Action Learning – a better way to collaborate and communicate together…

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194
photo: Mark Trezona

Here are my newest thoughts about the discipline and magic that make Action Learning so potently transformational…

I had lunch last week with Alison Johns, a wonderful friend and colleague who I first met nearly twenty years ago when we were completing our MAs in Management Learning & Leadership. This was when I first discovered Action Learning, the framework that has changed my practice forever, as much, I confidently dare to believe, as it has transformed the lives and accomplishments of many of the people who have participated in its process.

In the Shaky Isles Theatre Company we have used Action Learning as the main framework for coming together to grow and sustain the company for a year now.  And more and more we are also using Action Learning inside our performance making process, as well, to sustain and nourish our creative learning alongside our show creation.

I am also currently facilitating Action Learning with a group of Rajni Shah Project artists to support their co-creation activities, and here, too, the discipline and framework of Action Learning is weaving across and into Board meetings, producing some really exciting new conversations and ways of working together.

In another application, Nicki Maher is starting to use Action Learning as a way to develop and grow Opaz, the Turkish music ensemble she leads.

And I am about to work with Tesse Akpeki to deliver training in using Action Learning for people who support or lead Trustee Boards.

These newer applications of Action Learning are continuing to amplify the belief, trust and joy that I have always found facilitating this process with very many very different groups of professionals and leaders, teachers and artists, teams and freelancers – not to mention my own invaluable membership of an Action Learning group that have been meeting regularly together since 1998.

With this in mind I wanted to try to uncover some of my newest thinking and insights about the disciplined magic that is Action Learning, and, alongside this, to provide a jumping off point for you to try it for yourself with the people you either work with or feel drawn to spend some time with uncovering fresh ideas and new ways to progress the things that most matter to you.

Sky Through Soundpod (Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2013)  photo: Mark Trezona

Sky Through Soundpod (Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2013)
photo: Mark Trezona

A Practitioner’s Guide to Action Learning

Reg Revans invented Action Learning to provide a ‘clean space’ in an overly noisy and overly directed world, to give people enough freedom and enough solid framework to be able to uncover and discover our own best thoughts and insights to become freshly inspired to act, fuelled by our own creative expectations and sustained by our continually expanding capabilities.

Revans was convinced that for an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be at least equal to – and ideally greater than – the rate of change in its external environment – this became known as Revans’ Law: Learning must be > or = Change.

The Action Learning process has developed over the last sixty years as a method for individual and organisational development. As a process Action Learning can be challenging and informative. Within organisations Reg Revans described it as “the outward communication of doubt” – an opportunity for people to engage with and work through what is unfamiliar, uncertain and not known and identify action which could make a positive difference to their own and the organisation’s effectiveness. For example, he was one of the first to introduce to the National Health Service the idea that nurses, doctors and administrators needed to listen to and understand each other – and action learning groups offer the opportunity.

In any attempt to describe Action Learning, it is essential to say that Revans rightly advises us that the only way to really know what it is, is to do it. With that in mind, here are the instructions we follow in our practice, which we hope will give you enough to be able to try it for yourself.

In the form of Action Learning we use, the available time is divided first into two parts: a first part for Action Learning itself, and the second part to work the ideas and progress the material that has emerged out from the individual contributions.

The Action Learning time itself is divided equally among the individuals present. Each person then has that amount of Clean Space time to bring to the table whatever is most live and prescient for each of them.  And during this time the rest of the group cannot interrupt or comment in any way. Once each person has said as much as they want to, the rest of us offer them open creative thinking questions for whatever Clean Space time remains.

The Clean Space Process

Space:

1. A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied

2. A stretch of time

3. The amount of material used or needed to write fully about a subject

4. The freedom to live, think, and develop in a way that suits you best

Before you start agree how much Clean Space time each person will have and who will keep time.

In your Clean Space time…

1 ~ Say whatever you want to say. Be as selfish as you can be about what you want to bring to the table.  Talk from your own head and heart and don’t worry or care about what anyone else needs to hear. 

No interruptions, comments or questions from anyone else during this phase.

2 ~ Once you have said all you want to say, you respond to open creative thinking Questions given to you by the rest of your group.

Again, be completely selfish about how you want to respond to any question you get: you decide what it means and how you want to answer it, if at all.

The rest of the group seek to bring you moments of spontaneity – questions that open you up to fresh new thinking and insights.

Resist saying anything except Open Questions during this phase. The best questions will be a gift for the person who receives it, and they will feel and often say “That’s a great question…”

Use “Why…?” questions sparingly.

3 ~  (optional and only if time –at least 2minutes of each person’s Clean Space time) 

You ask whatever you want to from others in the group.

If there are no questions you want to ask people, use this time to draw together the thinking and ideas you are going away with.

Allow about 10% of Clean Space time for this, but shift into it sooner if the person who has the Clean Space is repeatedly saying “I don’t know…” to your questions.

Helpful Capabilities for Action Learning

o   Being fully present

o   Alert, neutral, open, heightened listening

o   The Fine & Difficult Art of Asking Really Great Open Questions

o   Being utterly selfless and tuned in to what the Clean Space holder is trying to get when it is not your Clean Space time

o   Being supremely selfish about what you want to bring and get from your own Clean Space time

o   Wondering your not-knowing out loud: bringing what you don’t know to the table

o   Being open to surprise

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191
photo: Mark Trezona

This set of simple rules sets up the conditions for a very different way of thinking and communicating that lead almost inevitably to new insights and fresh possibilities for action.  When repeated over a series of meetings it replaces our usual default ways of listening and thinking with better ways that are far more open, expansive, diverse, inclusive, and actively engaged.  And over time, the disciplines and capabilities it demands from us start to become easier, more natural, and much more our new ‘normal’.

We shift our perspective; we shift our balance…

…from only paying attention to the information that immediately interests us to listening out and trying to pick up much more of what is being said and its many nuances;

…from narrowing the conversation down and heading off too quickly on a particular tangent, to exploring the situation in greater depth and from a wider range of perspectives;

…from talking more about things and re-presenting conclusions and ideas that we have already decided upon, to uncovering what we think and feel during the act of talking about it;

…from bringing our certainties and defending our established points of view, to bringing more of our uncertainties and opening out what we don’t know or yet have answers or solutions for: dialogue means discovering the meaning through communication;

…from only having the ‘need-to-have’ conversations, to unearthing extraordinary and surprising insights and solutions from conversations that arise out of what matters most to each of us;

…from tending to get most of the input from the more talkative amongst us, to getting and thus profiting from, an equal contribution from all of us, realising and optimising the inherent diversity that otherwise lies hidden and buried underneath our different communication styles and preferences;

…from prescribing the desired goal or outcome and restricting our thinking to what seems to be most relevant and strategic to its achievement, to keeping more open to discovering higher value aspirations that emerge and progress organically from the material of what people bring to the table;

…and from excited intentions that are too soon forgotten or lost to louder demands, to achieving ever widening results that spiral up from our collective learning ~ out to action ~ back into heightened learning ~ and out to new action ~ and so on in an increasingly reliable and self-powered momentum.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery to be made in Action Learning is that, very often, our greatest joy and discovery comes less from what we bring during our own Clean Space and much, much more from what we get from the ‘enforced’ listening we give during other people’s.

It is also helpful to know that Action Learning is not only for a team of people who want to use it to make work together, but equally powerful and potentially transformative for a group of individuals who choose to come together to hear and widen each other’s thinking entirely in terms of each person’s own personal agendas.

Action Learning and Collaboration

I have been thinking a lot recently about just what it is that makes Action Learning so enjoyed and successful and surprising and special, especially when it can be experienced by a group over a repeated series of get-togethers. These reflections have drawn out these five attributes:

  1. In-Betweenness 
  2. Listening In-ness
  3. Slowness
  4. Togetherness
  5. Connectedness

1 ~ In-Betweenness

This quality is not so much walking blindly through fog, as the more delightful experience of flying through clouds, up in the air and above it all, happy and trusting that we will get to where we want to get to without having to see ahead to our destination.

This is the ability to inhabit the grey areas between boundaries, to hold ambiguity and complexity with far less need to define it, fix it, bolt it down, categorise and name it.  It involves being simultaneously inside and outside the flow of thinking, both alert to what others are saying and what matters to them while at the same time aware of the live fresh dancing of our own thoughts colliding with what we are hearing.

This quality is especially enhanced when we can keep our not-knowingness wide open and transmitting, sensing out rather than seeing straight ahead, wondering out loud, teasing out our unformed ideas, uncertainties and barely yet understood intuitions.

2 ~ Listening In-ness

This quality is about hearing in real time (rather than anticipating ahead of what is being said and so hearing only what we expect).  It demands that we stay with the material as it unfolds in the here-and-now instead of projecting our own versions of reality on to things. This is the capability of tuning in with the deliberate intention to notice more and receive more fully.  It is HD hearing that picks up the finer inflexion, nuance, repetition and other poetic aspects of our thinking.

It requires us to lean in, bringing a particular kind of presence and concentration to stay with what is being said as it is being said, resisting our usual inclination to decide quickly on what is meant from the smallest fragment of information.

This needs our fullest energy, commitment, presence and attention. But, when the conditions of Clean Space are activated, it seems to happen with remarkable ease and reliability.

3 ~ Slowness

The listening we do in Action Learning recognises that…

…you can’t flick through sound;

…you can’t take a meaningful still of sound;

…you can’t glance at sound;

…you can’t sensibly hear sound backwards, or broken up, un-sequenced;

…you just have to start at its beginning and stay with it through to its end.

Mindfulness, a deliberate, disciplined, meditative practice of slowing down and tuning in, is becoming a mass practice across the globe, perhaps filling in and replacing our older religious rituals with something more secular and better suited to our times.  But, perhaps too, its popularity is building from a growing awareness that we need times of slowness, stillness and quietness that reconnects us into the rhythm of our breathing selves as a counterbalance to the incessantly turned on, turned up, turned out lives we are now living.

Stopping, and making a quieter stillness to listen and notice better are premium qualities in Action Learning. And much is yielded from the heightened waiting and trusting this gives us.

4 ~ Togetherness

Action Learning gives us a new way of co-creating – making something from the collective material that emerges from us all – and a better way of collaborating – making joint decisions and sharing out the work.

The material we uncover to work with is always richer and more multidimensional than any ordinary discussion could give us. This happens without force in a process akin to the sculptor’s art – drawing out and revealing and shaping and clarifying and heightening and unifying what is most fine and delightful and compelling from inside what we already have amongst us, waiting to be discovered.

5 ~ Connectedness

In Action Learning meanings, ideas and solutions emerge from making patterns. As humans we make sense of things by forging connections: that thing to the thing we already know (or think we know); this thing with that thing with the other thing to make the new thing.  Then the more we repeat, reinforce and practice anything the more strongly it becomes ingrained into our integral circuitry.  The repetition and cyclic iterations of uncovering and revealing and testing and rethinking we get in Action Learning deepens and strengthens our commitment to the ideas we most connect with.

Action Learning demands a kind of patient urgency – a different kind of dynamic that still has to move us forward with a sense of necessity and compulsion, but alongside a more careful, intimate and delicate holding on and out for what is still unfolding

Action Learning creates and sustains our propulsion from…

…the avoidance of rush and fixing too fast and hard alongside the necessity to make progress;

…the avoidance of jumping too quickly into action alongside the necessity for application and getting things done;

…the avoidance of the usual imperative to define desired outcomes and set the focus on the Vision alongside the necessity of getting somewhere worth arriving at.

Action Learning and Making Great Audience Experience

All of this I have come to know and trust from my many years sitting inside and outside dozens of different Action Learning groups since I first found it.

What is new for me is to start to wonder what might come from the explicit aspiration, or even the gentlest intention, to try to make the qualities we experience in Action Learning with our audience – whether they be our beneficiaries or our customers or our partners or our stakeholders or our public…

Audience: the people who come to give us their hearing.

What if… we could come together as a community of listeners?

And return to listen together again and again, each time able to listen better?

What might our better listening lead us on to do better?

What if…?

What next…?

What now…?

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193
photo: Mark Trezona

Do please feel welcome to contact us if you would like to know more about how to make Action Learning part of your work or learning.

This post was developed from the one I originally wrote for Shaking Out, the Shaky Isles Theatre Company blog

Happiness At Work edition #90

If you enjoyed this, you may also find more stories and techniques for becoming more productive, happy and creative in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection, our weekly collection of the best stories about leadership and learning, mindfulness and happiness at work, resilience and self-mastery.

Enjoy…

 

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 #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 #78 ~ The 2014 Happiness Calendar

Happy New Year 2014

The 2014 Happiness Calendar

by Henry S. Millerauthor of The Serious Pursuit of Happiness: Everything You Need to Know to Flourish and Thrive, and Inspiration for the Pursuit of Happiness: Wisdom to Guide your Journey to a Better Life.

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be” (Abraham Lincoln)

Amp up the amount of happiness in your life each and every month of the year by intentionally focusing on 12 strategies that the science of happiness and well being has proven can increase your feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Even better: know that, if you add these actions to your life, your feelings of increased positive emotion can last for days, weeks, and even months! If this is the year you decide to get serious about adding happiness that lasts to your life, here are 12 happiness strategies for 2014 and suggestions to make them work for you.

For the best results, remind yourself of each month’s happiness strategy by adding these topics to your calendar – every day of each month. Then, each day of the year, find creative ways to act on these strategies – and enjoy your reactions and your increased feelings of happiness. You’ll notice that these feelings will last far longer than the happiness you feel from just partaking of the pleasures of life – and will be more meaningful to you.

No matter what your situation, remain hopeful about increasing your happiness. The truth is that no one is ever out of the game when it comes to living a happier and more fulfilling life! As the months of this year unfold, continue all of the 12 strategies that work best for you. If you do, a year of increased happiness can be yours.

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

January: A Month of Hope and Plans

The beginning of the year is traditionally about new years’ resolutions. This year, write one positive goal you have for the coming year down on your calendar each morning of each day of January. Also write your plan to make it a reality. Then, resolve that you will intentionally invest your time and energy to work on your resolutions during the year and to live a happier life by implementing these 12 happiness strategies – one each month.

photo credit: PRAVEEN VENUGOPAL via photopin cc

photo credit: PRAVEEN VENUGOPAL via photopin cc

February: A Month of Gratitude

Gratitude is the antidote to greed, envy, and jealously. We feel much happier when we are being grateful for what we have, rather than envious of what we don’t. Remember, no one has everything! This month, each night before going to bed, take a daily gratitude inventory. Write down three things you are grateful for about your life – your relationships, your work, your character, your family, your country, the world around you, your life.

photo credit: [Duncan] via photopin cc

photo credit: [Duncan] via photopin cc

March: A Month of Kindness

Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And, if you look around, it’s still true today. This month, find one opportunity each and every day to perform some kind act for someone else – even the simplest act of holding a door open for another will do. And, each day, after your act of kindness, enjoy the feeling that, for at least one shining moment, you are the personification of all that is good about the human race.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

April: A Month of Optimism

Each day this month, be more conscious of your negative thoughts – if you have any. And every time you do, immediately “dispute” it by intentionally replacing the negative thought with a positive one. Do this each time you think a negative thought for a month, and notice how your thinking might change.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

May: A Month of Friendship

Close relationships are one of the longest-lasting of happiness-increasing strategies. But, sometimes, we take our friends for granted – or are “too busy” to see them. This month, at least one time per week, reach out to a friend and arrange to spend time with them. This can be as simple as a walk, a meal, coffee, drinks – whatever you choose. But find the time to visit with your friends face-to-face this month.

photo credit: All Kinds of New via photopin cc

photo credit: All Kinds of New via photopin cc

June: A Month of Love

Traditionally, June is a month of weddings – and love is all around us. Each day this month, call, write, or email someone you love or care deeply about – one per day – and tell them how much they mean to you – and how happy you are that they are a part of your life – even if you haven’t been the best communicator up to now. Notice reactions – yours and theirs.

photo credit: Jen's Art & Soul via photopin cc

photo credit: Jen’s Art & Soul via photopin cc

July: A Month of Spirituality

Studies have proven that people who have spirituality in their lives – whether it’s their own secular belief system, their own faith, or some organized religion – are happier. We don’t know if it’s because of the fellowship of a caring group of like-thinking folks, or the spiritual beliefs themselves. This month, make a conscious effort to spend some moments each day – perhaps during lunch – repeating to yourself at least one “prayer” or belief you hold.

photo credit: kt.beyondperception via photopin cc

photo credit: kt.beyondperception via photopin cc

August: A Month of Health, Fitness, Skill

Summer is a great time to focus on increasing your health and fitness – and on using your skills and abilities to their max. This month, begin some daily fitness regimen (check with your doctor first if needed) – even if it’s only walking. In addition, make a list of your top skills, talents, and abilities and assess if you are using them to their fullest. If not, take one step per day to begin doing so.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

September: A Month of Contribution

Making a meaningful contribution to make the planet a better place is one of the longest-lasting, happiness-increasing strategies known. What are you contributing? This month is your chance to decide what difference you’d like to make in the world. Spend a few minutes each day at lunchtime and write down ideas about how you can make a positive difference in the world. At the end of the month, decide on a plan of action – and begin! The world needs you and your contribution!

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

October: A Month of Savouring

Autumn is a season to enjoy the changing foliage in many parts of the world. Consciously spend at least five minutes each day focusing your attention exclusively on something of beauty outside – changing leaves, trees, clouds, sky – something. Five minutes of complete attention to savour the beauty of life around you – each day, every day.

photo credit: thesullys via photopin cc

photo credit: thesullys via photopin cc

November: A Month of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful, although a slightly more complicated, happiness strategy. We forgive others to make us feel better. This month, examine your life and see if there are any lingering resentments you are holding on to that are holding you back from joy. If so, do two things: First, write the apology letter you would have liked to have received from the person who has wronged you. Second, rise above your desire for revenge, and write your letter of forgiveness to them. No need to mail it, just recall the hurt or violation, write about your feelings. End the letter with your statement of forgiveness. Just this simple act of writing a forgiveness letter can often grant you freedom from your negative thoughts and give you increased happiness.

photo credit: mezzoblue via photopin cc

photo credit: mezzoblue via photopin cc

December: A Month of Generosity

The end of the year is a time for giving – a time to donate your time, your money if you can, your skills, your positive energy, your attention – to others to help make their life a little better. Each day, find one opportunity to give something of yourself to help another – and notice your feelings.

Link to the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #78

You will find  selection of stories about happiness at work, leadership, creativity, resilience and self-mastery in our latest Happiness At Work collection #78, online from Friday 27th December.

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 #73 ~ the (brave?) new world we are making for ourselves

If happiness were the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

A really terrific question – and we’d love to hear your answers…?

And it’s a great headline too for this week’s Happiness At Work collection #73 question: based on the strongest trends, patterns and the new norms we are carving into our cultural assumptions and expectations, are we making ourselves any better?

This week we highlight a blend of stories that illuminate and probe and wrestle around and celebrate the new-in-the-now – in our organisations as much as across our societies and within the fabric of our everyday lives.  Together these stories bring a growing sense of what we are becoming and making of ourselves.

See whether you think this is to our greater good or our increased ill…?.

