ is a model for Wellbeing including four essentials
a) Self-Awareness
Good work combines from doing what we’re excellent at, passionate about and matches our ethics
When we are in ‘flow’ our attention gets super-focused. This is optimal performance and it feels good
b) Self-Management – being in command of our emotions – cognitive control
Studies like the ‘marshmallow test’ find that kids who can’t manage their impulses are constantly distracted.
A NZ study with that looked at kids, and then revisited them again in heir thirties found that cognitive control better predictor of success than IQ or wealth. And kids who learned who didn’t have it ‘naturally’ at the start but learned it ended up doing just as well.  Self-management can be taught and learned
c) Empathy
Our more recent fore brain is designed to be linked to our other older brains
Our brain is peppered with mirror neurons – a brain-to-brain link – that operates in our entire biology, and that keeps us on the same page as another person. When someone is in pain we have an instant sense of this ourselves
There are three ingredients to rapport:
     – full mutual Attention
     – non-verbal Synchronicity
     – Flow – it feels good
This is operating in every human interaction
d) Social Skill – good strong relationships and interactions
Our happiness increases in relation to the amount we care about others’ happiness
A new and troubling Berkley study is finding hat people pay less attention to people of lower status.  And Freud talked about ‘the narcissism of minor differences’ that can start a spiral of inter-group hostility.
But The Flynn Effect showed its not the family you’re born into that has to predict who you become. We are always adapting and learning and evolving in response to the opportunities and circumstances we find ourselves in.
And every time they come up with new IQ test they have to make the questions harder, because each successive generation gets smarter.
We should teach children these skills. Doing this systematically would increase our GNP.
photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Mindfulness is one of the best ways to increase focus, attention and emotional intelligence.  Mindfulness increases cognitive control by working on the muscle of attention. Every time you notice your mind wandering off and bring it back you are working this muscle.
A Mindfulness exercise for children (that can easily be adapted for us older people):
‘Breathing Buddies’ involves putting a toy animal in a child’s tummy.  They breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3.  When their minds wander away from concentrating on the breath in 1-2-3 and the breath out 1-2-3, just bring it back to focus on the breathing and the rise and fall of the toy again.
Mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zin found that if people did their mindfulness exercises for 28 days they achieved lasting and substantial improvements in their physical, mental and emotional fitness and wellbeing.
Neuroscience has revealed that when we are upset, anxious or angry our Right prefrontal cortex is active.  When we are calm and happy, this region is quiet, and the Left area is active.  High activity in far to Left is indicative of resilience;  far to the Right is indicative of depression.
Mindfulness also mobilises the flu shot antibodies – as well as switching up our immune system.
The Dalai Lama’s recently offered 3 questions for decision making.  Will it benefit…
…just me or others?
…just my group or everyone?
…just for the present or for the future?
The man that scientists call ‘the happiest man alive’, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard was involved in a study on his impact on  the (2nd) most abrasive professor in a university.
They came together to debate. The professor begins in a highly agitated state.  Ricard stays calm. The professor becomes calm, and eventually doesn’t even want the encounter to end.
People a transformed by positive encounters.  And we can all cause ripples of happier encounters.
But there is a bias toward unhappiness.  If we understand more about how people can get along we might be able to promote that better
Our attention looks both in and out.  Internal (self) awareness is focus on self.  Empathy is focus on the other person.  We need to able to be equally and simultaneously good at both.
Passing on emotions is affected by three things:
     ~ Expressiveness
     ~ Power – for example if the leader is in a negative or positive mood the rest of the team catch it and their performance goes down or up
     ~ Stableness – like Ricard showed the professor.
Can you be happy for no reason?
Can you cultivate a feeling of happiness independent of external circumstances
There is a danger of mistaking espoused happiness for enacted happiness.
We need to be authentically happy
Technology and Focus
The new social norm is to ignore the person you’re with and look at a screen.  We have to get better at focusing. Why we have to learn cognitive control.  Technology is insidiously stealing more and more of our attention. Mind wandering tends to concentrate on problems.  The extent to which we can turn it off and focus on better things, the better off we will be.
But the research on technology is showing good and bad things:  for example, games increase vigilance but also a negative intention bias.  New games are now being designed to improve attention.
Social comparison is quite automatic in the brain.  When you’re feeling compassion – loving kindness – your positivity fires up.  To overcome negative comparison:
– Compare down
– Concentrate on the Positive
– And be Compassionate
How do you study unhappiness without becoming miserable?
Mindfulness should go and in hand with compassion and noticing and caring about what is happening in the world and if we can do something about it.
Our biggest source of unhappiness is most usually our own mind
photo credit: Cut To Pieces via photopin cc

photo credit: Cut To Pieces via photopin cc

Can A Girl Change The World?

by 

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has’. – Margaret Mead, Social Anthropologist

The version of history we are taught in school would have us believe that all important changemakers were men and that women had very little to do with the advancement of civilisation. However, we know this is completely false…

Can a girl change the world? Yes! But not alone, she must have the support of others as only through collective action is change truly possible.

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Link to read the original article

The New Economics of Enough

BY: DAN O’NEILL & ROB DIETZ

It has been over five years since the global financial crisis shook the economic world. Since then we’ve seen spiralling debt, savage austerity, a crisis in the Eurozone, quantitative easing, and a variety of attempts to get the economy growing again. But despite all of this, little has changed. GDP in the UK remains 2 percent lower than when the financial crisis began, and austerity continues on unabated.

Everyone seems to agree that getting the economy growing again is the number one priority. But if growth is really the cure to all of our ills, then why are we in such a malaise after sixty years of it? Although the UK economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier. Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure. At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity. There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic, in the sense that it is costing us more than it’s worth.

In our new book, Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, Rob Dietz and I argue that it is time to abandon the pursuit of growth and consider a new strategy—an economy of enough. Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption and enough income.

The economic blueprint that we describe in our book is based on the contributions of over 250 economists, scientists, NGO members, business leaders, politicians, and members of the general public. Some call this blueprint the “new economics”, some call it “degrowth”, and some call it a “steady-state economy”. While there are differences among all of these approaches, the key ideas have much in common. They include policies to reduce resource use, limit inequality, fix the financial system, create meaningful jobs, reorganise business, and change the way we measure progress…

Instead of GDP, we need indicators that measure the things that really matter to people, such as health, happiness, equality, and meaningful employment. We also need indicators that measure what matters to the planet, such as material use and CO2 emissions. In fact, we already have these indicators—the problem is that we largely ignore them, because we are so fixated on GDP. If the goal of society were to change from increasing GDP to improving human well-being and preventing long-term environmental damage, then many proposals currently seen as “impossible” would suddenly become possible.

The real impossibility is achieving never-ending economic growth. No amount of austerity or stimulus spending is going to change the reality that we live on a single blue-green planet with limited resources that we all must share. If we’re serious about achieving a better life for the vast majority of people in Britain then we need a new approach—an economic model that prioritises people and planet over short-term profits. It’s time to embrace the new economics and say “Enough Is Enough!”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: delitefulimage via photopin cc

photo credit: delitefulimage via photopin cc

Less Technology, More Happiness?

Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, a movement of people committed to building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities, writes:

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that our mobile devices are in danger of taking over our entire lives. Time magazine found that 68% of users take their devices to bed with them, 20% check their phones every ten minutes and one third report feeling anxious when briefly separated from their beloved gadget. According to Osterman research, 79% of respondents take their work-related device on vacation and 33% admit to hiding from family and friends in order to check Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to deny that these are worrying trends.

So it’s no surprise we’re starting to see a backlash against the all-pervasive nature of digital devices. Companies like Digital Detox are now offering technology-free breaks where people have no choice but to disconnect. Their Camp Grounded summer camp is a place where “grown-ups go to unplug, getaway and be kids again”. One of the signs at the camp reads “The use of WMDs is not permitted” – an acronym that refers to Wireless Mobile Devices, although many clearly see these devices as Weapons of Mass Destruction too!

There’s no doubt that we need to restore some balance to our technology-dominated lives. But in my view the salvation from our digital gluttony lies more in our daily habits than in special events like Camp Grounded, wonderful as they may be. Before looking at some possible solutions, let’s not forget that the main reason we become so addicted to these gadgets is that they provide incredible benefits. We can communicate with distant friends and loved ones at the touch of a button. We can stay connected with what’s going on in the world. We can share what matters to us with the people we care about. And we can put travel time or waiting time to more productive use – potentially freeing up extra family and leisure time later. When used well, these devices can greatly enhance our overall wellbeing.

The problem of course is that many of us – myself included – spend so much time using these devices that we end up doing things that are detrimental to wellbeing – not just for ourselves but for others around us too. We strive to use our time efficiently, but end up leaving ourselves unable to unwind and get to sleep. We want to stay up to speed, but end up so overwhelmed with digital noise that we miss the information that really matters. We want to be connected to others, but end up ignoring the people we’re actually with – perhaps best exemplified in this powerful and poignant video. So here are my three suggested ground rules – or habits – for living well in an age of digital overconsumption.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

1. Pay full attention to what you’re doing

… evidence shows that when our minds are constantly distracted, we’re not only less effective at what we’re doing, this also makes us much less happy. So instead of just reacting to these digital attention-grabbers the moment they appear, make a conscious decision to ignore them if you’re doing certain things – such as writing, having a conversation or eating a meal. … Equally, it can help to set aside specific times when you’ll focus entirely on responding to all the digital stuff too.

2. Ask yourself “what matters most?”

We’re so programmed to respond to our gadgets that we unconsciously give them priority over things that, on reflection, we would surely agree matter much more. So when technology grabs your attention, make a habit of consciously asking yourself “what matters most?”. Is it more important to read and respond to this immediately – or to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for tomorrow? Is it more important to check the latest headlines or get outside for 10 minutes of fresh air and head space? Is it more important to share my hilarious status update or make sure I’m home in time to see the kids? These questions have easy answers – and big implications for our use of technology – if we bother to ask them.

3. Give face-to-face priority over virtual

Our relationships are the most important contributors to our overall wellbeing, especially those with our nearest and dearest. Yet although technology helps us stay in touch with a wider range of people and connects us with loved ones in far off places, nothing beats our face-to-face relationships with the people that matter – our partners, parents, children and closest friends. So make it a habit to give the people you’re with priority over the gadget you’re holding. …One fun way of making sure this happens is for a group of friends or family members to agree to put their mobile devices in a pile and not use them while together. Some groups apparently even spice this idea up by agreeing that whoever can’t resist and picks up their phone first has to pick up the bill too!

Rebalancing our use of technology doesn’t require an appeal to our guilt or an assault on our productivity. It requires us to be more mindful and honest with ourselves about when these devices bring real benefits and when they start to ruin our quality of life. The many benefits are only worth it if they contribute to our overall happiness rather than undermining it.

At Action for Happiness we encourage actions to help people live happier and more fulfilling lives like these Ten Keys to Happier Living. And while there are many digital innovations that can help to boost our happiness – for example apps like Headspace or Happify – many of the most important sources of happiness in life are blissfully technology-free. So finally, here are three simple, non-digital actions that are proven to make us happier:

  • Get active outdoors – walk through the park, get off the bus a stop early or go for a “walking meeting” with a colleague
  • Take a breathing space – regularly stop and take 5 minutes to just breathe and be in the moment – notice how you’re feeling and what’s going on around you
  • Make someone else happy – do random acts of kindness, offer to help, give away your change, pay a compliment or tell someone how much they mean to you

When we focus on the things that really bring happiness, our priorities shift and our relationships with our digital devices naturally start to be become more conscious, balanced and fulfilling.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness At Work? Change Your Perception

 writes…

The key to more happiness at work is changing the way you think and feel about your career. It doesn’t matter if you are the janitor or the president of the company; any job can produce inner happiness. Finding joy in each work day and producing quality work can become the goals of your career. By making the effort to see the positives, you’ll begin to stop dwelling on the negatives. The best part is that with happiness comes higher levels of success.

