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.

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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

+

  • 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

by  and 

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…

Happiness At Work #108 ~ be a clown, be a clown, be a clown

Be a clown, be a clown
All the world loves a clown
Be the poor silly ass
And you’ll always travel first class

Judy Garland – Be A Clown Lyrics by Cole Porter

This post pulls together a selection of articles that highlight the importance and benefits of humour, laughter and sometimes even the capacity to be a bit of a clown at work.

Are you playful?

Do people find you funny?

Do you like to lighten things up and mix work and play together, to find the fun in any situation?

One of the 24 Character Strengths identified by Peterson & Seligman is humour, and here is why it matters so much to our own and other’s wellbeing and success:

Humour and Playfulness:

…seeing and highlighting the light side of things; you like to laugh and tease; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

You like to laugh and tease.

Bringing smiles to other people is important to you.

You can usually see the light side of all situations.

Humour involves an enjoyment of laughing, friendly teasing, and bringing happiness to others. Individuals with this strength see the light side of life in many situations, finding things to be cheerful about rather than letting adversity get them down. Humour does not necessarily refer just to telling jokes, but rather to a playful and imaginative approach to life.

6 Possible Ways To Exercise Your Humour and Playfulness

  1. Find different ways to bring a smile to somebody’s face every day.
  2. Play with different ways of lightening or cheering up a situation, group or meeting that feels overly serious or struggling.
  3. Next time you feel anxious or upset or stressed, ask yourself: ‘What is the funniest thing about my situation at the moment?’
  4. Think about a past even in which you used humour for your benefit and the benefit of others.
  5. Write down the humour of your everyday life. Each day make a conscious effort to be aware of your sense of humour, others’ sense of humour, funny situations, and clever comments and record them in a daily journal.
  6. Watch a funny sitcom/ movie or read a comic/funny blog daily.

What follows is a number of different takes on how and when and why laughter, fun, being truly human and allowing our human foibles to show are so essential, vital and beneficial to the successful flourishing of our work and our relationships…

Judy Garland: Be A Clown/Once In A Lifetime (1964)

Judy Garland, the consummate tragic clown shows some of the many faces and dimensions of clowning…

Give ’em quips, give ’em fun
And they’ll pay to say you’re A-one
If you become a farmer, you’ve the weather to buck
If become a gambler you’ll be struck with your luck
But Jack you’ll never lack if you can quack like a duck
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown

Judy Garland – Be A Clown Lyrics by Cole Porter

Benefits of Humour

We don’t need scientists to tell us that laughing is fun and makes us feel better. Research is verifying that humour has many of the positive effects that funny people have long suspected.

Researchers have found that you can even “act as if” you are feeling an emotion—say, happiness or irritation—by arranging your face in a smile or a frown, and you are likely to feel that emotion. In a classic study, participants were instructed to hold a felt-tip marker in their mouths in a way that caused their facial muscles to be formed into a smile or a frown. While holding the marker this way, they were asked to view comic strips and say how funny they found them. Those whose facial muscles were mimicking a smile found the same comics funnier than those whose facial muscles were set into a frown.

Physical benefits of mirth and laughter:

  • Increased endorphins and dopamine
  • Increased relaxation response
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stress


Cognitive benefits of humor and mirth:

  • Increased creativity
  • Improved problem-solving ability
  • Enhanced memory (for humorous material)
  • Increased ability to cope with stress, by providing an alternative, less serious perspective on one’s problems

Emotional benefits of humour and mirth:

  • Elevated mood and feelings of wellbeing
  • Reduced depression, anxiety, and tension
  • Increased self-esteem and resilience
  • Increased hope, optimism, energy, and vigour

Social benefits of humour and mirth:

  • Bonding with friends and family
  • Reinforcement of group identity and cohesiveness
  • Increased friendliness and altruism
  • Increased attractiveness to others
  • Happier marriages and close relationships

Laughing out loud, being quietly amused, anticipating something funny, and even forcing a smile or chuckle can all lead to increases in positive emotions and neutralise negative emotions, which can help keep us on the “upward spiral” to greater happiness.

Link to the original article

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”

Charlie Chaplin

Happiness Is Our True Nature

by World Peace Sustainability Clown

…When times are tough is helpful to remember to smile and laugh and look for the sunny side up.

As clowns we have resilience and an ability to see the humour in life.

The messengers of humour have been characterised by the fool, clown, trickster, joker, buffoon and jester. They operate outside the norms of society and simultaneously are near the centre of human experience. There are clowns who depict the happy/sad clown. This just means that life is up and down at times. There is a little tear drop on some who are wishing for a happier side of life to emerge. There are other white faced clowns who bring grace and skills to make others laugh. Others are mimes, I remember Charlie Chaplin here, who was a great mime. Some are comedians or who deliver serious messages with humour.

The clowns are the ones who help society to release tension and to remember all is well. They often use themselves as the joke. The court jester was the clown who would tell the truth to the King in a funny way.

The early clowns were often seen as conflict resolvers as they distracted people from their problems and gave them light relief. What a relief to be en-lighten-ing. That’s where ‘lighten up’ came from

Sometimes, as a society, we can become very serious about politics, the state of the world and ourselves. However, from a clowns perspective, we would say speak up by all means but do it in a way that doesn’t hurt but reveals we can laugh at our inconsequentialities and find solutions.

The art of the clown is to demonstrate unity and peace in the world, through not being serious. Discernment is good but not with the negative energy. We may have to get serious and send out the serious police, seriously. Write you a ticket, but really it will be a love letter. If we catch you frowning too much we may have to put tickets on you (ha ha). Clowning is the opposite to frowning

Link to read the original post in full

“I was finding it very difficult to find a label that understood what I wanted to do and really believed that people wanted to hear something honest and a little bit different. So, I did feel a bit like a clown. You’re knocking on everyone’s door trying to get them to believe what you’re doing.”

Emeli Sandi

14 Leaders Reflect on Humour and Fun

Here are some of the pearls of wisdom from Let’s Grow Leaders  August Festival, all about Humour in the Workplace, compiled by  Karin Hurt

Link to all 14 links in the original article

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Humour and Leadership

“A sense of humour is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Bob Whipple of the Trust Ambassador tells us to Wag More, Bark Less.  It’s a pretty simple way to lead better:

Why is it that some bosses feel compelled to bark when wagging is a much more expedient way to bring out the best in people?

The message we get from the barking dog is “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance.”

In the workplace, if a manager sends a signal, “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance,” the workforce is going to get the message and comply. Unfortunately, group performance and morale is going to be awful, but the decibel level will at least keep everyone awake.

When a dog wags its tail, that is a genuine sign of happiness and affection. You can observe the rate of wagging and determine the extent of the dog’s glee. Sometimes the wag is slow, which indicates everything is okay, and life is good. When you come home at night and the dog is all excited to see you, most likely the wag is more of a blur, and it seems to come from way up in the spine area. The wag indicates, “I love you, I am glad you are here, you are a good person to me, and will you take me for a walk?”

A manager who wags more and barks less gets more cooperation. Life is better for people working for this manager, and they simply perform better. Showing appreciation through good reinforcement is the more enlightened way to manage, yet we still see many managers barking as their main communication with people. Look for the good in people, and appreciate it. Try to modify your bark to wag ratio and see if you get better results over time.

“I’m not sure how a world leader reacts to the work of a clown.”

Darrell Hammond

 

Martin Webster of Leadership Thoughts shares his personal leadership mnemonic. What does L E A D E R S H I P mean?

What’s Your Leadership Mnemonic? 

mnemonic |nɪˈmɒnɪk|
noun
a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.

Leadership In a Nutshell

L for listening. Listen to people. Listen to your employees. Listen for the good and the bad. If you don’t listen, “Yer know nothin’.”

E for example. If you want to inspire others to do something then it has to be a part of your life. You must lead by example.

A for awareness. Seeing what’s around you is important. But situational awareness—understanding the bigger picture—is even more significant since it leads to better decision-making. And a self-awareness means we make sure there is harmony between what we say and do.

D for developmentDevelop your leadership ability and develop your team.

E for excellence. Strive for excellence. Encouraging effort is aboutaiming for excellence and this means always doing and giving one’s best.

R for resilience. Leaders must learn to take knocks and get up again and again. Resilience is not giving up.

S for surround. Surround yourself with high quality employees. The leader is only as good as the team. But the high performance team is greater than the sum of its parts.

H for humility. Leaders should develop the positive aspects of their personality. Humility is a strength. It is accepting the other way is better.

I for innovation. Innovation can be as simple as showing people how to lead themselves to their own solutions and stepping out of the way.

P for purpose. People are motivated if they have purpose. The leader’s vision helps employees to see their purpose in the workplace.

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation advises that all leaders encounter potentially embarrassing situations and offers three ways to deal with inevitable unfortunate leadership gaffes in 5 Reasons Leaders Fear Embarrassment – and three ways to deal with it:

“The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.” Douglas Engelbart, American Inventor

Trying to avoid embarrassment is like the proverbial nailing of Jello to a wall: it’s hard to do and probably not worth the mess. So why do some people still operate under the mistaken premise they should avoid embarrassing situations at all costs? It’s an unrealistic expectation driven by fear:

  1. People will laugh at me.
  2. I’ll look stupid.
  3. My persona of near-perfection will be damaged
  4. I’ll seem weak.
  5. My credibility will suffer.

What if, instead, you took Douglas Engelbart’s quote to heart—that a bit of embarrassment may actually be good for your leadership effectiveness? Being forced to admit a gaffe, mispronunciation (or, heaven forbid bodily noise) will do wonders to help you show humility and most importantly, your humanity.

Here are three remedies to help you deal with those inevitable embarrassing moments at work:

Acknowledge it. Acting like it didn’t happen may work on some level foryou, but it does not work for your followers. They saw you do it (or heard through the grapevine that you did it) so just ‘fess up and get on with it.

Use Humour. As a former corporate trainer, I’ve made my share of “oops!” comments during presentations and workshops. I once co-facilitated a workshop with a brilliant trainer who stumbled on the AV cord and nearly bit the dust in front of 100 meeting attendees. He didn’t miss a beat. He put himself upright and said with a chuckle, “I just washed my feet and I can’t do a thing with them.” Sometimes, just laughing at oneself can be the best way to show that a) you have a sense of humour and b) you are human.

Be gracious. My colleague Henry took the ribbing in stride. He didn’t get defensive or try to outdo the heckler from the audience with a riposte. Instead, he smiled, quickly deleted the Skype icon, let the laughter subside and then moved on with his presentation.

The next time an embarrassing situation comes your way, take a deep breath, deal with it and take heart in knowing this: you just upped your maturity another few notches.

 

Fun With Your Team

“One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.” – Edward Abbey

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership tells us Don’t Force Your Employees to Have “Fun” at Work:

What’s a leader to do to create an energizing, motivating work environment, where people can come to work, have a few laughs, and feel good about themselves and their work?

Instead of hiring a fun consultant, a leader can:

1. Lighten up

2. Smile

3. Be energetic

4. Maintain a consistent, positive attitude

5. Keep calm under stress and a crisis

6. Poke fun at yourself

7. Bring goodies to work. Food is always fun.

8. Be happy

9. Enjoy your work

10. Be a team player

In other words, take care of yourself first. Be a role model – if you’re enjoying yourself at work so will others – it’s contagious. And if you’re miserable, the best fun committee in the world won’t be able to lift the dark cloud following you around.

A word of caution: just don’t overdo it, or you can come across as flip, unconcerned, clueless, or a goof. As with everything, it’s all about moderation.

You can’t force “fun” on someone – it’s phony and intrusive. However, you can create an environment where natural and spontaneous fun is allowed to emerge on its own.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership encourages us to Listen for Engagement because laughter is a characteristic of engaged teams:

Engagement is great stuff. No two people agree on a precise definition of engagement, even though everybody agrees that it creates all kinds of good things.

That’s OK, though, because they can give it the Potter Stewart test. “Don’tworry,” they tell you, “I know it when I see it.”

That’s almost right. You can tell if a group of workers are engaged. Butdon’t look for engagement, listen for it.

Listen for the laughter. An engaged team is at ease. Team members enjoy each other and they enjoy what they’re doing. So they laugh. You can hear it.

Listen to the stories. When a team is engaged, they tell each other and others certain kinds of stories. They’re stories about overcoming obstacles, stories about heroic achievements, and about doing good things.

Boss’s Bottom Line

When you hear your team members laughing and telling positive stories about work and each other, you’ll know they’re engaged, without the need for sophisticated surveys or expensive consultants.

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shares that joy in work encompasses fun—that it is fun to take pride in what you do and  help others. Take a look at Positivity and Joy in Work:

Creating organization that show respect for people in the workplace and give them tools to improve is far more powerful than most people understand. Most people get scared about “soft” “mushy” sounding ideas like “joy in work.” I have to say I sympathize with those people. But it is true.

To get “joy in work” it isn’t about eliminating annoyances. Fundamentally it is about taking pride in what you do and eliminating the practices in so many organizations that dehumanize people. And to create a system where the vast majority of people can have joy in work most of the time requires a deep understanding and application of modern management improvement practices (Deming, lean thinking, etc.).

Enjoying Your Days

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” – Steve Martin

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares Seven Stupid and Easy Things to Do to have a Better Day. We have a choice between whether we let our stressors get us down, or whether we do something stupid that makes us laugh and makes our mood—and our day—better:

With all the pressure on all of us to be effective, productive, successful, and serious-minded (at least most of the time), I’m putting a stake in the ground – perhaps a stupid thing to do – for also being stupid. Because there are some very basic, simple, and even stupid things that we can do that will make our mood, and our day, better. It may not make us more productive or effective or successful – at first – it may only make us happier. And that may very well pay-off in the other dimensions as well.

So what are they?

  1. Do something stupid – not bad stupid or mean stupid, but silly stupid and fun stupid. Do something that will bring a smile to your face. Do something that will cause others to chuckle.
  2. Smile anyway – it does seem stupid, but when you smile, your brain thinks you’re happy. I mean, you wouldn’t smile if you weren’t happy, right? That would be stupid. So simply smile and feel better.
  3. Do something for someone who annoys you – dumb, right? Why would you ever want to do something for someone who p—–s you off? Because it can make you feel better. You’ll know you’ve taken the higher road and you’ll release the positive emotions that come withdoing something nice.
  4. Do something for someone who doesn’t notice – this one is stupid because you don’t even get appreciation in return, but again you do get a wash of good feelings…which leads to a better day.
  5. Tell a stupid joke – it probably has to be with the right audience, but stupid jokes and ideas can work wonders on tough days. There was a time recently when I was (appropriately) upset by things that were happening around me. And as I sat with my best friend of over thirty years and we cracked jokes about how popular we were in high school (which our kids all doubted) and how much we loved sitting around now in our housedresses and reminiscing, I laughed so hard I forgot I was having a bad day. It was stupid and fun.
  6. Tell your boss (coworker, client) about that idea you have that is outlandish…and just might work – feel free to caveat this one with, “this may be a weird idea but…” if you’re worried they’ll think the idea is really stupid, but sometimes the ideas we’re afraid to share spark the greatest outcomes.
  7. Just decide to have a better day – while there are things that happen that really are bad, most of us are stressed out mostly by things that don’t matter in the long run. And it may seem stupid to simply decide to feel better, but we do have a choice between whether we let our stressors get us down, or whether we go back to number one and do something stupid that makes us laugh.