Well-Being Jettisons To Critical Performance Metric In Workplace

by Judy Martin writing in Forbes magazine

We have often noticed that what gets valued gets measured and what gets measured gets attention, energy and investment.  In our first story Judy Martin marks the growing validity of happiness and wellbeing at work as a serious metric in the engine rooms and accounting houses of our organisations, and asks…

Can you hear it? There’s a nascent ethos of binaural business wisdom coming from progressive CEOs truly concerned with the health and well-being of their talent, and the deepening of our own mindful awareness as individuals in desperate need of a more peaceful, productive and healthy working experience.

The well-being of the workforce, if only disconsolately by default, might be the metric of salvation in an era of digital exuberance, overworked employees and disengaged talent looking to jump ship.

A salvo of scientific research in stress and creativity, along with statistics reflecting big business’ desperation to retain and engage talent, pack a wallop of a wakeup punch to the tummy of the traditional business model. And some of  big business is hearing the wakeup call.

CIPD, a UK Human Resources trade organization, reports that over the last year alone, the number of employers making workplace cultural changes to try to reduce long-term absence levels has increased 20% in the last year. It its Simplyhealth Absence Survey, 85% revealed they’re making changes to working patterns, environments and flexibility. This passage from the report speaks volumes to acknowledging employee well-being:

“The benefit of changes to working patterns has been recognized by many employers, with over 70% of organizations reporting a positive impact on employee motivation and employee engagement. A further 46% also stated they were using flexible working options to support employees with mental health problems.”

But the positive news is littered with some hard core disturbing facts:

  • Absence levels, according to CIPD have crept up to post-recession numbers seen in 2010 and 2011.
  • ComPsych reports that “elevated stress levels are the new norm for employees.” The employee assistant provider says its 2013 StressPulse Report found that 62% of employees indicated high levels of stress, and that one-third lose an hour a day in productivity as a result of stress.
  • Gallup’s recently revealed that 70% of American employees are either disengaged or miserable at work.

(I discuss the intersection of work stress and well-being here in my recent post Work, Stress, Bliss Manifesto.)

“The message is clear,” says HR trend tracker Meghan M. Biro, Founder of TalentCulture.com and host of one of the most popular Human Resources twitter chats on the web, #TChat.  “Leaders have to do better building employee engagement and job satisfaction through programs like wellness and work flexibility. When you see people who can’t wait to get to work in the morning, you’ll know you’ve created intrapreneurs who will radiate a highly contagious fulfilment and happiness. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Mindfulness and Well-Being Garners Growing Attention

That beautiful thing seems elusive and hard to define in terms of success. But if you ask media mogul Arianna Huffington, well-being at work should be trending high enough for the c-suite to take more notice…

“The truth is that we no longer have the luxury to ignore our well-being, our wisdom, our ability to make good decisions, because the world is moving so fast that we can no longer be in maintenance mode. We have to constantly be innovating, constantly creating, and we can’t do that from the surface. We can’t do that from burnout,” said Huffington adding, “Right now the American workforce is running on burnout, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.”

The Wisdom 2.0 Business Conference at Google’s New York City headquarters, founded by author Soren Gordhamer who wrote  Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected, explored mindfulness in business and its impact on the well-being and performance of talent in our real-time world. The topic resonated deeply with another speaker at the conference, Rich Fernandez; a former Google employee and Founder of WisdomLabs. He effused with audience agreement that due to technology – demands, information and complexity are increasing without the capacity to manage all the stimulation.

“Our in-boxes and the way we work make the world very complex, and the world is already turbulent as it is. It’s really hard for our organizations, and those of us who work in those organizations to become resilient at the same rate,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez says we have more wicked problems than we’ve ever dealt with before, adding, “Our leaders need to be more complex and adaptive in their thinking. They need to be more agile and self aware…”

A Personal Take on Well-Being at Work 

Judging by the arguments made, it behooves leaders to take the reins on the well-being wagon at work, but that dirt road is paved with potholes of resistance unless the spreadsheets prove other wise. Perhaps individual effort to improve ones well-being might be the faster track. If employees learn to better manage their energy and work flow, they just might see an improvement in their performance and ability to manage stress.

“Everyone needs to learn to recognize and respect their own personal rhythms of peak performance and need for healing rest and recovery,” Rossi recently told me in an interview at WorkLifeNation.com.

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of well-being at work and how it has the potential to fuel more energy and better employee performance.  The implications are more crucial than ever before as the global marketplace becomes more competitive, and talent driven creativity and innovation might catapult a company above the rest. The question is, whose responsibility is it to nurture the well-being of employees? Please share your thoughts.

Judy Martin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and stress management consultant who tracks workplace trends. Connect with Judy on Twitter: @JudyMartin8 and visit her at WorkLifeNation.com where she writes in depth about workplace concerns,  work stress management initiatives, workplace well-being trends and  transforming stress in an “always-on” world.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Diana Diamond asks: Are We Being Happy Yet?

More than 1,000 books on happiness were released last month on Amazon

At a recent Stanford alumni conference – “Are you happy now,” moderated by former CBS News anchor Katie Couric – the focus was on just that. The panel featured Stanford professors and David Kelley, founder of IDEO, a design and innovation firm based in Palo Alto.

Panelists first defined happiness as a feeling good experience, a combination of pleasure and meaningfulness, knowing how to have fun, and doing something with a purpose.

Some people are hard-wired for happiness. Surprisingly, there are happy and unhappy minds, mostly dependent on our genes but also our upbringing. Couric said her husband always tells her she was born on the sunny side of the street. I have cloudy-side origins. Fascinating, since we seldom analyze ourselves this way.

When asked if stress is an impediment to happiness, Kelley said that doing something for someone else or society helps alleviate stress. He added that creative people are happier and usually more excited about things.

Firdaus Dhabhar, a Stanford psychiatry professor, said stress can be helpful and make us more effective, but we need down times between stressful periods. And while some of us view stress as a bad thing, it need not be so unless it overwhelms us.

Panelists agreed more children are depressed now, compared to a decade or two ago; no explanation why. While money won’t buy happiness, as long as one’s basic needs are met, individuals tend to be happier. Those who choose to spend their money on experiences and activities are happier than those who spend their money on “things” such as another pair of shoes or a second house.

Technology is changing our lives, Kelley said, for better or worse. He knows of teenagers who come home early from a dance date so they then can text each other about the dance. “Technology can help you keep unconnected and impersonal.”

Yet, he added, an amazing 60 percent of teens surveyed say they feel worse after spending time on Facebook because all their friends “seem to be doing all these fab things.”

Panelists discussed children a lot, beginning with Couric’s question: Does having children make you happier?

Studies show children create more meaning in our lives. But parents today have a difficult time allowing their kids to fail — they want to protect them, and turn into helicopter parents, constantly hovering over them.

Couric asked why parents today feel they have to go to every one of their kids’ sports activities, every practice, every concert and every on-stage event. Parents work on their kids’ projects, and supervise their homework. It’s “what parents have to do,” she complained.

Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford marketing professor, said studies show that the happiness curve starts at 18 when kids are doing all sorts of exciting things, then leads to satisfaction, then onto doing something meaningful. And finally some contentment. People are least happy when they are 35 to 45 years old with three kids, but from 50 to 70 happiness increases, and then goes downhill. Happiness shifts over the course of life.

The United States is 18th in the world in happiness ratings, but compared to other countries, we pay less attention to the meaningfulness of life.

And what is the most important component for happiness? The panelists listed a sense of autonomy in one’s life, personal growth, authenticity, genuineness – and sleep.

Dare I now wish you a Happy Thanksgiving? Perhaps that will stress you out.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Internet-Connected

By 2015 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the internet, and by 2020 this is predicted to haves doubled to 50 billion interconnected devices.

This IT Brief outlines seven items sampling what they call the vast Internet of Things…

Within this “Internet of Things,” there is an already massive range of connected devices that continues to grow every minute.  Here are seven things you may not have realised are internet-connected:

Already here and a part of the Brave New World we have made for ourselves are…

Assassination by WiFi – as seen in Homeland, heart devices already have WiFi capability and are increasingly transmitting data to smartphones, registering potentially life-threatening irregularities. But this bring risks, and Vice President Cheney’s cardiologist has had this WiFi disabled – just in case…

Cows on Facebook – Ranchers are already using wireless sensors to monitor their stock from afar, bringing them news feeds such as when a cow is pregnant, and other farmers are using robotic milking that sends data about much milk their cows are producing…

Pot plants that water and light themselves – WiFi enabled sensors that provide information about nutrients and temperature can also automatically tun off and on watering and lighting accessories…

TV computing – WiFi capabilities are increasing the range of internet activities we can do through our televisions…

Pills that keep us monitored – WiFi enabled to transmit information to remind us to take our meds, and report us if we don’t to our doctors and relatives…

Rubbish that keeps us honest and clean – new tech systems using radio frequency identification that transmit data so there is no hiding what rubbish we’ve put where…

Machine control – in manufacturing a increasing amount of data is being provide across a broader and broader network to provide the intelligence to drive business excellence and controls…

Link to get this free download

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Meaning 2013: A Business Rebellion

Meaning 2013 was the annual NixonMcInnes business conference that happened this year on 8th November in Brighton, with the aspiration to

‘help connect and inspire people who believe in better business…Be part of the change…’

Luke Dodd reviews this one-day conference in his Melcrum Internal Communications blog

Finding meaning in what your organization does is at the heart of smart Internal Communication.

Using that understanding and infusing it within your communication strategy encourages employee engagement, makes messages sticky and ensures alignment to business values.

And for those communicators wishing to make that connection, the search for meaning can go far beyond the office walls. It can lead us to reach out into the world and ask whether our individual efforts are helping society.

Meaning is powerful. And meaning can transform your organization.

Taking a high-level view of business was at the heart of the agenda for Meaning 2013 (#meaningconf), organized by Nixon McInnes and held at the Corn Exchange, Brighton, UK this past week. Over 200 delegates attended, ready to take a look at the world in a different way. Here are my highlights and thoughts from the day’s proceedings…

Link to read Luke Dodd’s memories and reflections of this event

10 Things We Learned From Meaning 2013 at Brighton

Some of the themes and the issues this gathering set out to explore were…

  • Organisational Design & Structure ~ is topdown command and control fit for the 21st century?
  • Workplace Democratisation ~ are businesses with collaborative decision-making practices getting the edge on old-school competitors?
  • 21st Century Leadership ~ what kind of leaders do the challenges of our time demand, and what is leadership today?
  • Steady State Economics ~ can we keep growing in conventional terms and if not, what are the alternatives?
  • Sustainability In Business ~ what are the opportunities for businesses to embrace sustainability?
  • Technology Disruption ~ what technology themes are imminent and likely to disrupt business as usual?
  • The Future Of Work ~ what do people want from work and what can they expect from progressive businesses?

In this post, Fiona Duffy of The Happy Startup School draws out her top themes from the Meaning 2013 NixonMcInnes event.

And, generously, NixonMcInnes have posted all of the the talks from the day in their YouTube channel, so you can pick and mix the ideas that interest you from this blended guide…

NixonMcInnes believe as we do, that business needs to re-design in the 21st century.  They created Meaning  to connect and inspire future business leaders who believe in the same thing, curating talks that inspire action.

Key take-aways and all of the talks from the day…

  • People want to be part of change (founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and Swarmwise author Rick Falkvinge)…   “We work for autonomy, mastery and purpose…Leaders need to provide a mission for people to rally around, where everybody can see there’s a place for them.  If someone can help towards reaching a goal or driving a single idea without having to be asked, magic happens, people start swarming towards that idea.  Ideas should be credible, executable and epic, so shoot for the moon.  On second thoughts, no – we’ve already been there.  Shoot for Mars…”

  • If you’re human, you’re a storyteller.  Get good at it (story activist, Mary Alice Arthur)…   “How do you make change?  By unleashing the Trojan mice…”  Stories make for driving positive change.  If you apply this to entrepreneurs, having a story in business gives clear purpose for people to rally around your cause.  Stories show a mrs human approach to business, essential for gathering a swarm of proactive people for driving change.  What question is your life calling for?  And what story are you living in and living into?“…

  • The best leaders lead through inquiry (co-founder of JustGiving Anne Marie Huby)…   “The stronger the culture, the less rules you need.”  At JustGiving leaders lead through questioning.  No single person can win points through status.  It takes collective intelligence to answer problems no one person can answer.  JustGiving’s core values and democratic approach to business empowers culture and team integrity…
  • Invent things that add value (Anne Marie Huby)…   Focus on inventing products that have real meaning – profits should be a by-product of doing better things.  Placing more focus on how we’re doing business not what we’re doing leads to better outcomes.  Test and learn constantly…

  • It’s possible not to fire a single soul in 57 years of business (Mikel Lezamiz, director of cooperative dissemination at MONDRAGON)…   “Workforce has the power, capital has the tool.”  Employee have their core values, cooperation, social responsibility, innovation and participation which owes a lot to a 0.01% staff turnover rate and 0 firing record.

  • Fun should be featured in the business model (James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog)…   BrewDog have adopted a disruptive business model where they set up an ‘equity for punks’ scheme allowing their fans shares in the company along with huge discounts across their beers – proving that having a little fun, disregarding corporate growth models and doing something you’re truly passionate about is the future of business…

  • Positive understanding of tech = positive change (Dr. Sue Black, one of the Guardian’s top ten women in tech)…   Since launching the #techmums campaign Sue Black has helped numerous mothers enrich their lives with the power of the internet  If you’re going to lead a business you’ve got to be moving towards Maslow’s ‘self-actualisation’…”

  • A dark age is looming (rogue economist, author and Harvard Business Review blogger Umair Haque)…   We need to build businesses with stronger values and less focus on financial growth.  When we look at meaning in our everyday lives, we shouldn’t be focusing on material wealth, we should be focusing on fulfilment.  The same is true for business.  We need meaning more than ever but “we’re entering a Dark Age for humanity when we’re reluctant to speak out against unfair systems.”

  • Don’t become the companies you set out to disrupt (social technologies expert Lee Bryant)…    Too many startups are mimicking the very organisations they’re battling against.  We need to recognise that top-down organisational norm isn’t working anymore.  It’s time to innovate and squash traditional structures, finding a way that incorporates your mission and values.

  • Identity is the new money (internationally recognised thought leader in digital identity and digital money, Dave Birch)…   “We have a new superpower because we can connect with anyone else on the planet in an instant… 

 

  • Finding meaning in what your organisation does is at the heart of smart communication...   Using the understanding [of meaning] and infusing it within your communication strategy encourages employee engagement, makes messages sticky and ensures alignment to business values.  Meaning is powerful.  And meaning can transform your organisation.” (Luke Dodd)

Link to read the original Happy Startup School article

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

How to Create a Workplace that Works for Women

Inge Woudstra, director of W2O Consulting & Training, writes in the Guardian

Management programmes often suggest ways to change the way women think, but perhaps we should be changing our workplaces instead.

Women are different, yet coaching, mentoring and leadership programmes often focus on fixing women; helping them to do well in an organisation designed for men. Is that really the solution?

Don’t adapt, instead create a workplace that works for women. Here’s how:

Create a female support network

Growing in your career requires self-confidence. A great way to do this is to join a women’s network: a place where you can find inspiration and recognition from sharing with like-minded people.

You may have to try a few networks before you have found one that feels right for you. If you can’t find one, why not create your own? Invite a few colleagues for a monthly dinner. Make sure that the people you invite are at a similar level to you and aren’t connected to your day-to-day workplace.

Author and bio-psychologist Martine Delfos explains that female support networks satisfy the basic human need of feeling safe and secure. Men have the same need to feel safe and secure, but they tend to find this kind of support and encouragement with their partner at home.

Remember to also build networks that do include men, as you will need those for the same purpose men use networks: for sales, self-promotion or increased power and influence.

Ask for the management support you need

Not everyone is motivated in the same way. Do you know what makes you stretch yourself? Reflect on questions such as: What inspires you to work harder? What gives you that little push to go for a challenging project, or promotion?

 …Most men tend to be motivated by challenges and competitions. Language that may work for men could include, “I bet you can’t beat our competitor” or, “This is a very challenging project.”

Women tend to be motivated by co-operation and a more encouraging style, with language that could include, “We really need your help to build our client base” or, “I saw you perform really well on the last project, I just know you can do this one.”

Find out what works for you and subtly let your manager know; they may well become your fiercest supporter.

Speak up: your view is important

It’s easy to sit back and let others take the lead. After all, putting yourself in the spotlight isn’t easy.

However, as Sheryl Sandberg argues in her book Lean In, your organisation needs you there. Teams with a better gender balance perform better simply because women’s brains tend to make different connections. You may, for instance, see the wider impact of a decision, or remember past experiences better and draw lessons from them.

 Voice what you need to feel valued

 You should feel happy and satisfied at work. Barbara Annis, author of Work with Me, did exit interviews with women, and her research shows that 40% cite “not feeling valued” as a key reason for leaving their organisation. Work-family reasons are mentioned by only 30%.

Men and women have a different way of feeling recognised and valued. Women tend to need to hear they are valued more often. In addition, women tend to look for appreciation for themselves as a person, whereas men tend to feel valued when their (public) achievements are valued.

It’s good to realise that you have a different approach, but may well get the same results. Knowing this may help you to feel more confident at work, which can make all the difference.

Link to read the original Guardian article

Better People Equals Better Business – Lessons from the All Blacks

James Kerr, author of Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, writes for HRZone….

…Having feasted for 100 years on an extraordinary 75% winning record, results were slipping. The Men in Black had just come a miserable last in the Tri Nations, a championship they’d come to regard as their own.  Worse, morale had plummeted…

Something had to change.

The senior leadership gathered for a three-day summit under head coach, Graham Henry, in what he now calls the most important meeting of his career.

Out of it came a new resolve – to redesign the world’s most successful sporting culture – and a new phrase; Better People Make Better All Blacks. The strategy? Develop the character of the players off the pitch, so that they perform better on it.

Their plan revolved around the following pillars:

  • Devolved leadership, involving techniques not dissimilar from the military’s ‘mission command’ doctrine; to arm the players ‘with intention’ and to trust them to deliver.
  • Individual personal development; involving the creation of a ‘living document’ that charted individual progress day by day, week by week, season by season.
  • The creation of a learning environment modeled on Henry’s experience as a headmaster; a philosophy of continual improvement encapsulated in the phrase ‘Champions Do Extra’.
  • Train to win; training at intensity so Thursday’s training was even more brutal than the cauldron of a test match, leading to recalibration of expectations.
  • A focus on brain biology in which they identified the effect of stress on cognitive function and developed triggers and anchors to help the players cope.
  • The ritualisation of behaviour around their core narrative; epitomised by the team’s development of a new haka, Kapa o Pango.

This final element bound the rest together. “The success was being really good at that,’ says Wayne Smith, the All Blacks assistant coach. ‘Really good at making our team talks, our reviews, our game plans, all apply to the central story.”

Between 2004 and 2011, the All Blacks took their winning record from an extraordinary 75% (over 100 years, making them the most statistically successful sporting team in any code, ever), to an almost unbelievable 86%.

Clearly, the soft stuff – the story, the mind game – delivers the hard stuff, measurable competitive advantage. It also delivered a little gold cup.

