Happiness At Work edition #133 – we are what we think

 

dreamstime_l_22898332Here is a guide to some the ideas and articles we’ve collected in the latest Happiness At Work edition #133.

Our theme this time is inspired by the excellent Get Happy Neuroscience for Business series of articles, including The 5 Neuroscience Lessons for Leaders and The 7 C’s of Change Management – making change easier with neuroscience.

What these ideas, and the stories that follow, all have in common is the growing understanding we are getting from contemporary research about how much the way we choose to think about things affects the experienced reality of the things themselves.

Never has the need for personal mastery been more vital or more richly informed, and I hope this collection will give you new approaches and techniques to try out and talk about with the people who matter to you.  Enjoy.

How Your Thoughts Change Your Brain, Cells and Genes

by Debbie Hampton Writer, blogger, hot yoga enthusiast, brain injury survivor

Every thought you have causes neurochemical changes, some temporary and some lasting. For instance, when people consciously practice gratitude, they get a surge of rewarding neurotransmitters, like dopamine, and experience a general alerting and brightening of the mind, probably correlated with more of the neurochemical norepinephrine…

Every cell in your body is replaced about every two months. So, the good news is, you can reprogram your pessimistic cells to be more optimistic by adopting positive thinking practices, like mindfulness and gratitude, for permanent results…

Your biology doesn’t spell your destiny, and you aren’t controlled by your genetic makeup. Instead, your genetic activity is largely determined by your thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions. Epigenetics is showing that your perceptions and thoughts control your biology, which places you in the driver’s seat. By changing your thoughts, you can influence and shape your own genetic readout.

The Surprising Scientific Link Between Happiness And Decision Making

by LAURA VANDERKAM

How do you make decisions? Some people want to find the absolute best option (“maximizers”). Others, known as “satisficers,” have a set of criteria, and go for the first option that clears the bar.

While wanting the best seems like a good thing, research from Swarthmore College finds that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers.

This is true for two reasons. First, people who want the best tend to be prone to regret. “If you’re out to find the best possible job, no matter how good it is, if you have a bad day, you think there’s got to be something better out there,” saysBarry Schwartz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Paradox of Choice

This happiness gap raises the question: Can maximizers learn to become satisficers? Can you learn to settle for good enough?

Possibly, but it takes some work. “What I believe is that it’s changeable and that it’s not easy to change,” says Schwartz. Here are some ways to make the shift…

Beyond Brain Basics: 5 Neuroscience Lessons for Leaders

In Brain Basics, we looked at many of the structures in the brain and how they function. In this section we will look more specifically at how they impact leadership and the workplace. Since these are complex issues, especially for people who are just learning about neuroscience, we’ve put together 5 neuroscience lessons for leaders, that will shed some light on the practicality of these notions.

1. The Brain is Plastic

…The brain continues to reform and rewire itself based on how much or how little the pathways are used. That means that we can always learn new things.

The way neurons share information is through sending and receiving neurotransmitters across the small gap. The neurotransmitters trigger a chemical process, which creates an electrical charge that travels through the neuron. This process of electrical charge, neurotransmitters, electrical charge, and so on is what creates the pathway of neurons. There is a saying “Cells that fire together, wire together.” That means that when learning a new task or about a new person, the best way to learn it is to do it multiple times, so that the neurons “fire together” and eventually “wire together”.

It is never too late for a leader or an employee to learn a new skill or a new way of doing things. Change is hard sometimes, but research tells us it is possible.

2. Our Brains Like Rewards

Emotions are an important aspect of how the brain changes and how we learn. Positive feelings activated through the reward system of the brain enhance the pathways and improve learning. The reward system is very complex and has pathways in many areas of the brain, but often it is regulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine.

There are two main reward systems in the brain that are related to attention and motivation: primary and secondary. Primary rewards are related to primary needs like food, water, and shelter. We feel good when we have those needs met. Secondary rewards help our survival but are not vital to it. They include things like information, power, trust, touch, appreciation, and community.

For leaders, rewards are often an effective way to motivate employees. Based on neuroscience, there are some rewards that seem to release more dopamine than others. You will see that money, or material goods, are not on the list. Many of the rewards are related to social interaction in some way.

Following the science, leaders can review their system of motivation and rewards to consider ideas that are proven to be rewarding to the brain. While each employee is different, there are many categories or rewards that would be useful to implement in order to truly activate an employee’s reward pathway. More dopamine means employees who are happier, more focused, and more motivated.

3. The Power of Mirror Neurons

In the early 1990s scientists discovered mirror neurons. They found that when one person watches another do some kind of action, the neurons of the first person fire as if they were actually doing it. There is a common example that has to do with yawning. Research has shown that yawning can be contagious. Why? Mirror neurons. When one person yawns and another observes, the neuronal pathways for yawning in the observer’s brain are activated, causing them to yawn too.

While this may explain why a yawn can seem to travel around an office, mirror neurons are really important for learning, emotional awareness, and empathy. When we watch someone do something, our brain is actually learning how to do it. When we see someone experiencing an emotion, our brain processes that emotion as well, increasing empathy.

Mirror neurons can be important aspects of leadership as we can see how our emotional and physical states as leaders are actually teaching our employees how to act and how to respond emotionally to us. When mirroring is connected to a certain need and when it is understood from a familiar viewpoint, the effect is stronger. Mirror neurons, again, prove how much humans are social animals. People are highly connected to the people and the environments around them.

Because of this connection, leaders can create environments where people can mirror others who create collaborative and cooperative learning and working atmospheres. Individuals are important to the team and the team is important to the individuals through the power or mirror neurons.

4. Emotions are Everything

Many people want to believe that they can make decisions based exclusively on free will and their rational minds. That is not often backed by science, as research has shown that there are many unconscious processes that influence and dictate why we behave in the ways we do.

Those processes follow brain pathways that were put into place when we were very young. In most cases we have already made a decision before we have actually thought about it. This happens in the limbic system. Our cerebral cortex then has to rationalize the decision through language and planning, leading to, what some may call, the illusion of free will. That is not to say that the cerebral cortex cannot influence the limbic system. This can be seen in people who practice meditation and mindfulness.

As a leader, it is particularly useful to know that when we are faced with stress or a threat, the executive functions of the brain shut down, leaving the unconscious processes of the limbic system in charge of decision making. These parts of the brain react on emotion and survival instincts.

Leaders also need to be aware that in terms of learning and team building, change happens not from the cerebral context but from the limbic system. With effective company rewards and interventions, the slow process of changing the limbic system can start to take place.

5. Creating a Brain-Based Work Environment

The information presented is a starting point for creating a work environment that is based around what is healthy for the brain. Leaders who ignore how the brain functions are leaving a lot to chance. Sometimes things might be great, but then something can happen and they might worsen. Having a brain-based work environment can help leaders effectively navigate the rises and falls in the economic climate.

Be a brain-based leader by helping the people improve the work environment, and the environment improve the people. Both influence the other and, in a working system, there will be an upward spiral of motivation, growth, and productivity. Overtime, this environment will actually change the brains of the people in it, making the team and the organization better able to adapt to change.

see also these articles in the series:

The Basis of Leadership Is Born in the Brain: Why Leaders Should Care about Neuroscience

The 7 C’s of Change Management: Making Change Easier With Neuroscience

11 Ways to Run Your Business with Neuroscience

Your Brain on Hormones: How Neuroscience Can Make You a Better Leader

Improve Employee Engagement Using Neuroscience

Brain Basics: Neuroscience in Business

Google’s Scientific Approach to Work-Life Balance (and Much More)

…Inspired by the Framingham Heart Study research, our People Innovation Lab developed gDNA, Google’s first major long-term study aimed at understanding work. Under the leadership of PhD Googlers Brian Welle and Jennifer Kurkoski, we’re two years into what we hope will be a century-long study. We’re already getting glimpses of the smart decisions today that can have profound impact on our future selves, and the future of work overall…

…The fact that such a large percentage of Google’s employees wish they could separate from work but aren’t able to is troubling, but also speaks to the potential for this kind of research. The existence of this group suggests that it is not enough to wish yourself into being a Segmentor. But by identifying where employees fall on this spectrum, we hope that Google can design environments that make it easier for employees to disconnect. Our Dublin office, for example, ran a program called “Dublin Goes Dark” which asked people to drop off their devices at the front desk before going home for the night. Googlers reported blissful, stressless evenings. Similarly, nudging Segmentors to ignore off-hour emails and use all their vacation days might improve well-being over time. The long-term nature of these questions suggests that the real value of gDNA will take years to realize.

…We have great luxuries at Google in our supportive leadership, curious employees who trust our efforts, and the resources to have our People Innovation Lab. But for any organization, there are four steps you can take to start your own exploration and move from hunches to science:

1. Ask yourself what your most pressing people issues are.  Retention?  Innovation? Efficiency?  Or better yet, ask your people what those issues are.

2. Survey your people about how they think they are doing on those most pressing issues, and what they would do to improve.

3. Tell your people what you learned. If it’s about the company, they’ll have ideas to improve it. If it’s about themselves – like our gDNA work – they’ll be grateful.

4. Run experiments based on what your people tell you. Take two groups with the same problem, and try to fix it for just one. Most companies roll out change after change, and never really know why something worked, or if it did at all. By comparing between the groups, you’ll be able to learn what works and what doesn’t.

And in 100 years we can all compare notes.

How to Reset Your Happiness Set Point

by Alex Lickerman M.D. author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self

The set-point theory of happiness suggests that our level of subjective well-being is determined primarily by heredity and by personality traits ingrained in us early in life and as a result remains relatively constant throughout our lives. Our level of happiness may change transiently in response to life events, but then almost always returns to its baseline level as we habituate to those events and their consequences over time. Habituation, a growing body of evidence now tells us, occurs even to things like career advancement, money, and marriage.

On the other hand, other research (link is external) suggests a few events—chief among them the unexpected death of a child and repeated bouts of unemployment—seem to reduce our ability to be happy permanently. Yet some studies also suggest that we can also fix our happiness set point permanentlyhigher—by helping others.

According to one such study (link is external) that analyzed data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey, a collection of statistics representing the largest and longest-standing series of observations on happiness in the world, the trait most strongly associated with long-term increases in life satisfaction is, in fact, a persistent commitment to pursuing altruistic goals. That is, the more we focus on compassionate action, on helping others, the happier we seem to become in the long run…

…just as exercise can actually provide us with energy by forcing us to summon it when we’re feeling tired (link is external), helping others can provide us with enthusiasm, encouragement, and even joy by forcing us to summon them when we’re feeling discouraged. “If one lights a fire for others,” wrote Nichiren Daishonin, “one will brighten one’s own way.” Thus, the moments in which we feel happiest aren’t just moments to be enjoyed. They’re also opportunities to increase the frequency and intensity with which we feel them in the future.

5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness

by David R. Hamilton, Ph.D. Author, ‘I HEART ME: The Science of Self-Love’ and ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’

When we think of side effects, the first thing that springs to mind are the side effects of drugs. But who’d have thought that kindness could have side effects, too?

Well, it does! And positive ones at that.

…when we are kind, the following are some side effects that come with it:

1) Kindness makes us happier.

When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, … we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside us that says, “This is who I am.”

On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, so we get a natural high, often referred to as “Helper’s High.”

2) Kindness gives us healthier hearts.

Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Of much recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.

Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure, and therefore oxytocin is known as a “cardio-protective” hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin, and therefore kindness can be said to be cardio-protective.

3) Kindness slows aging.

Aging on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are free radicals and inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.

But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (which we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease, so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.

There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, in addition to regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body in what is known as the inflammatory reflex. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist lovingkindness meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, mostly likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.

4) Kindness makes for better relationships.

This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people, so we feel more “bonded.” It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.

Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater the chances of survival, so “kindness genes” were etched into the human genome.

Today, when we are kind to each other, we feel a connection, and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.

5) Kindness is contagious.

When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to three degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards, touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.

A recent scientific study reported than an anonymous 28-year-old person walked into a clinic and donated a kidney. It set off a “pay it forward” type ripple effect where the spouses or other family members of recipients of a kidney donated one of theirs to someone else in need. The “domino effect,” as it was called in the New England Journal of Medicine report, spanned the length and breadth of the United States of America, where 10 people received a new kidney as a consequence of that anonymous donor.

The Happiest Part Of Your Vacation Isn’t What You Think

by Carla Herreria

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.

While all vacationers enjoyed pre-trip happiness, the study’s authors found that people only experienced a boost in happiness post-vacation if their trip was relaxing. If their vacation was deemed “stressful” or “neutral,” their post-trip happiness levels were comparable to those who hadn’t taken a vacation at all.

Pre-trip happiness, however, is a different story entirely. The study found that all vacationers experienced a significant boost in happiness during the planning stages of the trip because, as the researchers suggest, the vacationers were looking forward to the good times ahead…

Is Artistic Inspiration Contagious?

by Scott Barry Kaufman

In a recent study, Todd Thrash and colleagues conducted the first ever test of “inspiration contagion,” using poetry as the vehicle. They looked at specific qualities of a text and the qualities of the reader. It’s a rich study, with 36,020 interactions between all of the variables! Here are the essential findings…

…The more writers privately reported that they felt inspired while writing, the more the average reader reported being inspired. This is despite the fact that there was no actual contact between the reader and the writer other than the text itself!

…Readers higher in openness to new experiences were more tolerant of the new and sublime. The more that the reader was open to new experiences, the more they experienced inspiration transmission, and the less the originality and sublimity of the text hindered transmission.

Reader inspiration was not the only outcome of writer inspiration. Writer inspiration also brought out feelings of awe and chills in the average reader. These feelings of enthrallment were transmitted particularly through the insightfulness and sublimity of the text.

…However, these findings suggest that good writing is more like talking, an expression of one’s inner state of being. Perhaps the most helpful way for aspiring writers to view writing is as a natural vehicle for capturing personal insights and expressing them.

New data science research shows how we manage our long-term happiness

by Colin Smith

Most theories of motivation have championed the pleasure principle, where our choices of daily activities aim to maximize our short-term happiness. However, it was not clear to researchers how to reconcile this idea with the fact that we all have to engage routinely in unpleasant, yet necessary activities.

To address this question a team of researchers, including an Imperial academic, developed a smartphone application to monitor in real-time the activities and moods of approximately 30,000 people.

The team found that, rather than following the pleasure or hedonic principle, people’s choices of activities instead consistently followed a hedonic flexibility principle, which shows how people regulate their mood. Specifically, the model shows that people were more likely to engage in mood-increasing activities such as playing sport when they felt bad. When they felt good they engaged in useful, but mood-decreasing activities such as doing housework…

The model revealed that firstly, people’s future decisions to engage in one activity rather than another are related to how they currently feel. Secondly, the interplay between mood and choices of activity followed a very specific pattern.

When participants were in a bad mood, they were more likely to later engage in activities that tended to subsequently boost their mood. For example, if people’s current mood decreased by 10 points, they were more likely to later engage in things like sport, going out into nature, and chatting. All of these activities were associated with a subsequent increase in mood.

see also:

Finding Happiness: Your Mood Decides Whether You Live In The Moment Or Focus On Future

By

…More or less, we can all be split into two groups; Those motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and those who prefer to secure their long-term welfare. A new study has attempted to understand the motivation between these two conflicting philosophies.

Our likeliness to live in the moment or prepare for the future is not a permanent feature of our personality and changes according to our mood at the moment. The study revealed that when a person is in a good mood, they are more likely to do housework and other unpleasant yet useful activities over the next few hours than when they are in a bad mood. When feeling bad, people tend to choose activities later that day that are more pleasurable, such as playing sports and spending time with friends, apparently in an effort to feel better…

25 Freelancers (Re)Define Success

Profundity by Col Skinner, a UK based Digital Marketing Consultant and Strategist

…if we all take some time to review what success actually means to us and what we want from our working lives then we might find it doesn’t (have to) match the archetypal clichés in society. The archetypal perception is that success is something status led that is achieved through sacrificing your personal life in order to commit hundreds of hours to earning tons of cash in a ‘kill or be killed’ business environment. All very 1980’s Wall Street if you ask me. I think shows like The Apprentice / Dragons Den, along with business dinosaurs like Donald Trump, also have a lot to answer for.

I thought it would be interesting to hear how people who have quit the rat race, define success.  So I went and sourced a range of Freelancers who very kindly gave their personal definitions of SUCCESS. This may help give clarity to those who currently struggle to define their own goals…

You, and no one else, are the one that sets or defines what success looks like. Don’t fall for the cliché trappings of a successful life. Aim for goals that matter and make a difference to you or those around you. I will leave you with this great quote by Anne Sweeney:

“Define success by your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”

Happiness At Work edition #133

All of these articles and more can found together in this collection.

Seligman’s PERMA+1 Essentials for Flourishing

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Positive psychology is not yet twenty years old.  In the short time since Martin Seligman’s 1998 call to turn on a scientific inquiry into what helps human beings to flourish, rather than merely survive, we have discovered an enormous amount about what we can all learn to do and practice and ultimately master to grow and sustain our own and each other’s happiness.

And doing this is much more than a luxury.  Research is showing that our happiness is integral to our individual success, in terms of our performance and productivity, our creativity and learning, and our resilience and positive responsiveness to change and uncertainty.  And it is an equally vital aspect of making strong trusting relationships in our families and friendships, our teams and wider networks, as much as in our societies and increasingly interconnected, interdependent global systems.

Martin Seligman

Human beings want much more in life than not to be miserable” Prof. Martin Seligman pictured with Prof Ian Robertson.   Photo source: Can you teach wellbeing? Martin Seligman thinks so Irish Times

Seligman is speaking across the UK at the moment and I am looking forward enormously to hearing him on 9th May at the Action for Happiness event in London.

In his Irish Times article, Can you teach wellbeing? Martin Seligman thinks soRonan McGreevy writes:

Introducing Seligman in Dublin, TCD professor of psychology Ian Robertson described him as a “polymath” engaged in nothing less than “a movement which is creating a paradigm change in how humanity thinks about itself”.

Seligman described himself as a self-confessed pessimist and depressive who tries out his own techniques first on himself before expanding them to his own family and then his students.

He was a relatively late convert to the concept of wellbeing and happiness. As a psychologist, he recalls, happiness was regarded as the “froth on the cappuccino”, immeasurable and irrelevant to his profession.

“Thirty years ago there was no theory of wellbeing which distinguished it from suffering and no interventions that built wellbeing. That has changed over the past thirty years.”

It might seem obvious given the recent emphasis on wellbeing and happiness, but the focus of psychology and psychiatry was, for so long, on alleviating suffering and examining mental illness rather than the pursuit of happiness.

He defines wellbeing as what “non-suffering, non-oppressed people choose to do”. It pertains not only to individuals but also to corporations and even nation states.

Seligman’s  understanding of wellbeing includes the notion of “flourishing”, where human beings create the conditions for making the best of themselves and their circumstances.

Seligman’s model for wellbeing is made up of five building blocks summed up in the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, strong Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. These five concepts together represent a definition of wellbeing.

We add one more – Resilience – and use this framework in our training and coaching programmes as a springboard to help people explore what they feel most and least satisfied about in their work and lives, and what they can do to keep strong their highest elements and build up their lowest scoring elements.

Here then are the five+1 essential elements for flourishing:

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Positive emotion is feeling happy or comfortable in a situation, what we think of when we think of happiness.

Slide03

ways to find greater positive emotion

  • Use your Signature Strengths every day
  • Experience ~ do what you know makes you happiest
  • Gratitude ~ keep a Gratitude Journal for at least 21 days
  • Exercise ~ even 20minutes a day is better than none
  • Music ~ listen to music to lift or change your mood
  • Mindfulness exercises: focus in on your breathing – even 2minutes a day makes a very big difference
  • B A L A N C E ~ explore what this means to you and how you can get better balance in different aspects of your life

Engagement is when we are completely absorbed by something, whether it is our work, pastimes, making the dinner, or any activity that we find just the right level of challenge and interest to take our fullest and finest attention. This totally engaged state is known as “flow”, occurring when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. Greater “flow” brings greater happiness.