“Sure, I could of done it different… put my clown in a closet and dressed up in straight clothing. I could of compromised my essence, and swallowed my soul.”

Wavy Gravy

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching shares about Having Fun at Work. So why did the frog cross the road? Ask a few people at work this question and watch how your day begins to change:

Last month, I committed to writing a post about having fun at work.

Having fun alleviates stress. It helps put others at ease. Having fun can even increase productivity.

So one would think writing a piece about having fun should be a piece of cake, right?

Nope.

I stared at a blank piece of paper for what seemed like an eternity. I am not talking one or two hours.   I am talking days.

The problem I had with this commitment – I could not relate to the topic.

How do you write about something fun when you’re not in that place?

Of course there have been fun times at work that brought a smile to my face, but for this post I could not remember any details.

Everything was a fog.

Everything, except the audit compliance paperwork facing me; the staffing crises I was dealing with; the unreasonable requests coming across my desk.

All those things were crystal clear.

Had the topic been about stress in the workplace, or how NOT to have fun, the post would have been done in minutes.

How I longed for some humor in my life.

I wanted someone to call me up and make me laugh.

And then IT hit me.

If I am feeling this way; if I am waiting for someone to call and make me smile, just how are those who work for me feeling?

Whether good or bad, our emotions are contagious.

So for the next 30 minutes, I pushed aside everything due and overdue, and I picked up the phone and I started calling my staff.

My first call was to a tech who was closing more work orders than the others and I asked her why she was slacking off. This produced a few giggles from both of us.

My next call was to my second in command who I informed I was bequeathing all my stress to.

Again, more laughter

I made a few more calls to staff having no agenda other than to brighten their day.

I laughed with one over her date from hell the night before.   Another proudly told me about her daughter’s swim meet.

I then called my manager, and maybe it was the tone in my voice, but he proceeded to tell me a story about his cat running up the chimney the night before.

I was howling as he described how he was chasing this soot demon cat amongst white carpet and furniture.

It has been a couple of days since I restarted this post and now the words come very easy for me.

It’s hard for me to remember much about the unreasonable users that day, or the staffing crises, or those compliance reports.

But I’m pretty certain I finished the day with a smile on my face because I’m smiling now as I think about it.

No question or plan of action for the end of this post, but I do have a riddle for you:

Just why did the frog cross the road?

Ask a few people and notice how your day begins to change.

Willy Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts points out that Americans neglect to take 175 million vacation days they are eligible for annually! His post, The Disappearing Vacation (and 8 Reasons You Should Take One) explores some of these troubling facts, explains why it may be happening, and gives you eight reasons why you, the leader, need to get out of the office:

  • The Conference Board reported that 40% of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months, the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years.
  • 57% of American workers had unused vacation time and in a typical year, that amounts to 175 million vacation days not taken.
  • Since 1970, Americans on average work an additional 568 hours per year, about another 10 hours per week.
  • 23% of American workers in the private sector do not get any paid vacation time.
  • The average vacation has been reduced from 7 to 4 days in average duration – by CHOICE.

In many respects I think the reason is that we have let technology run amok and it has created an artificial reality where busyness is now equated with our value to an organization. We can’t seem to escape the email, the texts, the calls, and the meetings. Many of these also cross continents and therefore multiple time zones, complicating matters even further. What it says to us is that if we are busy, we must be important. How often do you hear people droning on about how busy they are, the endless meetings they are in and the 300 emails they get on a daily basis?

The executives I have come to admire the most always seem to be the most responsive but also the most in demand. They manage this busyness rather than let themselves be led around by it. These are the people who do find ways to take their vacations, so they can enjoy their families, indulge in their passions and recharge their batteries.  Having a break to look forward to, a release, is always a positive thing.

A couple years ago I came across an interesting article in the Fast Company Newsletter by Patty Azzarello, titled: “Think You Can’t Take a Vacation? The Sound Business Reasons You Really Should”.  This is adapted from her reasons why the business is better off without you for a while:

  1. It shows you are a competent leader. If you can plan, delegate and free up time for yourself, and not leave a train wreck while you’re away, it is a positive reflection on your leadership skills.
  2. Nobody is impressed that you haven’t taken a vacation in years. The old saying is that all work and no play makes Jack or Jill a dull person. People do not respect or admire someone who can’t get away.
  3. You will motivate your team. They will appreciate your example of allowing yourself to have a life, as long as you don’t barrage them every day with check-in’s and email dumps. A couple scheduled check-in’s on key projects are okay but don’t go somewhere and just keep on working.
  4. Your team can be more productive. You may not like to hear it but the absence of all the stuff that you throw at them on a regular basis gives them a chance to catch up on their stuff.
  5. When you’re out of the loop, it allows them to develop and grow. If you’re unreachable, they’ll have to stretch themselves, learn and take some risks. Don’t undo all they have done when you get back just because it’s different, however.
  6. You will be more productive. When you have a chance to reflect and mull over some tough issues without the day-to-day pressures you normally toil under, you may be surprised at the insights that present themselves.
  7. It may help you prioritize better. In the busyness that is our world, priorities are overwhelmed by the adrenaline rush of constant action. Stepping out of that world might help your perspective.
  8. You and your company benefit. People who indulge in interests outside of work also deal with pressures and disappointments in the workplace with more resilience and confidence. Besides everyone needs a break.

So ask yourself:

  • Do I feel I’m too busy or important to take a vacation?
  • Could I be stifling the development of my team?
  • Can I find a way to let go and relax?

“A scientist worthy of a lab coat should be able to make original discoveries while wearing a clown suit, or give a lecture in a high squeaky voice from inhaling helium. It is written nowhere in the math of probability theory that one may have no fun.”

Eliezer Yudkowsky

Becoming a Humorous Person

“Comedy is acting out optimism.” – Robin Williams

Lisa Hamaker has been working on her humour and shares her progress at Worth It! My Long Journey to Being Mildly Funny. We’re all different and it really shows up in our humor—what we laugh at, and how funny we are. Does working on it help?

Fun is important in our work: to enhance communication, to ease a tense situation, or to create connection and camaraderie. So I have put a little effort into being able to be more humorous in my work.

Years later, I am still not the jokester in the group, but more often than not when I relax my inputs get a laugh, and I can actually tell a joke that gets a joyful response.  In addition, when I am not trying to be funny, but others laugh anyway, I can relax into the moment and enjoy it.

A few Reminders to help us feel the the funny in our workplace:

  • Everyone is different and I believe it really shows up in our sense of humor. Even as a kid I thought the Three Stooges were ridiculous, but just mentioning Steve Martin’s name brings a smile to my face. I am sure there are folks out there who think I nuts for not laughing at the Three Stooges–the joy of life is how different we all are. It doesn’t mean I’m bad when every person doesn’t smile at my funny lines, just different.
  • We can learn to be funny.  I have focused on telling jokes more effectively–like pausing before the punch line. It seems to be working.
  • Know that when we receive unintended laughter, it’s usually not meant to hurt us, it’s just the difference of styles mentioned above. I believe that we gain lots of points by being able to smile and relax into these situations.

What about you? Are you the natural humorist? Any tips for the rest of us? If not, is it important to you to be able to be funny? What have you done to come out of your shell?

send in the clowns

the smile on the face of the clown

“I’ve always been misrepresented. You know, I could dress in a clown costume and laugh with the happy people but they’d still say I’m a dark personality.”

Tim Burton

David Dye of Trailblaze – Engage! asks “Do you ever feel like a fraud? A fake? Like you have no business leading anyone? If so you are in good company with almost every leader. Dave shares several antidotes to the imposter syndrome, including humor in “What to Do When You Feel Like a Fraud.” After all, “It’s hard to be critical if you’re adorable.”

Pop Quiz

 “David, I’m worried that they’re going to find out I’m not as good as they think I am.”

Pop quiz: Who do you think said those words?

a)     The youngest-ever elected president of a state medical association

b)     The director of a nonprofit organization that serves tens of thousands of people around the world

c)      A physician who speaks internationally and is renowned in her field

d)     A small business owner whose team regularly coaches international CEOs and celebrities

e)     A fortune 500 executive vice president

The correct answer is “all of the above.” I have personally heard those words from all five of the people I described.

I’ve even said them myself.

A Dirty Little Leadership Secret 

Have you ever felt like a fake?

As if your success rested on a knife’s edge…one false move…one tiny mistake and everyone would know you were nothing but a well-spoken fraud.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone. In fact, you have very good company – just from our little quiz, you now know seven people, all very accomplished, who have felt the same way (five in the quiz plus you and me).

Although rarely discussed, this feeling is so common that is has a name: imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome describes a feeling of strong self-doubt, that you’re a fake, that your success is due to luck, or your ability to fool people, more than it is due to your work. It often comes along with the fear of being ‘found out’.

It’s a dirty little leadership secret that causes all kinds of stress and can result in leaders who burn out trying to satisfy their own inadequacy.

If you let it, imposter syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your team and achieve your goals (not to mention screw up your life in many other ways!)

I know.

I’ve been there.

I’ve felt as if I didn’t belong in the room, didn’t think others would take me seriously, or that I wasn’t as smart, as rich, or as experienced as I needed to be compared to the group I was working with.

The brutal truth is that you can’t be the leader you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate or you’ll stay silent when you should speak.

Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence.

Put an End to Imposter Syndrome

The good news is that there are several tools you can use to overcome these tendencies to self-sabotage. Here are seven tools I’ve used to put an end to imposter-syndrome:

1)    Honour your past and your present.

During much of my childhood, we struggled financially. I remember one pair of pants I wore where the patches had patches (which had patches!)  It was embarrassing to wear those pants.

Later in life, long after we’d overcome those financial hurdles and I was doing well professionally, there were times I felt like I’d conned my way into the room, and when my colleagues realized it, they’d show me the door.

A mentor of mine told me, “It’s a good thing to remember where you come from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there.”

His point was that your experiences in childhood can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind.

However, it would be equally foolhardy not to acknowledge today’s circumstances. It’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.

2)    “You’re always too something for someone.”

I first heard this from the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking and motivational speaker, Craig Valentine.

It’s a fun way to overcome the doubt that creeps in when you compare yourself with others.

You might worry that you’re too young, too old, too thin, too fat, too poor, too rich (believe it or not, people canworry about this and see it as a limitation).

“You’re always too something for someone” gets at the silliness of it all. Once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.

3) Visualise the Critical Voice & Have a Conversation

Have you ever experienced a critical chattering voice that pipes up with all sorts of harsh negativity when you’re trying to do something?

  • Who do you think you are?
  • You’re crazy if you think you can do that!
  • Why would anyone listen to you?

You’re not crazy. Many people have these thoughts (or experience them as the voice of a particularly critical person from their past).

One fun way to deal with these voices is to visualize them. This tool comes from Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson.

Give your internal critic a name and picture it as a little gnome or troll. (Like your own version of Kreacher, the negative house-elf from the world of Harry Potter.)

Once you’ve got your own Kreacher in mind, have some fun with it. Let it talk.

You might even answer it in your imagination. “Uh huh, okay. Let’s hear it. What else do you have? Is that all you’ve got? Keep it coming…”

Once your negative gnome is played out, you can order it to go sit in the corner and be quite until you’re done. (And it will!)

Yes, I know this sounds completely silly. However, it’s a fun way to play with these negative voices and when you’re playing, they cannot trap you.

4)    Laugh

When I’m writing and self-doubt begins to wrap me in its constricting coils, telling me I can’t write anything unless it’s absolutely perfect, I can almost hug that little voice, laugh at it, and say, “Ahhh, there you are again, aren’t you cute?”

It’s hard to be critical when you’re adorable.

5)    Inner Authority

This tool comes from a book named (appropriately) The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower by Phil Stutz.

You can use this tool when you find yourself in a situation where you feel pressure to perform (whether in a meeting, with a new group of people, or on stage) and it causes anxiety, doubt, and insecurity.

To tap into your inner authority, picture what Stutz calls your “Shadow.”

Stutz describes the Shadow “as everything we don’t want to be but fear we are, represented in a single image. It’s called the Shadow because it follows us wherever we go.” The shadow doesn’t affect how you see the world, but rather, it determines how you see yourself.

Project that image visually, just outside of yourself. Try to see it with a body and a face.

The next step is to connect yourself to the Shadow…to feel a bond with it. Then together, with your Shadow, turn to your audience, the group you’re facing…whoever it might be and say together, “Listen.”

This may take some practice (and again, it may feel weird) because most of us spend lots of energy trying to hide away the things we’re ashamed of, but with practice, you will find tremendous strength in this tool.

The reason it works is because you show up with your whole self. You’re not split in two; you’re not hiding. You’re all there.

6)    Catcher’s Mitt Curiosity

Sometimes your doubts might have something important to tell you. Maybe there is a new skill you need to learn or a true mistake you can avoid.

How can you tell the difference between legitimate doubt and useless insecurity?

Picture yourself wearing a baseball catcher’s mitt. Picture the doubt as an apple that someone tosses to you.

Catch it in the mitt and imagine turning the apple over while you examine it. (Don’t eat it right away!) Ask yourself if there is something of value for you here. Create space for curiosity. See what happens.

If you’re still unsure, this is a great place for a mentor or coach to assist you.

7)    Your Team

One of the most effective tools for dealing with imposter syndrome is simply to focus on the people you serve.

They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether or not you had a big house, small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else.

What they do care about is how you can help them succeed today.

It’s almost impossible to trip over your own insecurities when you focus on serving others. This is the reason volunteering is such a powerful experience and why you hear volunteers say that they received so much more than they gave.

I have proof this one works:  while I’ve been writing this article, I’ve focused on you. Not me, not my doubts, not my lack of a PhD in psychology – you!

(Clearly it worked since you’re reading this now.)

There you have it: seven different tools you can use when you feel self-doubt, insecurity, or imposter-syndrome threatening to undercut you.

Please know you’re not alone and that the world needs you!

 

Job Titles Won’t Bring Your Workers Happiness, but a Wonderful Workplace Will

…Not to pick on those happy-go-lucky folks whose goal is to bring about happiness at work, but true happiness comes from organizations doing right by their employees. Not even Googler Chade-Meng Tan would disagree with that. At least I think …

You want happy workers? Give them what they want: a culture where creativity is encouraged and pass-the-buck is discouraged, flexibility to manage business life and home life, good benefits like a retirement plan with auto-rebalancing and a few plum perks — discounted movie tickets anyone? — couldn’t hurt either.

