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

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

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

and therefore feel,

and therefore do,

and therefore experience,

and therefore go on to feel and think next…

photo credit: Calsidyrose via photopin cc

photo credit: Calsidyrose via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Positive Realities Help Us Scale Mountains

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

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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

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

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

1.  Reality Architecture: Choosing the Most Valuable Reality

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

2. Mental Cartography: Mapping Paths to Success

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

3. The X-Spot: Using Success Accelerants

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

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

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

5. Positive Inception: Transferring Your Reality to Others

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

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

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

Shawn Achor: What You Need To Do Before Experiencing Happiness

by Dan Schawbel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

Link to the original article

photo credit: tom chandler via photopin cc

photo credit: tom chandler via photopin cc

Being Kind: The Music Video That Circled The World

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

98 countries.

6000 people.

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

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

THE GIRL DECLARATION

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Guiding Principles of The Girl Manifesto

1.   Plan with me, design for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.   Don’t hold me back

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

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

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

 

photo credit: Tjololo Photo via photopin cc

photo credit: Tjololo Photo via photopin cc

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

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

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

Make Stress Work For You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

How To Lessen Your Stress By Managing Your Emotions

Posted by Bea Karnes

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

How do you define stress?

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

What are the most common causes of stress?

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

 Negative emotions from thoughts and cognitions:

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

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

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

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

Are there everyday skills to help deal with stress?

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

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

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

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

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

Change your emotions by acting the opposite.

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

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

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

Redirect your thinking.

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Hani Amir via photopin cc

photo credit: Hani Amir via photopin cc

Positive Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiness had become habitual.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Mindfulness Does Not Lead To Happiness

 writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: sant.o via photopin cc

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

By 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Photo Extremist via photopin cc

photo credit: Photo Extremist via photopin cc

5 Ways To Bounce Back From Everyday Stress

 offers practical ways to Develop Your Resiliency

Stress.

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

1. Engage your vagus nerve.

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

The easiest way to engage the vagus?

Take a deep breath.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Remember that it usually works out okay.

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

4. Distract yourself from the stress.

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

Blink.

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

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

5. This, too, shall pass.

All things do.

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

But it passes.

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

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

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

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness At Work? Change Your Perception

 writes…

The key to more happiness at work is changing the way you think and feel about your career. It doesn’t matter if you are the janitor or the president of the company; any job can produce inner happiness. Finding joy in each work day and producing quality work can become the goals of your career. By making the effort to see the positives, you’ll begin to stop dwelling on the negatives. The best part is that with happiness comes higher levels of success.

If you are struggling to find happiness at work, here are five simple ways to start on the right path now.

  1. Be inspired. Any job can become dull or dreary when you lack creative outlets. As part of your effort to find new inspiration, take the time to experience culture beyond the walls of your cubicle. Visit a local museum, attend a concert or play, spend time participating in new activities to stretch your awareness of the world. These things alone with invigorate you and give you something to share with your co-workers.
  2. Create the best. If you are less than thrilled about your job, perhaps it’s your performance that needs to change? Complacency at work leads to boredom and mistakes. This results in negative feedback from your boss and thus, a negative attitude forms. Instead, strive to always do your utmost best in every task you complete, reaching new levels of performance.
  3. Do for others. There are many others in the world who are less than fortunate. A big part of feeling appreciative of the job you hold is by experiencing the lives and circumstances of others. Take the time to volunteer at least once a month at a local soup kitchen, women’s shelter, or another worthy cause. Give something to others in the form of service and see how good it makes you feel. Your perspective and life can change simply through a new altruistic way of life.
  4. Develop your talent. Chances are you have a number of gifts and abilities that you have not been able to utilize fully at work. It’s no wonder you feel frustrated at times! Honor your talents and find ways to share them, either through personal networks or volunteer opportunities. Get some higher education to develop your talents, either through your own resources or a tuition reimbursement program offered by your employer. You’ll find that this gives you a new positive attitude about your career.
  5. Seek new challenges. Any job, no matter how simple or complex, can become more satisfying when you challenge yourself. If you find yourself filled with dread over a task, talk to your immediate supervisor and see if you can take on something new to replace it. Seek out new challenges at work that bring you happiness, such as joining the entertainment committee or taking on an assignment with more responsibility.

Nearly every working person has experienced times of frustration and unhappiness at work. However, by being proactive and seeking out happiness, you’ll have the power to choose career satisfaction and achievement – with a new perception.

Link to the original article

photo credit: slightly-less-random via photopin cc

photo credit: slightly-less-random via photopin cc

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

Jan Hills reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Stamina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

Of Brits and Danes and Happiness At Work

Alexander Kjerulf AKA The Chief Happiness Officer writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

How To Find Happiness: A Short List from Alice Hoffman

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

1. Walk a dog

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

2. Go to a library

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

3. Go visit someone much older

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

4. Bake a pie

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

5. Look at stars

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

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

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

Three Ways To Focus the Wandering Mind

by Daniel Goleman

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

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

Mindfulness: An Antidote for Workplace ADD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original  article 

ACTION FOR HAPPINESS PRESENTS…

An evening with Daniel Goleman

Thursday 24th October, London

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

Daniel will explain the importance of Emotional Intelligence in modern life and also share some of the ideas from his exciting new book Focus, a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to fulfilment and performance: attention.

Link to booking details for this event

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

The Power of Mindfulness

 writes…

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

Let Your Life Story Empower You

BY 

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

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

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

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

Nothing more nor less!

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

Never lower your standards!

3. Live your truth.

Establish non-negotiables!

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

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

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

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

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

photo credit: spettacolopuro via photopin cc

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

Written by 

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

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

1. We surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. We worry about things we’ve already lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. We incorrectly predict odds

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

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

5. We rationalise purchases we don’t want

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. We make decisions based on the anchoring effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. We believe our memories more than facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. We pay more attention to stereotypes than we think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which alternative is more probable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
photo credit: monettenriquez via photopin cc

photo credit: monettenriquez via photopin cc

Life Notes: Teach Your Child happiness Habits

Stacy Hawkins Adams writes

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

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

Musing about happiness? With sixth-graders?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model the behavior you want them to adopt.

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

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

Link to the original article

photo credit: mishgun via photopin cc

photo credit: mishgun via photopin cc

Room To Breathe

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

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

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

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

Room To Breathe – Trailer

Inner city schools across the nation are in serious trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

How to Grow the Good in Your Brain

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

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

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

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

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

And see for yourself what happens when you do…

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Life Mental Health via photopin cc

photo credit: Life Mental Health via photopin cc

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

 reports…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meditate…

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

Cultivate compassion…

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

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

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

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

Practise Mindful observancm of the mind and body…

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

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

Make mindfulness a habit…

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

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

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

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

Link the the original article

photo credit: IntelFreePress via photopin cc

photo credit: IntelFreePress via photopin cc

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

 marks the death of Satya Narayan Goenka, aged 90 …

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is

Vishvapani writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness is here to stay.

Link to the original article

Michelle Gielan: The Power of Positive Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies for Positive Thinking

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: habeebee via photopin cc

photo credit: habeebee via photopin cc

Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken

Happiness At Work Edition #66

All of these stories and many more are collected together in our latest edition of Happiness At Work #66 – out on Friday 4th October 2013.

This is a tightly packed post this week, so I congratulate you hugely if you have managed to make it to reading these last words.

As a reminder of the rich history we also always have to draw on amidst our 21st century excitements, I want to finish this post with some words that are even older than Robert Frost’s 1920 poem.  Very much in accord with this week’s central idea about the way we choose to think about things being of primary importance to what we end up thinking, feeling and so doing, here are some last words quoted and written by Samuel Johnson in 1750 in his sixth edition of The Rambler a twice-weekly collection of writings that Johnson published between 1750-1752.  An earlier version of the blog, we might say…

“The Fountain of Content Must Spring Up in the Mind.”

“Active in indolence, abroad we roam
In quest of happiness which dwells at home:
With vain pursuits fatigu’d, at length you’ll find,
No place excludes it from an equal mind.”

– James Elphinston, contemporary and good friend of Johnson’s

“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind…he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.”

– Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 6

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #61 – how relationships matter to our learning, our communication and our happiness

The stories we are specially highlighting from this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, draw out ideas and new understandings about the connection and importance of relationships, to our happiness, yes, but for our learning and our creativity too.  And as well, as of course, to our effective communications, for the very definition of communicate, from its Latin root communicare means to share, to exchange.  And thus communication without relationship is more than an oxymoron, it is an impossibility.

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

–by Roman Krznaric

If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid…

…empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history—and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years—reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

…Respect the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. Highly Empathetic People challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them…

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. Highly Empathetic People expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”…

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,”  attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” Highly Empathetic People listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences…

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change…

Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children.  That’s why Highly Empathetic People support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence—and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement…

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of Highly Empathetic People is that they do far more than empathise with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough…

Empathising with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organisations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

Link to read this story in full, including  another video talk

50 Smiles Guaranteed To Make You Smile (get happy in less than 5 minutes)

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~Mother Teresa

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

Ken Wert writes…

It seems that with smiling, you can actually have your cake and eat it too!

Not only are smiles expressions of positive feelings (like happiness, excitement and enjoyment), the act of smiling, even if forced, enhances the very positive feelings that make us want to smile. So the smile is both cause and effect. The more we smile, even if we don’t particularly feel like it, the more we feel like it.

Moreover, one person’s smile is another person’s reason to smile. The smile, it turns out, is one of the most contagious of human conditions.

Why a post filled to the brim with happy faces?

This post is meant to instigate a ripple effect of smiles across the globe as you grin from your heart to your face (or your face to your heart, since smiling works in both directions) as you share your smile with others and they share theirs in turn (and please feel free to share this post with them too, while you’re in a sharing mood!).

Read the quotes and words under each photo and look at the smiley faces and see what happens to your own mood! Put yourself in the shoes of the happy faces and see if you can feel what they seem to be feeling.

And then just try not to smile. I bet you a 100 smiles you can’t make it to the end of this post without one creeping onto your kisser! :)

Link to this article and its 50 smiling faces

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

Steve McCurry’s Blog: When Words Fail

“When words fail, music speaks.”  (Hans Christian Andersen)

The brilliant photographer’s latest collection features his photos of people making music.

Ravishing and joyful and overflowing with relationships…

Link to Steve McCurry’s When Words Fail photographs

Looking To Genes For The Secret To Happiness

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Our genes may have a more elevated moral sense than our minds do, according to a new study of the genetic effects of happiness. They can, it seems, reward us with healthy gene activity when we’re unselfish — and chastise us, at a microscopic level, when we put our own needs and desires first…

…those volunteers whose happiness, according to their questionnaires, was primarily hedonic, to use the scientific term, or based on consuming things, had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body. Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also had relatively low levels of other markers that increase antibody production, to better fight off infections.

The volunteers whose happiness was more eudaemonic, or based on a sense of higher purpose and service to others — a small minority of the overall group — had profiles that displayed augmented levels of antibody-producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression…

…purpose is an elastic concept, not necessarily requiring renunciation but only that “you think first of someone else” or “have a goal greater” than your immediate gratification. Being a parent, participating in the creative arts or even taking up exercise so that you can live to see your grandchildren may ease you toward eudaemonia, he says. It may even be that this will enable your genes to respond more favorably to how you’re conducting your life.

Link to read the unedited version of this story

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

Business Renaissance Must Be Human-Centric

by 

…The typical approach is to define all the potential variables, then prioritize them based on impact, frequency, risk exposure…you see where I’m going with this, right? This is 20th century thinking to deal with a 21st century issue. Not the brightest approach, yet we keep banging our collective heads against the idiot wall and think something positive will happen if we just repeat it enough times.

The renaissance is, and must be, human-centric.

It is a return to seeing the value in a person as a person, not an asset to sweat. Life is complex. Technology is complex. Intertwining two complex systems results in chaos. We have learned to respond to chaos in our personal lives as a means of necessity. We seem to feel the organization should somehow be exempt from it. So, we create demanding and manipulative policies that only serve to frustrate, disengage and manipulate people…

It will be a changing of the guard that will be necessary, but difficult for many people. It will affect how we do business, how we define success and how we structure education regarding business. This is good. This is necessary. This is overdue…

Link to read the unedited version of this post

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

5 Steps To Building A Culture of Communication

It’s important to understand the gravity of effective communication in business, then build a culture around it. Putting great communication at the center of your business is the greatest way to ensure success. Bill Gates said it best, “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Here are a few steps that will help you build a culture of communication in your business.

1. Don’t Punish the Bad Ideas…

2. Every Personality is Different, Think of Key Ways to Communicate with Everyone…

3. Async Communication… a simple and passive way of communicating with your team on your own schedule when messages aren’t urgent or time based. This can be through email, or third party tools designed with this type of discussion method in mind… 

4. Talk, Even When It’s Not Comfortable…

5. Enable Transparency in Every Aspect…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Babies Learn To Recognise Words In The Womb

BETH SKWARECK

…The research team gave expectant women a recording to play several times a week during their last few months of pregnancy, which included a made-up word, “tatata,” repeated many times and interspersed with music. Sometimes the middle syllable was varied, with a different pitch or vowel sound. By the time the babies were born, they had heard the made-up word, on average, more than 25,000 times. And when they were tested after birth, these infants’ brains recognized the word and its variations, while infants in a control group did not, Partanen and colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Babies who had heard the recordings showed the neural signal for recognizing vowel and pitch changes in the pseudoword, and the signal was strongest for the infants whose mothers played the recording most often. They were also better than the control babies at detecting other differences in the syllables, such as vowel length. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth…

…Just because babies can learn while in utero doesn’t mean that playing music or language recordings will help the child. Partanen says there is no solid evidence that stimulation beyond normal sounds of everyday life offers any long-term benefits to healthy babies. Moon adds that playing sounds to a fetus with speakers close to the belly could even be risky because this could overstimulate the fetal ear and the rapidly developing brain. Too much noise can interfere with the auditory system and may disrupt the baby’s sleep cycles.

Rather than playing recordings for healthy babies, Partanen sees potential treatments for children at risk for dyslexia or auditory processing disorders, if hearing certain sounds in pregnancy turns out to speed up language learning—”but that’s a big if.” His team’s study looked only at babies less than a month old, and it’s not clear whether the babies will retain the memories as they get older, or whether in utero learning has an effect on language learning or ability later in life.

Link to read this article in full

origin_4657619168

Handling Conflict

By 

Stevenson Carlebach, who used to teach acting and directing, says there are many similarities between his former profession and what he does now. For starters, “when an actor takes on a character they’re actually sort of negotiating with their mind to think like the character. When you’re trying to negotiate, you’re doing the same thing, you’re negotiating with your mind to be less antagonistic or to be more cooperative, to be more creative,” he says.

In other words, a good negotiator is really just a good actor in that they’re able to put themselves in another person’s shoes which promotes both empathy and understanding. As Carlebach says, both actors and negotiators are essentially asking what’s driving or motivating the other person, what’s causing them to behave in a certain way, and whether they too would behave in the same way under similar circumstances. But unlike actors, negotiators have their own interests to consider in this process as well.

He employs various exercises to do this including one he calls the “hot buns exercise” where three participants each assume a particular role: that of enquirer whose job it is to stay curious and ask open questions about a topic of their choice, that of speaker who takes a different perspective to that of the enquirer, and that of enquirer’s coach whose job is to observe whether the enquirer is, in fact, asking open questions.

Carlebach notes, “Going into this exercise everyone thinks, you know, ‘how hard can it be, I’m an open-minded person, sure I can do this.’ But within a minute the enquirer is only asking leading questions. They can’t stay curious. You know, ‘how could you be so stupid’, kind of questions. For most of us, we’ve never observed ourselves being close-minded.”

Indeed for many folk, this realisation proves to be a light bulb moment…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: It'sGreg via photopin cc

photo credit: It’sGreg via photopin cc

School Is A Prison – and damaging our kids

This research showing how young people are are at their most unhappy when they are in school mirrors research findings by London School of Economics Mappiness study, which found that people are most miserable when they are at work, second only to when they are ill.  What sort of world have we made for ourselves, and what will it take for us to start to undo and remake the conditions we live in and terms of engagement for the greatest time we spend of our lives: our education and our work?

As  writes in his article:

Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work

…Most students — whether A students, C students, or failing ones — have lost their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school. In a recent research study, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl and Jeremy Hunter fitted more than 800 sixth- through 12th-graders, from 33 different schools across the country, with special wristwatches that provided a signal at random times of day. Whenever the signal appeared, they were to fill out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness, by far, occurred when they were in school and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school playing or talking with friends. In school, they were often bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science.

As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that learning is unpleasant. We think of it as bad-tasting medicine, tough to swallow but good for children in the long run. Some people even think that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness, because life after school is unpleasant. Perhaps this sad view of life derives from schooling. Of course, life has its ups and downs, in adulthood and in childhood. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix. Research has shown that people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Rise of Authority Or Why Being An Expert Is Not Enough

The importance of relationship is emphasised, too, in this post, by , which draws the distinction between getting power and influence from being able to speak with authority – dependent entirely upon the perceptions made by the receivers of your communication – as opposed to expertise, a more fixed position of claiming to be right.  Authority comes from a blend of Aristotle’s’ three modes of credibility: Logos (appeal to the objective rational argument), Pathos (successfully connecting into a shared understanding of our values, beliefs, feelings and the things we hold to be most important), and Ethos (the credibility, believability, perceived authenticity and trustworthiness – gravitas – of the speaker):

…You have authority when the audience says you do. You earn that praise by “bringing the thunder” every day…

How do you spot an Authority in a crowd?

First, they aren’t trying to be an expert. ** They are trying to matter.**

They want their skills, perspective, and tools to be useful. They are in it for the long-term. This is why they seem to stay relevant, even when the latest fad cools and disappears.

You will also see:

Confidence  They are willing to take a stand, point out error, and go it alone. Their confidence doesn’t come from a slick website or a clever book title. It comes from years refining their craft.

Openness  An Authority welcomes inspection. They hate black boxes. They believe they grow when everyone can collaborate on a point of view. For this reason, Authorities often frustrate their followers because they are willing to change their mind. They don’t confuse decisiveness with stubbornness.

Curiosity An Authority is obsessed with “what if”. They quickly tire of the same line of conversation. They are looking for new connections and they are intensely focused on the unconventional strategies that the expert’s dismiss.

Productivity An Authority embraces “the grind”. They know that Authority is perishable. Authority stays fresh when it publishes. They are more afraid of being inconsequential than being perfect. [They bring ways] to force the world to push back and make them better.

The good news is that you’re an Authority. You have to decide how you’ll grow and cultivate your skills and experience…

Link to read this article in full

Our own top tip for optimising the authority you can bring to your communications is to become obsessively interested in your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they know already, what position they are likely to be hearing you from, what problems, threats and difficulties they are wrestling with, and anything and everything else you can think of to wonder about them.  And then go into the communication ready to learn and notice as much as you possibly can during every stage of your encounter.

Another technique that helps to raise the level of authority you will be perceived to have is to surprise your listeners.  If people think they know what you are going to say, and you seem to start on track with these expectations, they are not likely to really listen openly to what you actually do say.

Here are some more ideas from  about increasing your powers of persuasion with more extravert, people-oriented people:

Keys To Persuading Expressing Personalities

…how best to persuade someone who is an expressive or influencer personality? When I think of an expressive, Oprah Winfrey immediately comes to mind because she’s someone who is more relationship-focused than task-oriented. Like the Trump, Oprah also likes to control situations and others.

The following describes this personality type:

Expressives like being part of social groups; enjoy attending events with lots of people; are more in tune with relating to people than working on tasks; are imaginative and creative; can usually win others over to their way of thinking; like things that are new and different; have no problem expressing themselves…

Some persuasion advice when dealing with an expressive-type person:

Definitely spend time engaging the liking principle with them, because they want to like the people they interact with. Oprah certainly cares about closing the deal but she also cares about you and your story so look for ways to connect with her. If she likes you it’s a good bet she’ll go out of her way to help you.

Expressive personalities responded more to reciprocity than any other personality type so look for ways to genuinely help them and they’ll respond in kind much more than pragmatics or thinkers will.

As was the case with pragmatics, in a business setting overcoming uncertainty is key for expressives.

Sharing trends and what others are doing – the principle of consensus – can be quite effective with expressives. Oprah types want to move the masses and they know it’s easier to swim with a wave rather than against it so share what many others are already doing.

Sharing hard data or using the advice of perceived experts is the most effective route with this group.  However, while authority was the #1 principle chosen by expressives, it wasn’t as effective as it was with the other personalities. Show Oprah the numbers or share insight from experts and it will give her pause to consider your request.

When it came to using consistency – what someone has said or done in the past – this was the #3 choice for expressives. For this group it’s not as much about being right as it is being true to themselves and what they believe. Look for ways to tie your request to his or her beliefs or values and the chance you’ll year “Yes” will increase significantly.

Scarcity was no more effective for this group than the others. Definitely don’t force the issue unless something is truly rare or diminishing. Oprah Winfrey and her expressive friends don’t like to miss out on opportunities but just know you won’t be as effective with the scarcity strategy as you might be with Donald Trump and his pragmatic buddies.

Link to read the unedited version of this article

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Here is some excellent advice from Steve Roesler about the power and potency of using silence in our communications:

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings.”Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what’s coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological: When you pause to create a “curious” state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what’s happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good “Stand-Up” leader and speaker?

Perhaps this is connected to intelligence coming from a new study into our inhibitory brain neurones and the role they play in selecting, shutting down and filtering out the information coming at us:

Researchers discover how inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning

We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Now neuroscientists are beginning to explain the science behind the adage.

For years, neuroscientists have struggled to understand how the microcircuitry of the brain makes learning easier for the young, and more difficult for the old. New findings published in the journal Nature by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine show how one component of the brain’s circuitry — inhibitory neurons — behave during critical periods of learning…

The brain is made up of two types of cells — inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Networks of these two kinds of neurons are responsible for processing sensory information like images, sounds and smells, and for cognitive functioning. About 80 percent of neurons are excitatory. Traditional scientific tools only allowed scientists to study the excitatory neurons…

…The prevailing theory on inhibitory neurons was that, as they mature, they reach an increased level of activity that fosters optimal periods of learning. But as the brain ages into adulthood and the inhibitory neurons continue to mature, they become even stronger to the point where they impede learning.

[But this new study] found that, during heightened periods of learning, the inhibitory neurons didn’t fire more as had been expected. They fired much less frequently — up to half as often.

“When you’re young you haven’t experienced much, so your brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information. It seems that the brain turns off the inhibitory cells in order to allow this to happen,” Kuhlman said. “As adults we’ve already learned a great number of things, so our brains don’t necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently.”

Link to read the unedited version of this report

And for more ideas and knowledge about the fine art of persuading people, see:

42 Tips for Masterful Presentations

Posted by: Arnold Sanow

8 Must-Read Books on Influence and Persuasion

by JENNIFER MILLER

and in the week that we commemorate 50 years since one of the greatest speeches ever made, see:

15 Things You Might Not Know About the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By 

 

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

 

The Poetry of Childhood

BY RICHARD LEWIS

…The ability of children to easily enter into the life of something other than themselves—to exchange their own mind for the mind of another—grows not only out of their innate playfulness, but out of a fluidity and plasticity of thought that is, in many ways, an inborn poetic gift. It is, perhaps, a way of seeing in which the seer does not distinguish between herself and the nature outside of her, an imaginative grasping of the whole of life before it becomes separated into subject matters and academic disciplines. One might think of it as a wilderness of thought that encompasses a multitude of growing worlds, each connected and dependent on the other—a truly ecological means of thinking and perceiving…

…the mind of the child and an event or object from outside of the child are subtly and gently brought together. This means of expressing and interpreting the world is not something that was taught, but a spontaneous way of explaining that what is of me is also what is happening around me.