Slide04

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Having strong Relationships relates to those that bring us benefit. Human beings are “hive creatures”, Seligman says, not just selfish individuals.

Slide06

Strong Relationships come from feeling respected and valued, loved and loving, and involves: love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, giving, teamwork and easy self-sacrifice.

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ways to build stronger relationships

The more you feel that you have made someone else happier the more ~ and the longer ~ you will feel happier yourself.

 

  • Really listen. Try to listen even more fully and openly.
  • Give ~ your time, your attention, your interest, yourself…
  • Appreciate ~ others, yourself, beauty and excellence
  • Share successes
  • Make moments to enjoy being with people who matter to you

Meaning is the extent to which you feel that what you doing adds up to something beyond and unrelated to your own self-interest and ego.  It is the idea making a positive difference to something you care about, of belonging to and serving something that you believe to be bigger than yourself, such as a cause or activity linked to your deepest values. “The more meaning people have at work, the more productive they are,” Seligman says.

Slide08Slide10

ways to increase your sense of meaning

Ask…  By doing this work what do I help to achieve?  What else?  What else? And what do these things help to achieve? …

4 Ways to Find Meaning in Any Job

  • Know what fuels you. Our personal values are hard-wired to our sense of purpose. When you know what you value right down in your bones, you’re able to anchor any activity or behaviour to a sense of something that genuinely matters, bringing your work alive with meaning and purpose. Discover what your values are and then look for how they can connect to what you do.
  • Turn up the texture of experience. Your sense of meaning can be found in the simple moments of life. Find ways to increase the intensity of what you bring by looking out for ways to be help, or show your warmth, or give your attention, or even by taking a deep breath of fresh air not because you’re stressed out, but because you love how it feels in your chest.
  • Leave a room better than when you found it. Decide never to leave a room until you’ve done something to contribute, make a difference, or leave it better than when you entered. Offer your insight or expertise, appreciate someone for something they’ve said or done, or simply give someone your fullest hearing.
  • Leave a little legacy as often as you can.  Look at your legacy as something you possess that you can gift to others by your own free will. Your time, consideration, skill, empathy, hospitality, experience — all of these things and more are things you can gift to others.

Accomplishment would appear to be self-evident, he states, but it is startling how self-discipline trumps talent. It is twice as important as IQ for predicting academic success, Seligman says.

Slide11

Accomplishment comes from a combination of our own internal source of pride in what we have done and achieved along with sufficient recognition and appreciation from others.  One of the top reasons people give for feeling unhappy at work is insufficient recognition and appreciation from their manager.  And Gallup’s research into strengths based leadership concluded that if every manager were to spend 3-5 times as much of their conversations with their people talking about their strengths and achievements as they do about their weaknesses and failings, this one change alone would triple people’s productivity, engagement and commitment to their work and the organisation.

Slide12

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Resilience means making the best of – even becoming stronger as a result of – setbacks, failure, hardship or trauma.  It involves elasticity, bouncing back, flexibility and is grown from the capabilities of optimism, courage, buoyancy, self-determination, and perseverance.

Resilience is “the capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).

Slide14

Seligman advocates simple techniques that will enhance one’s sense of wellbeing – one of which is to write down “three good things” that occur during the day.

“It turns out that when people do this, six months later they are less depressed and have higher positive emotion compared with a placebo.”

What works for the individual also works for larger organisations. Seligman pointed to research in the United States that showed a startling correlation between the type of language used on Twitter and incidences of fatal heart attacks.

One would seem ostensibly to have nothing to do with the other, but there was an unerring correlation between negative language used on the social media platform and increased risk of heart attacks.

“I think this is causal,” he says. “If you change the way people think and talk about the world, you can change things like the heart attack and death rates.”

The critical question, Seligman says, is whether PERMA can be taught. Can happiness be improved? Do these techniques work? Can the success or otherwise of such techniques be measured? He maintains the answer to all these questions is yes.

Studies in Bhutan have shown marked differences in schoolchildren to whom wellbeing was taught against a placebo group that was not taught wellbeing.

Bhutan has made national wellbeing – gross national happiness – a goal as distinct simply from gross national product. Children who were taught the techniques of positive psychology experience half the rate of depression and anxiety as adolescences, Seligman says.

Similarly, Seligman was employed by US army chief of staff George Casey to teach positive psychology to drill sergeants. Casey wanted an army that was mentally as well as physically fit and strong, and has spent €150 million teaching resilience psychology to soldiers.

The result has been a notable decrease in incidences of suicide, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Governments should follow suit, Seligman says.

Happiness At Work - BMA

Post Script:

Here is one more quote from Martin Seligman, from when I heard him speak the Action for Happiness event in 2016:

I believe it is within our capacity that by the year 2051 that 51% of the human population will be flourishing. That is my charge.”  Martin Seligman

See also

Second Wave Positive Psychology: An Introduction

Learning to find light in the darkness…

Plus many more stories and articles in our eclectic collection:

Happiness At Work

What you’ll find in our February 2016 Happiness At Work collection #132

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Nuns from Tyburn Convent, Marble Arch perform a sponsored skip to rebuild the convent front, 17 August 1989. (Archive ref. GUA/6/9/2/1/1). Photo by Graham Turner from the Guardian story: Memorable shots: Moments from Graham Turner’s Guardian career – in pictures

Welcome to this month’s new Happiness At Work collection.

These are some of the highlights I have especially enjoyed and drawn ideas from during the last six week’s trawl for stories, research and practical tips about how to make greater relationships, happiness and resilience for ourselves and the people we work with.

As this burgeoning new field of inquiry expands and gains more and more momentum, it is becoming harder to slim down our selection rather than to find relevant material, and we really hope you will find something amongst this mix, and in the rest of the collection, to use to nourish your own aspirations, learning, leadership and flourishing.

some articles about Happiness At Work

The 5 Most Important Finding from the Science of Happiness that apply at Work

by Alexander Kjerulf

Happy workplaces are more profitable and innovative, attract the best employees and have lower absenteeism and employee turnover rates. Simply put, happy companies make more money.

But how do you create a happy workplace? We believe some of the answers are found in positive psychology…

Traditional psychology looks at everything that can go wrong with our minds – psychosis, neurosis, phobias, depression etc – and asks how it can be treated/cured. It’s an incredibly important field but positive psychology asks the opposite question: When are we happy? What does it take for people to live good lives  and thrive psychologically? The field has been especially active for the last 30 years and we are learning some really interesting and surprising things about happiness.

Here are the five findings from positive psychology that we believe are the most relevant in the workplace.

1: Positive emotions have many beneficial effect on us and on our job performance…

2: Emotions are contagious…

3: Small actions can have a large effect on our happiness…

4: Unexpected things make us happy…

5: Making others happy, makes us happy…

read this full article here

The Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Praise at Work

by Shawn Achor

I am now working with (my wife) Michelle Gielan and Amy Blankson from the Institute for Applied Positive Research to find out how long a happiness boost lasts from a single pay increase versus more frequent organic boosts like digital praise. Our hypothesis is that if a company gives a pay increase, the engagement bump is short-lived, as the new income level becomes the mental norm — necessitating another raise later to maintain the same level of engagement. This is in line with current research on extrinsic/intrinsic motivation as described in the HBR article “Does Money Really Affect Motivation?” But because the peer recognition program is ongoing, there is no indication of a tolerance point at which the engagement scores return to a baseline.

As our companies continue to grow and expand and technology advances, we are finding ourselves increasingly fragmented from our social support networks both at work and at home. The digital revolution has increased our speed of work dramatically. And this research suggests that technology may also be one of the keys to connecting us back together — creating the type of effective, organic and peer-based praise people need and deserve as they endeavor to lead their teams to greater success…and hopefully greater happiness.

read this article here

27 Insights for Creating and Sustaining Workplace Happiness

by PAUL JUN

Psychologist and author Martin Seligman posited that “authentic happiness” is a combination of engagement, meaning, and positive emotions. He studied people from all over the world and discovered that when a person exercises certain traits or virtues—like duty, kindness, and leadership—it promotes authentic happiness.

The two realms of life that are most likely to elicit engagement, meaning, and positive emotions are our social relations and the workplace. And yet, if you ask around, you’ll sadly come to the realization that most workplaces hinder engagement and positive emotions.

Here are 27 resources from great thinkers, researchers, and leaders on helping you hone in on happiness so that you can cultivate it within your team and your day-to-day activities.

some articles about Making Great Relationships at work

The Biggest Performance Management Mistake

by Jacob Shriar

Every employee has a desire to do great work. Companies need to create an environment where employees can achieve great work.

Most companies focus on improving employees’ weaknesses, when they should be focusing on their strengths.

Marcus Buckingham, who worked at Gallup for 20 years researching employee engagement, discovered that the best performing leaders were the leaders that focused on their employees’ strengths.

People produce the best results when they make the most of their unique strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses or perceived weaknesses…

continue reading this article here

How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain

By 

This result suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude “muscle” that can be exercised and strengthened (not so different from various other qualities that can be cultivated through practice, of course). If this is right, the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future. It also potentially helps explain another established finding, that gratitude can spiral: The more thankful we feel, the more likely we are to act pro-socially toward others, causing them to feel grateful and setting up a beautiful virtuous cascade.

read this article here

Your coworkers are more important than you think

by 

According to a meta-analysis by Gallup, one determinant of positive employee attitudes — in addition to having learning opportunities and adequate office supplies — is answering yes to the question “I have a best friend at work.” Perhaps company policies could include 45-minute lunch breaks, since American researchers found that this length of time spent in substantive conversation — not small talk — fosters a sense of closeness between mere acquaintances. Exchanging weekend war stories at your neighbour’s desk has more value than you might think…

read this article here

The Power of Treating Employees Like Family

“Parenting is the stewardship of the precious lives that come to you through birth, adoption or second marriages. Leadership is the stewardship of the precious lives that come to you by people walking through your door and agreeing to share their gifts with you.” This insight ultimately transformed how Chapman runs his company. In a new book Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, Chapman and coauthor Raj Sisodia explain how any company can integrate this perspective into their organization.

Here is the Knowledge@Wharton conversation with Chapman and Sisodia about their book.

some articles about Resilience and Personal Mastery

Resilience isn’t just a nice-to-have. Here’s why.

by Karen Liebenguth

‘How do I tend to respond to difficult or challenging times at work?’

The workplace throws up a steady stream of obstacles and challenges e.g. colleague relationships, organisational ways of working, workloads etc., and it’s our resilience or the ability to cope with the obstacles that come our way, to bounce back, learn from mistakes, to make amends when necessary, and most important of all, begin again without rumination or regret, which determines our wellbeing at work.

Resilience was once seen as a rare human feat – but now, research shows that within a well-functioning emotion system, resilience can be standard and that people’s levels of resilience are not set in stone, but can be improved through experience and training.

So how do you develop a resilient workforce?

read these five tips for developing greater resilience here

Why Resilience Is Good for Your Health and Career

by Laura Landro

Resilience is often defined as the capacity to adjust to change, disruption or difficulty and move on from negative or traumatic experiences in a positive way.

Studies find people with the most resilience tend to be more productive, less likely to have high health-care costs and less often absent from work. Now, some employers are offering programs to help employees become more resilient. They are providing webinars and group coaching to teach skills and habits that help people stay focused and functioning during stressful times at work or home…

A recent review of more than a decade of studies, led by researchers at the University of Nebraska and published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, found resilience training in the workplace can help improve employees’ mental health and subjective well-being, and offer wider benefits in social functioning and performance.

continue reading this article here

How People Learn to Become Resilient

by 

In December the New York Times Magazine published an essay called “The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience.’ ” It pointed out that the word is now used everywhere, often in ways that drain it of meaning and link it to vague concepts like “character.” But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught. In recent years, we’ve taken to using the term sloppily—but our sloppy usage doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been usefully and precisely defined. It’s time we invest the time and energy to understand what “resilience” really means.

read this article here

see also

Is Resilience Written in our DNA?

an examination of the different research findings…

The Only 7 Things You Can Control in Life

BY CATHERINE GOLDBERG

We make millions of little decisions all the time, and the result of each one is either net positive, net negative, or neutral. The more net positive decisions we can make (and the fewer net negative ones), the better. Net positive decisions—brushing your teeth before bed, eating healthy meals, and regularly going to the gym—help you feel good and bring you one step closer to your goals despite the effort they entail….

While the healthier choice may seem harder, it pays off bigger. And you’ll be surprised by just how easy these choices can be once you make the effort. By learning how to master the seven things that are within our control, you will start to make more net positive decisions, fewer net negative ones, and find that empowering, positive behaviors become second nature. So let go of all the stuff you can’t control and start using your time to master what you can control. Before you know it, you’ll be living your best life ever!

1. Your Breath…

2. Your Self-Talk…

3. Your Gratitude…

4. Your Body Language…

5. Your Mental and Physical Fitness…

6. Your Diet…

7. Your Sleep…

read more about these seven things here

some articles about Performance & Productivity

Multitasking is Killing Your Brain

by Larry Kim

Our brains weren’t built to multitask.

Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time, and bombarding them with information only slows them down…

New research suggests the possibility that cognitive damage associated with multi-tasking could be permanent.

A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.

The one caveat is that research isn’t detailed enough to determine if multitasking is responsible for these effects, or if existing brain damage results in multitasking habits. Still, no matter how you spin it, multitasking is no good.

The lesson? Multitasking is not a skill to add to the resume, but rather a bad habit to put a stop to. Turn off notifications, create set email checking time slots throughout the day (rather than constant inbox refreshing), and put your mind to the task at hand.

read the full article here

some articles about Making a Better World

The World’s Happiest Man on Altruism

by Oliver Haenlein

Matthieu Ricard, also known as ‘the world’s happiest man’, spends much of time now  trying to teach the world how to be happy, and how to show empathy, kindness and compassion to one another.

His latest book, Altruism, provides a complex look at a remarkably simple approach to solving the ills of the world. Ricard’s work has always revolved around positive transformation, and now he has published an 800-page guide to using one of the traits most inherent to human nature to overcome the challenges of the 21st century.

Ricard summarises his work: “I used everything I could learn through 70 years, and I researched for five years to point out that altruism is not a luxury or utopia, but the only answer to the challenges of our times.”

The book took him five years to write, and contains an impressive 1,600 scientific references, providing a convincing argument on how important the widespread adoption of genuine concern for the wellbeing of others could be for changing the world.

He takes a three-pronged look at the world’s main challenges: the economy in the short-term, life satisfaction in the mid-term, and the environment in the long-term.

“People are basically good. If you look at evolution, one of the difficult points was how evolution can explain altruism; now you see all the great evolutionists like Martin Nowak with ideas that actually say cooperation has been much more creative to evolution than competition. Those are not just eccentric guys; they are the core of the science.”

Ricard believes that we are perfectly placed to start tapping into what is already a part of us, to create something better: happier societies, a more compassionate business environment, and a less damaging approach to the environment.

read the original article here

some articles about Stillness, Solitude and Mindfulness

13 untranslatable words for happiness

by Elsa Vulliamy

In order to widen the scope of the psychology of happiness, Dr Lomas gathered a list of hundreds of what he said were “untranslatable” words for positive sensations.

Some of the best are listed below:

  1. Sobremesa (Spanish): time spent after finishing a meal, relaxing and enjoying the company
  2. Tepils (Norwegian): drinking beer outside on a hot day
  3. Remé (Balinese): something both chaotic and joyful
  4. Desbunar (Portuguese): shedding ones inhibitions while having fun
  5. Sabsung (Thai): being revitalised through something that livens up one’s life
  6. Feierabend (German): the festive mood at the end of a work day
  7. Tilfreds (Danish): satisfied, at peace
  8. Geborgenheit (German): protected and safe from harm
  9. Flâner (French): strolling leisurely on the streets
  10. Shinrin-yoku (Japanese): relaxation gained from ‘bathing’ in a forest
  11. Gökotta (Swedish): waking up early with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing
  12. Suaimhnaes croi (Gaelic): state of joy after the completion of a task
  13. Tarab (Arabic): musically induced state of ecstasy

read this article here

The End of Solitude

by William Deresiewicz

Those who would find solitude must not be afraid to stand alone.

What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge — broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider — the two cultures betray a common impulse. Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.

So we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone…

continue reading this article here

How Easily Distracted Are You? Here, Distract Yourself With This Game to Find Out

By  and 

Overall, the link between creativity and distractibility ties in nicely with one of the main assertions Kaufman and Gregoire make in their book: that a creative mind is an open mind. This may even help explain why experiments since at least the 1960s have discovered a link between creativity and mental illness. “Being open to and curious about the full spectrum of life — both the good and the bad, the dark and the light — may be what leads writers to score high on some characteristics that our society tends to associate with mental illness,” Kaufman and Gregoire write, “at the same time that it leads them to become more grounded and self-aware.” Having an open mind means a lot more stuff is going to wander on in there, for better or for worse. “Everything is interesting, and you want to pay attention to it all,” Carson said.

But in the annoying, everyday scenarios, this can be a problem, for the obvious reasons. Sometimes you do have to filter out distractions. Alas, it’s not yet clear from the research whether it’s possible for a person to temporarily improve their latent inhibition. Instead of trying to train yourself to ignore distractions like email or texts, it may be better to avoid them completely, at least while you’re trying to get creative work done. Marcel Proust is said to have worked while wearing ear plugs; the 19th-century novelist Franz Kafka once said, “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ — that wouldn’t be enough — but like a dead man.” Both men have a point.

take the test and read the full article here

articles about Contemporary Trends in Work & Organisations

Time to say goodbye to the open plan era?

‘We shape our buildings, afterwards our buildings shape us.’ Winston Churchill

Most employees spend around 40 hours a week in the workplace. It’s the space in which they reason, react, collaborate, build relationships and think creatively…

With employee wellbeing moving up the organisational agenda it isn’t surprising to find businesses re-examining how their workspaces affect employees, for good or for bad.

But other forces too are pushing them to think differently. There has been much discussion about the impact of the multi-generational workforce and of the complications that arise as the requirements and preferences of different generations play out in the modern workplace.

Nor is it just generational differences; different kinds of job roles, work patterns, skill sets and perhaps even personality types also need to be taken into consideration. There is a growing appreciation of the need to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace design, towards one that appreciates the diversity of employee needs.

As businesses seek to gain and maintain competitive edge and remain agile in a world of increasingly flexible work patterns, the need to rethink the working environment is almost inevitable.

With more organisations recognising this, it’s becoming clear that the office of the future is going to look very different from the workplace of the past.

read this article here

10 Job Skills You’ll Need in 2020

The world of work—and the world in general—is changing. People are living longer, new technologies are emerging, and we’ve never been more globally connected. That means the skills we use now in the workplace are not necessarily the skills we’ll need in the future.

To get a sense of what skills you might want to start investing your time into developing, check out the infographic here.

Holacracy: The System To Make Your Team More Productive

by by Jacob Shriar

Holacracy is a management framework that not only makes things more transparent, but empowers employees and fully utilizes their strengths.

Holacracy is so far removed from a traditional way of running an organization that it takes a while to understand and you need to have an open mind…

Holacracy is a management framework focused on self-management. It’s a way of running your company in a very organized way, with clear roles and responsibilities.

With Holacracy, I can play multiple roles and have multiple functions depending on what my skills are.

To fully understand why this is such a powerful system, we need to look at the main differences between Holacracy and traditional company setups.

  1. Roles Instead Of Job Descriptions…
  2. Decisions Are Made At The Team Level…
  3. Constant Optimisation…
  4. Incredible Transparency…

read this article in full here

for more about this radical new organisation framework, watch on youtube:

Frederic Laloux on Reinventing Organisations

Brian Robertson’s Google talk on Holacracy

Jos de Blok l Organisation without management l Meaning 2015

The Positive Organization: Time for HR to leave the ‘bandage business’

In this three-part series, Professor Robert Quinn looks at how HR can stop being in the ‘bandage business,’ and how they can harness the findings of his research on Positive Organizations to emerge as a strong strategic business partner. This is part one. Read part two and part three too.