With those tenets in place, you won’t need funky job titles like “happiness hero” to get employees engaged. Happiness on the job is a chief motivator on its own.

Link to read the whole article

“Men are really good at making fun at other people and women are really good at making fun of themselves.”

Amy Poehler

How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach

adapted précis from an article by Leo Babauta

The One Step to Finding Your Purpose

It’s simply this: learn to get outside your personal bubble.

Your personal bubble is the small world you live in (we all have one), where you are the center of the universe. You are concerned with your wellbeing, with not wanting to look bad, with succeeding in life, with your personal pleasure (good food, good music, good fun, etc.)…

Some of the problems caused by this personal bubble:

  • In our bubble, we’re concerned with our pleasure and comfort, and try not to be uncomfortable. This is why we don’t exercise, why we don’t only eat healthy food.
  • This fear of being uncomfortable is also why we get anxious at the thought of meeting strangers. It hampers our social lives, our love lives.
  • Because we don’t want to look bad, we are afraid of failing. So we don’t tackle tough things.
  • We procrastinate because of this fear of failing, this fear of discomfort.
  • When someone does or says something, we relate that event with how it affect us, and this can cause anger or pain or irritation.
  • We expect people to try to give us what we want, and when they don’t, we get frustrated or angry.

Actually, pretty much all our problems are caused by this bubble.

Including the difficulty in finding our life purpose.

The Wider View, and Our Life Purpose

Once we get out of the bubble, and see things with a wider view, we can start a journey along a path like this:

  1. We can start to see the needs of others, and feel for their problems and wishes.
  2. We then work to make their lives better, and lessen their problems.
  3. Even if we aren’t good at that, we can learn skills that help us to be better at it. It’s the intention that matters.
  4. As we go about our daily work, we can tie our actions to this greater purpose. Learning to programme or become healthy (for example) isn’t just for our betterment, but for the betterment of others, even in a small way. This gives us motivation on a moment-to-moment basis. When we lose motivation, we need to get back out of our bubble, shed our concern for our discomfort and fears, and tie ourselves to a bigger purpose.

In this path, it doesn’t matter what specific actions you take or skills you learn to make people’s lives better. What career you choose is not important — what matters is the bigger purpose. You can always change your career and learn new skills later, as you learn other ways to fulfill this purpose. You’ll learn over time.

What matters is becoming bigger than yourself. Once you do, you learn that you have a purpose in life.

How to Get Out of the Bubble

Getting outside this personal bubble isn’t as easy as just saying, “Let it be so.” It takes work.

First, you must see when you’re stuck in the bubble. Whenever you’re angry, frustrated, irritated, fearful, anxious, procrastinating, feeling hurt, wishing people would be different … you’re in the bubble. These are signs. You are at the centre of your universe, and everything is relating to you and your feelings. When you can’t stick to habits, or have a hard time with a diet, you’re in the bubble. Your momentary pleasure is what matters in this bubble. Outside the bubble, they’re just little events (sensations of desire, urges) that can be let go of.

Second, when you notice that you’re in the bubble, expand your mind and heart. See the bigger picture. Feel what others must be feeling. Try to understand rather than condemning. See how little and petty your concerns and fears have been. Realise that if others treat you badly, it’s not about you, but about what they feeling and paying attention to.

Third, wish others well. Genuinely want their happiness, just as you want your own happiness. See their suffering and wish for it to end or lessen.

Fourth, see how you can help. How can you makes things even a little better for others? Sometimes it’s just by paying attention, just listening. Other times you just need to be there, just lend a hand. You don’t need to go around solving everyone’s problems — they probably don’t want that. Just be there for them. And see if you can make people’s lives better — create something to make them smile. Make one little part of their world — a cup of tea, an article of clothing you’ve sewn — be a little space of goodness.

Repeat this process multiple times a day, and you’ll get better at it.

You’ll learn to be bigger than yourself. You’ll learn that the life we’ve been given is a gift, and we must make the most of it, and not waste a second. You’ll learn that there is nothing more fulfilling than making the lives of others a little better.

Link to read the original article in full

“I’m not this callous clown walking around laughing at life all the time. I’ve had some serious, serious problems in my life. But I’ve come out with a smile.”

John Lydon

Creativity – the strategic tool of the 21st century

By 

Most of us associate creativity with an actual creative pursuit, such as dancing, painting or writing. In fact, according to public speaker, singer, businesswoman and social entrepreneur, Tania de Jong presenting at Mind & Potential 2013,  creativity means far more, extending way beyond the arts to every facet of life depending on one’s outlook. As de Jong says, “Creativity is about new ideas and thinking about doing things differently and solving problems.”

De Jong says one of the problems is too many of us tend to be more left-brained (logical, analytical and objective) than right-brained (intuitive, thoughtful and subjective), the upshot being, and here de Jong quotes legendary business thinkers, Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker: “Creativity has become the most endangered species in the 21st century. Never has the need for creativity been so compelling and never has genuine creativity been in such short supply.”

Which is why de Jong has made it her life’s work to motivate companies to commit to fostering what she calls “this incredible strategic tool” to help “unleash those values around inspiration, courage and passion and those outcomes of wellbeing and leadership.”

Not that this is always easy given the risks inherent in thinking outside the box. De Jong says sometimes we’ll get it wrong, or we won’t necessarily succeed first go. Thus it’s important we make friends with failure by seeing it as normal, and as a wonderful opportunity for learning and growth. Certainly she’s someone well qualified to say, having experienced a number of setbacks herself in her early professional singing career. Yet despite this she never gave up. What’s more, she’s probably more successful today than she would’ve been had her journey been all smooth sailing.

De Jong has prepared a list of what she regards as the key attributes of innovators and great teams. These are:

  • curiosity, visionary and highly imaginative thinking;
  • persistence, a commitment to learning, teamwork and collaboration;
  • adaptability and flexibility;
  • courage, trust and listening;
  • the desire for improvement, efficiencies and enhanced experiences;
  • and perhaps most importantly, an emphasis on encouraging diversity of thought.

Apropos the latter, she says, “I believe in the power of what I call positive human collusions, that is colliding with people you’d never meet in the normal course of life and deliberately seeking to build bridges with [them].”

De Jong cites a 15-country creativity study that showed 98 percent of three to five year olds tested scored in the highly creative range. By the age of 15, just 12 percent were ranked in this category; while a mere two percent of adults over the age of 25 who took the same tests were still at this level. “But it’s still sitting there,” she says. “Imagine if we could unlock another five percentage points?”

Link to read the original Happiness & Its Causes article

A Surprising Way To Connect With Your Team

The Leadership Freak writes honestly about the benefits and positive consequences of openly showing our human emotions…

Feeling alone is the result of isolation. Those who feel misunderstood live behind self-protective barriers that keep others out.

Once a month I meet with a group of leaders to strengthen connections, clarify focus, and develop our leadership. We spend at least half our time eating, talking about movies, families, and stuff we’ve done. The rest of the time is focused on leadership.

Some were surprised and others a little uncomfortable with this month’s agenda. I asked them to give me feedback.

  1. Name two things I’m doing that enhance my potential.
  2. Name two things I’m doing that hinders my potential.
  3. What one thing should I do more?
  4. What one thing should I stop?
  5. What would you struggle with if you had my position?

Here’s a sampling of their responses.

Positive:

  1. You take immediate action when you receive actionable feedback.
  2. You see and develop the strengths of others.
  3. You make people feel appreciated, not taken for granted.

Negative:

  1. You lose focus and get distracted.
  2. You put people on the spot.
  3. You get too occupied with logistics and miss opportunities to connect.

Surprise:

They like seeing my emotional side. When something touches my heart, let it out. This is about compassion and kindness, not blowing up.

Observations about the meeting:

  1. We feel like we’re on the leadership journey together.
  2. Leaders don’t receive feedback if they don’t actively seek it.
  3. Honest feedback is encouraged by openness and blocked by excuses.
  4. People feel valued when you listen and explore their feedback.
  5. Your feedback tells me what’s important to you. Their observations reflected their personal values. Several are more attuned to the reaction of others than I am.
  6. We’re building an environment where sharing positive and negative feedback is normal and welcomed.
  7. We’re creating a culture of self-development. I’m modeling the way not pointing the way.

How can leaders lower protective barriers and let others in?

Link to read the original article

“I think we all have the urge to be a clown, whether we know it or not.”

Ernest Borgnine

In their words: Susan Pearse & 5 ‘Stuck in a Rut’ traps and how to break out of them

By 

Susan Pearse is an acclaimed leadership expert

STUCK IN A RUT?  Ruts are your brain’s way of staying lazy, so breaking out of them can give you the momentum to achieve your goals. It’s also a great way to keep stretching your neurons, growing your brain, and feeling renewed.

Check out the 5 common ruts below and try the exercises to break out of your ruts.

Rut 1: Avoidance

Your brain is very clever at dodging risks and coming up with convincing excuses about why something should be avoided. Putting off a phone call, declining an invitation, or worse, finding an excuse to hold off on starting that new business, trying a new approach, or changing your life.

Try this: Small Step.
 Avoidance is the brain’s way of protecting you from risk and potential failure. But avoidance itself really is a form of failure. By not acting on your dreams, striving for possibilities, or taking a chance, you are destined to repeat the same old patterns and you won’t achieve your goals. Rather than trying to break out of the rut in one big step, take a small step first. As long as you act, you are breaking the rut of avoidance.

Rut 2: Holding on

Your brain likes to stick with things that are familiar. It takes less energy and feels comfortable, or at least more comfortable than doing something new and different. But sometimes holding on just holds you back. Cluttered cupboards, stale relationships, meaningless work won’t create the life you want.

Try this: Let Go. 
It feels uncomfortable to change, but nothing new happens without first letting go. If there is some part of your life you are seeking to change, it’s important to give your attention to what you will start doing. But unless you are clear on what you need to let go, this rut will hold you back. So today, identify what you are holding onto that’s holding you back. Are you ready to let it go?

Rut 3: Complacency

Have you stopped noticing the view out your window? Is your partner no longer as fascinating as when you met them? Is work just a chore rather than a way to make a difference? You are slipping into the complacency rut. Once something becomes very familiar, your brain engages autopilot and you operate with very low levels of quality of attention.

Try this: Fresh Eyes. 
Once something becomes too familiar, attention must be given intentionally. If you don’t do this, the familiar drops into the background. Stay engaged with the important people, places and activities in your life by giving your full attention. Just tell yourself “see this as if for the first time” and experience life with the richness of fresh eyes.

Rut 4: Self Talk

It’s amazing how much chatter rolls through your head. Apparently you’ll have 12,000 internal conversations today! But it has also been found that 95 percent of these chats will simply be reruns of the day before. In fact they are more like echoes from an old conversation, rather than useful reflections on what is happening right here and now.

Try this: Fresh Talk. 
The conversations in your head will determine what you do today. If you’re holding yourself back from something important, is it because of a stale old conversation: an old excuse for not acting, believing the time is not right even though things have changed, convincing yourself you are not capable when you haven’t even tried? Have a fresh talk with yourself today and break out of the self talk ruts that hold you back.

Rut 5: Indecision

How many things are waiting for your decision right now? Items in the in-tray, phone calls delayed, holiday destinations to choose, suppliers waiting for your order, another year passed without writing that book … Maybe you say to yourself, “I’ll get to that when I have time to think about it properly.” But most indecision arises from too much thinking!

Try this: Think Then Act. 
Once you’ve given something a good dose of thought, finish it off with an action. It does not need to be the big final act, but do something that moves you forward. You need to train your brain to make decisions, otherwise it will slip into the lazy habit of circling thoughts with no outcome. And this is the very definition of a rut! Turn thinking into a tool that leads to action rather than a heavy process that holds you back.

Link to read the original article

Happiness At Work edition  #108

All of these articles and many more are collected in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition, where you can find the cream of the week’s stories  about 21st work and leadership, happiness and wellbeing, creativity and learning, self-mastery and resilience.

Enjoy…

Happiness At Work #106 ~ so much more than a nice to have feeling

The world of work is most definitely changing.  A whole variety of irresistible social, economic, technological and human forces are combining to revolutionise, not just for how we work, but the fundamental reasons at the heart of why we work and what we expect in return.

Our growing intelligence about happiness at work lies in the engine room of this revolution, encapsulated, informed and enriched by an increasing pressure for higher levels of work fulfilment and our increasing intelligence about what this means – whether this is articulated in the drive for greater employee wellbeing and engagement, or the drive for greater meaning and recognition for what we do, or in the drive for greater flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance in how our work is organised.

Happiness at work as an idea is gaining credibility and traction, but it is still not always easy to present as a call to action inside apparently more important and urgent organisational concerns such as uncertain economies, overloaded work demands, escalating accountability requirements and ever-increasingly complex and insistent customer and staff expectations.  Happiness is considered by many as too slight, too subjective and personal, and/or too transient a thing to be the proper concern of a serious workplace.

But our contemporary sciences are building up compelling evidence to show that happiness is so much more than a nice to have feeling.

Happiness at work means feeling that we are achieving our potential.  It is mixed and made from high levels of commitment, confidence, conviction, contribution in a culture that aligns with our best selves and provides us with ample amounts of pride, trust and recognition (Jessica Pryce-Jones 5 C’s Science of Happiness model)

Or, if you prefer, it is work that brings us high quality positive emotion and engagement and relationships and meaning and accomplishment ( Martin Seligman’s PERMA model for flourishing.)

We now know that, at most, only half of our happiness is comes to us as our genetic predisposition, and, even more surprisingly, only 10% of our happiness is dependent upon our circumstances.  This means that at any time, no matter what we are facing, at least 40% of our happiness is down to our own voluntary choices: how we choose to think about things and what we choose to do.

Not only that but real revolutionary discovery has been that happiness leads to better outcomes – greater success, better relationships, higher learning, problem solving and creativity, higher performance and productivity, better and health and even a longer life – not the other way round as we used to have it.

And we can all learn to be happier.

This post pulls together stories from this week’s new Happiness At Work collection that all variously help to fill out and amplify our understanding about what happiness at work means in its fullest, most vital and imperative sense: why it matters, how it matters and what are some of the ways we can learn to harness its potency.

Maybe these ideas will be helpful to progress your own thinking and maybe they will be helpful to bring these ideas more persuasively to people you work with…?

The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace

Many people feel that if they become successful at work, they will automatically become happy. But according to Shawn Achor, founder and CEO of Good Think, Inc., that scenario should be reversed. It’s important to become happy, which will then help you become a success. Achor makes it his business to study the psychology of happiness in the workplace. He consults with organizations worldwide and regularly publishes his findings on his website (www.shawnachor .com). His ground-breaking book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, was published in 2010.