Certainly this is true of Marilyn from New Zealand, who wrote lyrically and suggestively, when she was seven years old, of this shared mind between an insect and herself:

Nothing is better than the song the cricket sings. The sound of the cricket brightens my feelings and makes me sing too. My mind is the cricket’s mind and I wish I was a cricket. Hop, hop the black cricket. The cricket pokes out his feelers and I can hold them and the song of the cricket is my mind.

…So much of this childhood ease with both the visible and invisible, what we know and don’t know—the pure sense of expectation and delight in the mystery of what is happening and about to happen—is not only a function of our mind’s ability to balance opposites through the equipoise that is our imagination, but also a way of experiencing the world poetically. I don’t mean a poetry of verse and poems, but a poetic understanding that allows us to stand, for instance, in the middle of a stream and say nothing, and yet to feel, if only fleetingly, a sense of how we and the flowing water are of one being. Or to walk down a city street and accidentally walk through the shadow of a tree that seems to move with us, to want to follow us—an expectation, an incandescent moment of which we are suddenly made aware. Each is only an instant, but an instant that carries with it a form of knowledge accessible to children and adults alike, one we rarely include in our current estimates of intelligence or achievement. This awareness should not be seen as a lack of development or a passing innocence, but as a container of thought that we carry with us over a lifetime. Within it, we, the stream, the tree, and the tree’s shadow share the same language.

To Be Alive

It was there
Something—happened
What was it
A bird
A fish
A lizard
Was it the girl
Listen.
I hear it again
It is the wind
Wind.
It created me
I am its friend
The wind lives
in a secret garden
far away from me
It comes and I sleep
Sleep and the wind and I
drift to air.

by David, aged 10

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

Design Thinking: Creating A Better Understanding Of Today To Get To A Better Tomorrow

Kevin Bennett, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” co-authored by U.Va. Darden ProfessorJeanne Liedtka, writes about the importance of getting inside the thinking and perspective of other people to better solve our own problems and realise our own ambitions in these fundamentals of creativity:

…The value of design thinking is in allowing us to see “A” more clearly.  For it is in focusing on “A” that we truly understand ourselves, each other and our world.

Design thinking guides us through an archeological dig to better understand “A” with a sense of openness to exploration and discovery. In this archeological dig, design thinking takes up ethnographic research tools to help us truly understand customers and other stakeholders. “Journey mapping” enables us to map other people’s personal experiences by walking in their shoes. “Mind mapping” allows us to understand the values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of individuals, to see the world through their eyes as they walk through their journeys.

Design thinking also helps us to see the world differently by looking to areas and organizations with seemingly nothing in common with our own. Throwing ourselves into another culture, industry or company can often shake up our own thinking. For example, in France, a group of banks and insurance companies said that design thinking “equipped us bankers and insurers with a new pair of glasses through which to see the world, our society, our clients and our jobs differently.”

In exploring “A” we open ourselves up to thinking differently, to innovations and solutions not previously contemplated. Many of the resulting insights and ideas will appear rough and not fully formed, but our research shows that there will be diamonds among them. And in finding these gems, we can not only better achieve our goals, we can test the very goals we set out to achieve.

Thus in focusing on “A” we can not only better achieve our goals in our businesses, organizations and lives, we can also better ensure we are picking the right ones in the first place.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Stress Does Not Fuel Creativity

Never Eat Alone co-author Tahl Raz interviewed author, speaker and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields for the Social Capitalist about his recent book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. During the interview, Jonathan discussed how stress actually reduces your creativity.

Research shows the higher your anxiety levels ratchet up, the lower your creativity goes. Also, one of the key things for creativity in business is a type of problem solving called “insight-based problem solving.” So to solve problems, you can come up with innovative ideas in two ways, either insight-based or analytically based.

Now analytical would be, “Ok, I have a big idea,” and if somebody said, “How did you get to that idea?” you could explain the steps, you could reverse them and back out and tell them how you got to it.

The insight-based solution is the one where you have this tremendous idea, but if someone said, “How did you get there?” you would have no idea. It’s the thing that just comes to you. What we know and what the research actually shows is that creativity plummets as anxiety goes up.

But even more specifically, insight-based problem solving, which is the highest level of problem solving because it introduces new paradigms, also plummets as anxiety goes up.

To read the full transcript of Jonathan’s interview, click here.

For more ideas about being more creative see also:

Six Ways to Expand Your Perspective

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

Wait, What’s That? The Science Behind Why Your Mind Keeps Wandering

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AN ATTENTION DEFICIT, YOU’RE FAR FROM ALONE.

BY: 

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)

BELLE BETH COOPER

How Meditation Affects You

Better Focus…

Less Anxiety…

More Creativity…

More Compassion…

Better Memory…

Less Stress…

More Grey Matter…More grey matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

Stifling Ourselves With The Need To Be Right

John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise, … provides some thoughtful – not to mention wry – perspectives on the importance of keep alive our sense of not knowing, giving compelling reasons for why it is that an acute sense of what we don’t know may be much more critical to our vitality and future possibility, than our certainties:

“What most people and societies become when they believe they know everything: incurious, self-satisfied, flabby, and prone to wearing tunics and lounging on grassy lawns…

“While there may be legitimate, eternal mysteries out there that are beyond our comprehension, history, in fact, shows us that if we do ask questions, we are likely to find answers eventually – which is perhaps more frightening than ignorance…. Being curious is the bravest human act, aside from skydiving.”

We shut ourselves off and limit our potential when we are certain we know what we really don’t, or maybe even can’t, know with certainty. We even make things up to make sense of life, and we confabulate, and [maybe unconsciously] “fill in gaps in memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.”

Link to read more of this article

Schein on Dialogue

From the blog Theatrical Smoke, some reflections from Edgar Schein’s “On Dialogue, Culture, and Organizational Learning”:

…dialogue, for Schein…starts from a change in mental approach–the use of a somewhat unnatural “suspension”–instead of reacting when we hear discomfiting information that triggers us, we pause for a moment, and evaluate what we’re thinking. “Is this feeling I have true? Or is it based on a mistaken perception?” we ask ourselves, and wait a bit for additional information before we decide how to act. Dialogue means bringing a kind of mindfulness, or cognitive self-awareness as we talk–”knowing one’s thought as one is having it,” says Schein.  Thinking about a thought rather than being the thought. Leaving the animal-like, mechanical push-and-pull of a conversation, and watching, as it were, partially from above…

…if we’re using dialogue, we’re watching ourselves thinking as we simultaneously listen to what people are saying, we’re seeing and assessing our built-in assumptions as they pop up, we’re thinking about what language means, we’re holding multiple possibilities in mind simultaneously. … we create a psychologically safe space where we can efficiently develop new languages and new models…

…without dialogue, says Schein – and this is the kicker – you can’t do much at all. Dialogue is “at the root of all effective group action,” it allows groups to “achieve levels of creative thought that no one would have initially imagined,” and, finally, without it, you can’t learn, you can’t change, and you can’t adapt:

“Learning across cultural boundaries cannot be created or sustained without initial and periodic dialogue. Dialogue in some form is therefore necessary to any organizational learning that involves going beyond the cultural status quo.”

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

Prompts That Get Us To Analyse, Reflect, Relate and Question

This technique is offered by  in Teaching Professor Blog as a teaching aid to help students learn, but we think it has excellent potential as a tool for us all to keep our own experiential learning continuous with our day-to-day activities:

This particular technique involves a four-question set that gets students actively responding to the material they are studying. They analyze, reflect, relate, and question via these four prompts:

  • “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea … that you learned while completing this activity.”

  • “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea … is important?”

  • “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”

  • “What question(s) has the activity raised for you?  What are you still wondering about?”  [You might need to prohibit the answer “nothing”.]

Link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative

 offers these really helpful techniques:

Think left

…researchers have found that information in your left visual field is more likely to help you solve a problem creatively than information perceived by your right visual field – which means placing inspirational information or items on your left is one way to help promote more creative thinking…

Cut out distractions

When an idea starts rolling around inside your brain, part of your visual cortex shuts down … to allow the ‘germ’ of an idea to bubble up to the surface and into awareness.  New research shows that cutting off the distractions of the outside world, even for a short time, seems to help the brain have more insights.

Break patterns

…Activities that ‘open your mind’ by breaking established cognitive patterns enable new and original associations to occur. Scientists suggest trying something different, changing routines, reading or watching things that demonstrate creative thinking, or doing puzzles that require creative thinking.

Take it easy

…The trick is to immerse yourself in a mindless, easy task like arranging Lego blocks into colours, mowing the lawn, walking, doing the housework or meditating. Activities like these enable the frontal lobes to relax, allowing thoughts to flow more freely and subconscious ideas to percolate into conscious ideas more readily…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

Learning how to live

Why do we find free time so terrifying? Why is a dedication to work, no matter how physically destructive and ultimately pointless, considered a virtue? Jenny Diski urges you to down tools while you can.

BY JENNY DISKI

…What if you answered the question “What do you do all day?” with “Nothing”? It isn’t as if that could possibly be true. If you spent all day in bed watching television, or staring at the clouds, you wouldn’t be doing nothing. Children are always being told to stop doing “nothing” when they’re reading or daydreaming. It is lifelong training for the idea that activity is considered essential to mental health, whether it is meaningful or not. Behind the “nothing” is in part a terror of boredom, as if most of the work most people do for most of their lives isn’t boring. The longing people express to be doing “creative” work suggests that they think it less boring than other kinds of work. Many people say that writing isn’t “proper work”. Often they tell me they are saving up writing a book for their “retirement”. Creative work sits uneasily in the fantasy life between dread leisure and the slog of the virtuous, hardworking life. It’s seen as a method of doing something while doing nothing, one that stops you flying away in terror…

…Leisure, not doing, is so terrifying in our culture that we cut it up into small, manageable chunks throughout our working year in case an excess of it will drive us mad, and leave the greatest amount of it to the very end, in the half-conscious hope that we might be saved from its horrors by an early death…

Link to read this story in full

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photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #61

You will find all of these articles – and more – with ideas and practical tips related to these themes of learning, making strong relationships and learning to be happier and more creative in this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, as well as stories about happiness at work, leadership and resilience and wellbeing.

We hope you find things to enjoy and use.

Happiness At Work #60 ~ some of this week’s highlight articles

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Here are our favourite stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #60  which we hope you will enjoy too…

Creativity is the Secret Sauce in STEM

Ainissa Ramirez Science Evangelist writes:

Creativity is the secret sauce to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is a STEM virtue. While most scientists and engineers might be reluctant to admit that, and to accept the concept of STEAM (where A is for Art), I’ve witnessed that the best of the best are the most creative.

So how do we make our children more creative?

Researchers have found that play is important for productive thought. Playing with ideas also increases learning…

Creativity is really the art of metaphor.

Metaphors create a linkage between two dissimilar ideas and are useful in the sciences because they allow information to be attained by connecting the unknown with the known.  And this is the key element to scientific creativity. Metaphors are important because they create a means of seeking answers, and sometimes they free us from the common thinking and enable scientific breakthroughs…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: nosha via photopin cc

Can Artists Make The World A Better Place? (The Forum, BBC World Service)

This 44minute podcast is one of the best conversations I have yet heard about the importance and value and worth of the arts and arts education for our world.  Highly recommended:

When you think about people trying to change the world for the better, should artists be near the top of the list? Bridget Kendall explores this question at the Aspen Festival of Ideas in Colorado, in front of a lively festival audience.

She is joined by: Damian Woetzel, former Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet and the man behind an eye-catching initiative in inner-city schools called Arts Strike; ground-breaking designer Fred Dust, who says good design should be much more than simply creating beautiful objects; and art collector and philanthropist Dennis Scholl, who likes creating ‘happy surprises’ in the shape of Random Acts of Culture.

Link to listen to this podcast

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photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Don’t Just Learn, Overlearn!

By Annie Murphy Paul

Decades of research have shown that superior performance requires practicing beyond the point of mastery.

 “Why do I have to keep practicing? I know it already!”

That’s the familiar wail of a child seated at the piano or in front of the multiplication table (or, for that matter, of an adult taking a tennis lesson). Cognitive science has a persuasive retort: We don’t just need to learn a task in order to perform it well; we need to overlearn it. Decades of research have shown that superior performance requires practicing beyond the point of mastery. The perfect execution of a piano sonata or a tennis serve doesn’t mark the end of practice; it signals that the crucial part of the session is just getting underway.

Whenever we learn to make a new movement, Ahmed explains, we form and then update an internal model—a “sensorimotor map”—which our nervous system uses to predict our muscles’ motions and the resistance they will encounter. As that internal model is refined over time, we’re able to cut down on unnecessary movements and eliminate wasted energy…

While Ahmed’s paper didn’t address the application of overlearning to the classroom or the workplace, other studies have demonstrated that for a wide range of academic and professional activities, overlearning reduces the amount of mental effort required, leading to better performance—especially under high-stakes conditions. In fact, research on the “audience effect” shows that once we’ve overlearned a complex task, we actually perform it better when other people are watching. When we haven’t achieved the reduction of mental effort that comes with overlearning, however, the additional stress of an audience makes stumbles more likely.

“The message from this study is that in order to perform with less effort, keep on practicing, even after it seems the task has been learned,” says Ahmed. “We have shown there is an advantage to continued practice beyond any visible changes in performance.” In other words: You’re getting better and better, even when you can’t tell you’re improving—a thought to keep you going through those long hours of practice…

Link to read this article in full

We Feel, Therefore We Learn

By 

According to Dr Dan Siegel, one important point to bear in mind is that every experience we have causes our neurons to fire. Another is that when neurons fire, they wire together to create associations that are reinforced through repetition. Moreover, this involves the production of myelin or our brain’s white matter. “If you lay down myelin, you are 3000 times as effective as if you were a circuit without myelin,” says Siegel.

But that’s not all. The brain, or as Siegel describes it, “the social organ of the body” which has evolved over millions of years “has allowed us to survive because we have relationships with each other. We don’t have big claws, we don’t have big fangs, we’re not that strong. So how did we survive? Because we could look at another human being and figure out what was going on with them. This is why in terms of the science of learning, learning is a profoundly social experience.”

Lin k to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: schaaflicht via photopin cc

Human Brains Are Hard-Wired For Empathy, Friendship, Study Shows

Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves.

“With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves,” said James Coan, a psychology professor in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves…

The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response – the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus – became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in those regions displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self.

“The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar,” Coan said. “The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat.”

Link to read this article in full

See also:

When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Empathy can be painful.

Or so suggests a growing body of neuroscientific research. When we witness suffering and distress in others, our natural tendency to empathize can bring us vicarious pain.

Is there a better way of approaching distress in other people? A recent study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, suggests that we can better cope with others’ negative emotions by strengthening our own compassion skills, which the researchers define as “feeling concern for another’s suffering and desiring to enhance that individual’s welfare.”

“Empathy is really important for understanding others’ emotions very deeply, but there is a downside of empathy when it comes to the suffering of others,” says Olga Klimecki, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany and the lead author of the study. “When we share the suffering of others too much, our negative emotions increase. It carries the danger of an emotional burnout.”

…“Through compassion training, we can increase our resilience and approach stressful situations with more positive affect,” says Klimecki.

The positive emotional approach was accompanied by a change in brain activation pattern: Before the training, participants showed activity in an “empathic” network associated with pain perception and unpleasantness; after the training, activity shifted to a “compassionate” network that has been associated with love and affiliation.

Their new brain-activation patterns more closely resembled those of an “expert” who had meditated every day on compassion for more than 35 years, whose brain was scanned by the researchers to provide a point of comparison. This result suggests that the training brought about fundamental changes in the ways their brains processed distressing scenes, strengthening the parts that try to alleviate suffering—an example of neuroplasticity, when the brain physically evolves in response to experience.

Negative emotions did not disappear after the loving-kindness training; it’s just that the participants were less likely to feel distressed themselves. According to Klimecki and her colleagues, this suggests that the training allowed participants to stay in touch with the negative emotion from a calmer mindset. “Compassion is a good antidote,” says Klimecki. “It allows us to connect to others’ suffering, without being too distressed.”

Link to read the rest of this article

To Buy Happiness, Spend Money On Other People

In a new video, Michael Norton shows that spending money on others yields more happiness than spending it on yourself.

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photo credit: tedeytan via photopin cc

The Essential Link Between Happiness & Gratitude

By 

…consultant and founder of HappierHuman Amit Amin has assembled 26 separate academic articles and studies around the world that show the benefits of saying “Thank You.” Here are some highlights from those findings:

  • Expressions of gratitude reinforce pro-social and moral behavior.
  • Frequent opportunity to express gratitude leads to increased well-being, better health, better exercise habits, higher life satisfaction and increased optimism.
  • Grateful people get more sleep.
  • A one-time act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms that lasts for months.
  • Writing down one’s gratitude produces a cumulative effect that increases month over month.
  • Gratitude (which focuses us on others) and materialism (which focuses us on ourselves) are inversely related.
  • Those who are more grateful not only perceive the environment to be more benevolent, but actually make it so by helping others more frequently and accumulating social capital.

Link to the read this article in full

Happiness Increases From Giving When There’s A Social Connection, Study Shows

Giving makes us feel happy, and giving to someone we actually know makes us even happier, a new study suggests.

New research published in the Journal of Happiness and Development shows that social giving — where you’re giving to a person who you know, or your giving leads to a social connection — seems to foster more emotional benefits than giving without the social aspect…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc

10 Ways Happy People Prioritise Their To-Do Lists

Marc Chernoff offers some advice for making time work for us by keeping our happiness in the centre of our lives and the way we organise and plan ourselves…

In the seven years of this blog’s existence, Angel and I have had the pleasure of meeting, coaching and interacting with hundreds of truly inspiring, happy, prolific people.  And the more we have interacted with people like this, the more we realize the similarities in how they prioritize their lives, and how their priorities align with our own.

What becomes evident is that, to sustain happiness, we must focus our attention on the right things, in the right ways.  Every growing human being (that means all of us) has resource constraints: limited time and energy.  It is critical that we spend our resources effectively.

Here are 10 ways to prioritize your life and your to-do lists for increased happiness and fulfillment:

1.  One thing at a time, with full presence.

In other words, make the thing you have chosen to do the number one priority while you’re doing it.  Focus with your full attention.  See the value in where you are, while you’re there.  Enjoy what’s happening, while it’s happening…

2.  Family and close friends are at the top.

Nurture your important relationships in such a way that when you tell the people you care about that you care about them, you’re simply reinforcing what theyalready know based on how you have prioritised them into your life

3.  Focus on importance, not urgency.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Truthfully, the most important thing in life is knowing what the most important things in life are, and prioritizing them accordingly.  Sadly, most of us spend too much time on urgent things and not enough time on important things…

4.  Keep your efforts aligned with your purpose.

Getting anything worthwhile done is a matter of connecting with why you have chosen to do this thing in the first place.

Don’t allow others to confuse you.  Don’t let them convince your heart what is right for you.  Your heart already knows.  Listen to it.  Don’t let anyone else dilute the power of your inner voice.  You’ve got to stand up for something specific, on your own two legs, or you will achieve nothing worthwhile in your own mind’s eye…

5.  Play to your strengths and delegate when it makes sense.

When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself, or you can reach out and find the right people to help you.  The first choice will raise your stress and blood pressure; the second choice will raise your consciousness and effectiveness…

6.  Socialize and share with peers.

Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s always easier if you have a group of people who understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what challenges you’re facing.  Staying in touch with these people and sharing ideas with them will accelerate your effectiveness and happiness.  Best selling author, Seth Godin, refers to these people as your tribe members.

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another via an idea, movement or common goal.  For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.  Godin says, “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”…

7.  Give what you can, as you seek what you desire.

In many ways, life is a circle – what you put in to it comes back around.  When you make a positive impact in the world, the world will have a positive impact on you.

If you want to be rich, be generous.  If you want to make friends, be friendly.  If you want to be heard, listen.  If you want to be understood by others, take the time to truly understand them.  If you want to live an interesting life, be interested in the happenings around you…

8.  Leave the past behind as you plan ahead.

Let old problems remain where they belong – in the past.  No matter how many times you revisit the past, there’s nothing new to see.  Don’t let what once happened get in the way of what is happening.  Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean your mistakes get to make you.  If something important didn’t work yesterday, figure out what changes can be made today…

9.  Commit to self-respect, regardless of the issue at hand.

Whenever you catch yourself in a rambling bout of negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself, “If I had a friend who spoke to me in the same way that I sometimes speak to myself, how long would I allow this person to be my friend?”…

10.  Leave room to breathe.

Things don’t always go as planned.  Good things can’t always be planned.  Be flexible and open to life’s twists and turns.

Organize, but don’t agonize.  Keep your space and time ordered, but your schedule underbooked.  Create a foundation with a soft place to land, a wide margin of error, and room to think and breathe…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Shorter Workday Isn’t The Key To Happiness, Says Bummer Of A Study

Workaholics of the world, rejoice? We’ll all be just as unhappy with a shorter work week.

When it comes to working hours, less apparently is not more. Proponents of the six-hour workday will be saddened to hear that, as delightful as shorter days sound, decreasing work hours might not make anyone any happier.

At least that’s what new research in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests. The 10-year longitudinal study examined the impact of the reform South Korea instituted in 2004 reducing working hours on Korean workers’ happiness. While people’s satisfaction with their working hours increased, there wasn’t a significant effect on overall life or job satisfaction…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Haags Uitburo via photopin cc

Your Boss Is Less Stressed Than You

By 

Several studies have now shown that autonomy – a sense of control over what we do and how we do it – is an essential aspect of our happiness at work.  This article reports on a new study that shows the higher up the pecking order you get at work, the less stressed you are likely to be, but then goes on to look at other studies that show that there are several other important apescts that help or hinder our happiness at work.

So who is better off at work, you or your boss? A Harvard study suggests that it’s your boss because your boss is less stressed. And why is your boss less stressed? It turns out that it is because your boss has control…

Results showed that leaders had statistically significant lower levels of cortisol and lower anxiety than nonleaders. The study was repeated on a second group with similar results.

The researchers then dug into what led to this lower level of stress in leaders and concluded that a sense of control, specifically to do with being in authority, was the main contributing factor…

Less stress may not mean more happiness, though.

Another Harvard Researcher, Professor Rosabeth Kanter, clearly thinks that stress is just one factor among several in overall workplace happiness. She describes the primary sources of motivation (in innovative companies) as ‘mastery, membership and meaning’ with ‘money’ a distant fourth. Mastery certainly fits with control, suggesting that the boss is indeed likely to be happier, but the other important factors do also come into play. Membership – meaning being part of a team, belonging to something bigger than you personally, can work just as well for you as your boss, perhaps even better since the manager role inevitably removes your boss from being part of the team to some extent. This also fits with the majority of people finding the people they work with as being most important.

Lastly there is valuing your work. Some of that comes from you – if you know you do a good job and are confident enough to value the work you do and its quality for yourself then you are probably in a good place. The rest comes from other people – one of whom is undoubtedly your boss.