In my bookLegacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, I isolate the 15 key lessons in leadership I learned from my immersion into this inspiring environment. They are the proven principles that the All Blacks use to fuse themselves into a singularly effective high-performance organisation.

Here are a few of the All Blacks’ secrets of success:

Sweep the Sheds

…Surprisingly perhaps, a core All Blacks value is humility. They believe that stratospheric success can only be achieved by keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Follow the Spearhead

…the All Blacks seek to replace the ‘me’ with the ‘we’. No one is bigger than the team, so much so that there is an unofficial policy, ‘No Dickheads’. They select on character over talent, believing that it delivers better long-term dividends. Something that many corporate environments might do well to consider.

Create a Haka

A key factor in the All Blacks rebirth was the development of the new haka, Kapa o Pango. By bringing the players and management together in an inclusive process that invoked the past while creating the future, the All Blacks reattached personal meaning to public purpose. Rituals reflect, remind and reinforce the belief system of the collective; it’s no surprise that the organisations and cultures that have survived and thrived over the centuries – from countries to churches, Wal-Mart to Leo Burnett, have significent rituals at their core to communicate their story and purpose.

Pass the Ball

To paraphrase Tom Peters, leaders create leaders, not followers. Central to the All Blacks method was the development of leadership groups and the nurturing of character off the field, to deliver results on it. This involved a literal and metaphorical handing over of responsibility from management to players, so that by game day the team consisted of ‘one captain and 15 leaders‘…

Leave a Legacy

There is a Maori concept, whakapapa, which captures the idea of our genealogy, our lineage from the beginning of time to the end of eternity. The sun shines on this, our time, just for a moment and it is our responsibility to ‘leave the jersey in a better place’. The All Blacks seek to ‘add to the legacy’ in everything they do, knowing that higher purpose leads to higher performance.

To regain their momentum, and to win back the World Cup, the All Blacks developed a values-led, purpose-driven high-performance culture and they used the power of storytelling to give it personal resonance. The result of this extraordinary environment was extraordinary results.

Those organisations that know what they stand for – and most importantly, why – consistently outperform those who are just going through the motions. They create better commercial results, generate more sales, deliver higher shareholder value, attract better talent, and retain it.

Clearly, many of the challenges HR leaders face are different to those of the All Blacks. Scale creates complexity, individual ambition can trump a collective spirit, organisational structure often undermines strategy. Nevertheless, if we seek to align all our people, resources and effort around a singular and compelling central narrative, and reinforce that story through communications, rewards, resourcing and training, the results will come.

Link to read the original unedited article

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

Gratitude Can Fuel School – and Work – Transformation

In this article Elena Aguilar outlines the benefits and application of practising gratitude in schools, but these ideas are so universally applicable I have adapted it only very slightly to show its relevance for all of us, whatever work we doing…

The Neuroscience Behind Appreciation

Here’s the thing: Our brains need to feel gratitude in order for us to want to be at work. Our brains are like Teflon for positive experiences and like Velcro with negative experiences. This means the negative comments, interactions, professional development (PD) workshops, and so on, cling to our brains. But if we spend a few minutes in appreciation, recalling those fulfilling moments in a day or encounters with supportive [people], or the segments in workshops when we felt we were learning, our brains create new links between neurons.

As we strengthen these links and build them day-after-day, our mind finds it easier to travel down those neuron paths and to experience the associated positive emotions. We can help our brain evolve in a positive way and in a way that might help us transform schools.

If we feel more positive, we will want to be at work. We will most likely be more patient with our [customers] and with colleagues. We may speak to each other with more kindness. We might listen to each other more deeply. We might take risks in our [work] or leadership. But we can’t do any of these when we’re perpetually distressed. Expressing gratitude can allow us to engage in our [work] and learning in a more positive, open way.

“Gratitude is like a flashlight. It lights up what is already there. You don’t necessarily have anything more or different, but suddenly you can actually see what it is. And because you can see, you no longer take it for granted.” – M.J. Ryan in Attitudes of Gratitude.

Ways of Practising Gratitude

Adapting and responding to what is most meaningful to each individual person increases the potency and impact of the appreciation we show.  Each one of us knows how we want to be appreciated. You might prefer quiet affirmation, or you might really like a public acknowledgment.  Perhaps you would really appreciate getting a written message, or maybe you would rather hear it in person. Or maybe a small gift of chocolate is what it would take to make you feel truly appreciated.

Closing meetings with public expressions of gratitude is a powerful and invaluable to create community, as are other practices. For example, a staff lounge can have an “Appreciation Tree” where all are invited to write an appreciation on a leaf and post it on the tree. In addition, there are many ways that we can individually practice this brain-enhancing behavior. Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. This exercise is a way of closing every day by recalling a few things we are grateful for from that day. By simply cataloguing them our minds start to search them out during the day
  • What do I appreciate about today and what was my role in making it happen? This is a more focused journal prompt to respond to each day that helps us recognize our agency in our blessings. Through this process, we discover how we can create more positive experiences for ourselves
  • Email a friend. You can also find a friend who wants to commit to emailing each other every day — or a few times a week — and sharing what you’re grateful for. Some of us feel more motivated by (and accountable) if we have an audience
  • Write a gratitude letter. Select one person you feel gratitude for (living or dead) and write a letter appreciating the ways that that he/she has enriched your life. If you can, read it face to face. This is a powerful exercise to engage in occasionally and could be tailored to an education context at times – write a letter to someone from your past, someone you have been touch with for too long, someone you see a lot but somehow never tell them what you appreciate about them…
  • Project 365. This is a fun photography project for those visually inclined. I did this for a year, taking one photo a day, and focused on capturing images that reflected something I was grateful for. After a while, I noticed that each day I’d consciously look for positive moments to capture. I felt like my mind was training itself, honing in on all that was good so that I could accomplish my daily task
  • Use guided imagery and meditation. By taking a few minutes at the start or end of each day to call to mind what we’re grateful for, we strengthen those neurons that make us feel happier. When I wake up, I often silently appreciate my body for all it does each day to keep my healthy. You can do this for whatever you’re grateful for.

Our ability to feel gratitude is a muscle of sorts – it’s a habit our minds can develop – we just need practice. Imagine if we were all practicing individually, for a few minutes in the morning and a few in the evening, and then if there were ways built into our work day to express gratitude to those around us; imagine how different we’d feel about being at work each day.

Link to read the original article about practising gratitude in schools

10 Ways To Create a Compassionate Workplace

 writes, on 13th November, World Kindness Day, about some new thinking that shows us how to make a better and more fictive workplace through practising more compassionate and kinder ways of working with each other…

1. Start small

According to business professor Adam Grant, the most successful ‘givers’ don’t try to be Gandhi or Mother Teresa. They do a lot of five-minute favours. “That might be sharing a little bit of knowledge, making an introduction when somebody is down on their luck or their opportunities, just listening, and offering advice or sympathy for a challenge that somebody is facing.”

2. Learn to focus

One Harvard University study found that we spend almost half our waking hours doing one thing but thinking about something else – and our distraction levels are highest at work. Amongst other things, this stops us from connecting with people around us.

Simple meditation and mindfulness exercises bring all kinds of benefits, including boosting our compassion levels (as this doctor’s waiting room study shows). More and more companies are offering meditation classes, and even CEOs and politicians are getting involved.

3. Try compassion training

In the last 10 years or so, research has confirmed that we can deliberately cultivate empathy and compassion. For example, studies using ‘economics games’ found that people acted more altruistically after compassion training and were more likely to redistribute money that was unfairly allocated. Teachers and healthcare professionals were less stressed, anxious or depressed, and compassion training seems to protect caregivers from burnout and compassion fatigue. A number of different organisations now run courses for professionals.

4. Be kind to yourself

Our biggest enemy at work – or anywhere else – is often ourself. Self-compassion (which is not the same as self-esteem) is important because the more we have, the more likely we are to be happy, optimistic and satisfied with life.

Self-compassion is linked with qualities that are very useful at work. It makes us more conscientious, resilient and motivated, and more willing to take responsibility for mistakes.Kristin Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher and teacher, believes it is hard to show compassion for others if we don’t have any for ourselves. “Your batteries are going to run dry,” she says.

5. Promote compassionate leaders

Organisations don’t set their values, structures and procedures, the people at the top do – so we should select, train and support leaders who are prepared to make changes and listen to employees. Leadership consultant Richard Barrett gives the example of a large South African bank that started conducting regular staff surveys. The result was a striking growth in staff engagement, profits and share price. “Caring about your employees is really good for business,” says Barrett.

6. Beware of ‘takers’

“The negative impact of takers on a culture is greater than the positive impact of givers,” says Adam Grant. Weeding out “the most selfish, horrible people” creates a balance of givers and ‘matchers’. As matchers tend to reciprocate the treatment they receive, they will emulate the givers around them, and this will shift the whole culture of the organisation.

7. It’s not always about money

We’re missing a trick if we think the only way to motivate employees is through financial incentives, with an injection of fear for good measure. Many organisations overlook the value of appreciation, support and affiliation, both as a performance motivator and as a calming factor in stressful work environments. One practical way to address this is to find ways to recognize and reward employees who go out of their way to help others.

8. Make compassionate decisions

We can never know exactly what the consequences of a decision will be. But before we act, we can run a few simple checks. What is our motivation? What are the implications for others? How would we feel if we were on the receiving end?

9. Ignore the compassion myths

We might worry that acting in a compassionate way will see us branded as a soft touch who can’t get the job done (even though research suggests the opposite is true). Adam Grant says: “The easiest way to remove that barrier is to identify other givers in your organisation and build a community of people who share your values and are willing to see concern for others and compassion as a sign of strength as opposed to a source of weakness.”

10. Lead by example

As the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman points out, our emotions and behaviour are contagious. “A leader is anyone who has a sphere of influence, and we all do in our lives somewhere… We are all in a situation, in any interaction, to be compassionate.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

Women are more engaged at work, so are they happier?

Jonathan Richards, chief executive of breatheHR writes…

Structured development improves morale and ultimately productivity, yet new research shows that many companies overlook the importance of supporting employees

…Continual staff mentoring and development is at the heart of every successful team and business. Yet despite demonstrable benefits, the Personal Development in the Workplace study we recently commissioned revealed that personal development was being seriously neglected by business owners across the UK.

The study surveyed employees in small-and medium-sized businesses in the UK. It revealed that almost half (47.6%) of staff feel that their boss doesn’t take their personal development seriously, while a quarter (27.9%) said they have never discussed personal development or training with their boss.

Perhaps most alarming is that more than 66% claimed to have no kind of personal development plan in place, effectively working day to day without any goals or training focus. While the figures showed only marginal differences of up to 7%, it emerged that women actually feel more engaged in the workplace, discuss their personal development more frequently with their employer and are more likely to have a personal development plan in place than their male counterparts.

These differences between men and women in the workplace may have roots in the classroom. It has been statistically proven that girls perform better than boys while at school, right through to GCSEs. This suggests that on a simple level, girls may well be more conscientious than boys, a trait which would mean they would also take a greater interest in their development at work.

There has also been a noticeable shift away from traditional gender roles in the past 15 years. Women, who are anecdotally and scientifically proven to be better at multitasking, are using this to their advantage and enjoying the benefits of a career and parenthood. Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman called Study in Leadership: Women Do it Better Than Men asked 7,280 professionals which skills they believed leaders of both genders possessed. While you might expect traits such as relationship building and teamwork to come high on the list (which they did), the top three were: takes initiative; practises self-development; displays high integrity and honesty.

The study concluded that women excel at 15 of 16 individual leadership characteristics, as judged by their peers, subordinates and managers, with the variation between women and men increasing as individuals gain seniority. Traits such as taking the initiative and practising self-development go some way to explaining why women are more engaged in the workplace and are therefore more likely to have a stronger focus on their personal development.

So why are so many small to medium-sized businesses neglecting their staff development obligations? This could be down to the impact of the recession, with business owners more concerned with paying wages and keeping the business on an even keel, rather than diverting already limited funds to training and developing staff.

Happy employees tend to be high-performing ones, so an important starting point for business owners should be to think about how they can improve the individual lives of each of their staff. This doesn’t mean taking them on a company break or sending them away on training courses; it can be as simple as just providing support and encouragement and taking the time to understand what it is they want to get out of their job.

There is no silver bullet to improve company morale or productivity, but by making a small improvement to each employee’s work life you will dramatically improve business performance.

Link to read the original Guardian article

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

Pret a Manger Wants Happy Employees – And That’s OK

 reports on the growing trend for organisations to train their staff to ‘treat customers as if they are guests in your home’…

The front page of the New York Times recently carried an in-depth report on a “broad and transformative trend” in Russia. It had nothing to do with more democracy or less corruption. It had to do with better customer service — specifically, an intense focus inside Aeroflot, the infamous Russian airline, to teach flight attendants how to smile.

“Anna, you just showed her the champagne bottle but didn’t say anything,” one instructor coaxed a young employee. “This is the silent service of Soviet times. You need to talk to her. And you need to smile and smile and smile.”

I found two things about the report especially noteworthy. First, these basic reminders are having a revolutionary impact at Aeroflot. According to the Times, customer surveys indicate that the airline now has the best service of any carrier in Eastern Europe, including the best the West has to offer.

Second, Aeroflot’s program comes at a time when the business culture in the United States seems to be questioning the importance, the value, even the authenticity of human-to-human connections. In an era of cutthroat competition, deep-seated cynicism, and the digital disruption of everything, does it make sense to make big bets on the power of small acts of kindness?

… the success of Pret a Manger, the fast-growing (323 stores around the world), fast-casual sandwich shop, [depends upon] its unapologetic commitment to developing a workforce that is bright, cheerful, and happy to keep smiling.

One distinctive part of the Pret offering is its wide variety of fresh (yet pre-made) sandwiches. This model allows the company to get customers in and out of the store in as little as 60 seconds — a true value for harried office workers, its target customers. But Pret wants that brief time to be filled with smiles, positive energy, and a genuine human connection, especially for repeat customers. CEO Clive Schlee calls it the Pret Buzz, and the company has identified a set of Pret Behaviors to create the Buzz and an in-depth training program to instill those behaviors.

“The staff manual tells staff to ‘use personal phrases that you are comfortable with and treat customers as if they are guests in your own home,’” a report in London’s Telegraph newspaper explains. “This is nothing so glib as a ‘Have a nice day’ culture; this is a philosophy that runs much deeper.”

It’s also a philosophy that has attracted loud critics on both sides of the Atlantic. The first attack came from the London Review of Books, which objected to the idea that Pret employees should be expected to do more than just provide competent service at a reasonable price. “Work increasingly isn’t, or isn’t only, a matter of producing things, but of supplying your energies, physical and emotional, in the service of others,” the essay complained. “It isn’t what you make, but how your display of feelings makes other feel.”

Then came an assault by Timothy Noah of The New Republic, who offered a withering critique of the “emotional labor” and “enforced happiness” that is at the heart of the Pret model. The essay began with a lament (tongue-in-cheek, I hope) about how Noah had come to believe that a young woman behind the counter at his local Pret was in love with him. “How else to explain her visible glow whenever I strolled into the shop for a sandwich or a latte?” he asked. “Then I realized she lit up for the next person in line, and the next. Radiance was her job.”

Noah then generalizes from his personal disappointment. “Why must the person who sells me a cheddar and tomato sandwich have ‘presence’ and ‘create a sense of fun’?” he wonders. “Why can’t he or she be doing it ‘just for the money’? I don’t expect the swiping of my credit card to be anybody’s vocation. This is, after all, the economy’s bottom-most rung.”

That’s a serious question, to which I’d offer three serious answers.

First, I find it odd, and more than a bit condescending, to think that entry-level customer-service jobs should be performed with a grim sense of duty and barebones competence. It’s better for customers — and, I’d argue, for employees as well — to be part of an experience that is built around good cheer and personal expression rather than gritted teeth and furrowed brows. That’s why flying on Southwest Airlines still seems like such a one-of-a-kind experience (for flight attendants and passenger alike), and why Aeroflot is flying high these days.

To be sure, and this is my second answer, the Pret experience is not for everybody. That’s why Pret evaluates job applicants based on how well their personal attributes map to the company’s core behaviors, and assigns them trial runs at a shop, after which current employees vote on whether to extend newcomers a full-time offer. Every truly distinctive workplace I’ve encountered makes it clear to all concerned: If you don’t fit, it’s going to be hard for you to commit.

Finally, the lessons being learned by Aeroflot, and the model being perfected by Pret a Manger, speak to a deeper shift going on in the economy and society. At a time of vast and troubling uncertainty, in a world that is being reshaped by technology, small acts of connection take on outsized importance. It’s strange to think that a winning smile from a cashier or a flight attendant, or a nod of recognition from an employee who has seen you three times that week, might matter to the person receiving it — or to the person doing it. But I believe it does matter, both in terms of creating better human experiences and building more valuable organizations.

I’m convinced that “emotional labor” will become a more important part of the job at companies that win big in the future — and that’s a development that makes me smile.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

Cities, Cars, Cycling – and Human Happiness

By Susan Perry

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

The British newspaper The Guardian ran an edited excerpt last week from Charles Montgomery’s most recent book, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.”

In the excerpt, Montgomery, who has written extensively about the link between urban planning and human wellbeing, asks the question “Is urban design really powerful enough to make or break happiness?”

His answer is (not surprisingly) a resounding “yes.”

“If one was to judge by sheer wealth,” he writes, “the last half-century should have been an ecstatically happy time for people in the US and other rich nations such as Canada, Japan and Great Britain. And yet the boom decades of the late 20th century were not accompanied by a boom in wellbeing. The British got richer by more than 40% between 1993 and 2012, but the rate of psychiatric disorders and neuroses grew.”

Social deficit and the shape of cities

Writes Montgomery:

There is a clear connection between social deficit and the shape of cities. A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45-minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in monofunctional, car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.

A couple of University of Zurich economists, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, compared German commuters’ estimation of the time it took them to get to work with their answers to the standard wellbeing question, “How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?”

Their finding was seemingly straightforward: the longer the drive, the less happy people were. Before you dismiss this as numbingly obvious, keep in mind that they were testing not for drive satisfaction, but for life satisfaction. People were choosing commutes that made their entire lives worse. Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. On the other hand, for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love.

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and author of Stumbling On Happiness, explained the commuting paradox this way: “Most good and bad things become less good and bad over time as we adapt to them. However, it is much easier to adapt to things that stay constant than to things that change. So we adapt quickly to the joy of a larger house, because the house is exactly the same size every time. But we find it difficult to adapt to commuting by car, because every day is a slightly new form of misery.”

The sad part is that the more we flock to high-status cities for the good life — money, opportunity, novelty — the more crowded, expensive, polluted and congested those places become. The result? Surveys show that Londoners are among the least happy people in the UK, despite the city being the richest region in the UK.

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

Stress worse than that of a fighter pilot

But when cities enable us to get out of our cars and commute by slower means, such as biking or walking, our sense of wellbeing improves. Writes Montgomery:

Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short-term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long-term can make you ill. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters.