It’s important to organizations for employees to be happy, and not just for the employees themselves. “The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged workforce,” Achor says. And happiness as a concept is poorly understood, inside and outside of the workplace. In his book, happiness is defined as “the joy we feel striving after our potential.” It occurs along the way to achieving one’s potential, not just when that potential has been achieved.“This definition is crucial for leaders to understand,” Achor says.

“Without it, happiness can create irrational optimists.” He suggests that what is needed is the cultivation of “rational optimism.” The latter “requires taking a realistic assessment of the present, both the bad and the good, while maintaining a belief that our behavior matters. Rose-colored glasses will not help, but an optimistic brain will help your team overcome the biggest challenges.”

People can also help fulfill their potential by better understanding the role of social support at work. The key to remember is that giving support is even better than receiving it. “In an era of do-more-with-less,” Achor says, “we need to stop lamenting how little social support we feel from managers, coworkers and friends, and start focusing our brain’s resources upon how we can increase the amount of social support we provide to the people in our lives. The greatest predictor of success and happiness at work is social support. And the greatest way to increase social support is to provide it to others.”

Achor was also the head teaching fellow for psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar’s happiness course at Harvard. He found that lessons learned there could also be applied to organizations. “In the working world,” he says, “working with leaders, I began to discover that some of the same principles that caused Harvard students to rise to the top were also the same principles used by leaders to become more successful. Those seven research principles became the basis for The Happiness Advantage.” Closely related to happiness is the concept of thriving. Gretchen Spreitzer, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and her coauthors delineate this concept in their paper “Thriving at Work: Toward Its Measurement, Construct Validation, and Theoretical Refinement,” published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

“Thriving is like happiness in that it also involves the experience of positive emotions,” Spreitzer says. “But it is focused on a specific type of positive emotion—what we term as vitality or energy. When people are thriving in their work, they feel alive at work. Their work is literally fueling them with energy. But thriving is also more than positive emotions. It also includes a sense that one is growing, learning or getting better at what they are doing. This suggests that thriving is about making progress or having positive momentum rather than languishing or feeling stunted.”

Everyone at work can consciously help themselves to thrive more. Some basic strategies involve managing energy by sleeping well, eating a balanced diet that includes frequent high-protein snacks, and taking breaks, ideally every 90 minutes. But Spreitzer and her colleagues also found that the way people engaged in their work had an effect on how well they thrived. “When individuals engage their work in a way that helps others, learn new things, and find meaning in their work, they report higher levels of thriving,” she says. “So the challenge is for individuals to find ways to craft their work so they have more relational connections, more chances to try new things, and can see more of the impact in what they do.”

This research suggests that leaders can create the kind of workplaces that can help people thrive. Spreitzer says, “Leaders can (1) provide their people with more opportunities for decision making discretion, (2) share more information about the organization, its strategy, and competitors, (3) set and reinforce norms that promote civil and respectful behavior, and (4) offer performance feedback, especially about what is going well. When leaders create workplaces with these characteristics, their people feel like they can grow, develop, and thrive in their work.”

Fully engaged, thriving employees finish the day not depleted but, Spreitzer contends, “with energy for their family life, hobbies, and community service.”

Link to the original Leader to Leader article

Why Happiness At Work Really Matters

by 

Are you happy at work? Are the people you work with happy? Should you even care as long as the job is getting done?

It turns out you should – happy companies are more successful on a range of metrics – but creating a happy work environment is counterintuitive. Research and practice both show that what makes people happy in the workplace is not obvious, and relatively easy to provide things like good pay, free food or perks, are over-rated.

The benefits of happiness at work

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK found that people who are happy at work are about 12% more productive. Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has quantified the benefits of a happy company – sales increase by 37%, productivity 31%, and accuracy on tasks improves by 19%, not to mention the health and quality of life improvements for staff.

You might think providing perks such as free food, massages in the office, on-site medical services and gym facilities, would ensure a happy workforce. Google has led the way in perks for some time, even ensuring its building designs are fun (like the slide at its Zurich office pictured above).

But the equation is not that simple – it’s not just a case of perks in, happiness out. While such benefits are helpful in attracting people to work at your firm, they are not that effective at improving company performance. No wonder Google is keen to stress that it’s passion not perks that are the biggest contributor to its success.

Part of the problem is that humans are incredibly good at adapting and we get used to almost anything – good or bad. The classic study on this was done by Philip Brickman, Dan Coates and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman at the University of Massachusetts in 1979. Comparing lottery winners to accident survivors who were paraplegics and quadriplegics they found no significant different in general happiness. People who had won big on the lottery were happy about their good fortune but in fact took less pleasure from everyday activities than the accident survivors.

Salary is not the key to happiness either. It actually comes in to play as a factor of unhappiness – we will be unhappy if we think others in our company or industry are being paid more to do the same task.

Princeton study found that people who are highly paid are relatively satisfied but are barely happier day to day, tend to be more tense and do not spend their time doing more enjoyable things, than lower paid people.

Alexander Kjerulf, a Danish management consultant, who styles himself the Chief Happiness Officer and has advised Ikea, Lego, Oracle, Tata, and Pfizer amongst others, says that results and relationships are actually the most important factors for ensuring people are happy at work. Gallup research backs him up – perks are less important than engagement, which occurs when staff feel they are contributing to something significant.

Tech investor Craig Shapiro tweeted his “org chart for happiness”. On the work side he highlights “fulfillment”, which is in turn a function of productivity, recognition and giving. In other words doing worthwhile work that others appreciate, while also giving back to others, is Shapiro’s recommendation for happiness.

Zappos CEP Tony Hsieh literally wrote the book on happiness in tech. In Delivering Happiness he describes how he built the corporate culture at Zappos by valuing happiness. While Zappos operates some quirky policies eg new hires are offered $2,000 if they decide to quit after the first week, Hseih’s book also highlights the importance of things such as helping staff grow (both personally and professionally), ensuring customer service is everyone’s responsibility and building strong relationships with your team.

Taking inspiration from firms like Zappos, Moo.com, Valve, Buffer and Mailchimp, there’s even now Happy Startup School, which aims to educate entrepreneurs in how to create happy, sustainable and profitable businesses.

Kjerulf, the Chief Happiness Officer, says that while values are important “happiness at work is something you do”. Here’s five tips he offers to foster it at your company:

1. Random acts of workplace happiness. When was the last time you brought a co-worker a cup of coffee unprompted or without warning? Scientific research shows that the random element of these acts really matters. The pleasure/reward centre of the brain is less active when we know something good eg a monthly bonus, is coming, but can be stimulated up to three times as much when the act is unexpected.

2. Hire happy people. The sandwich chain Pret A Manger says you can’t hire someone who can make a sandwich and teach them to be happy, but you can teach happy people to make a sandwich. Kjerulf also cites Southwest Airlines as a company that hires for attitude and trains for skill.

3. Stop negative behaviour. Gossip, rudeness and other negative behaviours act like a cancer at the heart of the company if they are unchecked, says Kjerulf. This is because negative emotions are three times more contagious than positive ones.

4. Celebrate success. Kjerulf consulted with Lego, which a decade ago had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy thanks to a relentless pursuit of innovation coupled with a lack of financial controls. New CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp announced the company’s first profit in several years at a company wide meeting but the news was greeted by silence. Lego had no culture of celebrating success and so people simply didn’t know how to react. Now item 0 on every meeting agenda is celebrating something one of the participants has achieved recently, a simple tactic which has helped transform meetings and make them more productive.

5. Celebrate mistakes. If you do then people will be more open to admitting they have made a mistake. Ben & Jerry’s has a flavor graveyard in Vermont where headstones are erected to its retired flavours including short lived flops like Oh Pear and Cool Britannia. NixonMcInnes, a British social media consultancy, in addition to measuring and tracking staff happiness every day, has a monthly event called Church of Fail, where staff are encouraged to share their failures. The company wants to make it ok to fail, because the more it fails, the more it can innovate and succeed.

Making your staff happy is not about expensive benefits, it’s about offering them meaningful work. What company can’t afford to do that?

Link to the original article

Happiness At Work with Dr Timothy Sharp

Positive Psychology is the science of thriving and flourishing. In a workplace context, it can be argued that when individuals thrive and flourish, they’re also more innovative, creative, collaborative, resilient, and ultimately, more productive. Positive organisations also attract and keep the best people so it’s a classic win-win for all involved, as Dr Tim Sharp explains in this recent interview with AIM.

Tim shares an overview of the exciting field of Positive Psychology, focusing on optimism, hope, resilience, facing up to the tough times, rewarding positives and the important of doing “the right thing”.

Link to the article with the full transcript of this video

Why Happy Workers Make Better Workers

By 

Growing interest in employee happiness is putting companies on their toes. Business press and blogs are revealing psychological findings, case studies and strategy insights that make happiness a must-have for profitable workplaces.

After issuing their Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte concludes that workers today want more.

They want something different. They are demanding, they want meaningful work, and they expect their employer to make work more rewarding in many ways.”

So why do happy workers make better workers?

Three reasons: they care more, they give more and they stay longer

Today’s typical worker is overwhelmed. People are working harder and longer, they are constantly connected and invaded by technology and they are losing their bearings when it comes to a work-life balance.

Companies translate this into worrying leadership pipeline issues, retention and engagement numbers or talent recruitment challenges.

It’s time for workplaces to focus on employee engagement and happiness. Not because it brings more revenues and lower turnover rates, which it does, but because we owe it to ourselves turn to what truly matters:  sustainable growth through people’s wellbeing.

Link to read this article in full

The Happiest People Pursue the Most Difficult Problems

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Lurking behind the question of jobs — whether there are enough of them, how hard we should work at them, and what kind the future will bring — is a major problem of job engagement. Too many people are tuned out, turned off, or ready to leave. But there’s one striking exception.

The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems. Turning around inner city schools. Finding solutions to homelessness or unsafe drinking water. Supporting children with terminal illnesses. They face the seemingly worst of the world with a conviction that they can do something about it and serve others.

For many social entrepreneurs, happiness comes from the feeling they are making a difference.

I see that same spirit in business teams creating new initiatives that they believe in…In research for my book Evolve!, I identified three primary sources of motivation in high-innovation companies: mastery, membership, and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up-and-at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfilment.

People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges if they care about the outcome.  People stuck in boring, rote jobs will spring into action for causes they care about.

Heart-wrenching emotion also helps cultivate a human connection. It is hard to feel alone, or to whine about small things, when faced with really big matters of deprivation, poverty, and life or death. Social bonds and a feeling of membership augment the meaning that comes from values-based work.

It’s now common to say that purpose is at the heart of leadership, and people should find their purpose and passion. I’d like to go a step further and urge that everyone regardless of their work situation, have a sense of responsibility for at least one aspect of changing the world. It’s as though we all have two jobs: our immediate tasks and the chance to make a difference.

Leaders everywhere should remember the M’s of motivation: mastery, membership, and meaning. Tapping these non-monetary rewards (while paying fairly) are central to engagement and happiness. And they are also likely to produce innovative solutions to difficult problems.

Link to read the full Harvard Business Review article

The Importance of Defining Core Values

The Social Employee Engagement platform, Officevibe, is one of this decade’s fast growing success stories.  IN this post, Gowth Manager Jacob Shrier talks through the core values that underpin the why and how they do what they do, and, very probably, the why and how of their continuing escalating success.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – Simon Sinek

This quote is from the famous TED talk where Simon shows that if you communicate your “why”, and understand your purpose, you can sell more and be more successful.

The most interesting part, is that this is all biological, and works every time.

This might be an extreme comparison, and a bit of an exaggeration to make a point, but core values are like the ten commandments – rules to live your life by.

Core values are your company’s “commandments”, and is the foundation for making sure everyone is on the same page.

Also, hiring for culture fit becomes so much easier, because you have all of your “requirements” written down already.

As an employee, when joining a new company, if you align yourself with the company’s core values, meaning you share similar values, that, to me, is the definition of a good culture fit.

Zappos, in my opinion, is the authority on company culture. They are probably the most referenced company of a company that gets culture right, and it took them years to define their core values.

Even though our core values guide us in everything we do today, we didn’t actually have any formal core values for the first six or seven years of the company’s history. – Tony Hsieh, Zappos founder

The OfficeVibe mission and values

Mission: Build the most epic place to work, have fun and innovate.

In one sentence, if we had to sum up what we’re trying to do, this is it.

1. Without fun, it sucks.

Having fun at work is incredibly important for employee engagement. We want to let all of our employees and new hires know that we actively encourage people to have fun at work.

We often go out for happy hours, and lots of the employees play in our arcade and game room.

You need to have a good time while you’re at work, otherwise, life just sucks.

2. More than yesterday, less than tomorrow.

This is a reminder that we really value personal growth.

What this one means, is that I know more than I did yesterday, but I understand that I know less than I will tomorrow, because I will always be learning.

Passion, and personal growth are hugely important qualities for us.

3. We’re an ambitious family

This is all about camaraderie and team building.

First, it’s important that we all recognize that we’re a family. We love each other, and we’ll do anything for each other.

Second, we’re ambitious. Together, as a team, we’re going to change the world.

In all honesty, that’s my goal with Officevibe. I want to make the world of work better. I truly believe that everyone deserves to enjoy their work.

4. Our customers fall in love with us

We always go above and beyond for our customers.

Many people in the company have gotten incredible praise from customers, and we keep track of all of it, in our internal social network (Yammer).

Hubspot, another company I’m in love with, does this, and they call it solving for the customer.

As a core value, this is important for us, as we’re always trying to help our customers be better.

5. Simple is beautiful

I love this one, because simplicity is beautiful, but it’s so hard to achieve.

But it’s an important reminder to everyone, when designing websites or building new features for products, keep it simple.

This is of course inspired by other industry leaders like Apple or Basecamp, and we try our best to keep everything as intuitive as possible.

6. Passion is not optional

We need to be passionate about what we do, and we need to hire people that share that passion.

I would hate to hire someone just because they’re looking for a job.

If I hired someone for Officevibe, they would need to be as passionate as I was about changing the world of work.

7. Quality without compromise

This is an important reminder to always maintain a high level of quality in everything we do.

Often times, clients or users want things yesterday, so a natural instinct is to rush something through to shut them up.

This is a very silly mistake, and will only last short term.

It’s important that we have high standards for ourselves, and we try our best to maintain them.

8. Nothing is impossible

We should always be aiming higher, and always pushing ourselves to be the best at what we do.

Again, this ties back to personal growth. We want to work with people that are always pushing themselves to be the best.

Combined, these core values help shape who we are, what we believe in, and who we should be hiring.

What Do You Think About Core Values?

What are your organisation’s core values?

What ideally would you say about why you do the work you do, what values and principles are essential to the way you do it?