A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, reported in Science Daily, that looked at common factors in 223 different workplace studies over a 30 year period suggests that happiness at work is most strongly linked to underlying happiness and attitude. Essentially if you are happy in your life and are generally a happy person you will be happy at work…

Link to read this  article in full

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photo credit: kyeniz via photopin cc

The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

By Dr. Mercola

Are You Guilty of These 7 Sins of Happiness?

…identifying the seven ‘sins of happiness,’ which author Trent Hand compiled for Lifehack.  That is, the seven habits or attitudes that make happiness very hard to come by. Hand explained:

These “sins” are so deadly that we often don’t notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror.”

1. Comparing Yourself to Others

This will either make you feel guilty for living more comfortably than others who are struggling, or make you feel inadequate compared to those who have more. As Mark Twain said:  “Comparison is the death of joy.”

2. Talking About Your Dreams Instead of Going to Work on Them

Talking about your dreams is great, but only if you eventually follow through with them. Make a point to set short-term action steps that will help you achieve your long-term goals – and act on them.

3. Listening to People With Nothing Positive to Say

Spending time around consistently negative people will drain your energy and bring down your mood. It’s generally nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, you’re better off avoiding them as much as possible and surrounding yourself with positive people instead.

4. Focusing on the News

Watching the news is virtually guaranteed to bring you down and create feelings of helplessness and a lack of hope, as there’s not much you can do to improve the problems you’re seeing. Instead, focus on positive steps you can make in your local community, such as mentoring a child or delivering meals to the elderly.

5. Deciding Someone Else Needs to Change

Finding fault in others, and letting them know what they’re doing wrong, is easy. Much more difficult is looking inward to see how you can improve yourself instead. The latter will pay off by leading to a better you, while trying to fix others will likely be futile and interfere with your relationships.

6. Thinking “Happiness” is a Destination You Can Reach

If you think you’ll be happy once you accomplish a certain goal (like getting married or paying off your house), this is a myth. You must learn to find happiness during the journey, on a daily basis, rather than waiting to somehow find happiness at the end.

7. Forgetting to Say “Thank You”

It’s easy to take for granted all that you have to be thankful for – friends, family, loved ones, your health, your job … By focusing on all that you have to be grateful for (jot down whatever comes to mind on a notepad, for starters), you’ll instantly feel happier.

Living in the Moment: Another Key to Being Happy

Groucho Marx may not be the first person who comes to mind for a philosophy by which to live your life, but his words come with a definite air of wisdom:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

How often your mind wanders is frequently a predictor of how happy you are. One study found, in fact, that the more often you take yourself out of the present moment, the less happy you are.  The researchers concluded:

“ … people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and … doing so typically makes them unhappy.”

So … allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you’re doing right now, and take time to really be in the present moment. Practice mindfulness and avoid replaying past negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor what’s going on in your life now.

Link to the full original version of this article

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photo credit: drl. via photopin cc

Positive psychology is mainly for rich white people

James Coyne PhD picks up Barbara Ehrenreich’s retitled book and mounts a hefty critique of positive psychology his understanding of the messages it is selling.  There are important points here, despite how badly we believe these writers misrepresent positive psychology and the mission of the new economics and Gross National Happiness indexing.  See what you think…

When Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking  Has Undermined America was published outside of the United States, the book was retitled Smile or Die. The publisher was concerned that non-native English speakers might not understand the play on words in the original title. I think the retitling is actually more apt in capturing the message of positive psychology: buy our advice, buy our books, attend our workshops or die…

…Undoubtedly, rich white persons in the suburbs are more likely to score high on these measures. Positive psychology is applied ideology, not science, in encouraging them to congratulate themselves on the personal achievement the high score represents.  And if they are still unhappy or in ill health, the problem lies with the personal characteristics and their modifiable attitudes.

As for the poor and disadvantaged, the physically ill, they have only themselves to blame. As a wealthy positive psychology entrepreneur recently declared “Your attitude is the reason you are poor.” He went on to cite Barbara Frederickson:

In an article in the Journal of Business Venturing, leading positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson found positive emotions help build essential resources for entrepreneurs. Among those resources, the top three she found were social capital, resilience, and big picture thinking.

“It’s not just one of those things that’s going to matter more than the others,” Fredrickson said. “All three are part of a larger web that creates an upward spiral.”

So what is the solution to poverty and social inequality?  Poor people have to think positive, start smiling and expressing gratitude. What a program for individual and social change– or a shameful fraud. As Barbara Ehrenrich has pointed out in Bright-Sided (or Smile or Die), the downside of this ideology is personal self-blame and national denial. Reviewing Bright-SidedThomas Frank remarked:

“We’re always being told that looking on the bright side is good for us, but now we see that it’s a great way to brush off poverty, disease, and unemployment, to rationalise an order where all the rewards go to those on top. The people who are sick or jobless—why, they just aren’t thinking positively. They have no one to blame but themselves.”

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: Pörrö via photopin cc

Cycling across America: lessons in sustainability and happiness

Rob Greenfield’s 4,700-mile ride on a bamboo bicycle towing solar panels taught him the power of living a simple life

…I learned the power of a bicycle. It is a relatively simple machine but it can take us great distances both figuratively and literally. Life is good when you are on a bike. Good for yourself, good for the earth, and good for the people around you.

I recognised that people do genuinely want to help and to be a part of something greater than themselves but they just need that extra little push and they need to see someone else do it first. I learned that positivity tends to create more positivity, as does goodness.

Lastly, if you live simply, you can live free. The less complicated you make your life, the more time you have to spend doing what you love and what’s good for you.

Change begins with the actions of individuals. A big action that anyone can take is to become a conscious consumer and support businesses that are doing their part to protect the environment.

Businesses will sell what we will buy so we decide through our actions what is on the market. If as an individual you want to change the way business is done, then start buying from businesses that are using it as a means of positive change in the world…

For me business is a tool to create a happier, healthier planet as well as support myself and my employees. I just hope other companies can also come to recognise this.

Link to read Rob Greenfield’s full Guardian article

photo credit: Todo-Juanjo via photopin cc

photo credit: Todo-Juanjo via photopin cc

Happiness and Gumballs

The Happy Show offers visitors the experience of walking into the designer’s mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via meditation, cognitive therapy and mood-altering pharmaceuticals. “I am usually rather bored with definitions,” Sagmeister says. “Happiness, however, is just such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down.” Centered around the designer’s ten-year exploration of happiness, this exhibition presents typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally culled from Sagmeister’s diary, manifested in a variety of imaginative and interactive forms.  – from the city of Chicago website.

The exhibit was fantastic, and we spent over an hour enjoying the unique infographics and interactive displays, all relating the concept of happiness.

The most provocative art piece was Sagmeister’s attempt to show a graphical representation  of the happiness of the visitors to the show.  He did this based on the amount of gumballs that were taken from a row of ten old-fashioned gumball machines standing against the wall, numbered from 1-10, each machine signifying one higher level of individual happiness.

I thought about my level of personal happiness before I approached the gumball machines. I decided that I was relatively happy.  Even with some bumps in the proverbial road, I had my health, good friends, my hair, and I wasn’t bored yet with my existence.  I took a gumball from machine #7.  That put me in the top 25% of happiness…

Link to the rest of this story

The Happy Show by Stefan Sagmeister

Susan Schneider

Link to Susan Schneider’s post about her experience of this show

Happiness At Work Edition #60

See this week’s new collection for these – and many more – stories about happiness and wellbeing, creativity & artistry, resilience and learning, mindfulness and self-mastery, leadership and changing the world…

Link to Happiness At Work Edition #60

We hope you find things here to enjoy and incorporate in your own work, life and continuous learning.

Happiness At Work #59 ~ highlights in this collection

photo credit: art crimes via photopin cc

photo credit: art crimes via photopin cc

This week’s new collection Happiness At Work Edition #59 features a number of stories about the unhappiness and imbalance of our 21st century working lives, with research findings, forecasts and best practice recommendations for how we can remedy this and build a more flourishing life around our work.

Solutions range from making time for more conversation, to being more generous, to harnessing the insights from a new range of apps designed to measure our different ways of feeling at work, to getting outdoors, to practising mindfulness to playing to our preferred ways of working, especially if we are an introvert.

And, too, as this first story and a couple of our later articles suggest, we need to redesign our outdated 20th century ways of working – where we do it, how we do, when we do and who we do it with – if we really want to build a more resilient, sustainable, workable and successful future…

CIPD warns business – use top female talent or lose it

As the green shoots of economic recovery emerge, new CIPD research shows how urgent action needs to be taken by the corporate world to stem the leaking talent pipeline that could hinder the progress of growth.

Building on the messages in a report from the Women’s Business Council published in June, it is clear that if business does not adopt flexible or innovative working practices, it will continue to lose impressive women who decide to set up their own businesses to achieve a better work-life balance.

‘Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs,’ the second report in a three part series by the CIPD on entrepreneurial practices, highlights that there are more than 2.4 million unemployed women who want to work and that if there were as many female entrepreneurs as there are male entrepreneurs, GDP could be boosted by 10% by 2030.

To gain insight into what motivates female entrepreneurs and makes them successful, the CIPD interviewed a number of women to find out what made them go solo, what has made them thrive and what they think would encourage more to set up on their own. What became clear is that employers could have much to gain by creating the conditions in which these talented and committed women could thrive in the corporate world…

Link to read this article

photo credit: ttnk via photopin cc

photo credit: ttnk via photopin cc

Why You Should Care About Having Friends At Work

By 

Chatting over lunch and joking with coworkers may not seem like more than pleasant distractions at the office, but they could have an enormous impact on your work life. With employee engagement declining and more than eight in 10 American workersexperiencing job-related stress — female employees being even more more vulnerableto workplace tension than men — friendship could make the difference between happiness at work and burnout. Research has found that strong social connections at the office can boost productivity, and could make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.

According to Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, camaraderie is a key ingredient to happiness at work for male and female employees. A study led by Riordan, published in the Journal of Business Psychology in the ’90s, found that the mere opportunity for friendship increases employee job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

The Surefire Way To Be Happier At Work: Chat With Your Coworkers

A NEW STUDY FINDS THAT PEOPLE REALLY ARE PRETTY MISERABLE AT WORK, AND NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO WILL HELP. BUT THERE IS ONE PRETTY EASY FIX: YOUR COWORKERS.

…According to a new study (PDF) by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, published through the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, of all the things we choose to do at work (other than work!), it’s casually interacting with our colleagues that makes us happiest. From the article:

The largest positive net effect of combining work and another activity on happiness relates to ‘Talking, chatting, socialising’. . . .There are clearly positive psychological benefits of being able to socialise whilst working. It is the only activity that, in combination with working, results in happiness levels that are similar to those experienced when not working…

photo credit: marinakvillatoro via photopin cc

photo credit: marinakvillatoro via photopin cc

‘Talking at mealtimes boosts children’s confidence’

By Judith Burns

Mealtime chatter helps boost children’s communication skills, suggests a study by the National Literacy Trust.

Children whose families sit and talk during meals are more confident, the poll of 35,000 UK children indicates.

But more than one in every four misses out on daily mealtime chats with their families, suggests the poll.

Former EastEnders actress, mother and literacy campaigner Natalie Cassidy said: “Food is fuel for our bodies.  So is conversation for our brains.”

Ms Cassidy urged parents: “Even if you’re strapped for time, make 10-15 minutes to all sit down together.”…

The data suggests that sitting in silence at mealtimes is worse for children’s confidence than not sitting down for family meals at all.

The results suggest that some two-thirds (62%) of those who talk daily with their families at mealtimes feel confident to speak in front of a group, compared with less than half (47%) of those who eat in silence and just over half (52%) of children who don’t sit down for meals…

The trust’s director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research shows just how vital conversation at home is to the future success of our children and young people.

“Talking and communicating at home, for example at mealtimes, will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life.”

Link to read this article

An Introvert’s Guide To Happiness

By Beth Gilbert

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Introverts — people with quieter and more reflective personalities — typically thrive within the inner workings of their own minds. Extroverts, however, are more outgoing and tend to feel comfortable surrounded by people.

But social savvy isn’t the only difference between the two personality types: Research shows that the factors that contribute to an extrovert’s happiness and those that add to an introvert’s happiness don’t always mesh.

“An introvert’s rocket fuel is an extrovert’s Kryptonite and vice versa,” says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “Long stretches of quiet activities like reading, writing, and researching may energize an introvert, but can serve as solitary confinement for an extrovert. Frequent social interactions and multitasking can energize an extrovert and really zap an introvert.”

Story continues as a slideshow

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photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

Research Finds Happiness Is Found Outdoors

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The David Suzuki Foundation has discovered happiness. A report from the foundation has confirmed that a daily dose of nature boosts happiness and wellbeing…

The foundation asked more than 10,000 Canadians and 250 workplaces to participate in what it called the 30×30 Nature Challenge. Those participating were challenged to get outside for half an hour a day for 30 consecutive days.

Trent University Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet conducted the research initiative.

“We found that participation in the 30×30 Nature Challenge almost doubled their time spent outside during the month and reduced their screen time by about 4.5 hours per week,” said Nisbet of the spring report. “They reported significant increases in their sense of well-being, feeling more vitality and energy, while feelings of stress, negativity and sleep disturbances were all reduced.”

Nisbet reported the research indicated workplace participants said they felt more productive on the job. She reported participants indicated a slightly stronger sense of identification with the natural world and a desire to spend more time outdoors. Many of the people who took part in the challenge said they felt happier by eating lunch outside or walking through a park.

According to the foundation, the results of the challenge are consistent with growing evidence that even brief nature contact enhances positive mood and reduces stress…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: fiddle oak via photopin cc

Pay It Forward: Why Generosity Is The Key To Success

by Sean Blanda

When it comes to when and how we help others, most of us fit into one of three categories:

  • Givers, who help others unconditionally, demanding nothing in return.
  • Matchers, who usually only help those who have helped them.
  • Takers, those who demand help but never offer.

Penn professor Adam Grant is a Giver. He’s also the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and is the author of the best-selling Give and Take. Grant believes that the success of our careers is due to our generosity with our time and knowledge. Givers, he says, are usually either at the top or bottom of their field, with Matchers and Takers sprinkled in between.

After publicly proclaiming to the world that he answers any and all favor requestsin the New York Times, Grant is the best test case for his own theory. However, Grant manages it all well thanks to being ruthless with his time. I asked him how he handles the deluge and if he has any advice for those of us who feel too squeezed to be good “Givers.” …

Here is the link to read this interview with Adam Grant

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photo credit: jspad via photopin cc

3 Insights from the Frontiers of Positive Psychology

By Elise Proulx

…“The science of positive psychology has now achieved a point where it is comparable to the other sub-disciplines of psychology,” wrote IPPA president Robert Vallerand in the Congress’ welcome message. “And the scientifically informed applications of positive psychology are more popular and diversified than ever.”

As Vallerand suggests, the leaders of positive psychology have always prided themselves on delivering scientific findings with clear practical applications. Here are three of the most striking and practical insights I took away from the Congress.

1. Look to the future for a meaningful life.

Now-familiar research shows that we are happiest when we live in the present and that practicing mindfulness — which involves tuning in to our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment — is good for our bodiesbrains and relationships.

But in their IPPA keynote, Martin Seligman and Roy Baumeister, both giants in the field of positive psychology, argued for the importance of focusing on the future. Looking ahead, they believe, can bring meaning to our lives — a school of thought they call “prospective psychology.”

The core of this concept is that it becomes a lot easier to understand some of the complexities of the human mind once you consider that we evolved to predict the future — and that doing this well is key to survival.  “So intelligence isn’t about what you know,” said Seligman, “but about how well you can predict an act in the future.”…

So while happiness may be all about the present, meaningfulness may be found in the future. Only by connecting the two can one find the greatest meaning, purpose and happiness in life.

2. Detaching from work is a good thing … for most of us.

…Sonnentag defines detachment as a sense of “being away from work.”  While this feeling has different sources for different people, it could include staying off work email and not thinking about work in the evenings and on days off.

Detaching from work allows individuals to feel recovered and refreshed, Sonnentag said, which then allows them to have more energy and be more efficient in their work lives.

Sonnentag says detachment from work seems especially important — not surprisingly — when job stressors are high. Indeed, the more time pressure employees feel, the less able they are to detach, which leads to a negative spiral of stress and rumination.

Supervisors should take note: Being realistic about deadlines may make for a more efficient operation.

But not everyone feels the benefits from detachment: Employees who have strong positive emotions toward work — such as firefighters who feel their jobs provide a positive social impact — may benefit more from not detaching.  For this group, the positive feelings they have during the day spill over into evening rest time, and detaching can actually negate those positive feelings.

That said, while each individual needs to assess his or her own need for detachment, for most of us, periodically disconnecting from the stress of work and the burdens of technology — for example, by taking a Friday night family break from all electronics – is probably an important way to guard against burnout — and make us better workers.

3. “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.”

These words from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill infused psychologist Marino Bonaiuto’s talk on environmental psychology.

Bonaiuto, of the University of Rome, studies how the physical components of our environment are linked to and affect our mental states and social interactions.  When an individual’s biological or psychological needs are met by the resources available in the environment — green spaces, physical layout of infrastructure, well-tended buildings — there is good “person-environment fit” that leads to greater well-being…

In this way, Bonaiuto was affirming a theme I heard often at the Congress: the power we have to shape our happiness and the happiness of those around us.  Whether as individuals or working together as groups, the presenters emphasized, we can affect our external environment and internal landscapes for the better…

Here is the link to this article in full

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Mindfulness can improve leadership in times of instability

by Cheryl Rezek

A mindful leader can respond to change with focus and clarity, and avoid repeating the same mistakes

What does the ancient eastern practice of mindfulness, often associated with orange-clothed chanting monks, have to do with the fast-paced, performance-driven style of western leadership? In tough times, it could act as an influential asset in the public service’s fight for survival.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, a moment in time. It is about focusing attention on the present in a way that allows that moment to be experienced and observed closely. It involves developing the skills to allow yourself to engage actively with whatever is happening at the time, as well as concurrently viewing that moment from a more strategic standpoint.

…When there is less clutter and fewer distractions within one’s own head it is easier to gain clarity and perspective; mindfulness allows one to both notice more detail and see the bigger picture.

A mindful leader can reduce disorder by bringing focus and intent to the situation. By acknowledging and accepting change, the leader can step back, observe and respond with composure and purpose.

Dealing with change

If leaders realise that change is inevitable, they can encourage sufficient resilience in individuals, teams and organisations.  …This helps to safeguard an organisation from disillusionment and destruction by enforcing outdated rules and processes.

Research on mindfulness suggests that it can also help to:

•  reduce the cost of staff absenteeism caused by illness, injury and stress

•  improve cognitive functioning, memory, learning ability and creativity

•  improve productivity and improve overall staff and business wellbeing

•  reduce staff turnover and associated costs.

Mindful leadership is not a patronising fad implying that, if we are calm, everything will be fine.  The reality of our working world is that all may not be fine.  What mindfulness can do is develop a thinking, emotional and instinctual mind so that the leader can do the best for self, team and organisation.

This is the link to this original Guardian article, which includes a link to the full version of Cheryl Rezek’s article 

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photo credit: miriam.v via photopin cc

9 Leadership Essentials To Cause Meaningful Work

by 

Meaningful work stirs up internal satisfaction through doing the work and releasing it for others to benefit and experience.

While meaningful work is experienced at an individual level, its power is fully unleashed when it’s a characteristic of workplace or team culture.

So, then, what do leaders need to do to cause meaningful work?  Here are nine essentials.

Clarity in Your Values

Know what you stand for to anchor your leadership…

Culture of Optimism

The work environment needs to lead employees to believe that great results are possible through their contributions – individually and collectively. Additionally, employees are inspired by the good works of others and by their own output.

Concentration on People

A leader must believe that employees are the cornerstone to a business’s success.  Leadership actions and decisions essential for meaning are made from this central belief.

Connection Among Employees

Meaning expands when people have a sense of belonging.  Brené Brownadvocates that people need to believe they can be themselves and not worry about fitting in.  When connections exist among employees, belonging can emerge.

Constancy in Purpose

Leadership 101 always asks us to paint a picture of where we need to take the team.  Purpose helps paint such a picture.

Creative Conflict

Deeper meaning emerges when there is conflict between what we believe and do, and with different beliefs and approaches presented by others.

Charisma for Learning

Meaning thrives on insight and awareness.  These two criteria are only possible when we stay in a continuous learning loop…

Courage to Care

Address half-ass work and missed deadlines.  Celebrate milestones.  Give just-because recognition.  Have the courage to show you care about people and quality results – consistently.

Continuous Progress

Work that results in little or no progress frustrates, infuriates, alienates, and decimates meaning and hope.  People must see progress and alignment with the purpose you communicate.  Without progress, meaning wanes.

This list presents a major leadership challenge.  The weak leader will choose to procrastinate in creating a culture where meaningful work abounds. However, given the abysmal state of the workplace, it’s a choice that cannot be overlooked if a thriving culture is important to producing results and keeping talented people from leaving your team.

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: chlip via photopin cc

Why HR should tip its hat to the measuremement of wellbeing

by Andy Philpott

…there is much more to it than the headlines which revel in us being happier than the French or proclaim that marriage makes you happier than co-habitation.

The research also provides useful insight for anyone whose job it is to ensure their organisation can attract and retain the right employees.

For instance, the findings that those who work flexibly or study part-time have the greatest sense of wellbeing should spur any organisations to think about how training, education and a creative approach to working hours can be used as employee benefits.

The negative impact that illness and disability has on wellbeing is a call to action for all employers to take these issues seriously in the support they offer their employees.  Not just through reactive measures like employee helplines and health insurance but by proactive wellbeing programmes – whether these relate to financial or physical wellbeing.

More broadly, the focus on wellbeing is a reminder that happiness makes a great difference to the way people approach their lives. This applies to the workplace as much as anywhere else…

Here is the link to the rest of this article

From heart rates to surveys: How to keep workers happy

By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far

Unhappy workers leave.  

Recent studies show that up to 70% of workers in the US are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

Happy workers tend to be more productive – which makes it sensible to focus on making sure your staff are content…

Tiny Pulse is an app which sends out short weekly surveys to workers to see how happy they are, and makes graphs of the results so bosses can see how workers feel each week.  Employers can tailor the surveys, and can also give positive feedback straight to workers.

The app also allows employees to communicate with their bosses – anonymously.

Better tech at home

Microsoft chief envisioning officer and author Dave Coplin believes workers often have better technology at home than in the workplace; it used to be the other way around.  As a result he thinks people are often frustrated at work.

“Today people feel trapped by technology,” he says, explaining many workplaces have limited its use.

Work.com’s Nick Stein agrees.  Work.com is a platform that aims to increase performance, by focusing on aligning goals between employer and employee, providing feedback, and mutual motivation.  On Work.com employees have profiles which display their expertise and goals, and employers and employees can praise each other on performance day to day, rather than in one end-of-year review.

Mr Stein says the internet has given people more voice than ever before, but work environments have not kept up – it can still be hard to speak up.

Workers may feel they need to be at a certain level before they can express their views…

Healthy brain, healthy work

Companies don’t have to use bespoke tools to create happier workers.  Devices used to measure various health indicators can also gauge worker happiness.

Neuroscientist Rob Goldberg believes that pushing people is simply bad for the brain.  The result is that they don’t do their best work.

“We really need to push the perspective that brain health and performance are one and the same thing,” he says.