…in a world where 70% of the global workforce is unengaged and 52% of the management workforce is unengaged, how do we create cultures where people flourish and exceed expectations?

Leadership development and cultural vitality are big HR challenges that face every organization.

Part Two: The Positive Organisation

Do you aspire to survival, or to flourish?

The questions that drive positive organizing are these:

  • What are people, teams, organizations and communities like when they are at their best?
  • How do we learn from excellence and spread that excellence?
  • Instead of engaging in managerial problem solving how do we engage in organizational purpose finding?
  • How do we continually recognize the reality of constraint while we simultaneously orient to the reality of possibility.

Part Three: The Positive Organization: Doing the impossible – Amy’s courageous story

…the story of a Chief People Officer who got out of the bandage business. She altered the culture of a major business school. In the process she reinvented herself and became invaluable to her organization.

Happiness At Work edition #132 – February 2016

You can find all of these articles, and many more, in our new HAW collection…

Happiness At Work #122 ~ People: our greatest resource, now as it has always been

We are more and more recognising that the ‘soft people skills’ are neither unimportant nor inevitable, and we fail to give them our best attention and expertise at our peril.

“…given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.”  Stella Duffy

Our headline post for this new Happiness At Work collection takes its words from Stella Duffy, writing about the real power of brilliant everyday people to make brilliant things happen – and yes, that would be all of us.

What last year’s very first Fun Palaces experiment discovered, heightened and celebrated was the huge talent, enthusiasm, energy and abilities of people to make something together when there is the right mix of invitation, belief, openness, trust, and recognition.

A Fun Palace is a 2hour or 2day (or somewhere in between) event that is Free, Local, Innovative, Transformative and Engaging.

80% of the 3,000+ people who made them and 80% of the 40,000+ people who took part in last year’s Fun Palaces across the UK and in other countries were experiencing arts activity for the first time.  And 90% of makers believed their Fun Palace made people very happy or happy.

And there is much we might learn from this to take into our organisations, teams and work relationships, as the article about relationships at work collected here all suggest.

Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local people

Try reading this imagining that Stella Duffy is talking about your organisation, even if you are not a professional working in the arts, science or community engagement…

The 3,183 people across the UK who signed up to make local Fun Palaces last year did so for many reasons…

For most, whatever their initial reason for getting involved, it was the local aspect that proved crucial: working with neighbours (many of them not already friends), local councillors and public buildings, often for the first time, to make great, inclusive work – and making it locally.

One of the things we’re proudest of with Fun Palaces is that it’s not about outside experts. Contrary to many subsidised engagement programmes, this project doesn’t fly in experts to make a difference. It does not look for experts to tell a group how best to function, nor does it believe that experts are best-placed to inspire communities to create their own arts and sciences events. We do not bring in world-class orchestras or top-ranking scientists to work with Fun Palaces; we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to – and we don’t want to.

The local person – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.

Joan Littlewood said she believed in the “genius in every person” – and we do too. We believe that everyone can make great work, in every field, and that what is lacking is not willing, hard work – nor the brilliance necessary for ordinary people to become expert – but opportunity and encouragement…

What we learned from our Fun Palaces pilot in 2014 was that the experts are already in communities, that excellence of engagement is far more valuable than a subjective excellence of artistic quality.

We also learned that, given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.

Real people, ordinary people, the people: the ones who know their own community’s needs and wants, because they live in it, offering engagement and participation far from Westminster, from the grassroots up.

Maybe you can make something brilliant during this year’s Fun Palaces where you are?  Fun Palaces, 3–4 October 2015, is now open for registration.

Read the full article here

7 workplace myths disproven by research [infographic]

Admittedly this is a real potpourri of seemingly random bits and pieces of research, but it has been made up into an intriguing provocation to some of the assumptions and beliefs that w might need to let go of in the new world of work we are making for ourselves.

Read the full article here

Where To Start On Empathy? 5 Essential Reads

Nathan Wiltshire writes

During the course of my work and life, many people ask me for advice on where to begin their own explorations into empathy. Having personally consumed hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and video content, I thought I would help de-clutter and put on a platter some of the best sources to not only get started, but to challenge your thinking. Happy reading!

1. Empathy: A handbook for revolution by Roman Krznaric

Out of all high-level discussions on empathy, this is by far the most ideal introduction to the topic. As an inspirational yet very accessible read, I suggest this as the ideal stepping-stone into empathy. By approaching the exploration from a philosophical lens, the author provides a high level overview of empathy, interwoven with many excellent historical illustrations and practical real-world examples. Also, there is a great TED talk previewing the book.

2. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

I like this book as the strongest practical demonstration empathy, in which Orwell immerses himself in a homeless life. For me its impact comes as much from the descriptions of lived experience on the street, as it is for knowing that this was a transformational period for the writer. The reader really gets a strong sense for how this experience provided Orwell with the deepest of insights into humanity, which he would use as the basis for later seminal works that remain relevant today – 1984 and Animal Farm. This might even inspire you to seek immersion in your own life, to intensify your own empathic exploration beyond your usual comfort zone. It is suggested second on this list deliberately as you will find it easier to make the connection between the author’s empathic journey if you start the book with an understanding of empathy basics provided by Roman Krznaric.

3. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen

This was the first book I ever read by a neuroscientist. I chose this because it seemed logical that in order to really understand empathy, it is necessary to get to the very source – the human brain. Zero Degrees turned out to be an easy to read and fascinating account of the conditions that leave some people without the neurological capacity for empathy. For anyone interested in empathy, this is a key insight as it demonstrates that the vast majority of us can be empathic.

4. Empathy: A motivated account by Jamil Zaki

After reading the first three, this will be a slightly more testing read as the author provides a more technical account of empathy. This has been added to the list mainly because it will make you consider what brings people to empathy (or not). It discusses the selectiveness of empathy, that it is dependent on several personal and situational factors, and that we even avoid empathy under certain conditions. Why do we act when a family member is in need of help, or even a fellow countryman, but not the millions living in poverty in far away places? These are fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves. It may seem overly technical for some – however, those who can stick with it will gain new levels of insight.

5. Well Designed: How to use empathy to create products people love by Jon Kolko

Having read the first four on this list, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, I now have some understanding of empathy… but what the heck am I supposed to do with it?’ One of the great challenges I see at the moment is the rapidly developing thought leadership in the clinic sphere, coupled with a relative dearth of advice on applied empathy. Well Designed takes steps towards a practical framework for applying aspects of empathy in product design. The author combines his background in design thinking and develops it to address the need for robust empathic insights. To do this he leverages ethnographic techniques and an immersive account of empathy, which indicates that observation is an essential starting point. The steps contained with this book are simple enough for anyone to try – not only in product development, but also in service or process design.

Read the original article here

10 Ways to Make Employees Happier in 2015

Derek Irvine, employee recognition expert and co-author of The Power of Thanks, suggest his top ten tips to reinvigorate employees, and build and foster a more dynamic company culture…

One simple way to breathe new life into your workforce and culture is by focusing on “thanks” and social recognition.

According to Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 73% of employees who are recognised at work feel happier in their jobs. Thanking your employees daily and, in turn, encouraging them to consistently thank each other, will go a long way; as will implementing a recognition program that can help streamline and track moments of “thanks” in your company.

By saying “thank you,” you will not only have happier employees, but employees who are more engaged, motivated and loyal to you as their employer.

Here are 10 ways to create a culture of recognition, and make your employees happier in 2015:

1. Thank your employees every day

While “thank you” is instinctual, it’s most powerful when it occurs repeatedly, and in a timely manner. Focus on recognizing employees on a consistent basis throughout the year.

2. Foster friendships at work

According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 89% of employees say work relationships matter to their quality of life.

Work friendships inspire and motivate employees, make employees feel more loyal and connected to their company, and provide the foundations for building trust among colleagues.  By encouraging friendships at work, you create a happier employee and also an employee who’s more productive and committed in the workplace.

3. Pay attention to employees’ needs

Some managers are more task-focused than people-focused. Instead of looking at their employees and their needs, they’re looking at their to-do lists.

By keeping your head up, you’re not only in a better position to see and acknowledge your employees’ needs, but also their contributions, which puts you in a much better position to reward their work.

4. Nurture your company’s culture

Choose the values that define your company, and then encourage your employees to express those values in their everyday behaviour.

Instituting a recognition program can help breathe life into these values and make them actionable for employees every day.

5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other

Every company is a collection of communities and of human beings, bonded by their connection to each other through their work.

By giving employees the opportunity to congratulate and thank each other for their work, a culture of recognition naturally emerges through associative behavior.

6. Create better leaders

There’s an old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.

By encouraging people to thank their teams often and, in turn, encourage the same behaviour among employees, a palpable rise in employee happiness will occur.

7. Show employees empathy

The importance of humanity in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s one of the critical components of developing and retaining employees because, as humans, we have an incredible need for acknowledgement and compassion.

Listen, support and protect your employees, and encourage the same behavior among all teams by celebrating instances where great connections occur.

8. Prolong the honeymoon

New hires love their jobs, are more engaged and feel appreciated and acknowledged at work. However, after passing the one-year mark, these feelings tend to wane.

In order to keep employees happy, make every year feel like the first year. Recognise and appreciate your employees as often as possible so their enjoyment and engagement in the job starts high and stays high.

9. Unite your team

Today’s multigenerational workforce calls for an adaptable culture that is functional for a variety of different styles and approaches.

Understanding people’s motivations and work styles, and being sure to make room for all of them in a united workplace, will help you make great strides in energizing your team.

10. Give “thank-you” gifts

Everyone loves receiving gifts. So why wouldn’t the same apply in the workplace?

Consider giving employees a gift with tangible value, such as a choice of merchandise or gift card, which will in turn improve their engagement, motivation and happiness.

Read the full article here

What Does Your Communication Say About Your Culture?

Are you aware of how your communication style impacts your culture?

Is it the impact you want?

What one change in communication style would make if it returned a better outcome?

Leadership expert 

There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:

  • Verbal: Face-to-face, words, tone;
  • Written: Email, text, tweet;
  • Non-Verbal: Body language;
  • Interpretation of environment: Atmosphere, cultural styles.

Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different from yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.

However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.

Perception is reality

How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation.

Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly.

Organisations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.

Don’t kill the messenger

First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less.

To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh, S***” will replace 50 “Atta boys!” in five seconds! This is the same with first impressions.

In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.

Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting.

In addition, behaviours are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organisational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones?

Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your return on investment (ROI)!

Big Bang explosions create lasting scars

We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organisation wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently.

Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.

But experts say this causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.

These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organisational culture.  For companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.

Read the full article here

Life as a Gymnasium, Trading and Investment as Workouts

When Positive Psychology starts being applied to finance you know it’s being taken seriously!

Although written specifically for finance professionals, especially traders, Brett N. Steenbarger’s ideas here lift easily across and into many of our professional lives, and offer some strengths-based ways to treat ourselves with greater humanity, recognition and appreciation…

My initial post introduced positive psychology as a bridge between the real and the ideal–between who we are and who we aspire to be. The radical paradigm shift of positive psychology is that we don’t cross that bridge simply by solving problems and resolving conflicts. We evolve by building upon our strengths: by becoming more of who we are when we are at our best.

Imagine that life is a gymnasium filled with exercise machines and equipment. One station provides us with a workout for joy and happiness. Another station exercises our capacity for life satisfaction, fulfilment, and gratitude. Still another station pushes us to higher levels of energy and vitality. Creativity, mental toughness, love and friendship,mindfulness – all have their workout spaces in life’s gym.

The notion of life as a gymnasium suggests that how–and whether–we develop hinges on the quality of our workouts. In life, as in the weight room, it’s use it or lose it. We either exercise and develop our strengths or we allow them to fall into disuse. That perspective yields a very different way of looking at our daily calendars and weekly planners: What have I exercised this day, this week? What strengths have I strengthened and which have I neglected? Am I working out, exercising the best within me? Or am I merely coping, keeping head above water in status quo mode?

Development requires expansion, not shrinking. In any gym it is only when we push our boundaries that we expand, becoming stronger, faster–more fit.

Work As Gymnasiums

Because of the need for continuous adaptation, [21st century work] requires ongoing workouts of our psychological capacities. Successful [professionals] must maintain a steady discipline of risk control, a self-confident capacity for decisive action, and also an unusual open-mindedness and flexibility when change occurs. Opportunities are ever-changing, which means that successful [professionals] must be analytical and creative, optimistic and cautious. On top of it all, skilled [professionals] must manage themselves as well as they manage risk and reward. If we fail to maintain focus/concentration, emotional balance, and self-control, our decision making suffers and we can fail to profit from even the best ideas.

Making Your Workouts Work For You

Positive psychology suggests one powerful strategy: dissect, analyse, and study your most successful decisions and actions. Reverse engineer your successes and you will discover your principles for peak performance.

This is what is known in psychology as a solution-focus. To bridge real and ideal, immerse yourself in what you do when you most closely approximate your ideals. If you unearth a great idea and manage it well, break down how you generated the idea, how you turned the idea into an successful strategy, how you managed the risk and reward, and how you managed yourself to sustain good decision making.  If you study your own work over time, patterns emerge. You’ll see errors you need to correct, but you’ll also observe strengths you can build upon. In studying your successes, you will realise that, at times, you already are well along that bridge toward your ideals.

You can’t sustain great workouts if you don’t know your best practices. Exercising your strengths requires that you know what your strengths are. If you begin to catalogue your best work, you will observe your patterns of success: the ways in which you leverage your strengths.

Read the original article here

Also on this theme…

Science Proves That Hugs Can Boost Your Immune System

We know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University

Why Managers Need To Focus On Employee Happiness

If managers were smart, they would focus on employee happiness, and allow employees to naturally come up with great ideas and provide great service.

Happy employees are more productive. If an employee is happy, they’ll be more likely to be engaged, and go above and beyond to perform well.

And this has now been proven by research…

Happiness At Work edition #122

You can find all of these articles, and more, collected together in edition #122 of Happiness At Work here

Happiness At Work #119 ~ latest signs that our wellbeing matters and will matter even more in 2015

Photo: Mark Trezona

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by developing greater understanding about – and practical capabilities in – their own and each other’s happiness and wellbeing.

We have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanisation  To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

The quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of the 500 people who run the 147 companies who control the multinationals affects the lives of us all.  And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. 

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

If you really want to take advantage of this new science – rather than falling back on the old Maslow pyramid of hierarchical needs – you should focus on: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.  Relatedness is people’s need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives, and to feel that they are contributing to something greater than themselves.  Competence is people’s need to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling a sense of growth and flourishing.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.  A more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful organisation.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but with the purpose and mission of the organisation.  We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

Young people today – and we know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  And a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience makes the need for a new approach to education urgent…

Nearly all of the above words are a mashup from our highlighted stories in the new Happiness At Work #119 and give us this week’s headline.

Here then are these top stories that I have spliced these lines from…

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

International Positive Education Network: New Global Campaign Group Challenges Narrow, Exam-driven Approach to Education

A new global organisation, the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), has launched, with support from Dallas-based Live Happy LLC. IPEN’s campaign calls for a radical shift in how young people are educated.

IPEN’s campaign is built around evidence showing that developing pupils’ character strengths and wellbeing are as important as academic achievement to their future success and happiness.

With a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience, the need for a new approach to education is urgent.

IPEN is calling on like-minded individuals and organizations to sign our Manifesto for Positive Education and demonstrate the strong desire for change we believe exists around the world.

Commenting on the launch, James O’Shaughnessy, chair of IPEN and former director of policy to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said:

“Young people are crying out for a new approach to education, one that prepares them to live a good, meaningful life that is full of purpose.

“That is where positive education comes in. It supports intellectual development and the cultivation of the mind, but it places equal value on the development of character strengths to help young people flourish.

“We are calling on everyone who supports this broader approach to education to sign our Manifesto and make their voices heard.”

Martin Seligman, Senior Adviser to IPEN and the Zellerbach Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, said:

“The high prevalence worldwide of depression among young people, the small rise in life satisfaction, and the synergy between learning and positive emotion all argue that the skills for flourishing should be taught in school.

“There is substantial evidence that students can be taught good character, resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning, in such a way that also supports and amplifies their academic studies.

“By taking this broader approach – which I call positive education – we can give our young people the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.”

Link to read the full IPEN press release

Positive education challenges the current paradigm of education, which values academic attainment above all other goals. Drawing on classical ideals, we believe that the DNA of education is a double helix with intertwined strands of equal importance:

  • Academics ~ The fulfillment of intellectual potential through the learning of the best that has been thought and known

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  • Character & Wellbeing ~ The development of character strengths and well-being, which are intrinsically valuable and contribute to a variety of positive life outcomes.

The IPEN Vision

We want to create a flourishing society where everyone is able to fulfil their potential and achieve both success and wellbeing. Every institution in society has a moral obligation to promote human flourishing, and none more so than those responsible for educating young people – families, schools and colleges.

The IPEN Mission

People flourish when they experience a balance of positive emotions, engagement with the world, good relationships with others, a sense of meaning and moral purpose, and the accomplishment of valued goals.

The aim of positive education is to equip young people with the knowledge and life skills to flourish and contribute to the flourishing of others.

Link to the IPEN site and the invitation to sign their manifesto

The Case for Positive Education

by James O’Shaughnessy and Emily E. Larson

Unless we can show that the arguments for positive education are true in practice, as well as in theory, then we will not deserve to change education in the way the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) is proposing. This post, therefore, tries to answer some of the most burning questions with the strongest evidence currently available to support our proposition. Its structure is based on the kind of questions we tend to experience when discussing positive education with an interested but sceptical audience.

Positive education represents a paradigm shift: away from viewing education merely as a route to academic attainment, towards viewing it as a place where students can cultivate their intellectual minds while developing a broad set of character strengths and virtues and wellbeing. This in a nutshell is the ‘character + academics’ approach to education.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  So it is important to argue that, aside from its own intrinsic value and the wider benefits it brings, educating for character and wellbeing can help the quest for academic excellence.  School interventions that focus on social emotional learning, character development or wellbeing have been shown to increase academic performance as an outcome.  A report by Public Health England has shown that an 11% boost in results in standardised achievement tests has been linked to school programmes that directly improve pupils’ social and emotional learning.

Further evidence suggests that positive educational interventions have been found to increase facets of the student experience that contribute to academic success such as:

  • Hope
  • Engagement in school
  • Academic expectations
  • Motivation
  • Perceptions of ability
  • Life satisfaction
  • Self-worth
  • Classroom behaviour

In separating mental health and wellbeing from academic achievement we are ignoring the fact that depression has been on the rise since World War II despite increasing national wealth, and even worse, almost one in five will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school.

This is deeply worrying in itself, but it directly impacts academic achievement too. Adolescents who experience poor mental health at ages 16 to 17 have been found to be less likely to obtain higher education degrees than adolescents without such challenges, suggesting that mental health problems during secondary school have lasting implications for achievement later on in life.

The raw intelligence of an individual is an important determinant of future success and wellbeing but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Research by Angela Duckworth has shown that the character trait called ‘grit’, or passion and perseverance for a long-term goal, is a better predictor of some success outcomes than IQ.  And James Heckman has show that character traits are malleable or ‘skill-like’ and can be improved with good teaching and practice.  In a meta-analysis of positive education interventions, researcher Lea Waters found that interventions targeting students’ character can indeed lead to development of character strengths.

So even if our characters and IQs are partially determined by genes and upbringing, then there is still plenty of room for improvement.

We strongly favour rigorous, stretching academic development as an essential route out of poverty. But on its own it is not enough. Carol Dweck has popularised a construct called the ‘Growth Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is malleable and can be changed through hard work and perseverance. It stands opposed to the ‘Fixed Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is inherited and cannot be changed.  Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck supported this research in their study, which found during difficult transition periods at school, students who have a growth mindset displayed superior academic performance even though the students entered with equal skills and knowledge.  Additional research has found this effect was especially prominent in students who have a stereotype against them, such as being female or from a minority.