But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam. … They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Why would travelling more slowly and using more effort offer more satisfaction than driving? Part of the answer exists in basic human physiology. We were born to move. Immobility is to the human body what rust is to the classic car. Stop moving long enough, and your muscles will atrophy. Bones will weaken. Blood will clot. You will find it harder to concentrate and solve problems. Immobility is not merely a state closer to death: it hastens it.

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

A sense of connection

As Montgomery reports, one study, in which student volunteers were provided with pedometers for 20 days, found that the more people walked each day, the greater their energy, sense of self-esteem and level of happiness.

“The same is true of cycling,” says Montgomery, “ although a bicycle has the added benefit of giving even a lazy rider the ability to travel three or four times faster than someone walking, while using less than a quarter of the energy.  … [C]yclists report feeling connected to the world around them in a way that is simply not possible in the sealed environment of a car, bus or train. Their journeys are both sensual and kinesthetic.”

Time to switch to a ‘new mobility’

A growing number of people — urban planners, environmentalists, health experts and others — are, in Montgomery’s words, calling on “cities and corporations to abandon old mobility, a system rigidly organised entirely around one way of moving, and embrace new mobility, a future in which we would all be free to move in the greatest variety of ways.”

“We all know old mobility,” one expert tells the Canadian reporter. “It’s you sitting in your car, stuck in traffic. It’s you driving around for hours, searching for a parking spot. Old mobility is also the 55-year-old woman with a bad leg, waiting in the rain for a bus that she can’t be certain will come. New mobility, on the other hand, is freedom distilled.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

Henry Evans and Chad Jenkins: Meet the Robots of Humanity

Where out technology meets our humanity there is no doubting the bravery and betterment of the world we are making.

Paralyzed by a stroke, Henry Evans uses a telepresence robot to take the stage — and show how new robotics, tweaked and personalized by a group called Robots for Humanity, help him live his life. He shows off a nimble little quadrotor drone, created by a team led by Chad Jenkins, that gives him the ability to navigate space — to once again look around a garden, stroll a campus …

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

Threshold of the New (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection profiles people in their oldest years from around the globe – all emanating a strong presence that glows out of these images, as if to say to us: “we have made good enough – what will you do?”

Enjoy and draw breath from these exquisitely crafted and curated images…

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.
– Garson Kanin

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
– Henry David Thoreau

Link to see Steve McCurry’s Threshold of the New photo collection

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life

BY 

In 1938 Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.  The study’s goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.  The astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits — ranging from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum” — indicates just how exhaustive and quantifiable the research data has become.  Recently, George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, published the study’s findings in the 2012 book Triumphs of Experience (Amazon) and the following is the book’s synopsis:

“At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.  Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days.  The now-classic ‘Adaptation to Life’ reported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation.  Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.  Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects),

‘Triumphs of Experience’ shares a number of surprising findings.  For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa.  While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.  Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.  The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.”

In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant raises a number of factors more often than others, but the one he refers to most often is the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years.  In 2009, Vaillant’s insistance on the importance of this part of the data was challenged, so Vaillant returned to the data to be sure the finding merited such important focus.  Not only did Vaillant discover that his focus on warm relationships was warranted, he placed even more importance on this factor than he had previously.  Vallant notes that the 58 men who scored highest on the measurements of “warm relationships” (WR) earned an average of $141,000 a year more during their peak salaries (between ages 55-60) than the 31 men who scored the lowest in WR.  The high WR scorers were also 3-times more likely to have professional success worthy of inclusion in Who’s Who.

One of the most intriguing discoveries of the Grant Study was how significant men’s relationships with their mothers are in determining their well-being in life.  For instance, Business Insider writes“Men who had ‘warm’ childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring.  Men who had poor childhood relationships with their mothers were much more likely to develop dementia when old.  Late in their professional lives, the men’s boyhood relationships with their mothers — but not their fathers — were associated with effectiveness at work.  On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations, and increased ‘life satisfaction’ at age 75 — whereas the warmth of childhood relationships with mothers had no significant bearing on life satisfaction at 75.”  

In Vallant’s own words, the #1 most important finding from the Grant Study is this:

“The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love.  Full stop.” 

Link to read the original article

On Considering The (English) Hedge

This is a very special delicately potent video poem by artist Shelia Ghelani

“O long line of green… O Hedge O Hedge…’

In August Sheila spent two weeks in Cambridge with straybird working on Ramble 1 of Rambles with Nature hosted by Cambridge Junction. Together they made a series of four short ‘cinepoems’ for small screens, such as smartphones, which will also be presented as an installation. On Considering The (English) Hedge is the first of the series to be released for viewing.

Click here to find out more about Rambles with Nature and visit Sheila’s blog to keep up to date with the project as it unfolds.

Happiness At Work Edition #73

All of these stories – and many more – are collected in this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #73.  As always, we really do hope you find things here to enjoy, use and grow from.

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #71 ~ “How’s Life?” (a question that matters to us all)

photo credit: FerociousPrecocious via photopin cc

photo credit: FerociousPrecocious via photopin cc

The title of this week;’s post comes from the rhetorical question posed by the new OECD How’s Life? 2013 report.  This is one of several reports and articles we have noticed this week that bring us temperature readings about the quality of life and living in the last weeks of 2013.

And sadly, this means this week’s post has a lot more about unhappiness than its title suggests.

See how some of these findings compare with your own experience…

photo credit: Annie Mole via photopin cc

photo credit: Annie Mole via photopin cc

The How’s Life? 2013 report  focuses in particular on our state of wellbeing at – and as a result of – work:

How’s Life? 2013 – Focusing on people

“How’s Life?”  It’s a question that matters to us all…

Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician writes in her summary of the new How’s Life? 2013 report

Well-being in the workplace: The importance of quality jobs

For many years, the focus of policy has mainly been on providing job opportunities and ensuring that people who wanted to work could find a job. However, most people spend a large part of their lives working and what happens in the workplace is an essential determinant of overall well-being.

Having a good or quality job does not just mean receiving good salaries or having dynamic careers; it also means working in an environment that is conducive to personal accomplishment and where people are committed. People’s engagement and high sense of well-being at work depend a lot on whether they have autonomy in their job and are given well-defined work objectives. Respectful and supportive management practices and support from colleagues are also important.  

When jobs and workplaces combine these factors, people are more apt to manage work pressure and emotionally demanding jobs, and they also tend to be healthier and more productive.

Focusing on what matters to people, and improving existing metrics or developing new ones to measure well-being and progress, is the way ahead to achieve better lives, today and tomorrow.

Link to read original article in full

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

Closer to home, in the UK the latest intelligence from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) new wellbeing statistics gathering also shows a de-emphasis on money as the root of all happiness:

New national wellbeing statistics show money doesn’t always equal happiness

Our obsession with maximising of economic growth overlooks the importance of people’s happiness and wellbeing as a measurement of the UK’s success

Nic Marks, director of Happiness Works and founder of the award-winning Centre for Wellbeing at the think tank nef (the New Economics Foundation), writes in The Guardian…

The gathering  of wellbeing data allows us to challenge orthodoxies and assumptions. In London, which consistently ranks as the wealthiest area of the UK, 30 out of 34 boroughs are below the UK average for wellbeing. While in Northern Ireland, the third poorest area, 24 out of 26 districts exceed the national average. This new wellbeing data clearly reveals that economic measures of welfare are insufficient to fully capture people’s experience of their lives. This is not to say that material living standards don’t matter – they clearly do. But these new measures offer data that is highly relevant to policy makers…

It’s very strange that many political commentators have criticised the “happiness agenda” as being individualistic. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

We are relational beings, born through a relationship, brought up in a network of relationships and living out our lives in relationships. It should come as no surprise that the quality of our personal relationships has a great impact on our happiness. Local policy makers should begin to question how they can encourage people to make more and better connections.

What could they do to break down the barriers that stop people interacting? How can they design local spaces so that people meet – both intentionally and accidentally? …

Ultimately, a national and local focus on wellbeing allows for a reimagining of how life can be in 21st century Britain. Are we going to continue with our obsessive maximisation of economic growth? Or can we instead think about how to make better places to live, to work and to bring up children? We know that we face huge social and environmental challenges, and we also know that they are not going to be solved through a business-as-usual approach. If people’s happiness and well-being is to be made “the central political challenge of our times” then the new evidence base being built on data like that produced by the ONS is to be welcomed wholeheartedly.

Link to read the original article in full

Is Britain the Most Tired Nation in Europe?

In the net blog, SAAMAH ABDALLAH writes…

When questioned in a recent survey, 1 in 2 people in the UK said that, more often than not, they did not feel fresh and rested when they woke up in the morning.

It needn’t be like this. Elsewhere across Europe – in Germany, Spain, Austria and Italy, for example – it’s only about 1 in 4 people who feel this tired in the morning. In fact, out of the 27 countries in the EU at the time of the survey, the UK ranks worst on this question…

As well as feeling tired, people in the UK are also the least likely in the EU to feel active and vigorous, and the least likely to feel close to people in their local area. For example, 22% of people in the UK did not feel close to people in their local area, compared to just 11% in the Netherlands and 8% in Spain. Surely we deserve better than this? Where is the UK going wrong? …

We can speculate on some of the potential reasons – high numbers of people working very long hours, more time spent on sedentary activities such as watching TV or in front of computers, low levels of physical activity, high rates of depression, or just bad weather. We know that all of these factors are associated with lower levels of vitality, but on their own, none of them explain why the UK comes absolute bottom in terms of this aspect of well-being.

Identifying the key factors that are relevant here would help government develop policies that would allow the public to lead more energetic lives. Surely it’s in the UK’s best interests to have a workforce that’s able to get up in the morning?

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: istolethetv via photopin cc

photo credit: istolethetv via photopin cc

Get It Done Day: The Daily Grind: Break the Mould

Released today, our research report – The Daily Grind: Break the Mould – reveals a process-driven “inbox zero” culture is killing innovation in British companies and demotivating workers. It’s clear we need to change the way we work – and fast.

Key research findings: too many meetings, too much information, too little innovation

  • Over half (54%) of workers surveyed have slogged away at the weekend just to keep up, and only 8% feel they have made a major contribution to their employer in the past year.
  • Only one in seven (16%) office workers are inspired by their job
  • UK office workers potentially doing around two billion hours of unpaid overtime at the weekend every year
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) say they have never made a major contribution to their employer
  • Four in ten (41%) say they are not empowered by their organisation to think differently
  • 39% say their organisation needs to rethink how it operates

So, what’s the way forward?

We asked Doug Shaw of What Goes Around Limited “Why do so many workers feel they have no power to think differently about their workplace? How can this be addressed?”

“Most work is coercive.  It is done to you.  The best work is coactive.  It is done with you.  IT is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration, and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step of our working lives.

Never do anything about me without me.  Put simply, as Stephen Covey wrote, ‘We need to listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.’  I think that means we need to bring love and artistry into work.”

We caught up with Barry Furby  of Synthesio to discuss this question: “Why do so many workers feel they have no power to think differently about their workplace? How can this be addressed?”

“Many businesses now reward innovation and entrepreneurialism in the workplace.  I think workers should continue to push this message in everything they do.  Ultimately if it really is impossible in your organisation someone else will reward you well for it elsewhere.

“‘Innovate or die’ is an over used phrase but it’s a fact of our era.”

We caught up with Business Psychologist Tony Crabbe to get his perspective on the modern office.

“Organisations kill creativity; brilliantly.  They fill every ounce of attention with frenetic activity and the white noise of organisational uber-communication.

“They reward hard work over thought; encourage speed of response over intellectual ambling, and value (false) certainty over intelligent doubt.  They create busy drones battered into the submission of groupthink.”

The Telegraph has marked Get It Done Day with an article on Britain’s population of workaholics. Too many of us are working unpaid overtime and this extra work isn’t getting us anywhere.

Britain is a nation of workaholics with 54% of workers admitting they put in unpaid overtime at the weekend

Meanwhile, Information Age has also been examining the findings from the Break the Mould report.

UK office workers are so focused on managing email traffic and attending internal meetings, they struggle to find time to produce anything really meaningful

Too many meetings, too little innovation. How would you re-imagine business?

Link to read the full article and graphics in its original format

photo credit: Nrbelex via photopin cc

photo credit: Nrbelex via photopin cc

How Much Are We Willing To Pay For The Pursuit Of Happiness?

By Michael Hiltzik

Never mind the conventional speculation about whether the resolution of some political standoff favours liberals or conservatives…

The more fundamental question, says Benjamin Radcliff, is this: Does it make people happier or not?

Radcliff is a political scientist at Notre Dame whose work places him in the forefront of what might be labeled happiness studies. His particular corner of the field looks at social policies and political outcomes. It’s an ambitious study, as is shown by the title of his book, published this year: “The Political Economy of Human Happiness: How Voters’ Choices Determine the Quality of Life.”

Radcliff’s research suggests that higher levels of social programs produce a happier population and that public policies such as social insurance and strong labor market protections are among the most important factors.

“The differences in your feeling of well-being living in a Scandinavian country (where welfare programs are large) versus the U.S. are going to be larger than the individual factors in your life,” he says. “The political differences trump all the individual things you’re supposed to do to make yourself happier — to have fulfilling personal relationships, to have a job, to have more income. All those individual factors get swamped by the political factors. Countries with high levels of gross domestic product consumed by government have higher levels of personal satisfaction.”

Or as Radcliff put it in a CNN op-ed: “The ‘nanny state’ works.”

Statistics bear him out. In the 2013 World Happiness Report,published by the UN and compiled by Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University and colleagues from the London School of Economics and the University of British Columbia, four of the top five rankings are occupied by Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden, all countries with strong social programs…

Link to read the original article in full (based on U.S. politics)

NOT YET USED

photo credit: jouste via photopin cc

Gross Village Happiness

, Founder, SEEKHO. reports of a successful village programme…

SEEKHO is built on the principle of Gross Village Happiness (GVH). GVH is a new model and policy for empowering people in rural communities with the tools needed to increase and improve the five elements of wellbeing known as PERMA, as coined by Positive Psychology founder Martin Seligman: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment…

During the past year, the children have become more versatile learners. Similarly, my own growth during this period has been tremendous, as the children have taught me how to better practice listening, empathy and resilience. A large part of the reason why we have been able to grow together has been SEEKHO’s focus on wellbeing, which has created an ecosystem of positive behavior and reinforcement. This experience has shown me that not only can wellbeing be increased when we give communities a voice in the process, but also that it is necessary for policy if we want to empower villages to thrive.

The shift to Gross Village Happiness will require experimentation and a keen sensitivity to the local context in order to empower the next generation of children in rural India. It is time to expand our definition of success and wellbeing so that children feel empowered to not only to draw and paint artwork, but also their own dreams…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: ben matthews ::: via photopin cc

photo credit: ben matthews ::: via photopin cc

From ego-system to eco-system economies

Otto Scharmer writes about…

…- “co-sensing,” or going to places that allow us to see the system from the edges – if listened to with one’s mind and heart wide open, they hold the golden keys to the future;

– “co-inspiring,” or creating channels for connecting to the sources of creativity;

– “prototyping,” or exploring the future by doing things in the present in very different ways; and

– “co-shaping” the spaces in which these prototypes can be embodied and scaled-up.

Of these various infrastructures, those for co-sensing and co-inspiring are particularly underdeveloped in society today.  Trying to advance societal innovation through prototyping and scaling-up alone is like building a house without foundations.  That’s why so many current efforts fail, because they ignore the deeper conditions of the social field (the mindsets, attitudes and intentions), and focus only on the superstructure of incentives and institutions. Without a fundamental shift in consciousness it will be impossible to sustain an eco-centered economy.

A profound renewal of this kind at the personal, societal and global levels is crucial for our planetary future.  What’s needed to underpin these renewals are change-makers who are willing to lead from the emerging future: leaders who are willing to open up to, learn about and practice the journey from ego-system to eco-system thinking. We already have much of what we need to hand in the form of living examples, tools and frameworks. What’s missing is the co-creative vision and the common will to make this revolution a reality.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: dModer101 via photopin cc

photo credit: dModer101 via photopin cc

Is Creativity Arts Policy’s Big Mistake?

Creative workers are seen as paid hobbyists rather than as professionals with valuable labour power, writes Dave O’Brien, a lecturer in cultural and creative industries at City University, London and author of Cultural Policy: Management, Value and Modernity in the Creative Industries ...

It is creativity that has enabled cultural policy to branch out into areas beyond the arts, such as economic, social and health policy. Equally, creativity is seen as a capacity or personal quality that everybody possesses, a quality that we all carry around with us to be liberated or developed at will. And to do so will somehow free us to enjoy a work utopia that is not about the factory, but rather about self-expression.

What is creativity’s actual role in contemporary British life? …

What a privileged and joyful position to be paid to do what you want to do anyway. However, being paid for your hobby renders questions of class, wealth and power, as well as those about gender relations and the representation of ethnicities, impossible to ask and answer. These questions are buried in the working conditions of job insecurity, long hours and low pay that shape the deskilled and deprofessionalised ‘hybrid’ job.

In this vision of work, everybody who is working is a talented individual, expressing their creativity and therefore getting no less or more than they deserve. The cultural theorist Angela McRobbie argues that the narrative of “doing what you love” polarises our understanding of success and failure with perverse consequences for individuals and the rest of the economy. Not being involved in work you love, not expressing your identity, not being committed to the point of potentially damaging yourself, becomes associated with failure – both in artistic terms and in terms of your talent and sense of self.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

Stress in the Workplace – Who Takes Responsibility?

Paul Barrett, Head of Wellbeing, Bank Workers Charity writes…

This article has been written to tie in with National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) on November 6th. This year will be the 15th annual NSAD.

The recent CIPD Absence Management report revealed that stress is on the increase. This is despite the fact that more organisations than ever are investing in comprehensive employee wellbeing strategies. These are designed to build the resilience of their workforce and to offer support to those suffering from stress. There is every reason to believe such strategies are making a difference but they may not be enough. Why should this be?

A tough world out there.

It needs to be recognised that at this moment in time, there is a coming together of factors, economic and social, that conspire to make employees’ personal and work boundaries more difficult to negotiate than ever…

Our own research into the banking sector revealed that non- work demands form a major source of stress for people in work, yet at present these are not being well addressed. Many employees struggling with debt or in the throes of a divorce find it difficult to access support. As austerity bites many of the support agencies in the community that employees traditionally turn to are finding their resources stretched to the limit as they seek to respond to rising demand with reduced funding. With all of this going on, it’s no surprise that stress levels are high…so why aren’t traditional approaches to stress enough?

The way forward – there is no silver bullet

The complex interplay between personal and workplace demands means that any strategy that seeks to prevent or ameliorate employee stress needs to come from a number of directions and historic approaches to stress may not serve us well.

In the 1980s many organisations offered stress management courses to employees to help them cope when it all became too much. These courses contained sound information,  were frequently popular with participants but they  implicitly devolved responsibility for managing stress onto the employee. More recently the focus has shifted towards the employer’s duty of care and businesses have taken steps to address the organisational factors that contribute to employee stress…

Forward thinking employers have already begun to introduce interventions that affect the organisational culture in positive ways, creating an environment that reduces  workplace stress. Such preventative approaches include training for managers in promoting behaviours that support employee wellbeing, whilst discouraging  those that increase pressure on employees. These can make a big difference to the stress levels in the workplace. They also go a long way  to creating an organisational climate in which employees feel able to raise concerns and  seek help when they’re struggling,  so that problems from home or work don’t spiral out of control.