Mr Goldberg is part of Neumitra, a start-up out of MIT.  Their app Bandu measures stress levels via a special wrist watch.

Feeling stressed is a survival mechanism – however it stops the brain focusing and functioning effectively, according to Mr Goldberg.  He says employers should monitor workers’ stress levels and adjust accordingly.

There may even be the need for fundamental changes.  Mr Goldberg points to the high stress levels caused by getting into the office at rush hour.

Apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate, can be used to check employee health.

Yet working 9-5 is a historical throwback to the manufacturing production line, and is no longer relevant for many companies, he says.  So one easy way to reduce stress might be to change working hours to reduce the amount staff have to travel at peak times…

Journalist and founder of the non-profit The H(app)athon Project John Havens believes that other health related apps and tools can and should be used by workplaces.

He points to apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate using an iPhone’s camera, and Affectiva, created so that advertising agencies can read people’s emotions through their facial expressions.  These tools may not have been designed with offices in mind, but he says they can be used by bosses to see how well, and in turn how happy, their workers are.

However, he believes there are other factors at work.

“Most of it boils down to having a sense of purpose and meaning,” he says about workplace happiness.  “These should be more of a focus.”

Basic questions, not tools

Consultancy Delivering Happiness believes in the importance of deriving meaning from work.  It began as a book by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh, looking at how companies could make workers happy while also pursuing profits.

Now they consult, helping businesses focus equally on worker happiness and profits.

Chief executive Jenn Lim says happy workers require a company that knows what its values are, and that this is more important than tools and technologies.

“[Not asking these questions] is the answer to why we as a society can’t sustain our happiness,” she says.  “It all comes back to very basic things. If we don’t have the values in place all the rest could be a lost cause.”

Link to this article  about these 21st century ways of achieving greater happiness at work

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Britain’s working culture ‘damaging family life’

A new study has highlighted the impact that Britain’s ‘all work and no play’ culture could be having on employees’ personal lives.

Health cash plan provider Medicash conducted a survey of more than 1,000 working parents and found that more than four out of five (83 per cent) felt guilty about the amount of time they dedicated to their jobs.

Half (50 per cent) of respondents said their work commitments had limited the amount of time they could spend with their children and 46 per cent had experienced problems in their relationship with their partner.

A quarter (25 per cent) of workers have neglected friends because of their career responsibilities, according to the research.

Focusing on how demanding jobs can impact family life, the study found that 50 per cent of working mums and dads had missed a child’s sports day, school play or parents’ evening and 43 per cent had worked through holidays.

The majority (59 per cent) of people polled admitted that their children had complained about the amount of time they devoted to work.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and director of employee wellbeing firm Robertson Cooper, said: “The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant – it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.

“The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business’ bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments.”

photo credit: americanartmuseum via photopin cc

photo credit: americanartmuseum via photopin cc

The Five Beats of Successful Storytelling & How They Can Help You Land Your Next Job

by Jenn Godbout

Author Philip Pullman wrote, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  Whether we’re talking about life, business, or art, storytelling is an essential skill. Maybe even THE most essential skill.  But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.

Whether it’s your own personal bio, a summary for your company’s “about” page, or a pitch to a major client, fitting everything important into a concise yet engaging narrative is a challenging task.  So we turned to performer, comedian, and storytelling guru David Crabb to share his storytelling framework.  It’s called the Five Beats of Storytelling, and you can use it to make any story more interesting, engaging, and memorable.

For example, let’s say you’re a business major-turned-illustrator who’s jumped from finance to freelance and is now seeking an in-house position. When the interviewer asks about your work history, you’ll want to convey how your background is relevant, your excellent work ethic, and your passion for the position.  The five beats can help you hit your mark AND keep your audience engaged. Here’s how it breaks down:

Beat 1: The introduction

Where you set the scene and tell your readers everything they need to know to understand why what you’re about to say is important…

Beat 2: The inciting incident

The question that your story is asking OR when the protagonist (you or your company) is faced with a challenge.  This is a great place to show vulnerability…

Beat 3: Raising the stakes

A series of moments that give weight and context to the inciting incident.  This is a great place to get specific and provide details that will make your story more memorable…

Beat 4: The main event

This is where we see the inciting incident come to a head (aka the climax).  This is either the answer to the question we asked in the second beat or where the protagonist solves his or her dilemma — a pivot or a change (even if it’s just a shift in attitude) should occur…

Beat 5: The resolution

In the fifth beat, you have an opportunity to highlight what makes the story unique.  If you’ve just described a failure or challenge, this would be the time to reflect on what you learned…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: mharrsch via photopin cc

photo credit: mharrsch via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #59

For all of these stories and more see our Happiness At Work collection…

Enjoy.

Thinking about Thinking . . .

photo credit: jinterwas via photopin cc

photo credit: jinterwas via photopin cc

On 25th-27th October, with Maria Ana Neves we will be a part of a team of co-creators who help to make and open The Thinking Hotel in a beautiful gallery space in Stoke Newington, and this has stimulated me to think about the nature and breadth and range of what thinking is, could be, should try to be…

I will publish details and how to make a reservation at The Thinking Hotel once we know them.

For now, I hope these articles provide some nourishment to your own thinking this week…

Here’s How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

by

You may know that we often include articles from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, and so we were very happy to find this recent interview with this “reader who writes”…

If you aren’t familiar with the writing of Maria Popova, prolific author of the “discovery engine for interestingness” known as Brain Pickings, you’ve been missing out on some of the most fascinating and heady publishing on the web.

Here are some of the things she said about thinking, learning and creativity in this interview:

I’m not an expert and I aspire never to be one. As Frank Lloyd Wright rightly put it, “An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’” Brain Pickings began as my record of what I was learning, and it remains a record of what I continue to learn – the writing is just the vehicle for recording, for making sense.

That said, one thing I’ve honed over the years – in part by countless hours of reading and in part because I suspect it’s how my brain is wired – is drawing connections between things, often things not immediately or obviously related, spanning different disciplines and time periods. I wouldn’t call that “expertise” so much as obsession – it’s something that gives me enormous joy and stimulation, so I do it a great deal, but I don’t know if that constitutes expertise.

…Because Brain Pickings is simply a record of my own curiosity, of my personal journey into what matters in the world and why, it’s hard to quantify how much of my life is “research” – in fact, I feel like all of it is.

…we tend to conflate “research” with search, which is always driven by looking for something you already know you’re interested in; but I think the richest “research” is driven by discovery, that intersection of curiosity and serendipity that lets you expand your intellectual and creative comfort zone beyond what you already knew you were looking for.

…It’s hard to retreat into a quiet corner of your own mind when you feel demanded of. So I tend to write later in the day now, often well into the night, when email is quiet. The dark, too, is somehow grounding – I’ve always found lucubrating strangely meditative, like a bubble of light that envelops you and silences the rest of the world.

[Creativity is] the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected and meld existing knowledge into new insight about some element of how the world works. That’s practical creativity. Then there’s moral creativity: To apply that skill towards some kind of wisdom on how the world ought to work.

What makes a writer great?

The same thing that makes a human great: Curiosity without ego, and generosity of spirit. No amount of talent is worth anything without kindness.

…There’s nothing like being tossed into necessity to help you figure out who you are and what matters most in life – necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s even more so the fairy godmother of self-invention.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Not having relinquished the hope that happiness is possible. Waking up excited to do what I do. Going to bed satisfied with what I have done.

What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment…?

We’ve created a culture that fetishises the new(s), and we forget the wealth of human knowledge, wisdom, and transcendence that lives in the annals of what we call “history” – art, literature, philosophy, and so many things that are both timeless and incredibly timely.

Our presentism bias – anchored in the belief that if it isn’t at the top of Google, it doesn’t matter, and if it isn’t Googleable at all, it doesn’t exist – perpetuates our arrogance that no one has ever grappled with the issues we’re grappling with. Which of course is tragically untrue.

photo credit: Johan Rd via photopin cc

photo credit: Johan Rd via photopin cc

Robert Kegan: The Further Reaches of Adult Development: Thoughts on the ‘Self-Transforming Mind

old lady young optical illusion

Can you see both the older woman looking down and the younger woman looking to left in this picture?

Robert Kegan’s theory of adult meaning-making has influenced theory and practice internationally across multiple disciplines. In a special RSA event, he considers: is it really possible to grow beyond the psychological independence of the “self-authoring mind,” so often seen as the zenith of adult development?

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Intelligence, Beyond Raw Brainpower

by Annie Murphy Paul

What does it take to think and act in an intelligent way?  Many of us would say it’s simply a matter of raw brainpower…

But there’s much more to the story.  Other factors—like motivation, effective learning and problem-solving strategies, and a well-designed physical and psychological environment in which to do our thinking—also matter, a lot.   As does interpersonal awareness and sensitivity…

Situational factors exert their influence in so many ways, but today, inspired by a recent research finding, I want to focus on one in particular: how a mastery of situation can actually make us smarter as we get older.  In the current issue of the journal Psychological Science, researchers report that older people (over 65) showed less variability in their cognitive performance across 100 days of testing than did younger people aged 20 to 31.

Why?  The older adults’ greater consistency “is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood,” notes one of the scientists, Florian Schmiedek of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany.  A colleague of Schmiedek’s, Axel Börsch-Supan, adds that his research shows that older workers are more productive and reliable, and less likely to make serious errors, than are their younger colleagues.

photo credit: Monster. via photopin cc

photo credit: Monster. via photopin cc

There are other ways that our mental powers grow as we get older.  It’s true that as we age, the brain’s processing speed begins to slow, and memory may sometimes slip, says Margaret Gatz, PhD, professor of psychology, gerontology, and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California.  But researchers have recently made some surprising discoveries about what’s really happening in our heads as we age:  “We are identifying ways in which older minds hold their own against younger ones and even surpass them,” Gatz says. Here, ten such ways:

1. Your hemispheres sync up.

…Brain scans show that while young people often use only one side for a specific task, middle-aged and older adults are more likely to activate both hemispheres at once—a pattern known as bilateralization.  By involving both sides, older people bring the full spectrum of the brain’s power to bear, allowing them to make more fruitful connections among the disparate parts of a problem or situation.

2. Your brain never stops growing.

…it’s now clear that we not only hang on to our neurons—we grow new ones, too. Throughout a person’s lifetime, the brain is continually reshaping itself in response to what it learns. Even something as silly as a clown trick, like learning to juggle, or learning to play a musical instrument can alter its structure…

3. Your reasoning and problem-solving skills get sharper.

This is evident not only in laboratory studies but also in examinations of choices made in real life. For example, according to a study, …the middle-aged make smarter money decisions than their younger counterparts…

4. You can focus on the upside.

Our outlook grows rosier as we get older, as demonstrated by a study published last year in the journal Psychology and Aging. …With the passage of time, the study subjects reported more positive well-being and greater emotional stability…

5. Your people skills are constantly improving.

Mature adults understand themselves well—and they also understand other people, research shows. In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology in 2007, older and younger adults were presented with a series of hypothetical everyday problems …The older adults were especially good at solving such interpersonal dilemmas—often by choosing a path that skirted direct conflict. “As we get older, our social intelligence keeps expanding,” explains Gatz. “We get better at sizing up people, at understanding how relationships work—and at not getting into an argument unless we mean to.”

6. Your priorities become clearer.

“Studies of the way adults perceive time suggest that we become increasingly aware that our years on this Earth are limited,” notes Michael Marsiske, PhD, …an expert on aging.  “This awareness helps explain the choices that older adults tend to make: to spend time with a smaller, tighter circle of friends and family, to pay more attention to good news than to bad news, and to seek out positive encounters and avoid negative ones.”

 7. You’re always adding to your knowledge and abilities.

There are some kinds of information we learn and never forget.  Take vocabulary:  Studies show that we keep adding new words to our repertoire as we age, giving us ever richer and more subtle ways to express ourselves.  Job-related knowledge also continues to accumulate, meaning we keep getting better and better at what we do.

8. You can see the big picture.

As we age, we’re better able to take the measure of a situation.  An experiment published in the journal Neuron in 2005 provided a very literal demonstration of this ability: Psychologist Allison Sekuler, …found that young brains seem to be better at focusing on details to the exclusion of their surroundings, and more mature brains are able to take in the whole scene.

 9. You gain control of your emotions.

While young people ride a roller coaster of happiness and sadness, excitement and disappointment, older adults are able to maintain a more even keel.  In a study published in 2009, psychologist Vasiliki Orgeta …concluded that older adults (between ages 61 and 81) had more clarity about their feelings, made better use of strategies to regulate their emotions, and had a higher degree of control over their emotional impulses.

 10. You become an instant expert, even in new situations.

As the brain encounters new experiences, it develops schemas—mental frameworks that allow us to recognize and respond to similar circumstances when we come upon them again.  By midlife we’ve accumulated a stockpile of schemas that help give us our bearings even in novel situations.  We just know what to do—and this sense of effortless mastery flows from the reservoir of experience we’ve built up over time.  In fact, we have a name for this ability to draw on deep knowledge of the past while accommodating what comes up in the present: It’s called wisdom.

Link to read the article in full

Daniel Kahneman on Thinking Fast vs. Thinking Slow

Here is the link to watch a set of video interviews with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman on Making Smarter Decisions in this Inc. posting:

The bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow talks about overcoming the cognitive biases and errors that can affect decision-making…

photo credit: khalid almasoud via photopin cc

photo credit: khalid almasoud via photopin cc

Seven Steps to Being Zen at Work

VICTORIA CRAW BUSINESS EDITOR

SLOW down. Do less. You’ll actually be more productive.

That’s the advice of cognitive psychologist Dr Stephen McKenzie, who said the way most of us spend our workdays amid a barrage of emails, tweets and meetings, while wolfing down lunch in front of a screen is leading to an “epidemic of mindlessness” that is ruining our ability to think.

“We rush around often from one mistake to another. Mindfulness is about connecting with one thing at a time, rather than doing six things at once,” he said.

Dr Mckenzie advocates being mindful at work – a concept that involves giving your full attention to the task at hand before moving on to the next thing.

“It’s very simple. It’s being able to give our full attention to what we want to give it to rather than being distracted by our thoughts …. It’s being connected with reality,” he said.

Below are Dr McKenzie’s seven tips (the optimum number for your brain to remember) which if practised daily, should have you shredding that to-do list in no time.

1. Know your limits

One of the main reasons people can get stressed at work is trying to be all things to all people…

2. Treat each day as new

Dr McKenzie said the first few seconds after you wake up each morning, before you smash your alarm clock and bury your head under the pillow, is the optimum state you should try and hold on to throughout the day.

A good tip is to try and treat colleagues as if you’re meeting them for the first time – without any preconceived ideas about who is difficult to work with or what might cause a problem…

3. Think about what you’re doing

…”We mistake busyness for productivity,” Dr McKenzie said. “We think if we have all these things happening we’ll be more productive but we’re actually doing less. The multi-tasking that’s become fashionable is about doing lots of things badly rather than one thing well.”

He said it’s crucial to focus on the task in front of you, whether it’s eating your breakfast or typing an email…

4. Take your time

Although it might seem like you’re working slower, taking your time to pause between activities is the perfect chance to mentally switch gears and make things more productive in the long run.

Dr McKenzie said when people are stressed they tend to have “a shallow way of perceiving things”, which doesn’t help when it comes to tasks that require creative thinking or deep thought.

He said the best thing to do is break between jobs, whether it’s to get a drink, take a walk or a few deep breaths to shake out the cobwebs…

5. Do something for someone else

“Service is almost as unfashionable these days as lard, but if we do things for others it means that we’re expanding our personal lives,” Dr McKenzie said. Listening to other people’s ideas, rather than telling them what they want to hear can also be a great way to build better relationships with colleagues…

6. Question your reasons for doing things

…it’s a good idea every now and then to challenge your own beliefs in order to understand other perspectives.

“Try starting the day practising being reasonable rather than reactive, and a great way to start this is by really tuning into the people or whomever who we start the day with – this will help us realise that life is more reasonable when we’re mindful enough to realise that people have reasons for what they do.”

7. Have a sense of wonder

While years working in a corporate environment is enough to kill the sense of childlike wonder in most workers, Dr McKenzie said remembering to smell the roses will help improve productivity.

…Three-year-olds are naturally mindful because they aren’t jaded by life, and we can all remember and therefore return to this state of full aliveness, simply by fully connecting with what is,” he said.

Here is the link to read this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

In Their Words: Michael Corballis & Mind Wandering

By 

…The hippocampus is also a cognitive map, coding one’s location in space. Spatial mapping is especially critical to London taxi drivers, who must decide the quickest route to a passenger’s destination immediately, without looking at a map, consulting a GPS system, or asking a controller by radio or cellphone. Brain imaging shows their hippocampi to be enlarged relative to those of London bus drivers, who follow fixed routes.

Even rats pass the great hippopotamus test. Recordings from so-called place cells in their hippocampi code where the rat is located in an environment such as a maze. But even when the rat is out of the maze, and either asleep or otherwise motionless, place cells are often active in fast “ripples,” sweeping out trajectories in the maze. These trajectories need not correspond to trajectories the animal actually took while it was in the maze. Sometimes they are the reverse of an actual trajectory, and sometimes they correspond to trajectories the rat never actually took. The rat, it seems, is mind wandering.

Mind wandering in humans, though, no doubt includes elements other than places. We construct episodes that include things, actions, emotions, people—even Jeanie with the light brown hair. We even wander into the minds of others. Mind wandering is the source of stories, imaginary tales of heroism, love, and death. Language itself may have evolved precisely so we could share the wandering of our minds.

This is an extract from the talk, Mind Wandering Corballis gave at Brain Day 2013.

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

photo credit: Tom Rydquist via photopin cc

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully.

by Sam Spurlin

In the time you’ve read this sentence, your brain has processed about 200 “bits” of information.  Your brain can handle roughly 100 bits of information per second which then become part of your awareness.  Following a conversation between two people takes about that much bandwidth (have you ever noticed how hard it is to follow three or more people talking at the same time?)…

That sounds like a huge number, right? However, we’re talking about the entirety of your experiences as a human being being encapsulated in one simple number. Every emotion, thought, sensation, and conversation you’ll ever have is included in that number and the way you’ve allocated those 150 billion bits of attention over the course of your life will make up the entirety of who you were and what you accomplished.

Suddenly, 150 billion doesn’t seem so big…

For some, productivity is about fiddling with new tools or shaving seconds off an ultimately meaningless task. It can be fun to read about others’ productivity hacks and try them in our own workflows. But really, thinking about productivity means coming back to those 150 billion bits that make up who you are and who you will be.

It becomes less about tips and tricks and more about making sure you’re allocating the most scarce resource in the universe, your attention, in ways that most closely align with who you are and what impact you want to have on the world. It’s about eliminating the unnecessary tasks and demands that are eating away at your 150 billion bits so you can focus on something that helps another person or creates a little more beauty in the world or solves an important problem or makes you feel like you’re on this planet to do something worthwhile.

“Being productive” isn’t about getting more work done. It’s about making sure those 150 billion bits are spent as wisely as possible…

photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius via photopin cc

photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius via photopin cc

How Parallel Thinking Helps To Improve Creativity

Deborah Watson-Novacek

When you are asked to present your best thinking hat, do you proceed to inquire: “Which one”?

Then you are by no means an absolute stranger to what is commonly known as the Six Thinking Hats.

This unique technique, popularly used as parallel thinking to improve creativity, was first introduced by Edward de Bono, for initiating and sustaining creative thinking both in individuals as well as groups meetings.

So, are you interested in figuring out how this fancy named Six Thinking Hats technique can be implemented at work? …

When a participant puts on a specific colored hat, they start thinking in a manner that reflects the color represented by that specific hat and acts accordingly.  So, what is it that each one of these colored hats stands for?

White Hat:  This hat stands for information.  It implies that when a participant wears this hat, they start thinking in facts and data terms, which also implies stops thinking at all.  They ‘reflect’ on information only.

Red Hat:  This hat stands for feelings and intuition.  Participants who adorn this hat have to simply keep their mind open and let their feelings freely flow. ..

Black Hat:  This hat stands for caution.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look underneath everything that is discussed.

Yellow Hat:  This hat stands for positivism.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look at the positive side of everything discussed.

Green Hat:  This hat stands for creativity.  Participants who adorn this hat must think creatively as well as innovatively. They have to produce never-before kind of ideas about everything discussed.

Blue Hat:  This hat is used by the facilitator or moderator.  Participants who adorn this hat have to look at the picture as a whole.

Hence, you select the hats which are required for a particular part of your thinking process…

Link to this article in full

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

photo credit: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

The Perfect Workspace (According to Science)

by Christian Jarrett

The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave.  This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance.  Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.

…Based on recent psychology and neuroscience findings, here are some simple and effective steps you can take once to improve your productivity for years:

Take ownership of your workspace 

The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your workspace has an empowering effect and has been linked with improved productivity.

Craig Knight, Director of the Identity Realization workplace consultancy, showed this in a 2010 study with Alex Haslam involving 47 office workers in London. Those workers given the opportunity to arrange a small office with as many or few plants and pictures as they wanted were up to 32 percent more productive than others not given this control. They also identified more with their employer, a sign of increased commitment to the team effort and increased efficiency…

Choose rounded furniture and arrange it wisely

If you have the luxury of designing your own workspace, consider choosing a layout and furniture that is curved and rounded rather than sharp and straight-edged. Creating this environment has been linked with positive emotions, which is known to be beneficial for creativity and productivity…

This contrast between straight edges and curves also extends to the way we arrange our furniture. Apparently, King Arthur was on to something: sitting in circles provokes a collective mindset, whereas sitting in straight lines triggers feelings of individuality – something worth thinking about at your next meeting if you want to encourage team cohesion…

Take advantage of colour, light and space

…For instance, exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, the colour red has been linked with superior performance on tasks involving attention to detail. Another study out this year showed that a dimmer environment fostered superior creativity in terms of idea generation, probably because it encourages a feeling of freedom. On the other hand, brighter light levels were more conducive to analytical and evaluative thinking…

Make use of plants and windows

If you only do one thing to optimize your workspace, invest in a green plant or two.  Research has repeatedly shown that the presence of office plants has a range of benefits including helping workers recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels.  As a bonus, there’s also evidence that plants can reduce office pollution levels.

Another feature of an optimized office is a window with a view, preferably of a natural landscape.  This is because a glance at the hills or a lake recharges your mind.  Obviously a view of nature isn’t possible for many people who work in cities, but even in an urban situation, a view of trees or intricate architecture have both been linked with restorative benefits.  If you can’t negotiate a desk with a view, [a visit to a park] will revitalise your mind and compensate for your lack of a view.