A note of caution must be sounded, however. Impressive as these results are, Dweck and her fellow authors note that, “believing intelligence to be malleable does not imply that everyone has exactly the same potential in every domain, or will learn everything with equal ease. Rather, it means that for any given individual, intellectual ability can always be further developed.”   What this means is that, like academic education, character education can make us better version of ourselves, but it cannot change everything about us.

Link to read the original IPEN post

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Creating physiological and emotional coherence is one of the biggest challenges of our time

Dr Alan Watkins is an ex-physician dedicated to transforming business and society by vertically developing business leaders. Vertical development is, according to the Global Leadership Foundation, “building our ability to distinguish and let go of our own limited thinking and perceptions.” Alan’s book, Coherence, is a how-to guide.

“People think things but they don’t really understand the phenomenon of thinking and what determines it,” explains Alan.  “We don’t just ‘have a thought’ – every single thought we have occurs in a context of our biology and our emotional state. Both are crucial to not only what we think but how well we think it.

“Despite this, we over-privilege cognition and under-privilege emotional regulation.”

Poor thinking comes as a result of incoherence in our biological and emotional signals. You see this problem in children. Those who are bullied, agitated, nervous or upset simply cannot learn. They lose the cognitive capacity to take in and assimilate new information.

As adults, we less commonly face bullying peers or overbearing teachers. Yet the problem presents in a different way and has far-reaching consequences.

“Part of my mission is to reduce suffering on the planet and we believe big business, while it could be an incredible force for good, is often the source of the greatest suffering.  Some of the companies we work with have 650,000 employees, so when leadership is wrong it affects the lives of 650,000 people.

“Furthermore, business determines outcomes on the planet. A study in New Scientist in October 2013 analysed 40,000 multinationals and found 147 companies basically controlled those multinationals. Assume you have two or three power brokers in each of those 147 companies and you find you have around 500 people that run the planet.”

Basically, the quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of 500 people affects the lives of us all. And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. That’s why Alan focuses on leaders.

The problem is more acute because of globalisation and the ever-increasing complexity and uncertainty of the world around us. To make optimal decisions, we must consider ever more variables and consequences.

“The amount of pressure and the intensity of business structures these days is so overwhelming. Robert Kegan, professor of education at Harvard, says most leaders these days are ‘in over their heads,’ dealing with a level of complexity that they literally can’t cope with.”

Alan’s model of decision-making looks like a pyramid and is built on layers. At the bottom is physiology, topped with emotion, then feeling, and then cognition. Finally comes the decision we make. We think we’re clever for ‘coming to’ a decision, when in reality it’s heavily influenced by the bulk of the pyramid that has come before.

What is emotion really? According to Alan it’s the ‘tune’ played  by all the various physiological parts of the body interacting in a multitude of ways, like an orchestra. The feeling is our conscious awareness of this tune.

In order to adapt and become better at thinking and better at decision-making, we need an orchestra that is aligned, tuneful and rhythmic rather than one that is erratic. This is effectively ‘coherence’ throughout the system. With that comes a solid, stable breeding ground for clear thought production.

The pyramid is a two-way street. Our thoughts and feelings can influence our physiology and our emotions. When we remember a stressful occasion we feel our body lose coherence. Our heart rate intensifies. Our pupils dilate. We can’t think straight.

It feels like we have no control of our physiology and our emotion.

Alan teaches people the skills they need to take back conscious control of their physiology and emotion and therefore prepare themselves for different situations depending on what type of thinking or emotion is needed. About to go on stage to make a presentation? You need to put yourself in a ‘passionate’ state. About to make a big pitch to a client? You need to put yourself in a ‘competent’ state.

One of the biggest influencers of our system coherence is heart rate variability. A smooth, consistent, rhythmic heart rate can actually entrain the rest of our physiology to ‘beat in time.’ And the best way to influence our heart rate variability is through breathing to a set pattern.

What else can we do? Better emotional literacy and management is key. Alan says that if he could only teach his children one skill it would be emotional management. This is the ability to identify, classify, deconstruct and invoke emotions at will.

This is important because unless we know how we’re feeling at any one time then how can we know how our thinking is affected? And from that, how can we know which emotional state we need to be in?

In his book Coherence, Alan distinguishes between two emotions, frustration and disappointment. They feel very similar. But while frustration should encourage you to push forward and tackle obstacles, disappointment is designed to make you take a step back and reassess before deciding on a new course of action.

How can you come to an optimal decision if you can’t differentiate between the two? The decision you make, however rational you think it is, will be created in the context of the emotional interpretation you make, yet you’ll feel like you’ve come to the decision through rational cognitive process.

Once we understand and can label a wide range of emotions, we can better identify how we feel and ensure we are aware of how this affects the decisions we make.

“If you transform your own capability, your whole orientation and the whole way you perceive yourself and your own identify and the world around you, the situation, transforms. You see it completely differently, it’s like moving from black and white to colour.”

This vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by vertically developing along the lines of emotional regulation and system coherence.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Six Tips for Business Leaders to Show Staff They’re Cared For

Learn more ways to improve your workplace wellbeing with The Ultimate Wellbeing Toolkit – a practical learning hub brought to you by financial protection specialists Unum, designed to equip HR professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to show employees that they are valued. You can also find out more information about the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Showing your staff that you care about them simply makes good business sense. Staff who feel that their employer cares about them are likely to be more engaged and productive.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.

In short, a more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful company.

So what does a caring employer look like? Below are some practical tips to help managers increase caring while boosting productivity and profitability:

1. Thank the people who put you there

First, consider who your organisation has to thank for its success and how you can demonstrate your appreciation to these key stakeholders, whether it’s the employees, suppliers or communities you operate in. This means taking the time to understand their needs and aspirations and meeting them. This could include:

  • Structured praise and recognition/development opportunities/team-building days
  • Charitable donations to the local community/allowing your staff to volunteer with community projects

2. Nurturing relationships is not just a “nice to have”

ILM research reveals managers find working relationships (within teams and with customers and suppliers) increasingly important. Developing and maintaining good working relationships are the key means of, not distraction from, doing real work.

Organisations are using the strength of working relationships as a market differentiator. Managers should take time to properly engage with colleagues and understand their aspirations and concerns. Twenty-nine per cent of managers have had training in relationship management.

3. Keep lines of communication open

In a world of digital working, with more people working flexible hours, you might not be the same location as your staff as often. Therefore communication has become a top priority. It’s not surprising that communication has been noted as the top skill managers would like to develop.

However, recent ILM research has noted that this is also the skill which managers state their peers tend to do most badly.

The key to communicating well is fostering good two-way communications. It’s essential that people feel consulted and listened to.

4. Help your managers manage 

Communication, planning, and leadership and management are all cited as being increasingly important but they can be hard to achieve, especially in large organisations.

Training and qualifications will help, especially for people who are newly promoted into management: frequently they are promoted on the basis of technical/subject ability and left without support when it comes to putting management and leadership into practice.

ILM has found that only 57% of organisations have a leadership and management talent pipeline, even though 93% recognise that a lack of management skills is affecting their business.

5. Find out what your employees value

We know from ILM research that the top-ranked (by both managers and employees) performance motivator is job enjoyment.

  • Only 13% of employees rated bonuses as a top motivator
  • 59% of employees rated job enjoyment as a top motivator
  • 31% of employees identified better treatment from their employer; more praise and a greater sense of being valued would make them more motivated.

This could be non-financial recognition and reward, improved office environments, team and company away days or schemes to encourage innovation and creative thinking.

Think how jobs are structured and what opportunities there are to provide development – whether formal training and qualifications or informal opportunities such as secondments or varying the projects or roles of each staff member.

6.  Ensure everyone works towards the goals of the business

Have clearly stated values and work out with everyone what those look like in practice (abstract words on posters or screen savers are not enough).

This will help everyone to pull in the same direction and will also help people applying to work for your company to gauge their suitability.

Having a clear vision which managers can pass on to staff will help everyone to work towards the same thing. ILM research also indicates that it will improve staff positivity and performance.

Specific training and development will help aspiring and current organisational leaders to turn dry objectives into something tangible that their people can reach.

Link to read the original article

see also:

The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work

Understanding the psychology of criticism can help you give better feedback and better deal with negative reviews…

by Courtney Seiter

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Companies  Are Realising They Must Hire Self-Learners

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte,  shares his insights from their Global Human Capital Trends study with 1700 organisations around the world and his observations of current trends and movements…

…It would be nice if employees took a holistic view of their job and their company but most don’t. Most go to work, try to do the best they can, and hope they get paid well, then they go home.

We must build a work environment that works and select for people who suit our culture. Job fit is not just skills and capability but cultural fit e.g. we’re a fun-loving company, we’re a serious company, we work late, we don’t work late etc.

All these are cultural things. These statements will attract different people. If you don’t characterise your culture, you’ll get some percentage of people leaving because the company just isn’t for them.

We have to build organisations that attract the right people.

I think cultural fit does not mean uniformity of thinking and uniformity of race, gender etc. So most of the time when you look at culture you’re looking at behaviour that crosses different work styles and thinking styles.

Deloitte is at its roots a financial services accounting firm, so there’s a certain amount of rigour, quality etc. That doesn’t mean you need to be this race or this gender but you do have to be comfortable with that culture.

A lot of innovative companies have cultures that are very open. One of Zappos’ culture attributes is ‘we like wacky people,’ and they are saying, we want you to be yourself, it’s ok to be different, to look different. Culture doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but due to the purpose and mission of the organisation. Some people will go to work and do their job anywhere – some engineers, for example, even though might be making a nuclear bomb.

Young people today – and I know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

The word talent has been overused so it’s now a buzz word. But more and more economic studies are showing a higher and higher percentage of the economy is driven by services, intellectual property, creativity and innovation – things that require human beings.

At the same time there are the machines that are as smart as people – like Watson from IBM – starting to replace white collar jobs. So you go to a fast food joint and there’s no one there to take your order, you just press a button. And that’s happening in law and accounting and almost every other discipline.

Companies are realising they have to look for people who are creative and self-learners. There’s an accelerating obsolescence of skills. If you’re a software engineer and you don’t know machine learning, you’re falling out of the mainstream. The rate of change in all these technical disciplines is going up.

Companies want to hire self-learners who are passionate about their domain, hard-working, collaborative, creative and want to stay ahead.

More and more learning is pull-driven – by the person. The training department still has to do a lot of formal training but they have to create a learning environment where they can learn on their own.  Otherwise, staff will go outside and learn it somewhere else. That’s why MOOCs are so big and all these online learning systems – people are scrambling around trying to keep their skills and careers modern.

Deloitte just published this study from the Center for the Edge based on profiles of personalities at work. One is called the Passionate Explorer – these are people who are domain experts who love their domain and who continually educate themselves in their domain. Around 15-20% of the workforce falls into this category.

They aren’t always the most execution-focused people, but companies realise you need some of these people in your organisation.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Five career lessons to live by

From accepting that you can’t always have a plan to making sure your voice is heard above the noise,  shares these words of wisdom are relevant to us all from five inspirational businesswomen at this year’s annual  Institute of Directors Women in Leadership conference

“You don’t need to have a plan to succeed” ~ Dr Suzy Walton

The “what are you going to do with your life?” question pops up at a worryingly young age, and while it’s wonderful if you have a clear passion and vision for your career path, it can be hugely intimidating for those of us who have never really had a clue.

Setting goals for yourself can be a positive step forward, but it can also leave you blinkered and unable to see the unexpected opportunities that might come your way. Trying to stick too rigidly to a plan can also mean that if life throws you a curveball, it can knock you sideways. Being open to change and accepting that things don’t always work out the way you thought they would could be the key to a happier life and a more exciting, varied career path.

“Sometimes you need to pretend to have authority” ~ Anne-Marie Huby, founder of Justgiving

When asked how she dealt with the difficulties of asserting yourself as a young person in a new role, Huby’s advice was clear: “pretend to be the person you want to be.”

Self-doubt is one of the biggest career stallers out there. You could be brilliant at what you do, but if you don’t act with conviction then others will doubt you and your leadership. If you have trouble being authoritative and believing in yourself at work, perhaps its time to see how far a little acting takes you, and how quickly the way you project yourself becomes the reality.

“You have to speak up if you want to get noticed” ~ Dr Leah Totton, winner of the Apprentice and founder of Dr Leah Clinics

If you work in a company where good work is always rewarded and credit is always given to the right person, then you’re one of the lucky ones. For most of us, sitting back and hoping that someone notices that we’ve been in the office since sunrise isn’t the route to career success. If you want to stand out from the crowd and prove that you deserve that promotion/pay rise/investment then you have to stand up for yourself so that you can be heard over the noise.

“Starting a new business always takes longer than you think” ~ Pippa Begg, director of Board Intelligence

For many women, entrepreneurship offers a rewarding alternative to the corporate rat race. Running your own business is often painted as the perfect situation, offering motivation, job satisfaction and the opportunity to set your own rules. The reality however, can be more challenging than you could possibly imagine.

“People will tell you that it takes twice as long as you think it will to get your first client,” said Begg. “Forget that – it takes at least five times longer.” It took Board Intelligence over a year to get its first client; a time frame that would have left many entrepreneurs ready to give up. For Begg and her business partner, a firm belief in their proposition kept them going, and a few years down the line they boast an impressive lineup of clients.

“Diversity is a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice” ~ Cindy Miller, president of European operations at UPS

Miller joined the famously male-dominated company she now runs 25 years ago as a package car driver and worked her way up to her current position. She described her first promotion to manager, and how she later discovered that she had been fourth choice for the role, behind three men.

She spoke about current company developments, including mentoring, support and community building for female employees, emphasising the importance of cultural changes as well as practical ones.

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

Link to read the original Guardian article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation

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What you can find amongst this week’s toolbox of practical techniques

Playing To Your Signature Strengths

24 SMS ‘ till Christmas is the initiative from Happy Newcomer that presents a movie and a song that reflect the spirit of each the 24 Character Strengths from Seligman & Peterson’s model that we are using more and more.

In this week’s collection you will find the next six Character Strengths:

  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Love of Learning
  • Social Intelligence
  • Zest & Enthusiasm

Three Critical Conversations that Boost Employee Engagement

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Employee engagement is an individual experience, and here are three types of conversations that will give you critical engagement-boosting information from your employees…

1. The “Start, Stop, Continue, Increase” Conversation

Here’s how this conversation might sound:

Lisa, one of the things I like to do with each new hire is get specific feedback on how I manage … specific feedback on what works for them and what doesn’t. So, with that in mind, I’d like to get your responses to the following questions:

  • First, what’s one thing that I do that is really helpful in terms of bringing out the best in you that I should keep doing?
  • The second question I’d like to get your response to is ‘What’s one thing I do that irritates or frustrates you, so that would be the one thing I should STOP doing, if I want to bring out the best in you?
  • The third question I’ll be asking is, ‘What’s one thing you recommend I START doing, because by doing this, I will make the biggest positive impact in your work experience and in my ability to bring out the best in you?’
  • Finally, what’s something I do that is really positive, but, I could be doing it a lot more?

Those are the four questions I’d like to get your take on. So, here they are on a sheet of paper. To give you some time to think rather than catch you off guard, how about if you think about your answers and then we can go through them next week when we meet?”

Because most employees have never been asked such questions, and because many people need time to think through their questions and responses, you will get better quality answers by letting them reflect on their answers.

2. The “What Would Be Most Helpful?” Conversation

This is a more focused, situation-specific request for feedback on your management style.

So, here’s how it might sound:

When I asked you to go search out that difficult answer, was that helpful or would it have been better for me to have teamed you up with Joe?”

Asking “What would be most helpful?” in the conversation gives you valuable information you can use to tailor your approach to each specific employee. As we discussed in our previous article, each employee has their own unique combination of motivators, de-motivators, preferences, and aspirations.

One size does not fit all, and your ability to bring out the best in each employee depends on your ability to tailor your approach to meet each employee’s unique combination.

Asking this also strengthens your relationship with the employee. Even if they don’t have a ready answer, your asking the question demonstrates that you want to manage that employee in the way that works best for them. It communicates that you care enough to want their feedback.

Also, the courage and humility demonstrated in such a request engenders tremendous respect and appreciation in the employee.

3. The “What would You Like to Know About Me?” Conversation

This conversation is especially useful for new employees. It saves them from the unnecessary anxiety caused by an uncommunicative boss who won’t express explicitly what they want from their employees and what makes them happy.

Here’s an example of how this conversation might sound:

Just as we’ve been having conversations about what works best for you and how I can bring out your best, I’d like to have what I call a “What Would You Like to Know About Me?” conversation with you. I have found this to be really helpful with new employees.

This is where they ask anything they want about what I look for most in my team members, my core values, specific business goals, things that drive ME crazy as a supervisor … that sort of thing. So with that in mind, what would you like to know about me that you would find helpful?”

Besides helping them get to know you, this question also allows you to model that it’s beneficial to be direct and open about who you are and what you want. This is a subtle invitation to the employee to do the same with you.

Link to read the original article

Favourite Books of 2014

Berkley’s Greater Good editorsJill Suttie, and Jeremy Adam Smith list their top picks from the previous year – perhaps one or two of these might make a good gift for someone you care about about.  This might well be yourself of course…

the-truth-about-trust- David DeSteno

The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More by David DeSteno

Trust is the social glue that allows us to do more together than we could ever do alone. But trustworthiness is a moving target, argues psychologist David DeSteno, dependent on our moods, circumstances, and competing needs; therefore, it’s best to learn how trusts works if we want to connect with others without being taken for a ride.

As social animals, we’ve developed shortcuts for knowing whom to trust—“gut reactions,” based on subtle cues, like folding arms across one’s chest or leaning back—that signal someone is untrustworthy. While some of these can be quite accurate, others are subject to manipulation and prejudice, which DeSteno demonstrates with ingenious science experiments. Some of his findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom—most notably, the view that trustworthiness is a fixed trait. Instead, he argues, being trustworthy depends on an internal calculus, where we weigh the benefits versus the costs of acting with integrity in any given situation.

Our ability to predict our own trustworthiness—like trusting ourselves to refrain from adultery—is hampered by our inability to predict future cost/benefits and by our tendency to rationalize our own behavior. He argues that we should work toward nurturing our trusting nature and our trustworthiness if we want to succeed in life and contribute to a more harmonious society.

Mindwise - Nicholas EpleyMindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley

Though we humans are equipped with a brain specially attuned to predict what others are thinking, feeling, and planning, there are many cases in which our “mindreading” powers lead us astray. Social psychologist Nicholas Epley presents fascinating research on how our social brains work and why we sometimes can’t look beyond our own preconceptions.

Epley suggests we have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanization. To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Making Grateful KidsMaking Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character by Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono

Many parents worry that our modern culture, with its focus on materialism, will make their kids spoiled and entitled. But, while culture can have a negative impact, researchers Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono suggest ways parents can avoid this outcome: by helping kids develop gratitude.

Research has shown that grateful kids have all kinds of advantages later in life—better relationships, higher levels of happiness and optimism, and more commitment to community, to name a few. Froh and Bono’s book outlines that research and provides thirty-two research-based tips for parents to encourage gratitude in their children. Much of what they suggest falls into the category of overall good parenting—i.e. being present for your kids, encouraging their talents, and providing needed support. In other cases, their tips involve specific gratitude practices, as well as role-modeling the gratitude behavior you want to see in your kids.

But, their goals go beyond wanting parents to enjoy their kids more: “The ultimate function that gratitude may serve in human development…is to help individuals find their own life story for elevating others and to make a difference in the world,” they write.

The Upside of Your DownsideThe Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener 

“Every emotion is useful,” write the authors of The Upside of Your Dark Side. “Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones.”