As many sources of stress originate not at work but in employees’ personal lives they need to recognise their own part in reducing the impact of stress.  They too have a responsibility for building up their internal resources so they are equipped to deal with the inevitable stresses they encounter in their daily lives. People with high levels of personal resilience are much more likely to recover well from high stress life events such as bereavement, relationship breakdown or redundancy.

But personal resilience needs to be worked at. Employees need to take care of themselves, ensuring their work-life balance is not out of kilter. They need to make sure that they get enough sleep, that they take regular exercise and that they eat healthily. They also need to accommodate enough of the life-enhancing leisure activities that will restore optimism, vitality and peace of mind. Bolstered by these actions employees will enjoy a more rewarding life both at home and at work and will bounce back more quickly  from setbacks they experience in either sphere.

What we are seeing is the need for a holistic, almost systemic approach to stress that recognises the complex interactions between the home and working lives of employees. It is one that appreciates that responsibility for addressing stress at work resides exclusively with neither employer nor employee.  Creating a healthy workforce requires both parties to play their part.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

Over-extended? 6 Signs You Need A Break

by TINA WILLIAMSON

“To overextend yourself is to invite defeat.” – G. William Domhoff

We all know the feeling, we have too much to do and too little time, and soon we begin to feel like a piñata at our six year olds birthday party, battered and flung in every direction.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you spend time worrying about time?   
  2. Do you eat on the go?  Lunch on your lap in the car? …
  3. Do you get enough sleep?  …
  4. Do you make time for your friends, family or hobbies?  
  5. Do you make time for your health, via exercise and healthy eating? 
  6. Can you handle change?   

The problem with overextending ourselves this way is that one little shift is like a jenga puzzle; it’s all going to come crashing down.

You need to hear this – if you’re being flung in every direction, then you’re not really following through on anything or doing anything particularly great…

If any of this sounds like you, then you need to make some changes.

1. Start with outer changes…

2.  Learn how to say No – be assertive…

3.  Put you first…

4.  Meditate…

5.  Practice Mindfulness…

6.  Laugh…

7.  Write it out…

8.  Ignore Expectations…

9.  Remember you’re not Perfect…

10.  Focus on one task at a time…

Take time to:

  • breathe
  • meditate
  • read
  • contemplate
  • relax
  • think
  • laugh
  • dream
  • do something that will make YOU feel happy!

Link to read the original article with Tina’s advice in full

photo credit: byronv2 via photopin cc

photo credit: byronv2 via photopin cc

The Female Breadwinner’s Survival Guide by Jennie Garrett

*Struggling to balance a budding entrepreneurial business with being Mom?

*Torn between family commitments and work?

*Thrust into the role of breadwinner when your partner has been laid off, retired or become ill?

*Non-existent work life balance?

You are not alone, around 40% of women in the US are the breadwinner, and the number is growing. There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘End of Men’ and women being ‘The Richer Sex’, but it’s not all power suits and top jobs.  

Rhonda, a successful businesswoman, working in a male dominated environment, with a child under one year old sums up the challenge of being the breadwinner eloquently:  “By being a working career woman or career mom, I’m trying to get the best out of both worlds. I’m trying to be true to who I am, not to who other people want me to be or what people think people I should be. And that is difficult”  

Jenny Garrett, executive coach and author of Rocking Your Role, the ‘how to’ guide to success for female breadwinners, shares 10 essential survival tips from her experience of coaching hundreds of female breadwinners.

1. Check Your Ego…

2. Drop the Superwoman Syndrome

3. Remember you always have a choice…

4. Talk about money…

5. Look after your spiritual, physical and mental well-being…

6. Ditch the Guilt
…

7. Recognise your interdependence …

8. Maintain your femininity…

9. Celebrate and share with other woman…

10. Be aware of the legacy that you are leaving…

Link to read Jennie Garretts’s guidance in full

photo credit: ocean.flynn via photopin cc

photo credit: ocean.flynn via photopin cc

Six Good Reasons To Create A Compassionate Workplace

, journalist focusing on empathy and compassion, writes…

A recent Gallup poll revealed that just 13% of the world’s employees are engaged at work. About a quarter are ‘actively disengaged’ – unhappy, unproductive and liable to spread negativity to their colleagues. These statistics were fresh in my mind when I took part in a conference in London to explore the benefits of creating a culture of compassion at work…

Before you start picturing boardroom sing-alongs and group hugs around the water cooler, let’s define a compassionate workplace as follows: a work environment where people feel valued and supported, and are encouraged to develop their skills and reach their full potential.

Here are six things I learned about why this matters:

1. Stress is bad for business

Work-related stress cost the UK economy an estimated £6.5bn last year. In the United States, the cost was around $300bn. …When bosses are aggressive or demand the impossible, employees compete rather than collaborate, and we fear failure rather than being motivated to succeed, employers pay the price with more sick days, lower productivity and high turnover rates.

2. Compassion boosts the bottom line

Keeping employees happy is not just an irritating distraction from the serious business of making money. Richard Barrett, a leadership consultant who advocates a values-driven approach in organisations, looked at Fortune magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Over a ten-year period to July 2012, he tracked the share price growth of the top 40 publicly traded companies on the list. They showed average annualised returns of 16.4%, compared to 4.1% for the S&P 500 index – and they bounced back quicker from the 2008 global economic meltdown.

It’s not always about profits, of course. In workplaces where care and compassion are (or should be) the primary focus, like hospitals, nursing homes and schools, a supportive environment is just as beneficial.

3. Givers come out on top

Adam Grant, the highest-rated professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, has been studying workplace interactions for over a decade. He identifies three types of colleagues: ‘givers‘, who enjoy helping others and do so with no strings attached; ‘matchers‘, who give but ask for something in return; and ‘takers‘, who want as much as possible and never give anything back.

According to Grant, the highest proportion of those who make it to the top are givers. Although there are also more givers at the bottom, the givers who make it, make it big. The secret of their success is to be compassionate without losing sight of their own objectives, and without allowing their time and goodwill to be exploited by the takers.

4. Compassion makes us happier and healthier

Scientific research shows that kindness and compassion have a surprising range of benefits. For example, doing something good for others is like eating a piece of chocolate – it activates the ‘pleasure centres’ in our brain. One study even found that we get the same kind of buzz when we see someone else giving to charity as when we receive money ourselves.

People who lead a life of greater compassion, meaning and purpose seem to enjoy lower levels of inflammation at the cellular level, and a compassion or service-based lifestyle also seems to act as a buffer against the effects of stress.

5. Kindness is contagious

When we see people doing something good for others, we’re inspired to emulate them. In one study involving a ‘public-goods game’ where people had the opportunity to cooperate with each other, when one person gave money to help others, the recipients were more likely to give away their own money in future games. This created a ripple effect that had an impact three degrees of separation away from the original act of kindness.

As the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman points out, we have ‘mirror neurons’ in our brain that “make emotions contagious”, so every interaction counts.

6. Everyone wins

Emma Seppala, a compassion and altruism researcher at Stanford University who has advised companies like Google, Facebook and Hallmark, says: “Organisations that are more compassionate and happier, healthier places to work have employees with lower heart rate and blood pressure, and stronger immunity. Compassionate and pro-social employees build better relationships with each other, their productivity is better and they create a better atmosphere. As a consequence those organisations see lower employee turnover and increased customer service, as well as increased loyalty, which at the end of the day is what they are looking for.”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #71

These articles – and many more – are all part of the new Happiness At Work Edition #71

We hope you find things here to use, enjoy and enliven your life and get a a bit closer to the life you ideally want to be living.

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

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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

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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

Happiness At Work #66 ~ Shawn Achor’s ‘Positive Genius’ and other 21st Century Techniques for Thinking Ourselves Happier

More and more research is coming through that underscores the potency and critical importance of how we think to our happiness, our health and wellbeing, our resilience, our relationships, and even our success and achievements.

how we choose to think about things affects what we go on to think,

and therefore feel,

and therefore do,

and therefore experience,

and therefore go on to feel and think next…

photo credit: Calsidyrose via photopin cc

photo credit: Calsidyrose via photopin cc

This idea is central to Shawn Achor’s new book, Before Happiness: Five Actionable Strategies to Create a Positive Path to Success, which I have started reading with huge enjoyment this week.

Achor is one of our favourite happiness at work experts, and we already use the research findings and guidelines  from his first book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles Of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, in our training.  And, to our great delight because we use maps and map making a lot in our training, in his new book, Achor has made a model  using the metaphors from cartography and mountain climbing.

This new book is based on Achor’s last five years of research and inquiry, not just into flourishing organisations and with people who are already achieving high levels of success, but also with people around the world who are living in extremely hard and unhappy circumstances.

Here is an extract from the Introduction to this new book, starting with Achor taking up the question that repeatedly surfaces in considerations about the power of our thinking to help us to overcome the difficulties of our situations:

Happiness leads to success, true, but what gives someone – especially someone facing obstacles and hardships – the understanding that happiness was possible in the first place?

Why did achievement and happiness seem like a possibility to one person but impossible to someone else in the same position or situation? …

The reason some people were thriving while others – people in the exact same situation – were stuck in hopelessness was that they were literally living in different realities.  Some were living in a reality in which happiness and success seemed possible, despite the obstacles.  Others were living in a “reality” where it was not…

My research over the last five years, coupled with other amazing research emerging from positive psychology labs all over the globe, helped me understand what I had been missing: that before happiness and success comes your perception of your world. 

So before we can be happy and successful, we need to create a positive reality that allows us to see the possibility for both

Of course, there are certain objective facts we must accept about our lives… But how we choose to look at those objective facts is in our minds.  And only when we choose to believe that we live in a world where challenges can be overcome, our behaviour matters, and change is possible can we summon all our drive, energy and emotional and intellectual resources to make that change happen.

When I talk about a positive reality, I’m not talking about one in which good things magically happen by the sheer power of positive thinking; I’m talking about one in which you can summon all your cognitive, intellectual, and emotional resources to create positive change, because you believe that true change is possible.

How Positive Realities Help Us Scale Mountains

Research has revealed that when we’re in a negative mindset, all loads feel heavier, all obstacles loom bigger, all mountains seem less surmountable.  This is especially true in the workplace, and it’s why, when we look at stress, workload and competition from a negative mindset, our performance suffers…

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

We are now learning how to change energy patterns in our brains to create a more positive interpretation of the world around us.

This is key, because the better your brain is at using its energy to focus on the positives, the greater your chances at success

The consistent ability to create this kind of reality is called positive genius, and it turns out to be the greatest precursor of success, performance, and even happiness.  In this book, the five practical, research-based steps to help you raise your levels of positive genius, and, in turn, your rates of success, are …

1.  Reality Architecture: Choosing the Most Valuable Reality

  • Recognise the existence of multiple realities by simply changing the details your brain chooses to focus on.
  • See a greater range of realities by training your brain to see vantage points and see the world from a broader perspective.
  • Select the most valuable reality that is both positive and true, using a simple formula called the positive ratio.

2. Mental Cartography: Mapping Paths to Success

  • Identity and set better goals by highlighting markers of meaning in your life and learning to distinguish true areas of meaning from decoys and mental hijackers.
  • Chart more direct routes to your goals by reorienting your mental maps around those markers of meaning.
  • Keep yourself squarely on the path by mapping success routes before escape routes.

3. The X-Spot: Using Success Accelerants

  • Zoom in on the target (proximity).  Make your goal seem closer by building in a head start, setting incremental sub-goals, and highlighting progress to date instead of what is left to accomplish.
  • Magnify the target size (likelihood of success).  Increase the perceived likelihood of hitting your target by creating ‘champion moments’ that remind you of when you have been successful in similar situations, decreasing the perceived number of your competitors, and choosing goals that you have a perceived 70% chance of reaching.
  • Recalculate thrust (energy required).  Preserve and channel your cognitive resources better, think about tasks in terms of objective units rather than in terms of the effort involved, and decrease your focus on things you worry about or fear.

4. Noise Cancelling: Boosting the Signal by Eliminating the Noise

  • Learn to cancel out any negative or useless information (noise) that distracts you from the true and reliable information that helps you reach your fullest potential (signal).
  • Hone your ability to distinguish the noise from the signal by learning the four simple criteria of noise.
  • Improve your ability to hear the signal through simple strategies for reducing the overall volume of noise by just 5%.
  • Learn to actively cancel out internal noise of worry, fear, anxiety, and pessimism by emitting three simple waves of positive energy.

5. Positive Inception: Transferring Your Reality to Others

  • Once you’ve created a positive reality for yourself, learn how to transfer it to others and reap the exponential benefits of your collective intelligences.
  • Franchise success by creating simple, easy-to-replicate positive patterns and habits and helping them spread.
  • Wield more positive influence and increase the likelihood of your reality being adopted by taking the ‘power lead’ in a conversation and rewriting the social script.
  • Plant meaning in others’ realities by appealing to emotion and crafting shared, meaningful narratives.
  • Create a renewable, sustainable source of positive energy that motivates, energise and summons the collective multiple intelligences of those around you.

Once you master these five skills you will see the difference in virtually every professional and personal realm.  You’ll be more energised, more motivated, more driven and more productive.  Your ideas will be more creative and innovative and will yield better results.  You’ll suddenly start seeing new routes around obstacles and faster paths to achievement.  Instead of being crippled by stress and adversity, you’ll be able to turn them into opportunities for growth.  And once you master the final skill, positive inception, you’ll be able to refract the light of your positive genius on your co-workers, clients, family members and others around you…

 (from the Introduction to Before Happiness: Five Actionable Strategies to Create a Positive Path to Success, Shawn Achor, 2013)

Shawn Achor: What You Need To Do Before Experiencing Happiness

by Dan Schawbel

In this interview, Achor talks about some of his research findings on happiness, how optimism and hope come before happiness, how to cancel the noise in your life, and his best advice on how to be happy.

What made you interested in studying happiness in the first place and how does your new book further your research?

I started studying happiness, not initially in psychology, but at the divinity school. Harvard’s program allows you to study combinations of traditions, and I became fascinated by Christian and Buddhist ethics, specifically how the way you view the world changes your actions in it. My new book Before Happiness explores exactly this issue.

Before someone makes changes to their happiness, health or success, they first construct a picture of the world. I argue that your mental reality predicts your ability to create positive change.

Would you say that optimism and hope come before happiness? How do you go about believing that positive change is possible?

Yes, absolutely. But it’s more than just optimism. An optimist or a pessimist would argue whether one object, such as a glass, is half full or half empty. But by shifting one’s reality to include more true facts, you could include the pitcher of water sitting next to the glass. It doesn’t matter if the glass is empty if, in reality, you could fill it. Your brain can process only 40 bits of information per second despite a deluge of 11 million pieces of information coming from all your nerve endings. What your brain attends to becomes your reality. Based on this research, the best way to change your reality is to first realise that there are multiple realities from which you could choose. I could focus on the one failure in front of me, or spend my brain’s resources processing the two new doors of opportunity that have opened.

One reality leads to paralysis, the other to positive change.

The economy has put people out of work and made people depressed. How can we see past all the negative things going on around us and be ready to embrace happiness?

Happiness is easy in good times, but is a huge competitive advantage during difficult times. I spend an entire chapter in Before Happiness describing new research on how we can mentally cancel the noise in our life. Noise is any information, external or internal, which distracts us from making positive change. Sometimes it is too much external noise, like a glut of negative news or reading comments on blogs which are often imbalanced toward the negative. Sometimes it is internal noise, like replaying a doubt such as “I’ll never find a job” or “I’ll never get out of debt so why keep a budget.” To cancel internal noise, one must create an opposite wave, such as thinking about three times you have been successful in the past despite major setbacks.

Happiness is NOT the belief that everything is great, happiness is the belief that change is possible. In Before Happiness I define happiness as “the joy one feels striving for one’s potential.” Small mental victories, especially in a rough economy, led us to a cascade of success based on positive changes.

A positive mindset results in 23% greater energy in the midst of stress, 31% higher productivity, 37% higher levels of sales, 40% higher likelihood to be promoted, and improved our longevity. See the TED talk or my article on the cover of HBR.

The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.

Aren’t some people naturally happy or do they have to find happiness? What happens when certain unexpected situations happen and cause you to be miserable? How do you go back to a “happy state”?

This is where this gets really fascinating. Yes, some people are genetically disposed toward happiness. Yes, some people have childhoods which make it easier for them to choose positive change. But, that is not the end of the story. You will be just your genes and your environment, UNLESS you make conscious positive changes to your mindset and habits. Only 10% of your long term happiness according to researcher

But in the latter case, we have two decades of research showing that even two minutes of a positive habit, such as writing a positive email to someone in your social support group, or meditating, can literally rewire your brain and change your baseline. Your brain will eventually return you to your baseline after a victory or trauma, unless you choose to be more than your genes.

Each of the five steps in Before Happiness is showing how you can walk your baseline up and maintain the higher baseline.

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

What are your top three tips for getting yourself to a place where you can be happy?

1. Create happiness hygiene. We eat, sleep and brush our teeth everyday, yet we neglect something crucial: priming our brain to positive. Create a two minute daily habit of thinking of 3 new things you are grateful for each day, journaling about a positive experience for two minutes, meditating by watching your breath go in and out, or writing a positive 2 minute email.

2. Use success accelerants. Rats run faster at the end of the maze, and marathoners speed up at 26.1 miles at a place called the X-spot. Coffee cards where you have to get 12 stamps you get two free stamps before then buying 10 cups of coffee accelerates purchasing because your brain sees that you are already 1/6 the way through. Our brain accelerates the closer we perceive success. If you make a checklist of tasks for the day, include several things you have already accomplished. If you are starting a new positive habit, don’t start at zero, include the day or two you have successfully avoided dessert or exercise. Some companies offer 150% commission for the first week of a new sales period to show progress right from the beginning.

3. Don’t wait for happiness. If we raise your success rates, happiness remains the same. Raise happiness levels in the present, find meaning at work, connect to the people around you, perceive stress as enhancing, and your success rates rise dramatically. Happiness at work fuels success.

Link to the original article

photo credit: tom chandler via photopin cc

photo credit: tom chandler via photopin cc

Being Kind: The Music Video That Circled The World

The 21-Day Kindness Challenge launched on September 11th.

98 countries.

6000 people.

And a collective tidal wave of good that inspired many – including young rapper-activist “Nimo” Patel at the Gandhi Ashram in India. Nimo wasted no time channeling that inspiration into an infectious music video. “Being Kind” was created on super short notice by an intercontinental crew of volunteers working out of their living rooms. It features footage from all over the world and heart-melting appearances by the children Nimo works with in the slums.

Watch, listen, and prepare to smile big at this lyrical reminder that kindness really is “all we can leave behind.”

THE GIRL DECLARATION

Girls were left out of the original Millennium Development Goals. The Girl Declaration has been written to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Bringing together the thinking of 508 girls living in poverty across the globe with the expertise of more than 25 of the world’s leading development organisations, the Girl Declaration is our tool to stop poverty before it starts.

Five hundred and eight adolescent girls living in poverty in 14 countries across four continents were asked what they need to have a chance to reach their potential.