The benefits of a messy desk

There’s a lot of pressure these days to be organized. How are you supposed to get your work done if you can’t even find a clear space on your desk to roll a mouse or place a plant? But new research suggests Einstein may have been onto something when he opined: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Here’s the link to this article in full

photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

Dave Coplin: Re-imagining Work: Shifts in the Digital Revolution

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if organisations really began to think differently about the power of technological and social change to transform the way we do business.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Here is an extract from what Coplin says in this talk with the things I would especially highlight:

A study released last year in the U.S. said 71% people are not happy in their work … and technology is a large part of the problem…

The first proposition is that the world around us has completely changed BUT … we’ve reached this place the plateau of mediocrity … You still use a keyboard, you still use a mouse The way you use these devices has not changed in fifty years. You’re still doing email, you still writing work process documents, you’re doing spreadsheets presentations…

If we cannot evolve, if we change the way we think about the jobs we are doing, the tasks that we have, we’re always going to be constrained…

My proposition about consumerisation is that we’re about to enter a second generation that’s not about devices anymore, but about services … this is about changing business processes. We’re already seeing examples … What’s underneath all of this is a genuinely new process of collaboration … When you are using something like Facebook or Twitter you are using a fundamentally different culture of collaboration. You are saying, pretty much everything I do by default is open except for the bits I choose to keep private. Contrast that to the standard of culture inside most organisations. It’s completely inverted: everything I do is closed unless I specifically say I’m going to share this. The change in that is absolutely profound…

We’re in a world where productivity, that thing that we’ve been chasing for hundreds of years, is fast becoming the problem … We spend our days answering email … batting things back and forward. We’ve forgotten that that’s not everything about work … When was the time you actually stopped and to think creatively: ‘how could we do things differently?’ We don’t do that because we’re too busy being busy…

But it doesn’t stop there. In fact really the biggest challenge that we face is more about our office space than it is about the tools that we use within them.. For the average knowledge worker you don’t have to be in a specific place at a specific time… There’a different way where you think of work as an activity rather than a destination… choosing the location of where you want to be. It’s also about you taking control of how you work and how you use the tools that are in front of you… Where we used to talk about the work-life balance and we used to think really binary – I’m at work; I am at home – the reality of today’s society, the reality of what technology affords you the choice of is that you can feather those things. And it’s really up to us as a culture, as a society, to see if we’re up to making that choice… And so based on the tasks I have to do today, where is the best place for me to work…?

And trust is crucial. Trust works on many levels. We found that … the biggest issue of people working outside the office is not between the employer and the employee, it amongst the employees themselves: “I can’t see Dave. I wonder if he’s really working? I wonder how his patio’s coming on.” But we also showed that people who weren’t working in the office, they carried around this sense of guilt: “I’m not in the office. They’re going to be thinking I’m working on my patio.” So they end up over-compensating. They end up sending more emails, making more phone calls in an attempt to be more visible, destroying the advantages of working away from the office. So for most organisations it about this really hard thing. It’s about having the confidence to let go. It’s about empowering the people that you work with the confidence to choose the best place to work, the best tools to use… That’s a really scary place for most organisations to be…

Some ideas to give you some ways to change your thinking about what you do inside your organisation…

I challenge you, like the DVLA. to think what you’ve got in your organisations that you don’t need to do any more…?

The other part of this is trying to get yourself to think really differently about potential outcomes. We’re constrained by our past experience. Everything that happens to us colours what we think about the future, how we think the future’s going to play out. But kids think differently… don’t just get constrained by your past experiences, think about a different world…

Envisioning is crucial because it’s about that human focus, it’s about “there’s a different way that we could do this.” And if you think about that different way, then the technology will follow that goal, rather than it being just this iterative thing of we do the same thing but just slightly better…

The other thing is the arrogance of the present… “why would I ever need more bandwidth than I have now!” … And if you can’t envision any other future world, then you can’t measure the value of any future innovation… You can’t avoid the arrogance of the present, but you can recognise that it will come up and try and think differently about what might happen… We need to think how can we use our technology to get us further…

If we’re going to do this we’ve got to educate people to really think differently about technology, and not just kids, everybody. We need to live in a world that thinks about skills not tools… What we should be doing is teaching people how to communicate properly, and critical thinking…

And we have to remember that the organisation’s role in this…is seeing the big picture… The focus becomes on process itself, we’ve lost touch with the outcomes of the organisation. We forget to take stock, to take a step back and think about what is it that we’re actually trying to do here?…

And that’s the final key…it’s all about us. It’s all about people, it’s about the individual, it’s about being empowered…to think about what is it that I could contribute to my organisation to help them achieve that outcome…

If you do those things then I think you’re in a great place to re-imagine the way your organisation works…

Don’t Do It! App Aims to Help You Make Better Decisions

Even the best leaders make mistakes. Now, there’s a way to prevent bad decisions from happening — via mobile app.

The Management Thinking Mistakes app wants to help decision makers avoid making mistakes in thinking by providing a misconception-debunking tool that can guide them in the right direction.

To help users steer clear of thinking traps, the Management Thinking Mistakes app aims to prevent mistakes before they occur. Using a crowdsourced collection of the most common thinking mistakes, users can learn to recognize common fallacies, biases and effects that can result in poor decision-making. By providing context-specific thinking mistakes, uses are able to find relevant information to help them properly evaluate situations.

“Thinking mistakes are defects in our thinking process that weaken our aim to find the best solutions,” said developers WiB Solutions in a press release. “By learning to recognize common fallacies, biases and effects, we can avoid these mistakes in the context of meetings or decision making. At the same time, we can also learn to recognize the thinking mistakes when used by others.”

The Management Thinking Mistakes app is available to download for free at the Apple App Store. The app will also be used at Harvard University in the fall semester…

The Beauty And Calm Of ‘Thinking In Numbers’

There are numbers all around us. They are in every word we speak or write, and in the passage of time. Everything in our world has a numeric foundation, but most of us don’t see those numbers. It’s different for Daniel Tammet. He’s a savant with synesthesia, a condition that allows him to see beyond simple numerals — he experiences them.

“Every number has its own colour so the number 1 is like a shining light from a lantern. The number two is more like a flowing, darker purple, violet color. Three is green, and after 10 what happens is I see the colours but the individual digits contribute their own colors, so I am seeing a blend of those primary colors. And when I recited the number pi, I would see the colors as a landscape, full of textures and emotions, and it would blend together like a kind of story, or poem, that I could recite to those who were listening to me.”

5,040 “is a highly divisible number. You can take any number of the first digits 2, and 3 and 4 … and so on and 5,040 divides evenly into them. It also divides into 12, and so in Plato’s imagination, the perfect society would divide into 12 … According to this figure, everything would be divided evenly. There would be no war, there would be no discord, and of course this idea is extremely attractively to our ears today. Ears that hear too often news of wars and famine and misery. And, at the same time, I think we’re, all of us, wise enough to realise Plato was perhaps a little bit naive as well … There are things that we cannot calculate … There is always an element of humanity that escapes mathematics, that escapes numbers as well.”

Here is the link to read more of this story and hear the interview with Daniel Tammet talking about how he thinks

Dr Iain McGilchrist on ‘The Divided Brain

Q&A with Iain McGilchrist
by Margaret Emory

How many times have you been told, “Oh you’re such a left-brain person,” meaning you think logically, are good with numbers, very analytical and so on? And upon hearing that summation, you long for the right brain’s creative, intuitive, artistic complements. Why can’t they be part of the equation, you wonder.

We used to believe the two parts of the brain work in harmony, but according to London psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, there’s a definite shift in our modern culture which favors left-brain dominance—and it’s something we ought to watch out for and correct. In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2009), McGilchrist discusses the hemispheres and their different “personalities,” and then shows a sweeping dissertation on the history of Western civilization as seen from the context of the divided brain…

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

I think an aspect of being a conscious being is that you are aware that you can become powerful by manipulation.  Other creatures, of course, are competing and manipulating, but they’re probably not aware of the fact that this is a way of becoming powerful—that it seems to work well for a lot of the things that one does as one grows a civilisation  …One creates these things that seem to make life simpler, easier and better and make you more powerful.  It’s enticing, and you can soon begin to think that everything works like this.  Everything in your world seems to break down into a lot of machines that we’ve created.  

While this is a very interesting way of looking at things, it’s basically a practical tool for getting ahead. It’s not really a very good instrument for … finding out actually what the world is and how we know about it.  It can lead us to narrow down the way we think about things to a merely rationalistic set of propositions, a series of algorithms…

One of the interesting elements that comes out in research into the “personalities” or the “takes” of the two hemispheres is that the left hemisphere thinks it knows it all, and as a result is extremely optimistic.  It overvalues its own ability.  It takes us away from the presence of things in all their rich complexity to a useful representation—that representation is always much simpler.  And an awful lot is lost in it.  

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you need to simplify.  For example, if you’re designing a building or if you’re fighting a campaign, you need a map, a scheme.  You don’t really need all the richness of what would be there in the real world.  But I’m afraid that that representation moves into a world where we have the ability constantly to interact with the world only as a representation, over a screen.  Even Facebook and social networking may look like you have suddenly have loads of friends, but what it may actually do is take you away from your real-life friends so that your life is more crowded and there’s less time, actually, to be aware peacefully of the world around you and to interact socially—a word that used to mean “with your fellow creatures.” …

People often ask me, “what can we do about this?”  I think they’re rather hoping I’ll give them a list of bullet points—“The 12 Things You Need”—like a best-selling paperback.  That is really a perfect example of the left hemisphere.  “Okay.  Fix it by having a little plan.  We do this, we do that, and bingo!”  

But in fact, what I have tried to convey throughout the entire book is that the world, as it is, has its own shape, value, meaning and so on, and that we crowd it out with our own plans, thoughts and beliefs, which are going to be narrow.  A wise thing to do would be not to do certain things.  Another theme of my book is that negation is creative.  That by having less of something, more comes into being.  So actually what we need to do is not create a world.  We need to stop doing lots of things and allow the wonderful thing that is already there to evolve, to give it room to grow.  That’s also true of a single human mind…

We are now understanding the benefits of mindfulness, which is officially recommended by the British body NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence).  

The essence of mindfulness is clearing your mind of all the stuff that’s going on in there and stopping you from experiencing life.  You’re so busy feeling bad about the past you can’t change and chasing after a future you can’t predict, instead of actually being alive in the moment.  That is really the essence of mindfulness.  Recent research shows that mindfulness engages wide networks in the right hemisphere, and the EEG studies show that there is a more balancing of the two hemispheres in those who are meditating.  

So I think meditation and not doing things, making space in your life and switching off your machines, being present in the moment and practicing mindfulness would be a way to start…

The cognitive processing model is mechanistic and sees us like a complicated heating system with valves and pumps and thermostats that switch things on and off.  But one of the interesting things about the hemispheres is that the right hemisphere seems to be better able to take into its vision the information that is coming to it from what was always called the lower parts of the brain, the more ancient parts of the brain, and indeed, from the body.

The difficulty with the cognitive model is that we think of the brain as a computer, and we think of memory as something like a data bank.  Memory, of course, is not at all like that.  It’s part of the human’s whole world and is distributed in the body.  In a way, you can say that the very muscles have memory. Memory is not something that is unchanging. It is contextual—and that’s a weakness of it in some ways, but it’s also very much the strength of it.

We now know that even something like the heart actually communicates with the brain and gives as much information back to the brain—in fact, possibly more—than the brain gives to the heart. Anyone who suffers from depression will know that you have this terribly heavy oppressive feeling in the center of your chest.  The things that you feel in your body are of course experienced through the brain, but they then are seen and experienced phenomenologically in the body.  Our bodies and our brains can’t be separated in that way.

So although cognitive science is a very useful thing, I think it ought to learn less from the Cartesian tradition of philosophy and more from the phenomenological tradition of philosophy, particularly from the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, who is probably the single most important philosopher of the last century for those who are interested in the relationship between mind and the body…

Link to read full article

Happiness At Work Edition #59

For all of these stories and more see our Happiness At Work collection…

Enjoy.

Happiness At Work #53 ~ highlights in this collection

Photo: Sue Ridge www.sueridge.com

Photo: Sue Ridge
http://www.sueridge.com

In this week’s headlines, several articles report new findings that show the importance of continuous learning at every stage of our lives to keep our brains fit and healthy, especially in our older years…

Reading, writing may help preserve memory in older age

By MICHELLE CASTILLO

A study published on July 3 in Neurology revealed that reading, writing and doing other mentally-stimulating activities at every age helped stave off memory problems.

“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a press release…

Top 14 ways to increase your IQ

14 ways to increase your IQ and improve the way in which your brain functions.

1. Walk Around the Block

2. Take Deep Breaths...

3. Keep a Journal…

4.  Explore New Things…

5. Take Frequent Short Breaks…

6. Improve Your Memory…One of the best ways to remember information is by using acronyms…

7. Eat breakfast...

8. Use Your Body to Help You Learn. Movement is a key part of the process of development and learning… Brain Gym exercises can help with things such as:

  • Comprehension
  • Concentration
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Memory
  • Mental Fatigue
  • Completing tasks…

9. Meditate…

10. Stay Away From Sugar

11. Cultivate Your Emotional Intelligence…

12. Use Downtime…

13. Engage All of Your Senses.  Researchers have found that the human brain learns best through multi-sensory association…

14. Load Up on Antioxidants

Not The Same Old Garden Path – How We Can Literally Think Differently

 by William A. Donius.

As we age, neuroscientists tell us, our thoughts and patterns become more ingrained. The way our brains process, sort and ultimately respond to questions is akin to taking the same path through the garden over and over.

We get to know the path very well, and it becomes familiar to us. As long as the problems we face are familiar, so are our approaches to solving these problems. We are in our intellectual “comfort zones.” …

When we’re asked to think differently, we’re essentially being asked to take a path through the proverbial garden we’ve never taken before. It’s a bit uncomfortable, for we’re no longer in familiar territory. If asked to deviate too far from our comfort zone, we may even experience a mild panic.

How, then, do we break out of our intransigent ways of thinking? Research demonstrates that we can indeed learn to think differently…

The Science of Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone (and Why You Should)

ALAN HENRY

You’ve seen inspirational quotes that encourage you to get out and do something strange—something you wouldn’t normally do—but getting out of your routine just takes so much work. There’s actually a lot of science that explains why it’s so hard to break out of your comfort zone, and why it’s good for you when you do it. With a little understanding and a few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and do great things…

Outside your comfort zone can be a good place to be, as long as you don’t tip the scales too far. It’s important to remember there’s a difference between the kind of controlled anxiety we’re talking about and the very real anxiety that many people struggle with every day. Everyone’s comfort zone is different, and what may expand your horizons may paralyze someone else. Remember, optimal anxiety can bring out your best, but too much is a bad thing.

Here are some ways to break out (and by proxy, expand) your comfort zone without going too far…

BY: 

Researchers found that the stress induced by running prevents the activation of new neurons in response to stress, at least in sedentary mice. Can exercise make you stronger in your ability to handle stress –less sensitive to the stresses of daily life? …

A research team based at Princeton University has found that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function…

Why Neuroscience Matters To You

 writes:

The reality is that we are humans, period. If we think we can separate our humanity from our career – we’re only fooling ourselves. We bring all of our humanity to bear on behaviors and decisions in our lives, careers and families. So why not learn what makes us humans “tick” so that we can be better at everything we do? That makes more sense to me than trying to shut down our humanity – which we can’t do anyway.

Since I started studying practices such as neural linguistic programming, quantum biology, quantum mechanics and more, I’ve learned so much about how and why we think and behave as we do – especially the seemingly irrational decisions

and behaviors. For example, did you know that:

    • Our unconscious mind directs ~ 95% of our behaviors and decisions…
    • We’re programmed to hang onto the status quo until we see that the status quo as being unsafe…
  • We also have a program called the herd instinct…

There are many other programs that drive our lives. Finally, we know the truth. Life really is all in our minds!

Here are three steps to begin to upgrade your mindware. Try them for a month and you will see a change!

  • Ask questions instead of making statements...
  • Make the status quo unsafe. ..
  • Step away from the herd…

What if you could upgrade every program that bounds your perceptions and your potential? What if you could see new and exciting choices about everything in your life? What would you rewrite? …

10 Ways to Find Your Own Personal Strengths

BY 

Our personal strengths are part of what makes us unique as individuals, and part of the value we offer to the world around us. If we’re not aware of our personal strengths, however, we don’t always utilize them as fully as we could, and we potentially miss out on true fulfilment in our lives and careers.

In this post, you’ll discover 10 ways to find your personal strengths. You might find that some of the methods below are more effective for you than others, so cherry-pick the techniques that resonate…

5 ways to boost your career with happiness

In this hilarious and insightful speech, Rowan Manahan explains that happiness at work (in Danish: arbejdsglaede) is not a pipe dream but the best way to get your dream job, boost your career and become more successful.

Why don’t people pay a little more attention (and a whole lot more respect!) to their own happiness — and what happens when they do?

Rowan argues that this is the next evolutionary leap that mankind will make and has some simple, practical, and actionable steps that you can take to come out of the Dark Ages in your working life and into the Age of Enlightenment…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WXCUbzENws&list=PL5ZAXgmtneq76e606oDFfbZk3q7ihFu8I&feature=player_embedded

The global happiness research aiming to make the world smile (and live longer)

Psychologist Ed Diener is considered to be the foremost expert on the science of happiness. The Smiley Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois (named after Joseph R Smiley, not the expression), Professor Diener studies happiness on a global scale as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organisation.

Gallup’s World Poll investigates international levels of happiness through a huge worldwide study, which Professor Diener describes as ‘the first representative sample of humanity’.

The survey encompasses over a million people from 160 countries (unfortunately the Vatican and North Korea didn’t make the cut).

‘We’ve learned a great deal about the universals,’ Professor Diener says. ‘We find for example that basic needs like having enough food are important across the world—that’s not surprising. But we also find social things [are important] like being respected and being able to trust other people.’ …

His happiness research over the years has uncovered some interesting trends, including work he’s done with the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman on what it takes to be extremely happy.

‘We looked at like the top 5%, the really, really happy people.  And we found one universal that applied to all of them and that is they all had close, supportive relationships, people who would really step up and help them and go to bat for them.’ …

‘Happy people are healthier, they have more friends and better social relationships, they are better citizens and they are even more productive at work. We know this by doing lots of kind of studies—one is we get happiness ratings from young people in young adulthood and we follow them over time and we find out that years later the happy people live longer, the happy people get sick less.’

‘Their immune system is stronger; we see that certain cardiovascular parameters are healthier.  So we know both from experimental studies and from longitudinal studies that it’s causal that happiness is making people better off.’

Professor Deiner believes that while some are born happier than others, everyone can alter their level of happiness…

The Latest Findings on Workplace Happiness

This past weekend some of the top social scientists in the world gathered to present the latest research on human flourishing and well-being. More than a thousand people packed an L.A. hotel to listen to luminaries such as Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson dissect empirical findings on what it means to be happy. Literally hundreds of papers were presented in a variety of forums, and my goal was to sift through them and bring you a few nuggets on work and happiness

…looking to find places where positive psychology produces business results is not easy. In more than five years of studying and writing about happiness and work, I have yet to come across the randomized, controlled, large-scale study that establishes once and for all the causal connection between workplace happiness and shareholder value. It is like diversity or engagement – we know it helps, but it is tough to prove. That said, here are a few things I learned in L.A…

  • Organizations with strong values perform the best. Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan’s school of Positive Organizational Scholarship presented data from 40 financial services firms …Comparing the top performers against the bottom, he found that almost half the variance could be explained by “virtuous” HR practices at the top companies, such as encouraging teamwork and focusing on employee strengths. Things that make us happy at work…
  • A daily vacation improves your performance and happiness. Take a vacation every day, at least mentally. …German researcher Sabine Sonnentag presented data showing that deplugging psychologically from work needs to be daily to improve well-being and your overall attitude about your job. Turn off the smartphone and the computer at home – at least when you are finished reading this blog.
  • Character strengths predict performance, but in different areas. …using your strengths of character at work are good predictors of performance and overall well-being. Claudia Harzer, a postdoctoral student at the University of South Carolina, is more specific. At the conference, she showed how different strengths predict performance in different areas. High levels of self-regulation means you are good at task performance, for example, and are well-suited for task-oriented assignments. If your strengths are more in the emotional intelligence arena, relationship and team-based activities get you going…
  • Finding meaning and purpose in your job is essential. Happiness at work requires that you draw some link between what you are doing and something larger, according to numerous presenters at the conference…Maybe it is a sense you are paying off your student loans and meeting new people. Maybe it is the satisfaction of mastering a new skill. Maybe it is knowing that people depend on you. Keep it simple, but look for some meaning…The truth is that you aren’t going to be happy if you see absolutely no reason or purpose for what you do.
  • Tweet nice to live longer. Or write nicer emails if you don’t tweet, says researcher Margaret Kern. A big data review of the language used by more than 70,000 social media users indicated that negativity and aggressiveness are bad for your health…

4 Secrets To Being Happy At Work

Kevin Kruse

What truly makes someone happy at work?

Think back to the best job you ever had. What made it so great? Often people will answer that it was when they had a great boss, but when pressed further they’ll say things like, “the work was fun and challenging.” Or, “we were really making a difference.”

In my book, Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment At Work, I detail the drivers of happiness and engagement based not just on my own experience as a Best Place to Work winner, but also on surveys of more than 10 million workers in 150 countries.

Although there are many different factors, and each individual has unique needs, the vast majority of engagement—how you feel about your job and your work—comes primarily from four things:

1. Communication
Is there consistent two-way communication? Do your ideas count? Does your manager provide the information you need to do your job well? Is she transparent?

2. Growth
Do you believe that you are learning new things? Are you advancing in your career? Is your work challenging?

3. Recognition
Do you feel appreciated? Do your manager and peers recognize extraordinary effort? Do they recognize extraordinary results?

4. Trust
Do you trust your leadership to get the company to a brighter future? Do you have confidence that they can navigate the storms of today, to reach the ultimate destination? Do you know what the destination is?

Life is too short to be unhappy at work.  Think about what is most important to you, and how your current job compares in these areas…

For Real Influence, Listen Past Your Blind Spots

by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen

More than ever before, people see through the self-serving tactics and techniques that others use to persuade them. They don’t like being pushed, played or nudged to comply, and they resist and resent agenda-driven influencers.

The alternative is to use real influence to inspire buy-in and commitment. To learn how the best-of-the-best do it, we conducted over 100 extensive interviews with highly respected influencers from all walks of life for our recent book.

We found that great influencers follow a pattern of four steps that we can use too. An earlier post covered Step 1: Go for great outcomes. Later we’ll cover Step 3: Engage them in “their there;” and Step 4: When you’ve done enough… do more.

Here we cover Step 2: Listen past your blind spots. Including…

  • Level One: Avoidance Listening = Listening Over
  • Level Two: Defensive Listening = Listening At
  • Level Three: Problem-Solving Listening = Listening To
  • Level Four: Connective Listening = Listening Into …

Why Empathy Can Sometimes Help More Than Advice

Even though I did not know it at the time my mother’s simple empathy and acknowledgement of the difficult situation was the thing I needed. 

I wanted a magical solution but it didn’t exist. Her empathy and acknowledgement of the challenge was all I needed. Like most advice, we seldom know we need it when we receive it. If it’s truly useful we absorb it and use it without thinking about it…

Remember, when someone calls for personal advice the most valuable thing we can do is acknowledge the situation without judgment and remind them that we care deeply…

…most people do not want the instructions on “what to” or “how to” fix their problems, but rather to be reminded we care, are willing to listen and understand that sometimes life’s problems are not easy to solve.

Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity

by John Baldoni

While people define engagement in various ways, I prefer a plain and simple definition: People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.” …

Considering the benefits, why do companies still struggle to foster engagement? Harter writes, “Many organizations measure either the wrong things, or too many things, or don’t make the data intuitively actionable. Many don’t make engagement a part of their overall strategy, or clarify why employee engagement is important, or provide quality education to help managers know what to do with the results, and in what order.”

So where do you begin if you’re committed to improving engagement — but feel intimidated by that laundry list of pitfalls? One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose…

10 Ways to Reduce Stress at Work That Could Save Your Life

Some practical suggestions by Enrique Stone.