Kashdan and Biswas-Diener delve deep into the research to understand why “negative” states like anger or sadness have evolved; they also look at what happens when positive emotions aren’t restrained by negative ones that may cause us to reflect, take a stand against unfairness, or speak our minds. Of course, not all anger is useful; not all sadness is healthy. This is where the book shines: The authors tease out the differences between, for example, anger and rage, and then provide very concrete tips for managing negative states so that they don’t run out of control.

But The Upside of Your Dark Side also contains a larger cultural critique of movements for greater happiness and well-being. Positive emotions are good, argues this book, but focusing excessively on them can cut us off from our whole selves.

Empathy - why it matters and how to get itEmpathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It by Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric, a philosopher and founding faculty member of London’s School of Life, explains how we humans are wired for empathy and why empathy is so important to cultivate.

Science shows that we literally have brain circuits devoted to trying to understand how another person is feeling and to “feel with” them. Yet there are social, political, and psychological barriers to feeling empathy that can get in the way. Krznaric’s book argues that we need to understand these barriers and find ways to overcome them if we are to create the compassionate society we want.

Empathy is not about pity or sympathy, he writes, but about truly putting yourself in another’s worldview and treating them accordingly—“Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.” He outlines six habits of highly empathic people—i.e. immersing yourself in another culture, engaging in conversation with people who don’t share your views, or joining a choir with people from many walks of life—as a way of decreasing prejudice and developing empathy.

Brainstorm - the power and purpose of the teenage brainBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel

The cultural view that impulsive teen behavior is due to “raging hormones” is outdated and just plain wrong. These two books explain what’s actually going on in teens’ lives and what we can do to support and nurture them on their path to adulthood.

 

Age of Opportunity - lessons from the new science of adolesenceAge of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg

Their advice rests on what scientists now understand about the human brain and teen development. During adolescence, the brain starts to become more efficient by “pruning” out neural connections that are less needed, making adolescence a period of both great neural reorganization and creativity.

Ha! the science of when we laugh and whyHa!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why by Scott Weems

You may assume that the appreciation of humor is too idiosyncratic to study scientifically; but you’d be wrong. Psychologist Scott Weems has delved into the science of laughter and come up with an entertaining read about what humor is and what it does for our brains, our health, and our relationships.

It’s true that not everyone finds the same jokes funny. But the common thread in different types of humor is that they all involve dealing with surprise and resolving the ensuing cognitive dissonance in the brain—neural processing that has benefits in other realms of our lives, such as creativity and insight.

Laughing at jokes also releases the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain, and can increase blood flow and strengthen the heart, much like aerobic exercise does. Perhaps that’s why a sense of humor often tops the list of desirable qualities in a mate.

People say that “laughter is the best medicine,” and laughter has indeed been shown to decrease pain and to reduce stress. Weems suggests laughing at jokes even if they aren’t funny is a good strategy. It will make your life happier and healthier and, because laughter is contagious, spread good feelings to those around you.

Link to the original Greater Good article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Happiness At Work edition #119

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

Enjoy…

Resilience ~ the increasingly must-have skillset for us all

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

The following post is adapted from materials we use in our resilience workshop and eLearning programmes.  We hope you find these useful.

Resilience is becoming one those things we are all expected to be good at – and it may even be starting to be seen as some kind of new panacea.

Last year Forbes predicted that it would be one of the key new trends in business.

The UK Government has called for resilience to be taught in schools and resilience is being looked to for our economic recovery and future success.

In their book, ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,’ co-authors by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy feature a type of workplace resilience which has involved innovative CEOs all over America and abroad to hire Marketplace Chaplains to provide pastoral care and go some new ways to meet the increasing sense of value in employee wellbeing.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/43835504 w=700&h=400]

 Zolli described the thinking in a recent New York Times piece, Learning to Bounce Back

“[A] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organisations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.”

Similar trends are being noticed in the UK.  Here are some thoughts by Stefan Stern from his January 2014 Guardian article:

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

"Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip"

“Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip”

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

This “global race” business is no laughing matter. It’s as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics want us all to stay in training. The language of fitness and athleticism is everywhere: we have to be flexible, we have to be agile, we have to be nimble.

And now, it seems, we have to be resilient too. The civil service is the latest organisation to support “resilience training” as a way of helping staff deal with the pressures of work. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice, told the FT that colleagues could benefit from developing coping skills in today’s tougher climate.

Who could be against resilience, or greater fitness come to think of it? The healthy worker may be more resistant to colds and flu, and will have the energy to keep going when others start to tire. Economists continue to worry about the chronic poor productivity in the UK. A lack of resilience may have something to do with it. Whether you are on a late or early shift, there is work to be done and targets to be hit. That means being ready and able to perform.

But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”?

Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, says this. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” He supports “any training which can equip staff with the skills they need to help look after their own mental wellbeing”.

There is a caveat, however. Resilience should not be seen as a way of putting up with anything. “Nobody should be expected to cope with ever-increasing demands, excessive workloads and longer working hours,” he says.

What really adds to stress and a sense of powerlessness at work is a loss of autonomy, either as a result of poor work organisation or the impossibility of being able to speak up. And while it might seem refreshing to hear a senior civil servant discussing the need for a more open culture and better two-way communication between bosses and employees, if this doesn’t happen in practice then stress levels are likely to rise.

But a positive mindset can go a long way to help individuals to overcome the most difficult of situations.

Resilience is definitely something that can be learned and is worth cultivating – it increases our power and range of choices over our circumstances – whatever they may be – and therefore, ultimately, the outcomes we produce.

And it is important to note that healthy adaptation to stress depends not only on the individual, but also on available resources through family, friends and variety of organisations, and on the characteristics of specific cultures and religions, communities, societies and governments – all of which in themselves may be more or less resilient.

Mark Trezona 2014

“The forces of fate that bear down on man and threaten to break him also have the capacity to ennoble him.” – Elisabeth S. Lukas, a protégé’ of the neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl,

What is resilience?

It is estimated that up to 90% of us will experience at least one serious traumatic event in our lives.

Traumatic events throw our lives into turmoil in unpredictable ways; no two people will respond to them in exactly the same manner.

For some, the stress of the event will become chronic, lasting for years.

But most of us find ways to meet the challenge and continue with purposeful lives. For a period after their ordeal we may become distressed, but in time we will bounce back and carry on. For some, it will be almost as if the trauma had never occurred. For others, the distress will persist, but they will find healthy ways to cope.

And some survivors will even grow stronger and wiser because of their trauma. These survivors may report that their tragedy has helped them to appreciate life more, to become closer to family and friends, to find greater meaning, and sometimes to embark on a new mission in life. In the words of Elisabeth S. Lukas, a protégé’ of the neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “The forces of fate that bear down on us and threaten to break us also have the capacity to ennoble us.”

Shawn Achor – who talks about resilience specifically in Principle 4 – “Falling Up” of his Happiness Advantage model:

“The people who can most successfully get themselves up off the mat after failure or setbacks are those that define themselves not by what has happened to them, but by what they can make out of what happened.”

Defining resilience

Resilience is complex, multidimensional and dynamic in nature.

Resilience - an increasingly must-have skillset

Resilience – an increasingly must-have skillset

Zolli and Healy define resilience as “the capacity … of a person to maintain their core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances…”

In people, resilience refers to the ability to continue to survive and even to thrive after encountering difficulty. The American Psychological Association defines it as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace or financial stresses.’

In his book Aging Well, Harvard University psychologist George Vaillant (2002) describes resilient individuals as resembling “a twig with a fresh, green living core. When twisted out of shape, such a twig bends, but it does not break; instead it springs back and continues growing”

Resilience has been defined as an attitude that enables the individual to examine, enhance and utilise the strengths, characteristics and other resources available to him or her. Further expansions of this definition of resilience include:

An individual’s response and methods used to allow them to successfully navigate through or past an event perceived to be stressful.

“The flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences” (Tugade et al, 2004) or “a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversities which can be unusual or common place.” (Neenan, 2010).

“The capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).

The term “bouncing back” is used to describe resilience, but this belies the struggles and adaptations that an individual has to make in order to emerge stronger from a stressful situation and the growth that is part of resilience.

Dimensions of Personal Resilience

Resilience is far more than a simple psychological trait or biological phenomenon. In order to truly understand it, researchers must approach it from multiple perspectives and examine it through a number of different scientific lenses,

Here are the five human dimensions of resilience, mapped on to our favourite tool for developing greater resilience: Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities model (more about this below):

 

5 Dimensions of Resilience mapped onto Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Capabilities (Mark Trezona 2014)

5 Dimensions of Resilience mapped onto Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Capabilities (Mark Trezona 2014)

Emotional   Organisation, problem solving, self-determination.

“Approaching life’s challenges in a positive, optimistic way by demonstrating self-control, stamina and good character with your choices and actions.”

When faced with a difficulty we will appraise the situation and make an assessment of whether or not our own skills are sufficient to navigate the event successfully. If we feel there is a deficiency, this can lead to reduced optimism and positivity. Having prior experience of successful problem solving increases our confidence and can assist in the development of a positive attitude.

People with high levels of determination are strong self-believers: they believe that they will be able to tackle most things, which gives them positive feelings of being able to make choices and keep at least some control over what is happening.

Psychological   Vision, self-confidence, self-determination.

“Strengthening a set of beliefs, principles or values that sustain you beyond family, institution and societal sources of strength.”

Having a vision gives us a sense of purpose and direction to one’s life. Without a life vision, activities and actions have a reduced value and therefore affect the effort and determination that will be applied to overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of achieving the goals associated with the vision.

It also means that when competing demands arrive it is easier to allocate time and energy according to your goals/vision, giving precedence to the things that have the greatest worth for you.

Having goals is essential to our survival, and having a strong personal vision contribute to our self-confidence, hope and excitement about the future.

Physical   Self-determination, vision, self-confidence.

“Performing and excelling in physical activities that require aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, healthy body composition and flexibility derived through exercise, nutrition and training.”

This dimension recognises that feeling as physically fit and healthy as we can be is an essential aspect of resilience. What physical exercise contributes to our resilience comes from the degree of effort we make, and the commitment to an exercise programme over a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of significant effort three times per week over three to four months (Leith, 2010).

A commitment to a lasting and stretching exercise programme requires self-determination, and achievement of this contributes to mood control, creates positive emotions and raises self-confidence and, consequently, self-belief.

Social   Interaction, relationships, self-confidence.

“Developing and maintaining trusted, valued relationships and friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication including a comfortable exchange of ideas, views and experiences.”

We need others in order to survive, and more we are able to reach out and strengthen our interactions the better. Mowbray advocates strengthening our ability to create reciprocity, the ability to respond, understand and assist in the needs of others – ‘first seek to understand…’ – and, in return, others will respond what we need.

Our own personal resilience can be hugely affected by relationships at work, including the effect of line managers. If our manager is limiting our progression, subtly or overtly, it will be a challenge not to allow this to affect how we feel about ourselves,. Our resilience demands that we can avoid feeling “hard done by” attitude, and remain connected and engaged in our work. (Of course, a manager who invests time in encouraging and nurturing us helps us to build up our psychological capital and to be more resilient when we need to be.)

Family   Relationships, interaction, vision, self-confidence.

“Being part of a unit that is safe, supportive, loving and provides all the resources needed for all members to live in a healthy and secure environment.”

Everyone needs a relationship where they feel safe enough to “just be themselves” without any fear of belittlement, ostracising or other forms of behaviour that make the individual feel that they need to adapt and modify their behaviour. Usually this comes from within the family structure and it is these relationships that can either be supportive and nourishing, or the most punitive and damaging, in which case we will need to develop considerable resilience.

 

What makes some people resilient?

Can the average person learn to become more resilient?

We now know that most of us bounce back naturally from the setbacks and hard times we face.

 

Resilience Curve - most of us with come through whatever setbacks and traumas we face; some us will make ourselves better as a result of dealing with our difficulties (Mark Trezona 2014)

Resilience Curve – most of us with come through whatever setbacks and traumas we face; some us will make ourselves better as a result of dealing with our difficulties (Mark Trezona 2014)

A small minority of us will get trapped and unable to move beyond the trauma we have faced without significant help – this is what we recognise as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The same percentage of us are so experts at resilience, that they not only bounce back, they grow stronger and believe things to be somehow finer as a result of their experience dealing with the tough times they have had to face.

And these are the people – dozens of them – that psychiatrists Stephen Southwick and Dennis Charney studied to create their 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities that we have based our starfish model on

Southwick & Charney interviewed three different groups of people:

  1. Former Vietnam Prisoners Of War who, like Viktor Frankl, had to survive and come through severe deprivation and sometimes long periods of what might appear to have been insurmountable and never-ending hopelessness
  2. American Special Forces Instructors – who have to train their people to be resilient in advance of almost certain trauma and who are now systematically using techniques for this not just from this model but from Martin Seligman’s Signature Strengths and Positive Psychology teachings too, and are seeing significantly reduced numbers of returning servicemen and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  3. And the third group of people Southwick and Charney interviewed were civilian men and women who had not only survived enormous stress and trauma, but had somehow endured or thrived, including many of the survivors and protagonists from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Bouncing back is a choice – but the choice is easier for some

Here is what they write in summary of their extensive research:

When we began this project we assumed that highly resilient people were somehow special, perhaps genetically gifted. We assumed that resilience was relatively rare, reserved for a select group of individuals. But we were wrong.

Resilience is common (Masten, 2001). It can be witnessed all around us, and for most people it can be enhanced through learning and training.

Millions of people all over the world exhibit resilience in their responses to challenging events and circumstances of all kinds.

Most us have been taught to believe that stress is bad.  We have learned to see stress as our enemy, something that we must avoid or reduce.  But the truth is, when stress can be managed, it tends to be very good and even necessary for health and growth.  Without it, the mind and body weaken.  If we can learn to harness stress it can serve as a catalyst for developing greater strength and even wisdom.

And yet we need to acknowledge that building resilience and bouncing back is easier for some that it is for others.

And it is important to say that if you ever feel what you are facing is too much to cope with, and do seek expert help and guidance.

It is vital not to feel that simply by learning these techniques we are then on our own and should be able to make things work for ourselves

Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes that help needs to come from a professional in this field.

 

"Falling Up" - Principle #4 of Shawn Achor's Happiness Adavantage

“Falling Up” – Principle #4 of Shawn Achor’s Happiness Adavantage

How Resilient Are You?

Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium.com, the online stress management system that teaches people “how to find balance, once and for all,” concludes that there are four key components that contribute to resilience. 

 If there’s a word people in the top ranks of human capital are buzzing about these days, it’s resilience…

The fact is, resilience in a person is far more than a tough-as-Teflon surface or rubbery resolve that helps you rebound from stress or disappointment. Because while we humans are arguably all made from the same stuff, some of us clearly have a way of thriving even when times are tough and stress is unabating.

The four essentials that make the critical difference between hanging tough to get what you want in life and never quite getting there. The most resilient among us can summon these components at will—or, better yet, make them habitual so they don’t have to think twice.

1.   You believe in yourself. Seems simple and obvious, but in fact, you won’t get very far without this. A resilient person is not cocky or overly confident; quite the opposite: they have a clear sense of their own potential, capability, and ability to cope and achieve — a top trait of resilient people.

It’s this belief that contributes to self-efficacy, which means not only your ability to do a thing but to access the resources to get the help you need.

2.   You have the ability to see what is possible, while also seeing what is.  Optimism has been touted as above-all important, but resilient people temper this with a less-is-more approach. Blind optimism is a liability, but tempered with clear vision, an optimistic outlook is an asset, and I’m far more likely to trust someone with a sense of realistic optimism than someone who refuses to take into account the downsides in the “spirit of positivity.” The most resilient people assess their surroundings as well as their own strengths and weaknesses in context, and know where they will excel — and where they will fall short.

At the same time, they have a positive bias—they expect good things from the world and from other people. It’s this kind of outlook that allows them to do what’s also critical: to see the world for what it is. And you need both. The clear vision is what gives you the power to assess what is and what you need to do about it (realism), and at the same time keep expecting good things. Because if you truly believe that there’s nothing and no one good left, you won’t be able to function, let alone thrive.

3.   You have control over your impulses and feelings. With the ability to self-evaluate and assess a situation must come the willingness to manage the impulses and emotions that result. This is where a resilient person’s rubber meets the road.

The most resilient people aren’t hotheads; they don’t combust over little (or big) things. They’re able to take everything into account before they respond so that they don’t make mistakes, rash decisions, or other actions they may regret. Unchecked emotions and impulses not only contribute to those actions, but can cost them some self-preservation, as they’re big contributors to stress. This takes a lot of practice, no question! We’ll spend our lives learning to be better. But it is a skill that can be learned and honed, and the most resilient among us know that.

4.   You aim high and reach out.  A resilient person doesn’t curl up and die over the slightest rejection or failure. In fact, a resilient person does the opposite of curl up; they expand. They reach out—even in the wake of crisis.

This is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of resilience: Your ability to continue to aim high and reach for it, as opposed to lowering your standards, expectations, or efforts. So when things don’t go your way (as they sometimes don’t), and you feel hindered or pushed back, your inner resilience can keep you coming back, and reaching out, not just to “try again,” but to outdo yourself, once again.

Link to read the original Forbes article

We can all learn to be more resilient

We have chosen the starfish to be the poster image of Southwick & Charney’s model, because starfish are one of those extraordinary beings that are capable of growing themselves back if they lose a part of themselves – in fact they can re-grow themselves from a single cell. So if they lose an arm , little by little over time they can grow it back.

Neuroplasticity is our human form of this perpetual capacity for growth.  This is “the ability of the nervous system to respond to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganising its structure, function and connections.”

You may recognise this idea from other teachings from the science of happiness, for example Shawn Achor’s Tetris Effect principle, and we know from other studies that if we keep a Gratitude Journal or make a 3 Good Things list every day, after 21 days we have physically rewired the circuitry in our brains so that we are autonomically scanning for these things without any longer having to deliberately choose to.

When cells in the brain are actively used, they transmit their messages more efficiently, and form more connections with other cells. On the other hand, when brain cells are not stimulated, they die and are pruned away. As with other regions of the body, the well-known adage of “use it or lose it” also applies to the brain.

By repeatedly activating specific areas of the brain, we can strengthen those areas. In other words, by systematically following the advice of the POWs, Special Forces instructors and other resilient women and men from Southwick & Charney’s study, we. too, can become more stress-resilient.

So here are the 10 capabilities that Southwick & Charney discovered that all of the highly expert resilient individuals they interviewed used in their response to stress, difficulty and trauma…

 

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities, (Mark Trezona, 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities, (Mark Trezona, 2014)

Expert resilience involves…

  1. Realistic Optimism ~ keeping an optimistic but realistic outlook;
  2. Facing Fear ~ confronting fears;
  3. trusting and relying upon our own inner Moral Compass;
  4. Religion & Spirituality ~ having a religious or spiritual practice and finding a way to accept what we cannot change;
  5. seeking out and accepting Social Support; and
  6. imitating strong Resilient Role Models;
  7. Physical Fitness ~ attending to our health and wellbeing, and exercising sufficiently intensively to stay physically fit;
  8. Brain Fitness ~ keeping mentally sharp and emotionally strong;
  9. Cognitive & Emotional Flexibility ~ active problem solving, looking to uncover meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity and even found humour in the bleakest moments;
  10. Meaning & Purpose ~ Finally, resilience means accepting to a very high degree responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing, and even deliberately using our most difficult experiences as a platform for personal growth.

Taken together these are the capabilities that can make us strong and highly resilient and, thus, far more able to – as Shawn Achor words it – Fall Up when we encounter problems and setbacks in our work – as well as in our lives.

 

1. Realistic Optimism: belief in a brighter future

Ignition: Realistic Optimism, Resilience Capability #1

Ignition: Realistic Optimism, Resilience Capability #1

Optimism serves as fuel that ignites resilience and provides energy to power all of the other resilience factors. It facilitates an active and creative approach to coping with stressful situations.

Optimism is a future-oriented attitude, involving hope and confidence that things will turn out well. Optimists believe that the future will be bright, that good things will happen to them, and that, with enough hard work, they will succeed. Pessimists, in contrast, see the future as dim. They believe that bad things will happen to them and doubt that they have the skills and stamina to achieve their goals.