How much of this is inextricably linked to the positive experience – your happiness at work – that you and the people you work with have in the doing of this work?

Link to   see the original Officevibe article and its accompanying images 

The 10 Reasons Why Happiness At Work is the Ultimate Productivity Booster

by Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer

If you want to get more done at work, the productivity gurus out there will tell you that it’s all about having the right system. You need to prioritize your tasks, you must keep detailed logs of how you spend your time, todo-lists are of course essential, you must learn to structure your calendar and much, much more.

But that’s not where you should start. You should start by liking what you do.

The single most efficient way to increase your productivity is to be happy at work. No system, tool or methodology in the world can beat the productivity boost you get from really, really enjoying your work.

I’m not knocking all the traditional productivity advice out there – it’s not that it’s bad or deficient. It’s just that when you apply it in a job that basically doesn’t make you happy, you’re trying to fix something at a surface level when the problem goes much deeper.

Here are the 10 most important reasons why happiness at work is the #1 productivity booster.

1: Happy people work better with others
Happy people are a lot more fun to be around and consequently have better relations at work. This translates into:

  • Better teamwork with your colleagues
  • Better employee relations if you’re a manager
  • More satisfied customers if you’re in a service job
  • Improved sales if you’re a sales person

2: Happy people are more creative
If your productivity depends on being able to come up with new ideas, you need to be happy at work. Check out the research of Teresa Amabile for proof. She says:

If people are in a good mood on a given day, they’re more likely to have creative ideas that day, as well as the next day, even if we take into account their mood that next day.

There seems to be a cognitive process that gets set up when people are feeling good that leads to more flexible, fluent, and original thinking, and there’s actually a carryover, an incubation effect, to the next day.

3: Happy people fix problems instead of complaining about them
When you don’t like your job, every molehill looks like a mountain. It becomes difficult to fix any problem without agonizing over it or complaining about it first. When you’re happy at work and you run into a snafu – you just fix it.

4: Happy people have more energy
Happy people have more energy and are therefore more efficient at everything they do.

5: Happy people are more optimistic
Happy people have a more positive, optimistic outlook, and as research shows (particularly Martin Seligman’s work in positive psychology), optimists are way more successful and productive. It’s the old saying “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re probably right” all over again.

6: Happy people are way more motivated
Low motivation means low productivity, and the only sustainable, reliable way to be motivated at work is to be happy and like what you do. I wrote about this in a previous post called Why “motivation by pizza” doesn’t work.

7: Happy people get sick less often
Getting sick is a productivity killer and if you don’t like your job you’re more prone to contract a long list of diseases including ulcers, cancer and diabetes. You’re also more prone to workplace stress and burnout.

One study assessed the impact of job strain on the health of 21,290 female nurses in the US and found that the women most at risk of ill health were those who didn’t like their jobs. The impact on their health was a great as that associated with smoking and sedentary lifestyles (source).

8: Happy people learn faster
When you’re happy and relaxed, you’re much more open to learning new things at work and thereby increasing your productivity.

9: Happy people worry less about making mistakes – and consequently make fewer mistakes
When you’re happy at work the occasional mistake doesn’t bother you much. You pick yourself up, learn from it and move on. You also don’t mind admitting to others that you screwed up – you simply take responsibility, apologize and fix it. This relaxed attitude means that less mistakes are made, and that you’re more likely to learn from them.

10: Happy people make better decisions
Unhappy people operate in permanent crisis mode. Their focus narrows, they lose sight of the big picture, their survival instincts kick in and they’re more likely to make short-term, here-and-now choices. Conversely, happy people make better, more informed decisions and are better able to prioritize their work.

The upshot

Think back to a situation where you felt that you were at peak performance. A situation where your output was among the highest and best it’s ever been. I’m willing to bet that you were working at something that made you happy. Something that you loved doing.

There’s a clear link between happiness at work and productivity. This only leaves the question of causation: Does being productive make us happy or does being happy make us productive? The answer is, of course, yes! The link goes both ways.

Link to read Alexander Kjerulf’s  article in full

Why the Workplace Will Be the Future of Health and Fitness

The month-long NEWM initiative is the brainchild of Virgin HealthMiles,an organization that’s part of the Virgin Group run by Richard Branson, and that helps companies develop a culture of health and wellness.NEWM is about pushing business leaders to make employee wellness a priority and highlighting the workplace as an important factor in helping people stay healthy.

While NEWM has been around for half a decade now, employee wellness programs have never gotten more attention than they have in the last few months.

Most media coverage of employee wellness is based on the assumption that these programs can help employers cut healthcare costs. And, for a while, the main question about corporate wellness was: How cost-effective are they? But recently, the conversation around employee wellness has changed. Health and wellness experts are taking a step back, wondering whether wellness programs are ultimately about cutting costs, or if maybe they’re about something bigger, that has to do with improving people’s lives.

Over the last few years, the number of workplace wellness programs has drastically increased. Among large companies (those with at least 200 employees), 92 percent offered wellness programs in 2010. That’s  an increase of 34 percent since 2009.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s prompted the recent growth in employee wellness programs, but perhaps the most obvious reason is the fact that Americans work more than ever before (8.8 hours in 2012, compared to7.9 hours in 2007). Whereas health experts once focused on the home environment, there’s a new focus on the importance of the workplace for promoting long-term health solutions. We’re hearing about how coworkers can motivate each other to start working out, and how posting calorie counts in office soda machines can keep us away from the sugary stuff.

Corporate wellness programs take advantage of the fact that most businesses are at least partly based on people working together. Part of the reason why a walking challenge is so appealing is that it’s something coworkers can do in a group, whether they’re competing against each other or working together to achieve their goals.

Corporate wellness programs don’t just benefit employees by enabling them to get more fit. They also tend to inspire people to like their companies more. According to the Virgin HealthMiles survey, almost 90 percent of employees said they consider health and wellness offerings when deciding where to work, and research suggests wellness programs are as important to job satisfaction as raises and promotions. For Boyce, inspiring people to love where they work is central to his concept of success.

According to the Virgin HealthMiles survey, the biggest obstacle currently facing employee wellness is measuring the impact of these programs. Some health experts insist that a successful employee wellness program will save employers a significant amount of money in the long term; others are less certain.  Perhaps we’ll never be able to measure the real impact of employee wellness.

The question, then, is whether we should pursue these programs at all.  Baun talked about the difference between ROI (return on investment) and a less official term called “VOI,” or value on investment. The second term refers more to what happens when you improve people’s lives, and is substantially harder to measure.

Still, anecdotal evidence consistently suggests these programs have something to offer. Baun, who’s been in the business of employee wellness for more than 30 years, told me multiple stories about employees who’d started practicing an overall healthier lifestyle with the help of workplace wellness programs.

In so many of these cases, it would be impossible to measure the effect of a workplace wellness program, he said. But even without the clinical data, he was able to say with confidence: “It changed their lives.”

Link to read the full original Greatist article

Happiness At Work edition #106

All of these stories and many more can be found collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work #106.

I hope you find things here to use, to enjoy and to help grow your own sense of happiness…

Link to the full Happiness At Work edition #106 collection of stories

 

 

Happiness At Work #102 ~ how it makes us more creative, productive and successful

This week our headline stories all provide representations of what we now know about happiness at work: how it can be learned, developed and sustained,  how it increases our greater productivity, creativity, and learning, and how it leads directly to greater success in our work, our lives and our relationships.

How Workplace Happiness Affects Your Paycheck

by Ken Sundheim for Undercover Recruiter

Studies have shown that when we are happy at work, we are smarter, more motivated, more competitive and, thus more successful.

While it’s widely known that overall fulfilment allows us to enjoy more meaningful relationships and better health, few understand that it impacts a paycheck – significantly:

Nose to the grindstone – the correlation between success and happiness:

There is a big misconception among many corporations and educational institutions that success leads to happiness. Often, we tell ourselves that once we get the promotion we want, the pay raise we feel we deserve or the recognition we desire, happiness will follow.

Until recently, it was widely thought that focusing on productivity and performance, even to the detriment of our well-being, would lead us to become more successful and, therefore happier. Everyone has heard the phrase: Keep your nose to the grindstone.

However, recent research in psychology and neuroscience has proven that fulfillment and happiness are a key ingredient to a successful career. Optimism fuels performance and achievement which, in turn, allows us to advance monetarily.

In simper terms, happiness is not a random event in the distant future. Treat it as such and not only will it hinder your ability to succeed, but it will also prevent you from living life to the fullest.

Dopamine, serotonin and the brain’s reaction:

Countless studies have shown that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best when they are in a positive mindset. When we feel optimistic about our future, dopamine and serotonin are released in our brains.

In conjunction with providing a heightened sense of well-being, dopamine and serotonin allow us to more rapidly organize new information and become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving.

Specifically, a clear head allows for 100% engagement. Conversely, perseverating on your problems exhausts most of your capacity for attention which drains energy as well as performance levels. It’s no secret that, as a group, low performing employees take home sparse paychecks.

Consider the following:

  • A recent study at the University of Toronto found that our mood can change what we see.  When shown pictures with multiple images, those in negative moods could not process as much as their positive counterparts.  Positive emotions expand our peripheral line of vision.
  • People who were asked to think about the happiest day of their life prior to a formal exam scored higher than those simply given the test.

Exercises:

An individual who can learn to control their thoughts will maintain control of their happiness and, thus career potential. While doing so is easier said than done (it takes significant practice and discipline), below are three easier exercises that could begin making a difference today.
  • Think of your brain as a computer disk with a finite amount of space.  Consider your surroundings, inner monologue, other people in the room and your desired task as small files that quickly fill that disk to capacity.
The more stored on that disk, the less available room there is for intelligently evaluating information and making rational decisions.  Thus, it comes useless to allow that disk to be filled with thoughts of self-doubt as you are throwing away valuable space.
  • Know what you stand for: define what your core beliefs are always remember to live in the present, resolve with the past and create your ideal future.
  • Keep healthy: success requires not only our minds, but our body, energy and spirit as well. Eat well, exercise and when necessary, practice some form of mediation. Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex.

In the end:

Happiness is more than a good feeling – it is also a crucial ingredient of our success. Allow your brain the capacity to feel positive and heightened creativity, resilience and intellectual capacity will quickly follow.

If you wish to increase the number on your paycheck, choose happiness as one of your definitive goals. Then, place all your energy, will power and effort towards chasing that goal.

The science of happiness explained in one infographic

by Omar Kardoudi for Sploid – headlines for the future

Happiness is a difficult thing to measure due to its subjective nature, but scientists have been trying nonetheless. Here is a compilation of some of the most interesting findings they’ve gathered so far packed into one big infographic.

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

by Forbes from Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont. So says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you, he says. “We create our own experience,” he adds. Here are 10 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations.

Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up, says Rao. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. “Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.”

Practice “extreme resilience”

Rao defines “extreme resilience” as the ability to recover fast from adversity. “You spend much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others,” he writes. “You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.” (He also says that if you fully take his advice to avoid “bad thing” labels, you don’t have to practice resilience at all.)

Let go of grudges

Rao says that a key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. “Consciously drop the past,” he writes. “It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.”

Don’t waste time being jealous

“When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me,” says Rao. “Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.”

Find passion in you, not in your job

Sure, you can fantasize about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But Rao warns against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, he advocates changing how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at a bank, identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

“Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared,” says Rao. “Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realizing this truth will help you gain perspective.”

Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

Rao says that many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. “There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy,” he writes.

Invest in the process, not the outcome

“Outcomes are totally beyond your control,” Rao writes. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

Think about other people

Even in corporate life, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. “He may rise later in the shootout,” Rao says. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Rao thinks that multitasking gets in the way of happiness. “Multitasking simply means that you do many things badly and take much more time at it,” he writes. He recommends instead working on tasks for 20-minute intervals that you gradually increase to two-hour spans. Turn off any electronic gadgets that can be a distraction. He claims that with practice, you’ll be able to accomplish much more and with less effort.

This Graph Perfectly Illustrates How To Be Happy At Work

by Drake Baer for Business Insider

Screenshot 2014-07-11 12.35.15

If you want to be a fulfilled, happy, successful person, consider this graph.

The white diagonal line represents what positive psychology pioneer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi referred to as “flow.”

His take on flow:

The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics as being in “ecstasy,” artists and musicians as “aesthetic rapture.”

It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life.

Flow, the psychologist continues, is different from the “passive pleasures” of deep sleep, warm sunshine, or a contented relationship, since those all depend on external circumstances.

In contrast, flow is something you can create.

“This complete immersion in an experience could occur while you are singing in a choir, dancing, playing bridge, or reading a good book,” Csikszentmihalyi writes. “If you love your job, it could happen during a complicated surgical operation or a close business deal.”

Looking at the graph, you can see that in order to achieve flow an activity has to have the right level of engagement with your skills. If the challenge is too great, you’ll feel overwhelmed; if the challenge is too easy, you’ll get bored. The key is to go just beyond your comfort level.

If you do so, you’re in the flow channel: engaged in your work and growing along with it.

But there’s also the matter of how you grow. Writer and philosophy Ph.D. Jim Stone wrote in a Quora post that you can advance from A1 to A4 in the flow channel in one of two ways:

First, you can move from A1 to A2, and then to A4. On this path, you develop new skills without much challenge. And once you start to feel competent with those new skills, and you start to get bored with the way you are using those skills, you can take on a challenge that will use those skills and get your mind back in the game.

This might be the approach of a math student who keeps working on easy problem sets until he gets so good at them that he’s bored, and then decides to tackle a harder problem set.

Second, you can move from A1 to A3, and then to A4. On this path you take on a challenge before you have the skills to meet the challenge. This creates anxiety, and the anxiety drives you to develop the skills you need to meet the challenge.

This might be the approach of a math student who jumps right to the most difficult problem set and fills in her skills as she works on those problems.

Which is better, career-wise? The second, more anxiety-filled one, since it forces you to tackle big projects and get comfortable with the discomfort inherent to the process.

Doing this exposes us to an important mental skill, too. Finns call it “sisu,”the psychological strength that allows you to push through difficult circumstances.

The good news is it can be trained.

5 Tips To Increase Happiness At Work

by Growth Engineering

Here are 5 tips to increase your happiness at work and supercharge your productivity:

1. Think happy – be happy
We can choose to be happy; it’s a conscious decision. Ok, not all the time – sometimes things happen to devastate us and we have to pick ourselves back up off the floor – but a lot of the time, we can choose to be happy. Did you know, there is evidence to suggest that not only does being happy make us smile, but smiling actually makes us happy? Really! When we choose to be happy, we open ourselves up to experiences that will increase our happiness. It’s apparent in our personal lives as well as at work. If we approach our jobs with an open mind and expect to be happy in what we do – whether it’s sitting on our bums writing articles (hello!), serving customers in shops or repairing burst pipes – we’ll find that, whaddya know, we actually are pretty happy!

