Worker Wellbeing and Wellbeing Performance ~ Dept. for Business Innovation & Skills Report, 2014

This communicative and richly informative report is well worth reading in its entirety, but here is a summary of its main findings in relation to the question:

Does Worker Wellbeing Affect Workplace Performance?

a report by Alex Bryson, John Forth and Lucy Stokes, NIESR (Department for Business Innovation and Skills)

published October 2014

an extract built from the Executive Summary

Employee wellbeing is increasingly a focus of government attention in the UK and elsewhere. It is viewed as a legitimate target of government policy in its own right, but there are also reasons to think that improvements in employees’ wellbeing may be conducive to economic growth.

This paper focuses on the the subjective wellbeing of employees and its potential impact on workplace and organisational performance.

As yet there is relatively little empirical evidence on the relationship between employees’ subjective wellbeing and workplace performance. This paper begins to fill that gap for Britain by carrying out a literature review and new empirical analyses.

Background

The term subjective wellbeing (SWB) is used to cover a number of different aspects of a person’s subjective mental state and has been defined by the OECD to include “all of the various evaluations, positive and negative, that people make of their lives, and the affective reactions of people to their experiences”.

For many years, policy makers focused on GDP growth as the best means of securing a better quality of life for citizens.  But governments and their advisers have recently turned their attention to other measures, including of individuals’ subjective wellbeing. One of the motivations has been research indicating that citizens in developed economies have not necessarily become ‘happier’ as a result of increased prosperity.

Aims and objectives

This study focuses on the links between employees’ subjective wellbeing at work and workplace performance. It sets out to address four questions:

• How do we measure and define wellbeing in the workplace?

• What employee and job characteristics influence wellbeing in the workplace?

• What employer practices have the greatest positive impact on wellbeing in the workplace?

• Is there any evidence to link employee wellbeing and business performance?

Our approach

The study consisted of three main substantive stages.

In the first stage of the study, we sought to develop a conceptual framework around SWB and its possible links to workplace performance.  Within this conceptual framework, we sought to describe the different approaches to the definition and measurement of SWB, drawing heavily on the existing psychological literature which points to its multi-dimensional nature.  The framework also considered the factors that affect employees’ levels of SWB at the workplace.  It then went on to consider the potential ways in which employees’ SWB might affect their job performance, and the likelihood that such effects will aggregate in such a way as to form a causal link between employees’ SWB and the overall performance of their workplace or firm.

The second stage of the study comprised a review of the existing research literature on the two broad questions of:

~ which employee characteristics, job characteristics and employer practices affect employees’ levels of SWB at work;

~ and whether employees’ SWB has a causal impact on individual or workplace performance.

The third and final stage of the study involved new empirical analysis of the links between employees’ SWB and workplace performance, based on the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS).  These linked employer-employee data contain multiple measures of employees’ SWB and provide the basis for a robust investigation of the SWB-performance link in British workplaces.  Using various multivariate regression techniques we sought to isolate the independent relationship between SWB at the workplace and workplace performance.

Key findings and policy implications

How do we conceptualise and measure wellbeing in the workplace?

There are two broad – but complementary – approaches to the conceptualisation and measurement of SWB.

Hedonic approaches focus on the type of affective feelings that a person experiences (e.g. anxiety or contentment) and also on the adequacy of those feelings (e.g. whether the person is satisfied with a certain aspect of their life).

Hedonic approaches to SWB Hedonic approaches to SWB are focused on whether a person’s affective reactions or  feelings towards their job are either positive or negative. The term 'hedonic' (alt.  hedonistic) is used here to indicate that these approaches focus on the extent to which  work gives rise to positive or negative affect (pleasure or pain).

Hedonic approaches to SWB are focused on whether a person’s affective reactions or feelings towards their job are either positive or negative. The term ‘hedonic’ (alt. hedonistic) is used here to indicate that these approaches focus on the extent to which work gives rise to positive or negative affect (pleasure or pain). from Worker Wellbeing and Workplace Performance report

A second hedonic approach to SWB focuses on the adequacy of one’s affective feelings towards aspects of the job, asking (for example) how satisfied a person is with the work they do or the pay they have received (see column 2 of Table 1 below).

Feelings of satisfaction tend to be correlated with the pleasant-unpleasant dimension of job-related affect shown in Figure 1 above (see Weiss et al, 1999) and so there is some relation between the two hedonic approaches.  However, the important distinction in the ‘satisfaction-based’ approach to SWB is that it involves an implicit comparison with some alternative state (for example, the features of that job in a prior period, or the features of jobs held by other employees).

Whilst a focus on the type of job-related affect may therefore arguably give a more direct indication of an employee’s core feelings at work, a focus on job satisfaction can be particularly informative as it indicates how the employee evaluates those feelings.  Such evaluations may factor into the  employee’s decision making – for example whether to begin the search for an alternative job (see Green, 2010).

This is potentially significant, since attitudes are usually described as having three components: affective, cognitive and behavioural, which are reflected in feelings, beliefs and actions. For Warr, there is then an “action-tendency” embodied within the concept of job satisfaction that is not present in core affect.  In other words, one can expect job satisfaction to have a greater influence on an individual’s actions or behaviour.

In contrast to these hedonic approaches, the eudemonic approach to SWB focuses on the extent to which a person experiences feelings that are considered to demonstrate good mental
health (e.g. the extent to which they feel a sense of purpose).

The eudemonic approach therefore starts from the position – derived from psychological and philosophical literature – that some actions or personal states are more appropriate or worthwhile than others, and views SWB primarily in terms of self-actualisation and virtuous behaviour (psychological ‘flourishing’) rather than in terms of self-gratification.

The essential distinction from the hedonic approach can be illustrated by reference to an employee who, like a parent, may find their role stressful and be dissatisfied with its financial rewards, but who may nevertheless gain a strong sense of purpose from that role.

The three differing approaches to the concept of SWB illustrated side-by-side. from Worker Wellbeing and Workplace Performance report

The three differing approaches to the concept of SWB illustrated side-by-side.
from Worker Wellbeing and Workplace Performance report

Most research into employees’ SWB has adopted the hedonic approach, with job satisfaction being the most frequently studied aspect of job-related SWB. The study of job-related affect has a more recent history, but a growing body of empirical research investigates this dimension of SWB.  The eudemonic approach to SWB has been less frequently operationalised in organisational research. The term SWB is used hereafter as a catch-all for research in any of these three areas, although the focus of particular research studies is highlighted within the main body of the report.

What employee and job characteristics influence SWB in the workplace and what employer practices have the greatest effect?

An individual’s SWB at work is influenced both by their own characteristics, and those of the job and workplace in which they are employed (see Figure).

From a policy perspective, it is the features of the job and workplace (i.e. those on the right-hand side of the Figure) which are of most interest, as these are typically more amenable to policy influence.  Nevertheless, an understanding of the relationship between individual characteristics and SWB is also important, not least because these shape employees’
experiences of work.

An extensive literature discusses the characteristics of jobs which influence SWB at work, SWB tends to be higher when employees have:

autonomy over how they do their job and a measure of control in relation to the broader organisation, e.g. participation in decision-making;

variety in their work;

clarity over what is expected of them, including feedback on performance, e.g. via appraisals;

opportunities to use and develop their skills, e.g. via the provision of training;

supportive supervision;

positive interpersonal contact:, with both managers and co-workers, but also with
customers or the general public (where the job requires it);

• a perception of fairness in the workplace, both in terms of how the employee is treated themselves but also how their co-workers are treated, with disciplinary and grievance procedures being one way for employers to address this;

higher pay, although this relationship depends not only on the absolute level of pay but how this compares with pay of other workers;

physical security, including the safety of work practices, the adequacy of equipment and the pleasantness of the work environment;

• a sense of job security and clear career prospects;

• a perception of significance, both in terms of the significance that the job has for the worker, and the perceived value of the job to society.

SWB tends to be lower when the demands of the job are particularly high.  Job demands result not only from the amount or type of work, but also from any incompatibility with pressures from outside of work.

These relationships are fairly well-established in the existing literature.  Employers therefore have the potential to influence the SWB of their employees through changes in job design.

The picture has its complexities, however.  An employee’s SWB will reflect not only the actual characteristics of their job, but also the value which they place upon them.  In a similar way, individuals differ in their expectations; if an individual has lower expectations of their job, they may rate their job satisfaction more highly than someone who expects more from their work.  This has the implication that, in thinking about job and workplace changes that may raise SWB, employers and policy makers need to bear in mind that there may be differing effects for different employees.

Any analysis of the factors driving SWB at work therefore needs to take account of individual traits as well as job and workplace characteristics.

In addition, the relationships between the human resource practices adopted by a workplace and its employees’ SWB are not always clear-cut.  Practices may influence more than one aspect of an employee’s job, some of which act to improve SWB, and others which serve to reduce it.  There may also be different effects for different employees within a workplace, and different effects of policies from one employer to another.  For example:

• Practices which aim to give employees more involvement may raise autonomy, but may also increase the level of demands placed on them.

• Practices aimed at raising the SWB of one group of employees within a workplace may do so to the detriment of others (e.g. if they give rise to perceptions of unfair treatment amongst those who are not covered by the practice).

• Practices may have differing effects on SWB dependent on workplace characteristics (e.g. formal arrangements may be better received in larger workplaces than in smaller ones).

Much of the literature in this area relates to the impact of systems of human resource management (HRM) practices on SWB; here the evidence is inconclusive.  Evidence for the UK to date points to a positive correlation between HRM and the job-related anxiety measure of SWB, but also a positive, or at least neutral, impact on the job satisfaction measure of SWB.  However, it is clear that there is a case for more robust studies of the impact of employer practices on a range of aspects of SWB.

How can SWB affect workplace performance?

There is a considerable amount of evidence to indicate that there is a positive association (a correlation) between SWB and an employee’s job performance.  Moreover there is some evidence which indicates that higher levels of SWB may lead to (cause) higher levels of job performance in some circumstances.

The empirical literature indicates three causal mechanisms through which higher levels of SWB can bring about higher job performance.

The first is by affecting employees’ cognitive abilities and processes – enabling them to think more creatively and to be more effective at problem-solving.

The second is by affecting employees’ attitudes to work – raising their propensity to be co-operative and collaborative.

The third is by improving employees’ physiology and general health – improving their cardiovascular health and immunity, enabling speedier recovery from illness, and securing greater levels of energy and potentially effort.

There is not necessarily a straightforward link between an employee’s SWB and their job performance, however.  For example, raised levels of creativity and improved social interaction is only likely to generate better employee performance in jobs with a substantial degree of autonomy and those that involve team work or customer interaction.

In addition, it is possible that employee behaviours or work attitudes may be most heavily affected when levels of SWB are particularly high or particularly low.

There is a need for further examination of the links between SWB and employee performance in real world settings to address these issues.

There are also reasons to think that the relationship between SWB and job performance at the level of the employee may not necessarily be replicated at the level of the workplace. One reason is that low levels of SWB among a small number of workers may spill over to negatively affect levels of SWB (and thus levels of job performance) among the wider workforce.

Another relates to the differing contributions workers make to workplace output, because of variations in their ability and their span of control; the contribution of all workers may not matter equally for the performance of the workplace, and so it may matter who has high or low SWB.  Whilst there are some studies which do show a robust causal impact of employees’ SWB on the performance of the workplace or firm, the evidence is more limited at this level.

The review concludes that more research is needed at the level of the workplace or firm
in order to generalise beyond the small number of existing studies.

Findings from analysis of the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey

Statistical analyses were conducted using the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study to explore the relationship between SWB and performance at workplace level, thereby contributing new evidence to the literature.

The level of employee SWB in the workplace was measured in terms of the two most studied aspects of SWB: job satisfaction and job-related affective feelings (WERS did not collect eudemonic measures of SWB).

WERS measures nine dimensions of job satisfaction (pay, sense of achievement, training receipt, job autonomy, skill development opportunities, job security, scope for initiative, involvement in decision-making and their satisfaction with the work itself).  It contained six indicators of job-related affect, covering the frequency with which the employee feels tense, depressed, worried, gloomy, uneasy and miserable.

Workplace performance was measured using the manager’s subjective assessment of the workplace’s performance relative to the industry average on three dimensions: financial performance, labour productivity and the quality of the output/service.  An additive scale formed from these three individual measures was used as a fourth measure of performance.

The analysis was carried out using data from workplaces that took part in the 2011 WERS (the cross-sectional analyses) and workplaces that took part in the 2004 WERS and were followed up in 2011 (the panel survey).  The cross-sectional analyses examined the extent to which a workplace’s performance in 2011 could be accounted for by the level of employee SWB at the workplace in 2011.  The panel analyses explored whether changes in workplace performance between 2004 and 2011 were linked to changes in the level of employee SWB at the workplace between those two years.  The panel survey also assessed whether the level of employee SWB in 2004 was predictive of workplace closure by 2011.

The analyses showed a clear, positive, statistically significant relationship between the average level of job satisfaction among employees at the workplace and workplace performance.

This finding was present in both the cross-sectional and panel analyses and was robust to various estimation methods and model specifications.

Employee job satisfaction was found to be positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity and the quality of output and service.

Workplaces experiencing an improvement in job satisfaction – whether measured in terms of the average level of satisfaction in the workforce, or measured in terms of an increase in the proportion “very satisfied” or a reduction in the proportion “very dissatisfied” – also experience an improvement in performance.