Rather than waking up every morning and feeling the wave of stress and tension flow over you here are 10 easy ways to reduce your stress level that you can start using today…

  • Accept criticism
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Communicate with others
  • Use lists to your advantage
  • Cut the caffeine
  • Exercise
  • Designate a block of ‘tech-free’ time
  • Give yourself a massage
  • Unwind by laughing
  • Change …

10 Ways to Be Productive in the Summer

…Most of us become accustomed to the inevitable summer slow-down. Key people aren’t available (holidays); projects stall, waiting for Fall to roll around, and a general sense of lassitude begins to creep in.

Summer doesn’t need to be a write-off however. Here are 10 ways you can use those months to get ahead of the game…

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

BY: 

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…

The impact of noise on creativity

by Adi
A new site is based around the idea that we need a bit of background noise in order to work well.  The site, called Coffitivity aims to replicate the noise we experience in our favourite coffee shops from the comfort of our desks. The site was inspired by research showing that the noise made by coffee machines and so on is actually just the right amount of background noise to stimulate our creative juices…

Why Should Children Study the Arts?

By Thalia Goldstein

We look to cognitive, social, creative, emotional and brain-based outcomes as a result of visual arts, theatre, dance, music and creative writing classes.  A comprehensive and thorough look at the evidence and reasons why art is important for its own unique benefits as well as possible transfer effects to other areas, this book will be of interest to artists, educators, policy makers and academics…
However, we argue firmly that arts education should not need to be justified in terms of its effect on non-arts skills. The arts are important in their own right, for all students to learn, which is why we called our book Art for Art’s Sake…

A treat for literature lovers:

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: The Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice

by 

36 seconds of timeliness from a rare wax-cylinder capsule of timelessness…

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Did You Know A Woman’s Right To Vote Was Sparked By Two Brave Women On July 4, 1876?

It’s well understood that the point of celebrating the 4th of July is its significance to the history of America. Once the Continental Congress approved the resolution on July 2, 1776 that declared the United States separate from England, all attention turned to the Declaration of Independence, the written statement outlining and defining that decision. After two days of writing, editing, debating and tweaking by the Committee of Five led by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration was penned to completion and approved on July 4th; hence, our many and mighty celebrations on that day.

But a lesser known fact of history is that it took another 100 years for women – a demographic so underrepresented in American government at the time – to create, approve and disseminate their own Declaration of Rights, but it did happen… exactly 100 years later, on July 4, 1876, and it became as crucial to the growing feminist movement as the first Declaration had been to the country at large…

Wearing my writer’s dress of entitlement

BY MARY PRICE-O’CONNOR
…all I’m saying is why not wear it, wear your entitlement to be your creative self, to be expressive, and fulfilling your creative life. It may be a real thing you put on, it may be an image of a thing or it may only be a feeling, or a choice. There is a whole wardrobe out there full of your creative potential, try something on! …
Cloak of Entitlement
All of these stories – and others – can be found in this week’s collection:

Happiness At Work #53

Happiness At Work #50 ~ the future is now

Andrew McAfee: What Will Future Jobs Look Like (TEDTalk)

It’s tough to make predictions – especially about the future… Yogi Berra

Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when computers first began to be used in businesses, I can remember being told that the biggest challenge our generation would face would be what to do with all of our leisure time.  Because automation was going to free from us from so many things, we would have a ridiculous surfeit of our own time to do whatever we liked with.  Well, until now, I and the millions of others  who have been unsuccessfully trying to chase down an ever-increasing To Do List and get back any pretence of being even slightly in control as much as I have thought “well ha bloody ha!”

But could it be this prophecy at last be within reach of becoming true?

This is exactly what economist Andrew McAfee is claiming that this TEDTalk.

In the world that we are creating very quickly, we are going to see more and more things that look like science fiction and fewer and fewer things that look like jobs.

He admits that people have been wrongly warning of technology-induced unemployment since the Luddites smasked the looms 200 years ago, but says that what is different about now is that our machines have just started doing things they have never ever done before:

…understanding, speaking, hearing, seeing, answering, writing.  And they are still acquiring new skills…and the day is not too far off when we are going to have androids doing a lot of the jobs that we are doing now.

The world that we’re creating is going to involve more and more technology and less and less jobs, but this is great news he tells us.

…the best economic news that we have these days is that the New Machine Age will free us from drudgery and toil…

Just what we were told 35 years ago.  But maybe, just maybe the future is actually here this time…

This is a time of great flourishing for inventors, innovators and artists who are able to do things with less constraints than ever before…  we are in an astonishing time…

McFee is not concerned about dystopian fears that our machines will rise up to overwhelm and enslave us.  Or, at least, not ‘until my computer becomes aware of my printer…’

The societal challenge he thinks we do need to be thinking about is that, since the computerisation began in our work in the 1960’s, the gap has steadily widened between what work provides for people with college education, so-called white collar workers, and the life that non-college educated so-called blue-collar or low skill workers can make.  And these trends are now becoming so severe that they show signs of overwhelming any of last century’s civil rights achievements:

We have to do better than this.

We see some green shoots that things are getting better.  We see technology deeply impacting education and engaging people from our youngest learners up to our oldest ones.  We see business leaders telling us we need to rethink some of things that we have been holding dear for a while.  And we see very serious and data-driven efforts to understand how to intervene in some of the most troubled communities that we have…  But I don’t want to pretend for a moment that what we have will be enough…

My biggest anxiety is that we are going to have brilliant technologies embedded in a kind of shabby society and supported by an economy that supports inequalities instead of opportunity…

But I don’t believe for a second that we have forgotten how to solve tough challenges or become too hard-headed or apathetic to even try…

If we are going to bring the broad masses of the people in every land to the table of abundance it can only be by the tireless improvement of all or our means of technical production.

Winston Churchill

Systems that Perceive, Think, and Act

Technological advances are allowing scientists to begin building a cognitive computer that functions like a brain.

Since computers were invented, they’ve been called “brains.”

Yet, the fundamental tasks at which computers and human brains excel, the vastly different design underlying each, and the brain’s remarkable ability to learn and adapt has always set them poles apart — until now.

By bringing together the recent advances in neurosciencesupercomputing, and nanotechnology, we’re at the beginning stages of creating cognitive machines: inspired by the function, low power, and compact volume of the organic brain.

Ancient Greece people together and female column

This week I  have been questioning how much these days, if in fact at all, we are mindful to try and learn from the past.

I recognise the superabundance of history that we get – our television has perhaps never been so rich with re-creations, re-imaginations, re-enactments, re-stagings and other styles of historical re-tellings.  But I have been wondering how much this exists as a kind of wonderful-story product, something to know and enjoy as a distant and effectively fictionalised aspect of ourselves with little relevance or practical application to our fabulously enlightened and self-actualised lives today.

The childhood, adolescence and early adulthood I remember growing up was laden with ominous lessons from recent and more distant history.  We were taught to be vigilant against the horrors and oppressions of war and tyranny and to distrust any form didacticism, whether political or religious.  And we grew up in a tense spreadeagled balance between our fear of nuclear catastrophe along one dimension, and in the other, fiercely determined in the headstrong battles we fought to force out a kinder more equal world: feminism, black and ethnic minority rights and gay, lesbian and transgender activism.

And in a great many of these ambitions we have been successful and the world we wanted is the world we now have.

So what can history teach us now?  Do we believe that we have now transcended anything that we could ever need or expect to learn from our past.  Are we so arrogant to think that our world and lives now are so far removed and evolved from any of our previous iterations, that from here on in we are walking blind and will just have to make it up as we go along?  If so, why then do we seem to be doggedly and dogmatically banging down our old solutions that seem to me to have been conceived and designed for a previous time for a now outmoded set of circumstances?

George Papandreou: Imagine A European Democracy Without Borders (TEDTalk)

I am not the only one with an interest in looking back as a way of looking optimistically forward.  In this TEDTalk George Papandreou, the former Greek Prime Minister, invites us to remember the conditions and aspirations of the original democracy of Ancient Greece…

He talks about how mastery over our own fates was a discovery, a revelation to the Ancient Greeks and how this liberated us from the fear of being always subject to the whims of the gods or despots.  This was also the time that many of our modern ideas about happiness were invented, where we chose to see happiness as eudaimonia, wellbeing, more about the rewards of living a good life, living well and less down to happenstance, luck, whatever the gods chucked at us.

Bringing some of the insights that he has found though his reflections since leaving office, his story of what has happened in recent years, not just in Greece but across the whole of Europe and even across the globe, points up some of the deeper problems and complexities that we are all facing but not yet approaching with 21st century intelligence, collaboration and creativity.  Our problems, he tells us, are not so much of economics as they are of democracy itself.  We are, he suggests, responding with too much of a knee-jerk reactionary panic to an overbearing sense of subserviance to the market’s power and, as a consequence, destroying people’s belief and trust in democracy, just as happened centuries ago in Ancient Greece:

Democracies are once again facing a moment of truth…

Greece is only a symptom in the wider vulnerabilities of the system, vulnerabilities of our democracies.

Our democracies are trapped by systems to big to fail.  Or, more accurately, too big to control.

Our democracies are weakened in the global economy with players that can evade laws, that evade taxes, evade environmental or labour standards.

Our democracies are undermined and constrained by the growing inequality and the growing concentration of power and wealth, lobbies, corruption, the speed of the markets, or simply the fear of  an impending disaster.  And this has constrained the capacity to imagine and use the potential of  the collective for finding solution.

Greece was only a preview of what is in store…

He talks about how the group of leaders who met to solve the crisis in Greece shared a common ignorance of never having had to deal with these circumstances before, but that this ignorance led to fear and panic-led decisions and actions rather than anything like the creativity and innovation that can be born when the people around the table acknowledge their not-knowing and use this energy and honesty to forge brand new ideas and possibilities for action.

They used dogma and determinism when they would have been better to orient themselves with the sense and capabilities of creativity and learning and dialogue –  to look for and find meaning through conversation rather than defend an existing position, what Papandreous calls

…the blind faith in the orthodoxy of austerity.  Instead of reaching out to the collective wisdom in our societies, investing in it to find more creative solutions, we reverted to political posturing.

And then we were surprised when every ad hoc new measure didn’t bring an end to the crisis…

But this could be the pattern that leaders follow again and again when we deal with these complex cross-border problems, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s migration, whether it’s the financial system.  This is abandoning our collective power to imagine, falling victim to our fears, our stereotypes, our dogmas.  Taking our citizens out of the process rather than building the process around our citizens…

It’s no wonder that our political leaders, and I don’t excuse myself, have lost the trust of our people…

He says the reason he called for a referendum was because, before trust and confidence in the markets could be restored, it was necessary to restore trust and confidence in our people:

If politics is the power to re-imagine our problems, then 60% youth unemployment in Greece, and across other countries in Europe, is certainly a lack of imagination, as well as compassion.

His call-to-action is to:

…see how we can throw democracy at the problem.  The Ancient Greeks, with all their shortcomings, believed in the wisdom of the crowd.  ‘In people we trust.’  Democracy could not work without the citizens deliberating and debating, taking on public responsibilities for public affairs.

Average citizens were often chosen for citizen juries who decide on critical matters of the day.

Science, theatre, research, philosophy, games of the mind and the body – these were a daily exercise.  Actually they were an education for participation, for growing the potential of our citizens…

The term ‘idiot‘ originated in Ancient Greece, coming from the term ‘idio‘ meaning self, a person excluded, self-centred, someone who doesn’t participate or even examine public affairs…

Today we have globalised our markets but we have not globalised our democratic institutions…

How do we secure the demos, the space, the platform of values so that we can tap into all of your potential?

Citing Europe as already the most successful peace experiment ever achieved, he then makes the challenge that Europe might also be an equally successful new pan-nation experiment of global democracy, offering and even greater citizenship across its regions where they can come up with creative solutions, where our common identity is democracy and our common value is participation.

Today I will talk to you about the failure of leadership in our western democracies.  And I will not provide any feel-good ready-made solutions.  But I will in the end urge you to re-think, take risks and get involved in what I see as a global evolution of democracy.  Because I believe the failure of democracy is that we have taken you out of the process…

At the end of this talk he tells us:

I have been, and am, part of Europe’s political system.  And believe me, I know: things must change.

We must revive politics as the power to re-imagine and re-design for a better world.

But I also know that this disruptive change won’t be driven by the politics of today.  The revival of democratic politics will come from you.  And I mean all of you. Everyone who stands up…

See also these articles about the links between resilience and the collective…

Governments shirk their responsibilities in the name of ‘resilience’

Those with power and resources may be able to engage with and influence resilience agendas. Vulnerable people and communities may find themselves significantly affected by the retreat of the state and the steady erosion of the services they once provided.

In an age of uncertainty where the complexity and global reach of our social, economic and environmental systems can deliver what are claimed to be unavoidable shocks, the idea of self-made resilience has found a welcoming political home.  The impact of this widespread acceptance needs to be very carefully considered however.  Bouncing back or adapting is not better than avoiding risk in the first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

Resilience in trying times — a result of positive actions

Communities that stick together and do good for others cope better with crises and are happier for it, according to a new study by John Helliwell, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues. Their work suggests that part of the reason for this greater resilience is the fact that humans are more than simply social beings, they are so-called ‘pro-social’ beings. In other words, they get happiness not just from doing things with others, but from doing things both with and for others…

Artistry: 

U3: The 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia. Resilience

20 June–29 September 2013

In recent years the concept of resilience has grown out of the global trend of developing sustainability in the societies of the global North.

In natural sciences or physics, a resilient body is described as flexible, durable, and capable of springing back to its original form and transforming the energy received into its own reconstruction (a good example of this is the sponge).

In psychology, resilience refers to the subject’s ability to recover their original state relatively quickly after some significant stress or shock and continuing with the processes of self-realization without a major setback.

Resilience is more than just the ability to adapt, promoted by the concept of the flexible subject over the past two decades, which was adopted by corporate capitalism and triggered the precarious mass movement of labourers.

Resilience encompasses exploring reciprocal codependence and finding one’s political and socio-ecological place in a world that is out of balance and creates increasingly disadvantageous living conditions. Rather than trying to find global solutions for some indefinite future or projecting a possible perfect balance, resilient thinking focuses on the diversity of practical solutions for the here and now, and on the cooperation and creativity of everyone involved in a community or society.

The 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia gives prominence to practices that can be seen as analogous to the concept of resilience, i.e. community-oriented, site-specific, participatory, performative, architectural, social, civic and other discursive practices exploring new (or revived) community principles, such as the “do-it-together,” urban gardening, and co-working, as well as the fundamental social question of how we coexist. Blending work and everyday life forms the basis of new economic, ethical, and production principles that the younger generation of artists uses to transform the role of the creative subject in contemporary Slovenian society…

This week we have also discovered the artist: Suli Breaks.  Highly recommended:  We think his spoken word videos are truly exceptional and really reward tuning into…

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate||Spoken Word

Hear his articulate urgent voice about the world we have made and its consequences.  This is the video that is getting a lot of online attention.

The American’T Dream (The Purse Suit Of Happyness)||Spoken Word

For a more gentle and perhaps more optimistic here is his potent relevant vital Spoken Word video about living the life you care about.

Engaging Kids Today

Dan Haesler, a teacher, writer, speaker and consultant who’s worked with governments on education initiatives, says that teachers and parents need to be clear about what they mean by the term ‘engagement’.

According to Haesler, too many adults understand ‘engaged’ to mean occupying “the attention or efforts of a person”. This may be correct but it’s far too limiting. Yes, kids today are definitely occupied. There’s even the phenomenon now of the ‘hurried child’ whose calendar is filled with back-to-back commitments. Haesler wonders though if this is the best we can do. His much-preferred definition of ‘engaged’ is to “genuinely attract and hold the attention of our kids”.

This is the definition he wants us all to consider, “the sense of living a life high in interest, curiosity, and absorption. Engaged individuals pursue goals with determination and vitality,” he says…

Daniel Suarez: The Kill Decision Shouldn’t Belong To A Robot (TEDTalk)

‘No Robot should be allowed expectations of privacy in a public space…’

Science-fiction writer, Daniel Suarez – insisting that he is not talking fiction but facts here – says that we already have fully autonomous combat drones that can make lethal decisions about humans ‘all on their own‘ – having a human being in the loop is a choice not a requirement.  How might this change our social landscape he asks, and provides a brief tour of war history from the knights in armour through to the canon and on to the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that we have been living with for more than a century now.  70 nations are now preparing their autonomous combat robots, and he argues we must develop global agreements that build our immunity to these machines rather escalate conflicts before it is too late and we are already in the maze…

gun closeup

From fitness to wellness: OMsignal’s smart shirts measure your motion … and emotion

A host of fitness tracking tech is currently on the market allowing users to measure and monitor their daily activities, heart rate, exercise intensity and even how much they sweat.

 But what about your emotional state? Montreal-based smart apparel company OMsignal has developed a T-shirt and a bra that not only tracks your daily steps, calorie burn and heart rate, but it also measures your breathing and emotional well-being using your heart rate variability, or HRV.

OMsignal started to work on a wellness wearable in 2011 after the team members initially designed a fitness bracelet in 2008. The goal was to access a greater body footprint — to get deeper data — and then to extract more meaningful signals and generate more meaningful insights.

Those insights have a lot to do with stress. CEO Marceau — who’s a high-energy, passionate, excitable person — has been practicing mindful breathing for a long time. With an active, busy lifestyle plus the stresses of a startup, he needs the chill factor, and needs the health benefits.

Especially the benefits of mindful breathing — even when you’re not exercising.

“With breathing, you control your stress,” says OMsignal’s chief medical officer, Stéphane Borreman — who is not only an emergency room physician but also a mechanical engineer. “Good breathing can make overall better balance in terms of the nervous system.”

All of which means that OMsignal’s apparel doesn’t just count your calories or tally up your steps for the day. It helps you understand how you are feeling, and why … it measures your emotional state.

Happiness At Work #50 – this week’s new collection

See this week’s full collection for these and many more stories, not just under this Future Is Now heading, but also across our usual spread of stories about happiness & personal flourishing, resilience & wellbeing, creativity & artistry, learning & leadership…

Beyond Glorious – what made this symposium so very special and extraordinary

Sheila Ghelani's conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Sheila Ghelani’s conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Beyond Glorious: the radical in engaged artistic practices

Thursday 30 May to Sunday 2 June 2013, Birkbeck College and Artsadmin, London

What is the place of art in acts of social re-imagination and repair?
What languages can be found to articulate such practices?
Is it possible to break new ground within the realm of engaged artistic practices?

This symposium marked the end of Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious.  It brought together people from different spheres of life to discuss and experience the meanings, methods and effects of art in relation to engaged and radical practices.  Using Glorious as a starting point, events explored the potential of engaged artistic practices, not in terms of a reductive understanding of the ‘efficacy’ of art in the world, but as a complicating, delicate, nuanced, uneasy journey towards new ways of thinking.

What to say to capture and keep for memory about an event that lived and breathed through its quiet gentle generous friendliness?

Not just this.  This makes it sound too much like a tea party.  Which it was.  Its tea-and-cakeness was a vital part of its spirit and its lightness.  But it was so very very much more as well.

One of the symposium’s central questions explicitly tried to open out this difficulty of expressing the intangible, articulated in the question What remains?

Elizabeth Lynch (independent producer and external evaluator for Glorious), Mary Paterson (writer, producer, creative documentation for Glorious), Sarah Spanton (Waymarking), and

Chloé Déchery (theatre-maker, writer, co- artistic director of ÉCLATS Festival) opened a series of conversations around questions about what and who matters, needs to be held up and out in testament to show the worth and value out of work that makes and finds its intrinsic liveness in quiet nearly invisible and usually disregarded moments of connection, relationship, insight, inhalation.

From this session I remember the word ‘traces’ being important – as something slight and nearly gone that remains after the rest of its bulk has disintegrated, and also as something that we might use as a guide to trace out a new form from what has been left for us to follow.  We talk about when something is ‘gone without a trace’ but in doing so somehow keep still a trace of what it was that has gone.  But these subtle nuances are badly unequal to these shout-y times of unquestioning demands and unambiguous agendas.

I remember, too, the question: who gets to decide the value and worth of what was done? and I remember thinking, and am thinking still, this must be the people we hoped to bring some value and worth to, to make something that they find valuable and worthwhile.  And worrying that too seldom we go to these people to ask and listen to to decide the worth of what we have done.

But these are big questions that took the concentration of this whole symposium, as well as the work of Glorious itself, as well – as I discovered through this event – as well as a great deal more work that is being made quietly and unchampioned out there in the world amongst its peoples.  These are questions too big for this piece to try and sensibly answer.

Start again.

What I am remembering still about this experience are moments of easy unexpected encounter that tumbled joyfully out from alert interest and invitation and into depths and diversity of conversation.

I remember the warm friendliness and easy friendly warmth that was begun and renewed each day by Rajni waiting at the gate, or the outside door, to greet and welcome people as they arrived.  When I joined her in this quiet ritual for the last brunch event I discovered for myself how personal, charged and engaged this made me feel.  A small act done with great love that I am convinced sent out a ripple of similar welcomings and greetings across the whole event.

I remember the repeated joy of surprise encounters.  Sometimes these came from extended conversations with the people I was working alongside to make the backroom support.  Sometimes this was a stranger asking me to join them for lunch and drawing me lightly into their conversation.  Sometimes it was the joyful ‘aha’ of hearing the wisdom of another’s experience or the sharp brightness of their questioning inside the sessions.  What made these encounters so exceptional was their unusualness – I seldom have this same experience at other events – and their frequency.  I don’t believe it was my Glorious team member’s badge that made the difference, but rather that a mood and expectation and curiosity and readiness for surprising encounters that was woven through the DNA of this whole event: in its themes and its processes and its design and in the behaviours and values if its makers.  You get what you go looking for and something was in the water we were all drinking at this symposium that made us all more heads up, eyes open, ears widened…

I remember too the luxury of space…

…the space of time from 2hour sessions and 2hour lunch breaks with local restauranteurs who greeted us like they knew us and made us feel this meal would be special.  This elongated time that allowed for an unfolding discovery of dialogue rather than the more usual forced smash of ideas through too little time, too tight an agenda, too squeezed a set of objectives and expectations;

…the space and spaces made by questions that created openings and extensions rather than the more usual objectives that push for reductive thinking and positioning, driving and herding us into conclusions and certainties (as if there could be any, but how often are we asked, anyway, to just let go of our intelligent beliefs that our situations and ambitions are way too complex to carry the heavyweight load of certainty?);

…the physical space of being able to inhabit different spaces, to choose a session that involved walking after lunch each day, to, at any time, come into the coffee-always-ready-and-several-varieties-of-tea-room to sit, take time out, chill, or make your own conversations.

I remember, too, and maybe this above all else, how all the espoused values we, as the company, and we, as this makeshift community, were championing, advocating, advancing were every bit in evidence in the practice and experience of this event:  qualities of generosity and friendliness and inclusion and welcome and giving and gifts and relationship and exceptional experience at every moment and being fully present in every moment…  all these qualities were alive and active.  This is rare, and, sadly, it is a kind of truism that whatever is held to be most important for the people we work to benefit, we are least likely to be doing well for ourselves.

Blossoms on Branch

There is something more to say about this symposium, and this about the depth and range and interrogation of the inquiries that were the thread and weave of this symposium.  I have so far, perhaps, made it seem like a collusive gathering of the smug and complacent.  But its questions and the responses people bought were challenging and original.  And the provocations that started each day were provoking, not in a way that antagonised or tore at us, but rather they invited a kind of positive disruption, nudging us to think bigger, better, wider, more keenly.

One of the symposium’s most difficult acts to pull off – and that it did is further testament to its great success – was that many of its participants came without any prior knowledge or experience of  Glorious, the project on which it was built, and yet in conversation after conversation there seemed to me an equal sense of ownership and involvement and engagement and trust and uncertainty in the material, irrespective of how much immersion in Glorious you came with.

So my learning to take away in a memo to ourselves:

…continue, when preparing events, to devote time and creativity and care and minute attention to what will help to make a great experience for the people who will come.  Because, just as we have always believed, this matters immensely, and, because we might just dip into believing that we are already doing this enough.  And this experience has shown me that there is much more that is simple and wonderful that we could be doing.

A note: lest I seem to be bragging intolerably about this event I should say that I take no credit for its many successes.  I was there and helped to make it work, yes, but the things that it made it so very special and exceptional belong to a whole team who made it and especially the people who imagined and led it.  And, yes, to Rajni herself for the light gifted way she held it and us so potently open.

 

A beautiful bespoke publication that contains Mary Patterson’s  exquisite reveries about Glorious, and Elizabeth Lynch’s storytelling consideration of what Glorious achieved for the people who inhabited it, as well as two films made in response to Glorious – Becky Edmunds‘ collaged palimpsest made from different shows, and Lucy Cash’s Six Actions:

rajni glorious - Dear Stranger, I Love You

Dear Stranger, I love you

the ethics of community in Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious

Dear Stranger, I love you offers an in-depth exploration of artist Rajni Shah’s Glorious, an experimental performance project that began with a series of conversations between strangers and ended in a large-scale theatre production involving local residents and musicians in each location where it was presented…

The publication brings together four ways of looking at Glorious: a short film made in response to six performances of Glorious by filmmaker Becky Edmunds; a music video shot in and around Lancaster and Morecambe by Lucy Cash; a critical overview of the process behind two iterations of the project by Elizabeth Lynch; and The Glorious Storybook, a collection of memories from throughout the process, edited and contextualised by writer Mary Paterson…

Happiness At Work #49 ~ listening, giving, empathy and quietness

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This week’s Happiness At Work collection #49 highlights stories about the power and effectiveness of what many would call the especially softest of the soft skills: listening, giving, empathy and quietness.

We’ve always been unhappy about the term ‘soft skills.’  Used as a catch-all for the skills that privilege human interaction over the more so-called ‘hard skills’ that are concentrated on results, efficiency, facts and figures, tasks and outcomes that, we argue, are a doddle compared to the much much ‘harder’ expertise needed to enact the highly complex demands of making high quality relationships, communications, feelings and experiences.

So here is a special selection of ideas, provocations, invitations and practical techniques for honing our soft skills into the strength, suppleness and resilience that our 21st century professional lives so deeply demand from us.  There are some really potent ideas here that challenge our default assumptions about what constitues ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leadership and question just how valuable and necessary being the archetypal inspirational leader really is for getting high quality outcomes in a complex fast-changing and unpredictable environment…

Spider's Web

Julian Treasure: 5 Ways To Listen Better (TEDTalk)

We are losing our listening…

This is how Julian Treasure begins his deeply-felt talk, which includes, as his title promises, five practical techniques for practising better listening skills.  These are some of the ideas taken from this talk that ring out especially for us:

Listening means making meaning from sound.

We listen through a funnel of unconscious filters that all go towards creating the reality and meanings we form:

Culture

Language

Values

Beliefs

Attitudes

Expectations

Intentions

The premium of good listening is disappearing partly because of our recording capabilities, which makes the need for good listening seem less needed and so less looked after than ever.  In our headphone bubbles, we are living in a noisier, more impatient and desensitised world where it is becoming harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated…

We need to learn to listen as if for the very first time.  Here are five tools for improving our ability to do this:

  1. Silence.  Just make 5 minutes a day of consciously observed silence – or as near to it as you can make.
  2. The Mixer.  Listen to how many individual channels of sound you can hear and tune into in the air around you.
  3. Savouring.  Enjoy mundane everyday sounds.  Discover how interesting and layered and dynamic and different sounds actually are.
  4. Listening Positions.  Most important this one.  Shift and play with different positions to get conscious about different ways of listening.  These are some, but there are many more:

active ~ passive

reductive ~ expansive

critical ~ empathetic

  1. RASA.  Sanskrit word meaning ‘juice’ and the acronym for Receive Appreciate Summarise (“So…) Ask questions.

I live to ask questions.  But I believe every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully connecting to the physical world around you and top each other.  In terms of spiritually connecting, every ritual path has listening at its heart.

We need to teach listening in our schools.

(And – we add emphatically – to our professionals and leaders across every different sector, organisation and enterprise.)

A world where we are not listening to each other is a very scary dangerous place.

Listening can help make connection, understanding, peace…

soothing ripples

Below the Noise: Listening as a Lifeline: Virginia Prescott at TEDxPiscataquaRiver

In this talk broadcaster and sound artist Virginia Prescott invites us to think about how we can learn to appreciate and enjoy listening more as we go forward in an environment of social media and increasingly individualised technologies…

Broadcasting means to throw out seeds.  And we don’t always know where these seeds will land or what will grow from them…

A Story Sung: Why Fiction Writers Should Read Poetry

In this article the ideas that Lucas Hunt writes for writers has so much resonance that I have substituted a more universal pronoun to amplify his wisdom for us all…

Any [one] who desires to get at the truth of human experience should read poetry, because it contains a multitude of possibility. Poetry is the mud that grows the seed that becomes the forest. It is the clay that makes the brick that forms the building. It is the blood that moves the body that holds the spirit. Poetry has the essence of life in it.

Poets voice that which has no voice in this world. They speak in tongues, and hope their words reach the ears and touch the hearts of those who know what it means to live. Much like fiction writers, poets struggle to remember how to make sense of existence. They share a passion for language, and a common, driving need: to imagine the world not just as it is, but how it ought to be.

Poetry tends toward silence…  Poetry aspires to be a song, more than a story, to be lyrically rich. It is also full of primal messages that, somehow, can express the inexpressible. There is more than meets the eye…

And if you enjoy this piece, you might also like to check out:

How To Enjoy Poetry by Maria Popova

“True poetic practice implies a mind so miraculously attuned and illuminated that it can form words, by a chain of more-than coincidences, into a living entity,” Edward Hirsch advised in his directive on how to read a poem.

But how, exactly, does one cultivate such “true poetic practice”?…

The poet and novelist James Dickey, winner of the National Book Award for his poetry collection Buckdancer’s Choice, offers some timeless and breathtakingly articulated advice…Ultimately, James Dickey champions the enlivening potency of the learn-by-doing approach:

The more your encounter with poetry deepens, the more your experience of your own life will deepen, and you will begin to see things by means of words, and words by means of things.

You will come to understand the world as it interacts with words, as it can be re-created by words, by rhythms and by images.

You’ll understand that this condition is one charged with vital possibilities. You will pick up meaning more quickly — and you will create meaning, too, for yourself and others.

Connections between things will exist for you in ways that they never did before. They will shine with unexpectedness, wide-openness, and you will go toward them, on your own path. ‘Then,’ as Dante says, ‘will your feet be filled with good desire.’ You will know this is happening the first time you say, of something you never would have noticed before, ‘Well, would you look at that! Who’d ‘a thunk it?’ (Pause, full of new light.)

‘I thunk it!’

quiet - soft focus purple floral print

Not Any Old Pencil

Brazil born, US based artist Dalton Ghetti carves minute masterpieces on the tips of pencils.

Here is some wisdom we can all learn from him by attending to the five things a pencil should never forget:

1) Everything you do will always leave a mark.
2) You can always correct the mistakes you make.
3) What is important is what’s inside you.
4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will only make you better.
5) To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.

Leading Quietly by Adam Grant

In this talk at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, occupational psychologist Adam Grant begins with a story of his experience building motivation in a call centre.  To improve things, he brings in two very different students who had benefited from the scholarships that these people were trying to raise money for to talk about how their bursary had changed their lives.  The first, Will, a student who was achieving meteoric success, came in and gave a dynamic high-imact presentation.  The average caller who heard Will increased the revenue they raised by 170%.  The second student, Emily, was painfully shy, and could barely get through her words.  But Emily’s effect was 2.5 times stronger than Will’s – leading to a 400% increase in revenue by the people who heard her.  Partly this is because of empathy, her audience really felt for her, but even more it was because of Emily’s authenticity:  her listeners knew she was telling the truth about how important her bursary was because it was clear that she was not speaking to them for any pleasure.

What stood out for me was they never once had to hear from a leader.  And this led me to thinking why do leaders think they have to be the ones who deliver the inspiring messages?  Why is this common sense but not common practice?

He then provides a quick self-assessment for Introversion and Extraversion which is not visible in this video, but most of us will already be familiar with our preferences across this scale.

This site  – Myers Briggs Test – is a helpful place to start to explore your  own preferences if you don’t know whether you are more of an Extravert, Introvert or Ambivert (half-and-half)

Grant tells us that Extraversion is how your neocortex processes stimulation, and helps govern willpower and self control.  Optimal arousal is that point when we are fully engaged, ‘in the zone,’ neither overloaded with too much stuff coming at us, but not getting so little stimulation that we are bored.  This is also the place where we are likely to be happy and flourishing.  A high Extravert preference wants lots of social interaction because that’s what brings stimulation for the neocortex, whereas people will an Introvert preference will be trying to get time to themselves in order to get their version of this same high level of optimal stimulation.

Even though Extraversion-Introversion preferences are cut right in the middle for the whole population, meaning that there are just as many Introverts as Extraverts, a piece of  research in 2009 found that 96% of American leaders score on the attention seeking Extravert side of this continuum, and only 4% below the mid point, and there is no reason to think that results in the UK would be significantly different.

If most leaders are the Extraverts, they feel they need to be the ones in the centre of attention…to be the ones who are delivering the inspiring messages…

When these figures are broken down further they reveal that 50% of supervisors are actually in the top 25% of high Extraversion scores, so are very extraverted, and  this has increased to 80% of top level executives who score at the high end of Extraversion.  For Adam Grant this leads to the question: ‘What are the consequences of this?  Is it good to be an extraverted leader?’

Extraverts, Grant suggests, are great for people who like to have a strong steer, but not at all for more proactive people who have a high degree of initiative and self-sufficiency.  These are the very people that we need most when the environment is turbulent and uncertain.  We know that it is impossible for leaders to recognise all of the problems that might be going on in these conditions.  And these people need Introverts to lead them, but in a more proactive and dynamic way than we might think.  This is not to say that all Introverts lead proactive self-starting people well, but, if they do, they get much better results.

And the evidence suggests that most Extraverts will be leading these people ineffectively.  Extraverted leaders tend to feel threatened by suggestions coming from below, and tend to ignore or reject what their people bring.  This in turn discourages these people and decreases the likelihood of them bringing more suggestions.  Grant’s research found a 28% lower output when people brought their suggestions to an Extravert rather than an Introverted leader.

So maybe there are some benefits to leading in a more Introverted and quiet way…

Grant owns up to being an Introvert.  He was once told that he was so nervous when he spoke that he caused his students to shake in their seats.  As a manager he felt he had to be constantly engaging and became completely exhausted. Introverts that operate at high rates of engagement all the time are at high risk of burnout and ill health.  But he goes on to wonder if ‘sometimes we get trapped into roles more than we meed to…’  Rather than quitting another job he was failing in, Grant did the job of his people were doing and became a salesman for a week, and, even though he was pretty rubbish at it and began by doing very badly, he ended up achieving a reasonable amount of revenue by going out to find new people that were not currently aware of their product.  This stimulated his thinking about whether he needed to be very extraverted in order to be an effective leader.

We can all act outside of our preferred style so long as we get a restorative retreat, a chance to return to the way of being that re-energises and refocuses us – quiet reflection for Introverts, social interaction for Extraverts.

Leading by doing, behavioural integrity, is one way of leading quietly.  When Grant spent time doing the job of the people he managed, he found his words took on far more meaning for people.

Our ‘first nature’ or signature strengths are those ways of being that just feel right, easy, natural for us.  But all of us develop a second nature, an out-of-character role, which we master because it helps us achieve something that we care about.  For Introverts, this is public speaking.  For Extraverts, it might be to do more stepping back, shutting up and listening and accepting others’ ideas and suggestions.

Grant gives us three practical ways forward in his call-to-action for leading more quietly:

  1. Spend time actually doing the work of the people you lead.  One expert recommends 10% of your time actually doing the work your employees do.
  2. Outsource inspiration.  Just as with the call centre, maybe the ideas about what is really valuable, and thus the inspiration and big ways of motivating people, are better brought by beneficiaries, clients, patients, customers, stakeholders, partners rather than you as the leader.  For example: Facebook engineers regularly get to hear invited users to talk about the actual differences that Facebook has made to their lives.
  3. Think about the other 80:20 rule.  Do not talk more than 20% of the time and spend at least 80% of your time really listening to the people around you.  Grant says to remember that ‘do not learn anything when I am talking’…

As an Extravert, myself, I have to say that this is only partially true, because, as an Extravert, talking and thinking are synonymous and I often literally do not know know what I think until I hear myself saying it.  I have great respect for the Introvert’s mystical ability to make fully formed fully considered conclusions without saying anything to anyone, but this is not easily in my gift, but rather something that I have had to develop as a consciously applied ‘second nature’ skill.  But back to Grant:

I’m not going to say that all Extraverts are narcissists but the correlation is positive…

So just as I’ve made myself feel better about my over-talkative style Grant points up the joy of talking for Extraverts, who tend to find listening to themselves talking exactly the happy learning experience I was just defending.  And research has found that the more Extraverts talk, the more they like the group they are with, even saying that the more they talk the more they learn about the other people in the group.  Ouch.

I do recognise wholeheartedly and without any reservation that I do not hear anything when I am talking and this matters.  And I would add to this that we cannot do exceptionally well more than one thing at a time, even if we are woman, so that if I am mostly concentrated on listening, this will be what gets my fullest energy and attention, whereas if I am thinking about what I want to say, it will not, and I will miss important and potentially vital things.

One more idea at the end of this talk caught my interest:  apparently Extraverts are more likely to be optimists and Introverts more pessimist.  But – crucially since realistic optimism is such a critical element of resilience – both optimism and pessimism are largely learned orientations, as we know from, for example, the exercise of spending 21 days writing down what you most appreciate that day which literally rewires the automatic circuitry in our brain and leads to long-lasting levels of increased optimism and positivity.

silhoutte of two business people talking

Susan Cain: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (The RSA)

Susan Cain is one of the people Adam Grant references in his talk about Leading Quietly.  In this talk Cain speaks passionately about the problems that come from the world that we have made that biases the preferences and needs of Extraverts over what Introverts need to be able to flourish:

We set up our workplaces and schools for maximum group interaction and we’re losing sight of the importance of solitude for creativity…  There is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas…

We are living in a world that has become so  overly extraverted, so lopsided in that direction, that even extraverts don’t feel they have permission to tap into that side o themselves.

In companies, it has been found that the most effective teams are those that combine Extraverts and Introverts.  The two types are really drawn to each other and need each other.

Quiet - Susan Cain

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts (TEDTalks)

In her TEDTalk Cain outlines her thesis in more detail and here are some of the things she tells us:

The key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.  And when it comes to creativity we need Introverts doing what they do best.

Introversion is not about being shy, which is fear of social judgement.  Introverts feel most alive and most switched on and most creative when they are in quieter environments.  Not all of the time.  None of these things are absolutes.  There is no such thing as pure Extravert or Introvert, and some of us, now called Ambiverts, actually fall right in the middle.

But now here’s where the bias comes in.  Our world’s most important places, our schools and our workplaces, are designed for extraverts, for stimulation.

And we’re told that creativity comes from an oddly gregarious place.  In schools students sit in pods, face-to-face, are encouraged to work in groups, and the ideal student is said to be outgoing, assertive, extravert, even though, according to research, Introverts get better grades and are more knowledgeable.  At work we are arranged in open plan offices, where we are subject to the constant gaze and noise of our co-workers.  And when it comes to leadership, Introverts are more likely to be passed over when it comes to promotion, even though Introverts are likely to be much more careful, much less likely to take outsized risks, and, as Adam Grant’s research has shown, much more likely to let proactive employees run with their ideas, whereas Extravert leaders are likely to get so excited about things that they end up always putting their own stamp on everything and other people’s ideas have less chance of being able to bubble up to the surface.

Culturally we need a much better yin and yang between these two types, especially when it comes to creativity ad productivity.  When psychologists look at the most creative people they find that these people are very good at exchanging ideas and working with others, but they also have serious strands of introversion in them.  And this is because solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity.  Darwin took long walks in the wood and turned down dinner party invitations.  Steve Wozniak invented the first Apple computer sitting alone, and he said that he never would have had he not been too introverted to leave the house when he was growing up.  And he needed Steve Jobs to get it out into the world.

For centuries we have known about the transcendent powers of solitude.  Only recently have we forgotten it.  Profound epiphanies tend to happen in solitude in the wilderness.

Groups famously follow the best talkers or most charismatic personalities in the room.  They may not have the best ideas.  None of this is to say that we don’t need social skills and teamwork.  In fact the problems we face in the world today are going to need armies of people to come together to solve.  But the more freedom we give Introverts to be themselves the more likely they are to come up with unique solutions to bring to some of these problems.

And here are Susan Cain’s three calls to action:

  1. Stop the madness for constant calls to constant group work.  I deeply believe our offices should be encouraging chatty cafe-style spaces for the conversational interactions where people can come together and serendipitously get exchange of ideas that is great for Introverts and Extraverts.  But we need much more time for freedom, autonomy, solitude.
  2. Go the wilderness.  Be like Buddha.  Have your own revelations.  Unplug and get inside our own heads more often.
  3. Look at what is in your suitcase:  Extraverts – grace us with your joy; Introverts – guard what you have but know that the world needs what you carry with you and have the courage to speak softly.

beach sea sky painting

Altruism & Happiness

Here are some ideas about the value and importance of giving taken from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormirsky

Acts of kindness

Altruism—including kindness, generosity, and compassion—are keys to the social connections that are so important to our happiness. Research finds that acts of kindness—especially spontaneous, out-of-the ordinary ones—can boost happiness in the person doing the good deed.

Reasons why acts of kindness make people happier:

  • Being generous leads us to perceive others more compassionately; we typically find good qualities in people to whom we are kind
  • Being kind promotes a sense of connection and community with others, which is one of the strongest factors in increasing happiness
  • Being generous helps us appreciate and feel grateful for our own good fortune
  • Being generous boosts our self-image; it helps us feel useful and gives us a way to use our strengths and talents in a meaningful way
  • Being kind can start a chain reaction of positivity; being kind to others may lead them to be grateful and generous to others, who in turn are grateful and kind to others

Compassion fosters happiness, but being sacrificial reduces well-being

Being kind and compassionate is linked to greater happiness, greater levels of physical activity well into old age, and longevity. One important caveat: if people get overextended and overwhelmed by helping tasks, as can happen with people who are caregivers to family members, their health and quality of life can rapidly decline. It seems being generous from an abundance of time, money, and energy can promote well-being; but being sacrificial quickly lowers well-being. This seems to be a good argument for communities sharing the burden for everyone’s benefit.

Angela Maiers: People Know They Matter When…

Choose2Matter is a global movement that challenges people to solve problems that break their hearts.

In her article Angela Maiers lists the essential attributes that cause people to know that they matter, and they are all about being quiet, listening and empathetic.  She writes, people know they matter when:

You see them…

You listen earnestly…

You ask meaningful questions…

You believe they can…

You dwell in possibility…

You celebrate them…

You do small things with great love…

You show up…

quiet - cream satin

What a Leader Needs Now: 7 ‘Feminine’ Qualities by Leah Buchanan

These traits, typically associated with women, make for great leaders – whether women or men, writes Leah Buchanan.  How close are these to the capabilities you are trying to develop and master, or, perhaps, to those you are trying to nurture in others?

Empathy: Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Vulnerability: Owning up to one’s limitations and asking for help.

Humility: Seeking to serve others and to share credit.

Inclusiveness: Soliciting and listening to many voices.

Generosity: Being liberal with time, contacts, advice, and support.

Balance: Giving life, as well as work, its due.

Patience: Taking a long-term view.

candle

Roman Krznaric – The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People (The RSA)

This theme is explored and continued in this talk about the new importance of nurturing excellence in empathy and how we might start to do this…

The 20th century was the age of introspection.  That was the age in which therapy and self-help told us that the best way to discover who we are and what we are was to look inside ourselves.  And combined with capitalist individualism, that pointed us towards pursuing the good life through self interest and luxury lifestyle.  And what we’ve discovered is that has not delivered the good life for most of us.

So the 21st century needs to be different.  Instead of the Age of  Introspection, we need to shift to the Age of  ‘Outraspection’ – discovering who you are and what you are here for by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilisations.  And the ultimate artform for the Age of Outraspection is empathy…

In this talk, cultural historian Roman Krznaric sets out his ideas about how the art of empathy can not only enrich our own lives, but also bring about social change, in six habits to try and master:

Habit 1:  Nurture curiosity about strangers.  For example, George Orwell used to dress and live as a homeless person in order to discover and learn.  We have assumptions about people, especially those who seem least like us.  Finding out about what they care about increases not only our compassion, but also our capacity for empathy.

This reminds of Louise Bougeoise’s Instruction: Smile At A Stranger which you can see in Maria Popova’s summary of  Do It: The Coppenedium  by Hans Ulrich Obrist in her

Do It: 20 Years of Famous Artists’ Irreverent Instructions for Art Anyone Can Make

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities.  Look for what you share rather than what divides us.  For example, white extremist C.P.Ellis co-chaired a group looking at racial problems in schools and discovered a shared sense of oppression from poverty in common with his co-chair, a black civil rights activist.  This resulted in him tearing up his Klu Klux Klan membership card and the two becoming friends for life.

Habit 3: Extreme sport of experiential empathy.  For example, US industrial designer Patricia Moore decided to dress up as an 80 tear old and visited 100 cities to come up with inventions for new products based on her experience.

Habit 4: Practice the art of conversation.  Listening to and sharing ourselves and emotions.  For example, the brass roots peace organisation, Parents Circle which brings together Palestinian and Israeli parents who have lost a child for conversation, picnics, sharing stories.  Includes the “Hello Peace” freephone telephone line to be able to speak to someone from the opposite community.

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change.For example, the anti-slave movement was built on empathy with exhibitions, writing and presentations about what it was like to be a slave by formeslaves.

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination.  Be more adventurous in who you think about and how.  For example, ‘those greedy bankers’ – think about their lives, values and have conversations that help to bridge divides.

Only through high levels of empathy can we start to create social change across time as well as space.  Failing to empathise through time with future generations will be extremely hazardous to all of our futures.

Socrates wrote: Know thyself.  This can also be achieved by stepping outside ourselves and discovering people least like us.

Homeless Young Boy Holding a Sign

Simon Baron Cohen: Zero Degrees of Empathy (The RSA)

In this talk, psychiatry professor Simon Baron Cohen presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion. 

He provides a two-dimensional definition for empathy that combines:

Cognitive component – the drive to identify another person’s thoughts and feelings, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; and

Affective component – the drive to respond with the appropriate emotion to another’s thoughts and feelings, the emotional reaction we bring.

Most of us are in the middle of the normal bell-curve distribution for empathy.  Females score slightly but statistically significantly higher in empathy than males.

Philosopher Martin Buber identified the point you start treating a person as an object is when you switch off empathy:  the “I”  ~  “You” relationship is switched to “I” – “It.”

This is worth thinking about in our relationships – to what extent do we talk about you and what you feel, think want, need and to what extent do we only talk about the task, what needs to be achieved, the problem, the thing that needs doing…?

John Bowlby argued that early experience makes a major difference, and insecure attachment as child can lead to delinquency, because attachment is key to the formation of empathy.

Baron Cohen’s research is finding that the more testosterone in the womb the more different the empathy reading in the later 8 year old.  This links somewhat with the lower readings of empathy in males.

We know that there is not one part of the brain responsible for empathy, but rather Baron Cohen counts at least ten highly connected parts of the brain that are activated in a highly connected ’empathy circuit’ when we are being empathetic.

If psychopaths are one example of having no empathy, he asks whether zero degrees of empathy is always bad, and answers “No.”  The condition of Autism tends to cause people who have it to be extremely moral rather than cruel, making them likely to avoid or withdraw from social situations rather than want to harm.  Zero positive means their unusual attention to detail often leads to giftedness.

Evolution suggests that empathy has been positively selected.  In the 1960s Masserman trained rhesus monkeys to learn that when they pulled a chain they would get food.  He then changed this so that, as well as getting food, they also saw another monkey getting an electric shock, and found that they soon stopped pulling the chain that gave them food but hurt another monkey.

Like language and memory, empathy is likely to be influenced by many different components including our culture and our society.

Empathy is the most valuable human resource because it has the power to resolve conflict, either between two individuals – or extended to two nations – empathy allows us to understand the other’s point of view.  Empathy is cheaper and more successful than either military or legal solutions.

Young Couple Talking in Cafe

Disruptive Happiness: Mario Chamorro at TEDxWilliamsburg

For a wonderful creative illustration of these ideas in action see Mario talking about his enterprise, The Happy Post Project, an initiative that in less than 2 years has reached millions of people in over 30 countries, and today continues to spread happiness all over the world.

Most recently, Mario founded Make it Happy, an organisation devoted to the generation and support of positive social change, by creating projects that spread and inspire happiness, while cultivating a grassroots network of social innovators.

Sunnie Toelle: The Happiness Tipping Point

In this article Toelle looks back over the rapid recent advances in the various disciplines that put happiness at their centre and wonders…

Some fascinating and potentially powerful happiness-related frameworks and initiatives exist on multiple levels and across geographic regions. Happiness matters for many reasons, but most of all, because business as usual is leading to a staggering increase in mental disorders, mental health costs and a massive loss of human potential. Arguably, it should therefore become a key agenda item in boardroom meetings and at policy roundtables. Yet, it remains to be seen who and what will hit off the tipping point.

And for some advice about creativity, making art and living the life you want, see these ideas in

Austin Kleon on 10 Things Every Creator Should Remember But We Often Forget by Maria Popova

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use — do the work you want to see done.

 

Here is a link to this week’s entire Happiness At Work which includes more ideas linked to these themes in my reflections about what made the Beyond Glorious Symposium so exceptional in my piece:

Beyond Glorious – what made this symposium so very special and extraordinary

Enjoy your week – especially its softer moments that we really hope you will be able to hold gently open…

concept

Happiness At Work #45 ~ some highlights from this week’s collection

Happy People

Happiness At Work Edition 45 of 10th May 2013

This collection features a number of stories about smiling and laughter – why it’s good for us, how we can smile more, and looking through Steve McCurry’s latest pictures featuring people smiling we think is guaranteed to bring your own smiles out:

Steve McCurry’s Blog: The Universal Language

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but
sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Just see how many of these of his pictures you can look at without smiling yourself…

Businesspeople Laughing in Meeting

Insights from Brené Brown, Cal Newport, Gretchen Rubin & more at the 2013 99U Conference

Embrace vulnerability.  Stop chasing a passion.  Cultivate a “get better” (rather than a “be good”) mindset.  That’s just a taste of the counter-intuitive insights on idea execution that were shared last week at the 2013 99U Conference, presented by GE.

Researcher and writer Brené Brown dug into the vulnerability inherent in the creative process by sharing a bit of personal experience. After her TED talk went viral, the negative comments started to affect her process until a Theodore Roosevelt quote changed her entire perspective: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” …

When everyone else heard Steve Jobs’ now-legendary commencement address at Stanford in 2005, the common takeaway was that we should “follow our passion.” But writer, computer scientist, and professor Cal Newport argues that following your passion isn’t actually the path to happiness…

Tony Schwartz began with the question, “How do we solve what feel like are impossible problems?” (e.g. world hunger, climate change, poverty). He believes that these big, nagging problems will never be solved by a single approach; instead, we must embrace a more holistic way of viewing the world and the creative process. On a practical level this means training ourselves to strategically switch between right-brain and left-brain thinking when problem solving…

Whether it’s going to the gym, making time for passion projects, or quitting your email addiction, we’re always trying to make and break new habits. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, explains that determination alone won’t get the job done — the key to success is having insight into your own nature before going after a goal…

For Tina Seelig, bringing ideas to life is all about reframing perspective. As executive director for the Standford Technology Ventures Program and author ofinGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, she helps entrepreneurs challenge assumptions and use an “Innovation Engine” to reframe a problem and boost imagination…

Upon reading story after story about geniuses, prodigies, and other successful people, Heidi Grant Halvorson found herself noticing that people in the U.S. tend to attribute failure and success not to controllable factors such as work ethic, but rather to innate ability or talent. She walked attendees through a series of studies and experiments that show how powerful your perspective can be in pushing toward success…

Happiness Is Up To You, Authors Say

Tal Ben-Shahar, a well-known author and professor, was one of the influential figures who brought the concept of embracing optimism into the mainstream. His class on positive psychology at Harvard University has been wildly popular, attracting national attention.

But even Ben-Shahar, who has a doctorate in organizational behavior from Harvard, hit a wall recently. Demands for his happiness seminars had skyrocketed over the last 10 years as the economy tanked and more clients ended up in crisis. After what he termed an exhausting year, the sage of happy described himself as worn out, burned out and unhappy.

So, the man who had written “Happier” and other popular books decided to write yet another book.

This time, he went beyond concepts of positive psychology, giving readers of his new book an easy-to-follow road map to a life of contentment. He based his latest writing on the idea that the small choices we make day in and day out have a big impact on our overall happiness…

Tal Ben-Shahir - Choose the Life You Want

Kahneman and Bentham’s Bucket of Happiness

Daniel Kahneman, who has plausibly been called the “most important psychologist alive today,” has spent a decade experimenting with “hedonimetrics,” which analyzes “single happiness values” assigned to each moments felt pleasure or pain. Commendably candid, he concludes: “we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled.” Despite eons of thinking, happiness has become a low-resolution word, unhelpful in seeing useful distinctions.

It’s time we pulled happiness out of Bentham’s befuddling bucket, which seems of dubious utility. Biological realities require restraining the maximization of pleasure within healthy limits. We’d feel better if our sovereign minds pursued healthier happiness rather than the heedlessly hedonistic sort.

Yellow Flowers in Bucket

Rick Hanson on the Neuroscience of Happiness (podcast)

The best-selling author and psychologist discusses how we can literally re-wire our brains to cultivate positive emotions, inner peace, and lasting happiness…

Buddha's Brain

Mindfulness

10 Reasons Why Meditation Is America’s New Push-Up for the Brain

The push-up is an incredible tool to help you get in great physical shape; that’s why it’s used in almost every gym in America. With all the scientific evidence pointing to mindfulness meditation, the practice is literally becoming America’s next push-up for the brain.

Here are 10 reasons why you should do the practice…

Office Worker Meditating at Work

3 Simple Ways to Enter the Present

The calm of the present moment is always available and getting to it is deceptively simple.

In fact, it is more complicated to escape the present moment than to be in it.

The problem is, we are naturally complicated!

We learn early in life to avoid the simplicity of the moment and live inside an entangled mind-mess.

So, back to basics!  Listen.  See.  Feel.

We connect to the present moment through our five senses. In this article, we’ll review simple ways to use three of your senses to sweep away the mind-mess and just be present. No drama. Just present.

The trick is to avoid making meaning. When you make meaning, you must go inside your mind. It is so easy at that point to make meaning that is emotionally upsetting.

All of us need a break from the internal commotion…

water dropping into pool

Resilience

Career Advice: Give

Givers focus on others, takers on themselves, and matchers care most about fairness. Studies show that most professional success, not just satisfaction, goes to givers.

Only 8% of people describe themselves as givers at work. That’s because most people think it’s safer to operate like a taker or matcher at work; givers, they think, are chumps who will fall behind in the game of life.

Adam Grant explodes that myth in his book, Give and Take, showing that givers are among the most successful people in business. They may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” Grant tells me “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”

This is important considering that Americans spend most of their waking hours — most of their lives — at work. The average American man works 8.4 hours per day and the average American woman works 7.7 hours a day. How they feel in those hours is a major determinant of their well-being. But, according to the American Psychological Association, nearly 70 percent of Americans cite work as a major source of stress in their lives and four out of ten say that they experience stress at work on a daily basis. One report indicates that over half of working Americans are unsatisfied and unhappy with their jobs. The top person people don’t like being around is, according to the National Time Use survey, their boss. Bosses and work seem to be significant sources of unhappiness for many people.

When people are stressed out, their first instinct is to protect themselves — or to retreat into a taker mentality. But operating like a giver may actually be more effective in buffering against stress and enhancing well-being. On its face, this is counter-intuitive. Time is a scarce resource, especially for people who are stressed. Being a giver involves taking time away from yourself to help someone else. This could seemingly aggravate stress levels, but it actually alleviates them…

giving a daffodil

7 Tips for making Other People Feel Smart and Insightful

We all want to get along well with other people, and one way to do this is to help people feel good about themselves. If you make a person feel smart and insightful, that person will enjoy your company. The point is not to be manipulative, but to help other people feel good about their contributions to a conversation.

Here are some suggestions…

Social Connections Drive the ‘Upward Spiral’ of Positive Emotions and Health

People who experience warmer, more upbeat emotions may have better physical health because they make more social connections, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research, led by Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bethany Kok of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences also found it is possible for a person to self-generate positive emotions in ways that make him or her physically healthier.

“People tend to liken their emotions to the weather, viewing them as uncontrollable,” says Fredrickson. “This research shows not only that our emotions are controllable, but also that we can take the reins of our daily emotions and steer ourselves toward better physical health.”

couple fly a kite together at the seaside

Happiness At Work

Secret to happiness: “I want this job for a week”

How can we be fulfilled at work? A British theorist argues that we should experiment, not specialise

Krznaric’s book “How to Find Fulfilling Work” is an entry in the School of Life, Alain de Botton’s series of self-help books for people who wouldn’t be caught dead in the self-help section. In it, Krznaric argues that the way we’ve been trained to find our life’s work is completely wrong. He takes issue in particular with the personality tests administered by career counselors to judge one’s strengths and interests. They’re complete bunk, Krznaric argues, pointing out that you’ve got a 50 percent chance of being placed in a different personality category if you retake the test.

Instead of pondering your ideal occupation long and hard, Krznaric says, just pick something. Nearly anything will do. “We need to act first and think afterwards,” he said. Once you’ve tried something, you’re in a much better position to decide whether you like it or not.

At its root, Krznaric wants to flip our idea of what success looks like. Instead of aspiring to become “high achievers,” he argues, many of us would be more happy as “wide achievers” — dabbling in many fields rather than becoming an expert in one. And with the disappearance of stable jobs in almost every field, cultivating skills across a range of occupations could be a smart move.

According to Krznaric, the only career advice you really need comes from Aristotle: “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” Finding those talents — well, that’s up to you…


balance - couple walking across a log over stream 2balance - couple walking across a log over stream

Getting Closer To Work~Life Balance

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of

balance, order, rhythm and harmony. 

Thomas Merton

The good news is that you can have better in both worlds. You can work hard and still find time to enjoy your family and friends, and your life. You must take the initiative and  decide that you need to create a better balance for yourself.

How?

You will need to adopt a few essential strategies. And, no, it is not always simple, especially in the beginning. Work-life balance is about finding new ways to balance the demands of your work with the demands of your personal life. You actually can be successful and happy doing both; or at least happier…

Bored With Your Job? How To Get the Spark Back

If you’re finding it hard to drag yourself to work, maybe you need a new job – but maybe you just need to adjust your attitude.

After the initial “honeymoon phase” of a new job wanes, it’s easy for the day-to-day grind, or a difficult boss, to take a toll on your job satisfaction, leaving you with a negative attitude.

“Workplace happiness is finding the right job, the right culture and the right boss,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace coach and founder of theworkplacetherapist.com, which is based in Atlanta. “The challenge is that when one of those is out of line, you have to find ways to manage that.

Some people, in fact, are more prone to negative thinking, which can make them even more unhappy at work than others in the same situation.

One type of therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy, is based on the theory that you can improve your mental health, or in this case your level of happiness at work, by reframing the way you think about things and taking steps to improve how you cope. It helps you change your thinking to make it more accurate and less tinged with emotion.

Here are some common “mindset traps” that can sabotage your level of happiness at work, and tips on how to reframe your thinking about the situations…

Blue sky and white sun clipart

Honoring Happiness: What Bhutan, a Cowboy Hat, & the Economy Have in Common

“What does happiness have to do with sustainability?”

The short answer is, everything. As Lovins delved deeper into ecological economics, it became apparent that happiness was a serious topic and that the meaning of happiness was being refined. The kind of happiness that Lovins was presenting was not just a fleeting feeling, but rather it was the notion of happiness as currency

Happiness needs to become part of the business dialogue. It needs to become a part of our national debate. However, the world cannot wait for corporations and governments to adopt GNH. In the spirit of Hunter Lovins, I remind you that the power is in your hands. What can you do to increase your happiness and how can you incorporate the nine happiness principles into your organization?

person with rain

Happiness At Work: Applied Happiness

Zappos.com built a  hugely successful brand and company through outstanding customer service and an unusual company culture, but even more inspiring is the fact that they succeeded in doing this by using happiness as a business model. Drawn by the notion that anyone can apply the science of happiness to work, communities and our everyday lives, happiness has become the organizing principle behind a new business and now, a movement.  Watch her fascinating TED talk and decide for yourself if she is worth listening to.

Six Ways To Stop Worrying and Find The Work You Love

Most of us spend the majority of our day at work so it is crucially important that the work that we do makes us feel happy and fullfilled.  This article by Roman Krznaric from Yes magazine, which was originally published in The Huffington Post, looks at 6 ways to stop worrying about what to do to find a fulfilling job and some simple steps we can take to improve our sense of fulfillment at work.  Romans has also written a book on the subject entitled How to Find Fulfilling Work if you would like to read about this topic more.

Looking For Happiness At Work? Consider these three things

We spend 35% of our waking hours at work. That’s a lot, right?  If finding happiness at work seems as elusive as chasing down the holy grail, here are three thoughts that may help you..

Millennium bridge, looking towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Here are some suggestions to keep up the Motivation and Happiness…

It’s no surprise that happy workers bring good results. They are more motivated and driven in anything they do. However, with the high amount of concerns and uncertainties in the workplace today such as increasing work pressure, under-staffed teams, and boundary less career; it’s hard to keep the vibe up all the time.

The Institute of Leadership & Management published a study recently on the social behaviour of employees within an organisation. Results have shown that employees are most satisfied and happy within the first 2 years of their current employment where they find it being most exciting, challenging and enthusiastic. This level of motivation drops significantly after 2 years on average with employees finding their duties repetitive.

Employee Happiness Should Not Be An Impossible Task

Fortunately or unfortunately, employee engagement is a hot topic.

Don’t get me wrong, engagement is important. There’s a proven link between engagement, productivity and profits. Companies should want to have engaged employees.

It’s virtually impossible to have an engaged employee who isn’t happy. So step one in the engagement formula should be creating happiness at work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s not realistic. But it’s not unreasonable to strive for more happy days than not happy days.

As an employee, I should be able to tell my employer “With rare exception, I’m happy coming to work.”

When was the last time someone asked “What makes you happy at work?

Do you know the answer?

Self Mastery

woman presenter

What On Earth is the Power of You?

With courses abounding to ‘be yourself’, and attendance numbers sky rocketing, why do so many of us remain poor communicators, continuing at the same time to be both terrified and dull? Well, perhaps quite simply, because many of us, no matter what course we’ve done have not actually discovered authenticity!

‘Being you’ won’t be easy, our work, society and sometimes even our families encourage us to fulfil prescribed roles. And it requires contemplation and consideration. Don’t be driven by corporate gain, it’s merely a valuable by-product. Be driven by the simple fact that, unless you have some need to hide your identity, like you’re under police protection or a spy, not being yourself is plain bloody ludicrous…

3 Tips to Connect With Your Authentic Self for a Happier Life

Selflessness is disconnecting from ego and connecting with your essential self. It’s being in your element, without trying to be something other than what you are.

And the good news is you can learn how to be selfless by simply observing nature. If you can, take a few minutes and walk outside.

Notice how every flower, every plant, and every tree is an exquisite expression of itself. Each one is what it is. A rose is a rose. A tree is a tree. They aren’t trying or struggling to be anything other than what they are. And that’s what makes them beautiful.

Dandelion

Animals also are magnificent manifestations of themselves. They don’t fight against their true nature. They are what they are. And that’s why we love animals.

So too, we are who we are. Yet, unlike nature and animals, our ego gets in the way and prevents us from being ourselves. It wants us to believe that we are someone we are not. When I craved acceptance and approval from others. I wanted to fit in and be liked by everyone I met. I put on an act to impress, while trying to camouflage awkward feelings of inadequacy.  To avoid this from happening to you, you need to connect with who you really are.

Here are 3 steps that will help you connect with your authentic self…

3 Tips To Win the Battle Against Your Inner Perfectionism

Think every project you work on has wrapped up perfectly in a neat little bow? Think again! Sure, you’re a professional and you can obviously produce stellar results, but you’re also human. If you’re constantly battling your inner perfectionist, you’re killing your productivity. Follow these three tips to win the battle against your “perfect” mindset and make your business more productive and profitable…

Explore: Genius Is… (poster)

Genius Is poster

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends Upon

Each moment, each situation, each turn of events presents you with an opportunity to build the self you are capable of being.  It’s just a matter of accepting opportunities, implementing ideas, taking action, and actively expressing the purpose that is uniquely YOU.

You are stronger than any barrier standing in your way, because you have a purpose that cannot be denied.  You can be adaptable, innovative, hard working and tenacious.  You can imagine the possibilities and then work to make them real.

Here are five life skills that will help you do just that – the real fundamentals of being an empowered, self-directed human being:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Creativity
  3. Resilience
  4. Patience
  5. Self Reliance

Creativity

Brain & Skeleton

Innovation Excellence: Cultivate Mental Confusion

When it comes to our daily job, we also become very proficient at it over time. Our brains develop routines and we stick to them because they work. That said, by not challenging the way we do things we invariably plateau and reach a state of pleasant comfort, sometime without even realizing it. However, there is nothing more dangerous in life than comfort because it can quietly kill your creativity, desire to innovate and aspiration for a better tomorrow.

If you have reached that dangerous level of comfort or don’t want to get even near it, let me offer a solution: Mental Confusion.

7 Japanese Aesthetic Principles to Change Your Thinking

Japanese Tsukubai Fountain

Exposing ourselves to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideas — notions that may seem quite foreign to most of us — is a good exercise in lateral thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. “Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perception,” says de Bono. Beginning to think about design by exploring the tenets of the Zen aesthetic may not be an example of Lateral Thinking in the strict sense, but doing so is a good exercise in stretching ourselves and really beginning to think differently about visuals and design in our everyday professional lives.

 The principles are interconnected and overlap; it’s not possible to simply put the ideas in separate boxes. Thankfully, Patrick Lennox Tierney (a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007) has a few short essays elaborating on the concepts. Below are just seven design-related principles (there are more) that govern the aesthetics of the Japanese garden and other art forms in Japan. Perhaps they will stimulate your creativity or get you thinking in a new way about your own design-related challenges…

Bridge at Shinsen-en Sacred Spring Garden

Leadership

Few Executives Are Self-Aware, But Women Have The Edge

The single area where both female and male managers need to improve is in self-awareness. While women did outperform men on that metric, notice how low the rates for both genders are — under 20%. “If you think about most people in our day-to-day lives we tend to run on auto-pilot,” says Malloy. “We often are not mindful about our impact on others or how and where we spend our time. We can easily get caught up in the task or the day-to-day distractions” and pay less attention to ourselves and effect we may have on others.

“Improving self-awareness requires getting some source of credible feedback, and being open to that feedback,” she advises. “Find a trusted colleague or someone from your personal life who can give you constructive feedback in real-time.”

Malloy continues, “Developing self-awareness also requires reflection… Schedule time every week on your calendar to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how could you react differently in the future.”

Self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. A leader must know herself — her abilities, her shortcomings, and her opportunities for growth in order to be able to provide direction, guidance and inspiration to others.

Leadership demands strong interpersonal skills. And while research may show that women leaders have the edge in certain areas, the lesson I take from this study is that both men and women have work to do in order to become the leaders their followers need…

Young Couple Talking in Cafe

A Gen Y Definition of Leadership

Gen Y is the next generation of leaders, and we bring with us a fresh outlook on leadership.

If you read this and scoffed, then I wish you luck as you descend into irrelevance. If, however, you’re reading this, wondering how it will affect your organisation, you may want to consider the following:

  • How do my company’s programmes support Gen Y in leadership roles?
  • What is likely to become redundant or obsolete?
  • What frustrations might Gen Y leaders face, and can anything be done to alleviate them?
  • What are the implications of changing nothing?
  • How will newer leadership styles mesh with more traditional styles? What might be the impact on employees transitioning from a traditional-style manager to a Gen Y?

Dealing With A Change That’s Hard To Swallow

If you’re struggling with a change on your team, start by asking what it would look like if you did believe in the change.  How can you increase the likelihood this will work instead of increasingly the likelihood that it will fail? Then don’t wait until you believe it, just start behaving it.  And in one of the most fascinating examples of the complexity of our human brains, once you are doing it, you will start to believe in it.

young girl looking down road

The Ripple Effect You Create As A Manager

Each one of us holds a set of beliefs and attitudes — a mindset — that determines how we interpret and respond to situations. That mindset shapes how we interact with others, and therefore it also affects the people we work with — in ways both subtle and profound. A person with a distrustful mindset, for example, views situations at work as competitive and acts to advance his own interest at others’ expense by politicking: shifting allegiances, taking credit, assigning blame, withholding or distorting information. These behaviors drive up stress and burnout in others, and undermine organizational effectiveness.

On the other hand, a mindset of openness, trust, and generosity promotes behaviors that have beneficial effects on others. In his new book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant marshals an impressive body of scientific evidence to show how a mindset of generosity radiates to yield broad gains.

Here’s one powerful research example: a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy employees found that people with social support from coworkers were two and a half times less likely to die prematurely than those without. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that by being supportive of people at work, you’re not just brightening their day — you’re literally helping to save lives…

Two Young Women in Front of the Computer Talking