BUT Blind optimism doesn’t work

Realistic optimists pay close attention to negative information that is relevant to the problems they face. However, unlike pessimists, they do not remain focused on the negative. They tend to disengage rapidly from problems that appear to be unsolvable. That is, they know when to cut their losses and turn their attention to problems that they believe that they can solve.

How does optimism increase resilience?

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson observes that positive emotions have been shown to reduce physiological arousal and to broaden our visual focus, our thoughts and our behaviour. When people experience positive emotions and an accompanying broadening of attention and behaviour, their thinking tends to become more creative, inclusive, flexible and integrative. Experiments have shown that inducing a positive mood (e.g. by showing participants a funny movie or reading them a funny story) increases people scope of attention, their abilities to solve problems accurately, and their interest in socialising and in strenuous as well as leisurely activities. Thus, by broadening attention and action, positive emotions can contribute to our creativity, physical health, relationships with family and friends, and our ability to acquire new knowledge, and our psychological resilience.

Three coping mechanisms related to broadening attention include:

Positive reappraisal of trying circumstances

When optimists broaden their attention, they increase their capacity to positive reappraise situations that initially appear to be negative. The process of reframing allows them to approach hardship as a challenge and to find opportunity embedded in adversity. Optimists who are realists don’t deny the difficulties they face, but they do tend to look for a silver lining.

 Goal-directed, problem-focused coping

Optimists tend to cope with stress by actively employing strategies to solve problems. They gather information, acquire necessary skills, plan, set goals, make decisions, resolve conflicts, and seek social support. Research has shown that optimism and positive expectations tend to promote active striving, while pessimism and negative expectations are associated with feelings of weakness and helplessness that may lead to unhelpful behaviours like self-pity, resentment, denial and avoidance of problems.

Infusion of meaning into ordinary events

Optimists are more likely than pessimists to report that their lives are meaningful. While it is widely believed that a sense of meaning and purpose enhances positive emotions and happiness, researchers have recently begun to ask whether it also works the other way around – whether positive emotions and feelings of happiness can enhance one’s belief that life has meaning. The optimist may be more likely than the pessimist to see the ‘big picture’ and to view daily experiences within a larger framework of meaning.

The neuroscience of optimism

The prefrontal cortex is essential for guiding behaviour, regulating emotions, and understanding the difference between potential rewards and punishments. It is also essential for imagining the future and setting goals – functions that relate directly to optimism. The prefrontal cortex enables us to engage in optimistic processes like hoping for the best and imagining a bright future, anticipating and preparing to meet a challenge, and making plans to achieve and enjoy success.

The prefrontal cortex is also involved in learning. Even though optimism has a substantial hereditary component, it can be augmented through learning. Even if you are a born pessimist, or a very limited situational optimist, you can teach yourself to increase optimistic thought.

Ways to become more optimistic

One way to increase optimism involves learning a set of cognitive skills that are part of what Martin Seligman has termed ‘learned optimism.

Social scientists and cognitive behaviourists describe two basic approaches for learning and enhancing optimism: increasing positive thinking; and refuting negative thinking. With practice we can teach ourselves to think or insert positive thoughts. We can also teach ourselves not to dwell on negative thoughts. To do this we must learn to distinguish negative thoughts and then to challenge their accuracy.

  •  Use the power of Positive Thinking

Here are some of The Power of Positive Thinking author Vincent Peale recommendations:

Make a true estimate of your ability and then raise it by 10%.

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Always picture success no matter how badly things seem to be going at the moment.

Practice positive and peaceful thinking by making a list of positive and peaceful thoughts and pass them through your mind several times each day.

Practice the technique of suggestive articulation, that is, repeat out loud some positive, success-oriented and peaceful words.

Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.

Adopt an “I don’t believe in defeat” attitude.

Start each day by affirming positive, successful, peaceful and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful.

  • Spend time with positive people

Two of Peale’s other recommendations, to cultivate friendships with hopeful people and to avoid “worry conversations,” bear special emphasis. Optimism and pessimism can both be contagious, so it is often beneficial to intentionally surround ourselves with people who are positive, confident and encouraging. Under adverse circumstances, people are best able to call upon their own resilience and keep their hopes up if people around them are doing the same.

Ways to Develop Realistic Optimism

Ways to Develop Realistic Optimism

How optimists and pessimists think

Psychologists like Martin Seligman have found that pessimists and optimists have very different explanatory styles (ways of explaining bad a good events to themselves and others.) Optimists tend to respond to adverse events by viewing the consequences as temporary and limited in scope. They are likely to use words such as “sometimes” or “lately.” In addition, optimistic people tend to have an internal locus of control – the belief that they can influence events in their lives.

  • Learn to modify your explanatory style

One practical approach to enhancing optimism involves learning to recognise and modify your typical explanatory style. Developing these cognitive skills may also prove useful when dealing with adversity.

When something bad happens:

Remember that these difficulties won’t last forever. Take one day at a time. Where now there may be only pain, over time good things will return.

Keep the adverse event or situation within its limits: don’t let it pervade other areas of your life.

Think of strengths and resources you can use to help deal with the problem.

Notice what is good, for example, acts of kindness by those who recognise your struggle.

And when something good happens:

Give yourself credit for whatever part you played in making it happen.

Allow yourself to feel grateful for whatever part you didn’t play in it – the efforts or generosity of others, or just simple good luck.

Get the most out of it: think of ways to expand the scope and duration of the positive event or situation.

  • Question your negative beliefs

There is also evidence that we can build optimism by confronting negative thoughts and emotions.

One practical approach to enhancing optimism involves learning to recognise and modify your typical explanatory style. Developing these cognitive skills may also prove useful when dealing with adversity. Here are a few tips.

When something bad happens:

Remember that these difficulties won’t last forever. Take one day at a time. Where now there may be only pain, over time good things will return.

Keep the adverse event or situation within its limits: don’t let it pervade other areas of your life.

Think of strengths and resources you can use to help deal with the problem.

Notice what is good, for example, acts of kindness by those who recognise your struggle.

And when something good happens:

Give yourself credit for whatever part you played in making it happen.

Allow yourself to feel grateful for whatever part you didn’t play in it – the efforts or generosity of others, or just simple good luck.

Get the most out of it: think of ways to expand the scope and duration of the positive event or situation.

In his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman recommends responding to negative thoughts “as if they were uttered by an external person whose mission is to make your life miserable.” Sometimes it is helpful to ask yourself specific questions in order to refute negative beliefs. These may include:

  • What is the evidence for this negative belief?
  • Is there a less destructive way to look at this belief?
  • What are the implications of this belief?
  • Am I catastrophising or exaggerating the potential negative impact of the situation?
  • Am I over-generalising, falsely assuming that this particular situation has broad implications?
  • How useful is my pessimistic approach to the problem at hand?

2. Facing fear: an adaptive response

To become more resilient, sooner or later we will need ton face our fears.

Moving Forward: Facing Fears, Resilience Capability #2

Moving Forward: Facing Fears, Resilience Capability #2

Can we prevent or undo fear conditioning?

What happens if you don’t get back on the horse right away? Does there come a time when it’s too late? The answer appears to be no. Until recently it was believed that once a memory had been consolidated into long-term storage it remains essentially permanent. However, newer research suggests that every tie a memory is retrieved it once again becomes unstable for a brief period of time until it is reconsolidated. This unstable period provides another window of time during which the memory can be updated and transformed.

Focus on the goal or mission

“What are my goals? What is my mission? What is the mission of my group? In order to meet my goals and accomplish my mission, I know that I must make a choice, either back down and fail, or face this fear and forge ahead. It’s that simple.

Acquire information about what is feared

“A big part of true fear is the fear of the unknown, when you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. You can’t anticipate, but you think it’s going to be horrible. But most scenarios that we face, we have already learned about from people, from our own experience, or whatever.

Learn and practice the skills necessary to master the fear

“Of all the autonomic responses to the adrenaline rush – including heart rate, respiration, skin conductivity, and muscle tension – the one that we can best control consciously is respiration. Deep, controlled breathing is largely incompatible with the other elements of the fear response. Physical relaxation can get you to the point where mental relaxation, and therefore outward focus, can be re-established and maintained.” (West Point instructor Col. Thomas Kolditz)

Face fear with friends or colleagues

Most people find it easier to face fear with other people, especially those that they know and trust.

Get someone or an organisation to push you

“After you do one thing and conquer it, the next thing will be a little bit easier.”

Fear is ubiquitous. No one escapees its grip. But what is the best way to deal with it? The bottom line: the best way around fear is through it. To conquer fear one must face fear. That’s what resilient people do.

 3. Moral Compass

Moral Compass, Resilience Capability #3

Moral Compass, Resilience Capability #3

In their interviews Southwick & Charney found that the most resilient individuals possessed a keen sense of right and wrong that strengthened them during periods of extreme stress and afterward, as they adjusted to life following trauma. And they also showed high levels of altruism – selflessness, concern for the welfare of others, and giving to others with no expectation of benefit to the self – often stood as a pillar of their value system, or their “moral compass.”

Actively identifying your core values, assessing the degree to which you are living by these values, and challenging yourself to adopt a higher standard can strengthen character and build resilience.

Training for moral compass

Courage is a learned quality, an acquirable set of skills, a practiced competence. If I want to develop my moral courage, where do I begin? In his book Moral Courage Rushworth Kidder outlines a three-step process.

  1.  First, I must perform a candid self-assessment by examining myself, openly and honestly. We all have core values and beliefs. What are mine? Which are the most important to me? Am I living by these principles and values? Am I falling short, and if so, where? Am I motivated to change? Do I have the courage to do so?This self-assessment is only the first step.
  2. Next Kidder recommends that I discuss these questions with highly principled people whose ethics I admire. These discussion can then help me recognise and analyse the numerous situations in life where my actions have moral implications, and to honestly evaluate the risks and dangers involved in defending my core values.
  3. In the third step I practice my moral values and try to uphold them in challenging situations. I need to remain vigilant because it is all too easy to relax our values, make compromises. By repeatedly doing what I know to be right and by taking a stand I solidify my moral compass and grow stronger.

 

Adherence to our own moral compass and resilience are often inextricably linked to one another. We can become more faithful to our moral compass by taking an inventory of our most closely held beliefs and values, by learning from the writings and examples of ethical men and women, by discussing our beliefs with people whose values we respect, and by practising our values, particularly in times of adversity. Step by step we can build our moral courage. When we most need to do the right thing, we will be ready.

4. Spiritual Practice

Spiritual Practice, Resilience Capability #4

Spiritual Practice, Resilience Capability #4

Perhaps more than any of the other resilience factors, religion and spirituality are deeply personal matters about which people have strong feelings. As a potential source of strength and resilience, religion and spirituality, mindfulness and meditation are practiced by billions of people across the planet.

 

There is no one best way to explore the spiritual dimensions of your life or to build spiritual practice. Here are some approaches that may be useful if this is something you do want to try:

  • Set aside a time for contemplation, meditation or prayer as a part of your daily routine. This is often first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or both.
  • Make a regular habit of reading writings pertaining to your beliefs or practice.
  • Designate a physical location for you daily spiritual practice.
  • Practice a physically active form of spirituality such as walking prayer, yoga, martial arts or liturgical dance.
  • Practice a creative form of spirituality such as chanting, singing or playing music, painting or drawing or writing poetry.
  • Become part of a group – physical or online – that worships or practices together.

5. Social Support

Whenever we look at learning to be happier and more resilient we repeatedly find the importance of having strong relationships. They are essential for our happiness at work, they are essential for our success and productivity and they are an equally essential element in our repertoire of resilience capabilities.

In order to thrive in this world, people need other people.

Giving & Getting Social Support, Resilience Capability #5

Giving & Getting Social Support, Resilience Capability #5

Far from signifying weakness, interdependence with others can provide a foundation for resilience.

Social neuroscience provides clues to the biology of relationships

Researchers have found that oxytocin is released during social situations where it appears to facilitate interpretation of social signals, enhance recognition, increase feelings of affiliation, and promote social approach. Oxytocin’s actions to reducing amygdala activation and arousal may help to explain why positive support from others can reduce stress.

Supportive social networks have the power to protect us and strengthen us.

Those who know how to build strong social support networks reap many benefits. Strong positive relationships are associated with better physical health, protection against depression and stress disorders, enhanced emotional wellbeing, and longer life. In our experience most resilient individuals take advantage of the profound strengthening effects of positive social networks.

But for most of us, our support network, even if it is extensive and strong, will not automatically reach out to embrace us when we are most in need. Rather, we would be wise to follow the example of the resilient people in this study by taking action, reaching out, and ‘leaning into’ those who care about us most.

Very few resilient individuals go it alone, and neither should you.

6. Imitating Resilient Role Models

All of the resilient individuals interviewed have role models whose beliefs, attitudes and behaviours inspire them.

Imitating Resilient Role Models, Resilience Capability #6

Imitating Resilient Role Models, Resilience Capability #6

Role models need not be perfect. Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and we believe that searching for the perfect role model is futile.

How can I use role models to become more resilient?

When trying to model behaviour begin by carefully studying the behaviour. Then:

  1. Break it into simple segments: if you want to use modelling to learn a complex skill, it helps to subdivide it into simple segments and then focus on one segment at a time. If, on the other hand, you try to model the entire complex behaviour (e.g. becoming more resilient) you will likely be bombarded with too much information, will make many errors, and will have great difficulty mastering the skill.
  2. Observe the skill in a variety of settings: breaking a complex skill into simpler segments will require time and concentration. You will need to observe the skill numerous times and in a variety of settings.
  3. Practice: you will find it helpful to practice between observations. You may do this by imagining that you possess a particular attitude, personality style or behaviour that resembles that of your role model, or by actually enacting the desired attitude, style or behaviour. Both forms of practice appear to be effective, although real life enactment is eventually required for successful imitation.
  4. Obtain constructive feedback whenever possible. An expert, or someone with a trained eye, can point out similarities and differences between what you are doing and what you are attempting top model. This expert can then recommend steps to correct deviations from the model.

7. Physical Fitness

Training, physical fitness and strengthening

Training, Physical Fitness & Strengthening, Resilience Capability #7

Training, Physical Fitness & Strengthening, Resilience Capability #7

It’s no secret that physical training is good for your health.

Physical training and mastering physical challenges can also improve mood, cognition and emotional resilience.

Exercise makes us tougher, boosts recovery after trauma and improves our physical and mental health.

How can you use exercise to increase your resilience?

In his book The Power of Full Engagement Jim Loehr writes:

“Growth and change won’t occur unless you push past your comfort zone, but pushing too hard increases the likelihood that you will give up. Far better to experience success at each step of a progressive process. Building confidence fuels the persistence to pursue more challenging changes.”

Building physical fitness habits

  • Learn as much as you can about how physical fitness can improve your health and wellbeing.
  • Consult a physician before beginning a physical fitness programme.
  • Try different forms of physical exercise. Find what works best for who you are and the lifestyle you live.
  • Develop a set of well-defined goals for your physical exercise regimen and try to stick to those goals. Record the details of your workouts to ensure you are achieving your goals.
  • Reward yourself as your goals are met.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your cardiovascular and strength training. While continually repeating the same comfortable routine with the same level of intensity each time you work out may help you ward off some medical illnesses, but it will not do as much to enhance your physical resilience. To increase your physical as well as your mental and emotional strength, you need to stress yourself and your body beyond your normal comfort zone, but not to the point of damage.
  • After each workout allow your body to recover adequately before beginning your next workout.
  • Practice healthy eating and sleep habits.
  • Find friends or family who will support your physical training. Even better, train with a friend or family member who also has the goal to become more resilient.
  • Notice and focus on the positive feelings and greater sense of self-esteem and mental toughness that typically accompany increases in physical resilience.
  • Try to reach the point where being physically fit becomes part of your sense of self, a part of who you are.

There is no easy way to becoming physically fit and resilient. It takes planning, desire, drive, consistency, perseverance and the willingness to live with discomfort. But the benefits are many.

8. Mental Fitness

Challenge your mind and heart

Brain Fitness, Resilience Capability #8

Brain Fitness, Resilience Capability #8

In challenging situations it helps to be mentally sharp. It helps to focus on the problem, process information quickly, remember what we already know about coping with related challenges, find strategies to solve the problem, make wise decisions, and learn new information. It also helps to regulate our emotions; to control them rather than being controlled by them. These mental and emotional abilities equip us to face challenges, find solutions and recover from setbacks – in essence, to be more resilient.

Just as we train our body to become fit and resilient, so we can train our brain. Southwick & Charney found the most resilient people tended to be lifelong learners, continually seeking opportunities to become more mentally fit.

Brain plasticity: a possible key to brain fitness

One of the most exciting findings of brain research over the past decade has been the observation that we can enhance brain fitness. This means that through a series of brain exercises we may be able to improve our cognitive abilities. The vast majority of us do not reach our full brain potential.

Training the emotional brain

One effective technique that can help regulate emotions is the practice of mindfulness. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present and non-judgementally.” (J. Kabat-Zinn in Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness, 1990) The practitioner of mindfulness learns to develop calm and accepting awareness of thoughts, feelings, perceptions and bodily functions. Through this practice we learn to tolerate negative emotions better without impulsively acting upon them.

Emotions and brain activity

In most but not all studies mindfulness meditation has been shown to help individuals cope with the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation has also been associated with improved ability to focus attention, increased flexibility of thinking, more rapid speed in processing visual information, and improving verbal memory as well as greater feeling of psychological wellbeing.

Researcher Richard Davidson raises a fascinating question:

“Might meditation strengthen the cortical circuitry that modulates the activity of the limbic system, like a thermostat regulating the furnace of emotions? Might mental training rewire the brain’s emotion circuits and alter forever the sense of wellbeing and contentment? … Just as people now see the value of exercising the body consistently and for the rest of their life, it’s similar with emotional skills. … Training is seen as important for strength, for physical agility, for athletic ability, for musical ability – for everything except emotions. The Buddhists say these are skills, too, and trainable like any others.”

If mindfulness is something you haven’t tried yet but want to learn about, you will find lots of different exercises on the internet

As with all of these skills, keep experimenting and exploring to find out what works best for you.

Taking responsibility for your own brain fitness: practical applications

Change requires mental and/or physical activity.

We cannot become physically stronger simply by wishing for larger muscles. Similarly, we cannot develop or enhance mental skills by allowing the mind to wander randomly from one thought to the next. Instead, change requires focus as well as systematic and disciplines activity. The principles are simple, but the execution demanding. To change in a desired direction you have to identify what needs to be changed, develop a rigorous but realistic training schedule and then follow that schedule. Becoming more resilient may require training in multiple areas, such as mindfulness and meditation, physical strengthening and endurance. It may require adopting new styles of thinking in order to view hardship and failure as opportunities. The process of systematic self-initiated change, while challenging and often difficult, is highly rewarding and can foster a powerful sense of mastery.

In a brief book titled; Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises, Duke University neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz describes simple, everyday ways to build and maintain brain fitness, such as writing or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or getting dressed with your eyes closed. When you make these small changes in your daily routine…

“Suddenly your brain is confronted with a new task that’s engaging, challenging and potentially frustrating.

“Neurobics require you to do two simple things you may have neglected in your lifestyle: experience the unexpected and enlist the aid of all your senses in the course of the day. By doing so, rarely activated pathways on your brain’s associative network are stimulated, increasing your range of mental flexibility.”

By placing ourselves in environments that are conducive to learning, by surrounding ourselves with people who stimulate our personal growth, and by systematically practicing specific desired skills, we have the capacity to influence the structure and function of our brain and acquire new skills.

9. Mental & Emotional Flexibility

People who are resilient have to be flexible.

Mental & Emotional Flexibility, Resilience Capability #9

Mental & Emotional Flexibility, Resilience Capability #9

They are flexible in the way they think about challenges and flexible in the way they react emotionally to stress. They are not wedded to a specific style of coping. Instead, they shift from one coping strategy to another depending on the circumstances. Many are able to accept what they cannot change; to learn from failure; to use emotions like grief and anger to fuel compassion and courage; and to search for opportunity and meaning in adversity.