2. Do something you love
It’s easier said than done, but being able to do what you love every day is rewarding in and of itself. Whatever it is you love doing, try to make it part of your work. That doesn’t necessarily mean only doing what drives you wild and gets your blood pumping, but if you can dedicate a portion of your time while at work to activities that do have this effect, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll be happier. For example, we love being able to give our learners their certificate at the end of their exciting online journey of learning and discovery – when we focus on this, the hard work we do that directly contributes to making it a reality suddenly doesn’t seem so hard after all.

3. Avoid negativity
Work is inherently stressful sometimes; if it was always easy as pie we’d get sore tummies and fatigued taste buds! But the important thing to remember is not to let anyone else drag you down when they’re feeling stressed. Try to avoid negative conversations, gossip and unhappy people. A bit of complaining is fine – but don’t get caught up in other people’s problems if they don’t concern you.

4. Look for opportunities to learn and grow
We’re passionate about training, self-development, sharing knowledge and learning new things, so we understand how important it is for people to continue their professional development. There’s always something we can improve upon or learn about, and when we do so our motivation is boosted to the nth degree.

5. Take stock of how far you’ve come
Maybe you’re not exactly where you want to be. You might be a sales adviser when you really want to be sales manager, or perhaps you’re sous chef when your absolute desire is to be head chef. Whatever the case, take a step back and take stock of how far you’ve come in your professional development. Remember when you started work in the restaurant all those years ago? You were a dish washer back then, and now you’re supporting the chef! You used to be temporary sales adviser but you rocked so hard your company asked you to join as a full-time employee. When you look back on what you’ve accomplished in your career and see how you have blossomed over the years, you’ll feel happy and comforted in the knowledge that you’re doing the right thing, making progress and seriously kicking butt. You might not be in your ideal role right now, but you know you’re working your hardest, pushing yourself every day, making the most of your talents and enjoying yourself while you’re at it.

An Epicurean Guide To Happiness

by  Sharath Komarraju

It’s easy at first glance to dismiss Epicurus as just another hedonist caught in pleasure’s trap. But as we dig a little deeper into his writings, a slightly different man emerges. By pleasure, he says, what he means is ‘the absence of pain in the body and trouble in the soul.’ So instead of viewing pleasure as a positive thing to chase and possess, Epicurus asks us to free ourselves of worry and physical pain, so that we may achieve a state of calm and neutrality, which he callsataraxia, or ‘free from worry’. Buddha called it ‘emptiness’.

Necessary and Unnecessary Desires

The first distinction we must make is that between necessary and unnecessary desires, he says. Necessary desires are those that compel us to be free of physical and mental pain, where unnecessary desires cause further pain even after they’re satisfied. All desires of the flesh and of the material world are of the latter sort; though they give us momentary pleasure, they lock us into the pain-pleasure cycle, where we run after more and more pleasure which causes us more and more pain.

Pleasurable pains and painful pleasures

The second distinction is between the different kinds of pleasures and pains. Some ‘pleasures’ result in long-lasting pain, like drinking or taking drugs, whereas some pains – like failure, heartbreak and envy – could lead to resilience, empathy and self-awareness, which are all highly pleasurable states. Epicurus advises us not to judge a pleasure or a pain from what it does to your body right now, but from what it does your mind and character in the long run. Suffering and sadness may make us feel bad today, but we may be better off enduring them if they make us happier beings overall.

Friends, Freedom and Philosophy – the ingredients for happiness

As we may expect of a philosopher, he claims that a life of questioning and debating the deeper questions of life with like-minded people to be the happiest one. In fact, as Alain De Botton presents in the video below, the three things that man needs to be happy, according to Epicurus, are freedom, friends, and solitude in which to reflect. No matter how much you have in terms of material possessions, he says that unless you have these three, it is impossible to be happy. And if you have these three, you will have need for nothing else.

The Connection Between Employee Engagement and Emotional Intelligence

by Peter LaMotte for Switch and Shift

In today’s marketplace, business leaders can’t succeed without the ability to communicate effectively with others, manage their emotions and collaborate on finding solutions to pressing challenges. Perhaps most importantly, they have to be able to connect with employees on a human level, a trait that requires both understanding and empathy.

These attributes are key elements of what is known as emotional intelligence (or Emotional Intelligence Quotient) — being aware of and managing your own emotions and understanding the emotions of others.

A leader with a high EQ is better positioned to instill a deep sense of engagement among employees. Without that sense of engagement, employees are less motivated (and therefore less productive), which can lead to a high rate of turnover that threatens the well-being of the organization.

“True engagement comes from the employee’s relationship with the employer and with the work itself,” note Joel H. Head and Joshua Freedman of the global support network Six Seconds. “By definition, engagement is an inside job.”

Qualities of Emotional Intelligence

Self-awareness is an essential component of emotional intelligence. How well do you know your various emotional states? What are your emotional triggers and what situations tend to set them off? Do you recognize the impact your emotions have on the people around you?

Another critical element of self-awareness is the ability to manage those emotions. This involves understanding what causes stress in your life and developing coping mechanisms (exercise, meditation, etc.) to reduce that stress, so you don’t unleash it on the people around you.

As a business leader, you need to calibrate your emotional states so that you always project an upbeat demeanor and an optimism that employees can rely on. “Once you become a leader, you no longer have the luxury of a bad day,” says leadership expert Amanda Gore. “[People] don’t really care about the boss. They care about what the boss’s mood means for them.”

Self-management also means holding yourself accountable for your decisions and actions. From time to time this requires acknowledging that you’ve erred in judgment and that there’s still room to improve your leadership skills. This quality leads to enhanced trust among the people you hope to lead.

“Employees want to know that you can be trusted; revealing the areas where you can improve makes you more real and genuine,” says business strategist Glenn Llopis. “Employees follow and support leaders who are approachable and relatable, those who will roll up their sleeves and fight the battles with them.”

Social awareness — better known as “empathy” — might be the most critically important element of emotional intelligence. This involves not just listening to what employees have to say, but being able to see it through their eyes.

“Any time you’re dealing with another person … things will go more smoothly if from time to time you put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, ‘What’s going on for this person right now? What’s important to them? What do they want from this interchange?’” says emotional intelligence consultant Andy Smith. “If you get a sense of what’s going on for them, you will find them much easier to communicate with.”

Finally, emotional intelligence includes social skills: Knowing how to communicate with and persuade others to achieve a desired result, as well as resolving workplace conflicts and inspiring people to go beyond what they believe they can do.

Taken together, these qualities help make up the most effective business leadership model available today. A leader with a high EQ is more confident, more adaptable and better prepared to handle unexpected challenges or threats to the business. He or she is also better poised to navigate the complexities of emotion in crisis management.

Better yet, such leaders convey the same emotionally intelligent traits to their best employees. They in turn become better at managing change, solving problems and — for the greater benefit of the organization — learning how to empathize with your customers’ needs and expectations.

“In the end, leaders become more valuable when they can prove to increase productivity, employee engagement and results by creating a teamwork environment that gets the best performance from everyone,” says Glenn Llopis. “This requires leaders to be strong mentors as well as sponsors who can help their colleagues better navigate workplace opportunities and catapult their careers.”

Can empathy really work in a business world dominated by testosterone?

It certainly can, argues Belinda Parmar, who says it is the tool that leads to success. Do you work for a business that understands this? Take the survey and find out

“Take my advice, Belinda: you’ll never get to the top in this business if you spend all your time worrying about feelings. You’ve just got to sell, sell, sell.”

It took me years to understand just how wrong my manager’s advice had been and that I, like many women, should not have to downplay my empathy skills. Empathy isn’t some soft and fluffy add-on best left to the “dolly birds” in HR, but a hard, teachable skill that opens the door to profit. But he wasn’t the only one needing to wake up to the benefits of empathy. The fact is that the corporate world is an empathy desert: most managers still ladle out dollops of self-centred survivalist Darwinian advice to those climbing the corporate ladder.

Their failure to understand the attraction of empathy is born of a simple misconception; empathy isn’t about people-pleasing. It’s not about being a pushover. Instead, empathy, the ability to understand the impact your actions have on others, is essential to being a player in the corporate game. It needs to be embedded from the boardroom right through to the shop floor.

The evidence shows that emotional intelligence and empathy pays. Among the L’Oreal sales-force, the best empathisers sold nearly $100,000 more per year than their colleagues. Waiters who are better at showing empathy earn nearly 20% more in tips. Even debt collectors with empathy skills recovered twice as much debt.

Yet most companies continue to fuel their empathy deficits, overlooking people who work empathically. The good news is you can teach empathy; it’s like a muscle that can be trained and honed.

This week Lady Geek is launching a campaign to fix this problem: we want to help transform corporate culture, to encourage businesses to become places where empathy and empathisers are valued.

But this is a tall order and we need your help. In order to work out the extent of the problem, we need to collect further data. The corporate world is an empathic wasteland in need of rehabilitation, but to put that right, to redress the empathy deficit, we need to pinpoint those industries and companies in most need of an empathy transplant.

Working with Guardian Women in Leadership, we have prepared a short survey (it will take you no more than 10 minutes) that will allow you to provide your own personal snapshot of the corporate landscape. You can find the survey here.

We want to know about your experiences in the workplace. Specifically, we want you to tell us how the workplace makes you feel. We need you to play your part in the empathy revolution.

Belinda Parmar is the founder and chief executive of Lady Geek.

What You Get From Giving

by Eric Karpinski, The Happiness Coach

It turns out that giving at work can lead you down two very different paths:  great success, or burnout and failure.

Adam Grant, a world-renowned researcher and Wharton professor, in his book Give and Take, lays out the all the compelling research about giving at work. He teaches how to give in ways that build your career and optimize success and describes how to avoid the pitfalls that can waylay good-hearted people on their way to the top.  It is one of the most powerful business books I’ve read since Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage.   It syncs cleanly with how happiness and relationships are tied together.

Giving is contagious and grows the pie for everyone

Research results from Christakis and Fowler*, top social network experts, show that giving spreads rapidly through our social connections.   When one person contributes to a group at a personal cost, it positively influences others in that social network to contribute.  And it’s not only those who are direct friends with the giver; the increased altruistic effect is seen three degrees of separation away (i.e. that person’s friends, their friend’s friends and even their friend’s, friend’s,  friends, are more likely to give).   And the benefits of the initial contribution to the group were tripled by the end of the experiment, creating a lot more value for the group than the original altruist’s act alone…

For most of us, seeing the giving side of a person endears us to them.  It encourages us to be around them more, to do things for them and to share experiences.  This builds our trust and keeps us open to connecting more which leads to stronger relationships.  And the research is clear that stronger relationships are a central driver of our happiness and that happiness drives our success…

Giving directly drives our happiness

There is a ton of research that shows that giving makes us happier.   A Harvard study shows that we get more happiness spending money on others than we do spending it on ourselves.  Sonja Lyubomirksy at UC Riverside showed huge increases in happiness by doing five acts of kindness each week are just two recent examples.   Giving, whether in our personal lives or our professional lives, can generate real happiness for us.

How to give 

This seems like it’s obvious, but not everyone knows what I mean by being a giver.  Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, describes it like this:   “Being a giver doesn’t require extraordinary acts of sacrifice.  It just involves a focus on acting in the interests of others, such as by giving help, providing mentoring, sharing credit or making connections for others.”   Don’t get caught up in grand — or public — gestures.  Just do something nice for someone, something in their interest that isn’t necessarily directly in yours as well.

Your Challenge

Find three ways to be a giver over the next week.   Have a colleague who is really stressed about a deadline? See if there is something you can take care of for them.   Are there two people you think would be able to help each other on something? Invite them both to coffee and introduce them to each other.  Or bring in donuts or a fruit salad to the lunch room or a gathering where it’s not expected.  It doesn’t matter what you do; the key is to get started. Then see what happens…

Take a free, online professional course in working with character strengths.

by Ryan M. Niemiec in Psychology Today

Far gone are the days in which I had to spend time correcting people mispronouncing VIA (“vee-uh”), educating professionals who referred to VIA by its previous name of “values in action,” explaining why character strengths are important for various outcomes, or instructing people how to take the VIA Survey online. Professionals in the field now have a working knowledge of character strengths – both of their own top strengths as well as ideas for helping clients identify their strengths. Now, participants are eager to dig deeper and to expand their versatility in working with strengths.

The VIA Institute’s new partnership with Wholebeing Institute does just that. Both entities are interested in contributing to the knowledge of those who are teaching and helping others discover and express their strongest characteristics. We believe this will contribute to greater well-being in the world. This course offers another entry point for learning about strengths.

Join an ever-expanding group of coaches, educators, managers, leaders, and other professionals in learning new ways of applying the VIA Survey and character strengths in your professional life. You will learn ways to help others be more engaged, productive, and happy. Best of all – it’s all online!

Register here

Happiness At Work edition #102

All of these articles and more are included in this week’s new collection.

Enjoy…

 

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

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3194
photo: Mark Trezona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Practitioner’s Guide to Action Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clean Space Process

Space:

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

2. A stretch of time

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

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

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

In your Clean Space time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use “Why…?” questions sparingly.

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

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

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

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

Helpful Capabilities for Action Learning

o   Being fully present

o   Alert, neutral, open, heightened listening

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

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

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

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

o   Being open to surprise

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3191
photo: Mark Trezona

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

We shift our perspective; we shift our balance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Learning and Collaboration

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

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

1 ~ In-Betweenness

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

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

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

2 ~ Listening In-ness

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

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

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

3 ~ Slowness

The listening we do in Action Learning recognises that…

…you can’t flick through sound;

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

…you can’t glance at sound;

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

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

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

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

4 ~ Togetherness

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

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

5 ~ Connectedness

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

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

Action Learning creates and sustains our propulsion from…

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

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

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

Action Learning and Making Great Audience Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if…?

What next…?

What now…?

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193 photo: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Summer Space 2013 IMG_3193
photo: Mark Trezona

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

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

Happiness At Work edition #90

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

Enjoy…

 

A Collection of Treats to Celebrate International Day of Happiness 2014

Fun things to do near you  -A day trip to Mars - Sue Ridge ©

Fun things to do near you -A day trip to MarsSue Ridge ©

In celebration of International Day of Happiness 2014 this week’s post contains mostly good things, starting with Sue Ridge’s magical imagining of a day trip to Mars.

This year is only the second time this day has been celebrated, but already I notice that there is significantly more media, social and international attention than the same day seemed to get last year.

One of the major themes this year has been about reclaiming happiness back from the advertisers who would tell us our happiness depends upon buying their thing.  Instead, today’s global celebration reminds us that it is our relationships that lie at the heart and soul of true happiness, and spending time enjoying being with our family, our fiends and our colleagues is about the surest way there is of getting a happiness boost.

In this spirit, I have collected together my favourites from this week’s array of offerings, with a bias on the treats that you can enjoy and/or use, and I really hope there will one or two things here that you can take to treat yourself with.