If you are struggling to find happiness at work, here are five simple ways to start on the right path now.

  1. Be inspired. Any job can become dull or dreary when you lack creative outlets. As part of your effort to find new inspiration, take the time to experience culture beyond the walls of your cubicle. Visit a local museum, attend a concert or play, spend time participating in new activities to stretch your awareness of the world. These things alone with invigorate you and give you something to share with your co-workers.
  2. Create the best. If you are less than thrilled about your job, perhaps it’s your performance that needs to change? Complacency at work leads to boredom and mistakes. This results in negative feedback from your boss and thus, a negative attitude forms. Instead, strive to always do your utmost best in every task you complete, reaching new levels of performance.
  3. Do for others. There are many others in the world who are less than fortunate. A big part of feeling appreciative of the job you hold is by experiencing the lives and circumstances of others. Take the time to volunteer at least once a month at a local soup kitchen, women’s shelter, or another worthy cause. Give something to others in the form of service and see how good it makes you feel. Your perspective and life can change simply through a new altruistic way of life.
  4. Develop your talent. Chances are you have a number of gifts and abilities that you have not been able to utilize fully at work. It’s no wonder you feel frustrated at times! Honor your talents and find ways to share them, either through personal networks or volunteer opportunities. Get some higher education to develop your talents, either through your own resources or a tuition reimbursement program offered by your employer. You’ll find that this gives you a new positive attitude about your career.
  5. Seek new challenges. Any job, no matter how simple or complex, can become more satisfying when you challenge yourself. If you find yourself filled with dread over a task, talk to your immediate supervisor and see if you can take on something new to replace it. Seek out new challenges at work that bring you happiness, such as joining the entertainment committee or taking on an assignment with more responsibility.

Nearly every working person has experienced times of frustration and unhappiness at work. However, by being proactive and seeking out happiness, you’ll have the power to choose career satisfaction and achievement – with a new perception.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

The economic case for investment in ecotherapy

GAVIN ATKINS writes in the nef blog:

This week Mind launches our campaign to promote ecotherapy, with the publication of our report Feel better outside, feel better inside: Ecotherapy for mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery’ . The report draws upon learning from the Big Lottery supported Ecominds programme, which funded 130 projects across England with activities including gardening, food growing, green exercise and environmental conservation work.

The programme was evaluated by the University of Essex and their report shows a demonstrably positive affect on people’s mental health and well-being, with seven in ten people (69%) experiencing a significant increase in well-being by the time they left an Ecominds project and three in five people (62%) with mental health problems reported an increase in self-esteem.

However, Mind also knew that these projects are saving money. In the public health realm they are providing a preventative service that reduces demand on more acute services, as well as offering pathways to employment, volunteering and training. They are mental health treatments that are often peer led and in groups, using spaces that are free or cheap. And projects are adding value to local green spaces, enhancing and protecting them…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

Where’s Your Inner HERO? Positivity at Work

by 

Researchers have been studying the application of Positive Psychology in the workplace, and a growing body of evidence demonstrates that a positive mindset affects our attitudes toward work, as well as the subsequent outcomes. As Dr. Fred Luthans explains in the video at the end of this post, our “psychological capital” can, indeed, have a significant impact upon work and career.

Previously, I’ve discussed how the tenets of positive psychology hold great potential as a guide to help individuals and organizations elevate workplace happiness. Overall, the movement focuses on identifying and building on what is “right” with our work lives — emphasizing our strengths, celebrating smaller successes, expressing gratitude. Central to this theory is the mechanism that helps us build our “psychological resources,” and use this collected energy to digest and cope with our work lives.

Finding Your Workplace “HERO”

To provide a practical framework for this concept, researchers have developed what they aptly call the Psychological Capital (PsyCap) construct. It features various psychological resources (a.k.a. “HERO” resources) that are central to our work life experiences. We combine these resources in various ways to meet the challenges of our daily work lives.

What are HERO resources?

Hope: Belief in the ability to persevere toward goals and find methods to reach them
Efficacy: Confidence that one can put forth the effort to affect outcomes
Resilience: Ability to bounce back in the face of adversity or failure
Optimism: A generally positive view of work and the potential of success

Link to read the original article 

photo credit: Denis Collette...!!! via photopin cc

photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

How to Focus a Wandering Mind

By Wendy Hasenkamp

New research reveals what happens in a wandering mind—and sheds light on the cognitive and emotional benefits of increased focus.

We’ve all been there. You’re slouched in a meeting or a classroom, supposedly paying attention, but your mind has long since wandered off, churning out lists of all the things you need to do—or that you could be doing if only you weren’t stuck here…

Suddenly you realize everyone is looking your way expectantly, waiting for an answer. But you’re staring blankly, grasping at straws to make a semi-coherent response. The curse of the wandering mind!

But don’t worry—you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert sampled over 2,000 adults during their day-to-day activities and found that 47 percent of the time, their minds were not focused on what they were currently doing. Even more striking, when people’s minds were wandering, they reported being less happy.

This suggests it might be good to find ways to reduce these mental distractions and improve our ability to focus. Ironically, mind-wandering itself can help strengthen our ability to focus, if leveraged properly. This can be achieved using an age-old skill: meditation. Indeed, a new wave of research reveals what happens in our brains when our minds wander—and sheds light on the host of cognitive and emotional benefits that come with increased focus…

For thousands of years, contemplative practices such as meditation have provided a means to look inward and investigate our mental processes. It may seem surprising, but mind-wandering is actually a central element of focused attention (FA) meditation. In this foundational style of meditation, the practitioner is instructed to keep her attention on a single object, often the physical sensations of breathing.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s much easier said than done. Try it for a few minutes and see what happens.

If you’re like most people, before long your attention will wander away into rumination, fantasy, analyzing, planning. At some point, you might realize that your mind is no longer focused on the breath. With this awareness, you proceed to disengage from the thought that had drawn your mind away, and steer your attention back to your breath. A few moments later, the cycle will likely repeat.

At first it might seem like the tendency toward mind-wandering would be a problem for the practice of FA meditation, continually derailing your attention from the “goal” of keeping your mind on the breath.

However, the practice is really meant to highlight this natural trajectory of the mind, and in doing so, it trains your attention systems to become more aware of the mental landscape at any given moment, and more adept at navigating it. With repeated practice, it doesn’t take so long to notice that you’ve slipped into some kind of rumination or daydream. It also becomes easier to drop your current train of thought and return your focus to the breath. Those who practice say that thoughts start to seem less “sticky”—they don’t have such a hold on you…

Recent behavioral research shows that practicing meditation trains various aspects of attention. Studies show that meditation training not only improves working memory and fluid intelligence, but even standardized test scores.

It’s not surprising—this kind of repeated mental exercise is like going to the gym, only you’re building your brain instead of your muscles. And mind-wandering is like the weight you add to the barbell—you need some “resistance” to the capacity you’re trying to build. Without mind-wandering to derail your attempts to remain focused, how could you train the skills of watching your mind and controlling your attention? …

The key, I believe, is learning to become aware of these mental tendencies and to use them purposefully, rather than letting them take over. Meditation can help with that.

So don’t beat yourself up the next time you find yourself far away from where your mind was supposed to be. It’s the nature of the mind to wander. Use it as an opportunity to become more aware of your own mental experience. But you may still want to return to the present moment—so you can come up with an answer to that question everyone is waiting for.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: pshutterbug via photopin cc

photo credit: pshutterbug via photopin cc

Why a richer society isn’t making us happy

People in today’s society are not any happier than their poorer grandparents, because the psychological benefits of rising incomes are overshadowed by any loss, says new study

The reason people in today’s society are not happier than their much-less-affluent grandparents, is that the psychological benefits of rising incomes are wiped out by any small loss, according to a study.

Researchers found that people “experienced the pain of losing money more intensely” than the joys of earning more. They argued that the discovery had “significant implications” for policymakers under pressure to maintain a higher sense of well-being.

The findings by Stirling University’s Management School suggested that policy focused on economic stability, rather than high growth at the risk of instability, was more likely to enhance national happiness and well-being.

A strategy that ran the risk of small, temporary cuts to spending, on the other hand, would probably lead to more widespread dissatisfaction than previously believed.

The study may help explain why bonus structures and remuneration schemes that are based on commissions can easily backfire, with staff morale taking a larger dip than expected in leaner times when there are lower – or no – bonuses.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

Latest UK well-being stats: what do they tell us?

SAAMAH ABDALLAH, writing in the new economics foundation blog, reports:

Today, the ONS has provided more detailed breakdowns, allowing us to look at well-being right down to the Local Authority level across the UK. Data is available for both 2011/12 and 2012/13, creating an evidence goldmine for local authorities and health and well-being boards.

Which areas have the highest well-being? Which areas have the lowest well-being? And which areas have seen the biggest drops or rises in well-being over the last year? We’ve only just started exploring the data, but our initial findings show that:

  • The highest well-being in the UK in 2012/13 was in Fermanagh in the south west corner of Northern Ireland. The average life satisfaction score there was 8.2 on a scale of 0 to 10 (compared to the UK average of 7.45), and anxiety levels there were the lowest across the UK.
  • The lowest levels of well-being in 2012/13 were found to be in Harlow in Essex – with an average life satisfaction score of 6.8. The data shows a significant drop in well-being from their 2011/12 score.
  • Which places are doing much better than might be expected based on traditional economic analysis? Well, Copeland on the Cumbrian coastline is ranked amongst the 25% most deprived local authorities in England, and yet average life satisfaction there has been above the UK average for both years of the survey. Ipswich, Weymouth and North Devon also have higher well-being than might be expected according to traditional economic analysis.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, we wonder what is happening in Brentwood, Colchester and North Warwickshire – all areas with relatively low deprivation, but much lower well-being than one would expect. Colchester, for example, is amongst the least deprived areas in the UK – and yet life satisfaction was only 7.1 out of 10 in 2012/13, significantly lower than the national average.
  • In some cases similar local authorities show very different results. What explains the differences in well-being between Merton and Bromley, two south Outer London boroughs?  Average levels of deprivation are similarly low in these two boroughs, and yet average life satisfaction in Merton is 7.2 whilst in Bromley it’s 7.6.
  • The ONS has reported overall rises in well-being in the year to 2012/13, but are there places which have seen well-being falling during this period?  We found significant drops in life satisfaction in various places including Dundee and Chichester. We also found rising anxiety in many more areas including Somerset, Reading, the London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, Sevenoaks, and Belfast.
  • Lastly, we wonder what is happening in Hart in northern Hampshire. True, it is one of the wealthiest corners of the country, and it has the lowest levels of deprivation in England. But what can explain the huge increase in well-being there between 2011/12 and 2012/13, with life satisfaction jumping from 7.3 out of 10 in 2011/12 (which was slightly below average), to 8.1 out of 10 in 2012/13?

These are all preliminary analyses, and proper analysis will require the micro-data which the ONS will release in six weeks’ time. These initial findings raise some questions though (and hopefully some answers as well) for local authorities looking to navigate the challenging times ahead, and striving to improve the well-being of their residents despite severe budget cuts.