As entrepreneur and motivational speaker Pete Koerner observes: “Life = change. If you’re changing anyway, why not change for the better? Better or worse are your only choices; you can’t stay where you are forever.

Applying cognitive flexibility in your own life

Recent research on coping has shown that successful adaptation depends less on which specific strategies are used, than on whether coping strategies are applied flexibly in response to the liveness of the situation. Sometimes it is wise to accept and tolerate a situation, while at other times it is better to change it. Similarly, emotion theorists argue that expression of emotion is not necessarily better than suppression. What helps people to cope is having the flexibility to express or suppress emotions in accordance with the demands of a given situation.

We can summarise the strategies for cognitive and emotional flexibility as:

  • acceptance;
  • reappraisal;
  • dealing with failure; and
  • generating humour.

Here are some suggestions that may be useful if you wish to further develop your cognitive flexibility.

Using Acceptance to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Acceptance to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Acceptance

Accepting the reality of our situation, even if that situation is frightening or painful, is an important component of flexibility. To remain effectively engaged in problem-oriented and goal-directed coping, we must keep our minds ‘wide open’ and acknowledge, rather than ignore, potential roadblocks. Avoidance and denial are generally counterproductive mechanisms which may help people cope for a while, but ultimately they stand in the way of growth, interfering with the ability to actively solve problems.

Sometimes acceptance not only involves acknowledging the reality of our situation, but also assessing what can and cannot be changed, abandoning goals that no longer seem feasible, and intentionally redirecting efforts toward that which can be changed. Thus, acceptance is not the same as resignation and does not involve giving up or quitting. Instead, acceptance is based on a realistic appraisal and active decision-making.

The well-known Serenity Prayer captures the essence of the kind of acceptance that contributes to resilience:

“Give me the courage to change those things I can change,

the strength to accept those things I cannot change,

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

Using Cognitive Reappraisal to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Cognitive Reappraisal to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

The science of cognitive reappraisal

Studies have shown that individuals who frequently use positive cognitive reappraisal as a mechanism to change their emotional reactions to stress report greater psychological wellbeing and more positive outcomes compared to individuals who do not use positive cognitive reappraisal as a coping mechanism.

Reappraisal

The technique of reappraisal is at the heart of Cognitive Behaviour Therapies. But even without working with a therapist, great questions we can ask to help us in to reappraise a testing situation include:

 

  • How else can I think about this?
  • How would someone else think about this?
  • What was it like for the other people involved?

Questions like this help to get us out of our own narrow view of a situation and open up new possibilities for coping and problem solving.

In their book Resilience At Work: How To Succeed No Matter What Life Throws At You, Salvatore Maddi and Deborah Khoshaba outline seven steps for a type of reappraisal they call transformational coping:

  1. Fully describe the stressful situation
  2. How could the situation be worse?
  3. How could the situation be better?
  4. Create a story about a worse version of events.
  5. Create a story about a better version of events.
  6. What can you do to create the better?
  7. Place the situation in perspective.

The US Forces Resilience training has a shortened three step version for reappraisal:

  • What is the worst case scenario?
  • What is the best case scenario?
  • What is the most likely scenario?
Learning from Failure to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Learning from Failure to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Cognitive reappraisal of failure

 

Resilience demands the emotional stability to handle failure, what Admiral James Stockdale referred to as “ability to meet personal defeat with neither the defect of emotional paralysis and withdrawal nor the excess lashing out at scapegoats or inventing escapist solutions.”

People who are who are most resilient generally meet failure head-on and use it as an opportunity to learn and to self-correct.

 

 

Remember Thomas Edison’s advice that “Creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”? He also famously said in this classic example of reframing:

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Learn from failure

In their book Mental Toughness: A Champion’s State of Mind Kark Kuehl and his co-authors point out:

“The ability to make adjustments begins with attitude, and the first attitude is accepting that failure is an education, then learning from the experience rather than becoming engulfed in frustration.”

Using Humour to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

Using Humour to Increase mental & emotional flexibility

 

Humour: another form of cognitive reappraisal

In his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning, holocaust survivor and neuroscientist, Viktor Frankl referred to humour as “another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human makeup can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if for a few seconds.”

For Frankl, humour provided a healthy means to gain perspective. And with perspective comes the capacity to reappraise and generate alternative approaches and solutions to problems.

Like other positive emotions, humour tends to broaden one’s focus of attention and thereby foster exploration, creativity and flexibility in thinking. In so doing, humour may incorporate a number of other resilience coping mechanisms such as cognitive reappraisal, active problem focused coping, and infusion of positive meaning into everyday events.

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

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

In Toughness: Training For Life Jim Loehr recommends:

“Think nutty, goofy, funny, silly, off-the-wall thoughts. In almost every situation, being able to laugh puts you in emotional control.”

In sum, people who are resilient tend to be flexible: knowing when to accept that which cannot be changed; knowing how to positively reframe life’s challenges and failures; using humour to reframe the tragic and that which is frightening; regulating emotions by sometimes suppressing feelings and at other times expressing them. In many respects, resilience requires creativity and flexibility: creativity to explore multiple viewpoints and flexibility to embrace a positive but realistic assessment, or reassessment, of a challenging situation.

10. Meaning, Purpose and Continual Learning

Meaning, Purpose & Continual Learning, Resilience Capability #10

Meaning, Purpose & Continual Learning, Resilience Capability #10

And the 10th and final essential of high resilience is having a strong sense of Meaning, Purpose and continuing growth and development

And this connects up back to our very first Module when we looked atThis connects with Jessica Pryce-Jones central importance of Achieving Our Fullest Potential in her definition of happiness at work work, and, too, to two of Martin Seligman’s five essentials for flourishing: Meaning and Accomplishment.

In psychological research, studies have found that having a clear and valued purpose, and committing to a mission, can dramatically strengthen one’s resilience.

When philosopher Frederick Nietchze wrote: “He who as a why can endure almost any how,” he was referring to the power of meaning. Other renowned scholars have also recognised the power of meaning, of having a worthy goal or mission in life. As Carl Jung wrote in his classic book, Man and his Symbols,

“We can stand the most incredible hardships when we are convinced they make sense.”

South African dissident Nelson Mandela will shine forever as an inspiring example: tolerating 30 years of imprisonment with grace and dignity because of his dream of equality that he never lost his conviction for, and of course was ultimately able to help bring to his country.

Meaning can give us strength and meaning can give us courage.

Hopefully throughout our lives we will have the freedom to choose a direction that allows us to see our own talents, strengths and interests, and hopefully we will have the option to periodically re-evaluate our talents and strengths, particularly when we encounter a setback or event that shakes our world view. It is through this process that we can, in the words of Ann Graber, “become more than we were before.”

 

Using these 10 Essential Capabilities to develop and grow your own resilience

Here is how you can use this model as a tool to develop and strengthen your own resilience capabilities.

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities (BridgeBuilders STG Ltd. 2014)

Work through each of the 10 elements and …

A – score yourself out of 10 according to how strong you believe you are in each

Once you have scored all 10 elements you will be able to join up your numbers to draw your own resilience starfish to see see very clearly which of its arms are fully extended, and which ones you might want to invest some new time and action into developing and growing strong.

B – identify up to five actions you can take to grow those capabilities that will best strengthen your resilience.

C – And then the challenge is to take action – to actually put your ideas for building your resilience stronger and stronger into what you are doing – first to get you started and then to keep building them over time.

Top Tips for Increasing Resilience, BridgeBuilders STG Ltd 2014

Top Tips for Increasing Resilience, BridgeBuilders STG Ltd 2014

Remember – Creativity – choosing to think and act differently – takes courage

This painting by Spanish painter Goya called The Dog is still one of my favourite images for resilience – whatever happens next you just know from looking that this dog is not beaten yet.

And my absolute favourite picture is this self-portrait drawing Goya made when he was in his 90s and exiled from his Spanish homeland and living in France, nearly blind and unable to walk without sticks, but here he is going out into the world

And the title he has given this is “Aun Aprendo” which means “I am still learning”

Goya: "Aun Aprendo" (I am still learning)

Goya: “Aun Aprendo” (I am still learning)

 Happiness At Work edition #118

You can find several other articles about resilience, as well as this week’s new ideas about happiness at work, creativity and learning, leadership and collaboration in our new Happiness At Work collection here

Happiness At Work #117 ~ Positivity & Overcoming Self-Doubt

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”

I happened to notice this Forbes Thought For The Day on Tuesday 18th November by French statesman and defender of Louis XVI, C. Malesherbes, and it chimed with many of the articles I have been reading this week.

Most especially it connected me with the video I watched of an interview with Oprah Winfrey by a Stanford student.  I heard much in this to be inspired and motivated and emboldened by, and so I am making this this week’s lead story and keynote to this week’s self-mastery theme around building our self-confidence and self-belief and self-determination as the heart and engine room for our happiness and highest aspirations.

Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership

During a student-led interview at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Oprah Winfrey shares seminal moments of her career journey and the importance of listening to your instincts. Winfrey also offers advice to students on how to find their calling:

“Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you.”

Here are some of the words from Oprah Winfrey that stood out especially for me, and might perhaps resonate for you too…

During this interview Oprah tells stories from her career that end with her thinking: ‘I will never do this again.”

“I started listening to what felt like the truth for me…From the very first instant I have listened to my instinct and stayed attuned to what felt like the right truth for me… If I fail I will find out what the next thing is for me.”
On how you navigate on paths when you feel alone…
“I am often the only woman in a room of white men and I love it…
When I have to do something especially demanding, I call on those that come before me, especially those women who have forged a path that has helped to get me here, and so when I walk in, I never walk in as just myself and I have all that energy with me.  And I love it.
If you wrote a book on women and leadership what would you call it?
“Step Up and Into Yourself
You can only change the world if you know yourself.  You have to take the time to know who you are and what you want your contribution to he planet to be…Mine is to raise consciousness….  You cannot fulfil your purpose unless you know how to listen to your own inner voice.  Every time I got into trouble it was when I overrode my instincts with my head.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction‘ is my religion.  And the intention propels the action and decides what the reaction, result or consequence will be.
What are the qualities of your leadership that works in so many areas?

“My leadership is fuelled by my being and it works the same in all areas.  It comes from my passion, because that’s just my nature – it comes from my need to understand and to be understood, and it comes from my desire to connect…I keep grounded in myself…I work at staying awake.

What is your spiritual practice?  What do you do to take care of yourself? What do you do to keep yourself centred?

Everybody wants to fulfil the highest truest realisation of yourself as a human being…

I have interviewed more than 30,000 people.  At the end of every interview, from the murderer to Beyonce’, everybody asks ‘Was that ok?’.  Everybody wants to know ‘did you hear me?, did you see me? and did what I said mean anything to you?’.  Every human being is looking to confirm ‘are you fully here with me, or are you distracted?’

The success I have is because I pay attention.  When you’re at home with yourself…you have unlimited power.

I am here to connect people to ideas and stories so that they can see themselves and live better lives.

How do you strike a balance between emotion and logic – especially when you’re giving?

“You need both.  At the beginning I was purely emotional and I made a lot of mistakes…

You first have to change the way a person thinks and sees themselves.  So you’ve got to first create a sense of aspiration, a sense of hopefulness so a person can begin to even have a vision for a better life.  And if you can’t connect to that then you lose and they lose.

You have to decide how you are going to use your money, your talent, your time so that it’s going to serve you first, because if it doesn’t help you to be filled up, you get depleted and you can’t keep doing it.  So my decisions now are emotional and logical…

You don’t have anything to give that you don’t have, so you have to keep yourself full…

I say to my daughters, the number one thing you have to do is to figure out where your power base is, and to work on the alignment between your personality, the gift you have to give, and your real reason for why you’re here.  And to fill yourself up, and to keep yourself full.

I used to be afraid of that, particularly when people would say ‘oh she’s so full of herself.’  Now I embrace it, I consider it a compliment to be considered full of myself because only when you’re full to overflowing and not afraid of honouring yourself, and have the ability to honour yourself do you he ability to offer yourself, your full expression of who you are to the rest of the world.

After 26 years making her show Oprah said

“Gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take with me from this experience.”

Is there anything left that you’re scared to try?

No, but I know what my lane is.  I know what my calling is, I know what I’m here to do.  But I still haven’t done what I’m here to do, I haven’t yet hit my supreme moment of destiny.

Resilience and post traumatic growth

Watching people step out of tragedies and define triumph for themselves, those are the people who have shaped me and made me a better person.

Call to action for us all

Align your personality with your purpose and no one can touch you.

You real job is to find out what you are here to do…

Every body has a stage.

What’s your stage?  Use it.

How can you start and keep living the highest fullest truest version of yourself?

What would you say to your younger self?

What everyone would say, in one form or another: ‘relax – its going to be okay’

Know that your life is not defined by any one moment.  The way to get through a challenge is to be still and ask ‘what is the next right move?’  And then from that space make the next right move, and then the next right move.

(One stitch at a time)

Link to read an article with more insights from this interview

See also Oprah Winfrey’s current interview show Super Soul Sunday which can be a streamed – interviews with thought leaders around he world and asking the questions that really matter…

The 3 Entrepreneurial Traits Kids Should Learn for a Successful Life

Sharing the values of entrepreneurship with your children can be a great way to teach them some very important character tools they’ll need and use for a lifetime ahead. Here are three character traits that entrepreneurship will help instill in your children and how to teach them.

These are, suggests Matthew TorenSelf-Confidence, Durability and Creativity and here is what he has to tell us about the first of these…

1. Self-confidence

A belief in yourself and your ability to get through life’s challenges is the building block of adult success and a huge component to children’s healthy growth into adolescence and young adulthood.

According to Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, kids with a strong sense of self through internal motivation develop into adolescents who are less likely to engage in dangerous social activities such as drugs and alcohol and perform better in school.

Entrepreneurship embodies self-confidence based on your own internal motivating factors better than perhaps any other activity. It taught me the importance of believing in my ideas and believing in my ability to find solutions. It taught me how crucial good and honest relationships are. Those are values I want my children to have and that you can teach your kids, too.

How? When you foster entrepreneurship in your kids, you have to let them make decisions and support them through those choices. Even when you know they may not be the right decisions from your adult perspective, allow your kids to think up their own ideas and start to take the steps to see them through.

If you child wants to start a lemonade stand or paper route, work with them as a parental partner, but not necessarily as an authority figure.

When you give your kids the space to learn and make decisions, it increases their confidence in themselves and in their own decision-making. They already know you know the answers, encourage them to find their own that don’t involve you making the choices for them when and where it’s appropriate.

When my kids ask me questions I like to challenge them by asking right back, “I’m not sure, what do you think?” This encourages them to think through problems, builds their own sense of self and develops their voice.

Link to read the rest of this article and how to teach durability and creativity

How To Overcome Self-Doubt

by Tony Farhkry

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare

Taming the monkey mind

You cannot remove doubt any more than trying to eliminate negative thoughts. Doubts are woven into our psyche during childhood as we learned to integrate into our surroundings. Similarly what begins as the voice of reason echoed through loved ones, soon becomes the doubtful inner critic given the passage of time.

Did you know that by the time you reach adulthood, you would have heard the word ‘NO’ repeated 50,000 times throughout your life? In contrast the word ‘YES’ is only heard 7,000 times. It is no wonder doubt manages to weave its way into our minds with such intensity.

We are notorious for falsifying tales about ourselves. Doubt is one such story often repeated through adulthood. Whilst it is healthy to entertain doubt from time to time, being at the mercy of the debilitating thought is not conducive toward living a fulfilling life.

In a similar vein, doubt can become self-deprecating while wreaking havoc with your personal confidence if left unchecked.

“Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.” – Dan Millman

Feeding the doubt

Self-doubt requires examination if it prevents you from living an enriching life.

Some people are quite content to shy away from honouring their highest potential. They conceal their emotions deep within, hoping they will miraculously vanish.

Unfortunately as time passes by, the buried emotions may resurface in the form of illness, destructive relationships, addiction to substances or unhelpful behaviour, etc.

In his book Spontaneous Evolution, author Bruce Lipton states that 95% of our behaviour is controlled by our subconscious mind. In many ways our behaviour is reflected in the blind decisions we make every day without a moment’s consideration. Reflect on how much of your daily life’s decisions are automated – that is devoid of conscious intent?

In another example, author Michael S. Gazzaniga further illuminates this point in his book, Who’s In Charge: Free Will and The Science of The Brain. As a neuroscientist investigating split brain personality, he offers the following observation about the choices we make, “Your interpreter module accounts for as much of your behaviour as it can incorporate and it denies or rationalises the rest.”

Overcoming the inner critic

Overcoming self-doubt requires taking affirmative action while being attentive to the inner critic – that is, you choose to take action in spite of the doubt.

In a recent documentary highlighting the sport of accelerated free falling, the jumper was asked by a reporter if he entertained fear prior to his jumps. He reassured the reporter that fear was present during every jump and served to remind him of the inherent dangers associated with the sport. He managed fear by choosing to turn down the volume on it so as not to overwhelm him.

Take a moment to consider the spectrum of doubt inherent in your life. What tools or resources do you frequently call upon to navigate self-doubt when it emerges? It should be stated that doubt is merely a self-imposed speed bump in your life’s journey. As you know speed bumps are intended to slow you down, not halt your progress.

If self-doubt is wreaking havoc in your life, you may wish to reconnect with your vision or purpose. Your vision cannot be blocked by obstacles.

Attributing self-blame in relation to past failures leads to more of the same destructive thoughts. Instead, choose affirmative action with respect to your goals and attend to your doubts with self-compassion. It is your responsibility to reconcile them in a peaceful manner free of guilt.

You’ve heard it said that it isn’t the goal that fuels our desire. It is the journey towards whom we become that ignites our passion and sustains us in attaining inner victory.

Remember, your journey towards inner peace and fulfillment is lined with many detours. Embrace your challenges with attentiveness and enthusiasm.

Link to read the original article

Science-based strategies for using positivity to feel better by Jonathan Fader

1. Look through your camera roll and select pictures, such as that of a pet, children or friends that trigger a joy response. Once you have settled on a picture, name a few reasons why looking at the picture brings you joy. Does it remind you of a funny experience or remind you of a source of happiness and nurture? Studies indicate that thinking about previous events and the actual sensory experience which made you happy in the past will bring those same emotions to the present, immediately increasing your mood. What I also love about this tip is that it’s also customized: those photos of your kids or your dog resonate most with you because it’s something real drawn from your life and nobody else’s

2. Start your day off with a positive self-statement based on fact. This is a tip drawn from my experience as a sport psychologist—instructional and motivational self-talk have been linked  to enhanced athletics performance—but the concept can be applied equally well to all situations. The underlying truth, that what we think influences our actions and emotions, is universal.

Note that I say “based on fact” for a reason. If you start your day by saying, “I’m the perfect parent, no exceptions!” – well, it may be true, but if you’re in a bad mood, odds are that you won’t believe yourself. A better example of effective self-talk is “I am an excellent parent because I brought my daughter to the park after school and saw how happy she was.” The more specific the statement, the better the chance that you will actually believe it—and the better the chance that it can actually help you.

3. Compliment three people every day. By complimenting others you may also gain new friends and newfound confidence. A study  had college freshmen give three compliments a day for twenty days to see how it affected them. After this was completed, the subjects reported higher levels of self-confidence that resulted in an increased sense of belonging. The study believed that this was due to the fact that compliments are often reciprocated. So by complimenting others, you can induce a cycle of happiness.

Link to read the original Psychology Today article

The Skill of Self-Confidence (Dr. Ivan Joseph)

In this inspiring TEDTalk, athletics coach Ivan Joseph reminds us of the power and necessity of praise and  positive feedback to build our courage, risk taking and self-confidence – further endorsement of the potency and worth of Appreciative Inquiry, or deliberately recognising and learning from what is already working best.