Happy Happiness Day.

On International Day of Happiness, UN urges action to end poverty, build harmony

Of course there is nothing frivolous about this global call to action by the UN as their press release makes abundantly clear…

20 March 2014 – Marking the International Day of Happiness with calls to promote social inclusion and intercultural harmony, senior United Nations officials today urged the global community to make real the UN Charter’s pledge to end conflict and poverty and ensure the well-being of all.

“Happiness is neither a frivolity nor a luxury. It is a deep-seated yearning shared by all members of the human family. It should be denied to no one and available to all,” declared Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the Day.

While acknowledging that happiness may have different meanings for different people, the UN chief said that all could agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of human beings live.

“This aspiration is implicit in the pledge of the United Nations Charter to promote peace, justice, human rights, social progress and improved standards of life,” he said, adding: “Now is the time to convert this promise into concrete international and national action to eradicate poverty, promote social inclusion and intercultural harmony, ensure decent livelihoods, protect the environment and build institutions for good governance. These are the foundations for human happiness and well-being.”

In April 2012, the UN held a high-level meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” at the initiative of Bhutan, a country which recognized the supremacy of national happiness over national income since the early 1970s and famously adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product (GDP).

In July of that year, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness, recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in people’s lives and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.

In that spirit, current General Assembly President John Ashe said the Day celebrates unity and called on the international community to support the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

As the UN family sets out to identify the goals for an inclusive, people-centred post-2015 development agenda with the eradication of poverty as its overarching objective, he invited Member States, international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to raise public awareness of the aspirations of human beings around the world.

“Happiness is a fundamental human goal, and improving public policies in countries that can contribute thereto is essential to promoting equitable societies for all,” said Mr. Ashe.

Link to read the original article

In the UK, Action for Happiness provided an exuberance of provisions to help make the day fly, including these new research findings, and more social and participative, their #happinessday Let’s Reclaim Happiness Wall of photos inviting non-commercialise images of what happiness looks like for different people across the planet.

National Happiness Matters More Than National Wealth

87% choose happiness and wellbeing over wealth as their priority for society

Reducing inequality seen as most important for national happiness
Relationships seen as most important for personal happiness

 In a week that includes both the UK Budget (19 March) and the United Nations International Day of Happiness (20 March), a new survey has found that the vast majority of people think levels of happiness and wellbeing matter more than the size of the economy.

In a YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Happiness, a majority (87%) of UK adults were found to prefer the ‘greatest overall happiness and wellbeing’, rather than the ‘greatest overall wealth’ (8%), for the society they live in. This majority was found to be broadly consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes.

When asked to select the three changes they thought would most increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of people in the UK, ‘more equality between rich and poor’ came out as the most selected factor, with 45% of people choosing this; the next highest response was ‘improved health services’ (39%). Of the choices offered, the least important were found to be ‘improved school standards’ (16%) and ‘improved transport and infrastructure’ (16%).

When asked to select the three most important factors for their own happiness and wellbeing, ‘my relationships with my partner/family’ was the most selected factor, with 80% of people choosing this; the next highest was ‘my health’ (71%), with ‘my money and financial situation’ a distant third (42%). The least important factors were found to be ‘my possessions’ (4%) and ‘my appearance’ (4%).

Commenting on results, Action for Happiness Director, Dr Mark Williamson said:

“The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people. The vast majority of people would prefer society to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”

LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness, Lord Richard Layard said:

“Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people. Our top priority should be people’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should be giving much more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationships and creating a more trusting society.”

Link to read the original Action for Happiness press release

It’s Time to Reclaim Happiness

Director of Action for Happiness, Dr Mark Williamson writes in the Huffington Post…

In recent years I’ve asked hundreds of parents what they want above all for their children. Although their answers vary, nearly all of them say something like “I really just want them to be happy”. Happiness is the thing we want the most for the people we love the most.

But the problem is that our happiness has been hijacked.

We’re bombarded with false and misleading images of happiness. Advertisers tell us it comes from buying their products. Celebrities and the media pretend it comes with beauty or fame. And politicians claim that nothing matters more than growing the economy.

Everywhere we look the story is the same: buy and achieve these things and then you’ll be happy. But remember, you’ll then need to keep getting more in order to stay happy and keep up with your peers. And if they start to get ahead then just keep consuming!

On and on we go in a mindless and seemingly endless cycle.

I could of course point to many studies confirming how wrong this all is – lasting happiness does not come from what we consume, how we look or how much we earn. But, let’s be honest, you probably knew that already!

So how can we put this right? Firstly we can each try to live more mindfully and avoid getting caught in the “I’ll be happy when…” trap.

But we can also reclaim happiness, by sharing a more authentic view of what really makes us happy. And this week is the perfect opportunity to start this together.

Thursday (20 March) is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. To celebrate this special day, Action for Happiness is running a global campaign, with support from over 40 organisations and many thousands of people around the world.

Their shared mission is to show the world what happiness really looks like – and in doing so, to reclaim happiness back from the advertisers, celebrities, media and others who try to manipulate us. Here’s how you can get involved…

  • Step 1: Find. Look through your photos right now for a picture of something that really made you happy.
  • Step 2: Capture. When something makes you happy today or in the coming days, remember to take a moment and capture it on camera.
  • Step 3: Share. Share your images of happiness with others using the #happinessday hashtag (e.g. via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc)

There are already lots of inspiring examples of people sharing #happinessday images: children playing in a garden, flowers outside an office, friends celebrating a birthday, a family walk on the hills, outdoor fun in the sun and many more.

Unlike the fake images in adverts and magazines, these authentic photos help to remind us of what really matters. We may not be able to change the world overnight, but together we can share a vision of happiness which is far more inspiring that the one we’re sold.

So why not take a moment to find (or take) a picture of something that makes you happy and share it right now. It might be profound, or perhaps profoundly silly. But however small and personal, the fact that you have noticed it makes it quite important enough.

Action for Happiness will be building a huge collection of these #happinessday images from around the world and, as well as taking social media by storm, the hope is to present a selection of these images at the United Nations later this year.

Let’s focus on the things that really matter. Let’s reclaim happiness together.

Link to  the #happinessday What makes You Happy photo wall

Reclaim your happiness at work on the International Day of Happiness

by Nic Marks, director of Happiness Works and on the board of Action for Happiness

The average Brit spends 100,000 hours at work and if we were happier at work, we’d be happier in our whole lives• Find out how happy you are at work compared to the national average

Thursday was the UN’s International Day of Happiness – a day set aside to raise global awareness that happiness is a fundamental human goal. Global issues such as human rights, peacekeeping and sustainable development are what we would expect the UN to have on its agenda. So why has it decided that the seemingly frivolous idea of happiness is worth championing?

If we could create a world that was more inclusive, equitable, and balanced, a world where all people were happier, most of us would agree that this would be progress. When understood like this, happiness suddenly seems a much more serious issue, one that belongs on the global agenda. The UN is so serious about it that in a 2012 resolution it called for a “more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes … the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.

All too often, the concept of happiness is hijacked by advertisers and the popular media and then sold back to us in the form of materialism and glamour. In reality, the important things for our happiness are rarely even things at all. They are more about the quality of our relationships and whether what we do in our home and working lives feels purposeful.

The London-based campaign group Action for Happiness is co-ordinating many global events this year under the banner of “reclaiming happiness”. Falling on a Thursday, this year’s International Day of Happiness is a workday for most of us. Let’s ask ourselves the question: how would the world be if we were all happier at work?

It is quite a radical question. For many, work has come to signify the exact opposite of happiness. It’s where we go to earn the money to buy the things we hope will make us happy. We don’t expect to be happy at work; we expect to endure it until we clock out or log off and return to our real lives – a life outside of work.

But hang on a minute. The average Brit spends 100,000 hours at work during their lifetime – that’s more than 11 and a half years. Work is part of our real life and if we were happier at work we would be happier in our whole lives. We’d be better partners, better parents, better people. So happiness at work is good for us, as individuals.

But what about business? Let’s ask another question: what happens to a business if its employees are happier at work?

Far from spending the day lolling about and chatting with colleagues, as some sceptics might assume, happier employees are more creative, more innovative and more focused on their work. Every day they make more progress with their work than their unhappy colleagues. They also are much less likely to leave – who leaves a job they love?

When we do the maths, the costs of ignoring happiness at work are substantial. An average UK company will employ about 250 people. If it is average in all aspects, then about 40 of them will leave each year and over 1,000 days will be lost due to absenteeism. If the company had a really happy, engaged workforce, then staff turnover would typically halve, absenteeism would be cut by 25%, and productivity would increase by about 20%. The cost of ignoring happiness in an average UK company, paying average wages, works out to be in excess of £1m every year. Happiness at work is not a threat to business; it’s an opportunity.

Creating happy profitable businesses may work for the few but surely the world will continue on its current path towards an inequitable, unbalanced, and unsustainable future, regardless?

This is where the happiness perspective gets really interesting. Most of us feel happier when we work for an organisation that is seeking to make a positive impact in the world. In fact, many of us forgo higher salaries to work for organisations and on issues that are aligned with our personal values and sense of purpose. Organisations that create products and services that make the world a better place will surely be rewarded with employees who are happier, more engaged, and genuinely proud to work there. There is a win-win-win here for individuals, business and society.

So today, let’s reclaim our happiness – at work as well as at home. Let’s follow the example of the UN and put happiness at the core of everything we do and we can work together to a make a better world for all of us.

Link to the original article

Happy Habits: how do you score?

Another offering from Action for Happiness is this short quiz that will let you check out your own happiness level, and quite possibly give you some gentle insights in to those areas that are most and least strong for you at the moment.

Happiness. All of us want more of it, but how many of us know how to make it happen – not just for ourselves, but for those around us too.

Scientists have discovered the habits that tend to make people happy. Now, the nice folks at Do Something Different and Action for Happiness have got together to help you explore these and see how you’re doing.

Take our simple 10-question quiz to get your Happy Habits Score and discover ways you could boost the happiness in your everyday life. Just answer each question as honestly as you can…

Link to take the Happiness Quiz

Pharrell Williams song Happy was chosen by the UN to be the anthem for this year’s celebrations, and people from across the world used this as the soundtrack to make their own videos, revealing the wonderful universality and singularity of being human.  I loved noticing the different inflexions and cultural qualities that are hinted at in these different performances of the same some by people in different countries.

You probably won’t want to watch all of these versions in line sitting, but I recommend you pop back to this playlist for another one any time you feel like you need a bit of a boost to your energy or spirits over the coming days and weeks.  I’ve set this playlist to start with Santiago’s video.  Chile has been topping the Happiest Planet Index over the last year or so and maybe you can detect why from this showreel of their streets…

I hope you will enjoy as much as I have the simple delight and fun in these dances…

Ice Breaker Games: How To Get To Know Your Office

After listing out those games that are cringe-worthy or just plain embarrassing to have to do (see if you most loathed is on the list), Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe, offers up his favourite activities for breaking the ice for new team members and loosening up relationships at work.  Maybe there’s one or two here that you might want to try – even just for fun…?  The Trust Walk, for instance, requires people to be willing and up for it, but if they are it is a very special experience to be guided blind through the world, giving up all control into the trust of your partner.

The Good Icebreakers

The next list of 10 ice breaker games are great for getting to know your new colleagues. Feel free to split your group up into smaller teams to make it easier (and faster) to play these games.

  1. Two Truths And A Lie: This is one of the more popular icebreakers and is pretty easy to play. It doesn’t require any equipment or anything which is good. The way it works is each person is supposed to tell three quick stories, with one of them being a lie. The object of the game is for whoever is listening to the story to guess which is the lie. It’s a fun way to get to know one another.
  2. Lost On A Deserted Island: This is a really fun icebreaker, and is also a cool way to see what really matters to people. The way this one works, is if they were stuck on a deserted island, name one thing that they would bring, and why. If you want to get really advanced with this game, ask people to pair up into teams, and to figure out how they can use their one object together to increase their chances of survival on the island.
  3. The Trust Walk: This is a great activity for building trust among your team, and learning how to listen to your coworkers. The way this one works is people are paired into teams of two, and one of the team members is blindfolded. Then the person who isn’t blindfolded leads the other one around by following their voice and listening for cues. The only bad part about this activity is it required a decent amount of space, so maybe do this one outside.
  4. The One Word Icebreaker: This one is great, because it requires everyone to be creative. Split the group into teams of four or five people, and get everyone to come up with one word to describe something. What topic you have them describe is up to you, but my advice would be make it something about their work. For example, if you could describe your company culture in one word, what would it be?
  5. The Five Favorites: This icebreaker is simple, and is a really good way to learn more about coworkers. The way this works is you ask each person to list their five favorites of anything, whether it’s movies, songs, TV shows, it doesn’t really matter. The point is to get some discussion started, and see where people have things in common. For an advanced version of this game, make the question more professional, like the five best qualities of a leader, or the five ways managers motivate employees.
  6. Speed Dating: It’s not “dating” in the sense that you’ll go for a fancy dinner, but it’s modeled after speed dating. The way speed dating works is each person has a few minutes to chat and get to know someone else before being moved to the next person, to get to know them. This works very well in a corporate setting, because it gives everyone a chance to have a quick one-on-one with someone new.
  7. The Interview: Think of this one as a more structured version of the speed dating example above. The way this icebreaker works is people split into teams of two, and they interview each other, asking each other questions about anything. At the end of the interview, each person has to come up with 3 interesting facts about the person they just interviewed. It’s a nice way to get to know someone.
  8. What’s My Name: I’m not that good at remembering people’s names, especially if it’s in a large group. This is a really simple, fun way to learn people’s names. The way it works is, each person says their name out loud with an adjective that begins with the same letter as the first letter of your name. Ideally, you call the person by that name for the rest of the day. Joyful Jacob? Jazzy Jacob?
  9. Would You Rather: This is one of my favorite games to play, and I play this one even when I’m not icebreaking. You go back and forth asking creative questions (often nonsensical) about whether the person would rather do X or Y. For example, would you rather eat nothing but insects for 3 meals straight, or not be able to watch TV for a year. It’s funny and light, which is always nice for relaxing the mood.
  10. World Geography: This ice breaker game really challenges people to think, which is always fun. I’m sure many of you reading this have played this game before, but the way it works is you say the name of a country, and then the next person has to say another country, starting with the last letter from the previous one. For example, Canada → America → Afghanistan → Nigeria…

Bonus Icebreaker – Twenty Questions: This game is so much fun, and I’ve played this one a lot on a long drives. The way it works is someone thinks of something, whether it be a person, place or thing, and everyone can ask Yes or No questions (for a total of 20) to figure out what it is.