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

What is a ‘mentally healthy workplace’?

Every organisation, regardless of size or sector, needs to prioritise mental health and wellbeing among staff. Right now, one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress – so this is something affecting a big chunk of your workforce.

Implementing changes that boost wellbeing don’t just benefit the staff who are experiencing these problems, as everyone’s wellbeing is on a spectrum, whether they have a diagnosed mental health problem or not. Sometimes just knowing that support is available is enough to make employers feel valued. Three in five people surveyed by Mind said that if their employer took action to support the mental wellbeing of all staff, they would feel more loyal, motivated, committed and be likely to recommend their workplace as a good place to work*.

During these tough economic times, employees are reporting more sources of stress, such as unrealistic targets, job insecurity, and financial pressures. Furthermore, staff concerned about redundancies are less likely to open up about issues such as stress; or to disclose a mental health problem to their line manager, because they fear being dismissed. But bottling up these problems will only make things worse; and likely lead to decreased productivity, increased sickness absence and presenteeism.

In our latest poll, Mind found that of all respondents who had taken time off from work because of stress, 90% gave their boss another reason for their absence – usually a health problem such as a headache or stomach upset. Only 10% were able to be honest and tell their organisation they were off because of stress. This highlights the sheer number of staff who don’t feel comfortable discussing their wellbeing at work. But now, in this time of austerity, it’s more important than ever that employers to make the first move by prioritising mental health and building resilience – it’s far better to weather the storm together.

Smart employers appreciate that their organisation is dependent on its staff; and that a healthy and productive workforce is a recipe for performing at their peak. Good mental health underpins this – with employees who work for organisations which prioritise mental wellbeing reporting greater confidence, motivation and focus. There are simple, inexpensive measures that can help your organisation become a mentally health workplace.

…Approaches such as flexible working, building resilience and staff development contribute to good engagement, while involving staff in decision-making and giving employees autonomy are key to engaging staff. The way in which we work together is changing – with team work, collaboration and joint problem solving becoming increasingly expected of staff, but these types of working processes are dependent on mutual trust and employees feeling valued. Both engagement and creating a mentally healthy workplace are dependent on the foundations of good mental health.

We recommend a three-pronged approach to managing mental health at work. Such a strategy should promote wellbeing for all staff; tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems; and support employees who are experiencing an existing mental health problem…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Child’s Play (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

The latest photos from Steve McCurry remind us what and who we are when are young and at play.  Notice the focus on these stunning photos…

Child’s play is the exultation of the possible.  Martin Buber

Play is the highest form of research.  – Albert Einstein

The true object of all human life is play. – G. K. Chesterton

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

Link to view this photo collection

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

21 Reasons To Quit Your Job And Become A Teacher

 writes

In a recent article about happiness at work, Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggests that the happiest among us are those who are solving the toughest problems and “making a difference” in people’s lives. If contributing to the betterment of the world is indeed among the keys to happiness, then it’s no wonder that the extraordinary teachers featured in “American Teacher: Heroes of the Classroom” [Welcome Books/Random House] express a deep sense of fulfillment and pleasure in the work that they do day in and day out. Against all odds, each of the fifty educators profiled is making a lasting positive impact on his or her students; the kind of impact that recasts futures, changes lives, and might just inspire the rest of us to consider a second career in education…

Here are some of these reasons:

  1. To encourage children to DREAM BIG…
  2. To positively IMPACT THE FUTURE of our world…
  3. To live with a deep SENSE OF PURPOSE…
  4. To discover your TRUE CALLING…
  5. To experience personal GROWTH…
  6. To GIVE AND RECEIVE unconditional love…
  7. To be a STUDENT for life…
  8. To INSPIRE generations of CHANGE…
  9. To ignite the SPARK of LEARNING…
  10. To explore your CREATIVITY…
  11. To prove that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

Shyam Sankar: The rise of human-computer cooperation

Brute computing force alone can’t solve the world’s problems. Data mining innovator Shyam Sankar explains why solving big problems (like catching terrorists or identifying huge hidden trends) is not a question of finding the right algorithm, but rather the right symbiotic relationship between computation and human creativity.

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

Matt Locke:  Empires of Attention

This is the text version of a talk which you can hear at BBC Radio 4′s Four Thought programme, first broadcast on October 23rd, 2013. It was recorded at Somerset House in front of a live audience with David Baddiel hosting.

Thank you for inviting me to come and talk today, and in particular, I want to thank you all for your attention. Your attention is a very valuable thing, and to decide to spend it listening to this talk here today, or at home on the radio, or later online, is not an insignificant act…

Because how we understand audience attention – how we ask for it, measure it, and build business empires by selling access to it – is fundamental to our culture. For the last few hundred years, the business of culture has essentially been the business of measuring audiences’ attention. We can trace a line of entrepreneurs of attention from today’s culture backwards through the last two centuries – from Jonah Peretti, who has used his intimate knowledge of the patterns of digital attention to build The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, two of the biggest news and culture sites on the web; through Arthur Nielsen, who invented the ratings technology that the US TV giants ABC, NBC and CBS were built on; to Charles Morton, who took the raucous entertainment of supper-clubs and taverns and developed the more mainstream and wildly popular Music Halls of Victorian England, from which came the talent that would dominate the early years of cinema and radio.

These entrepreneurs were not leaders, but listeners – their particularly skill was in realising that audiences were consuming culture in new ways, finding new ways to measure these new patterns, and new ways to make money out of them. The story of these ‘empires of attention’ is the story of how we – the audience – have engaged with culture,  and how the interaction between artists and audiences has moved from visceral participation to abstract measurement and back again. This story starts amidst the raucous popular culture of Victorian England….’

Then traces the story from ‘Song and Supper Rooms’ in pubs to Music Hall and a more captive audience expected to abide by theatre house rules of no eating, drinking or vbvvbvbvb, to radio and television and film and an increasingly distanced audience’s attention being measured in the ratings numbers, to contemporary changes that social media is making.

‘The new entrepreneurs of attention in the 21st century understand this new connection- they understand that culture spreads not by distribution – as with cinema and broadcast – but by circulation – sharing between friends over digital networks…

…the empires of attention are shifting as we move from an era of distribution to an era of circulation…

…the sheer visceral impact of thousands or millions of people sharing and discussing your stories is a new experience for anyone used to traditional broadcast media, and we’re having to learn how to tell stories in an age of digital attention. We’re already hearing TV commissioners complaining that knee-jerk responses from audiences on Twitter are killing new TV shows before they have a chance to build an following. We are no longer a passive audience, but the judge and jury of what will survive and be recommissioned, deciding the fate of culture by how we spend our attention.

This new feedback loop can be incredibly empowering, but it is also destructive – the anonymity of social media can encourage trolling and other kinds of abuse. Crowds amplify the good and the bad in human behaviour, and the internet amplifies this even further. But I don’t think it’s possible to have one without the other – the noise is also the signal, and we will have to develop new ways to tell stories that take this into account.

The culture of the 21st century will be defined by how we synthesise these contradictions – scale and intimacy, spectacle and conversation, signal and noise. We have seen the relationship between audiences and artists move from intimacy to distance, and now back to a strange kind of intimate distance. What will culture look like in an age of digital attention, and what new empires will emerge around it? How we will we measure attention, and how will this change the relationship between artist and audience?

Link to read the full transcript o this presentation

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Acts of Kindness Spread Surprisingly Easily: Just a Few People Can Make a Difference

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network…

The contagious effect in the study was symmetric; uncooperative behavior also spread, but there was nothing to suggest that it spread any more or any less robustly than cooperative behavior, Fowler said.

From a scientific perspective, Fowler added, these findings suggest the fascinating possibility that the process of contagion may have contributed to the evolution of cooperation: Groups with altruists in them will be more altruistic as a whole and more likely to survive than selfish groups.

“Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness,” said Christakis. “The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread. Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs.”

Link to read the original article 

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Can kindness movements make a difference?

By Sam Judah

Picking up litter. Buying someone in need a coffee. Or just doling out free hugs. There’s a growing movement of people doing nice things for strangers, but do they make for a kinder society?

“It’s not just about single acts, though,”  says Kelsey Gryniewicz, a director at Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. “It’s about changing your mentality from day to day.”

The World Kindness Movement represents the work of organisations from 23 different countries. “It has gone way past the level of community endeavour,” says its secretary general Michael Lloyd-White…

Globally, however, the position is very different. “The trend that has been revealed is a disturbing one,” says Dr John Law, the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation. The number of acts of kindness and charity dropped by hundreds of millions last year due to the global recession, he says…

Richard J Davidson from the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison thinks that the level of kindness in society can be improved if children are taught to be more empathetic from an early age.

“Compassion should be regarded as a skill that can be cultivated through training,” he says.

The kindness curriculum is currently being taught in 10 schools across Wisconsin. The project is still at the research stage, but “the early signs are promising”, he says…

Not everybody is convinced that focussing on compassion in this way is helpful, however.

In a new book called Pathological Altruism, Barbara Oakley argues against what she sees as a cultural obsession with the notion of kindness.

“There’s a misguided view that empathy is a universal solvent. Helping others is often about your own narcissism. What you think people need is often not actually what they need.”

Kelsey Gryniewicz doesn’t think that the American kindness movement is guilty of that charge, arguing that there are tangible, practical benefits to the activities they recommend.

“It doesn’t have to be about cradling people in a bubble of kindness,” she says.

In Singapore, William Wan takes a more reflective view. “We must be realistic. We mustn’t be naive. Kindness movements can’t solve all our problems, but if they can solve some of our problems, why not use them?”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

What Are Charities For?

BBC Radio 4 Analysis, Monday 14th October 2013

Charities have been drawn into the world of outsourced service provision, with the state as their biggest customer and payment made on a results basis. It is a trend which is set to accelerate with government plans to hand over to charities much of the work currently done by the public sector.

But has the target driven world of providing such services as welfare to work support and rehabilitating offenders destroyed something of the traditional philanthropic nature of charities? Fran Abrams investigates.

In this BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme the way the UK government is now outsourcing more and more of its services to charities is likened to a Faustian pact…

“The devil promised Faust everlasting life in return for a contract that said Faust had to satisfy certain requirements of the devil and that’s exactly the situation that voluntary organisations and charities now find themselves in.”  Should they adapt to government contracting or remain pure? …

“…the voluntary sector may have the experience to help define the problem and how to meet it rather  than simply responding to what the state thinks it knows is the problem the state and knows hoe to respond … is a fundamental change that has occurred over the last ten years.” Bernard Davis, trustee of Manchester-based 42nd Street

“…one of the substantial changes that I’ve seen over the last twenty years is being a professional is more important than pushing for social change and social justice.” Penny Waterhouse, Coalition for Independent Action group.

“…We are in danger of losing the richness and the unique character of the charitable effort that goes on in this country.” Brendan Tarring, Chief Executive of now wound down charity, Red Kite Learning.

“… When you’re down on the ground and the receiver of a contract, or perceived as having a vested interest, it is very hard for you to put your hand up and say ‘You’re getting this wrong, government,  there’s a different way of doing things.’  You may not have the courage to do it.  You may fear the loss of funding.  But also there is a very high likelihood that the government may not even want to listen.” Caroline Slocock, Director of the panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector

Link to hear this and other Radio 4 Analysis programmes

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

Short on Time? Try Mindfulness

By Emily Nauman

A new study suggests that just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation changes our experience of time

Bogged down with responsibilities at work and at home? Many of us wish we had more time to get it all done—and still steal time to relax.