By contrast, there was no association between job-related affect and workplace performance.

These findings are significant because this is the first such study for Britain.

Considering the findings in more detail, the results from the cross-sectional analyses can be summarised as follows:

The average level of job satisfaction among employees at the workplace was positively related to all four workplace performance measures.

Workplaces with “very satisfied” employees had higher labour productivity, higher quality of output, and higher overall performance.  Workplaces with “very dissatisfied” employees had lower financial performance and lower overall performance on the additive scale.

Non-pecuniary aspects of job satisfaction were positively correlated with overall workplace performance, the quality of output (and, less robustly, with labour productivity) whereas pay satisfaction was positively associated with workplace financial performance but not with other performance measures.

• Job-related affect was not correlated with workplace performance, regardless of the measure used.

The results from the panel analyses can be summarised as follows:

• Increasing overall average employee job satisfaction was associated with increases in all four workplace performance measures.

• Increasing average non-pecuniary job satisfaction was positively associated with changes in all four workplace performance measures.  Increasing pay satisfaction, on the other hand, shows varied associations with the performance measures, depending on the model specification, but it is never positively associated with performance measures.

Workplaces with rising job dissatisfaction experienced deterioration in all four performance measures, whereas workplaces with an increase in “very satisfied” employees experienced rising quality of output or service and an increase in the additive performance measure, but not financial performance or labour productivity.

• Changes in job-related affect were not associated with workplace performance, regardless of the measure used, although there was some evidence that an increase in employees reporting “ill-being” most or all of the time was associated with deteriorating quality of output or service and a decline in the additive performance scale, at least in some models.

These findings are consistent with the proposition that employers who are able to raise employees’ job satisfaction may see improvements in the performance of their workplace.  These improvements are apparent in profitability (financial performance), labour productivity and the quality of output or service.

Although we cannot state definitively that the link is causal, the findings are robust to tests for reverse causation and persist within workplaces over time, so that we can discount the possibility that the results are driven by fixed unobservable differences between workplaces. Thus the results are consistent with the causal relationship suggested by conceptual work in this area.

What are the implications of the study’s findings for policy makers and employers?

First, there is a prima facie case for employers to consider investing in the wellbeing of their employees on the basis of the likely performance benefits.

The study sets out a conceptual framework indicating the ways in which raising employees’ SWB may improve performance, and also presents evidence which is consistent with there being a causal relationship between the two. Specifically, if the average employer is able to raise their employees’ SWB, the theory and available evidence suggest that they are likely to see improvements in the performance of their workplace.

It should be noted, however, that the evidence of a causal link between the job-related affect measure of SWB and workplace performance is limited, and indeed the WERS analysis conducted here finds no such association. Thus there appears to be no clear case yet for employers to invest in that dimension of employee wellbeing – although equally we find no clear disadvantage to doing so.

Equally, there are likely to be routes to commercial success that employers can pursue without regard to employees’ SWB. We find no link between employees’ SWB and workplace closure probabilities, suggesting workplaces can continue to trade and, perhaps even prosper, whether employees’ SWB is high or low. Thus the “low road” may be a viable option for some employers, although we do find clear evidence that an increase in job dissatisfaction within a workplace is linked to deteriorating workplace performance.

There is, of course, also a rationale for promoting employee SWB based on benefits that go beyond the private returns to employers, since the wider society can benefit from citizens who are “happier”.  There are spillovers to employees’ family life, their participation in social activities and their consumption of government services (most obviously welfare services and health care).

A higher level of job-related SWB might then be considered a goal in itself – a point reflected in broader arguments about moving beyond purely economic measures such as GDP when considering levels of national progress.

Nevertheless, judging by the descriptive information presented in Appendix C of this report, most employees in Britain appear reasonably satisfied with most aspects of their jobs and they are not suffering in large numbers from particularly adverse SWB.  The percentages saying they are depressed or anxious most of the time are low.

As regards policy responses, it is apparent from the literature review that we do not yet fully understand what it is about jobs and the working environment that change employees’ SWB.  Some things we know quite a lot about.  For example, higher pay leads to higher job satisfaction, but even here the relationship is not linear, tailing off at higher pay levels.  The complexity of the job satisfaction concept is illustrated by the pay satisfaction literature which emphasises the importance not only of pay levels but also pay relativities.

Moreover, even if employers and policy makers were to promote certain policies or practices that, on average, engender greater employee SWB, this does not mean that this will lead to improved SWB everywhere or that, even if it did, this would translate into improved workplace performance for all. There is likely to be substantial heterogeneity across workplaces and employees such that different policies might work better for some employers than others.

Policy initiatives should therefore be carefully evaluated so that this heterogeneity can be better understood.

Summary and conclusions

It is generally accepted that success makes people happy, but we have argued that there are good reasons to expect that causality can run in the other direction, such that employees with higher SWB will perform at a higher level in their jobs and, moreover, that inducing higher SWB among employees has the potential to raise their performance. The possible mechanisms through which this effect might arise include positive effects of SWB on employees’ health, cognitive processes and attitudes to work tasks.

Link to the full report

Happiness At Work #97 ~ why our learning matters more than ever

child learning

Happiness At Work edition #97

Here are some of our favourite stories collected in this edition, beginning with this story that eloquently makes the case for learning inside our organisations and provides this week’s headline theme…

Organisational Learning in the Network Era

by Harold Jarche

W. Edwards Deming, American management visionary, understood that systemic factors account for most organizational problems, and changing these has more potential for improvement than changing any individual’s performance. Therefore the role of executives should be to manage the system, not individuals. But the real barrier to systemic change is hierarchical management, as it constrains the sharing of power, a necessary enabler of organizational learning. People have to trust each other to share knowledge, and power relationships can block these exchanges. Just listen to any boardroom meeting and see how power can kill a conversation. If learning is what organizations need to do well in order to survive and thrive, then structural barriers to learning must be removed.

A key factor in sustaining any enterprise is organizational learning. Knowledge gives us the ability to take effective action (know how) and this is the type of knowledge that really matters in both business and life. Value from this knowledge is created by groups and spreads through social networks.

First of all, learning is not something to get. In too many cases we view learning as something that is done to people. It’s almost as if we are goin’ to get some learnin’! We think we can get an education or get people trained. This is absurd.

The only knowledge that can be managed is our own, so organizational knowledge management should first support personal knowledge mastery. PKM is an individual discipline of seeking, sense-making, and sharing that helps each of us understand our world and work more effectively. In addition to PKM, groups should promote working out loud to ensure common understanding and to address exceptions to the norm, as this is where group learning happens. The organization can then ensure that important decisions are recorded, codified, and easily available for retrieval.  Each of us is responsible for our own learning but our responsibility to our peers is to share this learning. If nobody shared what they have learned, there would be nothing like Wikipedia or other free learning resources on the web. The same pertains to sharing inside organizations.

In an open environment, learning will flourish, as it has on the Web. When we remove artificial boundaries to working and learning, we enable innovation. Andrew McAfee, at the MIT Center for Digital Business, wrote

“The central change with Enterprise 2.0 and ideas of managing knowledge [is] not managing knowledge anymore — get out of the way, let people do what they want to do, and harvest the stuff that emerges from it because good stuff will emerge. So, it’s been a fairly deep shift in thinking about how to capture and organize and manage knowledge in an organization.”

As Frederic Laloux notes in Reinventing Organizations, the key role of a CEO is in holding the space so that teams can self-manage (and learn for themselves).

If you are in a position of authority and you are not removing barriers to learning, then you are not serving your organization in the network era.

Link to read the full unedited article

Julia Middleton: Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE:

The ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Organisations often appoint leaders for their IQ. Then, years later, sack them for their lack of EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Common Purpose argues that in the future they will promote for CQ – Cultural Intelligence.

Participants on Common Purpose programmes, as they learn to lead beyond their authority, need to be able to cross boundaries: between east and west, and north and south; between faiths and beliefs; between public, private and voluntary sectors; and between generations.

Founder and CEO of Common Purpose, Julia Middleton, speaks about Cultural Intelligence – the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Check out her book Cultural Intelligence here

Strategy Is No Longer a Game of Chess

by Greg Satell

Legendary strategists have long been compared to master chess players, who know the positions and capabilities of each piece on the board and are capable of thinking several moves ahead.

It’s time to retire this metaphor. Strategy is no longer a game of chess because the board is no longer set out in orderly lines. Industries have become boundless.  Competitive threats and transformative opportunities can come from anywhere.  Strategy, therefore, is no longer a punctuated series of moves, but a process of deepening and widening connections.

So we find ourselves in an age of disruption, where agility trumps scale and strategy needs to take on a new meaning and a new role.  We can no longer plan; we can only prepare. This requires what Columbia’s Rita Gunther McGrath calls a shift from “learning to plan” to “planning to learn”.

Continue reading this article

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5 neglected behaviors that make dreams happen

  1. Identify and gain customers. “Build it and they will come,” only works in the movies. Dreams without customers are a waste of time.

  2. Think like a dreamer. Talk like a doer. Dreamy-talk doesn’t inspire confidence in others.

  3. Learn from detractors, rather than brushing them aside.

  4. Develop people and grow teams. Dreams that don’t require others are too small.

  5. Listen more. Everyone isn’t a complete idiot.

Dreamers set reasonable people on edge. But, every team needs at least one irritating dreamer.

Continue reading this article

The Price of Happiness? £478 per employee

Research shows that SME bosses could spend £476 per employee on social outings and training courses and see happiness increase by 35 per cent.

Spending less than £500 per employee each year on social outings and training courses could increase workforce happiness by over a third (35 per cent) in UK small business, new research has revealed.

The survey by Viking reveals that employees in small businesses believe training and development, benefits such as flexible working and social events and regular company updates from bosses are as important as a pay rise.

By investing £286 on training courses and £190 on staff outings per employee, levels of happiness at work would increase by 35 per cent, according to analysis of the key drivers of happiness.

Continue reading this article

These include one or two that are dear to our heart and central to our teaching…

1. Truly listen to people.  Pay attention to their body language, and mirror it with your own. Listen graciously rather than waiting to talk. —Adam Goldman

4. Learn basic mindfulness meditation. It doesn’t have to be a major commitment, just 10 minutes in a day. All you need to do is pay attention to your breath as it goes out and comes back in. Remember, it’s not about clearing your head of thoughts. “Real Happiness at Work” author Sharon Salzberg says mindfulness means having a “balanced awareness” of what’s happening around you, so that you can understand your experience rather than just react to it. —James H. Kelly

11. At the end of the work day, reflect on what you did well. Research out of Harvard Business School shows that keeping a journal of your daily successes improves your performance and wellbeing.

Read the full list

Happiness Researcher Shawn Achor On The REAL Reason Success Can’t Make You Happy (VIDEO)

Work hard, achieve your goals, become happy — that’s the happiness formula many believe to be universally true. But happiness researcher Shawn Achor says that this success-leads-to-happiness model is fundamentally flawed. In a sit-down with Oprah for “Super Soul Sunday,” Achor explains why.

“It’s scientifically broken for two reasons. The first reason is that because success is a moving target, even if you hit success, you immediately change what ‘success’ looks like for you,” Achor says…

“When we study it, we find that your happiness levels don’t really move very much as your success rates rise. But flip around the formula,” Achor says. “The research says that being successful doesn’t automatically make you happier, but being happier — being more positive — makes you more successful.”

Continue reading and watch the video clip

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Closing the Gender Divide: Why Confidence and Leaning In Alone Won’t Cut It

by Lydia Dishman

It’s a leadership catch 22. While we can all agree that confidence is an essential tool for career success, a raft of research indicates that women are less likely to speak up in meetings, negotiate for raises or promotions, and generally underestimate their ability to perform.

When women are selected less often to lead than their male peers, even though they outperform the guys, it’s no wonder the gender gap persists.

A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Strategy& found that in eight out of the last 10 years, there have been more women heading into the corner office than stepping out. Despite that encouraging trend, female CEOs comprised only 3% of leaders of public companies in 2013, a 1.3 percentage point drop from 2012. And they’re more likely to be forced out.

But why?

Books such as The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman,Find Your Courage by Margie Warrell, and even The Next Generation of Women Leaders by Selena Rezvani all suggest that the chasm is caused by the gap between competence and confidence.

There’s plenty of science to lend credence to their theory.

Support, even in the face of failure is one way to foster the female leader. As Susan Glasser writes at Politico:

“The leaders who succeed are the ones who are allowed to make mistakes, who have the time and space and breathing room and support from their bosses to push and prod, experiment and improvise until they get it right. Because all of journalism is in the midst of upheaval right now, and that Silicon Valley cliché about failing in order to succeed really does apply. It turned out I did not really have the support of my boss, and I believe that to be the actual—and much more prosaic—story of many of these contretemps over controversial editors and executives who happen to be women.”

Continue reading the full article

Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

by Dorothy Dalton

…is over communication strictly a gender issue?

I don’t think so. I know any number of men who could talk for their countries.  Women often make comments about the monosyllabic “report” style communication patterns of the men in their lives, thinking that the rapport we create via our own delivery is much better.

But Lynette Allen, Co-Founder Her Invitation suggests that over sharing (over communication) can indeed be a female characteristic which we use to our detriment seeing it as an  “unconsciously displayed behaviour which actively holds women back. They have to learn to be more succinct in the workplace and not tell the whole story and even more.”  