Link to the original article

12 Most Effective Time Management Principles

We are getting more and more requests for training in time management and balancing multiple priorities across multiple roles in an increasingly always turned on world.  And much of our potential to enjoy time with the people most important will be ruined or hijacked completely if we are unable to make the time and space to fully with them in the first place.

This list by  creams some of the best techniques out there for making time work better, and if this is an issue for you, I hope you will find something here that you can add to your existing repertoire to help you feel more in control and on top of things…

1. Determine what is urgent and important

We’re all faced with a lot of different tasks that fight for our attention and time each day. How do you decide what is most worthy of your time? The best approach is to prioritize those tasks that are both urgent and important.

A task that is highly time sensitive is urgent. Important tasks may not be time sensitive, but they are valuable and influential in the long run.

Stephen Covey’s time management grid can be extremely helpful for seeing what tasks should be prioritized. A common mistake is to get bogged down with things that are urgent, but not necessarily important. By using the grid you can be sure that you’re focusing on things that will have a real impact.

2. Don’t over commit

If you’re someone that tends to say “yes” to every request for your time, you may find that all of these commitments prevent you from making effective use of your time. Make an effort to only commit to things that you can realistically accomplish with the time that you have available. You’ll also want to be sure that committing to something won’t prevent you from being able to do other things that are important to you.

3. Have a plan for your time

Each of us is different and not everyone works in the same way. I prefer to have a detailed to-do list that keeps me on task for each day and each week. Someone else may feel overwhelmed by a list of things to check off each day. Regardless of your approach or preferences, you need to have some method of planning your time. Not having a plan leads to a less efficient use of your time as you’ll wind up getting off task or working on things that really aren’t important. Find a system of planning that works for you and use it in your daily routine.

4. Allow time for the unexpected

It never fails that something unexpected will come up and demand your time and attention. No matter how well you plan your time, things are bound to come up — so make sure that you leave some time in your daily schedule. When I’m creating my to-do list for any given day, I tend to assign myself tasks that I anticipate will take about 75% of my time for the day. That leaves another 25% for tasks that take longer than anticipated or for unexpected things or emergencies that need to be addressed. Avoid the temptation to plan your time so full that you won’t be able to deal with important issues that arise.

5. Handle things once

Rather than dealing with something several different times before completing a task, make an effort to handle it only once. Email is a great example here. If you read through an email, make an effort to respond and take care of the issue at one time. I’ve found myself at times reading through emails and then deciding I’ll get back to it later. When I do get back to it, I have to read the email again and it winds up taking more time. Multiply that by several times throughout the day and it adds up. Whenever possible, handle it once and be done.

6. Create realistic deadlines

You may have deadlines for your work that are set by a boss or a client, but it’s also important to set deadlines of your own. If you do have deadlines from bosses or clients, it can be helpful to break up the project into smaller chunks and set deadlines to keep yourself on track. If you don’t have anyone giving you deadlines for your work, try setting your own deadlines.

In addition to simply having deadlines, it’s also important that these deadlines are realistic and will give you enough time to do your best work. If your boss or client is pushing for a deadline that isn’t realistic, explain why you need more time and the possible consequences of the project being rushed, and suggest a more realistic deadline.

7. Set goals for yourself and your time

Setting goals is an important part of achieving maximum efficiency. Your goals can include things that you want to accomplish in a particular day, week, month, or year. Goals can be used with major accomplishments or smaller tasks that are important to you. Whenever you’re setting goals, it’s best to set a date or deadline for achieving the goal.

8. Develop routines

Habits and routines can be quite powerful. When used effectively, routines can help you to get more done and to make better use of your time.

I use routines to take care of several small tasks that I need to do each day. First thing in the morning, I go through a routine that includes checking email and responding to messages received overnight, a few minutes of networking via social media, moderating comments on my blogs, publishing new content that has already been written and prepped, and a few other small tasks. The result of my routine is that I can get a lot of small tasks off my daily to-do list in a small amount of time right at the beginning of the day. After that, I can have the most productive part of my day for essential tasks that require more of my time and concentration.

9. Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking is overrated. Sure, in theory it would be awesome to be able to do several different things at once, but the problem is that you won’t be able to do your best work when multitasking. If you focus on one thing at a time you can move through tasks quicker and the quality of your work will be better. Multitasking can lead to a lot of mistakes that you have to go back and correct later, which is wasted time.

10. Eliminate or minimize distractions

Distractions are all around us. If you’re working at home you may have distractions like kids, other family members, house guests, television, phone calls, and all kinds of personal responsibilities and tasks. If you work in an office you’ll probably have plenty of distractions from co-workers.

While it’s impossible to totally eliminate distractions, you can improve your situation by minimizing them or avoiding them whenever possible. For those who work at home, you can set up a dedicated office space with a door that you can close. In an office, you may want to go in to work early to get some distraction-free time before co-workers arrive, or maybe shift your lunch time so that you can get some peaceful time while most of your co-workers are away at lunch.

The key is to recognize the most significant distractions that are hurting your productivity, and then you can work towards solutions that will minimize their impact.

11. Outsource tasks or delegate when possible

Part of being efficient with your time involves deciding what tasks require your own attention. There may be things that could be done by someone else. Outsourcing work is a great option for freelancers and small business owners. Delegating responsibilities may be an option if you’re in management or if you’re part of a team.

Resources like Elance and oDesk are great for finding freelancers when you need to outsource some of your work. You can typically find qualified workers with very affordable rates, which allows you to dedicate your own time to tasks that may be more important to you.

12. Leave time for fun and play

While the purpose of time management is to use your time wisely and to improve efficiency, it’s also important that you don’t burn yourself out by working too much or too hard. Be sure to leave some time in your schedule to do things with friends and family, or even on your own. Getting time away from work is essential for dealing with stress, for refreshing your energy, and for living a balanced life.

Making efficient use of your time is important regardless of what type of job or career you have. If you can make even small improvements in your own time management, you’ll see noticeable results in terms of how much you can get done, the quality of your work, and your stress levels.

Link to the full original article

Living in “flow” – the secret of happiness

And here is a free ebook from Australia’s Think and Be Happy.  If you’re not already familiar with Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s groundbreaking work this is great introduction.  Csikszentmihalyi’s research investigates the conditions of optimum performance, from which he has given us the idea of FLOW ~ that state of complete absorption when we are totally immersed in what we are doing and time seems to both stand still and fly by, and we feel delightfully and rewardingly stretched to our finest capabilities…

You probably know what it’s like to not be in a state of flow. This can be when there’s a lot going on and you have to focus on many things at once. For example, if you’re cooking dinner and trying to help your teenager do their homework and catch up on some emailing all at once, chances are you’re not having a flow experience. How can you when your attention is so fragmented? Or maybe you’ve had a hectic day at work and are now zonked out semi comatose in front of the TV too tired even to switch channels even though you can’t stand reality TV shows. The point is none of these activities are engaging you fully. Not even close. Worse, in doing them you’re most likely feeling bored, distracted or irritated.

On the other hand, to be in flow is to be so engrossed in what you’re doing – and this can be in any activity although we often tend to associate this state with creative pursuits and elite sport – that literally nothing, not the passing of time, your full bladder or the fact that you haven’t eaten since breakfast, impinges on your awareness. And yep, as anyone who’s been in such a condition of single-minded immersion knows, you feel fabulous not least because it’s not about YOU for once, it’s about the thing that you’re doing.

Of course there’s a lot more to the psychological state of flow than that which is why we’ve dedicated an eBook to the topic.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about flow … based on the work of world leading psychologist Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Enjoy and share!

Link to download the free ebook

The complete guide to listening to music at work

By Adam Pasick

It has never been easier to tune in to your own customized soundtrack—or more necessary to tune out your open-office coworkers, cubicle mates, and fellow coffee-shop denizens. But not all music is created equal, especially when there’s work to be done. How should you choose the best office soundtrack for a given task? Which songs will help you get energized, focused, or creative—or even just through a very long day?

Let’s start with the basics.

Listening to music affects your brain

Putting on those headphones provides a direct pipeline from iTunes or Spotify into your auditory cortex. As the music plays, many different brain centers can be activated, depending on whether the music is familiar or new, happy or sad, in a major or minor key, or—perhaps most importantly for work purposes—whether it has lyrics or not.

Some tasks are easier with music playing…

Research shows that music goes best with repetitive tasks that require focus but little higher-level cognition. A landmark 1972 study in Applied Ergonomics found that factory workers performed at a higher level when upbeat, happy tunes were played in the background.

…and some are harder

Don’t fool yourself: Listening to music means that you are multitasking. Any cognitive resources that your brain expends—on understanding lyrics, processing emotions that are triggered by a song, or remembering where you were when you first heard it—won’t be available to help you work.

Studies have shown that reading comprehension and memorization both suffer when music is playing, for example. And just try putting numbers into a spreadsheet while listening to this:

Find the right balance

The downside of listening to music at work is that it places demands on your attention. The upside is it can make you feel more energetic and improve your mood. It’s also useful to drown out distracting background noises. The trick is to choose your music carefully, and match your tunes to the task.

For a cognitive boost, pick music that doesn’t have lyrics…

This makes intuitive sense to anyone who has listened to music at work, especially if your task is word-related. Your brain’s language centers can’t help but decipher the words you’re hearing, which makes it much harder to concentrate on, say, composing an email.

If you simply can’t find music without lyrics, you can pick something in a language that you don’t understand—like the invented “hopelandic” language used by the band Sigur Rós:

…and has a steady rhythm and mood

Your brain is a prediction machine, making a endless series of guesses about what’s going to happen next. When it comes to music at work, you don’t want your brain to spend cognitive resources predicting what it’s about to hear.

Listening to constant, relatively unchanging music—songs that don’t have a lot of emotional peaks and valleys, or changes in mood—has been shown to enhance some simple cognitive skills. Other research has shown that “low-information-load” music—simple tunes without a lot of complexity—have the strongest positive effect.

For instance, check out the steady, phased repetitions of “Music for Airports 1/1″ by Brian Eno:

Some studies suggest that major-key music (a song that sounds more happy than sad) makes time seem to pass more slowly. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how much you have to get done before you go home.

Don’t play music all the time

The widely cited 1972 study found that the benefits of music disappeared when it was constantly played. And sometimes your brain just needs all the cognitive resources it can get. One 1989 paper wryly noted that “complex managerial tasks are probably best performed in silence.”

Music as a pick-me-up

There’s an one category of workplace listening that has a totally different set of rules: the kind of listening you do when you’re tapping into the power of music to trigger an emotional response. Try playing a rock anthem or an action-movie soundtrack to jump-start your mood, or listen to a favorite song as a reward for a job well done. This gives you many of music’s cognitive benefits but without any of its distracting downsides.

Here’s one to play before a big meeting:

Hit shuffle for a dopamine rush

As mentioned above, your brain thrives on predicting the future, so throwing some randomness into the mix can reward you with a surge of the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine. To harness this neurological pharmacy, use a streaming music service like Spotify, Pandora, or Rdio to automatically serve up songs you might like.

Some of the best genres to work to

If you’re ready to experiment with what music best suits your work style, here are some suggestions (links to songs via Spotify):

  • Jazz: A massive variety of moods and tempos are available, most of them without lyrics. Try Miles DavisAlice Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk.
  • Classical: An even larger variety here. Many people swear by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for its elegantly mathematical processions and variations.
  • Minimalist composers: Repetitive by design, at their best they can induce just the sort of trance-like flow that you’re looking for. Try Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
  • Chill-out: The name is self-explanatory. Try Bonobo and Cinematic Orchestra. 
  • Ambient: You will barely know it’s there. Listen to Brian Eno or Aphex Twin.
  • Movie soundtracks: Use these to get your heart thumping, like the Top Gun theme song above; or find a particular mood with Daft Punk’s score for Tron or Trent Reznor’s for The Social Network.
  • Video game soundtracks: As one redditor observed, these are designed to keep you engaged without being too distracting. The London Symphony Orchestra recently recorded nearly two dozen, or there’s this spare, beautiful music from the game Minecraft.

Try the Quartz work playlist

And here is a playlist of songs, again via Spotify, that the Quartz staff picked as some of their favorites to listen to as they work (A version of the playlist in Rdio can be found here

Link to the original article 

UN International Day of Happiness: These people are way happier than you

Metro ran this story to celebrate the day with a series of looped videos that highlight moments of happiness in perpetual foreverness that we know of course is just not an option with real happiness.  But see if at least one of these doesn’t make you smile…

Today is the United Nation’s second International Day of Happiness. The UN wants us to remember that it’s friends, family and emotional well-being that actually make us happy, not cars and handbags. And then to share what makes us really happy with everyone else.

Which, if you’re not a fan of cute kitten pics, multiple exclamation marks and mega LOLs, might be making you consider shutting down your Instragram/Twitter/Facebook account and hiding in a dark place for the rest of the day.

Not a fan of organised happiness? Feeling a bit meh? Yep, these people are way happier than you today…

Link to see the gallery of stupidly happy people

Chemists discover secret to dark chocolate’s health benefits

by Monte Morin

Could this be the best news story yet…?

For years, chocolate lovers have remained blissfully unaware of the precise reason bittersweet dark chocolate seems to improve cardiovascular health. At least until, now that is.

On Tuesday, researchers at meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas said they had solved the confection conundrum: Specific chocolate-loving microbes in the gut convert an otherwise indigestible portion of the candy into anti-inflammatory compounds, they said…

“These little guys say, ‘Hey —   there’s something in there that I can use,’ and they start to break it down,” Finley said.

The smaller molecules that result from this fermentation can travel through the gut wall and be used by the body, researchers said.

“These materials are anti-inflammatory and they serve to prevent or delay the onset of some forms of cardiovascular disease that are associated with inflammation,” Finley said.

A number of short-term studies conducted in recent years have suggested that dark chocolate can cause blood vessels to dilate, and thus lower blood pressure, although this is not the case with white chocolate and milk chocolate.

Finley said that the amount of cocoa powder that appeared to produce beneficial effects was about two tablespoons a day.

One of the issues involving dark chocolate, Finley said,  was the amount of sugar and fat that chocolate candy contained. He said you could avoid those substances by putting cocoa powder on oatmeal, as he does…

Link to the original article

Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reason

And lastly, here is a rather wonderful animation of a debate about relative importance of our intuition and feelings or our reason for the successful flourishing of our species.  It’s packed with ideas but in this heightened pictorial representation, the ideas sing.

Here’s a TED first: an animated Socratic dialogue!

In a time when irrationality seems to rule both politics and culture, has reasoned thinking finally lost its power? Watch as psychologist Steven Pinker is gradually, brilliantly persuaded by philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that reason is actually the key driver of human moral progress, even if its effect sometimes takes generations to unfold. The dialogue was recorded live at TED, and animated, in incredible, often hilarious, detail by Cognitive.

Enjoy.  And see if you agree with their final confusions…?

Happiness At Work edition #89

All of these stories – and many more – are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #89

Link to the Happiness At Work collection