More than 25 of the world’s leading organizations, using their vast years of experience working with girls and the best evidence available, developed this Declaration with girls, for girls and for the world.

Now is the moment. Real things need to change for girls and for the world. Adolescent girls are not part of just one issue, they are key to every sustainable solution.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Guiding Principles of The Girl Manifesto

1.   Plan with me, design for me

Use insights directly from girls to sharpen the design, implementation and evaluation of programs and services. Build relationships and social networks with girls so their voices are heard in key institutions.

2.   Make me visible, make me countCollect, disaggregate and analyze data in all sectors by age and sex and use it to improve programs, influence policy and track progress. Data helps drive smarter, more strategic and targeted investments. At a minimum, analyze data by sex and five-year age segments (10-14, 15-19) to ensure that no girl is left behind. No data revolution will be complete without this.

3.   Give me a fair share of the money you spend to fix things because we girls give more back

Allocate dedicated and targeted funding for adolescent girls across program and policy budgets. At a minimum, make budget 7. allocations commensurate with adolescent girls’ needs and potential to drive positive change.

4.   Think of me now, because now is when I need you most; and now is when it will make the most difference 

Intentionally focus on adolescence (ages 10-19) and invest early, before girls undergo the physical, emotional and social changes associated with puberty. Design policies and programs to ensure adolescence is a healthy and safe transition to adulthood, not a period in which girls are left out.

5.   Don’t forget me because I’m too poor, too distant, too silenced for you to know I am here

In the quest for scale, it’s easy to overlook the most marginalised – including adolescent girls in emergency, conflict and post- conflict settings even though reaching them can help end the cycle of conflict. Plan for the most marginalised from the beginning to ensure they aren’t left out at the end.

6.   Don’t hold me back

Tackle discriminatory social norms that govern adolescent girls’ daily lives and have significant and enduring consequences. Mobilize communities, families, men and boys to support adolescent girls.

7.   Laws should be fair; make and enforce ones that respect and protect me 

Pass laws and ensure accountability to legal policies and frameworks that protect the rights of girls and give them access to justice. At a minimum, governments must meet international obligations and hold those who violate rights of adolescent girls accountable.  Laws should be fair; make and enforce ones that respect and protect me Pass laws and ensure accountability to legal policies and frameworks that protect the rights of girls and give them access to justice. At a minimum, governments must meet international obligations and hold those who violate rights of adolescent girls accountable.

 

photo credit: Tjololo Photo via photopin cc

photo credit: Tjololo Photo via photopin cc

Shawn Achor cites a 2011 study he led in his new book,  Before Happiness, …

‘By simply showing employees videos about the more positive (and again, real) effects of stress on the body, we observed a 23% drop in fatigue and other stress-related symptoms. (headaches, backaches, etc.)…  By helping people to see a new but equally true reality in which stress could be motivating and energising, rather than debilitating, we could make that more positive outcome actually become real…’

(from the Introduction to Before Happiness: Five Actionable Strategies to Create a Positive Path to Success, Shawn Achor, 2013)

Make Stress Work For You

In this Harvard Business Review article, Shawn Achor writes about this study and what it suggests for training our thinking to become better able to choose and profit from the stress in our lives…

…In order to get companies and employees to take stress seriously, for the past 30 years, most trainers and coaches have highlighted research that shows that stress is the number one health threat in the US (World Health Organization); that 70-90% of doctor visits are due to stress-related issue (American Stress Institute); and that stress is linked to the six leading causes of death (American Psychological Association).

But what if focusing on the negative impact of stress only makes it worse — just like thinking about the side effects of a sleeping pill would keep me up at night? And what would happen if we reframed the way we thought about stress?

To test that question, Yale researcher Alia Crum and I teamed up with senior leaders at UBS to research 380 managers to see if we could turn stress from debilitating to enhancing merely by changing mindset at work.

Think about it: how did you feel after reading the statistics above on stress, health, and death? First, even if you weren’t stressed, stats like these cause you to respond to stress with a “fight or flight” mentality. Stress is portrayed as a threat, so we either need to fight it or flee from it, overactivating our sympathetic nervous system. And second, if you are already feeling stressed, now you have even more reason to feel distressed as you know your stress is literally killing you. (Good luck falling asleep now.)

There is an alternative approach which we found to be much more successful. 

Crum and I showed different three-minute videos to two groups of UBS managers. The first group watched a video detailing all the findings about how stress is debilitating. The second group watched a video that talked about scientific findings that stress enhances the human brain and body. The latter information is less well known, but equally true. Stress can cause the human brain to use more of its capabilities, improve memory and intelligence, increase productivity, and even speed recovery from things like knee surgery. Research indicates that stress, even at high levels, creates greater mental toughness, deeper relationships, heightened awareness, new perspectives, a sense of mastery, a greater appreciation for life, a heightened sense of meaning, and strengthened priorities.

The findings of our study were significant: when an individual thought about stress as enhancing, instead of debilitating, they embraced the reality of their current stress level and used it to their advantage. The negative parts of stress (distress) started to diminish, because the fight-or-flight response was not activated, and the individual felt more productive and energetic, as well as reporting significantly fewer physical symptoms associated with distress (such as headaches, backaches, fatigue). In addition, on a scale of 1 to 4, productivity assessment moved from 1.9 to 2.6 — a significant shift. Life satisfaction scores also increased, which in previous studies has been found to be one of the greatest predictors of productivity and happiness at work.

Encouraged by these results, Crum and I then trained 200 managers in a program called “Rethinking Stress,” focusing on how to use current stress to their advantage at work. The process involved three steps: awareness of the stress, determining the meaning behind why you feel stressed, then redirecting the stress response to improve productivity behind that meaning. The effects of this second experiment were even more dramatic. Not only did distress decrease, but the stress these managers experienced actually became more enhancing, raising work effectiveness and improving health.

Our intention is not to make the case that stress is fundamentally enhancing or try to debunk the literature that stress does indeed have deteriorating effects. Rather our intention is to balance out the stress research and to point out that one’s mindset regarding stress may determine which response will be produced.

Stress at work is a reality
And this study does not indicate that someone should actively seek to increase one’s stress load. But, as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says, “It is what it is.” Some stress is inevitable.

When stress happens, thinking of it as enhancing rather than debilitating can lessen the risk to your health and materially improve your productivity and performance.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

How To Lessen Your Stress By Managing Your Emotions

Posted by Bea Karnes

BeWell at Stanford University talked with Kim Bullock, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford School of Medicine, about what stress is really all about and how we can better manage it.

How do you define stress?

…in the modern world, if we are experiencing maladaptive stress or fear in a perfectly safe workplace, we may need to change the way we feel instead of looking for a new job. Unhelpful emotions and behaviours can cause poor decision-making and make stress worse.

What are the most common causes of stress?

The causes of stress are the same as the causes of negative emotions and are multifactorial. Thoughts, emotions, behaviors and physiology are all intimately intertwined and influenced by events and our surroundings.

 Negative emotions from thoughts and cognitions:

One of the largest contributors to stress can be our beliefs. Humans are “meaning-making machines.” When we think about the world, we may sometimes create negative interpretations or narratives, which in turn create negative emotions leading to physiological changes, mood changes, and behavioral changes — all of which may influence our environments.

Negative emotions from behaviours:
Overworking and avoiding pleasant activities can also cause negative emotions. Saying yes to every request can cause exhaustion. Avoiding things can cause anxiety. The more anxious we become, the more we avoid the task and the more stressful the task becomes. A good example that everyone can relate to is procrastination: when we procrastinate, a very benign task becomes overwhelming due to the positive feedback loop of anxiety and avoidance behaviors.

Negative emotions from physical status:
Illness or surgery can create increased physiological demands and stress. Or, our roles may require decreased sleep or overworking with not enough rest time or exercise. A new baby, while adorable to admirers, can cause stress to the exhausted new parents, through hormonal physiological changes or sleep deprivation. Poor nutrition or malnutrition can be another cause of stress.

Negative emotions from the environment:
Just as being on the beautiful Stanford campus can make us feel excited and happy, working in a dimly lit and unfriendly office can make us feel depressed and fatigued. Our work environment, the economy, our socio-economic status, level of exposure to sunlight, or our social influence and power are intimately connected to our stress levels. Those that are most disenfranchised or lack power experience much more stress.

Are there everyday skills to help deal with stress?

Yes! (That’s why I love my job.) Relieving the suffering associated with stress and negative emotions is not only possible, but actually fairly straightforward. Although we can’t directly change negative emotions — we feel what we feel — we can change our thoughts, behaviours, physiology, and environment.

Involve yourself in at least 3-4 pleasant activities per day that give you joy or a sense of mastery.

Even the simple things we do every day, such as stopping to talk to a friend for a few minutes, can prove powerful therapy for treating depression. The brain needs pleasure, mastery, novelty and stimulation in order to feel good. When we have increased demands placed on us, or are ill, we often miss out on these vital “feel-good” activities. It is easy to get into a vicious cycle of feeling worse and doing less and feeling worse, which is why it is important to schedule fun and pleasure into your day, every day — a technique called “behavioral activation.”

Spend time with people with whom you have a good relationship.

We release relaxing, pleasant hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin in response to time spent with people we care about. Romantic relationships have even more bang for their buck due to activation of dopamine reward circuits. Interestingly, women release cortisol, a stress-buffering hormone, when they are “madly in love.” So I recommend that when women are stressed they fall madly in love immediately! [just kidding]

Change your emotions by acting the opposite.

In recent clinical research, participants were asked to smile during a stressful task while submerging their hand in ice water for one minute. Those who smiled had lower physiological and subjective measures of distress than a group that did not smile. Smiling, therefore, is not just a result of happiness: smiling actually makes you happy. Similarly, if you are fearful and anxious, acting as if you are not scared can actually help relieve those emotions over time. In psychiatry, we call this exposure therapy. For example, if someone is afraid of public places, exposure therapy would involve sending that individual to public places, often, until the public places are no longer upsetting. When a feeling of fear has changed, we call it desensitization. Disclaimer: This does not work if an emotion is justified. If you continued to visit a lion’s den daily, it’s unlikely your fear would go down over time since it is justifiably a dangerous place. Thus, acting the opposite only works for unjustified or maladaptive emotions.

Develop mindfulness to combat negative thinking, reduce stress, and even alter physiology.

Mindfulness involves the practice of keeping one’s attention on the present moment and without judgment, simply observing. There is no ruminating on the past or tripping about the future. Everything is simply accepted in the present moment, and one is open to all experience without pushing anything away. Mindfulness skills can be developed through meditation, prayer, yoga, or mindfulness courses. Many religious and healing traditions have components of mindfulness. Research studies support the benefits of practicing mindfulness to overall mental health.

Redirect your thinking.

A hallmark of depressive emotion is the feeling that the future is hopeless or that one’s self has no relative value. Redirecting your thoughts toward concepts such as gratitude, compassion, and altruism have been shown to improve emotional states.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Hani Amir via photopin cc

photo credit: Hani Amir via photopin cc

Positive Intelligence

In this article that Shawn Achor wrote in the January 2012 Harvard Business Review., he outlines some small practical proven ways we can each make big changes to our thinking and start to increase our orientation towards becoming a positive genius

Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles at the gym. Recent research on neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change even in adulthood—reveals that as you develop new habits, you rewire the brain.

Engaging in one brief positive exercise every day for as little as three weeks can have a lasting impact, my research suggests. For instance, in December 2008, just before the worst tax season in decades, I worked with tax managers at KPMG in New York and New Jersey to see if I could help them become happier. (I am an optimistic person, clearly.) I asked them to choose one of five activities that correlate with positive change:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

The participants performed their activity every day for three weeks. Several days after the training concluded, we evaluated both the participants and a control group to determine their general sense of well-being. How engaged were they? Were they depressed? On every metric, the experimental group’s scores were significantly higher than the control group’s. When we tested both groups again, four months later, the experimental group still showed significantly higher scores in optimism and life satisfaction. In fact, participants’ mean score on the life satisfaction scale—a metric widely accepted to be one of the greatest predictors of productivity and happiness at work—moved from 22.96 on a 35-point scale before the training to 27.23 four months later, a significant increase.

Just one quick exercise a day kept these tax managers happier for months after the training program had ended.

Happiness had become habitual.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Mindfulness Does Not Lead To Happiness

 writes…

The part of our minds that most people identify with is the part that silently talks to us with a running commentary. We listen to it all day long. Let’s call it “The Talker.”

“The Talker” prefers pleasure over pain, happiness over sadness, winning over losing, health over sickness, and any of the other judgments that help us navigate our lives. Although it plays a critical role that we cannot live without, “The Talker” is stuck in the duality that makes us judge one thing better than another. It does not allow us to experience the world without judgment.

The central principle of mindfulness is to look at experiences without judgment. Adherents of mindfulness often speak of the part of our minds that practices mindfulness as “The Watcher.” It lives outside of the duality and sees everything as equally valuable. Mindfulness is a wonderful practice that increases awareness of what is really happening because “The Watcher” does not ignore or accentuate details based on preferences.

…Mindfulness practiced properly does not lead to happiness; it leads to a greater awareness of whatever you are experiencing whether you like it or not.

Mindfulness does not mean we have no preferences or that we make no effort to alleviate pain. “The Watcher” is perfectly capable of watching without judgment while “The Talker” tells us our feelings about things. But, most of us pay attention to “The Talker” and cannot access “The Watcher” as much as we should. Our perceptions are not “full” because we are not mindful of the whole picture that “The Watcher” helps fill out.

This lack of balance is the primary cause of suffering. We get so caught up in the judgments of “The Talker” that we are not content with life the way it is. We resist experiences that could be of great value because our preferences shut us out from perceiving the whole picture. We end up focusing on changing the experiences and missing the insights that are available in them. We also miss out on the bliss that is at the core of every moment.

Many people practice mindfulness or other forms of meditation with the goal of achieving a blissful state. Turning off “The Talker” for a while and focusing on only the present moment produces very pleasurable feelings. They love the state because it is free from the pain and suffering we feel when “The Talker” judges things in a negative light. With much practice, they achieve states that are so pleasurable they call them the ultimate “high.”

But being “high” is not bliss. It is still stuck in contrast consciousness and the world of duality. To feel “high” means you will also feel “low” sometimes. Real bliss is beyond duality, it is in pain just as much as in pleasure. There is no more bliss during “high” times than during low times: Bliss is equally available in every moment…

Mindfulness does not lead to happiness. It sometimes leads to greater experience of the very real pains we all have: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. What mindfulness does lead to, though, is bliss. But in order to feel it you have to know the difference between happiness and bliss.

Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to be in bliss, but we avoid those with the most potential because we think that the difficult experiences need to be removed first. We are closer to experiencing bliss during the difficult times because they challenge us to break from our attachment to happiness.

It is not really bliss if the experience we think is bliss goes away when we are in pain. As bliss is beyond the duality of happy-sad, gain-loss, pleasure-displeasure, and even health-illness; we cannot truly know bliss until we see it in our pain. Once we find bliss in pain, we find it everywhere…

When we are in equanimity (bliss), we make decisions based on wisdom and the equal input from both “The Talker” and “The Watcher.” We are no longer controlled by the likes and dislikes of “The Talker,” although we are informed by its perceptions. We do what is right, not necessarily what satisfies our ego. That is what practicing mindfulness is all about.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: sant.o via photopin cc

photo credit: sant.o via photopin cc

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Life’s Little (and not-so-little) Crises

By 

Resilience has to do with the capacity to recover, learn, and grow from the experience of adversity.

Resilience isn’t acquired or inherited, but is developed in the process of surviving life’s inevitable and often unanticipated difficulties and coming through these experiences with greater wisdom, compassion, understanding, and maturity. There doesn’t seem to be any way of cultivating these qualities that doesn’t involve at least some degree of stress and difficulty. It’s actually the ordeal itself that calls forth the necessary but often hidden strengths and resources that are needed to meet the challenge of the crisis we are facing.

Relationships provide an abundance of opportunities to cultivate resilience in that they illuminate the places in which we hold invisible attachments, expectations, wounds, fears, unmet needs, and unfulfilled longings.

…But It’s one thing to believe a crisis to be an opportunity and it’s quite another to actually experience it that way.  Life challenges are not inherently growth-producing.

What determines whether or not they are is the attitude and inner resources with which we meet those challenges. All crises are potentially transformative in that they contain the seeds of new growth. Yet simply seeing new possibilities is not sufficient to mobilize movement toward their realization. Without motivation, there is no movement. Pain, or the desire to be free of pain, often serves as a great motivator, but not always. Unless there is an ability to be present with the pain, and be informed and opened by it, the healing potential of emotional trauma will be lost in a relentless desire to escape suffering. When we can meet pain with compassion, curiosity, openness, and an intention to learn in a context of genuine support, meaningless suffering can be transformed into a meaningful experience.

It must be stressed, however, that meaningful suffering is still suffering, and even in the best of cases, pain is an unavoidable aspect of any process that involves an unwanted experience of loss of any type. It is the ability to move into and through pain with awareness that can make this process redemptive…

Sometimes temporary pain is the price that we need to pay to open our lives to new possibilities and free ourselves from an unworkable impasse. Every situation is different and must be handled in accordance with its unique circumstances. Although it may sound like a cliché, there is truth to the saying that pain is sometimes the price that we must be willing to pay for growth.

Link to read this article, and its story about recovering from a broken relationship, in full

photo credit: Photo Extremist via photopin cc

photo credit: Photo Extremist via photopin cc

5 Ways To Bounce Back From Everyday Stress

 offers practical ways to Develop Your Resiliency

Stress.

It happens to most of us every day. And most everyday stressors are things that we can handle fairly easily if we just remember a few simple strategies:

1. Engage your vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that wanders throughout the body. Stimulation of the vagus nerve tends to slow your heart rate and create a calming response.

The easiest way to engage the vagus?

Take a deep breath.

Both moving your diaphragm and the exhalation part of the breath will put your vagus nerve in gear and help reduce your body’s stress response.

2. Release your death grip on things you can’t control.

…When there’s nothing you can do about it, just relax. Being uptight isn’t going to get you to your appointment any faster and it’s likely only doing damage to your body rather than helping you in any way.

It’s hard to release control, but there is a large percentage of our stress that is directly related to trying to control things that we will never have any control over whether it’s traffic, weather, your company’s promotions policy, or someone else’s behavior.

It’s okay to take action when and where it is needed and you can actually have some influence, but learn to be okay with not controlling the things that are out of your control.

3. Remember that it usually works out okay.

…When you start to feel yourself knotting up about an everyday stressor, ask yourself how many times you have experienced this particular stress in the past. Then consider whether the usual outcome (everything works out fine; you forgot that you were even stressed, etc.) is worth all of the stress you’re creating in your mind and body.

4. Distract yourself from the stress.

One of the things that can exacerbate everyday stress is our tendency to focus unblinkingly on the source of our stress.

Blink.

Find something to break up your focus on the stressor. A great way to do this is through laughing. Find a funny video on YouTube. Think of the joke that always cracks you up no matter how many times you’ve heard it.

Do something different. Start a different project or go for a quick walk around the building. Look up into the sky and remember that the thing that is stressing you out is actually a small, small piece in the overall picture.