While adding more hours to our day may not be possible, a recent study suggests a little mindfulness meditation can help us at leastfeel like we have more time in our lives…

The researchers conclude that mindfulness meditation made participants experience time as passing more slowly. Remarkably, they saw this effect after just a single 10-minute meditation, among participants who had no prior meditation experience.

Though more study is needed to explain this finding, the researchers suspect that the mindfulness meditation altered time perception because it induced people to shift their attention inward. In the paper, the authors write that when people are distracted by a task in the world around them, they have less capacity to pay attention to time passing, and so experience time as moving more quickly. Because the mindfulness meditation exercise cued participants to focus on internal processes such as their breath, that attentional shift may have sharpened their capacity to notice time passing.

Kramer thinks that this finding could be used in everyday situations, to help people gain control over their experience when they feel short on time. “If things feel like they’re running away,” he says, “slowing things down might help you deal with them more easily.”

Kramer also speculates that while a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to internal events extends one’s experience of time, a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to an external event could potentially make time feel like it’s passing more quickly. If this were true, mindfulness could have clinical applications for people who feel like time is moving too slowly, such as those experiencing depression, who tend to overestimate the duration of negative events.

Though Greater Good has previously reported on many positive effects of mindfulness, as well as on how experiencing awe can alter how we perceive time, this study is one of the first to investigate the relationship between mindfulness and time perception.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #69

All of these articles – and many more – are in this week’s latest Happiness At Work Edition #69, out from lunchtime on Friday 25th October.

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

Thinking about Thinking . . .

photo credit: jinterwas via photopin cc

photo credit: jinterwas via photopin cc

On 25th-27th October, with Maria Ana Neves we will be a part of a team of co-creators who help to make and open The Thinking Hotel in a beautiful gallery space in Stoke Newington, and this has stimulated me to think about the nature and breadth and range of what thinking is, could be, should try to be…

I will publish details and how to make a reservation at The Thinking Hotel once we know them.

For now, I hope these articles provide some nourishment to your own thinking this week…

Here’s How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

by

You may know that we often include articles from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, and so we were very happy to find this recent interview with this “reader who writes”…

If you aren’t familiar with the writing of Maria Popova, prolific author of the “discovery engine for interestingness” known as Brain Pickings, you’ve been missing out on some of the most fascinating and heady publishing on the web.

Here are some of the things she said about thinking, learning and creativity in this interview:

I’m not an expert and I aspire never to be one. As Frank Lloyd Wright rightly put it, “An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’” Brain Pickings began as my record of what I was learning, and it remains a record of what I continue to learn – the writing is just the vehicle for recording, for making sense.

That said, one thing I’ve honed over the years – in part by countless hours of reading and in part because I suspect it’s how my brain is wired – is drawing connections between things, often things not immediately or obviously related, spanning different disciplines and time periods. I wouldn’t call that “expertise” so much as obsession – it’s something that gives me enormous joy and stimulation, so I do it a great deal, but I don’t know if that constitutes expertise.

…Because Brain Pickings is simply a record of my own curiosity, of my personal journey into what matters in the world and why, it’s hard to quantify how much of my life is “research” – in fact, I feel like all of it is.

…we tend to conflate “research” with search, which is always driven by looking for something you already know you’re interested in; but I think the richest “research” is driven by discovery, that intersection of curiosity and serendipity that lets you expand your intellectual and creative comfort zone beyond what you already knew you were looking for.

…It’s hard to retreat into a quiet corner of your own mind when you feel demanded of. So I tend to write later in the day now, often well into the night, when email is quiet. The dark, too, is somehow grounding – I’ve always found lucubrating strangely meditative, like a bubble of light that envelops you and silences the rest of the world.

[Creativity is] the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected and meld existing knowledge into new insight about some element of how the world works. That’s practical creativity. Then there’s moral creativity: To apply that skill towards some kind of wisdom on how the world ought to work.

What makes a writer great?

The same thing that makes a human great: Curiosity without ego, and generosity of spirit. No amount of talent is worth anything without kindness.

…There’s nothing like being tossed into necessity to help you figure out who you are and what matters most in life – necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s even more so the fairy godmother of self-invention.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Not having relinquished the hope that happiness is possible. Waking up excited to do what I do. Going to bed satisfied with what I have done.

What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment…?

We’ve created a culture that fetishises the new(s), and we forget the wealth of human knowledge, wisdom, and transcendence that lives in the annals of what we call “history” – art, literature, philosophy, and so many things that are both timeless and incredibly timely.

Our presentism bias – anchored in the belief that if it isn’t at the top of Google, it doesn’t matter, and if it isn’t Googleable at all, it doesn’t exist – perpetuates our arrogance that no one has ever grappled with the issues we’re grappling with. Which of course is tragically untrue.

photo credit: Johan Rd via photopin cc

photo credit: Johan Rd via photopin cc

Robert Kegan: The Further Reaches of Adult Development: Thoughts on the ‘Self-Transforming Mind

old lady young optical illusion

Can you see both the older woman looking down and the younger woman looking to left in this picture?

Robert Kegan’s theory of adult meaning-making has influenced theory and practice internationally across multiple disciplines. In a special RSA event, he considers: is it really possible to grow beyond the psychological independence of the “self-authoring mind,” so often seen as the zenith of adult development?

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Intelligence, Beyond Raw Brainpower

by Annie Murphy Paul

What does it take to think and act in an intelligent way?  Many of us would say it’s simply a matter of raw brainpower…

But there’s much more to the story.  Other factors—like motivation, effective learning and problem-solving strategies, and a well-designed physical and psychological environment in which to do our thinking—also matter, a lot.   As does interpersonal awareness and sensitivity…

Situational factors exert their influence in so many ways, but today, inspired by a recent research finding, I want to focus on one in particular: how a mastery of situation can actually make us smarter as we get older.  In the current issue of the journal Psychological Science, researchers report that older people (over 65) showed less variability in their cognitive performance across 100 days of testing than did younger people aged 20 to 31.

Why?  The older adults’ greater consistency “is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood,” notes one of the scientists, Florian Schmiedek of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany.  A colleague of Schmiedek’s, Axel Börsch-Supan, adds that his research shows that older workers are more productive and reliable, and less likely to make serious errors, than are their younger colleagues.

photo credit: Monster. via photopin cc

photo credit: Monster. via photopin cc

There are other ways that our mental powers grow as we get older.  It’s true that as we age, the brain’s processing speed begins to slow, and memory may sometimes slip, says Margaret Gatz, PhD, professor of psychology, gerontology, and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California.  But researchers have recently made some surprising discoveries about what’s really happening in our heads as we age:  “We are identifying ways in which older minds hold their own against younger ones and even surpass them,” Gatz says. Here, ten such ways:

1. Your hemispheres sync up.

…Brain scans show that while young people often use only one side for a specific task, middle-aged and older adults are more likely to activate both hemispheres at once—a pattern known as bilateralization.  By involving both sides, older people bring the full spectrum of the brain’s power to bear, allowing them to make more fruitful connections among the disparate parts of a problem or situation.

2. Your brain never stops growing.

…it’s now clear that we not only hang on to our neurons—we grow new ones, too. Throughout a person’s lifetime, the brain is continually reshaping itself in response to what it learns. Even something as silly as a clown trick, like learning to juggle, or learning to play a musical instrument can alter its structure…

3. Your reasoning and problem-solving skills get sharper.

This is evident not only in laboratory studies but also in examinations of choices made in real life. For example, according to a study, …the middle-aged make smarter money decisions than their younger counterparts…

4. You can focus on the upside.

Our outlook grows rosier as we get older, as demonstrated by a study published last year in the journal Psychology and Aging. …With the passage of time, the study subjects reported more positive well-being and greater emotional stability…

5. Your people skills are constantly improving.

Mature adults understand themselves well—and they also understand other people, research shows. In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology in 2007, older and younger adults were presented with a series of hypothetical everyday problems …The older adults were especially good at solving such interpersonal dilemmas—often by choosing a path that skirted direct conflict. “As we get older, our social intelligence keeps expanding,” explains Gatz. “We get better at sizing up people, at understanding how relationships work—and at not getting into an argument unless we mean to.”

6. Your priorities become clearer.

“Studies of the way adults perceive time suggest that we become increasingly aware that our years on this Earth are limited,” notes Michael Marsiske, PhD, …an expert on aging.  “This awareness helps explain the choices that older adults tend to make: to spend time with a smaller, tighter circle of friends and family, to pay more attention to good news than to bad news, and to seek out positive encounters and avoid negative ones.”

 7. You’re always adding to your knowledge and abilities.

There are some kinds of information we learn and never forget.  Take vocabulary:  Studies show that we keep adding new words to our repertoire as we age, giving us ever richer and more subtle ways to express ourselves.  Job-related knowledge also continues to accumulate, meaning we keep getting better and better at what we do.

8. You can see the big picture.

As we age, we’re better able to take the measure of a situation.  An experiment published in the journal Neuron in 2005 provided a very literal demonstration of this ability: Psychologist Allison Sekuler, …found that young brains seem to be better at focusing on details to the exclusion of their surroundings, and more mature brains are able to take in the whole scene.

 9. You gain control of your emotions.

While young people ride a roller coaster of happiness and sadness, excitement and disappointment, older adults are able to maintain a more even keel.  In a study published in 2009, psychologist Vasiliki Orgeta …concluded that older adults (between ages 61 and 81) had more clarity about their feelings, made better use of strategies to regulate their emotions, and had a higher degree of control over their emotional impulses.

 10. You become an instant expert, even in new situations.

As the brain encounters new experiences, it develops schemas—mental frameworks that allow us to recognize and respond to similar circumstances when we come upon them again.  By midlife we’ve accumulated a stockpile of schemas that help give us our bearings even in novel situations.  We just know what to do—and this sense of effortless mastery flows from the reservoir of experience we’ve built up over time.  In fact, we have a name for this ability to draw on deep knowledge of the past while accommodating what comes up in the present: It’s called wisdom.

Link to read the article in full

Daniel Kahneman on Thinking Fast vs. Thinking Slow

Here is the link to watch a set of video interviews with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman on Making Smarter Decisions in this Inc. posting:

The bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow talks about overcoming the cognitive biases and errors that can affect decision-making…

photo credit: khalid almasoud via photopin cc

photo credit: khalid almasoud via photopin cc

Seven Steps to Being Zen at Work

VICTORIA CRAW BUSINESS EDITOR

SLOW down. Do less. You’ll actually be more productive.

That’s the advice of cognitive psychologist Dr Stephen McKenzie, who said the way most of us spend our workdays amid a barrage of emails, tweets and meetings, while wolfing down lunch in front of a screen is leading to an “epidemic of mindlessness” that is ruining our ability to think.

“We rush around often from one mistake to another. Mindfulness is about connecting with one thing at a time, rather than doing six things at once,” he said.

Dr Mckenzie advocates being mindful at work – a concept that involves giving your full attention to the task at hand before moving on to the next thing.

“It’s very simple. It’s being able to give our full attention to what we want to give it to rather than being distracted by our thoughts …. It’s being connected with reality,” he said.

Below are Dr McKenzie’s seven tips (the optimum number for your brain to remember) which if practised daily, should have you shredding that to-do list in no time.

1. Know your limits

One of the main reasons people can get stressed at work is trying to be all things to all people…

2. Treat each day as new

Dr McKenzie said the first few seconds after you wake up each morning, before you smash your alarm clock and bury your head under the pillow, is the optimum state you should try and hold on to throughout the day.