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  suggested what happened to a senior woman in a meeting ” was like a snowball going down a hill and picking up stuff in its path”  and was a real barrier to being taken seriously.

What is your style? “mini- series” or  “book cover blurb.”

So why does over communication cause mis-communication, isn’t it important that everyone has all the details?

  1. Your thinking appears cloudy and muddled if you are unable to be succinct and your message becomes blurred in verbiage. If you forget the point of why you’re telling something, you have gone seriously adrift. People stop listening and you fail to get your message across.  You have become a snowball and snowballs melt. Ding!
  2. It seems that you don’t respect other people’s time if you over communicate in any situation, you run the risk of your listener shutting down and retreating, either physically or psychologically. At the far end of the spectrum they will avoid you totally. In all cases your message is not going through. Ding!
  3. It seems that you don’t respect your own time if every time a simple social question of “How are you?” produces a twenty-minute discourse on your health or what is going on for you,  you give the impression of being a poor time manager.  Ding!
  4. It suggests that you are not in touch with your audience as you don’t recognise social cues.  So just as if you were going to France you would try to speak a bit of French, If you are delivering to a male audience then try to speak in a language they will understand. Mench?Ding
  5. It indicates a lack of empathy especially when you fail to pick up disconnected body language signs (loss of eye contact, fidgeting) If you are talking, you are not listening. Ding! Ding!
  6.  If you need to talk to wear someone down with your voice, then they are agreeing under duress. That was not successful communication. It could even be considered a form of passive aggression if you don’t allow your listener the opportunity  to participate. Ding!
  7. It suggests that you think what you have to say is more important than what others have to say and conveys arroganceDing! Ding!
  8. It confirms that you like the sound of your own voice, email etc. See point 7. Ditto Ding!

So does this mean that women and chatterboxes in general have to learn  “Mench,”  the abridged speak of a certain type of male?  Lynette felt that while organisational culture is male dominated this is a necessary work- around to get our voices heard. Isn’t this another one of those fix women things? No apparently not, it can be completely gender neutral. Factor in a general reduction in people’s attention span, then anything prolonged is going to be ineffective for both men and women alike. We have already seen the one minute elevator pitch cut back into the 30 second commercial.

So perhaps the converse  can also apply  Maybe we should start saying  “OK that was the book cover blurb  – now give me the mini-series”

Link to read the full unedited article

Dads Who Do Dishes Raise Ambitious Daughters

Dads who equally divided the drudgery of household chores with their wives tended to have daughters whose “when I grow up” aspirations were less gender-stereotypical, suggests an upcoming paper in Psychological Science.

Moms’ work-equality beliefs did also color their daughters’ attitudes toward gender roles, but this study found that a stronger predictor of girls’ career goals was the way their dads handled domestic duties. The daughters of parents who shared housework were more likely to tell the researchers they wanted to be a police officer, a doctor, an accountant, or a “scientist (who studies germs to help doctors find what medicine each patient needs),” lead author Alyssa Croft wrote via email, quoting one little girl in the study.

Continue reading this story

How To Say “Thank You” At Work: a guide to showing gratitude to peers, managers and employees

…It tends to be really easy to see when you’ve done “saying thank you at work” wrong (because the other person is uncomfortable, offended, or just doesn’t know how to react), but hard to know when you’re doing it right.

In this post, I want to create a guide for how to say thank you at work based on the best widely accepted rules and smart strategies for forming trust and stronger relationships with your peers and coworkers.

Why saying thank you matters

At work, it’s often easier to say nothing than to risk saying “thanks” in the wrong way. And as such, a lot of us go about our days feeling under-appreciated or not realizing the impact our work has on other people.

People thrive at work when they know their contributions have meaning. Letting people know the ways in which their work matters — to you, to the company, to their team — helps you to keep the people around you engaged and excited about their work. Especially if you are a manager, this is an important part of your job.

Saying thank you helps to build trust and stronger relationships with the people you work with too. When people know you value them, they are more likely to value you in return and want to work with you (since you make them feel great about their contributions).

Plus, expressing gratitude isn’t just good for the people you’re thanking — it’s actually good for you too! People who say thank you are happier (it makes sense right? It feels good to help other people feel good) and are more well-liked. It’s like a self-perpetuating cycle; the more positivity you spread, the more is out there to come back to you.

Read the full article

iStock_000019063405Large

12 Unusual Ways To Spur Creativity During Meetings

Holding brainstorming sessions is easy. It’s the actual brainstorming that’s tough — and often ineffective. As the boss, how do you get your team to come up with great ideas on the spot, and then actually follow through? Members from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share some ideas.

Ask Your Team to Think Fast!

Encourage thinking on your feet, so every meeting typically includes a spur of the moment prompt, where each person quickly throws out an idea that comes to mind. Crazy is OK.

Show Gratitude

In order to get the most out of my team for a brainstorming session, we ask everyone to reach out via phone to someone they are grateful towards prior to the session. When we start the meeting, everyone comes in with a positive and open mind. The results are spectacular.

Ask for the Worst Idea in the Room

When creativity is at a standstill or a project is particularly difficult, I like to challenge our team members to come up with the WORST idea possible. Sometimes we even make it a competition, trying to one-up each other with even more ridiculous and off-the-wall ideas.

Know Your Team

One thing that helps to spur creativity is to have your team take a personality trait test and share their test results amongst their peers at a meeting. It’s a fun and different way of helping to foster a deeper understanding about each team member that will incite new and more effective/creative ways to think collectively.

Make It a Team Effort

To spur creativity, we play “Yes… and….” For a given problem each team member provides a solution that is not to be judged by anyone. Instead, another team says, “Yes I like this idea because…. and we can also….”

Incorporate Humour

Humor is brain juice. Dopamine and endorphins keeps tension low, morale high, and bring people toward a state of engagement. Everything in a brainstorm session should be fair game for making FUN of. Bring people into the room who can make people laugh.

Extra credit points for having Play-Doh and other fun tactile objects that stimulate various regions of the brain. Also make sure people are fed. Forming new ideas takes up a lot of chemical resources.

Know When to Stop

Sometimes there’s only one right answer to a creative conundrum, from how the trade show booth should look to the headline and font for the new campaign. The simple, elegant, smart choice wins, and often the best answer comes up early on because it didn’t require too much thinking.

Take a Walk

When I want to get the creative juices flowing on our team, we go for a walk. We call these “walkies,” where we go for 15 minutes and talk about life. Generally, the conversation always goes back to work.

There is something about nature that spurs a person to be more creative. It will help you see the world better. I find that being healthy and alert will always boost up the creative side in people as well.

Provide Special Incentives

We value the creativity of our employees in routine brainstorming sessions and always encourage them to think “outside the box.” To show our appreciation for their creativity and implementation of a successful project, we reward them with special incentives like a weekend getaway.

Showcase Your Ideas

Our office has a massive whiteboard that we use to brainstorm and stay focused. Being able to walk into the office everyday and see your ideas in front of you is a constant reminder of what needs to get done. It is definitely an accomplishment to be able to erase something when it has been completed.

Don’t Brainstorm

In place of a brainstorming session, we break each task down into very specific areas and have each team or individual attack each idea with a purpose. This gives them not only a starting location, but also a direction, and produces great results when combined with other teams/individuals who are given different tasks and directions.

Bring Wine—And Demand Results

Every Friday my team gets together for what we call the “Eatin’ Meetin’.” This is our time to relax, throw around ideas and talk about our deliverables for the week. Everyone eats cheese, drinks wine and brainstorms.

When someone throws out an idea and it’s well received, we simply talk about how we can make it happen and who can lend a hand. And that becomes their deliverable to report on for the next Eatin’ Meetin’.

Read the full unedited article

Happiness At Work edition #97

All of these rticl;es and many more are collected together in Happiness At Work edition #97, online from Friday 30th May 2014.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy.

Happiness At Work #81 ~ resilience, sixth senses & letting go of control

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #81

This week’s collection is headlined by Steve McCurry’s latest photo collection.

McCurry’s photos are always intimate, beautiful and exquisitely held moments of  human strength and vulnerability, and this new collection is just as powerful and moving as always.

Portraits of Resilience (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Resilience
is the ability to overcome adversity,

cope with setbacks, and persevere in the face of  
trauma and deprivation.

The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall. 
– Nelson Mandela

…more than education, experience, or training,
an individual’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds & who fails.
– Harvard Business Review, 2002

Link to see Steve McCurry’s  Portraits of Resilience

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

Resilience to become key attribute of future employees

Gabriella Jozwiak

More than 90% of HRDs believe employees’ ability to cope with change and uncertainty will determine their likelihood of being hired in five year’s time, according to a survey.

Talent and career management company Right Management polled 250 line managers and 100 HR decision makers in organisations with more than 500 employees, and revealed resilience has become an important employee attribute.

The results showed 79% of line managers and 75% of HR decision-makers thought employee wellness would be formally measured and reported by 2018.

However, 72% of line managers admitted their organisation could do more to support employees through persistently stressful periods.

Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, told HR magazine the recession was responsible for HR’s developing focus on resilience.

“As a result of 2008, in almost all workplaces, whether in the public or private sector, there are fewer people,” Cooper said. “Those fewer people are doing more work and working harder, and most organisations are too lean and too mean.

“Whereas before the crash we were probably a bit fatter, and could tolerate people burning out or leaving, now what I’m hearing HRDs talk about is that they cannot cope with regrettable turnover – they cannot afford to lose some key people.

Cooper added: “The way we think we can keep them now is by making them more resilient and creating an environment that’s into wellbeing. Whether it’s flexible working or better management of people – whatever it is, we really have to retain people.

“This has become more of a bottom-line issue – it’s a retention issue and an attraction issue. But retention is key. We have to manage people by praise and reward, not by fault-finding.”

The survey highlighted flexibility as a key feature of future workers. Among HR decision makers, 79% expected employees to have multiple simultaneous careers by 2018, and 60% thought workers will be hired on temporary contracts or working as contractors or freelancers.

Almost all respondees (92%) thought older workers would opt to work part-time rather than retire.

Right Management UK & Ireland general manager Ian Symes said the results suggested employers needed to “put people at the heart of their plans and provide their employees with the support, structures and vision they need to cope in an ever-changing environment”.

 “Organisations need to strategically plan their workforce and look at the systems they have in place to support employees and the business through turbulent times,” Symes said.

“Without this, they will always be reacting to what is happening rather than being in control. This will only add to the stress and exhaustion that many staff are feeling so it’s important that businesses look at ways to boost the resilience of their organisation and their people. Planning ahead and being flexible are central to making this a reality.”

Link to read the original article

Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in … now what?

Continuing the resilience theme, Sheryl Sandberg talks in this video interview about her own trips and tribulations at work alongside the stories of many other women.

Sheryl Sandberg admits she was terrified to step onto the TED stage in 2010 — because she was going to talk, for the first time, about the lonely experience of being a woman in the top tiers of business. Millions of views (and a best-selling book) later, the Facebook COO talks with the woman who pushed her to give that first talk, Pat Mitchell. Sandberg opens up about the reaction to her idea, and explores the ways that women still struggle with success.

Giving Up Control: It’s Key to Unleashing Your Workforce’s Power

by ronald thomas

And the walls came tumbling down.

Last week I read the article about Zappos doing away with all job titles and replacing them with what is called Holacracy.

Developed by entrepreneur Brian Robertson, Holacracy is a system of governance that takes things like managers, job titles and bureaucratic red tape out of the equation, distributing leadership and power evenly across an organization.

Instead of a standard hierarchy, companies in a Holacracy are comprised of different “circles” and employees can have any range of roles and responsibilities within those circles.

Coming to an organization near you

There was also the article about the company that instituted a policy that no one is to be contacted while on vacation. The thinking behind this concepts makes sense. We have become tethered to technology that we feel that we have to have in order to be on 24/7.

Some of the other “employee friendly” policies I found were free beer Fridays, pets allowed in the workplace, volunteer days, PTO instead of sick days, yoga at work, paternal leave, etc. Hopefully we all have tasted tele-commuting, however, that has taken a back seat at some companies. This list could go on and on and we know that these perks are not one size fits all.

Bye-bye Industrial Age

The walls of the Industrial Age management are slowly crumbling. This is aided by the fact that not only are the organizations changing, but the new worker mindset is already there waiting for their companies to come along.

Workplaces today are embracing innovation, new technology, diversity and inclusion in order to build sustainable success. The linchpin that drives these innovative efforts depends on the quality of leadership, culture, and management practices at all levels of the organization. Each one must play a part in the change required to achieve these aspirations.

The organizations that are leading this charge realize that all these initiatives requires thinking and doing things in different ways from what has been done in our relatively slow-changing, and disconnected, Industrial Age past.

The challenge ahead is to unwind more than a century of Industrial Age thinking about work  – mindsets that are controlling, mistake-averse and “know it all,” and evolve them into ones that are enabling, learning and willing to try new things and fail.

The notion of worker versus manager is outdated, and a collaboration between these two is needed to move forward with a new agenda

The primary drivers of the Industrial Age were equipment and capital, and that was what was important. Employees were seen as necessary but replaceable. Thus the term “hired hands” or “warm bodies” was born.

However, we now are living in a new economic era and the main drivers are knowledge and intellectual capital. The problem is that many of our management practices today originated back in the Industrial Age and the older manager was probably steeped in these practices.

Management knows best?

Whatever our systems and processes, they were conceived at an earlier time. Recruiting, hiring, training, and performance reviews all came along as organizations grew.

Communications were top down, if at all. Managers and bosses had all the answers. It was “my way or the highway.” Employees were not considered a part of the process in any way.

Our job descriptions force us, in a lot of cases, to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. The manager of this era saw his people as employees and subordinates.

Some of the companies mentioned earlier do not refer to their people as employees; you hear different terms such as associates, partners, etc. Today people want to be treated as part of the process and not just a cog in the wheel.

Controlling vs releasing

The Industrial Age mindset is one of controlling people while the modern era is more about empowering people to achieve their highest potential. Survival in this extremely competitive economic era demands that our people be allowed to bring forth their unique contribution. Isn’t that is what we hired them for?

Bottom line: we manage THINGS, but THINGS don’t have the freedom to choose. We lead PEOPLE who do have the power to choose.

Unleashing the potential of this age will require a fundamental break with the control paradigm. It will require leaders to embrace what the late Dr. Steven Covey referred to as “The Whole Person Paradigm.”

Link to read the original article

Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better

by Sigal Barsade and Olivia (Mandy) O’Neill

“Love” is a not word you often hear uttered in office hallways or conference rooms. And yet, it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are. (Note: Here we’re talking about “companionate love” which is far less intense than romantic love. Companionate love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion). It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers focus on building an emotional culture. That’s a mistake.

In our longitudinal study, ”What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting” (forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly), surveyed 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient family members at two points in time, 16 months apart, at a large, nonprofit long-term healthcare facility and hospital in the Northeast. Using multiple raters and multiple methods, we explored the influence that emotional culture has on employee, patient, and family outcomes. What we learned demonstrates how important emotional culture is when it comes to employee and client well-being and performance.

Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork.  They showed up to work more often. Our research also demonstrated that this type of culture related directly to client outcomes, including improved patient mood, quality of life, satisfaction, and fewer trips to the ER.

While this study took place in a long-term care setting ­— which many people might consider biased toward the “emotional” — these findings hold true across industries. We conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same. People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another­ were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

So what does a culture of companionate love look like? Imagine a pair of co-workers collaborating side by side, each day expressing caring and affection towards one another, safeguarding each other’s feelings, showing tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well. Now imagine a workplace that encourages those behaviors from everyone, where managers actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees.

Some large, well-known organizations are already leading the pack in creating cultures of companionate love. Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with “Love” and PepsiCo lists “caring” as its first guiding principle on its website. Zappos also explicitly focuses on caring as part of its values: “We are more than a team though…we are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other”.

You might think all this “love business” would be hard for some people. We did, too, before we started this study, but we found love in some unlikely places. For example, we talked with employees at a large aerospace defense contractor who told us about a newly acquired division that had a strong culture of love.  Employees there routinely greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek. Visiting executives from the parent company were alarmed to see this gesture, finding it not only inappropriate but possibly an invitation to sexual harassment lawsuits. Although they initially tried to prohibit such displays of affection, ultimately they decided to allow the culture to flourish within the division, simply acknowledging that it was not consistent with the more muted values of the rest of the organization.

Surely not every manager will want to gather his team for a group hug every day (nor would every employee be comfortable with that). But there are many other ways to build an emotional culture of companionate love. We suggest leaders do at least three things.

First, broaden your definition of culture. Instead of focusing on “cognitive culture” — values such as teamwork, results-orientation, or innovation — you might think about how you can cultivate and enrich emotional culture as well.  Emotional culture can be based on love or other emotions, such as joy or pride.

Second, pay attention to the emotions you’re expressing to employees every day.  Your mood creates a cultural blueprint for the group.

Third, consider how your company policies and practices can foster greater affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness among workers. For example, Cisco CEO John Chambers asked that he be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. At some companies, employees can forego vacation days or organize emergency funds to help fellow employees who are struggling and need help.

Most importantly, though, it is the small moments between coworkers — a warm smile, a kind note, a sympathetic ear — day after day, month after month, that help create and maintain a strong culture of companionate love and the employee satisfaction, productivity, and client satisfaction that comes with it.

Link to read the original article

Sixth sense a myth, heightened awareness a truth

amie Lawrence reports on new research for HRZone

New research suggests people can reliably detect a change in their surroundings, even if they cannot accurately describe what the change was.

The research suggests the ability is due to cues picked up from conventional senses such as sight. Because it has been little understood in the past, it has formed a key part of the field extrasensory perception (ESP), which also included things like clairvoyance.

The research, which came out of a year-long study from the University of Melbourne, is – according to the author – the first to show people can sense information they cannot verbalise.

When I interviewed Daniel Pink, author of NYT bestseller Drive, he told me that mindfulness and attention to detail are two of the most constant predictors of workplace success.

The complexity of the modern working environment means that those who can identify risk factors and changes from the norm can help companies stop bad things happening.

Identifying candidates who are capable of processing their environment thoroughly should be a priority.

A related term is high sensitivity, which has been historically gravely misunderstood in the workplace – to the detriment of productivity worldwide.

Link to read the original article 

Another seeeeeeeriously cool workplace

To see what can happen hen artistry meets office design, see Alexander Kjerulf’s report and  pictures of how a design company in Detroit have converted an old bank vault into their offices.  This gives a very visual sense of just how the world of work is changing to become more and more suited for human life as our 21st century progresses…

There are boring offfices, cool offices and offices that just take your breath away!

In December we got a tour of dPOP in Detroit and what we saw there blew us away completely.

This is hardly surprising – dPOP’s business is to design office spaces for their clients – but still, this space was beyond awesome.

…I’m not going to claim that redecorating the office space is a surefire way to create a happy workplace. I’ve seen some very unhappy workplaces, that had beautiful bright airy office spaces but completely toxic cultures. I’ve also seen incredibly happy workplaces, whose offices look like crap.

But I still think that office design matters. And on a more fundamental level, why does every workplace have to look the same? Why does every office or meeting room inside a company have to look the same? We know that our minds thrive on variety and I think you can let the office design reflect that.

Here are a few of the pics we took at one seeeeeeriously cool office…

Link to see the photos and the original article

Ryan Holladay: To hear this music you have to be there. Literally

Our love of sound and listening makes these artists’ work compelling. One of the many wonderful conditions of sound and listening is that it can only happen in real time – you can’t glance or flick through a sound – it can only be experience as it unfolds itself, moment by moment, cadence by cadence.  Just like what we have to do really listeni to someone talking to us…

Makes you think…..

The music industry has sometimes struggled to find its feet in the digital world. In this lovely talk, TED Fellow Ryan Holladay tells us why he is experimenting with what he describes as “location-aware music.” This programming and musical feat involves hundreds of geotagged segments of sounds that only play when a listener is physically nearby.

Happiness At Work #81

All of these articles and more can be found in the Happiness At Work collection #81

 

Happiness At Work #74 ~ good news, bad news, and more food for thought

Happiness At Work Edition #74

Here are some of the highlights in this week’s stories about happiness – and unhappiness – an our current state of flourishing in this time of (at least in America) collective Thanksgiving…

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

Happiness: the silver lining of economic stagnation?

A study suggests that national wellbeing peaks at £22k average income. But that doesn’t mean there’s no point in pushing for wealth

 writes in The Guardian

It’s time to rewrite the story of the financial crisis. Far from being a disaster movie, it was in fact a tale of salvation. As for the green shoots of recovery we are now seeing, they are virulent weeds to be stamped out.

That would seem to be the conclusion to draw from a new studythat suggests ever-rising national wealth is the source of decreased life satisfaction. Looking at data from around the world, Warwick University’s Eugenio Proto and Aldo Rustichini of University of Minnesota conclude that average wellbeing rises with average income only up to around £22k per head per annum. After that, it slips back again. Britain is more or less at that sweet spot, which suggests economic stagnation may be an excellent way of avoiding the problems of poverty without acquiring the problems of wealth.

You may well be sceptical. Even the authors acknowledge that many people “still prefer to live in richer countries, even if this would result in a decreased level of life satisfaction”. In other words, people are overall more satisfied by less life satisfaction, which suggests we should take the whole concept of “life satisfaction” with a pinch of salt…

What the data does appear to show, and which almost all studies support, is that having a low income is more of a problem than having a high one is a benefit. From a public policy point of view, that suggests the priority should continue to be raising the life chances of the worst off, not those of the better off, or even the “squeezed middle”…

In short, the problem is explained by the familiar idea that money is not valuable in itself, but only for what it can do. The failure of western societies to convert greater wealth into greater wellbeing is in essence a failure to use our wealth wisely. This should not surprise us. The majority of people alive today and throughout history have not been accustomed to plenty. Humanity is on a steep learning curve and many of the lessons we need to learn go against our natural tendency to acquire first and ask questions later.

That’s why the debate about the relative merits of increased GDP and “gross domestic happiness” are misguided. They are not mutually exclusive options. The optimal strategy would be one in which we grew wealth but harnessed it better to enable people to really flourish, rather than just have more stuff. What we should be afraid of is the pointless march of a narrow materialism, not the resumption of economic growth in itself. A richer world in which the money was well spent is something with which we should all be well satisfied.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Study Reveals Higher Levels of Control and Support at Work Increase Wellbeing

Research from Queen Mary University of London reveals positive aspects of working life – such as high levels of control at work, good support from supervisors and colleagues, and feeling cared for – support higher levels of wellbeing among Britain’s workers….

Stephen Stansfeld, Professor of Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London (Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry), comments:

“The so-called ‘happiness debate’ has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with economists, politicians and psychologists all hypothesizing on how to create a happy society. If the Government proceeds with the idea of measuring wellbeing as an indicator of Britain’s progress, it is crucial they know what impacts a person’s wellbeing.

“This study shows the quality of our working conditions and personal relationships are key to the nation’s happiness. We believe any policies designed to improve the workplace should not just minimise negative aspects of work, but more crucially, increase the positive aspects, such as a creating a greater sense of control and support among employees.

“The quality of the working environment has a very important effect on how a person feels and greater  may also be related to greater productivity and performance at work, increased commitment and staff retention as well as effects on physical health and lifespan.”

Link to read the original article

Wealth Inequality in America

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

Americans at Work: The Best and Worst Jobs 2013

Most Americans spend more time working than doing anything else.  The average employee spends more than 2/3 of his or her day at work or on work-related activities. That’s more time than we spend sleeping or raising our children.  Americans work an average of nearly one month more per year now than in 1970.  In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, in 70 percent of American households all adults work.

America vs. the world:

  • Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers
  • 260 more hours per year than British workers
  • 499 more hours per year than French workers
  • Average productivity for American workers has increased 400% since 1950
  • In every country included except Canada and Japan (and the U.S., which averages 13 days/per year), workers get at least 20 paid vacation days. In France and Finland, they get 30 – an entire month off, paid, every year.

So it matters what you do… doesn’t it? Because Americans work so much….

Here are the 10 Best AND 10 Worst Jobs in America, 2013 (with median salaries)

Link to see the info graphic and which jobs feature high and low

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Anarchist, Activist and London School of Economics anthropology professor David Graeber traces the 20th century promise of a 4 hour day and how we got unproductive labour instead.

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers….

…productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

…While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

…Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless?

…There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for … a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties … they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well….

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

10 Simple and Easy Ways To Give Thanks To Your Employees

Randy Conley writes…

In the spirit of today’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I thought I’d share ten simple and easy ways to tell your employees “thank you.” Telling an employee “thank you” is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to build trust, yet it doesn’t happen near enough in the workplace.

Whenever I conduct trust workshops with clients and discuss the role that rewards and recognition play in building trust, I will ask participants to raise their hands if they feel like they receive too much praise or recognition on the job. No one has ever raised a hand.

So on this day of giving thanks, take a few minutes to review this list and commit to using one of these methods to tell your employees “thank you.” I’ve used many of these strategies myself and can attest to their effectiveness.

1. Let them leave work early – This may not be feasible in all work environments, but if you’re able to do it, a surprise treat of allowing people to leave early does wonders for team morale and well-being…

2. Leave a “thank you” voice mail message – …The spoken word can have a tremendous impact on individuals, and receiving a heartfelt message from you could positively impact your employees in ways you can’t imagine.

3. Host a potluck lunch –  …Sharing a meal together allows people to bond and relax in a casual setting and it provides an excellent opportunity for you to say a few words of thanks to the team and let them know you appreciate them.

4. Give a small token of appreciation – Giving an employee a small memento provides a lasting symbol of your appreciation, and although it may cost you a few bucks, it’s well worth the investment…

5. Have your boss recognize an employee – Get your boss to send an email, make a phone call, or best-case scenario, drop by in-person to tell one of your employees “thank you” for his/her work. Getting an attaboy from your boss’ boss is always a big treat. It shows your employee that you recognize his/her efforts and you’re making sure your boss knows about it too.

6. Hold an impromptu 10 minute stand up meeting – This could be no or low-cost depending on what you do, but I’ve called random 10 minute meetings in the afternoon and handed out popsicles or some other treat and taken the opportunity to tell team members “thank you” for their hard work. The surprise meeting, combined with a special treat, throws people out of their same ol’, same ol’ routine and keeps the boss/employee relationship fresh and energetic.

7. Reach out and touch someone – …Human touch holds incredible powers to communicate thankfulness and appreciation. …Unfortunately, most leaders shy away from appropriate physical contact in the workplace, fearful of harassment complaints or lawsuits. Whether it’s a handshake, high-five, or fist bump, find appropriate ways to communicate your thanks via personal touch.

8. Say “thank you” – This seems like a no-brainer given the topic, but you would be amazed at how many people tell me their boss doesn’t take the time to express thanks. Saying thank you is not only the polite and respectful thing to do, it signals to your people that they matter, they’re important, valuable, and most of all, you care.

9. Send a thank you note to an employee’s family – A friend of mine told me that he occasionally sends a thank you note to the spouse/significant other/family of an employee. He’ll say something to the effect of “Thank you for sharing your husband/wife/dad/mother with us and supporting the work he/she does. He/she a valuable contributor to our team and we appreciate him/her.” Wow…what a powerful way to communicate thankfulness!

10. Give a handwritten note of thanks – Some things never go out of style and handwritten thank you notes are one of them. Emails are fine, voice mails better (even made this list!), but taking the time to send a thoughtful, handwritten note says “thank you” like no other way…

What other ways to say “thank you” would you add to this list?

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

How To Think Like A Wise Person

by Adam Grant

If I asked you to judge how smart someone is, you’d know where to start. But if you were going to assess how wise that person is, what qualities would you consider?

Wisdom is the ability to make sound judgments and choices based on experience. It’s a virtue according to every great philosophical and religious tradition, from Aristotle to Confucius and Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Buddhism, and Taoism to Hinduism. According to the book From Smart to Wisewisdom distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the pack. So what does it take to cultivate wisdom?

In an enlightening study led by psychologists Paul Baltes and Ursula Staudinger, a group of leading journalists nominated public figures who stood out as wise. The researchers narrowed the original list down to a core set of people who were widely viewed as possessing wisdom—an accomplished group of civic leaders, theologians, scientists, and cultural icons. They compared these wise people with a control group of professionals who were successful but not nominated as wise (including lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, and managers).

Both groups answered questions that gave them a chance to demonstrate their wisdom. For example, what advice would they give to a widowed mother facing a choice between shutting down her business and supporting her son and grandchildren? How would they respond to a call from a severely depressed friend? A panel of experts evaluated their answers, and the results—along with several follow-up studies—reveal six insights about what differentiates wise people from the rest of us.

1. Don’t wait until you’re older and smarter. The people with the highest wisdom scores are just as likely to be 30 as 60. …. Cultivating wisdom is a deliberate choice that people can make regardless of age and intelligence…

2. See the world in shades of grey, not black and white. …

Wise people specialize in what strategy expert Roger Martin calls integrative thinking—”the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads”—and reconcile them for the situation at hand. In the words of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

3. Balance self-interest and the common good… It’s neither healthy nor productive to be extremely altruistic or extremely selfish. People who fail to secure their oxygen masks before assisting others end up running out of air, and those who pursue personal gains as the expense of others end up destroying their relationships and reputations. Wise people reject the assumption that the world is a win-lose, zero-sum place. They find ways to benefit others that also advance their own objectives.

4. Challenge the status quo. Wise people are willing to question rules. Instead of accepting things as they have always been, wisdom involves asking whether there’s a better path…

5. Aim to understand, rather than judge. By default, many of us operate like jurors, passing judgment on the actions of others so that we can sort them into categories of good and bad. Wise people resist this impulse, operating more like detectives whose goal is to explain other people’s behaviors. …Over time, this emphasis on understanding rather than evaluating yields an advantage in predicting others’ actions, enabling wise people to offer better advice to others and make better choices themselves.

6. Focus on purpose over pleasure. In one surprising study, Baltes’ team discovered that wise people weren’t any happier than their peers. They didn’t experience more positive emotions, perhaps because wisdom requires critical self-reflection and a long-term view. They recognized that just as today’s cloud can have a silver lining tomorrow, tomorrow’s silver lining can become next month’s suffering. However, there was a clear psychological benefit of wisdom: a stronger sense of purpose in life. From time to time, wisdom may involve putting what makes us happy on the back burner in our quest for meaning and significance.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

What does it Mean to be a Citizen at Work?

In his 2013 Chief Executive’s Lecture, Matthew Taylor puts the focus on good employment, and how to move this from an idea with general support but very mixed take-up into something which is available to all employees and supported by wider society.

Béatrice Coron’s Daily Battles in 3D

French artist Béatrice Coron creates stories from cut paper. And while this one—told in stunning 3D, with a soundscape—contains castles and fire-breathing dragons, it tells a tale we all can relate to: of the constant, everyday battles we face. Says Coron, “It seems there is always a dragon to slay, a kingdom to be won, a Holy Grail to find … I win some battles but the war is never over.”

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

What To Do If You Don’t Feel Grateful

 shares a story along with her suggestions for building a sense of gratitude when times are tough…

Sometimes circumstances we consider to be horrendous turn out to work in our favor. We usually don’t see the big picture until much later, if ever. The following parable illustrates this concept:

There is an ancient story of a farmer whose only horse ran away.  Later that evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was thought to be such bad luck. “Your farm will suffer, and you will not be able to plough your fields,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible thing to have happened to you.”

 The farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The next day the horse returned but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came to congratulate him and exclaim his good fortune. “You are much richer than you were before!” they said. “Surely this has turned out to be a great thing for you.”

 The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 Then, the following day, the farmer’s son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses. He was immediately thrown from the horse and broke his leg.  With this injury he couldn’t work on the farm. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy to the farmer for the incident. “There is more work than only you can handle, and you may be driven poor,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible misfortune.”

 The old farmer simply said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of his broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected.  When the neighbors heard this they came to visit the farmer and said, “How fortunate you are!  Things have worked out after all.  Most young men never return alive from the war. Surely this is the best of fortunes for you and your son!”

 Again, the old man said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 …Who knows but that you were let go from your last job so that you could put some time and energy into contemplating and pursuing your real passion? Perhaps a relationship didn’t work out, and thus you developed greater inner strength and autonomy. Maybe that addiction you’ve battled for so many years will lead you to effective treatment, a support group, and the ability to help many other people, based on your own experience and recovery. You can make your mess your message.

So, be kind to yourself if you’re having a tough time feeling gratitude at this moment. This is a great opportunity to practice self-acceptance of your full spectrum of emotions and to also practice “acting as if” you’re grateful. Although you may be gritting your teeth, you can still ask yourself, “What’s the good in this?” As has been said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but only if we’re able to learn from the experience. Your lesson may come to light down the road, so no worries if you don’t see it now – but keep your eyes open.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

Link to the full Happiness At Work Edition #74 collection of stories

All of these stories and more can be found in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #74.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well-Being Jettisons To Critical Performance Metric In Workplace

by Judy Martin writing in Forbes magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness and Well-Being Garners Growing Attention

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

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

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

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

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

A Personal Take on Well-Being at Work 

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Diana Diamond asks: Are We Being Happy Yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Internet-Connected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to get this free download

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Meaning 2013: A Business Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meaning is powerful. And meaning can transform your organization.

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

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

10 Things We Learned From Meaning 2013 at Brighton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Link to read the original Happy Startup School article

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

How to Create a Workplace that Works for Women

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

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

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

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

Create a female support network

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

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

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

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

Ask for the management support you need

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

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

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

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

Speak up: your view is important

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

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

 Voice what you need to feel valued

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

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

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

Link to read the original Guardian article

Better People Equals Better Business – Lessons from the All Blacks

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

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

Something had to change.

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

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

Their plan revolved around the following pillars:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweep the Sheds

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

Follow the Spearhead

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

Create a Haka

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

Pass the Ball

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

Leave a Legacy

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original unedited article

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

Gratitude Can Fuel School – and Work – Transformation

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

The Neuroscience Behind Appreciation

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

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

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

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

Ways of Practising Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article about practising gratitude in schools

10 Ways To Create a Compassionate Workplace

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

1. Start small

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

2. Learn to focus

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

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

3. Try compassion training

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

4. Be kind to yourself

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

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

5. Promote compassionate leaders

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

6. Beware of ‘takers’

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

7. It’s not always about money

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

8. Make compassionate decisions

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

9. Ignore the compassion myths

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

10. Lead by example

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

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

Jonathan Richards, chief executive of breatheHR writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Guardian article

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

Cities, Cars, Cycling – and Human Happiness

By Susan Perry

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

Social deficit and the shape of cities

Writes Montgomery:

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

Stress worse than that of a fighter pilot

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

A sense of connection

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

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

Time to switch to a ‘new mobility’

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

Henry Evans and Chad Jenkins: Meet the Robots of Humanity

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

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

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

Threshold of the New (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

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

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

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

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

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

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

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

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

BY 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

On Considering The (English) Hedge

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

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

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

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

Happiness At Work Edition #73

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

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

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

photo credit: FerociousPrecocious via photopin cc

photo credit: FerociousPrecocious via photopin cc

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

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

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

photo credit: Annie Mole via photopin cc

photo credit: Annie Mole via photopin cc

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

How’s Life? 2013 – Focusing on people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read original article in full

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

Is Britain the Most Tired Nation in Europe?

In the net blog, SAAMAH ABDALLAH writes…

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: istolethetv via photopin cc

photo credit: istolethetv via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

So, what’s the way forward?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Nrbelex via photopin cc

photo credit: Nrbelex via photopin cc

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

By Michael Hiltzik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT YET USED

photo credit: jouste via photopin cc

Gross Village Happiness

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: ben matthews ::: via photopin cc

photo credit: ben matthews ::: via photopin cc

From ego-system to eco-system economies

Otto Scharmer writes about…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: dModer101 via photopin cc

photo credit: dModer101 via photopin cc

Is Creativity Arts Policy’s Big Mistake?

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

Stress in the Workplace – Who Takes Responsibility?

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

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

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

A tough world out there.

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

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

The way forward – there is no silver bullet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

Over-extended? 6 Signs You Need A Break

by TINA WILLIAMSON

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

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

Ask yourself these questions:

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

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

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

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

1. Start with outer changes…

2.  Learn how to say No – be assertive…

3.  Put you first…

4.  Meditate…

5.  Practice Mindfulness…

6.  Laugh…

7.  Write it out…

8.  Ignore Expectations…

9.  Remember you’re not Perfect…

10.  Focus on one task at a time…

Take time to:

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

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

photo credit: byronv2 via photopin cc

photo credit: byronv2 via photopin cc

The Female Breadwinner’s Survival Guide by Jennie Garrett

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

*Torn between family commitments and work?

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

*Non-existent work life balance?

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

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

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

1. Check Your Ego…

2. Drop the Superwoman Syndrome

3. Remember you always have a choice…

4. Talk about money…

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

6. Ditch the Guilt
…

7. Recognise your interdependence …

8. Maintain your femininity…

9. Celebrate and share with other woman…

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

Link to read Jennie Garretts’s guidance in full

photo credit: ocean.flynn via photopin cc

photo credit: ocean.flynn via photopin cc

Six Good Reasons To Create A Compassionate Workplace

, journalist focusing on empathy and compassion, writes…

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

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

Here are six things I learned about why this matters:

1. Stress is bad for business

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

2. Compassion boosts the bottom line

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

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

3. Givers come out on top

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

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

4. Compassion makes us happier and healthier

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

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

5. Kindness is contagious

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

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

6. Everyone wins

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

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #71

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

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

Happiness At Work #69 ~ focus, attention and making a happier world

This week’s post brings our focus and attention into the spotlight, and includes stories about the importance of how we use our minds and what we put our main thinking energies into, as well as what we should perhaps be giving greater attention and energy to in order to make a happier and more flourishing nation, world and planet.

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

Happiness: the next big business metric?

Kristine A. Wong writes:

Happiness is gaining popularity as a measurement of success for governments – and for some businesses, including Zappos, Southwest and BT

Whether it’s words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama, guidance from an empathetic career counselor or advice from a friend, we’re often told that it’s more important to be happy than anything else.

But for the more than 1 billion people around the world fighting hunger and poverty, happiness seems fairly irrelevant – a luxury for the middle and upper classes. Does happiness matter if daily needs are not met? Certainly the primary focus should be on taking care of the basics. Happiness is a bonus.

Most, it seems, would agree. But increasingly, the answer depends upon whom you ask. In certain academic and human development circles, the stock in happiness has been rising. So much, in fact, that in the last two years, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network(run by UN Millennium Development goals guru and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs) has published the “World Happiness Report,” researchers’ attempts to measure happiness in 150 countries around the world.

That raises the question: As more thought leaders pay attention to happiness, should companies also consider happiness as one measure of their social impact?

“All businesses should care about happiness,” said Mark Williamson, founder and director of the London-based Action for Happiness Project, who joined Sachs in New York last week to release the latest report. “The happiness of a company’s people is vital to their business success.”

Companies with happier staff outperform their competitors, Williamson said, and a happier staff is sick less often, more engaged, more creative, more productive and better at working collaboratively.

Government will likely play a role in driving the happiness agenda, if it progresses. “There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their wellbeing,” said Sachs, one of the report’s co-editors…

But is a goal to improve the life satisfaction of people around the world really a means to an end? How would this accelerate or enhance ongoing work to secure access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, a sustainable food supply and a stable source of education?

“Wellbeing is really the driver that underpins all the development goals,” Williamson said. “Whether we’re aiming to alleviate poverty, ensure maternal health, support gender equality, or promote sustainability, the reason that all these things matter ultimately comes down to their impact on human wellbeing.

“If we get them right, wellbeing goes up,” he said. “If we fail to deliver on them, wellbeing goes down.”…

Sub-Saharan Africa – along with Latin America – is counted in this year’s report as one of two areas where happiness levels are increasing the most. The reasons? Higher levels of social support, generosity and the freedom to make key life decisions, the report said.

“Social relationships matter much more for happiness than possessions,” Williamson said. “Every organization should recognize that human wellbeing is at the heart of success and progress – and that they can play a role in contributing to this by the way they treat their people, the products and services they offer and the impact they have in the community.”

Some organizations, like John Lewis, have always put employee wellbeing at the heart of their business models, Williamson said. Buthappiness is gaining ground: companies such as Southwest AirlinesBT,SemcoMarks & SpencerZapposInnocent Drinks and NixonMcInnesare increasingly taking it seriously, he added.

Happiness hasn’t yet become a top priority for sustainability-minded companies, but Williamson expects the trend to persist. And if its popularity continues to rise among nonprofits, policymakers and thought leaders, we could soon see it become a common corporate social responsibility metric as well.

Link to the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

A lecture by  explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

…Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them…

…the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:

The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different…

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need…

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the “only country’ where … our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce…

We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things…

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Link to read the original Guardian article

These ideas by Neil Gaimon make a strong chime with what Daniel Goleman talked about in his Action for Happiness hosted talk in London this week.  Here are my notes of what he said…

An Evening With Daniel Goleman

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

Most of the news we get is for the amygdala – firing up our sense of threat.  If you feel pressured you just don’t notice a lot – and we are living now as if in a constant stage of being under siege
A Harvard experiment found that our minds our most unfocused commuting, at a computer, at work
Social emotional learning has now been going on in schools for over a decade.  Studies have found that this learning brings anti-social behaviour down by 10% and pro-social behaviour up by 10%.  And academic success up by more than 10%.
Another study found that Leaders in the top ten per cent of effectiveness compared to least effective ten% had 80-90% of competences that are Emotional Intelligence (EQ)-centred.
EQ is a model for Wellbeing including four essentials
a) Self-Awareness
Good work combines from doing what we’re excellent at, passionate about and matches our ethics
When we are in ‘flow’ our attention gets super-focused. This is optimal performance and it feels good
b) Self-Management – being in command of our emotions – cognitive control
Studies like the ‘marshmallow test’ find that kids who can’t manage their impulses are constantly distracted.
A NZ study with that looked at kids, and then revisited them again in heir thirties found that cognitive control better predictor of success than IQ or wealth. And kids who learned who didn’t have it ‘naturally’ at the start but learned it ended up doing just as well.  Self-management can be taught and learned
c) Empathy
Our more recent fore brain is designed to be linked to our other older brains
Our brain is peppered with mirror neurons – a brain-to-brain link – that operates in our entire biology, and that keeps us on the same page as another person. When someone is in pain we have an instant sense of this ourselves
There are three ingredients to rapport:
     – full mutual Attention
     – non-verbal Synchronicity
     – Flow – it feels good
This is operating in every human interaction
d) Social Skill – good strong relationships and interactions
Our happiness increases in relation to the amount we care about others’ happiness
A new and troubling Berkley study is finding hat people pay less attention to people of lower status.  And Freud talked about ‘the narcissism of minor differences’ that can start a spiral of inter-group hostility.
But The Flynn Effect showed its not the family you’re born into that has to predict who you become. We are always adapting and learning and evolving in response to the opportunities and circumstances we find ourselves in.
And every time they come up with new IQ test they have to make the questions harder, because each successive generation gets smarter.
We should teach children these skills. Doing this systematically would increase our GNP.
photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Mindfulness is one of the best ways to increase focus, attention and emotional intelligence.  Mindfulness increases cognitive control by working on the muscle of attention. Every time you notice your mind wandering off and bring it back you are working this muscle.
A Mindfulness exercise for children (that can easily be adapted for us older people):
‘Breathing Buddies’ involves putting a toy animal in a child’s tummy.  They breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3.  When their minds wander away from concentrating on the breath in 1-2-3 and the breath out 1-2-3, just bring it back to focus on the breathing and the rise and fall of the toy again.
Mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zin found that if people did their mindfulness exercises for 28 days they achieved lasting and substantial improvements in their physical, mental and emotional fitness and wellbeing.
Neuroscience has revealed that when we are upset, anxious or angry our Right prefrontal cortex is active.  When we are calm and happy, this region is quiet, and the Left area is active.  High activity in far to Left is indicative of resilience;  far to the Right is indicative of depression.
Mindfulness also mobilises the flu shot antibodies – as well as switching up our immune system.
The Dalai Lama’s recently offered 3 questions for decision making.  Will it benefit…
…just me or others?
…just my group or everyone?
…just for the present or for the future?
The man that scientists call ‘the happiest man alive’, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard was involved in a study on his impact on  the (2nd) most abrasive professor in a university.
They came together to debate. The professor begins in a highly agitated state.  Ricard stays calm. The professor becomes calm, and eventually doesn’t even want the encounter to end.
People a transformed by positive encounters.  And we can all cause ripples of happier encounters.
But there is a bias toward unhappiness.  If we understand more about how people can get along we might be able to promote that better
Our attention looks both in and out.  Internal (self) awareness is focus on self.  Empathy is focus on the other person.  We need to able to be equally and simultaneously good at both.
Passing on emotions is affected by three things:
     ~ Expressiveness
     ~ Power – for example if the leader is in a negative or positive mood the rest of the team catch it and their performance goes down or up
     ~ Stableness – like Ricard showed the professor.
Can you be happy for no reason?
Can you cultivate a feeling of happiness independent of external circumstances
There is a danger of mistaking espoused happiness for enacted happiness.
We need to be authentically happy
Technology and Focus
The new social norm is to ignore the person you’re with and look at a screen.  We have to get better at focusing. Why we have to learn cognitive control.  Technology is insidiously stealing more and more of our attention. Mind wandering tends to concentrate on problems.  The extent to which we can turn it off and focus on better things, the better off we will be.
But the research on technology is showing good and bad things:  for example, games increase vigilance but also a negative intention bias.  New games are now being designed to improve attention.
Social comparison is quite automatic in the brain.  When you’re feeling compassion – loving kindness – your positivity fires up.  To overcome negative comparison:
– Compare down
– Concentrate on the Positive
– And be Compassionate
How do you study unhappiness without becoming miserable?
Mindfulness should go and in hand with compassion and noticing and caring about what is happening in the world and if we can do something about it.
Our biggest source of unhappiness is most usually our own mind
photo credit: Cut To Pieces via photopin cc

photo credit: Cut To Pieces via photopin cc

Can A Girl Change The World?

by 

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has’. – Margaret Mead, Social Anthropologist

The version of history we are taught in school would have us believe that all important changemakers were men and that women had very little to do with the advancement of civilisation. However, we know this is completely false…

Can a girl change the world? Yes! But not alone, she must have the support of others as only through collective action is change truly possible.

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Link to read the original article

The New Economics of Enough

BY: DAN O’NEILL & ROB DIETZ

It has been over five years since the global financial crisis shook the economic world. Since then we’ve seen spiralling debt, savage austerity, a crisis in the Eurozone, quantitative easing, and a variety of attempts to get the economy growing again. But despite all of this, little has changed. GDP in the UK remains 2 percent lower than when the financial crisis began, and austerity continues on unabated.

Everyone seems to agree that getting the economy growing again is the number one priority. But if growth is really the cure to all of our ills, then why are we in such a malaise after sixty years of it? Although the UK economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier. Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure. At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity. There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic, in the sense that it is costing us more than it’s worth.

In our new book, Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, Rob Dietz and I argue that it is time to abandon the pursuit of growth and consider a new strategy—an economy of enough. Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption and enough income.

The economic blueprint that we describe in our book is based on the contributions of over 250 economists, scientists, NGO members, business leaders, politicians, and members of the general public. Some call this blueprint the “new economics”, some call it “degrowth”, and some call it a “steady-state economy”. While there are differences among all of these approaches, the key ideas have much in common. They include policies to reduce resource use, limit inequality, fix the financial system, create meaningful jobs, reorganise business, and change the way we measure progress…

Instead of GDP, we need indicators that measure the things that really matter to people, such as health, happiness, equality, and meaningful employment. We also need indicators that measure what matters to the planet, such as material use and CO2 emissions. In fact, we already have these indicators—the problem is that we largely ignore them, because we are so fixated on GDP. If the goal of society were to change from increasing GDP to improving human well-being and preventing long-term environmental damage, then many proposals currently seen as “impossible” would suddenly become possible.

The real impossibility is achieving never-ending economic growth. No amount of austerity or stimulus spending is going to change the reality that we live on a single blue-green planet with limited resources that we all must share. If we’re serious about achieving a better life for the vast majority of people in Britain then we need a new approach—an economic model that prioritises people and planet over short-term profits. It’s time to embrace the new economics and say “Enough Is Enough!”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: delitefulimage via photopin cc

photo credit: delitefulimage via photopin cc

Less Technology, More Happiness?

Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, a movement of people committed to building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities, writes:

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that our mobile devices are in danger of taking over our entire lives. Time magazine found that 68% of users take their devices to bed with them, 20% check their phones every ten minutes and one third report feeling anxious when briefly separated from their beloved gadget. According to Osterman research, 79% of respondents take their work-related device on vacation and 33% admit to hiding from family and friends in order to check Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to deny that these are worrying trends.

So it’s no surprise we’re starting to see a backlash against the all-pervasive nature of digital devices. Companies like Digital Detox are now offering technology-free breaks where people have no choice but to disconnect. Their Camp Grounded summer camp is a place where “grown-ups go to unplug, getaway and be kids again”. One of the signs at the camp reads “The use of WMDs is not permitted” – an acronym that refers to Wireless Mobile Devices, although many clearly see these devices as Weapons of Mass Destruction too!

There’s no doubt that we need to restore some balance to our technology-dominated lives. But in my view the salvation from our digital gluttony lies more in our daily habits than in special events like Camp Grounded, wonderful as they may be. Before looking at some possible solutions, let’s not forget that the main reason we become so addicted to these gadgets is that they provide incredible benefits. We can communicate with distant friends and loved ones at the touch of a button. We can stay connected with what’s going on in the world. We can share what matters to us with the people we care about. And we can put travel time or waiting time to more productive use – potentially freeing up extra family and leisure time later. When used well, these devices can greatly enhance our overall wellbeing.

The problem of course is that many of us – myself included – spend so much time using these devices that we end up doing things that are detrimental to wellbeing – not just for ourselves but for others around us too. We strive to use our time efficiently, but end up leaving ourselves unable to unwind and get to sleep. We want to stay up to speed, but end up so overwhelmed with digital noise that we miss the information that really matters. We want to be connected to others, but end up ignoring the people we’re actually with – perhaps best exemplified in this powerful and poignant video. So here are my three suggested ground rules – or habits – for living well in an age of digital overconsumption.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

1. Pay full attention to what you’re doing

… evidence shows that when our minds are constantly distracted, we’re not only less effective at what we’re doing, this also makes us much less happy. So instead of just reacting to these digital attention-grabbers the moment they appear, make a conscious decision to ignore them if you’re doing certain things – such as writing, having a conversation or eating a meal. … Equally, it can help to set aside specific times when you’ll focus entirely on responding to all the digital stuff too.

2. Ask yourself “what matters most?”

We’re so programmed to respond to our gadgets that we unconsciously give them priority over things that, on reflection, we would surely agree matter much more. So when technology grabs your attention, make a habit of consciously asking yourself “what matters most?”. Is it more important to read and respond to this immediately – or to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for tomorrow? Is it more important to check the latest headlines or get outside for 10 minutes of fresh air and head space? Is it more important to share my hilarious status update or make sure I’m home in time to see the kids? These questions have easy answers – and big implications for our use of technology – if we bother to ask them.

3. Give face-to-face priority over virtual

Our relationships are the most important contributors to our overall wellbeing, especially those with our nearest and dearest. Yet although technology helps us stay in touch with a wider range of people and connects us with loved ones in far off places, nothing beats our face-to-face relationships with the people that matter – our partners, parents, children and closest friends. So make it a habit to give the people you’re with priority over the gadget you’re holding. …One fun way of making sure this happens is for a group of friends or family members to agree to put their mobile devices in a pile and not use them while together. Some groups apparently even spice this idea up by agreeing that whoever can’t resist and picks up their phone first has to pick up the bill too!

Rebalancing our use of technology doesn’t require an appeal to our guilt or an assault on our productivity. It requires us to be more mindful and honest with ourselves about when these devices bring real benefits and when they start to ruin our quality of life. The many benefits are only worth it if they contribute to our overall happiness rather than undermining it.

At Action for Happiness we encourage actions to help people live happier and more fulfilling lives like these Ten Keys to Happier Living. And while there are many digital innovations that can help to boost our happiness – for example apps like Headspace or Happify – many of the most important sources of happiness in life are blissfully technology-free. So finally, here are three simple, non-digital actions that are proven to make us happier:

  • Get active outdoors – walk through the park, get off the bus a stop early or go for a “walking meeting” with a colleague
  • Take a breathing space – regularly stop and take 5 minutes to just breathe and be in the moment – notice how you’re feeling and what’s going on around you
  • Make someone else happy – do random acts of kindness, offer to help, give away your change, pay a compliment or tell someone how much they mean to you

When we focus on the things that really bring happiness, our priorities shift and our relationships with our digital devices naturally start to be become more conscious, balanced and fulfilling.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness At Work? Change Your Perception

 writes…

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

The economic case for investment in ecotherapy

GAVIN ATKINS writes in the nef blog:

This week Mind launches our campaign to promote ecotherapy, with the publication of our report Feel better outside, feel better inside: Ecotherapy for mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery’ . The report draws upon learning from the Big Lottery supported Ecominds programme, which funded 130 projects across England with activities including gardening, food growing, green exercise and environmental conservation work.

The programme was evaluated by the University of Essex and their report shows a demonstrably positive affect on people’s mental health and well-being, with seven in ten people (69%) experiencing a significant increase in well-being by the time they left an Ecominds project and three in five people (62%) with mental health problems reported an increase in self-esteem.

However, Mind also knew that these projects are saving money. In the public health realm they are providing a preventative service that reduces demand on more acute services, as well as offering pathways to employment, volunteering and training. They are mental health treatments that are often peer led and in groups, using spaces that are free or cheap. And projects are adding value to local green spaces, enhancing and protecting them…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

Where’s Your Inner HERO? Positivity at Work

by 

Researchers have been studying the application of Positive Psychology in the workplace, and a growing body of evidence demonstrates that a positive mindset affects our attitudes toward work, as well as the subsequent outcomes. As Dr. Fred Luthans explains in the video at the end of this post, our “psychological capital” can, indeed, have a significant impact upon work and career.

Previously, I’ve discussed how the tenets of positive psychology hold great potential as a guide to help individuals and organizations elevate workplace happiness. Overall, the movement focuses on identifying and building on what is “right” with our work lives — emphasizing our strengths, celebrating smaller successes, expressing gratitude. Central to this theory is the mechanism that helps us build our “psychological resources,” and use this collected energy to digest and cope with our work lives.

Finding Your Workplace “HERO”

To provide a practical framework for this concept, researchers have developed what they aptly call the Psychological Capital (PsyCap) construct. It features various psychological resources (a.k.a. “HERO” resources) that are central to our work life experiences. We combine these resources in various ways to meet the challenges of our daily work lives.

What are HERO resources?

Hope: Belief in the ability to persevere toward goals and find methods to reach them
Efficacy: Confidence that one can put forth the effort to affect outcomes
Resilience: Ability to bounce back in the face of adversity or failure
Optimism: A generally positive view of work and the potential of success

Link to read the original article 

photo credit: Denis Collette...!!! via photopin cc

photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

How to Focus a Wandering Mind

By Wendy Hasenkamp

New research reveals what happens in a wandering mind—and sheds light on the cognitive and emotional benefits of increased focus.

We’ve all been there. You’re slouched in a meeting or a classroom, supposedly paying attention, but your mind has long since wandered off, churning out lists of all the things you need to do—or that you could be doing if only you weren’t stuck here…

Suddenly you realize everyone is looking your way expectantly, waiting for an answer. But you’re staring blankly, grasping at straws to make a semi-coherent response. The curse of the wandering mind!

But don’t worry—you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert sampled over 2,000 adults during their day-to-day activities and found that 47 percent of the time, their minds were not focused on what they were currently doing. Even more striking, when people’s minds were wandering, they reported being less happy.

This suggests it might be good to find ways to reduce these mental distractions and improve our ability to focus. Ironically, mind-wandering itself can help strengthen our ability to focus, if leveraged properly. This can be achieved using an age-old skill: meditation. Indeed, a new wave of research reveals what happens in our brains when our minds wander—and sheds light on the host of cognitive and emotional benefits that come with increased focus…

For thousands of years, contemplative practices such as meditation have provided a means to look inward and investigate our mental processes. It may seem surprising, but mind-wandering is actually a central element of focused attention (FA) meditation. In this foundational style of meditation, the practitioner is instructed to keep her attention on a single object, often the physical sensations of breathing.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s much easier said than done. Try it for a few minutes and see what happens.

If you’re like most people, before long your attention will wander away into rumination, fantasy, analyzing, planning. At some point, you might realize that your mind is no longer focused on the breath. With this awareness, you proceed to disengage from the thought that had drawn your mind away, and steer your attention back to your breath. A few moments later, the cycle will likely repeat.

At first it might seem like the tendency toward mind-wandering would be a problem for the practice of FA meditation, continually derailing your attention from the “goal” of keeping your mind on the breath.

However, the practice is really meant to highlight this natural trajectory of the mind, and in doing so, it trains your attention systems to become more aware of the mental landscape at any given moment, and more adept at navigating it. With repeated practice, it doesn’t take so long to notice that you’ve slipped into some kind of rumination or daydream. It also becomes easier to drop your current train of thought and return your focus to the breath. Those who practice say that thoughts start to seem less “sticky”—they don’t have such a hold on you…

Recent behavioral research shows that practicing meditation trains various aspects of attention. Studies show that meditation training not only improves working memory and fluid intelligence, but even standardized test scores.

It’s not surprising—this kind of repeated mental exercise is like going to the gym, only you’re building your brain instead of your muscles. And mind-wandering is like the weight you add to the barbell—you need some “resistance” to the capacity you’re trying to build. Without mind-wandering to derail your attempts to remain focused, how could you train the skills of watching your mind and controlling your attention? …

The key, I believe, is learning to become aware of these mental tendencies and to use them purposefully, rather than letting them take over. Meditation can help with that.

So don’t beat yourself up the next time you find yourself far away from where your mind was supposed to be. It’s the nature of the mind to wander. Use it as an opportunity to become more aware of your own mental experience. But you may still want to return to the present moment—so you can come up with an answer to that question everyone is waiting for.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: pshutterbug via photopin cc

Why a richer society isn’t making us happy

People in today’s society are not any happier than their poorer grandparents, because the psychological benefits of rising incomes are overshadowed by any loss, says new study

The reason people in today’s society are not happier than their much-less-affluent grandparents, is that the psychological benefits of rising incomes are wiped out by any small loss, according to a study.

Researchers found that people “experienced the pain of losing money more intensely” than the joys of earning more. They argued that the discovery had “significant implications” for policymakers under pressure to maintain a higher sense of well-being.

The findings by Stirling University’s Management School suggested that policy focused on economic stability, rather than high growth at the risk of instability, was more likely to enhance national happiness and well-being.

A strategy that ran the risk of small, temporary cuts to spending, on the other hand, would probably lead to more widespread dissatisfaction than previously believed.

The study may help explain why bonus structures and remuneration schemes that are based on commissions can easily backfire, with staff morale taking a larger dip than expected in leaner times when there are lower – or no – bonuses.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

Latest UK well-being stats: what do they tell us?

SAAMAH ABDALLAH, writing in the new economics foundation blog, reports:

Today, the ONS has provided more detailed breakdowns, allowing us to look at well-being right down to the Local Authority level across the UK. Data is available for both 2011/12 and 2012/13, creating an evidence goldmine for local authorities and health and well-being boards.

Which areas have the highest well-being? Which areas have the lowest well-being? And which areas have seen the biggest drops or rises in well-being over the last year? We’ve only just started exploring the data, but our initial findings show that:

  • The highest well-being in the UK in 2012/13 was in Fermanagh in the south west corner of Northern Ireland. The average life satisfaction score there was 8.2 on a scale of 0 to 10 (compared to the UK average of 7.45), and anxiety levels there were the lowest across the UK.
  • The lowest levels of well-being in 2012/13 were found to be in Harlow in Essex – with an average life satisfaction score of 6.8. The data shows a significant drop in well-being from their 2011/12 score.
  • Which places are doing much better than might be expected based on traditional economic analysis? Well, Copeland on the Cumbrian coastline is ranked amongst the 25% most deprived local authorities in England, and yet average life satisfaction there has been above the UK average for both years of the survey. Ipswich, Weymouth and North Devon also have higher well-being than might be expected according to traditional economic analysis.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, we wonder what is happening in Brentwood, Colchester and North Warwickshire – all areas with relatively low deprivation, but much lower well-being than one would expect. Colchester, for example, is amongst the least deprived areas in the UK – and yet life satisfaction was only 7.1 out of 10 in 2012/13, significantly lower than the national average.
  • In some cases similar local authorities show very different results. What explains the differences in well-being between Merton and Bromley, two south Outer London boroughs?  Average levels of deprivation are similarly low in these two boroughs, and yet average life satisfaction in Merton is 7.2 whilst in Bromley it’s 7.6.
  • The ONS has reported overall rises in well-being in the year to 2012/13, but are there places which have seen well-being falling during this period?  We found significant drops in life satisfaction in various places including Dundee and Chichester. We also found rising anxiety in many more areas including Somerset, Reading, the London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, Sevenoaks, and Belfast.
  • Lastly, we wonder what is happening in Hart in northern Hampshire. True, it is one of the wealthiest corners of the country, and it has the lowest levels of deprivation in England. But what can explain the huge increase in well-being there between 2011/12 and 2012/13, with life satisfaction jumping from 7.3 out of 10 in 2011/12 (which was slightly below average), to 8.1 out of 10 in 2012/13?

These are all preliminary analyses, and proper analysis will require the micro-data which the ONS will release in six weeks’ time. These initial findings raise some questions though (and hopefully some answers as well) for local authorities looking to navigate the challenging times ahead, and striving to improve the well-being of their residents despite severe budget cuts.

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

What is a ‘mentally healthy workplace’?

Every organisation, regardless of size or sector, needs to prioritise mental health and wellbeing among staff. Right now, one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress – so this is something affecting a big chunk of your workforce.

Implementing changes that boost wellbeing don’t just benefit the staff who are experiencing these problems, as everyone’s wellbeing is on a spectrum, whether they have a diagnosed mental health problem or not. Sometimes just knowing that support is available is enough to make employers feel valued. Three in five people surveyed by Mind said that if their employer took action to support the mental wellbeing of all staff, they would feel more loyal, motivated, committed and be likely to recommend their workplace as a good place to work*.

During these tough economic times, employees are reporting more sources of stress, such as unrealistic targets, job insecurity, and financial pressures. Furthermore, staff concerned about redundancies are less likely to open up about issues such as stress; or to disclose a mental health problem to their line manager, because they fear being dismissed. But bottling up these problems will only make things worse; and likely lead to decreased productivity, increased sickness absence and presenteeism.

In our latest poll, Mind found that of all respondents who had taken time off from work because of stress, 90% gave their boss another reason for their absence – usually a health problem such as a headache or stomach upset. Only 10% were able to be honest and tell their organisation they were off because of stress. This highlights the sheer number of staff who don’t feel comfortable discussing their wellbeing at work. But now, in this time of austerity, it’s more important than ever that employers to make the first move by prioritising mental health and building resilience – it’s far better to weather the storm together.

Smart employers appreciate that their organisation is dependent on its staff; and that a healthy and productive workforce is a recipe for performing at their peak. Good mental health underpins this – with employees who work for organisations which prioritise mental wellbeing reporting greater confidence, motivation and focus. There are simple, inexpensive measures that can help your organisation become a mentally health workplace.

…Approaches such as flexible working, building resilience and staff development contribute to good engagement, while involving staff in decision-making and giving employees autonomy are key to engaging staff. The way in which we work together is changing – with team work, collaboration and joint problem solving becoming increasingly expected of staff, but these types of working processes are dependent on mutual trust and employees feeling valued. Both engagement and creating a mentally healthy workplace are dependent on the foundations of good mental health.

We recommend a three-pronged approach to managing mental health at work. Such a strategy should promote wellbeing for all staff; tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems; and support employees who are experiencing an existing mental health problem…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Child’s Play (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

The latest photos from Steve McCurry remind us what and who we are when are young and at play.  Notice the focus on these stunning photos…

Child’s play is the exultation of the possible.  Martin Buber

Play is the highest form of research.  – Albert Einstein

The true object of all human life is play. – G. K. Chesterton

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

Link to view this photo collection

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

21 Reasons To Quit Your Job And Become A Teacher

 writes

In a recent article about happiness at work, Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggests that the happiest among us are those who are solving the toughest problems and “making a difference” in people’s lives. If contributing to the betterment of the world is indeed among the keys to happiness, then it’s no wonder that the extraordinary teachers featured in “American Teacher: Heroes of the Classroom” [Welcome Books/Random House] express a deep sense of fulfillment and pleasure in the work that they do day in and day out. Against all odds, each of the fifty educators profiled is making a lasting positive impact on his or her students; the kind of impact that recasts futures, changes lives, and might just inspire the rest of us to consider a second career in education…

Here are some of these reasons:

  1. To encourage children to DREAM BIG…
  2. To positively IMPACT THE FUTURE of our world…
  3. To live with a deep SENSE OF PURPOSE…
  4. To discover your TRUE CALLING…
  5. To experience personal GROWTH…
  6. To GIVE AND RECEIVE unconditional love…
  7. To be a STUDENT for life…
  8. To INSPIRE generations of CHANGE…
  9. To ignite the SPARK of LEARNING…
  10. To explore your CREATIVITY…
  11. To prove that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE…

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

Shyam Sankar: The rise of human-computer cooperation

Brute computing force alone can’t solve the world’s problems. Data mining innovator Shyam Sankar explains why solving big problems (like catching terrorists or identifying huge hidden trends) is not a question of finding the right algorithm, but rather the right symbiotic relationship between computation and human creativity.