5. This, too, shall pass.

All things do.

Just like we can’t control the rising and setting of the sun, but we can certainly count on them, so can we also count on stress rising and falling in life.

But it passes.

And it will pass more quickly if you allow it to.

Stress happens. It’s how you react to it that makes all the difference.

 Link to original article which includes a link to Bobbi Eme’s free ebook

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

photo credit: Dru! 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 the original article

photo credit: slightly-less-random via photopin cc

photo credit: slightly-less-random via photopin cc

The Importance of Social Connection – Insights from the NeuroLeadership Summit 2013

Jan Hills reports

The summit features neuroscientists describing their latest research together with business people reflecting on the implications for leaders and organisations.

This year the theme was very much about the importance of social connection. Matt Lieberman described several years of research into how the brain reacts in social situations and the implications for business. Some of the highlights are:

“Evolutionarily we need to connect with each other. This is part of our survival mechanism. Think of a baby, unless they came with an ability to entice their parents to care for them they would not survive. Also in working together in groups we can do more than as individuals and connected we are stronger. Basically Maslow got his hierarchy wrong. Social connection is a primary need for humans.

The brain feels social pain and pleasure in the same circuitry as physical pain. We probably underestimate the impact of social pain: social rejection, public challenge, public criticism and the like in organisations all create pain. We would never expect someone to be at their best with a broken arm but do not extend the same consideration when social pain occurs.

We are also able, Matt thinks uniquely so, to read the minds of others. We can mentalize and understand how others may act, their goals and emotions. This has significant implications for business. To date most companies and the HR profession have worked from an economic model: money in exchange for time and skill. If we understand a social model of exchange in business it raises questions about leadership and what makes for success, reward, productivity, engagement and the purpose of our function.

Matt also hinted at new research that suggests we learn much better in social situations and even more if we are learning for the benefit of others. So watch this space for more details.” …

Leadership Stamina

We went on to hear about Jessica Payne’s research into leaders, and others, performance and the importance of sleep, stress and mood. She calls this the MPG (miles per gallon model, works in the UK!). I have written about this research before so will not cover it again here.

David Rock presented a new model he is working on looking at how to accelerate wisdom in leaders. Recognising traditional methods of developing leaders through rotations etc is too slow and often misses what we need from leaders in today’s business as opposed to yesterday’s. The aim was to see what neuroscience can tell us about developing leaders faster.

The model really represents the different processes leaders must employ and the areas of the brain responsible for each. The model covers areas such as:

  • Goal attainment; the importance of pragmatism,
  • Emotional balance; social and personal regulation
  • Tolerance; the importance of social connection
  • Self-understanding; through direct experience
  • Dealing with ambiguity; fostering insight

Rock said in order to accelerate the development of leaders the neuroscience can point to some interesting methods including mindfulness which has been shown to have a beneficial impact across most of the areas in the model. However, he also observed it is a challenge to get leaders to practice mindfulness so whilst you are building up to persuading your leaders to be more mindful David Rock believes learning about how the brain works can provide some similar benefits as people begin to be more aware of their own responses.

Finally came another fantastic session from Matt Lieberman on decision bias. Unfortunately I can’t say too much about it as we were asked to ‘keep the ideas’ confidential as David Rock is releasing an article soon. Slightly odd! But I don’t really want to be the first to spill the beans except to say that mindfulness seems to play a part again; this time in reducing the tendency to bias. More on that once the cover is off! Whilst you are waiting you can read my HRZone article on Decision Bias in HR

Matt Lieberman is just about to release his book Social and I managed to get an advance copy. If you are interested in this area it may be one to add to the wishlist as the clear take home message from the summit was, social is way more important to us as humans than we have previously acknowledged and organisational performance will benefit from understanding the implications of that. And of course individuals will perform better in an organisation which recognises its importance too. It also provides so much more than an economic model of business in terms of rewards and we as HR professionals are missing opportunities.

Link to read the original article in full

Of Brits and Danes and Happiness At Work

Alexander Kjerulf AKA The Chief Happiness Officer writes…

Cheerioelevenses and stiff upper lip are examples of highly British phrases that have no direct Danish equivalent.

But here’s a word that exists only in Danish and not in English: arbejdsglæde.

I know that to most English-speakers this looks like a random jumble of letters you’d get if you tossed a bunch of Scrabble tiles on the floor, but there is meaning behind it.

Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is happiness at work. This word also exists in the other Nordic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) but not in any other language on the planet. I’ve checked!

For instance, where we Scandinavians have arbejdsglæde, the Japanese instead have Karoshi. Which means “Death from overwork.”

And this is no coincidence; there is a word for it in Danish because Danish workplaces have a long-standing tradition of wanting to make their employees happy. To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid – we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work.

Few people in Britain seem to expect to be happy at work. Their focus seems to be on putting in the hours and getting paid. To most Britons, a job is just a job – and work is not compatible with any notions of enjoyment or happiness.

Being miserable at work, or even just being sort of OK but not really at work is no longer enough, for three very specific reasons.

First reason: time. We spend more of our waking hours at work than on anything else. We spend more time at work than with our friends, families and children combined. If you’re unhappy at work, you’ll spend a large part of your life being miserable.

Second reason: health. Hating your job can make you sick. Worst case, it can kill you. Studies show that people who hate theirn jobs run a much higher risk of contracting serious diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Third reason: money! Happy companies make more money, because their employees are more creative, productive, service-minded and innovative.

The results of these two different attitudes is clear: While the Danes have the highest levels of happiness at work, Brits are… not happy. Recent studies have shown that up to a third of all Brits actively dislike work, while still more neither like it nor loathe it.

Interestingly, you might think that since Danes like their jobs so much, they’d be working more hours. You’d be wrong. Britons are the workaholics of Europe putting in more hours per worker than even those industrious Germans.

And seeing as Brits work so hard, you’d think they’d get more work done than those annoyingly cheerful Danes. You’d be wrong again. Worker productivity is in fact higher in Denmark and Denmark has the world’s best business climate according to the Economist.

So here’s my challenge to British companies, managers and employees everywhere: Put happiness at work first. Realize once and for all that life’s too short to spend so many hours in jobs that are at best tolerable and at worst hell on earth.

In short – let’s see some more arbejdsglæde in Britain.

Link to read the original article

How To Find Happiness: A Short List from Alice Hoffman

As a breast cancer survivor, I am always in search of ways to combat bad fortune. Whether the situation is small or huge, petty or tragic, certain practices can cheer me each and every time. Whether it be a break up, a doctor’s appointment that carries bad news, a friendship floundering or a loved one in trouble, all of the below can help.

1. Walk a dog

Your dog is always there for you, waiting by the door. If you eat, he is there under the table. If you speak, he listens. If you don’t have a dog, borrow one. Go into the woods. Don’t worry, even if you’re not thrilled about mud, bugs, and random sticks you trip over, the dog will be ecstatic. The dog will notice chipmunks, birds in the trees, falling leaves. He will be one with nature. He will follow his nose. Joy will be running through his body. No matter how dejected you are, his joy will be contagious. Before you know it, you will be following his lead, so to speak. You’ll see what he sees: the beauty of the world.

2. Go to a library

Walk through the stacks and feel the quiet. Sit on the floor and turn the pages. Remember the first time you went to a library. Go to the children’s section and look for a book you used to love. If you don’t have a beloved children’s book, “Mary Poppins” is a good place to start. Everything she does is practical and miraculous. She can always save the day. Get a library card and take out a book you’ve always wanted to read but didn’t have time for. Steal an hour every day just to read.

3. Go visit someone much older

If you don’t have a grandmother or an aging uncle or aunt, look up a mentor, or your music teacher, even if you gave up piano or flute lessons years ago. Go to a residence for retirees or a nursing home. Ask questions. Listen to people’s life stories. Amazing what they’ve gone through and what they’ve managed to survive. Write their stories down so you don’t forget them. Each one will tell you a little more about yourself. By the end of your time with someone older, you’ll feel differently about yourself. You’re not just the person with a problem. You are the visitor who wanted to listen and who really heard what someone else had to say.

4. Bake a pie

If you can make a crust, it will take all of your concentration, which will help you stop thinking about your problem for a little while. If piecrust is beyond your culinary talents, you can cheat and buy ready-made. Pie is pie. Cut apples. Look for ripe peaches. Go to a farm stand or the nearest market. Maybe you have a twisted old fruit tree in your backyard. You may remember the pies your grandmother made, the kitchen in the house you grew up, or the scent of pies in a bakery you visited long ago in a small town you passed through Your kitchen will smell like that bakery, like your grandmother’s house. When you’re done you can eat the entire pie or give it to someone you love. It doesn’t matter. The real happiness comes from making something.

5. Look at stars

Sit outside at night without a telephone or a computer. Enjoy the quiet and look up. Maybe you’ll recognize the constellations. Maybe you’ll see Venus. The black night is so vast. There are too many stars to count. You’re still here, despite your troubles. No matter what has happened in the past, or what will transpire in the future, this night is beautiful.

Link to original article including an audi clip of Alice Hoffman talking through her happiness list

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

Three Ways To Focus the Wandering Mind

by Daniel Goleman

…Our minds wander, on average 50 percent of the time. The exact rate varies enormously. When Harvard researchers had 2,250 people report what they were doing and what they were thinking about at random points throughout their day, the doing-thinking gaps ranged widely.

But the biggest gap was during work: mind-wandering is epidemic on the job. But we can take steps that will help us stay on task more of the time when we need to…

Mindfulness: An Antidote for Workplace ADD

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus, on using mindfulness techniques to increase focus.

Some consultants tell me that the number one problem in the workplace today is attention. People are distracted. They’re in a state of what’s called “continuous partial attention” where even at meetings, your body is there but your mind is somewhere else. You have countless gadgets constantly sending you information: texts, phone calls, emails, and reminders. All buzzing and dinging for your attention.

People not being fully present is a big problem because the most effective interactions occur when two people are mutually present to each other. That’s when rapport happens. That’s when chemistry happens. That’s when you’re going to have the most powerful communication and mutual understanding. If your attention is over there, it means you’re not over here with the person you’re with.

Lack of attention also impacts your performance. Your ability to do your job on your own is directly related to how well you can concentrate and focus. If you’re continually distracted, you just can’t get it done, or get it done well.

That’s why one of the most important things to learn in the workplace today is how to focus. Mindfulness meditation techniques can help you strengthen your attention.

I’ve found that if you do these exercises, for example, 10 minutes before you go to work, you are changing your brain. You’re heightening your ability to concentrate hours later. If you can find a way to practice strengthening your attention every day, it’s like going to the gym and building your muscles, but it’s a mental muscle.

Here’s an exercise from the concentration family of meditation. It’s a good introduction to mindfulness.

  • Sit upright, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath.
  • Don’t try to control your breath, just let it be natural and easy but be aware of your breath.
  • Notice the full inhalation, the full exhalation.
  • See if you can feel it coming and going through your nostrils, or feel the rise and fall of your belly.
  • When you notice that you’ve been distracted, simply start with the next breath.
  • Tune in to any sensation any way you can. Be fully aware of the breath. Just keep your attention anchored there.
  • Keep breathing in, and breathing out.
  • Whenever your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breath.
  • Watch the full inhalation, the full exhalation. Stay with the breath. Use it as your anchor for attention.
  • Try it on your own for a few minutes.

It’s really so simple and in some ways so hard, because the mind wants to wander. In a way the basic movement of mindfulness is anchoring your attention, keeping it there, noticing when your mind wanders because it’s going to, bringing it back and starting over. What we find is that if you can keep doing this, and the longer you stay with your breath, the more relaxed your body becomes. It’s a side effect of that full attention and letting go all those worries that keep us on edge and distracted.

Link to read the original  article 

ACTION FOR HAPPINESS PRESENTS…

An evening with Daniel Goleman

Thursday 24th October, London

An inspiring evening of insight and discussion with Daniel Goleman, the internationally acclaimed psychologist and expert in Emotional Intelligence.

Daniel will explain 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.

Link to booking details for this event

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

The Power of Mindfulness

 writes…

…For the past 100 years, the majority of education systems across the globe have failed to equip students with the life skills needed to flourish. This educational paradigm solely focused on academic achievement is a reflection of the global development paradigm whose progress is gauged by economic growth (GDP), regardless of negative externalities on the natural environment, on social fabrics and culture and on happiness and well-being.

If we are to strive for a new development paradigm beyond mere economic growth, a new generation empowered with the tools to flourish at an individual and communal level will be necessary.

Education for well-being is an educational paradigm which can plant seeds that might yield these fruits in the decades to come.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

Let Your Life Story Empower You

BY 

When you consider your life story, do you think of it as a positive or a negative experience? It’s difficult to find the empowering aspects of some of the situations we’ve experienced, it may seem as though there is no such aspect. Here, Alissa Finerman offers some tactics you can use to transform a seemingly disempowering story into something you can hopefully find some pride in:

“Don’t allow your situation to become your world.” – Bishop T.D. Jakes from Oprah’s Life Class

We all have a story. Sometimes it explains why we can’t do something and other times our story propels us forward. I’ve heard cases where people have the same story — such as lack of money, resources, or knowledge — and one person eventually starts a successful business while the other is out of work and depressed. One story can lead to completely opposite interpretations and outcomes. When you tell your story, you must…

1. Be honest about your story and stick to the facts.

Nothing more nor less!

2. Create the story that empowers you to move forward.

Never lower your standards!

3. Live your truth.

Establish non-negotiables!

“Does your story empower you or dis-empower you?” – Tony Robbins

We all have stories in different areas of our life. The facts are always available.

The only thing that changes is how we interpret them and how we decide to embellish them…

Often you have to challenge your conclusions and ask yourself if they are true. Does it really make sense that you can make anything in your career and healthy living a reality, yet relationships elude you? How much time do you spend on the areas you are successful in versus the ones you would like to have different results in? Your story must be the truth. This is the only way to create a top 1% path and share your best self.

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

8 Common Thinking Mistakes Our Brains Make and How To Prevent Them

Written by 

Being aware of the mistakes we naturally have in our thinking can make a big difference in avoiding them. Unfortunately, most of these occur subconsciously, so it will also take time and effort to avoid them—if you even want to.

Regardless, I think it’s fascinating to learn more about how we think and make decisions every day, so let’s take a look at some of these thinking habits we didn’t know we had.

1. We surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs

We tend to like people who think like us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them. While this makes sense, it means that we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our world views, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.

This is called confirmation bias. If you’ve ever heard of the frequency illusion, this is very similar. The frequency illusion occurs when you buy a new car, and suddenly you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place. It’s a passive experience, where our brains seek out information that’s related to us, but we believe there’s been an actual increase in the frequency of those occurrences.

Confirmation bias is a more active form of the same experience. It happens when we proactively seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs.

This trailer for David McRaney’s book, You are Now Less Dumb, explains this concept really well with a story about how people used to think geese grew on trees (seriously), and how challenging our beliefs on a regular basis is the only way to avoid getting caught up in the confirmation bias:

2. We believe in the “swimmer’s body” illusion

This has to be one of my favorite thinking mistakes I came across. In Rolf Dobelli’s book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, he explains how our ideas about talent and extensive training are well off-track:

Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities.

The “swimmer’s body illusion” occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. Another good example is top performing universities: are they actually the best schools, or do they choose the best students, who do well regardless of the school’s influence?

3. We worry about things we’ve already lost

No matter how much I pay attention to the sunk cost fallacy, I still naturally gravitate towards it.

The term sunk cost refers to any cost (not just monetary, but also time and effort) that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. So, a payment of time or money that’s gone forever, basically.

The reason we can’t ignore the cost, even though it’s already been paid, is that we wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow:

Organisms that placed more urgency on avoiding threats than they did on maximizing opportunities were more likely to pass on their genes. So, over time, the prospect of losses has become a more powerful motivator on your behavior than the promise of gains.

The sunk cost fallacy plays on this tendency of ours to emphasize loss over gain.

So, just like the other mistakes I’ve explained in this post, the sunk cost fallacy leads us to miss or ignore the logical facts presented to us, and instead make irrational decisions based on our emotions—without even realizing we’re doing so:

The fallacy prevents you from realizing the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which negates the feeling of loss in the past.

Being such a subconscious reaction, it’s hard to avoid this one. Our best bet is to try to separate the current facts we have from anything that happened in the past.

4. We incorrectly predict odds

The gambler’s fallacy is a glitch in our thinking—once again, we’re proven to be illogical creatures. The problem occurs when we place too much weight on past events, believing that they will have an effect on future outcomes (or, in the case of Heads or Tails, any weight, since past events make absolutely no difference to the odds).

Unfortunately, gambling addictions in particular are also affected by a similar mistake in thinking—the positive expectation bias. This is when we mistakenly think that eventually, our luck has to change for the better. Somehow, we find it impossible to accept bad results and give up—we often insist on keeping at it until we get positive results, regardless of what the odds of that happening actually are.

5. We rationalise purchases we don’t want

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. How many times have you gotten home after a shopping trip only to be less than satisfied with your purchase decisions and started rationalising them to yourself? Maybe you didn’t really want it after all, or in hindsight you thought it was too expensive. Or maybe it didn’t do what you hoped, and was actually useless to you.

Regardless, we’re pretty good at convincing ourselves that those flashy, useless, badly thought-out purchases are necessary after all. This is known as post-purchase rationalization or Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome.

The reason we’re so good at this comes back to psychology:

Social psychologists say it stems from the principle of commitment, our psychological desire to stay consistent and avoid a state of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we get when we’re trying to hold onto two competing ideas or theories.

So in the case of our impulse shopping trip, we would need to rationalise the purchases until we truly believe we needed to buy those things, so that our thoughts about ourselves line up with our actions (making the purchases).

The tricky thing in avoiding this mistake is that we generally act before we think, leaving us to rationalise our actions afterwards.

Being aware of this mistake can help us avoid it by predicting it before taking action—for instance, as we’re considering a purchase, we often know that we will have to rationalise it to ourselves later. If we can recognise this, perhaps we can avoid it. It’s not an easy one to tackle, though!

6. We make decisions based on the anchoring effect

Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist who gave one of my favourite TED talks ever about the irrationality of the human brain when it comes to making decisions.

He illustrates this particular mistake in our thinking superbly, with multiple examples. The anchoring effect essentially works like this: rather than making a decision based on pure value for investment (time, money, etc.), we factor in comparative value—that is, how much value an option offers when compared to another option.

Let’s look at some examples from Dan, to illustrate this effect in practice:

One example is an experiment that Dan conducted using two kinds of chocolates for sale in a booth: Hershey’s Kisses and Lindt Truffles. The Kisses were one penny each, while the Truffles were fifteen cents each. Considering the quality differences between the two kinds of chocolates and the normal prices of both items, the Truffles were a great deal, and the majority of visitors to the booth chose the Truffles.

For the next stage of his experiment, Dan offered the same two choices, but lowered the prices by one cent each. So now the Kisses were free, and the Truffles cost fourteen cents each. Of course, the Truffles are even more of a bargain now, but since the Kisses were free, most people chose those instead.