A good tip is to try and treat colleagues as if you’re meeting them for the first time – without any preconceived ideas about who is difficult to work with or what might cause a problem…

3. Think about what you’re doing

…”We mistake busyness for productivity,” Dr McKenzie said. “We think if we have all these things happening we’ll be more productive but we’re actually doing less. The multi-tasking that’s become fashionable is about doing lots of things badly rather than one thing well.”

He said it’s crucial to focus on the task in front of you, whether it’s eating your breakfast or typing an email…

4. Take your time

Although it might seem like you’re working slower, taking your time to pause between activities is the perfect chance to mentally switch gears and make things more productive in the long run.

Dr McKenzie said when people are stressed they tend to have “a shallow way of perceiving things”, which doesn’t help when it comes to tasks that require creative thinking or deep thought.

He said the best thing to do is break between jobs, whether it’s to get a drink, take a walk or a few deep breaths to shake out the cobwebs…

5. Do something for someone else

“Service is almost as unfashionable these days as lard, but if we do things for others it means that we’re expanding our personal lives,” Dr McKenzie said. Listening to other people’s ideas, rather than telling them what they want to hear can also be a great way to build better relationships with colleagues…

6. Question your reasons for doing things

…it’s a good idea every now and then to challenge your own beliefs in order to understand other perspectives.

“Try starting the day practising being reasonable rather than reactive, and a great way to start this is by really tuning into the people or whomever who we start the day with – this will help us realise that life is more reasonable when we’re mindful enough to realise that people have reasons for what they do.”

7. Have a sense of wonder

While years working in a corporate environment is enough to kill the sense of childlike wonder in most workers, Dr McKenzie said remembering to smell the roses will help improve productivity.

…Three-year-olds are naturally mindful because they aren’t jaded by life, and we can all remember and therefore return to this state of full aliveness, simply by fully connecting with what is,” he said.

Here is the link to read this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

In Their Words: Michael Corballis & Mind Wandering

By 

…The hippocampus is also a cognitive map, coding one’s location in space. Spatial mapping is especially critical to London taxi drivers, who must decide the quickest route to a passenger’s destination immediately, without looking at a map, consulting a GPS system, or asking a controller by radio or cellphone. Brain imaging shows their hippocampi to be enlarged relative to those of London bus drivers, who follow fixed routes.

Even rats pass the great hippopotamus test. Recordings from so-called place cells in their hippocampi code where the rat is located in an environment such as a maze. But even when the rat is out of the maze, and either asleep or otherwise motionless, place cells are often active in fast “ripples,” sweeping out trajectories in the maze. These trajectories need not correspond to trajectories the animal actually took while it was in the maze. Sometimes they are the reverse of an actual trajectory, and sometimes they correspond to trajectories the rat never actually took. The rat, it seems, is mind wandering.

Mind wandering in humans, though, no doubt includes elements other than places. We construct episodes that include things, actions, emotions, people—even Jeanie with the light brown hair. We even wander into the minds of others. Mind wandering is the source of stories, imaginary tales of heroism, love, and death. Language itself may have evolved precisely so we could share the wandering of our minds.

This is an extract from the talk, Mind Wandering Corballis gave at Brain Day 2013.

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully.

by Sam Spurlin

In the time you’ve read this sentence, your brain has processed about 200 “bits” of information.  Your brain can handle roughly 100 bits of information per second which then become part of your awareness.  Following a conversation between two people takes about that much bandwidth (have you ever noticed how hard it is to follow three or more people talking at the same time?)…

That sounds like a huge number, right? However, we’re talking about the entirety of your experiences as a human being being encapsulated in one simple number. Every emotion, thought, sensation, and conversation you’ll ever have is included in that number and the way you’ve allocated those 150 billion bits of attention over the course of your life will make up the entirety of who you were and what you accomplished.

Suddenly, 150 billion doesn’t seem so big…

For some, productivity is about fiddling with new tools or shaving seconds off an ultimately meaningless task. It can be fun to read about others’ productivity hacks and try them in our own workflows. But really, thinking about productivity means coming back to those 150 billion bits that make up who you are and who you will be.

It becomes less about tips and tricks and more about making sure you’re allocating the most scarce resource in the universe, your attention, in ways that most closely align with who you are and what impact you want to have on the world. It’s about eliminating the unnecessary tasks and demands that are eating away at your 150 billion bits so you can focus on something that helps another person or creates a little more beauty in the world or solves an important problem or makes you feel like you’re on this planet to do something worthwhile.

“Being productive” isn’t about getting more work done. It’s about making sure those 150 billion bits are spent as wisely as possible…

photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius via photopin cc

photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius via photopin cc

How Parallel Thinking Helps To Improve Creativity

Deborah Watson-Novacek

When you are asked to present your best thinking hat, do you proceed to inquire: “Which one”?

Then you are by no means an absolute stranger to what is commonly known as the Six Thinking Hats.

This unique technique, popularly used as parallel thinking to improve creativity, was first introduced by Edward de Bono, for initiating and sustaining creative thinking both in individuals as well as groups meetings.

So, are you interested in figuring out how this fancy named Six Thinking Hats technique can be implemented at work? …

When a participant puts on a specific colored hat, they start thinking in a manner that reflects the color represented by that specific hat and acts accordingly.  So, what is it that each one of these colored hats stands for?

White Hat:  This hat stands for information.  It implies that when a participant wears this hat, they start thinking in facts and data terms, which also implies stops thinking at all.  They ‘reflect’ on information only.

Red Hat:  This hat stands for feelings and intuition.  Participants who adorn this hat have to simply keep their mind open and let their feelings freely flow. ..

Black Hat:  This hat stands for caution.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look underneath everything that is discussed.

Yellow Hat:  This hat stands for positivism.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look at the positive side of everything discussed.

Green Hat:  This hat stands for creativity.  Participants who adorn this hat must think creatively as well as innovatively. They have to produce never-before kind of ideas about everything discussed.

Blue Hat:  This hat is used by the facilitator or moderator.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look at the picture as a whole.

Hence, you select the hats which are required for a particular part of your thinking process…

Link to this article in full

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

The Perfect Workspace (According to Science)

by Christian Jarrett

The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave.  This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance.  Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.

…Based on recent psychology and neuroscience findings, here are some simple and effective steps you can take once to improve your productivity for years:

Take ownership of your workspace 

The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your workspace has an empowering effect and has been linked with improved productivity.

Craig Knight, Director of the Identity Realization workplace consultancy, showed this in a 2010 study with Alex Haslam involving 47 office workers in London. Those workers given the opportunity to arrange a small office with as many or few plants and pictures as they wanted were up to 32 percent more productive than others not given this control. They also identified more with their employer, a sign of increased commitment to the team effort and increased efficiency…

Choose rounded furniture and arrange it wisely

If you have the luxury of designing your own workspace, consider choosing a layout and furniture that is curved and rounded rather than sharp and straight-edged. Creating this environment has been linked with positive emotions, which is known to be beneficial for creativity and productivity…

This contrast between straight edges and curves also extends to the way we arrange our furniture. Apparently, King Arthur was on to something: sitting in circles provokes a collective mindset, whereas sitting in straight lines triggers feelings of individuality – something worth thinking about at your next meeting if you want to encourage team cohesion…

Take advantage of colour, light and space

…For instance, exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, the colour red has been linked with superior performance on tasks involving attention to detail. Another study out this year showed that a dimmer environment fostered superior creativity in terms of idea generation, probably because it encourages a feeling of freedom. On the other hand, brighter light levels were more conducive to analytical and evaluative thinking…

Make use of plants and windows

If you only do one thing to optimize your workspace, invest in a green plant or two.  Research has repeatedly shown that the presence of office plants has a range of benefits including helping workers recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels.  As a bonus, there’s also evidence that plants can reduce office pollution levels.

Another feature of an optimized office is a window with a view, preferably of a natural landscape.  This is because a glance at the hills or a lake recharges your mind.  Obviously a view of nature isn’t possible for many people who work in cities, but even in an urban situation, a view of trees or intricate architecture have both been linked with restorative benefits.  If you can’t negotiate a desk with a view, [a visit to a park] will revitalise your mind and compensate for your lack of a view.

The benefits of a messy desk

There’s a lot of pressure these days to be organized. How are you supposed to get your work done if you can’t even find a clear space on your desk to roll a mouse or place a plant? But new research suggests Einstein may have been onto something when he opined: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Here’s the link to this article in full

photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

Dave Coplin: Re-imagining Work: Shifts in the Digital Revolution

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if organisations really began to think differently about the power of technological and social change to transform the way we do business.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Here is an extract from what Coplin says in this talk with the things I would especially highlight:

A study released last year in the U.S. said 71% people are not happy in their work … and technology is a large part of the problem…

The first proposition is that the world around us has completely changed BUT … we’ve reached this place the plateau of mediocrity … You still use a keyboard, you still use a mouse The way you use these devices has not changed in fifty years. You’re still doing email, you still writing work process documents, you’re doing spreadsheets presentations…

If we cannot evolve, if we change the way we think about the jobs we are doing, the tasks that we have, we’re always going to be constrained…

My proposition about consumerisation is that we’re about to enter a second generation that’s not about devices anymore, but about services … this is about changing business processes. We’re already seeing examples … What’s underneath all of this is a genuinely new process of collaboration … When you are using something like Facebook or Twitter you are using a fundamentally different culture of collaboration. You are saying, pretty much everything I do by default is open except for the bits I choose to keep private. Contrast that to the standard of culture inside most organisations. It’s completely inverted: everything I do is closed unless I specifically say I’m going to share this. The change in that is absolutely profound…

We’re in a world where productivity, that thing that we’ve been chasing for hundreds of years, is fast becoming the problem … We spend our days answering email … batting things back and forward. We’ve forgotten that that’s not everything about work … When was the time you actually stopped and to think creatively: ‘how could we do things differently?’ We don’t do that because we’re too busy being busy…

But it doesn’t stop there. In fact really the biggest challenge that we face is more about our office space than it is about the tools that we use within them.. For the average knowledge worker you don’t have to be in a specific place at a specific time… There’a different way where you think of work as an activity rather than a destination… choosing the location of where you want to be. It’s also about you taking control of how you work and how you use the tools that are in front of you… Where we used to talk about the work-life balance and we used to think really binary – I’m at work; I am at home – the reality of today’s society, the reality of what technology affords you the choice of is that you can feather those things. And it’s really up to us as a culture, as a society, to see if we’re up to making that choice… And so based on the tasks I have to do today, where is the best place for me to work…?

And trust is crucial. Trust works on many levels. We found that … the biggest issue of people working outside the office is not between the employer and the employee, it amongst the employees themselves: “I can’t see Dave. I wonder if he’s really working? I wonder how his patio’s coming on.” But we also showed that people who weren’t working in the office, they carried around this sense of guilt: “I’m not in the office. They’re going to be thinking I’m working on my patio.” So they end up over-compensating. They end up sending more emails, making more phone calls in an attempt to be more visible, destroying the advantages of working away from the office. So for most organisations it about this really hard thing. It’s about having the confidence to let go. It’s about empowering the people that you work with the confidence to choose the best place to work, the best tools to use… That’s a really scary place for most organisations to be…

Some ideas to give you some ways to change your thinking about what you do inside your organisation…

I challenge you, like the DVLA. to think what you’ve got in your organisations that you don’t need to do any more…?