As the Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, Dr. Joseph is often asked what skills he is searching for as a recruiter: is it Speed? Strength? Agility?  In this TEDx Talk, he explores self confidence and how it is not just the most important skill in athletics, but in our lives.

The easiest ways to build self-confidence: repetition, repetition, repetition…

Or maybe the word should be persistence: do what you want to do and do not accept failure as a reason to stop you.

The other way is through self-talk…We all have this negative self-talk that goes on in our head.  With so many people ready to tell us what we cannot do, why do we want to add to it?…  We know that our thoughts influence our actions… We need to get our own self-affirmations…There need to be quiet moments with ourself when we reaffirm “I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate.”… If I don’t believe it, who else can?

How do you build self-confidence?  Get away from the people who will tear you down…

How to Change Your Self-Perception to Leverage Your Hidden Strengths

by Eric Ravenscraft

Our self-perceptions are often instilled in us before we have a say in them. Learning to change how we see ourselves helps us find our hidden strengths, or improve weaknesses we didn’t know we had, to get along better in life.

Accurate self-perception is a necessary component of self-improvement. If you don’t know where your strengths or weaknesses lie, you don’t know what areas you need to work on. Or how to leverage your assets! Self-perception is simply being aware of who you are, what you’re like, and what you’re capable of. Your self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, though. It may involve acknowledging your shortcomings (“I suck at playing the violin, and that’s okay”), adjusting how you view your skills, (“This skill I thought was boring is actually useful and neat!”), or recognizing your problem areas (“I’m not as hard working as I like to think”).

Adjusting your self-perception comes down to being honest with yourself. Recognizing your weak points helps you identify when you need to ask for help. Acknowledging your strengths can give you the courage to assert yourself even when you don’t feel like you deserve to. What you do with the knowledge is a whole different can of worms, but here’s how to adjust when your perception doesn’t line up with your reality.

Prep Work: Identify Your Own Self-Image Fallacies

Often, we have self-perception problems because our emotions or misconceptions lead us to false conclusions. Anyone who’s ever argued on the internet for more than a minute knows how easily logical fallacies can sneak in. When those leaps in logic face inward, though, they can alter how we perceive ourselves. For example:

  • “I screwed up, so I am a screw up.” This all-or-nothing mentality lends itself to low self-esteem, but it’s a false correlation. We’re good at dwelling on our mistakes, but bad at remembering when we got it right. The negative doesn’t eliminate the positive.
  • “I’m not good at this yet, so I never will be.” Everyone sucks at everything until they don’t anymore. Failing a hundred times at something is discouraging, but it’s incorrect to assume that those failures mean you’re not good enough. In fact, those failures are how you get better.
  • “Someone doesn’t like me, so no one likes me.” People who like or approve of us may not say it as often as someone with a grudge, so it’s easier to focus on the negative.
  • “I’ve never had any complaints, so I must be good.”Unfortunately, those closest to us may not always be the most objective reviewers of our talents. Until your skills have been put to the test in an arena free of bias (like the workplace or public performances), a lack of complaints doesn’t prove talent.

You’ll probably never be completely free of internal logical fallacies. However, identifying when you’re making a logical leap can kickstart the process to learning the truth. From there, you can start making the necessary changes.

Step One: Perform a Self-Assessment

The first step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. One way to get started is a technique from cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) programs. Psych Central recommendswriting ten of your strengths on one side of a paper, and ten weaknesses on the other. This exercise forces you to take an honest look at yourself:

This is your Self-Esteem Inventory. It lets you know all the things you already tell yourself about how much you suck, as well as showing you that there are just as many things you don’t suck at. Some of the weaknesses you may also be able to change, if only you worked at them, one at a time, over the course of a month or even a year. Remember, nobody changes things overnight, so don’t set an unrealistic expectation that you can change anything in just a week’s time.

You may need to seek outside input from others if you can’t come up with ten for both sides. Once you’re done, keep the list because it will come in handy for the next thing you can do.

Step Two: Seek Outside Input (and Listen to It)

Outside input has the ability to either validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. If you think you’re not that great of a singer, but the crowd at karaoke disagrees, you might start to change your opinion. For that reason, if you really want to adjust your self perception, seeking outside input is absolutely necessary.

Author Scott H. Young offers some tips on how to get honest feedback. As it turns out, not everyone is completely forthright when you ask for an opinion (often for good reasons). Depending on the topic, you may need to coax out the full answer, or explain that it’s okay to be honest:

  • Read Between Lines. Look for what they didn’t say, not what they did. I’ll admit this can take practice, but when you receive feedback where you question the sincerity, notice what wasn’t said. If you wrote a how-to book, did they actually use the advice? If you gave a persuasive speech did they enjoy it or did it change their opinion?
  • Pull Out Gradual Honesty. Some people need encouragement to give you their honest opinion. Make it clear that you are okay with the harshest of their remarks and give them an opportunity to reveal more.

You can check out Scott’s post here for more specific tips. Most importantly, though: once you get feedback, listen to it. One of the most common mistakes we make when getting input from others is filtering out the stuff we don’t like. I can totally play the guitar, they’re just jealous, right? Nope. You asked for feedback, now accept it. If it’s true, you’ll probably hear it from more than one person. Be prepared to accept that the feedback you get is at least somewhat true, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Step 3: Challenge Yourself and Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Of course, feedback from others is only one way to find out what you’re capable of. There is a faster, more effective way, too: doing it. You may not think that you’re good enough to get a job as an actor. However, nothing will prove you wrong faster than getting hired.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that someone with asthma and high blood pressure should join the Army on nothing but a wish (unless your name is Steve Rogers). But having a realistic approach to what you can do, coupled with some optimism that things could work out alright, can be a key to making it happen. One psychological researcher named Sophia Chou at the National Taiwan University examined this concept of the realistic optimist. To put it simply, people who understood the risks but chose to be hopeful about the outcome not only performed better, but were happier:

Interestingly, the realistic optimists also got better grades, on average, than their less grounded peers — probably because they didn’t delude themselves into thinking they would do well without studying or working hard, Chou said.

Traditionally, a more realistic outlook is paired with poorer well-being and greater depression, yet the realistic optimists managed to be happy.

As Chou explains, people who evaluate their situation, but still challenge themselves anyway find that they’re better equipped to handle those challenges. The result is a more successful outcome due to their preparation, but also an increase in satisfaction due to their moderate expectations.

Step 4: Emulate the Habits of Others

How you perceive yourself may affect how you behave, but the relationship also works in reverse. We’ve discussed before how something simple like faking powerful body language can help you feel more confident. This concept works fairly broadly. If you think you’re too cynical, try being intentionally optimistic on social media. If you start deliberately hunting for the good in something, you may find it.

As The Guardian explains, our perceptions of our self and our relationships can be manipulated by things as simple as having a cell phone out at dinner. Putting the device away may make us feel as though we’re more “in the moment” and strengthen the bonds we have with others. That means (somewhat ironically, in fact) that if your perception of yourself doesn’t line up with reality, changing your external habits can influence how you perceive yourself:

It’s weird enough that a phone on the next table at a restaurant might reduce the chances of two people hitting it off on a date. But the Swedish study points towards something weirder: not just that we’re subconsciously influenced by our environments, but that we infer our very sense of who we are from our behaviour. Normally, we assume things work the other way: that a person who thinks of herself as compassionate will therefore act compassionately. But “self-perception theory” proposes that the opposite’s also true: we observe our behaviour, then reach conclusions about who we are. “After purchasing the latte, we assume that we are coffee connoisseurs,” as the psychologist Timothy Wilson writes on edge.org. After returning the lost wallet, we conclude that we’re honest. In reality, many pressures shape our behaviour – maybe, Wilson writes, we “returned the wallet in order to impress the people around us”. But we conclude “that our behaviour emanated from some inner disposition”. Or we’re tricked into believing we answered a survey favouring one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and assume that must be our view.

In practice, this can be something as simple as getting a new wardrobe, or starting a new habit. Say, for example that you don’t feel very confident. Try working out. Get a piece of clothing that you think makes you look cool and start wearing it. Learn how to enter a room with confidence. The more you walk in the habits of confidence people, the more you’ll start to feel confident yourself.

Our perceptions of ourselves will probably never be perfect (and a little self-delusion can sometimes help). However, many of us go years without fulfilling our potential or trying new things because we simply don’t perceive ourselves as able. Or worse, we live with flaws because it never occurs to us that they’re problematic. If you don’t think you can go after your dream job, you’re worried you can’t attract that person you’re really into, or you simply lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception. Your ideas about yourself determine the course of your life, so don’t leave them to chance.

Link to read the original Lifehacker article

see also: Parker J. Palmer – What is a Divided Life?

“There are pieces of ourself that we don’t dare bring into the world for fear that something bad is going to happen to us.  So we try to get by, we try to pass, we try to play a role that’s acceptable.  But then there comes a point in life where that divided life, that gap between who we really are and the face we put on to the larger world

Do you want to show up in the world with more of your true values and gifts, connecting with others in authentic ways?

In this short introduction to the vision of the Courage & Renewal approach, Parker J. Palmer, talks about how as human beings we are born whole, integral, with no distinction between what’s going on inside of us and what’s going on outside. As adults we may ask, “Whatever happened to me? How did I lose that capacity to be here as I really am?”

We have to find a way to build a bridge between our identity and integrity as adults and the work that we do in the world.

see also: Parker Palmer on Power and Powerlessness

Parker Palmer is interviewed about the power of the human heart.

How Guessing Helps You To Learn, Even If You Guess Wrong

Things To Remember To Overcome Low Self-Esteem

Whether you’re going through a low self-esteem phase in your life, or you just occasionally feel bad about yourself, it’s important to have some mental tools to help you recalibrate your thoughts so you can live with confidence and joy.

Here are 25 things to remember when you have low self-esteem…

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This week’s top practical tips and techniques

Here is this week’s toolbox of the practical techniques that have especially caught our attention this week…

9 Moments the Happiest People Have Every Day

by Dave Kerpen

Here is great new Daily To Do List to maximise your happiness at work and, as a result, your productivity and performance success too…

  1. Make a moment of laughter…
  2. Make a moment of celebration…
  3. Make a moment of reflection…
  4. Make a moment of stillness…
  5. Make a moment of pride…
  6. Make a moment of humility…
  7. Make a moment of connection…
  8. Make a moment of joy…
  9. Make a moment of gratitude…

The Secret To Loving Your Work

Five simple questions, all taken from my just released book Screw Finding Your Passion: It’s Within You, Let’s Unlock It by Susanna Halonen

5 Questions to Lead You to Loving Your Work

1. How is the work you’re doing, or the company you’re working for, aligned with who you are?
Think about how your values and beliefs are aligned with the work you’re doing or the company you’re working for. Explore what attracted you to take the job in the first place. Really make sure you come up with some concrete answers on this one as this is the critical foundation for you learning to love your work. And I’m not taking “Nothing at my work is aligned with who I am”, as an answer. I want a list of at least five things. I guarantee you that you can find them if you look for them.

2. What is the positive impact you’re creating with the work you do, or by being a part of this company?
Connect with the why behind your job (or your company). What kind of positive impact are you creating when you’re with your colleagues, or working with suppliers, or providing something to the end customer? Acknowledge that you’re a small but powerful piece in the bigger wheel which drives the world forward. Whatever you are doing right now is having an effect on someone in a good way (otherwise why would you be doing it?). Connect with that why and you’ll create a meaningful bond with your job that will be hard to break.

3. How is your work helping you to learn and grow as a person daily?
You don’t need to be in a training workshop to learn and grow (though they do help, especially the Happyologist workshops ;). With every challenge, with every human interaction and with every email send you can learn something new – if you choose to do so. Life is the best teacher of all but only if you actually make time to reflect and digest the learning. Do this at work regularly and you’ll realise how much you’re learning whilst coming up with new ideas on how you could keep learning even more.

4. Who are the people in your work that you connect with in a way that they form a part of your tribe?
Having friends at work is one of the key drivers of engagement in the workplace so make sure you make some friends if you haven’t got any. This doesn’t mean you have to force it. This is about getting to know your colleagues on a personal level. Who are they outside work? What do they like to do? What kind of holidays do they like to go on? You might find similarities that you didn’t even know existed and these similarities will help you create connections with your coworkers. Are you a self-employed entrepreneur without a team? Go out there and find other entrepreneurs who are looking for fun, ambitious people to brainstorm with – or simple have a drink with them. Our relationships are a key driver of our passion, happiness and fulfilment so making sure that these relationships exist through our work makes it easier for us to love what we do.

5. How do you use your natural strengths in a variety of ways in your work daily?
Become more aware of how you are using your best, natural abilities at work in different ways. Own up to what you’re good at and play with these strengths in new ways to challenge yourself and to keep your days exciting. Make time to do what you do best daily and you’ll not only perform better but also enjoy your work more – and even learn to love it!

10 Books on Happiness at Work

Unhappy employees spend only 40% of their time on task, according to research from iOpener. This means that unhappy employees are only working two days a week. Besides slowing down production and innovation, unhappy employees are sharing their negative perceptions with the rest of your workforce and consequently spreading discontent. No one enjoys working with a “Debbie Downer.” More importantly, no one enjoys being a “Debbie Downer.”

Building good will, showing genuine care and valuing employees should be a priority at every organization. Employees are responsible for their own happiness, but this does not preclude organizations from providing the tools, resources and culture that will inspire more joy at work. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 books that offer advice, strategies and tips to help managers and employees improve workplace happiness.

7 Simple and Actionable Ways to Be Happier At Work

  1. Work On Improving Yourself…
  2. Think More Than You Work…
  3. Take Advantage of Benefits…
  4. Celebrate Together…
  5. Take Frequent Breaks To Avoid Burnout…
  6. Give Your Time To Help Others, Even When You’re Busy…
  7. Become Happier By Finding A New Best Friend…
  8. Bonus Tip:  WellnessIs Important – Get Some Exercise…

Are You a Great Listener?

by 

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear. Mark Twain.

To succeed in today’s business world, we must be proactive, skilled listeners. Leaders who make themselves accessible for conversation and listen regularly are well informed of the goings on in their workplaces. They better understand others’ opinions and attitudes and are able to take this information into consideration when making decisions.

There are other benefits to listening well. One is demonstrating care. Effective listening conveys a sense that the we are interested in the person we are with, their thoughts, opinions and concerns. A leader also builds stronger commitment within others when people feel that she cares about them personally as well as in how they fit within the organisation.

Here’s what we can do to become better listeners and gain the feedback, confidence, support and buy-in that we seek…

  • See eye to eye…
  • Use receptive body language…
  • Stop talking and start listening…
  • Humbly take on their point of view…
  • Summarise and clarify…
  • Leave the door open…
  • Thank them for approaching you…
  • Create a listening culture…

Coaching models explored: VISTA

by Tim Hawkes

Here is a great practical framework for making a coaching conversation that both keeps the other person actively in their own driver’s seat, and at the same time moves the thinking from creative thinking through reality checking and into next steps action…

V – Visualisation: The client should build a clear mental picture of the subject of the conversation, whether that be the solution to a problem, a goal to be reached, a decision to be made; whatever is relevant.

I – Insight: The client is invited to explore the causes or the purpose of what has drawn them to seek coaching.

S – Self-Awareness: At this point the client should be asked to recognise what their contribution to the issue might be. For instance, in the case of a problem, were they in fact contributory to the problem having arisen?

T – Thinking: This is the point of the conversation during which the self-exploration turns towards finding a solution. An exploration of how much they already know about how to find and implement a resolution.

A – Action: Once the client has recognised that they may have one or more possible avenues to explore in order to take themselves in the direction of the visualised result, the coach invites them to define steps and timetables to achieve the stated goal, thus putting the matter firmly in the hands of the client, and giving the coach a means by which they can hold the client accountable should that become necessary.

As models go, I rather like this one. It’s elegant, and it encourages the client to focus on themselves and their own ability to recognise and deal with issues. It doesn’t shrink from having the client accept responsibility not merely for the fix, but also for whatever lies at the root of the matter.

Debunking 7 Common Public Speaking Tips That Do More Harm Than Good

A set of terrific tips for making your presentations great from Gary Genard that remedy some of the worst guidelines that have taken a toxic hold of public speaking guidelines…

7. PowerPoint Prescriptions

You’ve probably heard this advice before: Use no more than 10 slides in a PowerPoint presentation. Don’t go longer than 20 minutes. No slide should have more than six bullet points. Use only six words per bullet point.

Dizzy yet?

Instead of these ironclad rules, here’s what you should remember: Every time you speak, you need to tell a story. PowerPoint is a tool that can help you tell that story—but only if you use it as a visual tool and not a literary one…

6. Memorise Your Presentation So That Nothing Can Wrong

Everything will go wrong if you follow this advice! Your audience is hoping for a speaker who can share something you all have an interest in. For any talk to be interesting, the speaker needs to be fully present in the moment—not trying to retrieve information that was memorised in the past.

Write down key words and phrases to remind yourself what comes next in the talk you’ve outlined. Memorisation—which of course can fail—is a high wire act without a net.

5. Look At One Person for Each Sentence

Here’s another artificial prescription for public speaking effectiveness. The one-person-for-one-sentence rule is simply too rigid and metronomic for a speech or presentation.

That’s because we write in sentences, but we speak in ideas. An idea may take three sentences to express; or a single sentence may encompass three ideas. Just remember to include your entire audience at one time or another in your eye contact. That’s the simple and natural solution to connecting with everyone.

4. Start Out with A Joke

I once conducted group training in presentation skills for 11 vice presidents of a leading manufacturer. As part of the workshop, each executive gave a 10-minute videotaped presentation, and then received instructor and peer feedback. One of the participants told a 3 ½-minute joke at the start of his talk which, believe me, had nothing to do with his topic.

What was wrong with this? First, taking up a third of your presentation time with a joke is not a good idea. Worse is the fact that the joke was unrelated to his subject. When I asked why he’d made this choice, he said he once took a public speaking class and was told to always start out with a joke.

But jokes are dangerous. If you want to get an audience on your side, use some gentle humor and always be sure it’s related to what you’re there to talk about. A joke with a failed punch line will make you look foolish, which of course is a terrible way to launch your presentation.

3. Don’t Greet Your Audience

Some public speaking trainers suggest that you dispense with any sort of greeting. “Good morning,” “It’s nice to be here with you today,” and similar pleasantries should be banned in favor of a power opening that hits the audience immediately.

Banishing a greeting from your talk, however, is a mistake. Your greeting is the segment of your speech where you first connect with listeners. It’s the moment when you talk to people with nothing else—i.e., your topic—between you and them. It’s also when you express your personal pleasure at being there. Most important, it’s when you let the audience know you’re a trustworthy speaker because you have their interests at heart.

So say hello and indicate you’re pleased to be speaking . . . then give them that grabber that you know will seal the deal and open up their ears and their hearts.

2. Tell Them If You’re Nervous So They’ll Be On Your Side

Speakers sometimes think they can disarm an audience by announcing their nervousness before anyone notices it. But the even better news is they may not see it at all.

Most nervousness isn’t visible because it’s an internal state. When you tell people you’re nervous appearing in front of them, chances are they’ll look for signs of it from that point on. Why undermine your own credibility?

1. Imagine The Audience Naked Or In Their Underwear 

This, of course, has been touted as a “cure” for speech anxiety since time immemorial. But was there ever such a ridiculous and counter-productive solution to public speaking fear?

Maybe you think differently from the way I do, but mentally undressing audience members isn’t going to do much to improve my focus and mindfulness. Instead, remind yourself that the people in this audience are the same ones you talk to effortlessly and without any self-consciousness in personal conversations. Speaking to them as a group is simply a wonderfully efficient way to get your message across to as many of them as possible.

So the next time you’re chatting with a friend on the street and someone taps you on the shoulder to offer public speaking advice, refer to the list above. You’ll be doing the world of your listeners a genuine service.

Happiness At Work edition #117

As usual, all of these articles are collected together in this week’s Happiness At Work collection of articles and research news