Your loss aversion system is always vigilant, waiting on standby to keep you from giving up more than you can afford to spare, so you calculate the balance between cost and reward whenever possible. – You Are Not So Smart

This mistake is called the anchoring effect, because we tend to focus on a particular value and compare it to our other options, seeing the difference between values rather than the value of each option itself.

Eliminating the ‘useless’ options ourselves as we make decisions can help us choose more wisely. On the other hand, Dan says that a big part of the problem comes from simply not knowing our own preferences very well, so perhaps that’s the area we should focus on more, instead.

7. We believe our memories more than facts

Our memories are highly fallible and plastic. And yet, we tend to subconsciously favor them over objective facts. The availability heuristic is a good example of this. It works like this:

Suppose you read a page of text and then you’re asked whether the page includes more words that end in “ing” or more words with “n” as the second-last letter. Obviously, it would be impossible for there to be more “ing” words than words with “n” as their penultimate letter (it took me a while to get that—read over the sentence again, carefully, if you’re not sure why that is).However, words ending in “ing” are easier to recall than words like hand, end, or and, which have “n” as their second-last letter, so we would naturally answer that there are more “ing” words.

What’s happening here is that we are basing our answer of probability (i.e. whether it’s probable that there are more “ing” words on the page) on how available relevant examples are (i.e. how easily we can recall them). Our troubles in recalling words with “n” as the second last letter make us think those words don’t occur very often, and we subconsciously ignore the obvious facts in front of us.

Although the availability heuristic is a natural process in how we think, two Chicago scholars have explained how wrong it can be:

Yet reliable statistical evidence will outperform the availability heuristic every time.

The lesson here? Whenever possible, look at the facts. Examine the data. Don’t base a factual decision on your gut instinct without at least exploring the data objectively first.

8. We pay more attention to stereotypes than we think

The funny thing about lots of these thinking mistakes is that they’re so ingrained, I had to think long and hard about why they’re mistakes at all! This one is a good example—it took me a while to understand how illogical this pattern of thinking is.

It’s another one that explains how easily we ignore actual facts:

The human mind is so wedded to stereotypes and so distracted by vivid descriptions that it will seize upon them, even when they defy logic, rather than upon truly relevant facts.

Here’s an example to illustrate the mistake, from researchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky:

In 1983 Kahneman and Tversky tested how illogical human thinking is by describing the following imaginary person:

Linda is thirty-one years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in antinuclear demonstrations.

The researchers asked people to read this description, and then asked them to answer this question:

Which alternative is more probable?

  1. Linda is a bank teller.
  2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

Here’s where it can get a bit tricky to understand (at least, it did for me!)—If answer #2 is true, #1 is also true. This means that #2 cannot be the answer to the question of probability.

Unfortunately, few of us realise this, because we’re so overcome by the more detailed description of #2. Plus, as the earlier quote pointed out, stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in our minds that subconsciously apply them to others.

Roughly 85% of people chose option #2 as the answer.

Again, we see here how irrational and illogical we can be, even when the facts are seemingly obvious.

I love this quote from researcher Daniel Kahneman on the differences between economics and psychology:

I was astonished. My economic colleagues worked in the building next door, but I had not appreciated the profound difference between our intellectual worlds. To a psychologist, it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable.

Clearly, it’s normal for us to be irrational and to think illogically, even though we rarely realise we’re doing it. Still, being aware of the pitfalls we often fall into when making decisions can help us to at least recognize them, if not avoid them.

Link to read this article in full including the wonderfully illustrative cartoons

 
photo credit: monettenriquez via photopin cc

photo credit: monettenriquez via photopin cc

Life Notes: Teach Your Child happiness Habits

Stacy Hawkins Adams writes

What numerous studies have discovered has been surprising — rather than success being the cause of happiness, it appears that being happy yields more success and achievement.

So I was intrigued when I attended parents’ night at my son’s middle school and learned that his history teacher (who is also his homeroom teacher) is not only educating him and his classmates about the complexities of past wars and other pivotal events in society, but also teaching them to contemplate happiness.

Musing about happiness? With sixth-graders?

The notion may seem odd. After all, kids are innately happy, aren’t they? Or at least they should be, when all is right in their worlds.

What the teacher, Michael Ferry, is striving for, however, seems much deeper, and thus more important.

He is convinced that if they understand the path to well-being and how to create habits that nurture it, they’ll be laying a foundation for lifelong resilience, contentment and, ultimately, success in whatever endeavors they pursue.

With that in mind, he takes a few minutes each morning to ask his students to consider something they’re grateful for, happy about or that makes them feel good.

If nothing else, this practice is training my son and his classmates to reflect on the positives in their young lives. It is also helping wire their brains to seek out silver linings and simple blessings they might otherwise overlook.

Scott Crabtree, an expert on the neuroscience and psychology of happiness and founder of a company called Happy Brain Science, said people who have a solid sense of well-being are more productive, sociable and creative — factors that foster success.

In psychologist Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage,” he offers steps to take to improve happiness, such as spending more time in fresh air to boost mood and improve memory.

Other experts recommend saying thank you more often, doing a kind act for others, exercising regularly and nurturing friendships.

Many of us already practice these suggestions in our efforts to lead productive and balanced lives. However, it might be helpful to be more intentional about encouraging your tween or teen to do the same.

Consider incorporating moments of gratitude sharing into your dinner or bedtime routines, or helping your children find positives in otherwise challenging situations.

Model the behavior you want them to adopt.

Don’t force your actions or be insincere; kids can always tell. But from a place of authenticity, prioritize what matters most, and help them grasp the concept of seeing the glass half full more often than not.

Ferry and numerous researchers are convinced these happiness habits will pay dividends, equipping youths and parents to embrace gratitude, optimism and hopefulness wherever life leads them.

Link to the original article

photo credit: mishgun via photopin cc

photo credit: mishgun via photopin cc

Room To Breathe

A film about how mindfulness practise transformed the lives of a group of inner city school students

Room To Breathe is a surprising story of transformation as struggling kids in a San Francisco public middle school are introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation.

Topping the district in disciplinary suspensions, and with overcrowded classrooms creating a nearly impossible learning environment, overwhelmed administrators are left with stark choices: repeating the cycle of trying to force tuned-out children to listen, or to experiment with timeless inner practices that may provide them with the social, emotional, and attentional skills that they need to succeed.

The first question is whether it’s already too late. Confronted by defiance, contempt for authority figures, poor discipline, and more interest in “social” than learning, can a young mindfulness teacher from Berkeley succeed in opening their minds and hearts?

Room To Breathe – Trailer

Inner city schools across the nation are in serious trouble.

In many cities, about half of high school students drop out, and a similar percentage of teachers leave after just five years in the profession.

ROOM TO BREATHE explores one promising solution that has been tested in several dozen public schools — a self-regulatory technique called mindfulness that increases kids’ focus and concentration, self-awareness and impulse control.

The film presents a hopeful story of transformation, following a young mindfulness teacher, Megan Cowan, as she spends several months attempting to teach the technique to troubled kids in a San Francisco public middle school that tops the district in disciplinary suspensions.

Confronted by defiance and contempt, Cowan at first runs into substantial difficulties in the classroom. But under her guidance, the students begin to learn the technique and eventually use it to take greater control over their lives, decrease stress, and better focus in class and at home.

Based on the experiences depicted in the film, as well as results at other schools and independent academic studies, the mindfulness technique appears to have broad potential to significantly improve kids’ social interactions with peers and adults, to reduce bullying and violence, and to improve academic performance and graduation rates.

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

How to Grow the Good in Your Brain

Rick Hanson explains how we can protect ourselves from the stress of negative experiences.

…There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from what it rests upon. Based on what we’ve learned about experience-dependent neuroplasticity, a modern version would be that the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. If you keep resting your mind upon self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness, and guilt.

On the other hand, if you keep resting your mind on good events and conditions (someone was nice to you, there’s a roof over your head), pleasant feelings, the things you do get done, physical pleasures, and your good intentions and qualities, then over time your brain will take a different shape, one with strength and resilience hard-wired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, positive mood, and a sense of worth. Looking back over the past week or so, where has your mind been mainly resting?

In effect, what you pay attention to—what you rest your mind upon—is the primary shaper of your brain. While some things naturally grab a person’s attention—such as a problem at work, a physical pain, or a serious worry—on the whole you have a lot of influence over where your mind rests. This means that you can deliberately prolong and even create the experiences that will shape your brain for the better. This is what I call “taking in the good.”

This practice, applied to positive experiences, boils down to just four words: have it, enjoy it.

And see for yourself what happens when you do…

…in quick, easy, and enjoyable ways right in the flow of your day, you can use the power of self-directed neuroplasticity to build up a lasting sense of ease, confidence, self-acceptance, compassion, feeling loved, contentment, and inner peace. In essence what you’ll do is simple: Turn everyday good experiences into good neural structure. Putting it more technically: You will activate mental states and then install them as neural traits. When you need them, you’ll be able to draw on these neural traits, which are your inner strengths, the good growing in your mind.

You’ll be using your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better. Bit by bit, synapse by synapse, you really can build happiness into your brain.
And by doing this, you’ll be overcoming its negativity bias: the brain is good at learning from bad experiences, but bad at learning from good ones—if the mind is like a garden, the “soil” of your brain is more fertile for weeds than for flowers. So it’s really important to plant the seeds of inner strengths by repeatedly taking in the good.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Life Mental Health via photopin cc

photo credit: Life Mental Health via photopin cc

Google’s ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ on the Power of Emotional Intelligence

 reports…

“Imagine two human beings. Don’t say anything, don’t do anything, just wish for those two human beings to be happy. That’s all.”

During one recent talk, Google engineer-turned-mindfulness expert Chade-Meng Tan gave the group a homework assignment: Perform the exercise the next day at work, spending 10 seconds each hour randomly choosing two people and silently wishing for them to be happy. The following morning, Tan received an email from an employee who attended the workshop that read, “I hate my job. I hate coming to work every day. But yesterday I tried your suggestion and it was my happiest day in seven years.”

It’s not the first time that Tan — who Wired recently dubbed an “Enlightenment engineer” — has seen emotional intelligence exercises transform an employee’s work and life. As Google’s resident “Jolly Good Fellow,” Tan developed Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training program. Tan’s philosophy is that cultivating emotional intelligence through mindfulness training and meditation can help an individual reach a state of inner peace, the essential foundation of happiness, success and compassion.

More than 1,000 Google employees have gone through the SIY curriculum, according to Wired, the principles of which are outlined in Tan’s New York Times bestseller,“Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path To Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace)”. The program focuses on building up the five emotional intelligence domains of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills, primarily through meditation and mindfulness training, which aims to improve one’s focus and attention on the present moment.

The benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace are well-documented, from career success to improved relationships to better leadership — and Tan says getting Silicon Valley interested in a meditation program to train employees in emotional intelligence wasn’t difficult.

“Everybody already knows, emotional intelligence is good for my career, it’s good for my team, it’s good for my profits,” Tan tells the Huffington Post. “It comes pre-marketed, so all I had to do is create a curriculum for emotional intelligence that helps people succeed, with goodness and world-peace as the unavoidable side-effects.”

Here are four ways that you can cultivate emotional intelligence – and revolutionize your work, relationships and happiness.

Meditate…

“There are some things in life where if you improve one thing, everything else in life is improved… If you improve physical fitness, it improves your home life, success, wellness, everything,” says Tan. “The same is true for meditation, because meditation is in fact mental and emotional fitness. If you are fit mentally and emotionally, every aspect of your life improves.”

Cultivate compassion…

Neuroscientists have even seen that meditating on compassion can create an empathetic state in the brain. When Tibetan Buddhist monks were asked to meditate on “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion” in a 2006 study, the researchers measured brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with positive emotions, that was 30 times stronger than the activity among a control group of college students who didn’t meditate, Wired reported. The researchers theorized that empathy may be something one can cultivated by “exercising” the brain through loving-kindness meditation.

Tan explains that mindfulness training helps to boost self-compassion first and foremost, which then expands to compassion for others. “[After the program], people say, ‘I see myself with kindness.'”

But the benefits of cultivating compassion go beyond greater kindness towards oneself and others: In addition to improving happiness, compassion can also boost a business’s creative output and bottom line, according to Tan — a sentiment that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, a leading proponent of compassionate management, would agree with.

“The one thing [that all companies should be doing] is promoting the awareness that compassion can and will be good for success and profits,” says Tan.

Practise Mindful observancm of the mind and body…

Mindful awareness of what’s going on in the mind and body — thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations and disease — is an important step in cultivating inner joy, says Tan.

“If you start from mindfulness, the first thing you get is inner peace,” Tan explains. “Then you add on other practices like observing wellness in the body, you also get inner joy. Take that inner joy and add on other practices, and you will get kindness and compassion.”

Make mindfulness a habit…

You may not think of inner peace as something that you can develop through creating good habits, but Tan explains that happiness is a habit that you can create through a daily mindfulness practice.

“To create sustainable compassion, you have to be strong in inner joy,” says Tan. “Inner joy comes from inner peace — otherwise it’s not sustainable. And inner peace is highly trainable.”

The way that inner peace is trained is through regular meditation — which isn’t strictly limited to sitting quietly in lotus position. A meditation habit can be a quiet daily walk around your block, a yoga practice, or any of these non-om forms of meditation. The important thing is that you create a habit by doing it regularly and turn mindfulness into a part of your daily life.

“Habits are highly trainable,” explains Tan. “And habits become character.”

Link the the original article

photo credit: IntelFreePress via photopin cc

photo credit: IntelFreePress via photopin cc

S. N. Goenka: The Man Who Taught the World to Meditate

 marks the death of Satya Narayan Goenka, aged 90 …

…Goenka was the core teacher for the first generation of “insight” meditation teachers to have an impact in the United States, and through them, to popularizers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) is now taught across the country in hospitals, schools, even prisons.

…America is on the threshold of a mindfulness revolution. As the data regarding mindfulness’s economic impact becomes better developed and better known, we are going to see mindfulness offered everywhere – not for reasons of spirituality, but for sheer economics. These technologies decrease healthcare costs, improve productivity, and speed processes of healing. The Buddha may have taught them to lead to enlightenment – but they also save a ton of money.

How this experiment will turn out is anyone’s guess. Maybe mindfulness will just be a fad. Maybe it’ll last but, like yoga, be limited only to some. Or maybe it really will transform our society. Whatever comes next, all of us who have used it to relax, get well, or just get through the day owe a debt of gratitude to an Indian businessman who passed away last week. Let’s take a mindful breath to remember him.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is

Vishvapani writes…

1.     It’s not about relaxing
A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course is about reducing stress, and that means trying to relax, right? Well, not exactly. Mindfulness just means noticing what’s happening, including the things we find difficult. It doesn’t involve listening to panpipes to escape your worries.

2.     It isn’t a meditation practice
On a mindfulness course you’ll learn meditation, but mindfulness is a practice for the whole of life. It means finding a different way to respond to experience throughout the day.

 3.     It isn’t a technique
Mindfulness isn’t something you do. It’s a way of being. You could say it’s a faculty, or a quality of mind that we all have to some extent and can develop further through practice.

4.     It isn’t a way to fix your problems
Mindfulness can help you address stress, anxiety, depression or chronic pain, but not by fixing them. Mindfulness really means living with appreciation and curiousity. Then we can relate in a new way to the things that trouble us, rather than trying to make them go away.

 5.     It isn’t about doing things slowly
Mindfulness courses include things like eating a raisin veryslowly. That helps you notice details that you otherwise miss, and shows up our tendency to rush or do one thing while thinking about something else. But that doesn’t mean that you should do everything slowly. Sometimes slower is worse – like when you’re driving. And some people, who have to do things really fast, like racing drivers and tennis players, are exceptionally mindful. With mindfulness, things can feel slower, even when you’re moving quickly.

6.     It isn’t about emptying your mind
Meditation doesn’t mean emptying your mind of thoughts, like a bucket. Minds produce thoughts – it’s what they’re built for – and keep producing them even when you’re meditating. But you can still become calm and settled by learning to let thoughts go. And exploring your thoughts lets you see what’s bugging you, and even how your mind really works.

7.     It Isn’t Buddhist
The mindfulness practices used in MBSR and MBCT are drawn from Buddhism, but no one owns mindfulness: it’s simply a capacity of the mind. That’s why mindfulness is being re-expressed in secular forms. However, Buddhism embeds mindfulness within its own, distinctive set of values and a wider path to liberation and if that’s what you’re looking for it’s worth finding out more.

8.     It isn’t scientific
Research into the effects of mindfulness and its impact on the brain is impressive. It’s a big part of what’s bringing mindfulness into the mainstream. But although you can measure what mindfulness does, you can’t measure what it is. That’s requires feeling, intuition and sensitivity. Measuring mindfulness is a science; practising it is an art.

9.     It isn’t difficult … or easy
Mindfulness is simple, but life is often complicated. So how does it work? The mindful approach is that you don’t have to work out everything all at once. You just have to be aware and manage what’s happening in this moment. So it isn’t difficult … but it also isn’t easy. What’s happening in this moment might be scary, so mindfulness requires patience and resolve as well as openness and gentleness.

10.  And it isn’t a fad
Mindfulness is certainly popular, but isn’t a fad?

Mindfulness is a quality of the mind that has always been there and we’re now learning to harness.

And mindfulness is more and more relevant because it counters the speed, distraction, superficiality and general mindlessness of so much modern culture and is causing an epidemic of mental strain and illness.

Mindfulness is here to stay.

Link to the original article

Michelle Gielan: The Power of Positive Communication

Michelle Gielan was curious about the effect of negative messages on the human brain and how they affect our ability to succeed.

She found that negative messaging “short circuits” the human brain.

  • External Messages (negative): Bad news about the weather has more of an effect on us that we often realize.
  • The Jack Effect (positive): If two people stare at each other for 10 seconds, and one smiles.80-85 percent of people will break down and smile back. Mirror neurons. When someone smiles at you, your brain releases dopamine and it feels good, but it also increases brain activity.

Thinking positively pays off: Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 37 percent.

Emotions are contagious. People are happy or sad collectively in the office. A lot of this has to do with mirror neurons — we learn a lot by mimicking each other.

Our brains are supercomputers. When triggered by threats (intruders, danger, negative news), our brains respond with a “fight or flight” reaction. We need to train our brains to react in positive ways, not negative ones.

When people are shown a selection of positive images, their eyes scan around them more. When shown negative images, the scanning process gets stuck – people don’t process the images as thoroughly.

Strategies for Positive Thinking

  1. Create Your Own Newscast: Each day, for 21 days, write down three things you are grateful for in live and why you believe they make you happy. These are your three headlines for the day.Effects: This process retrains your brain to scan for the positive; boosts gratitude and positivity ratio; optimizes scanning pattern; 94% of people were less depressed after 2 weeks.
  2. Investigative Optimism: Seeing the reality of a situation, but processing it positively. When you encounter a challenge or stressful situation, imagine the good that can come of it.Effects: This process retrains your brain for greater optimism; boosts positivity ratio; enables you to better visualize positive outcomes.
  3. The Power Lead: What story is the lead story for your day? What’s the best message you can send to capture your state of mind?Effects: Starts the interaction on a positive note; activates the brain; refocuses attention on the postive; improves the mood of the group.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: habeebee via photopin cc

photo credit: habeebee via photopin cc

Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken