This Is How Bureaucracy Dies – rethinking our organisations

 

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

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

the eleven qualities Google look for in recruiting their employees;

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

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

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

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

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies

By Gary Hamel

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read Gary Hamel’s article in full

puzzle pieces What if our thinking is wrong?

puzzle pieces
What if our thinking is wrong?

What If We’re Thinking About Organisations All Wrong?

 

11 Qualities Google Looks for in Job Candidates

Drake Baer writes in Business Insider:

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

It only hires about 4,000 people.

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

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

We sifted through those interviews for the most surprising takeaways.

Google doesn’t look for experts. 

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

Google does want people with high “cognitive ability.”  

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

Google seeks out people with “grit.”

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

Google wants to know whether candidates can tackle difficult projects.

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

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

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

Google wants candidates with analytical skills. 

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

Google expects people to meet ridiculously high standards. 

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

But Google doesn’t care about test scores.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google wants to see people who take ownership of projects. 

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

Google wants to see humility, too. 

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

 

jigsaw2 metaphor for organisations and their people

jigsaw2
metaphor for organisations and their people

Don’t Miss Out On The Well-Being Revolution

by Kim Farbota

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

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

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

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

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

Being a top performer without sacrificing wellness requires discipline.

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

 

A Better Way To Think About Lazy and Incompetent Employees

by Sam McNerney

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

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

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

Motivation is usually an identity problem.

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

Jigsaw 4 metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

Jigsaw 4
metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

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

by 

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

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

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

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

5 steps to a strategy/culture connection

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

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

What is the primary strategic goal for your organization?

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

Link to read this article in full

jigsaw3 metaphor for organisations and people working together

jigsaw3
metaphor for organisations and people working together

Happiness At Work edition #93

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

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy…

n

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…

 

Becoming More Happy, Creative & Productive ~ a back to earth toolkit of tips and techniques

After last week’s post putting our heads in the clouds to think and expand our thinking about thinking, I thought it might be helpful this week to come back to earth with a post that is grounded in practical How To tools and techniques.  I hope you find something in this selection to enjoy and use with what you are trying to make and make happen in your life and work.

The loudest story to catch my attention this week, turning up across a range of different sites, is Sharon Salzburg’s ideas brought together in her new book:

Practices For Having A Happier Day At Work

Margarita Tartakovsky writes in Psych Central’s blog World of Psychology:

…In Real Happiness at Work Salzberg discusses eight pillars of happiness in the workplace:

  • balance;
  • concentration;
  • compassion;
  • resilience;
  • communication and connection;
  • integrity;
  • meaning; and
  • open awareness.

At the end of each chapter she features formal meditations that take about 10 to 20 minutes, along with mini meditations and practices throughout the book.

Below are some of my favorite tips from Salzberg’s book for helping us have a more peaceful and happier day at work. The great thing about these exercises is that they’re simple, small and totally doable ways we can enjoy greater calm and satisfaction.

  • Before starting a project, meeting or even a conversation, ask yourself: “What do I most want to see happen from this?”
  • Before starting your day, set an intention. Salzberg gave this example: “May I treat everyone today with respect, remembering each person wants to be happy as much as I do.”
  • As you sit down at your desk, spend several moments listening to the sounds around you. Take note of your reactions to the sounds.
  • Notice how you’re holding something in your hand, such as a pen or cup. Are you holding on tightly? “Sometimes, we exert so much force holding things, it exacerbates tension without our realizing it.”
  • Try to perform a simple act of kindness every day. Salzberg included these examples: “holding an elevator door, saying thank you in a sincere manner, or listening to someone with a clear and focused mind.”
  • Pay attention to your feelings. For instance, if you’re feeling irritated toward a co-worker, pay attention to your irritation, “not so much the story of why you’re irritated, but the actual feeling of it.” What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? Identifying irritation as it starts helps you prevent an action you might later regret. “With a more immediate recognition of what we’re feeling, we have a choice as to how we want to respond in that moment.”
  • As you heat up your lunch, stop, and simply pay attention to your breath until your hear the ding of the microwave.
  • If you’re feeling upset, consider helping someone out. (“The more you help, the happier you can be.”)
  • Think about the people who make your job possible, such as a housekeeper, elevator operator or fundraiser – and thank them.

As Salzberg writes, “Being happy at work is possible for all of us, anytime and anywhere, with open eyes and a caring heart. We need only to take the first step.”

Link to the original article

‘Real Happiness at Work’ is an Inside Job

Love Your Job’s reviewer ‘Olivia Greene’ writes

In Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg’s first question to her readers is, “When we took this job did we expect it to make us happy?”

…Stuck in a rut at work, mostly of my own making, I stumbled across this book and I decided to read it every morning on my way to work for ninety days. My subway commute is about forty minutes, so I had time to get into the philosophy of the book and choose an exercise for the day before I walked through my office’s doors.

Using some of her exercises began to change my work day:

Unitask!
So many of us pride ourselves on our capacity to multitask, but that mindset can lead to a lot of stress. Salzberg’s exercises call for us to do one thing at a time, give that one activity our attention and thereby give ourselves a break. Once I tried this, I realized I was happier if I was unitasking, not multitasking. It is exhausting to stretch our attention in two or three different places — and it’s unnecessary.

Notice our Stress
Salzberg writes that every job has stress, but each of us gets stressed about different things. I tried an exercise that calls for writing down every thing during the work day that stressed me. Looking over my list, I found out it was different stressors than I realized — and a lot of the stress came from my own thoughts, which I could slowly change.

Mindful Emailing
Before reading Salzberg’s book, I answered an email as quickly as possible. Responsible for an inflow of hundreds of emails a day, the key for my professional survival seemed to me to be speed. But that was making me harried, unable to appreciate what I was writing or reading. Instead, I tried her mindful emailing exercises: I read emails twice entirely before replying and found out I was missing important points, I considered more carefully how my emails would be read and I added more kind words, and I decided I didn’t need to check my email while walking or riding the elevator. This mindful emailing made me, quite simply, happier at work.

Plant seeds
I made lists of accomplishments I hoped for at work, and noted which parts of success I could control — and which I couldn’t. It helped to ground me when I considered that I could set intentions, I could work towards something, but every outcome was dependent on forces beyond my control.

Notice sounds
Most work environments are noisy, with sounds we have no control over. Stationed between an employee social area and a crucial work area, I’m surrounded by sounds I can not control and do not need to pay attention to. I learned that when they begin to overwhelm me, I can stop, truly notice the sounds without feeling the need to stop them, and then gradually return to work with more ability to focus.

Take a deep breath!
While it’s core and basic advice I’ve heard countless times, Sharon Salzberg writes convincingly of the power of breath to restore and center us. In moments when I feel afraid and lose my calm, I learned that taking a deep breath can restore a sense of peace and vitality. It only takes three seconds and it works wonders.

I found that using these exercises allowed me, after a year of wishing I had the courage, to point out the amazing accomplishments I’d had over the past years and ask my boss to help those be recognized. I’ve also found the strength to apply for other jobs. I know that something wonderful is on its way, and I embrace what is happening right now instead of wishing it were different. Most importantly, I remember that finding happiness at work is an inside job. Only I can find it. My boss, my colleagues, and my company can not give it to me. I need to reach for it every day by making the time to breathe, to mini-meditate and to remember a greater sense of purpose. That’s my real responsibility — and it’s a big job.

Link to the original article

Sharon Salzberg, “Real Happiness at Work” | Talks at Google

Here you can watch Sharon Salzburg talking about her research and ideas and leading some guided mindfulness exercises in this video talk.  When you can give this the time to listen to, there’s lots of gentle wisdom here and a very easy mindfulness experience to enjoy at 23’55”:

“Life is full of surprises when we pay attention…”
And here is Sharon Salzburg writing the illustrative story she tells in this video, extracted from her book:

Self-Forgiveness at Work

…before too long, we got stuck in unthinkably bad traffic. I don’t recall ever seeing such traffic. As we crawled along, trying to go cross-town, then trying to go uptown, then cross-town again, trying anything, we barely made any progress. I wondered if I would make it to the talk at all. More than anything, I felt bad for the cab driver, wondering if he would get a fine for returning the cab late. I began to apologize, “I am so sorry. You were nice enough to pick me up and now you’ll be late. I can’t believe this monstrous traffic. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so, so sorry.” He interrupted me, “Madam, traffic is not your fault.” Then he paused a moment, and added, “Nor is it mine.”

I just loved that he added “Nor is it mine.” I thought of how many times customers probably blamed him for their own tardiness, for bridge closings and tired toll collectors and wild drivers of other cars. I thought, “That was a wonderful teaching. Actually it would be okay if I don’t make it to the lecture at all” (I did, by barely a second).

When we challenge the habit of unfair self-blame, we learn to focus our energy on areas of the job that we can manage and let go of the rest. When we take time to focus on the part of the environment we can control – most particularly ourselves — working life becomes less emotionally fraught.

Patience is a much-underrated tool for dealing with frustrating work situations. Cultivating a flexible perspective, and the ability to let go, is essential to whatever kind of work we do. As we learn to delay the story lines and mental habits that we typically bring to our work, and simply become available to our circumstances in the moment, we’re able to adapt to things as they actually are. Patience at work begins with the full acknowledgment of conditions exactly as they are.

This includes the restless, critical or stubborn states of our own mind. A student of mine was amazed, on the morning of a job interview, when mindfulness practice enabled her to catch herself in the middle of a long-held assumption regarding her confidence and self-worth (“I’m not good enough! I can’t compete. I’ll never get it!”). Barraged by fear as well as impatience over the interviewer’s response, her mind in the past would have spun out of control, kept her on tenterhooks, and beaten herself up in the interim. Had she not been patient enough to stop, sit quietly and observe her self-defeating thoughts, she would never have been able to notice this pattern — and compose herself enough to land the job.

The more time we spend on meditation practice, the more rewarding it becomes as rather than rejecting difficulties as bothersome interruptions, we can acknowledge our work with all its complications and challenges as an invitation to wake up and live our lives more honestly and fully.

Link to the original article

Self-acceptance: a key to a happy life, but difficult to achieve

A new survey has found that self-acceptance is the “healthy habit” people struggle with most.

The UK charity Action for Happiness in conjunction with online behavioral change program Do Something Different asked 5,000 participants to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 on ten “happy” habits. These habits, identified as “keys to happiness” via scientific research, plus the questions used to identify them, were as follows:

Giving: How often do you make an effort to help or be kind to others?
Relating: How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you?
Exercising: How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active?
Appreciating: How often do you take time to notice the good things in your life?
Trying out: How often do you learn or try new things?
Direction: How often do you do things that contribute to your most important life goals?
Resilience: How often do you find ways to bounce back quickly from problems?
Emotion: How often do you do things that make you feel good?
Acceptance: How often are you kind to yourself and think you’re fine as you are?
Meaning: How often do you do things that give you a sense of meaning or purpose?

While questions about Giving and Relating each scored an average of more than 7/10, the Acceptance question scored the lowest of the bunch: an average of 5.56 out of 10, just below Exercising (5.88/10).

“This survey shows that practising self-acceptance is one thing that could make the biggest difference to many people’s happiness,” says Professor Karen Pine, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire and co-founder of Do Something Different. “Exercise is also known to lift mood so if people want a simple, daily way to feel happier they should get into the habit of being more physically active too.”

Do Something Different and Action for Happiness have created a Do Happiness programme, which sends people messages to help them practice scientifically backed healthy habits. Some of the recommended actions include being as kind to yourself as you are to other people, spending quality quiet time by yourself, and asking a trusted friend what he or she thinks your greatest strengths are.

Link to the original article 

Russ Harris: ‘How To Build Genuine Confidence’ at Happiness & Its Causes 2011

In this talk Russ Harris uncovers the real causes of lack of self-confidence, and gives us three rules for building our confidence in those times when we do not feel it naturally:

Rule 1 – Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear and anxiety, it is a transformed relationship with fear and anxiety.

Rule 2 – The actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.

Rule 3 – Focus full attention on the task in hand.

And at this point in the talk is where I have set the video to play from, when Russ Harris’s shows a quite different mindfulness technique for doing this…

The Secret to Managing Stress: Adding the Opposite

How many of you are stressed about something right now? Did I hear an overwhelming “yes?” Well, I’m not surprised—a whopping 83% of Americans say they’re stressed at work.

And sure, you can find plenty of advice online about how to manage stress—from working out to using relaxation techniques like yoga or mediation to socializing with family and friends.

But I want to add another, rather unique tool to your stress-management kit. You may not have heard about it before—or you may have, years ago: It’s based on a strategy for teaching math to kids, known as “adding the opposite.”

In the classroom, this technique is used to help explain the idea of subtracting a negative—by adding a positive instead. Instead of 4 – (-6), for example, the student is taught to think of the equation as 4 + (+6).

Turns out, this is a great way to deal with stress, as well: Instead of trying to mitigate the negative effects of stress, think about what you can do to create a positive outcome, instead. Also referred to as “proactive coping,” this technique has worked wonders for my clients and has been proven in studies to reduce levels of worry and anxiety.

To help illustrate exactly how to use this method, read on for three ways you can “add the opposite” in common stress-inducing situations at the office.

1. Focus on the Positive

We’ve all had that kind of day: Your boss was a crank, your co-workers were annoying, you had a killer all-day headache, and you’re about to take this workday stink home and share it with your family. (Won’t they be thrilled?)

Not so fast! According to the University of Minnesota, you can greatly reduce evening stress levels simply by jotting down a few positive things that happened during the day. And they don’t even have to be work-related! Maybe you received a great compliment, nailed a presentation, or made a new friend in the office. Whatever you write, make sure to note why these things made you feel good. This will help you remember all the positive attributes, skills, and people you have in your life, and focusing on the “why” helps you appreciate those things even more.

You see, instead of dealing with stress by rehashing your terrible day to anyone who will listen, you can add the opposite by reminding yourself of what went well.

2. Envision Success

I don’t live downtown, but I have to go there frequently for meetings. And up until recently, I dreaded everything about it. Between the unfamiliar territory, one-way streets, ever-present construction, and full parking garages, I knew that it was always going to take much longer than I expected to arrive, find parking, and get to the meeting on time. It was harried and stressful, and I dreaded it.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t keep operating that way, and I started trying to proactively cope. So, whenever I had a city meeting, I’d envision myself leaving the office with plenty of time to spare, effortlessly finding a parking spot, and arriving well ahead of time, relaxed, unstressed, calm, and ready to conduct business.

And you wouldn’t believe the difference it made. I realized that by working myself up mentally and always picturing the worst possible experience, I was creating my own stress. But when I shifted my outlook, I had a completely different experience. I actually did arrive early, find parking, and had time to gather myself before the meeting.

Whether you dread city parking, presentations, meetings, performance reviews, or any number of other stressors, try adding the opposite by shifting your outlook from dread to anticipation and imagining a positive outcome. You’ll be able to ditch the stress—which will put you in the right mindset to succeed in any situation.

3. Start a Conversation

I often work with clients who complain that their managers are a constant source of stress, but they avoid tackling the issue head on. Why? They feel uncomfortable confronting an authority figure, or aren’t sure what to say or how to say it. And so, they take no action at all—and the stress continues.

To add the opposite in this situation, try focusing on the goal you want to achieve in that conversation and taking the steps to make it happen.

For example, let’s say your stress stems from your boss’ tendency to assign projects right as you’re about to leave the office. Instead of panicking about those last-minute tasks, directly confront the issue with a conversation—perhaps asking if you can meet each morning to outline the day’s assignments.

You’re instantly replacing that fear, dread, and avoidance with a proactive with a focus on the desired outcome—and that’s a much better way to replace that end-of-day stress.

The next time you anticipate a stressful event, focus on creating positive outcomes and aligning the resources you need to be successful. Doing this before stress has a chance to get to you has a much better effect on your personal well-being—rather than simply recovering from stress after the fact. That means a healthier body, a healthier mind, and a happier life. I challenge you to take steps to proactively cope with those tough situations by adding something positive. Your well-being depends on it!

Link to the original article

How to Help a New Co-worker (When You Have Your Own Work to Do)

The latest water cooler gossip has leaked the news that someone new is finally getting hired, which means your overloaded plate may actually see some lightening in the near future.

But, before you can let out a sigh of relief, you remember what a chore it was the last time someone new joined the team—and your excitement is quickly replaced with a feeling of dread.

Adding a new person to your team in the office can be a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, when he or she finally gets up to speed, your workload should get a lot more manageable, and ideally, your team will become more efficient. On the other hand, new hires—no matter how experienced they already are— require a lot of training.

Fortunately, you’re not necessarily doomed to suffer through a months-long ramping up period for a new hire. Here’s how to handle the inevitable barrage of questions with style and grace—and stay sane.

1. Flash Back

…I reminded myself what it was like when I first started several years before. From accidentally setting off the office alarm after forgetting the code to completely botching one of our daily reconciliation procedures, I was probably a nightmare to my peers. I also remembered how cohesive the team was and how hard it was being the “outsider” trying to break in to the group. With that in mind, I was able to keep my frustration in check and be much more compassionate about what she was going through as she adjusted to life with our tiny team.

2. Set Boundaries

I know, boundaries sound like limitations, but try to think of them less like restrictions, and more like a roadmap for a happy relationship. No matter who you are, there are rules to the road that you just won’t know when you first start out. At least, not until someone tells you. And, that’s where the boundaries come in.

…Sometimes, you can see a disaster from a mile away, so don’t be afraid to head it off as soon as possible. If you’re a tyrant before your morning coffee infusion, make sure the newbie knows not to come knocking unless the office is on fire. Not a fan of the 4 PM Friday afternoon team meeting? Make sure your new hire knows that on day one, and you’ll avoid resenting him for rest of his tenure. Whatever your pet peeves and professional thorns in your side may be, the more upfront and honest you are about your own boundaries, the happier and more productive everyone will be.

3. Get in the Game

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid all the questions. The job is complicated, and the culture is unique, and whoever is joining the team will need the secret handbook if he or she stands a chance at being successful—not to mention, help you out. That’s when it’s helpful to view the newbie onboarding process as a game, rather than an added burden.

This tactic was especially helpful to me when I had a recent graduate join my team. I had well over a decade of experience over her, so looking at her joining as a coaching opportunity just made sense. I knew things she couldn’t possibly know, and it was my responsibility to teach her. And, if I did it well, we’d both come out winners. While I’d have to give up about half the hours in my day until that point, I liked those odds. I ended up sharing everything I knew with her and answered all her questions with the same enthusiasm as my junior high basketball coach had when I asked him to explain a certain offensive play. And it worked.

At the end of the day, a job is just like any other game. There are rules and certain ways to get things done that work better than others. And, in many cases, taking the time to step back and be a coach—even if it’s not necessarily your job—is the only way to make sure your team will work effectively together.

Whether it’s the ins and outs of how to complete the TPS reports or the idiosyncrasies of the coffee machine, your new colleague is going to have a lot of questions, and chances are, you’ll be answering some of them. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll soon enjoy the benefits of having a new, awesome, addition to your team in no time.

Link to read the full original article

Be Happier at Work—This Week With Huffington Post’s The Third Metric

The previous two posts both come from The Muse, a new website I discovered by signing up for the free five-day programme they are offering in partnership with The Third Metric.  Its a great site and so far, two days in, this has been a great programme.

Is your job leaving you over-worked, over-stressed, tired, and unhappy? It doesn’t have to be this way. This class, in partnership with The Huffington Post Third Metric, will give you smart, research-backed strategies for how to re-think about your daily grind and be happier at work. Starting now.

Here’s the link to check out the offer and sign yourself up

A bit more about this programme:

Introducing The 5 Day Program To Find Happiness At Work

by  Jordan Freeman

Small things can help you be happier at work. It comes down to choices, and you really can choose happiness. The Huffington Post has partnered with the career experts at The Daily Muse to lead the way, putting together a five-day lesson plan on how to be “Happier At Work.”

At HuffPost, we focus on something called “The Third Metric,” which seeks to redefine success beyond money and power. We want to introduce a third metric to success that includes well-being, wisdom and wonder. We explore happiness as part of this initiative — especially happiness at work. For many, career success means working harder, longer, and faster — which tends to lead to burnout, sleep deprivation, and driving ourselves into the ground. Not quite the picture of success and happiness we imagined.

Our lessons will teach you smart, research-backed strategies for how to re-think your daily grind, stop making yourself crazy, and be happier at work every day.

Here is an overview of some of the tips and tricks we’ve put together for you.

Day 1: Is “Busy” Helping or Harming You? 
Sometimes, being busy feels good — it makes us feel productive and important. But it can also hold us back from big-picture thinking and even happiness. Learn why it’s so important to take a break and how to do it the right way.

Day 2: The Happiness Booster Sitting Next to You 
It’s easy to separate your work and personal lives, but the truth is, having friends at the office can go a long way toward making you a happier (even better!) employee. Learn how to get to know people outside the office and why it’s important to do it now.

Day 3: The Pursuit of (Im)perfection 
Do you know perfection is impossible, yet continue to strive for it anyway? It could be bringing you down, big time. In this class, we’ll show you just how valuable a little imperfection can be.

Day 4: The Meaning of Your Work 
Even if you don’t love your job, there are still ways to find meaning in it — and get excited for it. We’ll show you practical ways to find purpose at work.

Day 5: Happy Today, Happy Forever 
Here’s a secret about happiness: You have more control over it than you think you do. In this last class, we’ll show you small activities you can do every day that can make a big impact on your happiness.

Sign up here.

Link to the original article

7 Ways to Make it Easy for People to Work with You

by  

“It all depends on who you’re working with.”

That was the feedback from team members to a recent survey about the state of collaboration within our department. The feedback was consistent. Collaboration is…well…inconsistent.It all depends on who you’re working with.

In all organizations you’ll hear people complain about the difficulty of working with certain colleagues. The common refrain is, “If only they would _____…”— communicate better, be more responsive, give me all the information I need…fill in the blank with whatever reason suits the occasion.

Instead of being frustrated with other people not being easy to work with, shift the focus to yourself. Are YOU are easy to work with? If you are easy to do business with, odds are you’ll find others much more willing to cooperate and collaborate with you.

Here are seven ways to make it easy for people to work with you:

1. Build rapport – People want to work with people they like. Are you likable? Do you build rapport with your colleagues? Get to know them personally, engage in small talk (even if it’s not your “thing”), learn about their lives outside of work, and take a genuine interest in them as people, not just a co-worker who’s there to do a job.

2. Be a good communicator – Poor communication is at the root of many workplace conflicts. People who are easy to work with share information openly and timely, keep others informed as projects evolve, talk through out of the box situations rather than make assumptions, and they ask questions if they aren’t sure of the answer. As a general rule, it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

3. Make their job easier – If you want to gain people’s cooperation, make their job easier and they’ll love you for it. But how do you know what makes their job easier? Ask them! If handing off information in a form rather than a chain of emails makes their job easier, then do it. If it helps your colleague to talk over questions on the phone rather than through email, then give them a call. Identify the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) from your colleague’s perspective and it will help you tailor your interactions so both your and their needs are met.

4. Provide the “why” behind your requests – Very few people like being told what to do. They want to understand why something needs to be done so they can make intelligent decisions about the best way to proceed. Simply passing off information and asking someone to “just do it like I said” is rude and condescending. Make sure your colleagues understand the context of your request, why it’s important, and how critical they are to the success of the task/project. Doing so will have them working with you, not against you.

5. Be trustworthy – Above all, be trustworthy. Follow through on your commitments, keep your word, act with integrity, demonstrate competence in your own work, be honest, admit mistakes, and apologize when necessary. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and if you want to work well with others, it’s imperative you focus on building trust in the relationship. Trust starts with being trustworthy yourself.

6. Don’t hide behind electronic communication – Email and Instant Message have their place in organizations, but they don’t replace more personal means of communication like speaking on the phone or face to face. I’ve seen it time and time again – minor problems escalate into major blowouts because people refuse to get out from behind their desks, walk to their colleague’s office, and discuss a situation face to face. It’s much easier to hide behind the computer and fire off nasty-grams than it is to talk to someone about a problem. Just step away from the computer, please!

7. Consistently follow the process – Process…for some people that’s a dirty word and anathema for how they work. However, processes exist for a reason. Usually they are in place to ensure consistency, quality, efficiency, and productivity. When you follow the process, you show your colleagues you respect the norms and boundaries for how you’ve agreed to work together. If you visited a friend’s home and were asked to remove your shoes at the door, you would do so out of respect, right? You wouldn’t make excuses about it being inconvenient or it not being the way you do things in your house. Why should it be different at work? If you need to fill out a form, then fill it out. If you need to use a certain software system to get your information, then use it. Quit making excuses and do work the way it was designed to be done. Besides, if you consistently follow the process, you’ll experience much more grace from your colleagues for those times you legitimately need to deviate from it.

No one likes to think of him/herself as being difficult to work with, yet from time to time we all make life difficult for our colleagues. Focus on what you can do to be easy to do business with and you’ll find that over time others become easier to work with as well.

Link to read the original article

3 Ways To Handle Criticism Like A Pro – And Actually Grow From It

Be smart about the way you ask for feedback and you’ll realise you can’t live or learn without it.
Here’s how to ask the right questions and get the answers you need.

Ignoring this feedback can have detrimental effects on your company’s success, yet many of us are still averse to criticism. Sheila Heen, author of the new book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well says there’s a powerful reason this.

“Feedback sits at the juncture of two core human needs,” argues Heen. While on the one hand, we have a desire to improve and grow, we also have an innate need to be accepted and loved the way we are. “Feedback suggests that how you are now isn’t quite A-okay,” says Heen. High-achievers, in particular, struggle with this. “We think we should be doing it all and handling it all, if not perfectly, at least perfectly enough that other people don’t notice.”

So, how can we embrace criticism and learn to grow from it?

1. LET GO OF YOUR FIXED MINDSET.

Whether we view feedback as threatening or helpful depends on how we see ourselves, says Heen. Some people view themselves through a fixed identity. They have a mindset that says: “I am how I am. I’m either smart or stupid, capable or not, I’m going to be a success or a failure.” Such individuals take feedback as a verdict about their core being.

On the other hand, people who maintain a growth mindset assume that how they are today isn’t necessarily how they will be in the future. Thinking this way will allow you to accept feedback as a way to learn and grow.

2. IGNORE WHAT YOU DON’T AGREE WITH.

Not all criticism is helpful. “Getting good at receiving feedback doesn’t mean that you actually have to take it. It simply means that you resist the temptation to instantly either reject it or let it overwhelm you and instead work to understand it better,” says Heen. Knowing which opinions to accept and which to ignore means taking the time to fully hear people out.

Since the majority of feedback tends to be vague (“You need to be more of a team player” or “You need to be more responsive to the market”) you might need to push for more specifics. You could ask: “What specifically prompts you to say this?” or “What do you think I should be doing differently?” Getting answers to these questions will help you decide whether the message is useful or not.

3. DON’T FISH FOR A CANNED RESPONSE.

How you ask others for their opinions of you and your work will determine whether or not their responses are useful. “Asking ‘Do you have any feedback for me?’ is overwhelming for the giver and it’s not clear how honest you want them to be,” says Heen.

Instead, be more specific in your questioning. For example, asking “What’s one thing we could change that would make a difference to you?” makes clear the type of response you’re soliciting. You’ll be rewarded with more detailed thoughts that can help you and your business grow.

Link to the original article

Introverts: Know Your Strengths, And You Can Flourish At Work, Too

By Laura Pepper Wu, editor, The Write Life Magazine.

In business culture, we often favour extroversion. Yet the latest research suggests introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population. Author Susan Cain’s recent book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, shines a positive light on us more modest individuals.

In fact, Cain suggests that their traits can actually be strengths — personally and professionally.

Are You an Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?

The term introvert is often used inaccurately. Introversion does not necessarily equate to shy, though some introverts are shy — as are some extroverts. Instead, Cain defines introverts as “people of contemplation,” who may enjoy the company of others, but are also comfortable with solitude. They are sensitive, contemplative, modest and calm, and spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. They can enjoy social occasions, but crave restorative time afterwards. They do their best work alone in quiet places since they are easily overstimulated by noise, lights and action.

In contrast, extroverts are “people of action.” They gain energy from other people, are sociable, excitable and light-hearted. Unlike introverts, extroverts can tolerate a higher level of noise and work well collaboratively. And if neither of these temperaments resonate with you strongly, you may be an ambivert, someone who sits somewhere in the middle of this wide spectrum.Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, Quiet emphasizes that there are strengths that come with your temperament. You can also minimize the impact of the so-called weaknesses with self-knowledge.

Here are a few tips for introverts (and their bosses) to flourish in the workplace:

  1. Reduce noise. Shut the door to your office for stretches at a time, or wear noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll produce better work in a more satisfying environment.
  2. Set some rules for your interactions with colleagues and collaborators. If you have the luxury of doing so, let people know that you prefer email rather than phone conversations. Work in a conference room or coffee shop where you can’t be interrupted. Schedule regular meetings into your calendar to limit the need for spontaneous ones.
  3. Recognize your need for rest. After a big presentation, give yourself permission to restore your energy levels. This is essential for introverted workers to stay on top of their game. While it is important to bond with your work peers outside of the office, focus on quality over quantity.
  4. Let your temperament shape your career path. Since introverts flourish in quiet spaces with minimal interaction, careers such as graphic design, writing, programming and accountancy are all good choices.

The best tip of all is to commit to understanding more about the strengths associated with introversion. You’ll focus more on what you do best, and stress less about the differences between you and the louder voices who get more airplay at meetings. Introverts are observant, so they’ll often ask poignant and important questions, and see a different angle on something. Managers can respect these quiet strengths by asking questions and allowing everyone to speak during meetings. By understanding individual differences in a team, everyone wins.

Link to the original article

Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function

What daily habits improve brain structure and cognitive function?

by Christopher Bergland in The Athlete’s Way

On March 11, the New York Times published an article about the “brain fitness business titled, Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure. I believe the answer is no. Without a variety of other daily habits, these “brain-training games” cannot stave off mental decline or dramatically improve cognitive function.

Most of these brain-training games will have some benefits—but it’s impossible to optimize brain connectivity and maximize neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) sitting in a chair while playing a video game on a two-dimensional screen.

In order to give your brain a full workout, you need to engage both hemispheres of the cerebrum, and both hemispheres of the cerebellum. You can only do this by practicing, exploring, and learning new things in the three-dimensions of the real world—not while being sedentary in front of a flat screen in a cyber reality.

Digital games are incapable of giving the entire brain a full workout. These digital programs can’t really exercise the cerebellum (Latin: “Little Brain”) and, therefore, are literally only training half your brain. These “brain-training workouts” are the equivalent of only ever doing upper body workouts, without ever working out your lower body…

For this post, I did a meta-analysis of the most recent neuroscience studies and compiled a list of habits that can improve cognitive function for people from every generation. These eight habits can improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline for a lifespan.

Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Openness to Experience
  3. Curiosity and Creativity
  4. Social Connections
  5. Mindfulness Meditation
  6. Brain-Training Games
  7. Get Enough Sleep
  8. Reduce Chronic Stress

The secret to optimising cognitive function can be found in daily habits and exercises that flex both hemispheres of the cerebrum, and both hemispheres of the cerebellum. The eight habits I recommend here exercise all four brain hemispheres. If performed consistently, these habits can improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline.

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

Why Young Leaders Drive Old Leaders Crazy

by Leadership Freak

NOTE: Definition of a leader: ‘someone who influences the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation’.  (Hershey & Blanchard, Situational Leadership, 1977)
This is probably you – whatever your job tile reads.
Only you know of course whether you are an ‘old’ or a ‘young’ leader…

Old leaders feel superior to young leaders because young leaders haven’t paid their dues. Young leaders devalue the value of experience when they think, “Paying your dues is over-rated.”

Young leaders don’t appreciate what old leaders put on the line to support them. When young leaders screw up, they don’t realise they diminish the prestige of those who selected them.

Young leaders who walk away when things get hard weaken old leaders who are gutting it out.

10 Tips for young leaders:

  1. Make everyone around you look good. Nothing good comes from pointing out the bad in others when you’re a young leader.
  2. Celebrate and thank more. One strength of young leaders is dissatisfaction. But, when dissatisfaction turns negative, influence declines.
  3. Slow down when you feel barriers lifting. Enthusiasm and good ideas don’t lower resistance – connection does. People won’t see how smart you are when they’re protecting themselves from you.
  4. Use personal rather than accusatory language. “Our slow progress makes mefeel trapped,” is better than, “You aren’t moving fast enough.”
  5. Respect and answer the fears of old leaders. You scare old leaders when you don’t appreciate their fears.
  6. Channel passion, enthusiasm, and excitement into focus and resolve. Calm determination has more power than vein popping enthusiasm.
  7. Tease out the suggestions of experienced leaders. Say something like, “So, if we go the way you suggest, the next steps are…” Old leaders love to be taken seriously.
  8. Don’t pressure people to get on your team. Get on theirs.
  9. Say what you want. “How can I gain respect?” “Will you help me gain a voice?”
  10. Honour experience.

Link to read the original article

BUT BUT BUT – there is always another side to the coin…

Looking Down on Young Leaders

by Leadership Freak

The hope for dying organizations isn’t found in old leaders who don’t have the guts to say they created the problem.

Organisations reflect the age and attitude of their leaders. The older some grow, the more they lean toward no, and “no” isn’t going anywhere.

Transform organisation by integrating young leaders.

Dedicated young leaders:

  1. Feel impatient.
  2. Address issues elders sweep under the carpet.
  3. Complain when stuck in bureaucracy.
  4. Consistently ask, “Why?”
  5. Care deeply.
  6. Yearn to make a mark.
  7. Embrace diversity.

4 Tips for maximising young leaders:

  1. Push them past the “all talk” stage. Let them struggle and support them at the same time.
  2. Take their perspective. Learn from them.
  3. They don’t know what they don’t know. Teach rather than scoff.
  4. Realise many of the qualities you look down on are the ones you need.

Youth alone isn’t the answer. I’m advocating for respectful age integration.

Link to the original article

see also:

Why Millennials are the New Greatest Generation (infographic)

by 

Generation Y is constantly being given a reputation of being entitled and uncompetitive in the workforce that is very undeserved.

But what if I told you, in spite of this public perception and bad luck, or perhaps even because of it, the Millennials are actually the most generous, educated and civic-minded generation since the Greatest Generation? Don’t believe me? The following infographic debunks many of those Gen Y myths.

See for yourself what this generation has accomplished and how hard they work despite the less than favorable job market they face…

The Top 6 Questions Leaders Have About Communications

by David Grossman

I talk to a lot of leaders who say they want to communicate effectively, but they’re not sure how to. They have questions about how to overcome communication challenges, how to share tough news with employees, and how to measure the effectiveness of their communication. I thought I’d answer the top six questions I get from leaders about communication.

1. If communication is so critical to leadership and business, why isn’t there enough communication in business today?

Communication is often seen as an “add-on” to “hard” or “technical” business skills. Communication is often perceived as someone else’s job. Sometimes leaders spend their time and resources focusing on goals that directly contribute to the bottom line, not knowing that communication does too.

And there are a myriad of myths about communication that get in the way, myths such as “talking is communication” or “people won’t interpret situations or give them meaning if leaders don’t talk about them,” both of which are far from the truth.

2. Why do leaders need to be effective communicators?

Today’s leaders need to be effective leadercommunicators and use strategic communication as a way to achieve the business goals they seek. Leading is communicating; you can’t separate communication from leadership. Without communication, employees lack direction and can’t measure their performance. They lack an ability to see themselves and their work as part of the bigger picture. They can’t add value by contributing as a thinking member of the team.

And what’s most important is that you can’t lead if you can’t express yourself.

Your technical skills and abilities can take you only so far. Leadership is much more. It’s about getting things done and moving a business forward through other people.

3. What traits are most important for a skilled leader communicator?  

Asking questions and listening are critical. Leaders create engagement by focusing on productivity, creating morale and building relationships. Before you can understand a business problem or achieve a goal, you have to understand what the situation is. Asking questions is the best way to come at a problem from varied perspectives. If a leader problem solves from assumptions or only the information at hand, he or she won’t be effective.

4. What’s the greatest communication challenge for leaders?

The greatest challenge leaders face is failing to remember that everything they do communicates.  Whether they intend to or not, everything leaders do (and don’t do) communicates something, so why not communicate well? It’s no secret that people will read into your behavior. They interpret situations and give them meaning, whether or not you communicate about it. Communication provides the right information and prevents misinformation. Leaders need to remember that they make the weather every day for their people.

5. How can leaders measure the effectiveness of their communication?

You can ask others. You can listen (and then listen some more). You can also use a 360 to assess how you’re actually communicating, as compared to how you may think you’re doing.

We all have blind spots, and most of us tend to overestimate our skills. Leaders who are extroverted typically say and do a lot, but the quality of their communication suffers. On the other hand, introverts tend to think they’re communicating more than they actually are.

Effective leadercommunicators practice just like great athletes. Look at Serena Williams. She’s one of the best tennis players in the world, but she still practices every day. Leaders don’t have to be perfect, but we all need to work on flexing our leadership muscle so it gets stronger over time.  A great place to start is to listen to see how you’re doing in meeting you team’s needs: listen to the questions people ask, and look in the mirror and check your reflection.

6. How can leaders inspire their employees when they don’t have good news to share?

The test of great leadership is to ensure understanding in the tough times as well as in the good times. The best leadercommunicators communicate even more in challenging times. They place greater emphasis on two-way dialogue and face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) communication, and they’re visible. They listen more than they talk. They ask questions.

They’re genuine, honest, and empathetic.

Be assured, too, that as a leader, it’s OK to not have all the answers.  The three best credibility-building words a leader can say are, “I don’t know” (and then go out and find the answer).

Link to the original article

And here’s a quirky new piece of science that I loved discovering, not least because it lends weight to the realisation that listening is much more complex and skilled and demanding than merely the absence of talking…

Different Brain Regions Handle Different Music Types

Functional MRI of the listening brain found that different regions become active when listening to different types of music and instrumental versus vocals. Allie Wilkinson reports in Scientific American

Vivaldi versus the Beatles. Both great. But your brain may be processing the musical information differently for each. That’s according to research in the journalNeuroImage. [Vinoo Alluri et al, From Vivaldi to Beatles and back: Predicting lateralized brain responses to music]

For the study, volunteers had their brains scanned by functional MRI as they listened to two musical medleys containing songs from different genres. The scans identified brain regions that became active during listening.

One medley included four instrumental pieces and the other consisted of songs from the B side of Abbey Road.

Computer algorithms were used to identify specific aspects of the music, which the researchers were able to match with specific, activated brain areas. The researchers found that vocal and instrumental music get treated differently. While both hemispheres of the brain deal with musical features, the presence of lyrics shifts the processing of musical features to the left auditory cortex.

These results suggest that the brain’s hemispheres are specialized for different kinds of sound processing. A finding revealed but what you might call instrumental analysis.

Link to hear the podcast of this story with short snatches of the music it references

Pharrell Williams – Happy (Official Music Video)

And on the subject of music, here is Pharrell Williams’ Happy, which has been chosen to be this year’s song for UN International Day of Happiness on 20th March.

Clap along and enjoy…

Happiness At Work Edition #88

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

I hope you find something to take away from this to use and grow and profit from.

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

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

photo by Sue Ridge: 'sunbathing grape'

photo by Sue Ridge  ‘sunbathing grape’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 1

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 2

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 2

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

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

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 3

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to VIA Me Character Strengths Profile

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

Link to the IME; inspire motivate and engage website

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

Happiness At Work Edition #84

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

Link to read Happiness At Work #84

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

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

Happiness At Work #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 #77~ ending & beginning and the space in between

This week’s post takes its inspiration from Steve McCurry’s latest collection of photos of people Leaving and Coming (see below), drawing on this time when we celebrate out one year and in the next to mark some of the in-between spaces and places and thinking and ways of being….

C OK

photo credit: SheReadsAlot via photopin cc

Deadly Conformity Is Killing Our Creativity. Let’s mess about more

People’s lives  would be more fulfilling if they we were given greater freedom in the workplace writes 

I began to notice the creativity of the manager of the Pret a Manger coffee shop, close to where I live, after he showed extraordinary kindness to a woman with Down’s syndrome in her 20s. Well, maybe it wasn’t that remarkable, but it was certainly natural and spontaneous and beautifully done…  [When she wanted] some attention from the manager, he stepped from behind the counter and gave her a big, affectionate hug.

It was moving and she was evidently delighted, so I took a comment card from the holder on the wall and wrote a note to the CEO of Pret telling him he had a gem on his staff.

The company told me that they would give the manager some kind of reward and since then I have taken a secret pleasure at being the unseen agency of a little good fortune. However, this is not the whole point…

Ten days ago, I found him on the floor with two-dozen paper coffee cups figuring out how to make a Christmas star from the cups and red lids. I have to say it didn’t look too promising, but the next time I went in, there was a Christmas tree made entirely of cups and lids, which wasn’t bad at all.

The Pret man came to mind when last week I heard the latest report from the Office of National Statistics which suggests we are currently using just 15% of our intelligence during work and that the nation’s human capital – a slightly artificial construct of skills, knowledge and continuous learning – is way down on five years ago. There appears to be a slump in the nation’s creativity.

And what has the Pret man got to do with this trend? Well, the way he does his job embodies several of the necessary requirements for creativity: the confidence to experiment, openness and time to play. Clearly the company allows his character to express itself but you can well imagine the grimmer coffee shop chains seeing his restless experimentation and goodwill as being a challenge, maybe even a threat to the orderly running of the business.

Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the British commitment to single issue causes and how all the originality with which these are prosecuted fails to be expressed in the political life of the nation. It seems that the same is true of our working lives. It is just short of a tragedy that, on average, people are only required to use 15% of their intelligence at work – depressing for each one of us, for the economic health of the nation and the general sense of well being.

We could be so much more and have lives that were greatly more fulfilled if we only started to find ways of allowing people to be a little more creative in whatever they do. I am not talking about web companies and media agencies, where a creative environment is a priority, but all those humdrum offices we find ourselves in, where the power structures, politics, sexism, fear, orthodoxy, imaginary pressure and bloody stupid rules prevent us from making the most of what we are, or becoming what we could be.

A few months ago, I was at a large meeting of about 25 people, which after a couple of hours produced very little. We were all there for the same purpose and believed in the same thing, but some stood on ceremony, others were too afraid to speak openly or kept their powder dry so they could better fix things by email later. Then a group went to the pub. They were at play, inhibitions fell away and ideas started flowing, and this was because there were no hierarchies; no one was defending their position; and, crucially, people listened with respect and encouragement. The golden moment is usually short-lived, especially in a pub, but that kind of open exchange, in which no one dominates and the default cynicism of British life is absent, can be terrifically creative, as well as fun…

Sooner, rather than later, the subconscious, [if it gets] left to get on with the problem in its own way, produces the thing that you want, or you didn’t even know was there. And that applies to unpressured groups of people, who are at play but maybe also a little focused, and ingenuity wells up from the subconscious and people find themselves speaking the idea before they knew they’d had it – the idea that is born on the lips, as Pepys once said.

There are countless inspiring videos about creativity on the web, likeElizabeth Gilbert’s Ted talk of 2009 Sir Ken Robinson’s of 2006 and the excellent lecture by John Cleese from 20 years ago. All of them come to the same conclusions about the importance of play, the absence of a fear of failure; openness and lack of pressure.

I would add to these the quality that my friend and the founder of Charter 88 and openDemocracy Anthony Barnett emphasises: generosity of spirit. And that takes us back to the manager of Pret a Manger, who, I believe, would not be nearly as creative if he were not so generous and kind-hearted.

Where does that leave us? Well, apart from encouraging the well-appreciated conditions for creativity in the workplace, we perhaps need to understand that the structures for taking decisions and driving things forward are not the same ones we should use to find innovation and make the most of the unexploited 85% of our intelligence. Power and hierarchies are the enemy of creativity.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Dreaming Makes You Smarter

Annie Murphy Paul writes in her Brilliant Blog

…It might sound like science fiction, but researchers are increasingly focusing on the relationship between the knowledge and skills our brains absorb during the day and the fragmented, often bizarre imaginings they generate at night. Scientists have found that dreaming about a task we’ve learned is associated with improved performance in that activity (suggesting that there’s some truth to the popular notion that we’re “getting” a foreign language once we begin dreaming in it). What’s more, researchers are coming to recognize that dreaming is an essential part of understanding, organizing and retaining what we learn—and that dreams may even hold out the possibility of directing our learning as we doze.

While we sleep, research indicates, the brain replays the patterns of activity it experienced during waking hours, allowing us to enter what one psychologist calls a neural virtual reality. A vivid example of such reenactment can be seen in this video, made as part of a 2011 study by researchers in the Sleep Disorders Unit at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. They taught a series of dance moves to a group of patients with conditions like sleepwalking, in which the sleeper engages in the kind of physical movement that is normally inhibited during slumber. They then videotaped the subjects as they slept. Lying in bed, eyes closed, the woman on the tape does a faithful rendition of the dance moves she learned earlier—“the first direct and unambiguous demonstration of overt behavioral replay of a recently learned skill during human sleep,” writes lead author Delphine Oudiette.

Of course, most of us are not quite so energetic during sleep—but our brains are busy nonetheless. While our bodies are at rest, scientists theorize, our brains are extracting what’s important from the information and events we’ve recently encountered, then integrating that data into the vast store of what we already know—perhaps explaining why dreams are such an odd mixture of fresh experiences and old memories. A dream about something we’ve just learned seems to be a sign that the new knowledge has been processed effectively…

Robert Stickgold, one of the Harvard researchers, suggests that studying right before bedtime or taking a nap following a study session in the afternoon might increase the odds of dreaming about the material. But some scientists are pushing the notion of enhancing learning through dreaming even further, asking sleepers to mentally practice skills while they slumber. In a pilot study published in The Sport Psychologistjournal in 2010, University of Bern psychologist Daniel Erlacher instructed participants to dream about tossing coins into a cup. Those who successfully dreamed about the task showed significant improvement in their real-life coin-tossing abilities. Experiments like Erlacher’s raise the possibility that we could train ourselves to cultivate skills while we slumber. Think about that as your head hits the pillow tonight….

This Week’s Brilliant Quote

“Penalties, and rewards, change the meaning of the task to which they are applied. When you’re deciding whether to motivate someone, you should first think about whether your incentive might crowd out their willingness to perform well without an incentive. Crowding out could occur because of a change in the perception of the task, or because you have insulted the person you are trying to encourage or discourage. Cash, in the end, really isn’t king; some things can’t be bought. Rewarding people on the basis of what they really value—their time, their self-image as good citizens—is often much more motivating than just slapping down, or taking away, a couple of bills.”

—Uri Gneezy and John A. List, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Art Elevates the Mind by Increasing Empathy, Critical Thinking and Tolerance

A new large-scale experiment on over 10,000 students finds that a one-hour tour of an art museum can increase empathy, tolerance and critical thinking skills…

The results showed that, compared with those who had not been to the museum, students who had visited:

  • Thought about art more critically.
  • Displayed greater empathy about how people lived in the past.
  • Expressed greater levels of tolerance towards people with different views.

The museum had clearly been a mind-expanding experience for the young people.

Interestingly, the improvements were larger when the students were from more deprived backgrounds.

Visiting the museum also made students more likely to want to visit art museums again in the future. This could create a cascading effect over their lifetime, continuing to boost critical thought, empathy and tolerance.

What is art for?

Field trips are often seen by teachers and students as purely for pleasure, rather than for educational purposes.

But the authors point out that museums are about more than that:

“We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.” (Greene et al., 2014)

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards: Personal Development

The entries were submitted, the books were read, the shortlists determined, and we are now ready to announce the category winners of the 2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards!

In the Personal Development category…

Springboard: Do What You Were Meant To Do

Springboard: Do What You Were Meant To Do

G. Richard Shell’s Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success from Portfolio takes the top spot.

“There is no ‘secret’ you need to discover. And you do not have ‘one true purpose’ for your life that is your duty to find or die trying. The raw materials for success are tucked away inside you and your next big goal is probably within arm’s reach—if only you have the clarity of mind to see it”
Springboard, page 10-11

Success is an oft-tackled subject in business literature, so it’s easy to be cynical about there being any new angle to take on the matter. But G. Richard Shell, author of the classic Bargaining for Advantage and The Art of Woo achieves it in Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by presenting us with a book that doesn’t define success as much as it provides readers with tools to define it accurately and authentically for themselves.

Shell, who literally teaches the course on success at Wharton, opens his book with a retelling of his own circuitous path to success, written with great humility and insight, and the entire book is told in a voice that is both instructive and generous. “What is Success?” and “How Will I Achieve It?” are questions you will be able to answer for yourself once you close the covers of this book.

The other books in our Personal Development shortlist are all books whose writers I have featured over this year in this blog…

Link to read the original article

2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards: Leadership

In the Leadership category…

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin from Harvard Business Review Press is our top book.

“The essence of great strategy is making choices—clear, tough choices, like what business to be in and which not to be in, where to play in the business you choose, how you will win where you play, what capabilities and competencies you will turn into core strengths, and how your internal systems will turn those choices and capabilities into consistently excellent performance in the marketplace. And it all starts with an aspiration to win and a definition of what winning looks like.” Playing to Win, page 46

This book relays the strategic approach P&G used over the 10-year period Lafley (with Martin as advisor) led the company to increase its market value to $100 billion. But this isn’t an industry book as much as it is a “story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.” And that’s truly what makes this book so good. It is, indeed, a story, and its two authors are invested in communicating the impressive work done at P&G and teaching this approach to others.

The other books in our Leadership shortlist are…

Link to read the original article

The Secret To Happiness

Happiness starts here:  How much control do you really have over your happiness, and how effectively are you pursuing it?

American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks distills 40 years of social science research into a surprising set of answers, suggesting the four essentials are:

  • Faith
  • Family
  • Community
  • and Work through earned success ~ the belief that you are accomplishing something worthwhile and valuable

A Formula For Happiness

Arthur Brooks writes in the New York Times…

HAPPINESS has traditionally been considered an elusive and evanescent thing. To some, even trying to achieve it is an exercise in futility. It has been said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness…

About half of happiness is genetically determined. Up to an additional 40 percent comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past — but that won’t last very long.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work…

…rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not…

…the secret to happiness through work is earned success.

This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way. And these differences persist after controlling for income and other demographics.

You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure — or in kids taught to read, habitats protected or souls saved…

If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work.

There’s nothing new about earned success. It’s simply another way of explaining what America’s founders meant when they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that humans’ inalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This moral covenant links the founders to each of us today. The right to define our happiness, work to attain it and support ourselves in the process — to earn our success — is our birthright. And it is our duty to pass this opportunity on to our children and grandchildren.

But today that opportunity is in peril. Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to rise…

This is a major problem, and advocates of free enterprise have been too slow to recognize it. It is not enough to assume that our system blesses each of us with equal opportunities. We need to fight for the policies and culture that will reverse troubling mobility trends. We need schools that serve children’s civil rights instead of adults’ job security. We need to encourage job creation for the most marginalized and declare war on barriers to entrepreneurship at all levels, from hedge funds to hedge trimming. And we need to revive our moral appreciation for the cultural elements of success.

We must also clear up misconceptions. Free enterprise does not mean shredding the social safety net, but championing policies that truly help vulnerable people and build an economy that can sustain these commitments. It doesn’t mean reflexively cheering big business, but leveling the playing field so competition trumps cronyism. It doesn’t entail “anything goes” libertinism, but self-government and self-control. And it certainly doesn’t imply that unfettered greed is laudable or even acceptable.

Free enterprise gives the most people the best shot at earning their success and finding enduring happiness in their work. It creates more paths than any other system to use one’s abilities in creative and meaningful ways, from entrepreneurship to teaching to ministry to playing the French horn. This is hardly mere materialism, and it is much more than an economic alternative. Free enterprise is a moral imperative.

To pursue the happiness within our reach, we do best to pour ourselves into faith, family, community and meaningful work. To share happiness, we need to fight for free enterprise and strive to make its blessings accessible to all.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

Link to read the full original article

C OK

photo credit: Jus Wilcox via photopin cc

Leaving and Coming, Steve McCurry’s photo collection

 Doors
Are both frame and monument
To our spent time,
And too little has been said
Of our coming through and leaving by them. 
– Charles Tomlinson

Steve McCurry celebrates the season with another sublime evocative collection of his photos, themed around coming and going, the spaces of transition, the not-places between places, and in these moments of passing thorough he catches and hold our attention in these images, inviting us to stop mid-stream, mid-thought, mid-moment and – well, perhaps just to notice what we notice before we move on with our day…

Since the beginning of time,
doors have symbolized both great opportunities and thwarted dreams.
The open door is a metaphor for new life, a passage
from one stage of life to another, and metamorphosis.
Closed doors often represent rejection and exclusion…

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

C OK

photo credit: The Integer Club via photopin cc

Are You Really Listening?

by 

Listen: ˈlɪs(ə)n/

Verb: To give one’s attention to a sound.
Synonym: hear, pay attention, be attentive, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear to, and to be all ears.

We all understand the mechanics of listening. But too often today, when we have the opportunity to listen, we’re content with just passively letting sound waves travel through our ears. That’s called hearing. Listening is something entirely different. It’s essential for leaders to pay attention when others around us have something to say. Why? Because developing better listening skills is the key to developing a better company…

However, when input actually arrives, how authentic are you about listening? Do you pretend to care, just for the sake of getting at what you think you need? Or are you receiving, absorbing and processing the entire message?

We’ve all had moments when we politely smile and nod throughout a dialogue. The speaker may feel heard and validated, but we miss out on potentially valuable information. Or how about those moments when we greet someone in passing with a quick, “Hi. How are you?” and continue moving forward without waiting for a response.

Occasionally, that may happen. But what if it’s a habit? What if others in your organization learn to expect that behavior from you? When people assume their ideas and opinions don’t matter, communication quickly breaks down. This kind of moment isn’t just a missed opportunity for meaningful interaction — it’s a legitimate business issue that puts your organization at risk.

Why Don’t We Listen?

When we’re part of a conversation, but we’re not paying attention, we send the message that we just don’t care. However, our intentions may be quite different. These are the most common reasons why we fail at listening:

  We’re developing a response. Instead of maintaining a clear, open mind when others speak, we quickly start composing our reply or rebuttal. Many smart people tend to jump into that response mode — usually less than 40 words into a dialogue.

  We’re preoccupied by external factors. In today’s multitasking environments, distractions abound. We’re bombarded with noise from things like open floor plans, and a constant barrage of texts, tabs, emails, calls, and calendar notifications.

•  It’s not a good time for the conversation. Have you ever been rushing to prepare for a meeting when someone stopped you in the hallway with a simple “Got a moment?” While it may be tempting to comply, it’s wise to simply schedule the discussion for another time. You’ll stay on track for the meeting, and can focus on the request as time permits.

Checked Out? Ideas For Stronger Communication

I ask my team questions and invest time in discussions because I’m interested in their answers. Actually, I need those answers. After all, employee feedback is critical for a more engaged, productive, fulfilled workforce.

To foster better understanding, try asking follow-up questions to verify what people intend to convey, and discover how they feel about what they’re saying. This simple gesture will cultivate a culture of openness and camaraderie. Also, we can use tools to streamline the communication process and help us ask smart questions that reveal more about employees.

However, there’s no point asking questions if we only respond with a nod and then move on. If your mind is too cluttered and your day too busy to engage fully, be honest with your team. Assure them that you’ll get back to them when you’re able. And of course, don’t forget to follow up.

How To Make Mindful Conversation a Habit

Still, many leaders struggle with the art of active listening. That’s why it’s important to learn useful techniques and make practice a part of your life.

Deepak Chopra, MD, observes that leaders and followers ideally form a symbiotic relationship. “The greatest leaders are visionaries, but no vision is created in a vacuum. It emerges from the situation at hand.” Effective leadership begins with observation — knowing your audience and understanding the landscape. Even the most eloquent, powerful speech will fall on deaf ears if the speaker doesn’t listen to the pulse of the audience.

It’s never too soon to start practicing this art. Here are 4 easy tips to improve your ability to listen and lead:

1) Repetition. Repeat anything you find interesting. This helps you recall key points after a conversation ends. It’s also a smart technique when you meet someone new. Repeat their name throughout the discussion. This not only solidifies the name in your memory, but also helps build rapport and trust.

2) Read Between the Lines. Pay special attention when a speaker changes tone and volume, pauses, or breaks eye contact. These subtle signals are clues that can reflect emotional highlights or pain points (anger, sadness, happiness). And body language often reveals what words don’t say.

3) Mouth/Eye Coordination. Looking a speaker in the eye establishes a connection and lets them know you’re listening. But don’t hold their gaze too long. Recent research suggests that eye contact is effective only if you already agree with a speaker’s message. Instead, try looking at the speaker’s mouth. That may feel awkward, but this keeps you focused on what they’re saying — and they’ll know it.

4) Reflection. Seal the deal by thinking back to extract meaning. You may be exhilarated by a great conversation — but without a mental debrief, much of it can be forgotten. Reflection is critical in developing the takeaways (and subsequent actions) that make the discussion valuable. Try mentally organizing important points by associating them with a relevant word or two. Then, in the future, you’ll more easily recall the details.

The art of listening is about much more than exchanging facts. Active listening helps those in your company feel validated and connected with you and your organization. Genuine conversations weave their own path. Give them your time and attention. Along the way, you’ll solve problems and generate new ideas that will have a lasting impact on you, your team and your business.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

17 Tips To Help You Expand Your Influence

CJ Goulding offers these great guidelines…

In his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey explains that truly effective people who expand their influence live a life focused on things that they can change—their circle of influence—and not things they have no power over, which can be categorized in a circle of concern. He says:

Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Great tip! And here are some others that will help you to both live within that circle and expand your influence simultaneously!

1. Be proactive.

Expanding influence is not something that happens to people who sit still….Being deliberate and proactive about trying new things, forming new connections, and meeting new people are all ways to become more influential.

2. Be a good listener.

…influential people must first be good listeners. Improving your listening skill allows you to collect new information, build trust and rapport, and makes it easier for others to align with your causes.

3. Stay consistent.

…Consistent people are reliable and are the first ones trusted with new tasks, ideas, projects, and responsibilities.

4. Practice empathy.

Being able to recognize, understand, and share in the emotions and experiences of another person gives you the ability to relate to people on their level. You become a more caring individual who is in tune with the feelings and attitudes of the people surrounding you. And when you can relate to someone, you can influence them, though careful not to manipulate the feelings and emotions you were trusted with.

5. Seek for solution.

…when you are associated with solutions, you will be the first person called, the first person asked to consult, and the first option to resolve issues.

6. Accept responsibility.

…as the old adage states, “take blame when things go wrong, and give credit when things go as planned.” Taking responsibility for your actions and even for the actions of those people you manage allows you to expand your influence by building the trust others have in you and your word.

7. Appreciate others.

A simple THANK YOU goes a long way in person and even further when done publicly. Choose to recognize the efforts of others and lift them up as shining examples for others to see. By doing so you are influencing others by reinforcing what works and what was done right. We all want to be valued and appreciated.

8. Have a vision.

…Without a goal, people may follow your lead for a short time, but the facade will eventually fall apart.

9. Ask the right questions.

Don’t ask why something is happening, ask how you can make it better.

Ask questions like:

How can I leave this situation better than I found it?

How can I meet and get to know people better?

How can I help and inspire the people around me?

How can I be a solution in this situation?

10. Have passion, a fire for what you do.

…alert people to the fire inside. Your enthusiasm for what you do will also draw others alongside you in your quest.

11. Filter the information that you take in.

There is an information overload, an “infobesity” that exists in today’s society. As you expand your influence, realize that there will be information coming in from all sides and at all angles, but that not all of it is useful or well intended. Screening the TV shows and movies you watch, the books you read, and the people whose advice you take allows you to stay focused.

12. Increase your value through education.

Read and educate yourself on areas where you want to grow. … Take classes, read books, do training and anything else possible to round out and expand your life experience, and thus expand your influence.

13. Fine tune your skills.

Constantly work on mastering your skill set. Influential people are not mediocre. Like a bank account, skills need constant deposits to continually grow, so even after you feel you have attained some level of mastery, continuous work is still required to continue to grow and develop.

14. Be upbeat and enthusiastic.

…Upbeat and enthusiastic people attract other upbeat and enthusiastic people… A positive attitude is also extremely contagious, and will carry your influence with it as it spreads.

15. Be a person of integrity and values.

Your description of who you are and your actions should broadcast the same message…

16. Go above and beyond.

Raise the bar… successful and influential people are never mediocre. They never settle for “ok” when great is an option. As Steve Jobs said, “In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great.” Make what you do great!

17. Use your influence to bring out the best in others.

…Once you gain influence in a certain area, use your sway to do good things for others and bring the best out in them. Pay your experience forward, whether it is in sharing what you have learned or providing opportunities for them to follow in your footsteps.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: seier+seier via photopin cc

photo credit: seier+seier via photopin cc

Guess What! You Can Measure Motivation, and Here’s How!

The Motivation Guy  (also known as Dr. David Facer) writes…

One of the most persistent beliefs leaders tell themselves and employees is that if you can’t measure something, it does not matter.

I can easily refute that belief with two questions:

1. Do you love your partner/spouse, mother, father, or children?

2. If yes (no one has answered no yet), then tell me precisely how much.  And when you answer, please pick an amount and a unit of measure.  So your answer would be something like, “I love my children 12 gallons,” or “I love my husband six kilometers.”

Naturally, that’s absurd.  The love you feel matters a great deal and yet seems impossible to measure.

Employee motivation is a bit like that.  It matters a great deal to the well-being of your employees and the financial success of the company.  And yet it seems impossible to measure.

But that’s the thing—it is remarkably easy to measure.  Here’s how.

  1. Using yourself as a test case, the first thing you will want to do is upgrade how you think about measurement.  Most often you’re thinking in terms of numbers.  Instead, think first in terms of categories.  Then you can think of numbers.
  2. Specifically, think in terms of these six categories—or types—of motivation.
    • Inherent – You do something because it is fun for you personally
    • Integrated – You do something because the purpose and deep meaning of it serves others and is in harmony with your own deep sense of purpose
    • Aligned – You do something because it is compatible with your goals and values
    • Imposed – You do something because you want to avoid a hassle, drama, or feeling guilty
    • External – You do something to gain something outside the task and yourself such as money, status, or reputation
    • Disinterested – You do not do something because it just does not matter to you.
  1. Create a table featuring the six categories above and tally your thoughts, feelings, and what the running dialogue in your head is saying about what type of motivation you experience on each specific situation, task, or goal.
  2. What pattern do you notice?  Most coaching clients with whom I have used this simple technique notice a pattern pretty quickly.  In fact, for everything on their to-do list, they usually realize they are experiencing one or two types of motivation.  In time, one of them will become the most clear.
  3. BAM!  You just measured your motivation by discerning what type you are experiencing.  And, the tally you came up with reveals how intensely you feel one type over the others.

Now you may ask does measuring your motivation using that simple technique even matter?

It absolutely does, because the type of motivation you experience has a big influence on how you go about your daily work—and your probability of success.

More specifically, research reveals that your motivation type has a lot to do with how much creative, out of the box thinking you bring to your work. It greatly influences how persistent you are in the face of tough challenges.  It not only explains, itdetermines how enthusiastic, frustrated, or bored you feel about the minutia of your work.  And over time, the type of motivation you experience has a lot to do with the decisions you make to stay with the company or leave for somewhere better…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: bumblebeelovesyou via photopin cc

Why It’s Hard To Be Yourself (And How To Do It)

We’ve all been told to “just be yourself” at some point in life.

It’s good advice, but deceptively hard to follow.

“Hive Mind” Compels Us To Think Or Act Like Someone Else

…The term ‘Hive Mind’ comes from the way that honeybees, though individuals, act as a cohesive whole, as if they have a single consciousness. In humans, it happens when a group of people want to get along to the point that they actively suppress their true thoughts and feelings. The unanimous agreement may start from one person saying, “That’s a great idea!” Then the people merge their unique perspectives into a single group perspective. In business, this might mean fewer quality ideas. In life, it could mean losing your identity.

Stereotypes Exist Because Of “Hive Mind” 

It’s human to want to belong and find your place in the world. That makes it tempting to “tweak” yourself to be like a stereotype to assure you can fit in with others. If you don’t know yourself, it can be tempting to take on a personality template. But it’s a pretty incredible fact of life that every person is unique, and we need to embrace that! If you don’t embrace it and explore your identity, you might end up living someone else’s life, and feel empty inside as a result.

The way you present yourself to the world is a declaration of your identity. If you dress and act like a stereotype, your unique traits will be hidden behind this more obvious label that everyone is familiar with. I’m not saying it’s wrong to dress in any certain way – that would be contradictory to this article – I’m saying it’s best to avoid “hive mind” in life.

When you purposefully dress and act as a well-known stereotype, there is a greater chance and temptation for you to embrace that cookie-cutter persona instead of being yourself. 

When people do this, it’s like they’re actors, playing a role that someone else created. They learn the dialect. They mimic the clothes and body language. And their real traits are held hostage behind this image.

Being Unique Can Be Uncomfortable At First, But It’s Better Long Term

…Diversity is why it’s so important to be yourself. It is one of the most interesting parts of life, and it expands our knowledge and ideas. And the more stereotypical, conforming clones we have in the world, the fewer unique and interesting people we’ll have to learn from. People label themselves because it’s easier at first, but later they feel trapped to live up to this image that isn’t really them.  

Security Is Knowing Who You Are

If you live according to a persona or stereotype, some amount of confidence comes with it, because you know how you’re supposed to act in most circumstances. Gangstas are tough and foul-mouthed, hippies are easy-going and peaceful, etc. So when you have any self-doubt, you can simply act your part. But this is a cheap substitute for reacting dynamically from your true identity.

The safety in being yourself comes from knowing yourself better than anyone else. And the more you act like yourself, the more you’ll get to know yourself. And for personal development, knowing your true self equips you to change yourself. The reason most adults are more confident than children is because they’ve had more time to get to know themselves, so they’re less sensitive to the world’s opinion. But as a kid, you’re new and impressionable, and it’s for this reason that so many kids will resort to being an image of someone else rather than themselves. It feels safer.

If you had a precious gem that nobody else in the world had, some people would claim to know about it. Some people might talk bad about it. But only you know the truth about that gem, because that gem is you!

The best tip for being yourself is simple. Don’t try to be anyone else…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Flyinace2000 via photopin cc

Do You Know What Life Will Be Like In 5 Years? IBM’s Top Scientist Does

In the 5 in 5 report IBM’s top scientists report on what the world, supported by smart sensing and computing, will look like in five years. Last week, Fast Companypreviewed the report with the physicist who heads up the research team: Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow, and Vice President of Innovation.

In five years, cities will be sentient. More buses will automatically run when there are more people to fill them. And doctors will use your DNA to tailor medical advice and smart computing to diagnose and plan treatment for big diseases like cancer not in months, but in minutes.

In five years, physical retail stores will understand your preferences and use augmented reality to bring the web to where shoppers can physically touch it. Sophisticated analytics will allow the classroom (not just the teacher) to track your progress in real time and tailor course work. Digital guardians will protect your accounts and identity, proactively flagging fraudulent use, while maintaining the privacy of your personal information.

In five years, we will have analytical models that allow us to actually change the future and prevent the traffic jam that would have happened if 20 minutes from now if we hadn’t already rerouted lights to stop it.

Here are details about the ways these five predictions will define the future and impact us at a personal level:

The city will help you live in it…

Doctors will use your DNA to keep you well…

Buying local will beat online…

You will have a digital guardian…

The classroom will learn you…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Dominic’s pics via photopin cc

Beat Holiday Stress With These Two Easy Meditation Techniques

Regina Bright writes…

Holidays can be stressful. The hustle and bustle of work, parenting, in-laws, guests, shopping, traveling, and cooking can seem pretty hectic this time of year.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I take a timeout to relax and do short meditation exercises. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Deep breathing.

Begin in a quiet, comfortable area with no distractions. Remember, your goal is to quiet your mind and to remain in the moment. Don’t get discouraged if you are not able to do this the first time.

 Sit up straight and tall, feet on the floor, and hands on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth and release. Notice your ribs expand while the rest of your body is motionless. Breathe deeply, slowly, and smoothly. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale.

Focus solely on your breath. If a thought comes up, bring your attention back to your breath. You are in control – resist distractions. Try this exercise daily. Remember meditation is a practice.

Focus on your senses.

Next time you are at the coffee shop, make your focus a cup of hot coffee. Notice the sounds around you – people talking, the steam from the cappuccino machine, the sound of whipped cream topping off a cup of coffee. Notice the colorful ceramic cup, the steam, and the creamer swirling around the rim. Notice the fragrant aroma of the dark coffee beans. Notice the warm liquid going down your throat and warming you. Notice how the warmth of the cup is warming your cold hands. Notice the taste of your favorite winter drink.

Notice what it feels like to slow down and live in the moment – it isn’t a race to get through life!

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

Happiness At Work – edition #77

All of these stories and more are collected together in this week’s Happiness At Work #77 collection, online from Friday 20th December.

Enjoy and have a very happy rejuvenating and connected holiday…

Happiness At Work #76 ~ a parcel of practical ideas for the festive season

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

‘Tis the season of gift giving and in this spirit I have tried to make this week’s post a Santa’s Sack of tools, techniques and practical approaches with – I do hope – a treat for everyone.  I hope you will find something here to make your festive season just that little happier, less stressful and more enjoyable…

The Power of Empathy (RSA Shorts)

What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

This sublime animation of sorts out the difference between empathy and sympathy and provides the basics on how to give it well.

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

photo credit: MyTudut via photopin cc

4 Critical Skills for a Changing World

BY 

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in the midst of the cultural and political upheaval of the 60s. What I remember most about those days were the endless fights with my parents over my long hair, my frayed bellbottom jeans, the Vietnam War, and, of course, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

We had a name for our extreme differences in perspective back then. We called it “the generation gap.” I doubt if it’s any consolation to Millennials – especially coming from a baby boomer – but we’ve sort of been here before. Each generation has its own ideals, behaviors and challenges.

 While there’s nothing new about generational change, when you’re in the thick of it, that’s a different story. It’s unsettling, exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time.

Related7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Don’t Do

The high-tech revolution of the past few decades certainly fits that description. Having “grown up” in that industry, I can certainly look back and see how far we’ve come. Not only that, I’m proud that I made the transition – that I successfully adapted to this brave new world.

And I’d like to help you do the same. I’d like to help the entrepreneurs of today and the business leaders of tomorrow make the transition to a world that never stops changing. Here are four critical capabilities I think you’re going to need to distinguish yourself – to become the leaders, the innovators, the success stories of a new age:

Truly connect with real people in the real world
Any successful executive or business leader will tell you that among their most critical assets are their ability to communicate and network. Not only that, but success in business is all about relationships. Every business transaction has a human being on both ends.

These days, people think they’re connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, when in reality, they’re just blasting gigabytes of superficial sound bites and links at each other. It’s the Internet equivalent of talking at someone. Actually, it’s not even one-to-one, it’s generally one-to-many, and, by many, I mean thousands.

The truth is that social networking isn’t even fractionally effective when compared with a simple real-time discussion or face-to-face meeting. One real relationship with a real person in the real world is worth a thousand virtual connections.

Related: 9 Steps to Becoming a Great Writer

Shut out the noise
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a world of unprecedented information and communication overload. We’re expected to be on 24/7. The urge to text, tweet and email is constant, addictive, and nearly irresistible.

And yet, you have to find a way to resist all that. You have to figure out how to manage distraction without completely shutting yourself off. You have to learn to shut out the noise without missing out on what matters, what’s relevant, and what’s critical.
It’s never been more challenging to prioritize and focus, to be effective and productive, to get things done, than it is today. And it’s only going to get harder.

Recognize the bullsh*t
Everyone’s aware that “I saw it on the Internet so it must be true” is a fallacy. And yet, quoting, posting, forwarding and retweeting information from unreliable sources has become the norm. It’s pervasive.

When you question assumptions and claims, challenge conventional wisdom, and avoid collectivism and groupthink, that’s called critical thinking. It dates back thousands of years to the teachings of Socrates and Buddha.

Critical thinking is fundamental to smart decision-making. It’s in short supply … and getting shorter all the time.

Be the genuine you
All the personal branding hype has turned people into Internet avatars: social-media sound bites that are nothing more than two-dimensional fabrications of how they want others to see them. The problem is you’ll never get anywhere by trying to be something you’re not.

It’s never been more challenging or more important to be the genuine you, to possess the humility and self-awareness to realize that you’re not who you hold yourself out to be, you don’t have all the answers, and calling yourself an entrepreneur or a CEO doesn’t make you one.

In a world of indistinguishable lemmings, where everyone imagines they’re unique while behaving exactly like everyone else, the true innovators will be those who possess the courage to know who they really are and become the best version of themselves that they can be.

No matter how much the world changes, your personal journey is the one that will matter most. Keep it real.

Link to read the original article

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5 Surprising Ways Writing Makes Your Life Better

Want to have a clearer head, a more engaged workday, and get wiser faster?  Then you might want to write this down…

BY 

What are we “putting down” when we “put it down on paper”: a current of thought, a torrent of emotions, the first incisions of a decision? Flannery O’Connor said that she writes in order to discover what she knows. And as research into writing shows, the act of tracing your thoughts across a page can make you more productive, more emotionally aware, and a less irrational decision maker.

Here’s why.

1. WRITING CLEARS THE CLUTTER FROM YOUR MIND

Getting Things Done author and TED speaker David Allen emphasizes that your mind is for processing, not for storage. Storage of information, after all, can be outsourced in any number of ways, including writing down your to-do list on a pad of paper. The insight underlying this is that attention is a finite resource, one that gets depletedover the course of a day. So if you’re walking around thinking about what you need to do next–rather than thinking about how you’re getting to get it done–you’re misspending your neurotransmitters.

2. WRITING LETS YOU MAKE A BANK OF KNOWLEDGE

Productive people take better notes: if somebody is dropping knowledge on you, writing down what they say allows you to commit your attention to next insight–rather than trying to remember the last one. Like the Chinese proverb says, you can trust the faintest of ink more than the strongest of memories.

As you take more and more notes on awesome things said and read, you can amass an awesome bank of knowledge. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

3. WRITING HELPS YOU SEE YOUR OWN GROWTH

Journaling in particular helps you see how you have grown. Harvard Business School research director Teresa Amabile has discovered that people feel more engaged, more productive, and have a greater sense of meaning in their work when they record even the most miniscule of accomplishments within their days. She calls this the Progress Principle: the more you’re aware of your progress, the more involved you’ll feel in making it continue to grow–another reason to make a ritual of writing about what’s happened.

4. WRITING HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR LIFE

University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker has found that writing about their lives helps people to organize their thoughts and find meaning in their traumatic experiences–from people diagnosed with HIV to Vietnam veterans. This is crucial, since the more meaning you find in your difficulties, research shows, the more resilient you’ll be in over-coming them, which reminds us of how the happiest people often have the hardest jobs.

5. WRITING HELPS YOU BECOME MORE WISE

The last reason to write about life: it helps you study your emotions, which makes you wiser, faster.

“What we construct as wisdom over time is actually the result of cultivating that knowledge of how our emotions behaved,” says USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, “and what we learn from them.”

This reinforces Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s recommended first step for making better decisions: buy a notebook.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: bloody marty mix via photopin cc

7 Ways to Find out What You Really Want in Life

…If you don’t know what you really want in life, you’re not alone. Thousands, if not millions, of people wander the earth every day without a quest. If you don’t want to spend your life wandering aimlessly, you can use the following 7 tips to find out exactly what you want in life.

Be selfish

You can’t pinpoint exactly what you want in life if you’re constantly sacrificing your time and dreams for other people. You have to put yourself first. Ask yourself: If you weren’t tied down by your job, family, friends, or anything else, then what would you be doing right now? Always remember that it’s okay to put yourself first, because if you don’t, then no one else will.

Regret nothing

Don’t feel bad for being selfish. It’s your life. It’s time for you to live it exactly the way you want to. If you constantly regret things you did or didn’t do in the past, then you won’t be able to move forward. Don’t live in the past. Live in the present…and the future!

Figure out what you need

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you need. Sit down and think about what you need the most. Is it your family? The freedom to express yourself? Love? Financial security? Something else? If it helps, you can make a list of priorities. Also think about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Determine what really bothers you

You can soar only by pushing back against something you don’t want. Figure out what upsets you, and be specific about it. Don’t just say that you hate your office job. Pinpoint exactly why you hate it. Could it be your micromanaging boss? Your workload? Your meaningless job title? Or all of the above? What bothers you, and how can you fix it? How much do you want to fix it?

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet548 via photopin cc

Determine what makes you truly happy

There’s no waste to life if you’re happy living it. Your happiness is the root of your desires. So take a few moments and really think about what makes you happy. Is it traveling? Being around children? Owning a successful business? Your significant other? Financial freedom? Once you pinpoint the one thing that makes you happy the most, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what you should strive for in your life.

Let people around you know what you’re trying to achieve

Don’t keep your goals and desires to yourself. Voice it all out! If you tell people what you’re trying to accomplish, they will most likely support you and give you new ideas. Sometimes mother does know best!

Stay positive.

Life doesn’t always go how you want it. Don’t feel dismay as your plans stray. Take control. Instead of freaking out, try your best to roll with the changes. You will get there someday. You’re just taking a little detour. Sometimes a positive attitude is all you need to keep going.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

photo credit: Nearsoft via photopin cc

Creating A Great Place To Work

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

It’s become almost an industry itself – judging organizational culture and creating lists of great places to work. The most recent I’ve read is fromGlassdoor, as reported in FAST Company Online this morning. The findings and lists are worth reading, but perhaps not surprisingly, I want to talk about how we as leaders can impact these ratings.

So let’s do exactly that.

Quoting from the article, here are the top six themes, Glassdoor found from the top rated companies:

  • Mission: a sense of purpose in coming into work
  • Collegiality: working with awesome people
  • Challenging work: being stimulated by the work to be done
  • Meaningful advancement: the promise of growth
  • Confidence in senior leaders: a sense of trust–and transparency–with management
  • Perks: good pay, free food, a beer cart or two.

Read this list with your leadership hat on and you will see that if you are a senior leader, you have impact on all six. More importantly though is the message if you are leaders from somewhere else. Whether you lead from the shop floor, the phone room, or any middle to upper middle level, you can directly impact the first four, and influence the fifth one, from your perspective as a manager, too.

Read this list as an employee, and my guess is that is your list, too – attributes describing where you want to work.

So your job as a leader, if you want to create a great place to work (and why wouldn’t you?), is to focus on:

  • Giving people (and helping them see) the purpose in working in your organization. Help people see the biggest and most powerful picture for their work.
  • Selecting and cultivating a great team of people that others want to work with.
  • Creating challenging and stimulating work for all team members
  • Leading for growth, so there will be opportunities for people to grow their roles and contributions moving forward.
  • Being trustworthy and offering greater trust to your team members.

I know that this list isn’t simple, yet all of these are things that you can do regardless of your organizational level. To not focus on these is to deny your ability to make the difference you were hired to make.

My message?

As a leader, stop wishing you could have a better workplace. Start creating it today. The steps are clear and in front of you, and they are yours for the taking.

Greater results, higher productivity, less turnover, more job satisfaction, and more fun await.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: daveypea via photopin cc

How Positive Psychology Can Help Your Organisation

Leslie Sachs writes…

Positive psychology is providing a new focus on effective ways to ensure that teams exhibit the right behaviors in a group or organizational setting. Closely related to many agile and lean concepts, these emerging practices are helping teams to improve communication, collaborate, and emerge as highly effective groups. Leslie Sachs explains what positive psychology is all about and how to start using these practices in your organisation…

If you want an effective and healthy organization, then it seems obvious that it is essential to focus on promoting healthy organizational behavior. Psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have pioneered a new focus on a positive view of psychology, and this article will help you to understand and begin to apply these exciting and very effective techniques…

Seligman delineates twenty-four strengths, ranging from curiosity and interest in the world to zest, passion, and enthusiasm, which he suggests are the fundamental traits of a positive and effective individual. Notably, playfulness and humor, along with valor, bravery, and a sense of justice, are also listed among these traits that Seligman describes. So, how do we apply this knowledge to the workplace and how can we use this information to be more effective managers? The fact is that we all know people whom we admire and we have all had more than a few employers who seemed less than completely effective.

Effective leaders do indeed exhibit valor, bravery, and a sense of justice in identifying barriers to organizational success. The best leaders are not afraid to deliver a tough message and also use their positional power to help teams achieve success. Leaders are often particularly motivated by curiosity, interested in the world, and most certainly exhibit enthusiasm and passion for their work.

Other traits observed in strong leaders include kindness and generosity, along with integrity and honesty. Successful leaders also exhibit perseverance and diligence as well as a love of learning. It hardly comes as a surprise that so many of these strengths are specified as beneficial traits. In fact, many of these aspects have been discussed earlier by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers in their work on humanistic psychology, a discipline that focuses on helping people achieve success and realize their full potential.

Positive psychology is providing a useful framework for understanding the traits that lead to success, both at an organizational level and also for each of us individually. Much of what positive psychology advocates aligns well with agile methodologies and the agile mindset in which many organizations are finding to be so effective, especially in creating an environment where each stakeholder feels empowered to do the right thing and speak up when there are problems or barriers to success.

Quality management guru W. Edwards Deming noted long ago the importance of healthy behaviors, such as driving out fear, in order to ensure that your employees are willing to speak up and warn of potential issues [4]. Clearly, positive behaviors lead to highly effective teams and successful organizations.

Positive psychology cannot solve every problem and there is no doubt that many organizations have cultures and environments that just do not foster success. However, if you are a technical leader (or wish to emerge as a technical leader), then understanding the significance and impact potential of encouraging positive traits is essential for your success….

Link to read the original article

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adapted image from photo credit: qthomasbower via photopin cc

Get Your Free VIA Me! Character Strengths Profile

Here is a link to a great online site where you can find out the ranked order of your own 24 character strengths, mentioned in the above article.  Your top 5 strengths are recognised as your Signature Strengths and here is Martin Seligman’s activity that helps us to hugely increase our level of engagement and happiness at work, and thus our success and productivity, using the power of our Signature Strengths:

Playing To Your Strengths

A.) Identify your top 5 Signature Strengths

B.) Over the next week create a designated time in your schedule when you will exercise one or more of your signature strengths in a new way at work.  Decide what you will do for this.

C.) Write about your experience…

How did it feel before, during and after engaging in the activity?

  • Was the activity challenging? easy?
  • Did time pass quickly?
  • Did you lose your sense of self-consciousness?

What plans can you make to help you repeat, develop or build on this experience?

Link to get your Via Me! Character Strengths Profile

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

photo credit: Len Radin via photopin cc

How to beat the female leadership stereotypes

Mother or seductress, pet or battle-axe: 30 years after research first identified these roles we’re still living by them

by Judith Baxterprofessor of applied linguistics at Aston University. She researches the relationship between language, gender and leadership in educational, business and professional contexts.

recent Gallup poll states that if given the choice between a male or female boss when taking a new job, Americans strongly lean towards men as their preferred choice. The figures highlight that issues with female authority have not gone away. The stereotype of the “horrible female boss” persists because expectations for women in power are set so high that it’s nearly impossible for any human being to meet them.

 The explanation is usually psychological: both women and men unconsciously view men as leaders and women as followers, so that when a woman is promoted to senior leadership, she disrupts unconscious collective norms.

Yet this unconscious bias must emanate from somewhere, and I suggest that this “somewhere” is rooted in the language we use to represent women and men.

 We have been raised in a culture that has historically constructed successful leaders as male. The “great man” theory of leadership prevails in the western world heralding male leaders as heroic, charismatic, commanding, competitive, creative, cut-throat, masterful, and sometimes just plain quirky. Think Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, even Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

 There is simply no room for women to fit into masculine archetypes of leadership. Female leaders are seen as the exception and often as socially and professionally deviant. Consequently, women get pigeonholed and labelled by narrow and limiting language. They become caricatures.

 In 1983, American businesswoman Rosabeth Moss Kanter famously identified four “role traps” for women in the public domain: the pet, the mother, the battle-axe and the seductress. Today, if you look at the way women are represented in the media, these role traps heavily influence the way we see female leaders.

 A woman falling into the pet role-trap is viewed as cute, sweet or girly. We all like her, she may be a favourite of the boss, but ultimately she is not seen as serious. Think Tory MP Louise Mensch, famously the pet of David Cameron before she fell from grace. A pet will rarely make it to the top of her chosen field.

 The mother or schoolmistress is perhaps the most traditional leader role-trap. She is routinely described as school marmy, bossy, frumpy or mumsy. Think Fern Britton before her makeover on Strictly Come Dancing. The mother may command authority and respect but her manner is characterised as too arch, parental or humourless for serious leadership positions.

 The seductress is disliked by both men and women, and gets described as a bitch, witch, cow, vamp or man-eater. Think MP Nadine Dorries or presenter Carol Vorderman. She eats men for breakfast and no boyfriend or husband is deemed safe. If she flirts with senior men, her behaviour is condemned as inappropriate, unprofessional, distracting and misjudged.

 Finally, the most opprobrium is reserved for a woman who falls into the battle-axe role-trap. She has historical form in the tradition of Lady Macbeth or more recently, Margaret Thatcher. She is caricatured as scary, tough, mean, bossy, or just like a man. While she patently can make it to the top, she is then viewed as “a horrible female boss”, although her reputation may be redeemed over time.

 Can female leaders escape from these role-traps? Research I conducted in 14 multinational businesses compared seven women and seven male board directors chairing meetings with their senior teams. One notable finding from the research was that colleagues represented women leaders in stereotyped ways using words such as “scary”, “tentative”, “flirty” or “bossy”. However, in my own observations, I saw senior women refusing to be entrapped by such monolithic stereotypes but rather, turning them to their advantage to be effective in the workplace.

 I saw women leaders move skilfully between the four roles, using them as resources to draw on to achieve different business and political goals. Recent media representations of Angela Merkel, known by the Germans as “the Mother”, depict her moving flexibly between the iron-fisted chancellor and the charming token female bantering with male heads of state.

 But it is a dangerous game. Ultimately the fact that such role-traps continue to thrive in our collective unconscious, and are daily reconstructed in media representations, is a barrier for women. Now we have to ensure that such media representations are challenged, and to create multifaceted leadership archetypes for both women and men.

Link to read the original article

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The History of the To-Do List (And How To Make It More Effective)

BELLE BETH COOPERY writes…

…As I researched this post, I realised how hard it is to pinpoint the origin of something as simple and widespread as the list (to-do or otherwise), but I did find out some interesting stories about how lists have been used in the past and why we find them useful in everyday life.

Why Do We Make Lists in the First Place?

Philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco is a big fan of lists and has some fascinating ideas about why they’re so important to humans:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists…

Umberto explained in an interview that lists are often seen as relics of primitive cultures — simplistic devices that don’t belong in our modern day and age. However, the simple form of the list prevails again and again over time, because, as Umberto says, it has “an irresistible magic.”

When we struggle to express ourselves, we use lists. Like Umberto says, lists help us to make sense of the world around us. We create lists of the sights we see on vacation, the places we want to visit, the food we need to buy at the grocery store, and the tasks we need to get done. It’s a simple habit of increasing our day to day productivity. We pack all the madness and ambiguity of life into a structured form of writing. In short making lists is a great way to increase our overall happiness and feel less overwhelmed.

Not only that, but we also form and challenge definitions of the things around us by making lists of their characteristics. For instance, if we were to describe an animal to a child, we would do so by listing characteristics like colour, size, diet and habitat. Regardless of whether this matches the scientific definition of the animal or not, that’s how we make sense of it.

Benjamin Franklin, the Godfather of the To-Do List?

Benjamin Franklin is a great example of someone known for using lists to encourage his own self-improvement. He famously detailed a thirteen-week plan to practice important virtues such as cleanliness, temperance, etc. Each day he tracked his progress on a chart.

Benjamin also set himself a strict daily routine, which included time for sleeping, meals and working, all set for specific times of the day. Unfortuantely, the demands of his printing business made it difficult for him to always stick to his routine.

Lists for Productivity

These days, we use lists for productivity as much as anything else: shopping lists, reminders, planning for events, and the to-do list are all variations on a productivity-based list that we use to help us get past procrastinating. The to-do list in particular is one that we spend a lot of time and energy on perfecting. Somehow, we don’t seem to struggle when it comes to making a shopping list and buying everything on it, but getting the tasks on our to-do list done is a whole other ball game.

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4 Tips for a To-Do List That Will Actually Help You Get Things Done

Looking at the history of lists and how they’re used, we can glean some insights about how to create a to-do list we can actually complete.

Break Projects into Tasks and Don’t Succumb to the Zeigarnik Effect

We kind of have a reminder system built-in to our minds that nags us about unfinished tasks called the Zeigarnik effect. It sounds pretty cool that we already have this, but it’s actually not that reliable or healthy for us.

What really happens is that there’s a disconnect between our conscious and unconscious minds — the unconscious mind can’t plan how to finish the task, but it gets annoyed with the feeling of it being unfinished. To shake off that feeling, it nags the conscious mind with reminders about the task — not to finish it, but simply to encourage us to make a plan.

If you’ve heard of David Allen’s GTD method, you’ll be familiar with his concept of “next steps,” which is pretty much the same thing. It’s the process of breaking down a project or task into smaller tasks, and planning which one will be the next step towards completing the whole thing. This abates the nagging of the unconscious brain, as it’s satisfied that at some point we’ll get onto that task, and we know exactly how we’ll do it. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings says the essentials of creating these do-able next steps are to make “a few very specific, aactionalbe, non-conflicting items.”

Prioritise Ruthlessly

Maria’s post on the history of the to-do list also describes the story of a psychologist who gave a talk at the Pentagon about managing time and resources. Before the talk began, the psychologist asked everyone in the group to write a summary of their strategic approach in 25 words. Apparently, 25 words was too little for the men to express their strategies, and the only response came from the single woman in the group, whose summary read as follows:

“First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.”

…To-do lists invariably crop up when we have so many things to do that we can’t keep track of them all in our heads (Aha! We’re back to Umberto’s thoughts on how lists help us to create order from the chaos of our lives!). Which means that we end up with lists far too long for us to complete. Prioritizing ruthlessly seems to be the only way to actually get done what’s most important in the little time that we have.

Plan Ahead

Here’s another story of how to-do lists evolved in the workplace:

Almost 100 years ago, the President of the Bethlehem Steel company in the USA was Charles M Schwab. His company was struggling with inefficiency and Schwab didn’t know how to improve it, so he called in Ivy Lee, a well-known efficiency expert at the time. Lee agreed to help the company, with his fee being whatever Schwab felt the results were worth after three months. Lee’s advice to each member of the company’s management team was to write a to-do list at the end of each day, which consisted of the six most important tasks to be done the following day. Then they were told to organise the list based on the highest priority tasks.

The next day, the employes worked through the list from top to bottom, focusing on a single task at a time. At the end of the day, anything left on the list would get added to the top of tomorrow’s list when the employees once again planned for the following day. As the story goes, the company was so much more efficient after three months that Schwab sent a check to Lee for $US25,000.

In your own planning, you can take Lee’s advice for free and use the night before to plan your workday. Setting out the most important tasks you want to complete the following day will help you to avoid time-wasters and distractions by knowing what to work on immediately.

Be Realistic

…If we’re struggling to complete our to-do lists on a regular basis (we’ve all been there at some point!), we need to make a change to the list — make it more realistic. Although a to-do list can be infinite, our time is not. We need to match the tasks we require of ourselves to how much time and energy we can afford to spend on them. This is where prioritizing can really come in handy, as well.

Starting to develop your own, personal daily routine is one of the most powerful ways to become a great list maker. You might find some inspiration from these 7 famous entrepreneurs and their routines.

Find a Way That Works for You

As with pretty much any kind of lifehacking or productivity topic, individual mileage will vary. We all need to take into account our unique situation when experimenting with advice like this. For me, prioritizing and planning the night before has really helped. For you, being realistic might be more useful…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

photo credit: jakuza via photopin cc

The 5 Best and Worst Things About Working from Home

For those trapped in a cubicle or an open plan office, working from home may sound like pyjama-clad heaven.  But there are two sides to every coin.  Here the trials and triumphs of the home office…

Is working from home a blessing, or a curse?

That’s what we wanted to find out last week. So we put out a call on Facebook and Twitter asking for your input. Many of you, after all, have experienced both sides of the coin.

The results came streaming in and after just a few days we received over 100 detailed–and passionate–responses.

Below, we’ve singled out some of the most common positives, and negatives that you have found. We’ve also listed respondents’ Twitter handles so you can continue the conversation!

The Good:

1. FREEDOM

My rules. My way. My pace. My goals.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to me that I’m working for something I personally care about in a creative manner. When I create I get messy and my bosses usually were too psycho-rigid… @Alan_RY

Freedom to use your time as you see best fit, and working only as much as you need to. @nagra__

2. THE AMENITIES

Sitting on my patio on a warm summer’s day with Wimbledon on my iPad in the background whilst I worked! @thewheelexists

3. BEING CLOSE TO LOVED ONES

My grandparents and I live in the same apartment building. Being at home working gives me the chance to just drop by to share a meal together or even sometimes cook for them. I would not trade those precious moments for a job that pays me enough to buy a Porsche. @Alan_RY

No question–being near my family. For eight years I worked more than an hour away from home, so there were many early mornings and late nights. Working from home, I am able to help around the house and experience life with my family–like watching my daughter take her first steps. @trent_scott

4. WORK HOW YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT

The greatest benefit from working from home is the ability to work on any project at any time. You can start your day early or late and finish when you like. You have the flexibility to plan your day and include your errands and be there for others. @imediaexposure

I’ve worked in offices for about 40 years. I was recently hired in a great job working from home. It took me a while to not to worry about ‘looking busy’ during slow periods. No one is watching and judging! What freedom that is!@lmpratscher

5. NO COMMUTE

No commute during Chicago winters, no office politics except when one of my dogs decides he no longer likes the other, being able to take a guilt-free break whenever I want and having complete control over my environment–noise, temp, decor/aesthetics, etc. @ResuMAYDAY

I save a lot of money on the days I work from home. Not having to spend money on buying lunch or a subway ticket or gas is a HUGE benefit.@jaiathomaslaw

My morning commute now consists of walking from the bedroom to the office, which has saved me gas money, and there’s no line for my morning cup of coffee. @salesbuddy

The Bad:

1. THE STIGMA

Dealing with managers (and CEOs) who are set in the antiquated way of thinking that if they can’t see you, you can’t possibly be doing work.@jaynawallace

2. NO BOUNDARIES

When I have relatives over while I’m working, it’s hard for me to say: Sorry, I’m busy now… but they just take my presence and open door as an invitation to just talk to me openly without my consent. I’m an introvert, I hate when my thoughts are interrupted! @Alan_RY

Sitting down at your computer as soon as you roll out of bed only to realize upon opening the door to the courier at 4 p.m. that you are still in your bathrobe and have not eaten lunch. And possibly not brushed your teeth. Not sure if that’s the best or the worst thing about working from home: high on productivity but low on the social health scale.@aromacentric

Friends and family think that when you’re working from home, you’re available to help with other things. While this has gotten better over time for many people, I still get occasional lists of things that I don’t have time for through the day.

3. ISOLATION

Loneliness and inability to work face-to-face with others to talk creatively, bounce ideas, etc. Distractions are plentiful, so it’s always a challenge to avoid them. @LouMongello

There are moments of loneliness. That deck I’m working on, the copy I just wrote; while I can email it to a friend or co-worker there’s no one in person to sit and review/collaborate/iterate with me on it. I can’t exactly have my dog review it. The companionship that you get by going into an office and developing live relationships is something that I miss. @icyfrance

4. THE DISTRACTION

The worst is definitely having friends and neighbors think that because I’m home, we can “hang out”, get coffee, go run errands, or the flatmate who thinks that because I’m home, it’s not an issue to expect, rather than ask, me to walk her dog twice a day, because I’m home anyway, when I actually have work to do or calls to make.
@michelejmartin

Sticking to a schedule is the hardest because there a tons of distractions while at the same time not being “watched over” gives my lazy side more temptation. Inconsiderate friends and relatives and who assume you don’t really work and call you out to help them move or pick them up from the airport. @Kapilbulsara

Very little intellectual mind stimulating discussion with like minded work colleagues–really miss that! @Kapilbulsara

5. STAGNATION

Sitting too much, which is very bad for my health. I know I need to get up and walk (run, dance) around more, but I get into what I’m doing on the computer and forget. @escapeartist02

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc

How To Boost Your Self-Confidence After Failure

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s nothing like good old-fashioned failure to send your self-confidence into a nose dive.

I’m not talking about the little flubs and foibles of life.

I’m talking big, fat, fall-on-your-face failure.

Failure like . . .

getting fired from your job;

loosing a major account;

flunking the final exam;

forgetting your big speech;

your business going belly-up;

your marriage ending;

not following through on a major goal;

making poor life choices that hurt yourself or others.

If you’ve experienced a major life failure, as most of us have, the memory of the experience likely still stings. And perhaps your self-confidence has never fully recovered from the blow.

When you fail to live up to expectations, your own or others, it’s like stepping into an open manhole and landing in the pit of despair. At first you simply want to huddle at the bottom and pray someone will cover the manhole and leave you with your misery.

But eventually you must face the light of day and find a way to resume your life and regain your dignity. After a big life failure, it’s natural to feel shell-shocked and insecure. Your weakness, inability to perform, or bad decisions have been spotlighted for the entire world to see. It seems nothing will boost your self-confidence ever again.

For some people, the wounds of these fiascoes are so profound they never recover their confidence. Their self-esteem is compromised, and they sink into malaise or depression which further undermines their feelings of worthiness and competency.  This becomes a vicious cycle driving them further and further away from success and happiness.

Fortunately, most people eventually recover from life failures and can move past them. But the scars are ever-present and flair up again when one is faced with the prospect of taking risk or attempting any endeavor similar to the previous failure. They live a compromised life, never fully reaching their potential or experiencing the richness of life for fear of failing again.

However, low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence, even after a colossal bungle. It is possible to boost your self-confidence and recover more quickly from failure when you are determined to do so — if you know how.

Here are some thoughts on building confidence and self-esteem after the initial shock of failure passes.

Pick over the ashes

Once you are back on your feet, revisit the failure to find nuggets of information and areas of personal growth. What did you learn from this failure to help you become a stronger and better person in the future? What would you do differently? How do you need to make amends, right a wrong, or correct a mistake?

It’s not pleasant to look at the evidence of your failure, but this analysis and reflection show emotional maturity and resolve. Facing your failure forthrightly and learning from it will boost self-confidence immediately.

Put it in context

A big failure does not define your entire life. It may feel that way at first, but try to perceive it within the context of everything else in your life. You’ve had plenty of successes. You’ve accomplished many things and done well in many areas of your life.

The pain of failure taints your perceptions and paints your life with the broad brushstroke of negativity. But consciously regain control of your perceptions, and remind yourself of these positive things. Remind yourself that failure doesn’t define your essential character, your intelligence, or your future.

You likely will need to practice this positive thinking repeatedly until you begin to believe it and feel confident again. But eventually your feelings will catch up to your thoughts.

Build your skills

One of the best cures for low confidence is gaining mastery or proficiency in areas where you failed. If your failure was caused by lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of skill — then figure out what you need to do to gain the preparation, knowledge or skill — and go do it.

With practice and time, you will feel more confident in your abilities. As you study other people who are successful at the endeavor you are polishing, you’ll set a standard for yourself which will make you feel more secure about the likelihood of success the next time.

Cut your losses

Sometimes failure is a painful clue we’re doing the wrong thing, with the wrong person, or working against our authentic selves. This is a great time to examine whether or not you need to move in a different direction entirely.

Ask yourself the deeper questions that will lead you to the best decisions and choices.

Is this the career I really want?

Are these the people who feel like my “tribe?”

Am I really suited for a management position?

Is my former spouse (or business partner) really the right type of person for me?

Taking the time to know yourself, your inner desires, your aptitudes and preferences, will help you avoid future failures. In general, it is best to play to your strengths, live according to your own values, and follow your inner wisdom — rather trying to be something or someone you’re not.

Face your fears

Once your self-confidence has a small foothold, begin taking small and manageable steps to stretch yourself, to try again. Act in spite of your fear of failure, which will not truly dissipate until you challenge it.

Use what you learned from your failure to help you recalibrate, and then get back in the saddle again and take a few steps forward. Push yourself slightly past your comfort zone every time you try. This is a great time to have an accountability partner or coach who can help you continue to move forward by challenging and supporting you.

Lean into your fear and accept it as a natural response to the aftermath of failure. But don’t allow it to control you. If you allow fear to have the upper hand, your self-confidence will remain harnessed to it. View your fear as a small child that needs comfort, but one that also needs a firm hand and mature direction. Let your higher self, the self who knows you to be strong and capable, be in charge.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

Manage Your Email, Manage Your Life—3 Ways to Get Started

by , a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance, productivity, and self-leadership

What is one of the biggest time wasters leaders deal with on a regular basis? For many, it is the daily barrage of email. How much email do you send and receive each day? How much time is spent reading, writing, or responding to email? Here’s some practical advice for managing your email instead of letting it manage you.

This advice falls into three basic categories: Reduce the amount of email you send and receive, Send clear, concise messages, and Keep your inbox clean

Reduce the Amount

Sure, it sounds easy enough, but how do you do it? Believe it or not, the easiest way to reduce the amount of email you receive is to send less. The less email you send, the less you receive. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:

  • Pick up the phone. When you expect a conversation, don’t use email. Pick up the phone or get up and go talk to the person.
  • Use cc: and Reply All sparingly. Only copy or reply to people who really need the information.
  • Use No Reply Needed in the subject line or in your signature. Too many emails are sent just to say thanks or to let the sender know their email was received. If you don’t need someone to reply, let them know in a prominent spot.
  • Create an alternate email address for junk mail. Create an email account to give out to people or companies you don’t need to interact with on a daily basis. Once a month, go to that account and do a quick scan to see if there’s anything you need to read or act on.

Send Clear, Concise Messages

Clear, concise messaging can dramatically cut down on the time we spend on email. Consider the following:

  • Use descriptive subject lines. Help readers know the intent of your email in the subject line.
  • Put required action in first paragraph. For example, you might type Approval needed,Information Only, or Need Help Immediately to let the receiver know what you expect.
  • Only send email that’s okay to forward. If you wouldn’t want the message to be sent to others, use the phone or communicate face to face. It also helps to go with the assumption that your email will be permanently stored.

Keep Your Inbox Clean

Manage your email so your inbox stays empty. A full inbox is a major time waster.  To keep your inbox clean, each time you open an item for the first time, do one of three things with it:

  • Act on it. To act on an email, you can:  handle it immediately; delegate it by forwarding it to another person; schedule it as a task for later; or schedule it as an appointment in your calendar. Once you have acted on it, either file it for later or delete it.
  • File it. If you think you may need the email later, put it into a specific folder for that client, project, or individual. Consider saving attachments and deleting the email. If you are unsure whether you will need it later, create a 30- or 60-day Hold folder for items you might need to go back to. Periodically clean up this folder or simply set it up to automatically delete mail older than 30 to 60 days. If necessary, make a note on your to-do list or calendar to remind you where you filed the email.
  • Delete it. If you don’t need the email after you’ve read or scanned it, simply delete it.

I hope you find one or more of these ideas for managing your email helpful in the New Year. Let me know any other best practices you use to manage your email.

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

photo credit: Courtenay via photopin cc

How To Fight Afternoon Exhaustion Without Coffee

…It can be hard keeping up with your work when you’re feeling tired, and sugary foods and energy drinks just leave you feeling groggier when they wear off.

The best solution is to try some of the many natural, healthy ways to fight midday exhaustion.

Get your Blood Pumping

You’re most likely spending a large part of your day sitting and working at your desk without much variation. This relaxed, steady state can lull your body and mind into relaxation and make it even harder to stay awake.

Whenever you’re feeling especially tired, start by taking a few minutes to get up out of your chair and get your blood pumping by doing some simple, easy workouts. Exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even some light, full-body stretches will help you wake up.

Just getting up and moving a little bit will help to keep you alert throughout the day.

Use Aromatherapy

Smell is one of our most powerful senses, and we can use it for everything from recalling powerful memories to staying awake during a long, tiring day.

Bright, strong scents like eucalyptus and peppermint can be a great pick-me-up in place of that second cup of coffee. Try getting a few essential oils to keep around, but use them only when you’re feeling tired or else you risk getting used to the scent.

The smell of fresh herbs like rosemary can also be useful in staying alert.

Drink Green Tea

If you’ve tried other methods already and still find that you need caffeine to make it through the day, green tea is a great alternative to coffee.

Green tea contains a smaller dose of caffeine when compared to coffee, but it might be the perfect amount to help give you that energy boost without the extra sugar or the jittering that can come along with coffee.

Green tea also has no calories, is a great source of antioxidants and alkaloids, and contains vitamins like A, D, B and B5. It’s also quick and easy to brew.

Healthy Smoothies

Smoothies packed with healthy, high energy ingredients like almond milk and protein powder can give your body the energy it needs to keep going. They also have the benefit of being cold and refreshing, so you’ll feel more alert from the first sip.

You can make your smoothies using whatever fruits you like, or you can even make them using vegetables like spinach or avocados for a super healthy variation.

Snack Right

Snacking is a good way to stay awake, but candy and heavy, starchy foods like potato chips will just make you more tired. Foods high in protein are the fuel your body needs to provide consistent, lasting power throughout a long day.

Try snacking on a mix of lightly salted nuts with raisins or dried apricots to give you a boost while staying healthy.

Listen to Something Engaging

It can be easy to zone out when you’re very focused on one single task. By providing a little background noise, you’ll be giving yourself some much needed variation and helping to keep your brain active.

Listening to podcasts or audiobooks can be a great way to stay awake. The conversational nature of these things requires more concentration, making for a more engaging and energizing experience.

If your work requires more focus from you, though, listening to music is another good option. Listen to any of your favorite songs that get you energized, but instead of cranking the volume up, listen to them quietly so your brain stays active and works to pay attention.

Turn up the Lights and Open the Windows

Dark, dreary offices will immediately put you in the mood to go to sleep instead of doing any work. Open the blinds or turn on all the lights to help stay alert and convince your brain that it’s the middle of the day and not time for sleep yet.

Fresh air can be another great way to perk up your senses, so open a window if you can.

Consider a Short Nap

If you’ve tried everything else and you just can’t shake that feeling of lethargy, consider taking a short nap during your lunch break.

The key to productive napping is to set an alarm and sleep for only 15 to 20 minutes. This time frame gives you the perfect amount of rest so you’ll wake up feeling more alert and revitalized.

If you sleep longer, you’ll not only take more time out of the day, but you’ll have a higher chance of waking up during your deep sleep cycle and end up even groggier.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

photo credit: Nils Geylen via photopin cc

4 Things To Avoid for a Good Night’s Sleep

By 

Good sleep can mean the difference between crazy and sane the next day… Between crying between meetings at work or lashing out at your husband over laundry and a semi-functional person who can fake it enough to keep her marriage and her job intact.

It’s one of the members of my holy trinity of good mental health (along with a good diet and regular exercise).

Over the ages, sleep and depression have proved to have a dysfunctional, angry relationship…

But getting your zzzzs is a tad like a chess game: do I get up, don’t I? Do I check my email? No? Do I count sheep? Will those vicious animals keep me up? I had been engaged in a list of bad behaviors until I read “Quiet Your Mind & Get to Sleep” and set myself straight.

Don’t Do These 4 Things to Try & Sleep

Here are just four things you should avoid to hit the sheets and stay there:

1. Stay in bed when you can’t sleep.

Despite sometimes-conflicting advice, it is important to leave the bed when you find yourself awake. Leave the bed within 15 to 20 minutes of waking up or when you realize you won’t be able to fall back asleep.

If you are upset about anything, leave the room. That action sends the message to your brain that there is a separation between the place of rest, which is your bed, and feelings of being awake. Although it seems counterintuitive, it is recommended that you stay out of your room until you feel like you can sleep.

By continuing this behavior night after night, you are strengthening the connection between sleeping and your bed.

2. Watch the clock.

For some people, watching the clock feels like counting sheep, or, in my case, praying the rosary; however, this activity can be very arousing, making it that much more difficult to nod off again. We are programmed to live by the clock, allowing it to direct our actions throughout the day.

However, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it is better to base your decision strictly on how you feel.

3. Doing arousing activities in bed.

Falling asleep with the laptop in hand not only will keep you awake, but will give you bad work nightmares. So will bringing a carton of ice cream to bed. You’ll dream about a big cow coming after you.

Other activities to be avoided: listening to music, texting or talking on the phone, smoking cigarettes, watching television, planning your day, working, and paying bills. The bed should be for sleeping and sex. That’s it. Again, by establishing the connection between your bed and sleeping, you are conditioning your body and mind to sleep.

4. Try to sleep.

If you breathe and eat, there has most likely been a time in your life when you have tried your best to nod off. The primary difference between good sleepers and bad sleepers is that the latter group tries to sleep, while the former group doesn’t have to. There are a few ways you can condition your minds not to try so hard:

  • Go to bed at a normal bedtime, no earlier.
  • Do not linger in bed after the alarm goes off.
  • Do not nap.
  • Do not stay in bed when you can’t sleep.
  • Challenge catastrophic thoughts about sleep with true statements such as: “It’s okay to be awake; it’ll pass. I’ve survived it before.” Or “I can be at peace while awake during the night.”

It’s best to keep in mind a famous study from the 1980s, where a group of subjects were told to think about anything but a white bear. The results: they all thought about a white bear.

Link to read the original article

5 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Position

Jobsearch advice by WILL THOMSON

As a recruiter, I encounter candidates in different stages of their job search. I talk to people who haven’t looked for a job in years, and I also who talk to people who change jobs regularly. It could be personal preference/choice, or it could or it could be necessity. If you work for the State, you may never change jobs. If you are a recruiter, you may change jobs every 18 months because you have to go where the hiring is hot. If you are a Java Developer, you need to keep your skills sharp in a rapidly changing technology world. You may need to change jobs to learn new things just to keep up, and keep your skillset relevant.

The other day, a candidate fell into the bucket where she did not change jobs very often and felt very uncomfortable with the whole negotiation process. Before you say “Yes” to an offer, you need to talk about the basics such as 401k, Benefits, Time off, etc. Here are 5 things that you may have not thought of that are important questions to ask before you accept an offer.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE ACCEPTING A POSITION

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF ME AS AN EMPLOYEE?

This sounds so basic! What happens often is that an employer will expect much more than you can give. You have made it through the process and they want you. Great. Do you want them? So- you CAN do the job. So what?! Do you have the time to do what is expected of you on a day- to- day basis. If the manager wants you to work until the job is done and you have a family that needs to be fed at 6 PM, is this going to work? No!

WHAT IS YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE?

Double & triple check this one. This should have been covered, but make sure that how they manage is how you want to be managed. Some people may need constant guidance. Some people may need to be left completely alone. Some people are very detail oriented, others may not be. Who are you? Can you work with this person? Different styles CAN complement each other and bring out the best in both, or it can be a disastrous situation.

WHAT DO YOU FORESEE THIS DEPARTMENT LOOKING LIKE IN A YEAR?

So, they are going to ask you what you want to do in 5 years. Why don’t you flip the question right back on them? If you are going to be in sales, what exciting things are coming to the company that could help you in your sales efforts? This is two sided! Find out as much about what the future holds as what today holds.

TELL ME ABOUT PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN PROMOTED?

If you are joining a company and you want to make more money in the future, how realistic is that at this company? Are you getting hired for $50k and will you make $50K the entire time you work here? Is that okay with you? It may be, but it may not align with your goals. You may get frustrated because there is no upward mobility. Do people move up within the company or is it a place where there is constant turmoil. What is the longest tenured employee that works here and in your department?

WHY ME?

Seriously. There is a reason they want to hire you. If you are going to succeed at this company, you need to know what you need to bring to the table. If you are a social media expert, be prepared to really help the company in that area.

Link to read the original article

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An Introvert’s Guide To Better Presentations

Improving Your Public Speaking Despite Hating Crowds

Matt Haughey writes

I am an introvert and I have always feared public speaking, and despite having given an industry conference presentation every year for the last fourteen years, it’s only gotten marginally easier for me. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about myself, I’ve noticed a few things that have helped me greatly and I wanted to share some of those here.

Equip yourself with some knowledge

There are good biological reasons why no one likes public speaking. Knowing this changed the game for me personally and maybe it will for you too.

Think about this: is having 30 or 300 or 3,000 pairs of eyes staring at you from the darkness while you stand alone on stage good for you? Deep down, you know it’s bad right? Did you ever stop to think why that is? I have heard this hypothesis from lots of people but in the normal course of human existence, any more than 5 or 6 pairs of eyes on you means trouble. If there are 300 pairs of eyes looking at you, you are about to be ambushed — you are someone’s dinner. That is why your palms get sweaty thinking about a stage and where butterflies in your stomach come from and once I realized that, I started to became ok with this.

I suggest you embrace this curse of biology. The next step is to realize that those hundreds of pairs of eyes aren’t there to kill you, but to learn from you. They’re not lions and you’re not a zebra separated from the pack, they’re all monkeys and you’re the prettiest monkey and they desperately want you to tellthem where the best bananas are located that will turn them into pretty monkeys as well.

“You’re a pretty monkey, and you know where all the bananas are.” That’s what I tell myself before I go on stage to hundreds or thousands of people. I really do. It makes me laugh and it calms me down.

Stamp out your self-doubt

Introverts shy away from the spotlight in more ways than one. We don’t blow our own horns, we don’t network at events, we’re not handing out business cards, or shaking strangers’ hands. We don’t brag, and if pressed, we’ll likely become self-deprecating to attempt to deflect your attention with humor. But it gets worse: while introverts are self-deprecating on the outside, we’re also self-doubting on the inside. …

Conference organizers asked you to speak (and sometimes even paid you!) because you’re good at something and have knowledge worth sharing. Embrace that, and know that everyone that flew to the conference, paid hundreds-to-thousands for a ticket, woke up early and walked to the auditorium all are pulling for you and want you to succeed and give the best presentation possible. You’re not going to let them (or yourself) down because you’re going to tell a story, practice the shit out of it, and make it look good.

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photo credit: Tatiana12 via photopin cc

Craft a story

This may seem like an obvious point, but when I learned about basic story structure, it changed my presentations forever. If you don’t create a narrative with an introduction, some semblance of a plot, and a resolution, your audience will attempt to do those things in their heads for you, because that’s how humans share knowledge. We love stories and patterns that look like stories and you can look at anything and see storytelling tying it all together…

When it comes to presentations, Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson is your new bible. This book’s premise is trashing typical Powerpoint usage we’ve all had to suffer through in meetings: those giant slides filled with 5-10 bullet points and hundreds of words of text, as the speaker just reads from their slides. And while the book does a fantastic job helping you create better looking slides, the opening chapters begin with describing basic story structure going back to the origin of theater in ancient Greece, and bring it back to a model for organizing your presentations that will change your life…

At first, it feels silly to learn about how a basic 3-act story structure works and the book furnishes you with a presentation template (here’s a Google Docs version I whipped up) that is literally fill-in-the-blank. Despite the structure feeling forced at first, I swear if you follow the advice, you will give much better presentations. Once I read this book and began following the advice within it, everything got easier and audiences started enjoying my talks much more (my feedback honestly improved overnight).

…the gist of it is building your presentations around a basic story structure by outlining your story in three stages, writing an introduction where you set up a thesis and a challenge to it along with an ending that restates the introduction but reinforces your solution to the challenge. The book also offers step-by-step advice on making beautiful slides (full bleed photos with just single words or short phrases on them), and using those beautiful slides as a jumping off point to support the thesis statements you made in your introduction in a very organized way.

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

photo credit: tim caynes via photopin cc

You can’t over prepare

One of the ways I ensure I’m at my best for any presentation is by thinking back to my very worst ones. The one or two bad experiences I’ve had on stage were due to me procrastinating for weeks as the date approached (while getting increasingly nervous about disappearing time), throwing together something in the last few days, practicing the talk a couple times, then winging it up on stage. I noticed this pattern led to sub-par results about 7 years ago and since then I’ve taken on a more serious approach of spending three months working on every major talk I do. My typical timeline follows this pattern:

  1. Three months out, I start with a title and a basic thesis I am going to build a presentation around. I begin to create a basic outline in Google Docs, adding major points and sub-points for a week or two. After I’ve got a fairly full outline, I transfer it to a Beyond Bullet Points template for a talk, filling in the blanks as much as I can.
  2. Two months out, I start to lay out my presentation into slides. It’s pretty straightforward to go from an outline to slides. This is also the fun part, where I can start picking nice looking photos and illustrations for slides. I use presenter notes in Keynote/Powerpoint and typically write a paragraph or two about each slide below. I begin practicing the talk this month by myself, editing along the way, adding, removing, and rearranging slides to fit my thesis.
  3. One month out, I give my talk to a few friends and my spouse, asking for feedback. I continue editing and refining the talk, working on timing, jokes, and incorporating feedback from those that have seen it.

Three months might sound like a lot of time, but I typically spend about 10 hours a week on the talk during the lead-up, just doing a little work on it here and there through my normal week. By the time I’m a week or a few days away from the presentation, I’ve given the talk 100 times in my head and often a dozen times out loud to myself and peers. I’ve typically added half a dozen slides, modified a dozen to make my points clearer and removed a few. I know it forwards and backwards and refined it through weeks of editing. I take the stage with confidence due to all the preparation leading up to it, exuding expertise instead of undercutting my command of the subject. I don’t think it’s possible to over prepare, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll sabotage yourself if you under prepare.

Don’t skimp on the visuals

The greatest free stock photography source is probably one you don’t even know exists. It’s the Creative Commons licensed archive at Flickr, where you can search through hundreds of millions of photos. I personally stick with an extremely permissive attribution-only license (cc-by). Here is the URL in large text so no one misses it:

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/by-2.0/

Go ahead and pop any word you can think of in the search box and you’ll likely find some impressive results (here is one for “Yosemite”). You can also sort results by interestingness, relevance, and time. The attribution license requires that you give the photographer credit and typically presenters will either put a small photo caption in the corner of each slide or include a list of Flickr source URLs on their final slide.

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopin cc

Fewer words = better

Nice, full-bleed images with just 5-10 words max, with fonts at very large sizes. You rarely want to have more than a short sentence of text on any slide. About the only exception is when I want to share a really important quotation, and I’ll typically have it close by to read from instead of having to read off my slides.

In the last few years, most of my presentation slides don’t even have words on them, they’re just images (sometimes screenshots) that are somewhat related to whatever point I want to make. My presenter view looks like this on stage, with the current slide shown, time elapsed, and my notes.

Timing

… I typically shoot for about 5-10% less than the allotted time, to ensure that I finish early instead of running long, and getting the timing right is a major component to practicing a talk for months leading up to a presentation.

Some final technical bits

Find out as much as you can about the presentation venue and specifics of the A/V setup as early as possible. Travel with a bag of every connector your laptop will need, and format your presentation to the final presentation screen size. Have copies of your presentation on your laptop, in the cloud (I save mine to Dropbox), and on a USB stick just in case. I also create a plain exported PDF backup of my slides in case everything goes wrong and I have to borrow someone’s laptop.

Some Examples

Over the years I’ve uploaded a few presentations to Slideshare and you can view them and see a lot of the tips and approaches I’ve covered. If you’d like to see the actual talks I’ve given, I like how my Webstock 2012 talk about turning 40 and having a long term project turned out:

Link to read the original article

C OK

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

How To Champion Learning In Your Organisation

Written by: global innovation insurgent and author, Jorge Barba

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo

Innovation is increasingly becoming something businesses strive for, yet most cannot define. Innovation is messy and complex. It is not something that can be scripted with a predictable outcome. It involves throwing out the rules and rethinking solutions. It involves being creative and reaching beyond the 5-year calendar and targeted sales goals. It involves creating a culture that invokes passion, creativity, and thinking.

Innovation is often something that is felt rather than taught. It’s something that happens when a group of people come together to solve a problem. And it often starts at the top, and trickles down to every department of an organization—large or small.

So how do leaders go about creating an environment for innovation and innovative thinking? …

Here are five ways to always be learning:

1. Learn by doing. There is no better way to learn than through action. With the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it’s now very easy to gain new knowledge at minimal cost—all that is needed is time. But, acquiring knowledge without doing is only half the battle. That’s why it’s important to act, learning in the process, while uncovering personal insights. It’s about putting ideas into action.

2. Learn by asking. If you’re not asking questions, you’re not going to find answers. Questions open the mind, and the more questions you ask, the more insights you’ll uncover. The best questions are those that provoke—not with the intent of irritating, but of exploring the boundaries of what is known and unknown. Probe, and then probe some more. The only boundaries that exist are those that go unquestioned.

3. Learn by networking. We all network, however it’s not the size of the network you have that matters, but how diverse it is. To think differently and become more valuable, you need to know and understand multiple topics. You need to develop an idea network, which feeds you insights and ideas, and will keep challenging you and helping you grow.

4. Learn by observing. There is much being said around you, and it has nothing to do with the words people say, but rather how they act. Listening doesn’t just happen with your ears, but with your eyes too. True attention makes use of all of our senses, so make an effort to take a step back and soak it all in—there is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

5. Learn by sharing. Doing is great, but sharing what you’ve learned with others is even greater. When you share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, your influence expands dramatically, not to mention that you’ll also learn more because others will do the same with you.

Innovation certainly starts from the people at the top—people who need to walk the walk and take responsibility into their own hands to become a champion for change. Curiosity is the engine of creativity and innovation, and if you can be the champion of curiosity, there is nothing that will stand in your way. Get uncomfortable, roll up your sleeves, open your eyes, ask why, then why again, and share what you’ve learned with your network.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative (Infographic)

Don’t consider yourself creative?  Nonsense.

James Webb Young likened the production of ideas to the production of cars – there is a definitive process involved.

Here are a few simple steps you can take next time you’re in need of an idea.

Step 1 – Gather the Raw Materials…  Remember, gathering is a lifelong activity…

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”  (Leo Burnett)

Step 2 – Digest…  Sift through the gathered materials and look at them in different lights…

“Creativity is just connecting things.” (Steve Jobs)

Step 3 – Don’t Think…  Let your thoughts unconsciously bubble away…

“Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.” (Ray Bradbury)

Step 4 – Wait For Eureka… Out of nowhere an idea will appear.  It’ll happen when you least expect it, so be ready and keep a notebook handy…

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Step 5 – Bring The Idea To Reality… Submit the idea to criticisms.  Be pragmatic when adapting the idea as a viable creative solution…

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” (Edward de Bono)

Tool and Techniques To Try

  • Oblique Strategies…
  • Lotus Blossom Technique…
  • Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats…

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  (Albert Einstein)

Link to the original article and find the tools and techniques to try

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

5 Simple But Often Forgotten Ways to Keep a Relationship Strong

 sifts through the wisdom gained from first making a relationship work at long-distance, and then living every moment together…

I truly believe that we learned and practiced the universal truths that are essential for every relationship regardless of the distance.

Trust

…If you are in the relationship for the long term, you simply cannot afford to have trust issues. There is no room for doubt. You have to trust with a full heart that your partner loves you.

Quality time

…Quality time is essential. Whether you are in a long-distance relationship or just live a busy life with full-time jobs and outside activities, you may not be able to spend as much time as you’d like with your loved one.

Do something fun together, do something meaningful, have meaningful conversations, pay attention to each other, and express your love like crazy.

Communication

Communication is always crucial, especially when you communicate through Skype. We quickly realized that the way we communicated with each other was key to maintain a loving conversation.

When you communicate with your loved one, remember that love is the key. Speak from the heart.

Have good intentions and be clear. Discuss problems in a peaceful and loving manner.

Practice effective active listening skills; do not interrupt the other person, listen and watch. Be mindful.

Remain calm. Be respectful. Be loving.

Small acts of kindness

Small acts of kindness have always been a big part of our relationship. When we were apart we sent each other postcards, eCards, handwritten letters, and songs over email. When we were in the same country we bought each other flowers and made each other some wonderful meals.

Small acts are vital. Whether it is a small gift, doing the dishes, or giving a hug, it shows your love and support.

Send flowers, send an ecard, or leave a small note on the table. Bake cookies or make breakfast in bed. Give hugs and kisses for no reason other than to show your love.

Express Your Love

Expressing our love for each other was probably the most crucial thing in our relationship. It still is. We always make sure to tell each other how much we love each other, and do it with meaning.

Love is always the foundation. It’s nearly obvious, but sometimes so obvious that couples tend to forget about it, and saying “I love you” becomes monotonous. But love is the basis and the reason of your relationship.

So express your love through actions, words, and non-verbal communication. Don’t make “I love you” a routine, but instead always, and I do mean always, say it from the heart.

Link to the original article

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

photo credit: *Sally M* via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #76

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #76.

We wish you a very happy celebrations and a great yuletide cauldron of pride and shared sense of accomplishment for all that you have achieved and made and made happen in 2013. 

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

photo credit: orangeacid via photopin cc

photo credit: orangeacid via photopin cc

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

What does playing mean in a work context?

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

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

BY MEG CARTER

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

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

It’s all about creating a virtuous circle.

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: markchadwickart via photopin cc

photo credit: markchadwickart via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

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

photo credit: anoldent via photopin cc

photo credit: anoldent via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

flow diagram

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

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

The Psychology of Flow

Applications and Examples of Flow

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Emily Raw via photopin cc

photo credit: Emily Raw via photopin cc

The Benefits of Flow

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

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

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

photo credit: Thundershead via photopin cc

photo credit: Thundershead via photopin cc

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

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

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

Habits or Choices – A New Perspective From Improvisation

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

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

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: daystar297 via photopin cc

photo credit: daystar297 via photopin cc

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

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

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

by ANDREA DEVERS

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: pierofix via photopin cc

photo credit: pierofix via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness: A Taboo for Adults?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Egui_ via photopin cc

photo credit: Egui_ via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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

Stuart Brown: Play Is More Than Fun

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

photo credit: Felipe Morin via photopin cc

photo credit: Felipe Morin via photopin cc

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

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

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

photo credit: Arlington County via photopin cc

photo credit: Arlington County via photopin cc

6 Purely Psychological Effects of Washing Your Hands

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

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

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

Here are six purely psychological effects of washing your hands…

1. Recover optimism

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

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

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

2. Feel less guilty

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

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

3. Take the moral high ground

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

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

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

4. Remove doubt

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

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

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

5. Wash away bad luck

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

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

6. Guilt other people into washing their hands

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

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

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

A clean slate

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

5 Tips to Tap Into Your Creative Self

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

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

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

photo credit: J. Star via photopin cc

photo credit: J. Star via photopin cc

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

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

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photo credit: sgs_1019 via photopin cc

Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

Increase creativity at work and still have work life balance

Cindy Krischer Goodman writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

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

22 Tips To Better Care for Introverts and Extroverts

by Belle Beth Cooper

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

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

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

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

Or in other words, how we recharge our brains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: dogrando via photopin cc

photo credit: dogrando via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Finding the X Factor – the neuroscience of presence

Jan Hills writes

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

The traditional response is ‘I am here’.

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

What stops presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

The research

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

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

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

photo credit: Lieven SOETE via photopin cc

Presence requires practice

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: { pranav } via photopin cc

Patsy Rodenberg – The Second Circle

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

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

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

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

A Working LIfe: The Voice Coach

writes in The Guardian

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

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

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

photo credit: MrAnathema via photopin cc

photo credit: MrAnathema via photopin cc

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: josef.stuefer via photopin cc

Are audiences killing art and culture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

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

Arts Head: Henry Little, Chief Executive, Orchestras Live

Interview by

…it’s interesting to think for a moment about what we consider a “concert” to be. The notion of a concert is quite a formal construct that makes people (and not just young people) immediately think that it might not be for them. Orchestras talk about “concerts” because that’s what they mostly do.

We talk about activity and events and sometimes they take the form of a traditional concert, but more often than not, they don’t. For example, we are working with young people in Cumbria on an event that could well see an orchestra performing in the local cattle market!

Our starting point is always the audience. We see programming as a two-way process involving both promoters and orchestras. We work with a wide range of British symphony and chamber orchestras, from early music ensembles to contemporary music groups, and we gather a complete picture of their plans to discover programmes that suit our partners’ needs. This can cover the full spectrum, from a traditional concert setting right through to a community performance involving hundreds of participants….

There’s a perception that teenagers and orchestral music don’t mix or that when they do, it’s a bit like oil and water. Many in our business lament the fact that audiences for classical music are getting older and that young people appear not to be interested in attending concerts. However, the fact is that they are and they do, so long as you involve them by allowing them to choose what music is played, how it is presented and when and where it takes place.

We also recognise the research that tells us that exposure to music from an early age is key to lifelong engagement and for us, enabling very young children to experience live orchestral music remains a priority. For me, it comes down to the question of with, rather than by and for. I think there’s too much of the latter when it comes to British orchestras’ approach to work with young people…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Denis Collette...!!! via photopin cc

photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

How To Slow A Racing Mind

An agitated mind leads to stress and a whole host of health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It even disrupts our relationships and sleep.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem. No matter how fast your mind is racing, you can learn how to cultivate a calm and serene mind, and the good news is that it’s a lot easier than you might think…

There are four main sources of mental agitation: 1) Too many commitments, 2) background noise, 3) painful memories, and 4) worrying. There are short-term solutions for dealing with too many commitments and background noise. Painful memories and worrying will take more time to overcome, but they will resolve themselves through a regular meditation practice.

1. Too many commitments

…With many of our commitments, we have no choice in the short-run. We can’t quit our jobs or abandon our families, but we can consider more carefully what we truly need to survive and be happy. For example, do all our material possessions really make our family happier, or do they take us away from our loved ones? With mindfulness, we can determine the real sources of happiness and strive to incorporate them into our lives.

2. Background Noise

…There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or listening to the radio. The problem arises when we simply use them as background noise. Of course, we should also use some discretion concerning what we watch or listen to. Remember, whichever seeds in your mind you water, those will be the ones that grow.

I would suggest turning off the radio or television (or any other entertainment device) when you’re doing something else. This will help you concentrate on what you’re doing. Try it for a week. I think you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes…

3. The Calming Power of Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a simple tool for keeping your mind from racing out of control. Practicing mindful breathing is very easy and doesn’t take long, and it will interrupt the acceleration of your mind. This will enable you to think with greater clarity, since you’ll have less mental agitation.

All you have to do is stop occasionally and take three to five mindful breaths. You don’t have to strain to concentrate on your breathing, but rather just pay attention to it…

4. Mindful Walking

Practicing mindful walking is also very easy. Most of us do a great deal of walking through our daily activities: at home, work, school, or when tending to our family’s needs. These are all wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness, instead of allowing ourselves to get lost in our thoughts, many of which are either worrying or simply rehashing the same thoughts repeatedly.

When doing mindful walking, we generally walk more slowly than usual. Make your walking a smooth and continuous movement, while being mindful of each step. This can have a tremendous calming effect because it forces your mind to slow down.

As with mindful breathing, simply pay attention to your walking. With each mindful step, observe the sensation on your feet, the contraction of the muscles in your legs, or even the sensations of your clothes against your skin. Not only will this calm your mind, but it will also help you return to the present moment…

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: katiecooperx via photopin cc

A Classroom In The Now

IN THE EARLY 1990s, scientist, writer, and world-renowned mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinnencountered Cherry Hamrick, a teacher in the small town of South Jordan, Utah, who wanted to bring mindfulness—the act of paying attention on purpose in the present moment—into her elementary school….

Cherry Hamrick taught mindfulness through techniques such as ringing a bell and having the students slowly raise their hands when they could no longer hear the sound of it; having them carefully eat a small portion of a candy bar and notice the way sugar sparked their taste buds; and setting aside time for “mindful walking,” in which they strolled around the school yard in silence and simply noticed each step. Gaining self-awareness through these types of exercises, Kabat-Zinn pointed out, is crucial to managing stress and finding success both inside and outside the classroom in a world where children are constantly bombarded with technological stimuli such as texts, e-mail, and Facebook.

“Self-distraction is at absolutely epidemic proportions—and it’s not the iPhone, it’s the thought of, ‘I wonder if anybody texted me,’” he said. “There’s always this digital domain—this virtual reality—and kids are even more challenged [to pay attention] than we were when we were young.”

The founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulnessin Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Kabat-Zinn has been a strong supporter of groups like Mindful Schools that use mindfulness to teach children how to focus, manage their emotions, handle their stress, and resolve conflicts. Instead of simply telling children to pay attention, for example, Kabat-Zinn said that adults should show children how to pay attention through direct experience, because that allows them to make wiser decisions in the heat of the moment, rather than only in retrospect. “Mindfulness is like a muscle, and without exercise it will lose its strength,” he said. “Our world is so much about doing that the being gets lost.”

With stress in children in the United States at high levels, incorporating mindfulness into school curriculums is imperative, he asserted, adding that students can tap into “their profound capacity” for awareness if they are taught to do so.

Although Kabat-Zinn pointed out that mindfulness is becoming more mainstream—displaying a chart that showed the number of publications and studies on the subject rising drastically in the last 10 years—he said he hopes it will gain even more steam and become a part of every school curriculum. “Many kids come to school and they haven’t had breakfast, or they’ve seen acts of violence, and [yet] they are expected to learn optimally,” he said. “If you are going to be in an environment like a classroom, why not help [students] actually get into an alignment, calmness, clarity, and emotional regulation where they can be open to what is available for them? Then you create a community of learning.”

Link to read the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #70

You will find all of these stories – and more – in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection…

I hope you find things to enjoy and use to carve out at least a little more space in the middle – to play, to think, to connect, to create, to be happy…

Happiness At Work #67 ~ the art and practice of patient nurture

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.  
– Hal Borland

This week’s Happiness At Work theme is inspired by Steve McCurry’s beautiful photo portrait of trees in his blog collection

Sentinels and Sanctuaries (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection shows us in our relationships with trees and in these heart-lifting images, illuminates the timeless wisdom we associate with these majestic cohabitants of our planet.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a
claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
–  Robert Louis Stevenson

Follow this link to see Steve McCurry’s Sentinels and Sanctuaries and to enjoy a certain lift to your day

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

Following on from these thoughts, here are some of the articles from this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #67 that draw on ideas of nurture, cultivation, slowness, patience, subtlety and longevity.

We’ve Gotten The Pursuit Of Happiness All Wrong, Until Now

Aside from basic survival, the pursuit of happiness is arguably one of the most fundamental concerns of every human being on the planet (not to mention a driving force behind the $10 billion-a-year self-help industry). But according to Cornell cognitive psychologist Shimon Edelman, author of The Happiness Of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About The Good Life,, we’ve been going about it backwards…

According to Edelman, understanding the workings of our own minds can help us to comprehend not only the nature of happiness but, perhaps eventually, how to optimize the brain for well-being. Recent developments in cognitive science have shed light on how positive emotional states (including pleasure, happiness, and euphoria) occur in the brain — and why we’re hardwired for happiness.

“In the past 10 years, neuroscience has witnessed a revolution. We used to treat the brain as a black box into which very limited glimpses were available, but we are starting to comprehend the basic principles within which the whole thing operates,” says Edelman, explaining that these simple principles are accessible to anyone who’s interested in getting to know his or her own mind…

Part of the reason we’re always seeking happiness is that it’s so fleeting in nature. As Edelman explains, “[Happiness] seemed difficult to grasp and hold onto… One has this compelling need to go on.”

This “need to go on” — to continue the pursuit — is one of the brain’s evolutionary advantages. “A species that rests on its laurels wouldn’t be doing that for very long,” he says.

But not all happiness is gone at a moment’s notice: eudaimonic happiness, which has to do with the way we evaluate our own lives and the feeling that we have lived well, is inherently longer-lasting than any state of pleasure, joy or euphoria (“hedonic happiness”). The distinction of these two domains of happiness goes back to Aristotle, who said that eudaimonic happiness happiness (also translated as “human flourishing,” or “living well,”) could be had by living in a way that follows a larger purpose beyond oneself. Happiness, for Aristotle, wasn’t the result of a life-long pursuit — it was the activity of pursuing.

“Eudaimonic happiness happiness is something you build up over a lifetime,” Edelman says. “In a sense, it’s a great consolation for older people — it’s nice to know that on that component, people can get more and more happy as they age if they led good lives.”

This eudaimonic happiness pursuit of the good life can also keep us in good physical health, according to recent research. A University of California study found that the two different types of happiness were associated with different gene expression. People with high levels of eudaimonic happiness happiness had low inflammatory gene expression and high antiviral gene expression, while those with high levels of pleasure-seeking happiness exhibited higher inflammatory gene expression.

“What happiness does in the short term, it also does in the long term,” says Edelman. “This [eudaimonic happiness] is what can be built and cherished and enhanced and preserved.”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

Do You Want A Meaningful Life or A Happy Life?

In this long, erudite and thoughtful article,  reports on his findings and conclusions from a a survey that asked nearly 400 US citizens, ranging in age from 18 to 78, about the extent to which they thought their lives were happy and the extent to which they thought they were meaningful.

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning.  How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Parents often say: ‘I just want my children to be happy.’ It is unusual to hear: ‘I just want my children’s lives to be meaningful,’ yet that’s what most of us seem to want for ourselves. We fear meaninglessness. We fret about the ‘nihilism’ of this or that aspect of our culture. When we lose a sense of meaning, we get depressed. What is this thing we call meaning, and why might we need it so badly?

…We found five sets of major differences between happiness and meaningfulness, five areas where different versions of the good life parted company.

The first had to do with getting what you want and need. Not surprisingly, satisfaction of desires was a reliable source of happiness. But it had nothing — maybe even less than nothing ­— to add to a sense of meaning. People are happier to the extent that they find their lives easy rather than difficult. Happy people say they have enough money to buy the things they want and the things they need. Good health is a factor that contributes to happiness but not to meaningfulness. Healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning. The more often people feel good — a feeling that can arise from getting what one wants or needs — the happier they are. The less often they feel bad, the happier they are. But the frequency of good and bad feelings turns out to be irrelevant to meaning, which can flourish even in very forbidding conditions.

Meaning and happiness are apparently experienced quite differently in time. Happiness is about the present; meaning is about the future, or, more precisely, about linking past, present and future. The more time people spent thinking about the future or the past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives were. Time spent imagining the future was linked especially strongly to higher meaningfulness and lower happiness (as was worry, which I’ll come to later). Conversely, the more time people spent thinking about the here and now, the happier they were. Misery is often focused on the present, too, but people are happy more often than they are miserable. If you want to maximise your happiness, it looks like good advice to focus on the present, especially if your needs are being satisfied. Meaning, on the other hand, seems to come from assembling past, present and future into some kind of coherent story.

This begins to suggest a theory for why it is we care so much about meaning. Perhaps the idea is to make happiness last. Happiness seems present-focused and fleeting, whereas meaning extends into the future and the past and looks fairly stable. For this reason, people might think that pursuing a meaningful life helps them to stay happy in the long run. They might even be right — though, in empirical fact, happiness is often fairly consistent over time. Those of us who are happy today are also likely to be happy months or even years from now, and those who are unhappy about something today commonly turn out to be unhappy about other things in the distant future. It feels as though happiness comes from outside, but the weight of evidence suggests that a big part of it comes from inside. Despite these realities, people experience happiness as something that is felt here and now, and that cannot be counted on to last. By contrast, meaning is seen as lasting, and so people might think they can establish a basis for a more lasting kind of happiness by cultivating meaning.

Social life was the locus of our third set of differences. As you might expect, connections to other people turned out to be important both for meaning and for happiness. Being alone in the world is linked to low levels of happiness and meaningfulness, as is feeling lonely. Nevertheless, it was the particular character of one’s social connections that determined which state they helped to bring about. Simply put, meaningfulness comes from contributing to other people, whereas happiness comes from what they contribute to you. This runs counter to some conventional wisdom: it is widely assumed that helping other people makes you happy. Well, to the extent that it does, the effect depends entirely on the overlap between meaning and happiness. Helping others had a big positive contribution to meaningfulness independent of happiness, but there was no sign that it boosted happiness independently of meaning. If anything, the effect was in the opposite direction: once we correct for the boost it gives to meaning, helping others can actually detract from one’s own happiness.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself

A fourth category of differences had to do with struggles, problems, stresses and the like. In general, these went with lower happiness and higher meaningfulness. We asked how many positive and negative events people had recently experienced. Having lots of good things happen turned out to be helpful for both meaning and happiness. No surprise there. But bad things were a different story. Highly meaningful lives encounter plenty of negative events, which of course reduce happiness. Indeed, stress and negative life events were two powerful blows to happiness, despite their significant positive association with a meaningful life. We begin to get a sense of what the happy but not very meaningful life would be like. Stress, problems, worrying, arguing, reflecting on challenges and struggles — all these are notably low or absent from the lives of purely happy people, but they seem to be part and parcel of a highly meaningful life. The transition to retirement illustrates this difference: with the cessation of work demands and stresses, happiness goes up but meaningfulness drops.

Do people go out looking for stress in order to add meaning to their lives? It seems more likely that they seek meaning by pursuing projects that are difficult and uncertain. One tries to accomplish things in the world: this brings both ups and downs, so the net gain to happiness might be small, but the process contributes to meaningfulness either way…

The final category of differences had to do with the self and personal identity. Activities that express the self are an important source of meaning but are mostly irrelevant to happiness. Of the 37 items on our list that asked people to rate whether some activity (such as working, exercising or meditating) was an expression or reflection of the self, 25 yielded significant positive correlations with a meaningful life and none was negative. Only two of the 37 items (socialising, and partying without alcohol) were positively linked to happiness, and some even had a significant negative relationship. The worst was worry: if you think of yourself as a worrier, that seems to be quite a downer.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself. Even just caring about issues of personal identity and self-definition was associated with more meaning, though it was irrelevant, if not outright detrimental, to happiness. This might seem almost paradoxical: happiness is selfish, in the sense that it is about getting what you want and having other people do things that benefit you, and yet the self is more tied to meaning than happiness. Expressing yourself, defining yourself, building a good reputation and other self-oriented activities are more about meaning than happiness...

Questions about life’s meaning are prompted by more than mere idle curiosity or fear of missing out. Meaning is a powerful tool in human life. To understand what that tool is used for, it helps to appreciate something else about life as a process of ongoing change. A living thing might always be in flux, but life cannot be at peace with endless change. Living things yearn for stability, seeking to establish harmonious relationships with their environment. They want to know how to get food, water, shelter and the like. They find or create places where they can rest and be safe. They might keep the same home for years. Life, in other words, is change accompanied by a constant striving to slow or stop the process of change, which leads ultimately to death. If only change could stop, especially at some perfect point: that was the theme of the profound story of Faust’s bet with the devil. Faust lost his soul because he could not resist the wish that a wonderful moment would last forever. Such dreams are futile. Life cannot stop changing until it ends. But living things work hard to establish some degree of stability, reducing the chaos of constant change to a somewhat stable status quo.

By contrast, meaning is largely fixed. Language is possible only insofar as words have the same meaning for everyone, and the same meaning tomorrow as today. (Languages do change, but slowly and somewhat reluctantly, relative stability being essential to their function.) Meaning therefore presents itself as an important tool by which the human animal might impose stability on its world. By recognising the steady rotation of the seasons, people can plan for future years. By establishing enduring property rights, we can develop farms to grow food.

Crucially, the human being works with others to impose its meanings. Language has to be shared, for private languages are not real languages. By communicating and working together, we create a predictable, reliable, trustworthy world, one in which you can take the bus or plane to get somewhere, trust that food can be purchased next Tuesday, know you won’t have to sleep out in the rain or snow but can count on a warm dry bed, and so forth…

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

My own efforts to understand how people find meaning in life eventually settled on a list of four ‘needs for meaning’, and in the subsequent years that list has held up reasonably well.

The point of this list is that you will find life meaningful to the extent that you have something that addresses each of these four needs. Conversely, people who fail to satisfy one or more of these needs are likely to find life less than adequately meaningful. Changes with regard to any of these needs should also affect how meaningful the person finds his or her life.

The first need is, indeed, for purpose. Frankl was right: without purpose, life lacks meaning. A purpose is a future event or state that lends structure to the present, thus linking different times into a single story. Purposes can be sorted into two broad categories. One might strive toward a particular goal (to win a championship, become vice president or raise healthy children) or toward a condition of fulfilment (happiness, spiritual salvation, financial security, wisdom).

Life goals come from three sources, so in a sense every human life has three basic sources of purpose. One is nature. It built you for a particular purpose, which is to sustain life by surviving and reproducing. Nature doesn’t care whether you’re happy, much as people wish to be happy. …It doesn’t care what you do on a Sunday afternoon as long as you manage to survive and, sooner or later, reproduce.

The second source of purpose is culture. Culture tells you what is valuable and important. Some cultures tell you exactly what you are supposed to do: they mark you out for a particular slot (farmer, soldier, mother etc). Others offer a much wider range of options and put less pressure on you to adopt a particular one, though they certainly reward some choices more than others.

That brings us to the third source of goals: your own choices. In modern Western countries in particular, society presents you with a broad range of paths and you decide which one to take. For whatever reason — inclination, talent, inertia, high pay, good benefits — you choose one set of goals for yourself (your occupation, for example). You create the meaning of your life, fleshing out the sketch that nature and culture provided. You can even choose to defy it: many people choose not to reproduce, and some even choose not to survive. Many others resist and rebel at what their culture has chosen for them.

The second need for meaning is value. This means having a basis for knowing what is right and wrong, good and bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are among the first words children learn. They are some of the earliest and most culturally universal concepts, and among the few words that house pets sometimes acquire. In terms of brain reactions, the feeling that something is good or bad comes very fast, almost immediately after you recognise what it is. Solitary creatures judge good and bad by how they feel upon encountering something (does it reward them or punish them?). Humans, as social beings, can understand good and bad in loftier ways, such as their moral quality.

In practice, when it comes to making life meaningful, people need to find values that cast their lives in positive ways, justifying who they are and what they do. Justification is ultimately subject to social, consensual judgment, so one needs to have explanations that will satisfy other people in the society (especially the people who enforce the laws). Again, nature makes some values, and culture adds a truckload of additional ones. It’s not clear whether people can invent their own values, but some do originate from inside the self and become elaborated. People have strong inner desires that shape their reactions.

The third need is for efficacy. It’s not very satisfying to have goals and values if you can’t do anything about them. People like to feel that they can make a difference. Their values have to find expression in their life and work. Or, to look at it the other way around, people have to be able steer events towards positive outcomes (by their lights) and away from negative ones.

The last need is for self-worth. People with meaningful lives typically have some basis for thinking that they are good people, maybe even a little better than certain other people. At a minimum, people want to believe that they are better than they might have been had they chosen or behaved or performed badly. They have earned some degree of respect.

The meaningful life, then, has four properties. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realising our goals and values. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.

People ask what is the meaning of life, as if there is a single answer. There is no one answer: there are thousands of different ones. A life will be meaningful if it finds responses to the four questions of purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. It is these questions, not the answers, that endure and unify.

Link to read this much longer original article in full

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

Why You Should Stop Trying To Be Happy

MARK MANSON writes…

Happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves.

It’s not the end results which define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s process of overcoming all odds with people you care about.

And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy. Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy.

Cue statements about “finding happiness within,” and “knowing that you’re enough.” It’s not that happiness itself is in you, it’s that happiness occurs when you decide to pursue what’s in you.

And this is why happiness is so fleeting. Anyone who has set out major life goals for themselves, only to achieve them and realize that they feel the same relative amounts of happiness/unhappiness, knows that happiness always feels like it’s around the corner just waiting for you to show up. No matter where you are in life, there will always be that one more thing you need to do to be extra-especially happy.

And that’s because our ideal self is always around that corner, our ideal self is always three steps ahead of us. We dream of being a musician and when we’re a musician we dream of writing a film score and when write a film score, we dream of writing a screenplay. And what matters isn’t that we achieve each of these plateaus of success, but that we’re consistently moving towards them, day after day, month after month, year after year. The plateaus will come and go, and we’ll continue following our ideal self down the path of our lives.

And with that, with regards to being happy, it seems the best advice is also the simplest: Imagine who you want to be and then step towards it. Dream big and then do something. Anything. The simple act of moving at all will change how you feel about the entire process and serve to inspire you further.

Let go of the imagined result; it’s not necessary. The fantasy and the dream are merely tools to get you off your ass. It doesn’t matter if they come true or not.

Live. Just live. Stop trying to be happy and just be.

Link to read the original article in full