The other part of this is trying to get yourself to think really differently about potential outcomes. We’re constrained by our past experience. Everything that happens to us colours what we think about the future, how we think the future’s going to play out. But kids think differently… don’t just get constrained by your past experiences, think about a different world…

Envisioning is crucial because it’s about that human focus, it’s about “there’s a different way that we could do this.” And if you think about that different way, then the technology will follow that goal, rather than it being just this iterative thing of we do the same thing but just slightly better…

The other thing is the arrogance of the present… “why would I ever need more bandwidth than I have now!” … And if you can’t envision any other future world, then you can’t measure the value of any future innovation… You can’t avoid the arrogance of the present, but you can recognise that it will come up and try and think differently about what might happen… We need to think how can we use our technology to get us further…

If we’re going to do this we’ve got to educate people to really think differently about technology, and not just kids, everybody. We need to live in a world that thinks about skills not tools… What we should be doing is teaching people how to communicate properly, and critical thinking…

And we have to remember that the organisation’s role in this…is seeing the big picture… The focus becomes on process itself, we’ve lost touch with the outcomes of the organisation. We forget to take stock, to take a step back and think about what is it that we’re actually trying to do here?…

And that’s the final key…it’s all about us. It’s all about people, it’s about the individual, it’s about being empowered…to think about what is it that I could contribute to my organisation to help them achieve that outcome…

If you do those things then I think you’re in a great place to re-imagine the way your organisation works…

Don’t Do It! App Aims to Help You Make Better Decisions

Even the best leaders make mistakes. Now, there’s a way to prevent bad decisions from happening — via mobile app.

The Management Thinking Mistakes app wants to help decision makers avoid making mistakes in thinking by providing a misconception-debunking tool that can guide them in the right direction.

To help users steer clear of thinking traps, the Management Thinking Mistakes app aims to prevent mistakes before they occur. Using a crowdsourced collection of the most common thinking mistakes, users can learn to recognize common fallacies, biases and effects that can result in poor decision-making. By providing context-specific thinking mistakes, uses are able to find relevant information to help them properly evaluate situations.

“Thinking mistakes are defects in our thinking process that weaken our aim to find the best solutions,” said developers WiB Solutions in a press release. “By learning to recognize common fallacies, biases and effects, we can avoid these mistakes in the context of meetings or decision making. At the same time, we can also learn to recognize the thinking mistakes when used by others.”

The Management Thinking Mistakes app is available to download for free at the Apple App Store. The app will also be used at Harvard University in the fall semester…

The Beauty And Calm Of ‘Thinking In Numbers’

There are numbers all around us. They are in every word we speak or write, and in the passage of time. Everything in our world has a numeric foundation, but most of us don’t see those numbers. It’s different for Daniel Tammet. He’s a savant with synesthesia, a condition that allows him to see beyond simple numerals — he experiences them.

“Every number has its own colour so the number 1 is like a shining light from a lantern. The number two is more like a flowing, darker purple, violet color. Three is green, and after 10 what happens is I see the colours but the individual digits contribute their own colors, so I am seeing a blend of those primary colors. And when I recited the number pi, I would see the colors as a landscape, full of textures and emotions, and it would blend together like a kind of story, or poem, that I could recite to those who were listening to me.”

5,040 “is a highly divisible number. You can take any number of the first digits 2, and 3 and 4 … and so on and 5,040 divides evenly into them. It also divides into 12, and so in Plato’s imagination, the perfect society would divide into 12 … According to this figure, everything would be divided evenly. There would be no war, there would be no discord, and of course this idea is extremely attractively to our ears today. Ears that hear too often news of wars and famine and misery. And, at the same time, I think we’re, all of us, wise enough to realise Plato was perhaps a little bit naive as well … There are things that we cannot calculate … There is always an element of humanity that escapes mathematics, that escapes numbers as well.”

Here is the link to read more of this story and hear the interview with Daniel Tammet talking about how he thinks

Dr Iain McGilchrist on ‘The Divided Brain

Q&A with Iain McGilchrist
by Margaret Emory

How many times have you been told, “Oh you’re such a left-brain person,” meaning you think logically, are good with numbers, very analytical and so on? And upon hearing that summation, you long for the right brain’s creative, intuitive, artistic complements. Why can’t they be part of the equation, you wonder.

We used to believe the two parts of the brain work in harmony, but according to London psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, there’s a definite shift in our modern culture which favors left-brain dominance—and it’s something we ought to watch out for and correct. In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2009), McGilchrist discusses the hemispheres and their different “personalities,” and then shows a sweeping dissertation on the history of Western civilization as seen from the context of the divided brain…

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

I think an aspect of being a conscious being is that you are aware that you can become powerful by manipulation.  Other creatures, of course, are competing and manipulating, but they’re probably not aware of the fact that this is a way of becoming powerful—that it seems to work well for a lot of the things that one does as one grows a civilisation  …One creates these things that seem to make life simpler, easier and better and make you more powerful.  It’s enticing, and you can soon begin to think that everything works like this.  Everything in your world seems to break down into a lot of machines that we’ve created.  

While this is a very interesting way of looking at things, it’s basically a practical tool for getting ahead. It’s not really a very good instrument for … finding out actually what the world is and how we know about it.  It can lead us to narrow down the way we think about things to a merely rationalistic set of propositions, a series of algorithms…

One of the interesting elements that comes out in research into the “personalities” or the “takes” of the two hemispheres is that the left hemisphere thinks it knows it all, and as a result is extremely optimistic.  It overvalues its own ability.  It takes us away from the presence of things in all their rich complexity to a useful representation—that representation is always much simpler.  And an awful lot is lost in it.  

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you need to simplify.  For example, if you’re designing a building or if you’re fighting a campaign, you need a map, a scheme.  You don’t really need all the richness of what would be there in the real world.  But I’m afraid that that representation moves into a world where we have the ability constantly to interact with the world only as a representation, over a screen.  Even Facebook and social networking may look like you have suddenly have loads of friends, but what it may actually do is take you away from your real-life friends so that your life is more crowded and there’s less time, actually, to be aware peacefully of the world around you and to interact socially—a word that used to mean “with your fellow creatures.” …

People often ask me, “what can we do about this?”  I think they’re rather hoping I’ll give them a list of bullet points—“The 12 Things You Need”—like a best-selling paperback.  That is really a perfect example of the left hemisphere.  “Okay.  Fix it by having a little plan.  We do this, we do that, and bingo!”  

But in fact, what I have tried to convey throughout the entire book is that the world, as it is, has its own shape, value, meaning and so on, and that we crowd it out with our own plans, thoughts and beliefs, which are going to be narrow.  A wise thing to do would be not to do certain things.  Another theme of my book is that negation is creative.  That by having less of something, more comes into being.  So actually what we need to do is not create a world.  We need to stop doing lots of things and allow the wonderful thing that is already there to evolve, to give it room to grow.  That’s also true of a single human mind…

We are now understanding the benefits of mindfulness, which is officially recommended by the British body NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).  

The essence of mindfulness is clearing your mind of all the stuff that’s going on in there and stopping you from experiencing life.  You’re so busy feeling bad about the past you can’t change and chasing after a future you can’t predict, instead of actually being alive in the moment.  That is really the essence of mindfulness.  Recent research shows that mindfulness engages wide networks in the right hemisphere, and the EEG studies show that there is a more balancing of the two hemispheres in those who are meditating.  

So I think meditation and not doing things, making space in your life and switching off your machines, being present in the moment and practicing mindfulness would be a way to start…

The cognitive processing model is mechanistic and sees us like a complicated heating system with valves and pumps and thermostats that switch things on and off.  But one of the interesting things about the hemispheres is that the right hemisphere seems to be better able to take into its vision the information that is coming to it from what was always called the lower parts of the brain, the more ancient parts of the brain, and indeed, from the body.

The difficulty with the cognitive model is that we think of the brain as a computer, and we think of memory as something like a data bank.  Memory, of course, is not at all like that.  It’s part of the human’s whole world and is distributed in the body.  In a way, you can say that the very muscles have memory. Memory is not something that is unchanging. It is contextual—and that’s a weakness of it in some ways, but it’s also very much the strength of it.

We now know that even something like the heart actually communicates with the brain and gives as much information back to the brain—in fact, possibly more—than the brain gives to the heart. Anyone who suffers from depression will know that you have this terribly heavy oppressive feeling in the center of your chest.  The things that you feel in your body are of course experienced through the brain, but they then are seen and experienced phenomenologically in the body.  Our bodies and our brains can’t be separated in that way.

So although cognitive science is a very useful thing, I think it ought to learn less from the Cartesian tradition of philosophy and more from the phenomenological tradition of philosophy, particularly from the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, who is probably the single most important philosopher of the last century for those who are interested in the relationship between mind and the body…

Link to read full article

Happiness At Work Edition #59

For all of these stories and more see our Happiness At Work collection…

Enjoy.

Happiness At Work #58 ~ happiness and balance

Happiness At Work Edition #58

This week’s collection features several stories that consider what being balanced means in our 21st century lives, and how this is changing as we increasingly make choices that favour our happiness over our wealth or power, and how we can learn to think about things in ways that give us a greater sense of balance and resilience and help us to manage difficulty and stress.

Here is the link to this week’s full collection of  stories

Taking the Third Metric Abroad: Redefining Success Goes Global

 writes

…it has become increasingly clear that the current model, in which success is equated with overwork, burnout, sleep deprivation, never seeing your family, being connected through email 24 hours a day and exhaustion, isn’t working. It’s not working for women. It’s not working for men. It’s not working for companies, for any societies in which it’s dominant or for the planet.

At the same time this system is breaking down, there’s a growing awareness – increasingly and overwhelmingly confirmed by scientific evidence – of the profound benefits of using tools like mindfulness and meditation to reduce stress and improve our health and our well-being.

So this is the perfect time to begin to redefine success to be more in line with what actually makes us happy…

photo credit: Sebastian Anthony via photopin cc

photo credit: Sebastian Anthony via photopin cc

Contrary to the stereotype that the British respond to pressure with withering cynicism, a stiff upper lip or an invitation to have some tea and forget about it, stress is having the same effect here as it does back home. Here are just a few examples:

  • Some eight million men, women and children in the UK suffer from anxiety disorders, at a cost of nearly £10 billion per year.
  •  As of May 2012, hospital admissions for stress had risen by 7% in just the last year, to 6,370.
  •   Stress and depression resulted in over 10 million lost workdays last year.
  •   In the same time period, stress was responsible for 40% of all work-related illnesses.
  •   Nearly one in five adults in the UK suffers from anxiety or depression.
  •   The British receive the fewest paid and public holidays in Europe.
  •   From 2009 to 2012, the annual costs to the National Health Service of sleeping pills increased to nearly £50 million.
  •   In 2011, over 45 million prescriptions for antidepressants were given out, up 9%from the year before.
  •   The NHS spent over £270 million for antidepressants in 2011, a 23% increase in one year.

In fact, this epidemic of depression is a global phenomenon…

In the book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World Mark Williams, Professor of Psychology at Oxford and ordained minister in the Church of England writes:

“This is a book about how you can find peace and contentment in such troubled and frantic times as these. Or rather, this is a book about how you can rediscover them; for there are deep wellsprings of peace and contentment living inside us all, no matter how trapped and distraught we might feel. They’re just waiting to be liberated from the cage.”

Meditation, Williams writes, can have profound effects on virtually every aspect of our health and well-being. It boosts the immune system, increases memory and physical stamina and decreases depression and anxiety.

“You may be astonished,” he writes, “by how much more happiness and joy are attainable with even tiny changes to the way you live your life.” And, yes, meditation takes time, but, as he points out, “mindfulness meditation frees up more time than it takes to carry out the practices.

But mindfulness frees up more than just time.  It frees us from a very limited view of success that defines it in terms of just two metrics: money and power.  It frees us from being in a perpetual and destructive fight-or-flight mode.  What we can find when we step off the hamster wheel is, Williams writes, “the kind of happiness and peace that gets into your bones and promotes a deep-seated authentic love of life, seeping into everything you do and helping you to cope more skillfully with the worst that life throws at you.” …

Europe, like the US, is facing major challenges that our political systems seem unable to deal with at the moment. The Third Metric and redefining success is not a substitute for the accountability and large-scale change that the citizens of both Europe and America deserve. But leaders who are more connected to their own wisdom will be more likely to make better decisions, which, of course, can make a world of difference in individual lives.

Our unsustainable definition of success is a global problem, and it’s going to require a global response. I hope you’ll join the conversation and tell us how you’re redefining success in your own life and in your part of the world.

Here is the link the the full article

In their words: Rasmus Hougaard & Corporate mindfulness – an answer to the realities of today’s fast paced business environment

By 

While you are reading this, you are likely to get distracted by an incoming email, a colleague who needs a word with you, or a phone that is ringing. And according to research, chances are big that your attention will follow the distraction, and you will find yourself caught up in something else other than finishing this article.

If this scenario rings a bell for you, you are part of a modern work-life that is characterized by distractibility, complexity, pressure and information overload.  And the results of this have shown to be decreased performance, well-being and productivity.  This article describes an alternative, an alternative that has been taken in-house by companies like Google, Carlsberg, Sony, Nike and many others.  The approach is often referred to as corporate mindfulness training.

The question is this: how can an ancient method like mindfulness have any benefit in today’s fast paced business environment?  And the answer is found in the change of work-life that has taken place over the past few decades…

Technically, mindfulness is about taking control of our thoughts and being more present with what we are doing.  It entails managing our mind rather than letting our mind manage us. The mind is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and toned and make us more present. And it can be trained to more effectively engage in everyday work activities to be more productive, efficient, collaborative and creative.

Essentially corporate mindfulness training is about developing the mental calm and clarity that enables us to do the right things rather than just doing things.  It is about having the mental space to see clearly what is most important in this moment.  Even in the middle of busy daily work life. These are the words of former Carlsberg CIO: “A mindful organization is an organization where people do the right things. Not just things. It is an organization where people have the mental competence to think clearly, make the right decisions and act accordingly.”

Here is the link to take you to the full article

photo credit: Yug_and_her via photopin cc

photo credit: Yug_and_her via photopin cc

Balancing Act: Do Your Work/Life Choices Add Up To Happiness?

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

…If you were to track your time, carefully, for a week, how would you say you spend most of your days and nights?  Are you spending your time in a way that makes you happy?

In our ongoing quest for work/life balance, I often say the elusive “balance” comes from spending more time on what fulfills you rather than trying to maintain equilibrium.  For some, it’s work that makes them happy, for others it’s time with family, friends, or a hobby.

For most people, there’s a gap between where they say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend it…

A few changes in time usage could move you closer to improving happiness.

Get more fulfilment from work.  Understanding how we should be spending our time at work is much more important than people think…and the happiest people at work tend to be those facing the toughest – but most worthwhile – challenges.  “When workers feel like they can make a difference, it leaves them more fulfilled”, says Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

Passion for your job increases happiness, too.  Entrepreneurs spend more time on work-related activities than others.  Those who combine what they do best with what they enjoy most and with what the world needs report a high level of happiness.

Many people view learning a new skill at work as a frustrating task.  But accomplishing personal growth makes people happy. “When someone is moving a project forward, or going to a conference to learn something new, there’s a big time/happiness payoff,” said Gretchen Rubin…

~ Spend more time on leisure, less time on mundane.  Of course, the bills have to be paid, the bathroom cleaned, but are you being strategic with your time?…

Rubin says people often move from activity to activity without really thinking about what they prefer to be doing and with whom.  “Time gets filled up but not with things important to you.”

For most people, physical activity and volunteer work are linked with happiness.  Social connections are big predictors as well.  “The more time that individuals spend on relationships – going to lunch with a co-worker or out to dinner with close friends – the happier they are,” Rubin said.

South Florida executive coach Margarita Plasencia says a first step is figuring out what drives you.  She calls it “centering.”  “If gardening makes you happy, then you know that on Sunday, there’s no question what you are going to do. You make gardening a priority.”

~ Re-assess your spending. With all the advancements we have made, [we] still equate being rich with being happy…

Money can make you happy but it’s the way you spend it that affects happiness.  Rather than buying bigger homes or luxury cars, psychologists found people are most happy when they spend their money on experiences, such as attending a baseball game with friends or taking a much-anticipated trip.

Psychologists also found the value of experiences tends to grow over time, making us happier as we look back on them in our memory, possibly because they tend to bring us closer to other people, whereas material things are more often enjoyed alone.

~ Consider easing up on multi-tasking.  As we try to squeeze more activities into our busy lives, one of our poorest ways to spend time has proved to be multitasking. In the moment, multitasking might make us feel good.  But researchers say we are most happy when we are engaged directly with an activity with a single focus, such as working quietly and alone on a project or having a conversation with someone you know well and not being interrupted by cellphone calls. “That takes discipline, and sometimes people don’t want to engage in it,” Plasencia said.  “They don’t realize they are less happy when they are trying to do everything and not focused on anything.”

~ Ask for flexibility.  An increasing number of workers feel they would be happier with a flexible work schedule or a sense of control over their work day.  Managers are most likely to grant flextime to men in high-status jobs who request it to pursue career-development opportunities, according to a new study by Victoria Brescoll, professor at the Yale School of Management.  Women, regardless of their status within a firm or their reason, are less likely than high-status men to be granted a schedule change.  But that shouldn’t stop you from asking.

Even if you already consider yourself happy, it’s important to revisit your time use now and then and make sure you are making a habit of spending it in ways that lead to maximum fulfilment…

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

Empathy: the last big business taboo?

 writes in The Guardian:

Empathy must no longer be perceived as a soft, overtly feminine skill but as a commercial tool that businesses ignore at their peril

…We can see the empathy deficit in the culture of business.  Most corporations have become places where ‘systemisers’ flourish. According to professor Simon Baron-Cohen, these are individuals who excel at logic and analysis but tend to perform worse at empathy skills.  Systemisers are more likely to be male.

Corporations place very little value on the other extreme: the empathisers:  These are people who are good at reading emotions and understanding the dynamics of a situation and they tend to be female.

This imbalance means that most companies are led by people who are bad at tuning into people’s emotions (such as my former manager).  These leaders fail to consider their customers and staff as human beings.

Instead, boards of directors retreat into a parallel universe of numbers and spreadsheets.  It’s far easier for non-empathisers to understand a Powerpoint presentation full of abstract boxes and circles than the human beings who have fears, desires and hopes that need to be understood. In such an organisation, women and empathisers struggle to get their voices heard…

Companies should care about this.  It’s not about fairness – it’s is about profit. Businesses that put empathy and emotional intelligence at their heart outperform their more robotic rivals by 20% according to the Harvard Business Review.  A wide range of businesses, from the insurance sector, cosmetics and even debt collectors have found that increased empathy leads to better results.

Empathy must no longer be perceived as a soft, overtly feminine skill but as a commercial tool that can be learned and deployed in all aspects of a business if women are to thrive.  Leaders should not forget that behind the numbers, spreadsheets and surnames are people, just like you and me.

Here is the link to this article 

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

What Silicon Valley Developers Can Teach Us About Happiness At Work

By 

“Maintaining a culture of work-life balance requires constant reinforcement. We’re regularly tempted to compromise these values due to business challenges and crises and sometimes new employees eager to demonstrate their passion and commitment by working crazy hours on a key project. But the team invariably self-manages back to our values in simple, but effective ways: people pulling late nights don’t get held up as heroes and they may even get a message from their boss saying that working crazy hours is not a company value.”

So says Donna Wells, CEO of Mindflash, an online employee training firm, who use the increasingly popular Agile

a management strategy devised by Silicon Valley software developers in the late 1990s, deemed the “best-kept management secret on the planet” by Forbes last year — is helping tech companies build more reasonable workloads for their employees while also improving their products…

Here are four Agile principles that anyone can use to boost productivity — and happiness — at work.

Take breaks.

A major focus of the Agile program is creating reasonable workloads that allow employees to take the breaks they need to fuel productivity, health and well-being

“It really forces a discipline that we all work within our capacity,” she says. “Ultimately, in the long-term, you’re much less productive … if you try to run sprint and run ‘death marches’ than if you have a predictable pace that’s actually sustainable.”

Focus on what you enjoy and what you’re good at.

The Agile method can boost happiness and productivity by allowing individuals to do the work they care about. Teams are self-managed, and they divide the workload so that employees can focus on what they do best and derive the most enjoyment out of. According to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management survey, 62 percent of employees said that the opportunity to use their skills and abilities was an important contributor to job satisfaction…

Eliminate unnecessary work.

Simplicity (i.e. eliminating work that doesn’t need to be done) is one of the foundational principles of Agile, which strives to allow employees to spend the majority of their day on work that actually benefits the customer, rather than work that satisfies administrative or bureaucratic needs.

Giff Constable, Managing Director of Neo, a global software development consulting company based in New York, has seen the program have a humanising effect, eliminating needless work and documentation so that team members can focus on more productive tasks.

“Agile broaches the question of, ‘Are we working on the right things?'” Constable tells The Huffington Post. “You’re not a drone on a factory line. You can actually use your brain, you can ask questions, you can be creative … It’s really empowering, and it can make the job a lot more fun.”

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

Take time to reflect.

…Research has shown reflection to be crucial to effective learning, particularly in the workplace. “It’s very important for clearing the air and setting us up for success during the next sprint of work,” Wells says.

Communicate face-to-face.

Agile can also boost satisfaction at work by fostering social connections. The Agile principles stress the importance of cutting back on email and increasing the amount of in-person brainstorming and problem-solving among teams, according to Constable.

Extensive research backs up the idea that employees with strong relationships at work are happier, feel more passionate about their work and more connected to their employers, and are less likely to quit their jobs. A 1995 University of Georgia study even found that the mere opportunity for friendship could increase job satisfaction and organisational effectiveness.

“To work lean and agile, you stop focusing so much on documentation and you rely much more on constant communication. Not meetings, but lots of little touch points,” Constable says. “That in itself is humanising — you are freed from the drudgery of documentation and can instead talk to real humans and solve problems together.”

Here is the link to read this article in full

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

How Brain-Science Can Help You Reduce Stress

by Bruna Martinuzzi

…Unmanaged anxiety can become an insidious energy drain.  As author Arthur Somers Roche put it, “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”  While no one is immune to the ills of prolonged anxiety, entrepreneurs in particular can be vulnerable because of lifestyle changes that are inherent when striking out on one’s own.  The well-known Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale measures stressful life changes.  A few of these relate directly to the experiences of entrepreneurs.  They are: a major business readjustment; a change in financial state (a lot worse off or a lot better off); a change to a different type of work; taking on a large mortgage or loan; a change in work responsibilities; outstanding personal achievement, and a change in work hours or conditions…

Here are 8 simple things you can start doing today to lead a less stressful life, based on science-backed remedies proven to help diminish anxiety:

  1. Digital Abstinence … Being addicted to the Internet may well be the same as being addicted to cocaine.  There’s no doubt that information overload, the wide array of technology gadgets in our life and involvement with social media fuels some anxiety as we try to keep up with the digital barrage… Self-awareness precedes self-management.  Know when to unplug.
  2. A Solution In Your Fridge … Researchers at UCLA found that eating probiotic yogurt twice a day can reduce anxiety and stress by changing the way our brain responds to the environment.  the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”  Adding probiotic yogurt as one simple change in your diet may be of help in managing anxiety.
  3. Take Your Vitamins … vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance mental energy and well-being for those prone to anxiety.  If your diet is not optimal, supplementation can play a role in lowering your anxiety.
  4. A Volitional Act … An extraordinary tool at our disposal all day long is where we choose to focus our attention.  We can focus on things that impact our brains in a positive way, or on self-criticism and senseless worry… Mindfulness, as Hanson reports, has been shown to thicken cortical layers in regions of the brain that control attention so we get better at attention itself; it also increases activation of a region of the prefrontal cortex, which helps control and reduce negative emotions that can cause anxiety.
  5. A Stable Bridge … There is a wide body of research that shows the most important influence in our long-term health and well-being is the quality of our personal relationships and social support… Work on fortifying the bridge between you and others so you can strengthen your ability to manage anxiety.
  6. A Readily Available Shot of Dopamine … Several studies show that listening to music is an effective antidote to anxiety… Listening to music you enjoy gives you a shot of dopamine, the feel-good chemical. When dealing with anxiety, calm, slow and gentle music has been shown to have the most positive result.
  7. What 7 Minutes Can Do For You … Exercise rewires the brain so anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function — donning your sneakers and hitting the pavement can go a long way toward calming anxiety.  No time to exercise?  Consider the Scientific 7-Minute Workout, which is a set of just 12 exercises involving only a chair, a wall and your body weight.  It fulfills the latest requirements of high-intensity effort…
  8. What Tibetan Monks Have Known All Along … Scientists and Zen aficionados have long known that meditation reduces anxiety, but it’s only recently that brain research proves how this happens…”Just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation,” says Fadel Zeidan, lead author of the study, “can help reduce normal everyday anxiety.”Researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety by as much as 39 percent. Two quick online meditation videos to help you get started are One Minute meditation by Point of Focus, and this three-minute meditation by Dr. Susan Taylor.

Ultimately, the best way to deal with anxiety is to understand that it’s a normal part of being human…

Here is the link to this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

How To Stay Calm In A Crisis

BY 

When a crisis hits your business, you have to put aside fear, anger, and anxiety to tackle it with level-headed leadership.  That’s a tall order when the stakes are high.  But learning to stay calm in a crisis will inspire confidence among your employees and empower you to find effective solutions quickly.

In stressful times, most people either let negative feelings spiral out of control or push them under the rug, but neither method works. “The worst thing you can do is suppress your feelings,” says Allison Troy, a psychologist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. who studies emotion regulation.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should let them get the best of you.  Strong leaders acknowledge their feelings and manage them without losing sight of what’s most important — fixing the problem, fast.

To stay calm in a crisis and lead your team through the fire, try these three strategies:

1. Look at the problem like an outsider…

2. Remember past obstacles you overcame…

3. Take action…

Here is the link to this article

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

Love Your Work, Or Sing The Dinosaur Blues

Back from this year’s World Domination Summit, Jonathan Feldman ponders why finding work happiness – a prerequisite for innovation – is so dang hard.

…I’ve said in the past that if you aren’t happy at work, or if you disrespect the stupid stuff that’s going on at work, you need to jump before you get pushed.

Yet, it is incredibly difficult to do. One of the most touching presentations at WDS was by Tess Vigeland, the host of “Marketplace Money,” who quit her “dream job” at the height of her success, with 9 million listeners every week.  While she was circumspect about the reasons, it clearly had to do with happiness at work.  After a pivotal unhappy event that she didn’t share, she says she simply couldn’t do it anymore. In her words, she “jumped without a net,” and “what’s amazing about a leap of faith is how everyone around you is so sure that it’s going to work out … and deep down, you’re pretty sure it won’t.”  Far from telling everyone “hey, you need to do this,” she related the true difficulty of jumping out of a bad situation.  And most would think that she’s got the visibility and career assets as a well-known NPR host to transition without much of a struggle.  She’s struggling.

What I’m also supposed to tell you is what a great learning journey it has been.  The truth is it has been terrifying, awful and heartbreaking.  This has made me doubt my decision-making ability, made me wonder whether I’m in a loop of self-destruction.  This has made me wonder if everyone who has admired my accomplishments, or who has told me that I’m remarkable was just being nice.

The tragedy here is why someone who clearly is so good at her job couldn’t be happy in her work.  I’m guessing it was the usual large-organisation stuff that makes seven out of 10 of us disengage at work…

…Gretchen Rubin says that negative emotions are a claxon call to wake up and do something.  The blues that I felt on coming back from WDS to “real life” are such a call. It may be true that traditional organizations need to change for us to be able to realize truly great business technology innovations in the same way that smaller startups do. But just as ERP change management techniques recognize that you don’t change organisations, you change individuals, maybe we need to start focusing on individual change — starting with ourselves. None of us is too fossilised to learn something new, but it takes time and attention to form the right habits. What you, me and everybody needs to do is to get off of our duffs and invest in our own happiness at work. Today’s dysfunctional world of work will only change one person at a time.

Here is the link the this article in full

Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work

In this TEDTalk Jason Fried talks out all the reasons why we don’t – and can’t – do our best work at work:

Jason Fried has a radical theory of working: that the office isn’t a good place to do it. At TEDxMidwest he lays out the main problems (call them the M&Ms) and offers three suggestions to make work work.

Serenity Now: Apps to Help Manage Your Stress and Mood

Bonnie Cha tried out two free smartphone apps, Senti and Stress Tracker, which are designed to help keep tabs on your mood, and reports here on how she found them, concluding…

It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of a day, but it’s also okay to take some time for yourself. Whether you need to express how you’re feeling at the moment or need a stress break, Senti and Stress Tracker are easy and free ways to do this.

Dr. Mike Evans: 90:10 The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Stress

An animated video talk outlining how we can better manage stress by increasing our ability to change how we think about things.

Richard Burnett: Mindfulness in Schools: Richard Burnett at TEDxWhitechapel

Stop. Breathe. Pay attention. “Our mental health and well-being are profoundly affected by where and how we place our attention“. In this enlightening talk, Richard guides through a short mindfulness meditation, and shares his experience of teaching mindfulness in schools. He reveals some of the amazing benefits being mindful can bring to the classroom and inspires the audience with simple ways to bring more awareness to how we respond to our everyday experiences.

Richard Burnett is co-founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project. With Chris Cullen and Chris O’Neill, Richard wrote the highly-acclaimed 9 week mindfulness course, .b (pronounced dot-b), designed to engage adolescents in the classroom. He is a teacher and Housemaster at Tonbridge School, the first school in the UK to put mindfulness on the curriculum, an event covered by press, TV and radio in early 2010. Since then, thousands of young people have been taught .b in a wide range of educational contexts, from independent girls’ schools like St Pauls to Young People’s Support Services for those excluded from school. .b is now being taught in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Holland and Thailand.

photo credit: HckySo via photopin cc

photo credit: HckySo via photopin cc

6 Non-Creative Thoughts on Creativity

This is an excellent resume’ of ideas and practical lessons on how to be  – and how to enjoy being – more creative…

One of the cool things about creativity is that every leader, every employee, and indeed every organization has the potential to be creative and likely already is to at least some degree.

But if all this is true, why haven’t “we” — and by “we” I mean the biz world at large and our respective workplaces specifically — got this thing down yet? Here are at least a few reasons that come to mind off the top of my head, as well as considerations for helping us think through what creativity is and isn’t.

Follow this link to explore these ideas

How (And Why) To Stay Positive

by Travis Bradberry

When faced with setbacks and challenges, we’ve all received the well-meaning advice to “stay positive.”  The greater the challenge, the more this glass-half-full wisdom can come across as Pollyannaish and unrealistic.  It’s hard to find the motivation to focus on the positive when positivity seems like nothing more than wishful thinking…

Pessimism is trouble because it’s bad for your health.  Numerous studies have shown that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists.  Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has conducted extensive research on the topic, and often explores an important distinction — whether people consider their failures the product of personal deficits beyond their control or mistakes they can fix with effort.  Seligman finds much higher rates of depression in people who pessimistically attribute their failures to personal deficits.  Optimists, however, treat failure as a learning experience and believe they can do better in the future.

Keeping a positive attitude isn’t just good for your health.  Martin Seligman has also studied the connection between positivity and performance.  In one study in particular, he measured the degree to which insurance salespeople were optimistic or pessimistic in their work, including whether they attributed failed sales to personal deficits beyond their control or circumstances they could improve with effort.  Optimistic salespeople sold 37% more policies than pessimists, who were twice as likely to leave the company during their first year of employment.

Seligman has studied positivity more than anyone, and he believes in the ability to turn pessimistic thoughts and tendencies around with simple effort and know-how.  But Seligman doesn’t just believe this.  His research shows that people can transform a tendency toward pessimistic thinking into positive thinking through simple techniques that create lasting changes in behaviour long after they are discovered.

Your brain just needs a little help to defeat its negative inner voice.  To that end, I’ve provided two simple steps for you to follow that will begin training your brain to focus on the positive.

Step 1. Separate Fact from Fiction…

Step 2. Identify a Positive…

photo credit: Moe M via photopin cc

photo credit: Moe M via photopin cc

How Courageous Leaders Address Fear In The Workplace

Tanveer Naseer writes…

In the face of continual change and uncertainty in the global economy – not to mention the increasingly myopic focus on short-term gains at the expense of understanding the long-term context – fear in the workplace has become a long-term affliction as evidenced in study after study showing increasing levels of stress paired with falling engagement levels in today’s work environments.

Not surprisingly, such conditions naturally lead to calls for courageous leaders to step forward to help guide us through the storm and back into calmer waters. Unfortunately, when it comes to courage in leadership, we often have a wrong impression of what that means.

When it comes to courageous leadership, the image that often comes to mind is of a leader who is not just assertive in the face of uncertainty, but who also exudes a sense of fearlessness regarding the situation before them. And yet, the reality is that courage in leadership is not about the absence of fear. Rather, it’s about learning to manage one’s fear in order to do the work and make the decisions that need to be made…

1. Identify and label negative thoughts that weigh you down
When it comes to managing fear, the first thing we need to recognize is that a key driver behind our fears is derived from our own perceptions and with it, the expectations we consciously or unconsciously create in our minds…

2. Reframe the situation by finding out what’s really going on
Research has shown that our brain operates like a predicting machine – it likes to decipher various bits of information to create patterns in order to anticipate what’s next, something that’s becoming more difficult to do in this increasingly complex and faster-paced global market. Add to this how our own biases and beliefs serve to create the framework within which we interpret a situation and we can see how easy it is to feel disconnected or wrongly assess the realities of a given situation…

3. Seek out opportunities to gain new skills and understandings
One of the core psychological needs we all share is competence – not just in the traditional sense of being able to do our jobs well, but also in the context of being challenged to stretch our existing competencies and grow new ones…

4. Focus on what’s in your control to manage
The last step we need to take is to let go of those variables for which we have no control over. As easy as this may sound, this is often the biggest hurdle for leaders to overcome, especially if they confuse their authority with being in control…

Here is the link to this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Here is the link to this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #58 where you can find all of these stories and many more.

We hope you enjoy what you find…