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

Matt Locke:  Empires of Attention

This is the text version of a talk which you can hear at BBC Radio 4′s Four Thought programme, first broadcast on October 23rd, 2013. It was recorded at Somerset House in front of a live audience with David Baddiel hosting.

Thank you for inviting me to come and talk today, and in particular, I want to thank you all for your attention. Your attention is a very valuable thing, and to decide to spend it listening to this talk here today, or at home on the radio, or later online, is not an insignificant act…

Because how we understand audience attention – how we ask for it, measure it, and build business empires by selling access to it – is fundamental to our culture. For the last few hundred years, the business of culture has essentially been the business of measuring audiences’ attention. We can trace a line of entrepreneurs of attention from today’s culture backwards through the last two centuries – from Jonah Peretti, who has used his intimate knowledge of the patterns of digital attention to build The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, two of the biggest news and culture sites on the web; through Arthur Nielsen, who invented the ratings technology that the US TV giants ABC, NBC and CBS were built on; to Charles Morton, who took the raucous entertainment of supper-clubs and taverns and developed the more mainstream and wildly popular Music Halls of Victorian England, from which came the talent that would dominate the early years of cinema and radio.

These entrepreneurs were not leaders, but listeners – their particularly skill was in realising that audiences were consuming culture in new ways, finding new ways to measure these new patterns, and new ways to make money out of them. The story of these ‘empires of attention’ is the story of how we – the audience – have engaged with culture,  and how the interaction between artists and audiences has moved from visceral participation to abstract measurement and back again. This story starts amidst the raucous popular culture of Victorian England….’

Then traces the story from ‘Song and Supper Rooms’ in pubs to Music Hall and a more captive audience expected to abide by theatre house rules of no eating, drinking or vbvvbvbvb, to radio and television and film and an increasingly distanced audience’s attention being measured in the ratings numbers, to contemporary changes that social media is making.

‘The new entrepreneurs of attention in the 21st century understand this new connection- they understand that culture spreads not by distribution – as with cinema and broadcast – but by circulation – sharing between friends over digital networks…

…the empires of attention are shifting as we move from an era of distribution to an era of circulation…

…the sheer visceral impact of thousands or millions of people sharing and discussing your stories is a new experience for anyone used to traditional broadcast media, and we’re having to learn how to tell stories in an age of digital attention. We’re already hearing TV commissioners complaining that knee-jerk responses from audiences on Twitter are killing new TV shows before they have a chance to build an following. We are no longer a passive audience, but the judge and jury of what will survive and be recommissioned, deciding the fate of culture by how we spend our attention.

This new feedback loop can be incredibly empowering, but it is also destructive – the anonymity of social media can encourage trolling and other kinds of abuse. Crowds amplify the good and the bad in human behaviour, and the internet amplifies this even further. But I don’t think it’s possible to have one without the other – the noise is also the signal, and we will have to develop new ways to tell stories that take this into account.

The culture of the 21st century will be defined by how we synthesise these contradictions – scale and intimacy, spectacle and conversation, signal and noise. We have seen the relationship between audiences and artists move from intimacy to distance, and now back to a strange kind of intimate distance. What will culture look like in an age of digital attention, and what new empires will emerge around it? How we will we measure attention, and how will this change the relationship between artist and audience?

Link to read the full transcript o this presentation

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Acts of Kindness Spread Surprisingly Easily: Just a Few People Can Make a Difference

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network…

The contagious effect in the study was symmetric; uncooperative behavior also spread, but there was nothing to suggest that it spread any more or any less robustly than cooperative behavior, Fowler said.

From a scientific perspective, Fowler added, these findings suggest the fascinating possibility that the process of contagion may have contributed to the evolution of cooperation: Groups with altruists in them will be more altruistic as a whole and more likely to survive than selfish groups.

“Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness,” said Christakis. “The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread. Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs.”

Link to read the original article 

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Can kindness movements make a difference?

By Sam Judah

Picking up litter. Buying someone in need a coffee. Or just doling out free hugs. There’s a growing movement of people doing nice things for strangers, but do they make for a kinder society?

“It’s not just about single acts, though,”  says Kelsey Gryniewicz, a director at Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. “It’s about changing your mentality from day to day.”

The World Kindness Movement represents the work of organisations from 23 different countries. “It has gone way past the level of community endeavour,” says its secretary general Michael Lloyd-White…

Globally, however, the position is very different. “The trend that has been revealed is a disturbing one,” says Dr John Law, the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation. The number of acts of kindness and charity dropped by hundreds of millions last year due to the global recession, he says…

Richard J Davidson from the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison thinks that the level of kindness in society can be improved if children are taught to be more empathetic from an early age.

“Compassion should be regarded as a skill that can be cultivated through training,” he says.

The kindness curriculum is currently being taught in 10 schools across Wisconsin. The project is still at the research stage, but “the early signs are promising”, he says…

Not everybody is convinced that focussing on compassion in this way is helpful, however.

In a new book called Pathological Altruism, Barbara Oakley argues against what she sees as a cultural obsession with the notion of kindness.

“There’s a misguided view that empathy is a universal solvent. Helping others is often about your own narcissism. What you think people need is often not actually what they need.”

Kelsey Gryniewicz doesn’t think that the American kindness movement is guilty of that charge, arguing that there are tangible, practical benefits to the activities they recommend.

“It doesn’t have to be about cradling people in a bubble of kindness,” she says.

In Singapore, William Wan takes a more reflective view. “We must be realistic. We mustn’t be naive. Kindness movements can’t solve all our problems, but if they can solve some of our problems, why not use them?”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

What Are Charities For?

BBC Radio 4 Analysis, Monday 14th October 2013

Charities have been drawn into the world of outsourced service provision, with the state as their biggest customer and payment made on a results basis. It is a trend which is set to accelerate with government plans to hand over to charities much of the work currently done by the public sector.

But has the target driven world of providing such services as welfare to work support and rehabilitating offenders destroyed something of the traditional philanthropic nature of charities? Fran Abrams investigates.

In this BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme the way the UK government is now outsourcing more and more of its services to charities is likened to a Faustian pact…

“The devil promised Faust everlasting life in return for a contract that said Faust had to satisfy certain requirements of the devil and that’s exactly the situation that voluntary organisations and charities now find themselves in.”  Should they adapt to government contracting or remain pure? …

“…the voluntary sector may have the experience to help define the problem and how to meet it rather  than simply responding to what the state thinks it knows is the problem the state and knows hoe to respond … is a fundamental change that has occurred over the last ten years.” Bernard Davis, trustee of Manchester-based 42nd Street

“…one of the substantial changes that I’ve seen over the last twenty years is being a professional is more important than pushing for social change and social justice.” Penny Waterhouse, Coalition for Independent Action group.

“…We are in danger of losing the richness and the unique character of the charitable effort that goes on in this country.” Brendan Tarring, Chief Executive of now wound down charity, Red Kite Learning.

“… When you’re down on the ground and the receiver of a contract, or perceived as having a vested interest, it is very hard for you to put your hand up and say ‘You’re getting this wrong, government,  there’s a different way of doing things.’  You may not have the courage to do it.  You may fear the loss of funding.  But also there is a very high likelihood that the government may not even want to listen.” Caroline Slocock, Director of the panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector

Link to hear this and other Radio 4 Analysis programmes

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

Short on Time? Try Mindfulness

By Emily Nauman

A new study suggests that just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation changes our experience of time

Bogged down with responsibilities at work and at home? Many of us wish we had more time to get it all done—and still steal time to relax.

While adding more hours to our day may not be possible, a recent study suggests a little mindfulness meditation can help us at leastfeel like we have more time in our lives…

The researchers conclude that mindfulness meditation made participants experience time as passing more slowly. Remarkably, they saw this effect after just a single 10-minute meditation, among participants who had no prior meditation experience.

Though more study is needed to explain this finding, the researchers suspect that the mindfulness meditation altered time perception because it induced people to shift their attention inward. In the paper, the authors write that when people are distracted by a task in the world around them, they have less capacity to pay attention to time passing, and so experience time as moving more quickly. Because the mindfulness meditation exercise cued participants to focus on internal processes such as their breath, that attentional shift may have sharpened their capacity to notice time passing.

Kramer thinks that this finding could be used in everyday situations, to help people gain control over their experience when they feel short on time. “If things feel like they’re running away,” he says, “slowing things down might help you deal with them more easily.”

Kramer also speculates that while a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to internal events extends one’s experience of time, a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to an external event could potentially make time feel like it’s passing more quickly. If this were true, mindfulness could have clinical applications for people who feel like time is moving too slowly, such as those experiencing depression, who tend to overestimate the duration of negative events.

Though Greater Good has previously reported on many positive effects of mindfulness, as well as on how experiencing awe can alter how we perceive time, this study is one of the first to investigate the relationship between mindfulness and time perception.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #69

All of these articles – and many more – are in this week’s latest Happiness At Work Edition #69, out from lunchtime on Friday 25th October.

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #68 ~ the power of the positive and learning from success

photo credit: blinkingidiot via photopin cc

photo credit: blinkingidiot via photopin cc

This week we New Zealand folk are in celebratory mood.

Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker 2013 Prize with her second novel, The Luminaries.  

And we have still more reason to be proud as the New Zealand government officially  recognises the two largest islands of our country with both their European and their Maori names:

New Zealand forgot to name its main islands

Maori names get equal status as country corrects long-standing failure to make North and South Island names official

Eight hundred years after the Maori first arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and 370 years after Europeans spied its shores, the South Pacific nation’s major land masses will finally get official names.

For generations, the two main islands have been called the North Island and the South Island. They have also appeared that way on maps and charts. But in recent years, officials discovered an oversight: the islands had never been formally assigned the monikers.

Last Thursday, the land information minister, Maurice Williamson, announced that the North Island and South Island names would become official, effective this week. Equal status will be given to the alternate Maori names: Te Ika-a-Maui (“the fish of Maui”) for the North and Te Waipounamu (“the waters of greenstone”) for the South.

I am continuing and extending this theme of celebration into the new Happiness At Work Edition #68 collection.

This week we are highlighting the power of the positive and the importance of being able to harness positivity for our resilience and happiness.  And, in the best spirit of Appreciative Inquiry, we are also headlining success stories from a variety of real life contexts to explore and uncover some the the things we can learn about how to live well, overcome challenge and difficulty, and build towards a more flourishing life.

In this post you will find stories about the science and latest research into why positivity matters and how best to tap into its minerals.  These include
photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

And you will find a whole number of success stories and the lessons that we might all draw from these experiences.  We feature Eleanor Catton and her ideas about the difference between value (gold, selling) and worth (greenstone, giving).
We celebrate, too, the announcement of 24 year old Londoner, Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire as the very first Young Poet Laureate for London appointment:
Other success stories include 
You will also find stories about its opposite – negativity – and why this, too, is an important part of the material we need to build our happiness and resilience from. Less happy stories worth paying attention to include
photo credit: Spencer Finnley via photopin cc

photo credit: Spencer Finnley via photopin cc

21st century ideas include
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photo credit: dpup via photopin cc

Practical tips and techniques this week include
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photo credit: EmsiProduction via photopin cc

Barbara Fredrickson: Positive Emotions Open Our Minds

Some of the research findings that Barbara Fredrickson talks about in this video are:

Positivity Opens Us – we can see more…

Feeling positive in increases our likelihood of stepping back and seeing the bigger picture…

Feeling positive widens the field for what we scan and look for…

Because we see more more, we see more possibilities…

People are more likely to be resilient and bounce back quicker from adversity when they feel positive emotions…

Positive emotions help students achieve better exam results… And doctors make better diagnoses…

At a very fundamental level we are able to see larger systems, see larger forms of interconnection when we are experiencing positive emotion.  And that can make a huge difference when we’re trying to address some of the really entangled societal problems that we face.

There is a way of breathing that is a shame and suffocation.  

And there’s another way of expiring, a love-breath that lets you open infinitely.” – Rumi

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photo credit: DeaPeaJay via photopin cc

Barbara Fredrickson: The Positive Ratio

A ratio of positive emotions of above three to one seems to make the tipping point that will help to determine your odds or languishing or flourishing…

We need at least three heartfelt emotions for every heart-wrenching emotion that we need to endure.  A ratio of 3 to 1 allows for the whole myriad of human emotions.  This is not about 3 to 0, it is not about eliminating all negative emotions…

Here’s my advice.  If you make your model “Be positive” it actually backfires.  That leads to a toxic insincerity that’s shown to be corrosive to our own bodies, cardiovascularly.  It’s known to be toxic interpersonally  … we all know that person who tries to pump sunshine a little too much, and the biggest danger of positive psychology is that people come out of it with this hyper-zeal to be positive and it’s not genuine.  But there would be no counterfeit gold – those yellow smiley faces – if there no real gold somewhere.

A sail boat metaphor fits here really well.  Rising from the sail boat is that enormous mast that allows the boat to catch the wind and gives the boat momentum.  But below the waterline is the keel, which can weigh tons.  You can take the mast going up as positivity and the keel down below as negativity.  Even though it is the mast that holds the sail, you can’t sail without the keel.  The boat would just drift around or fall over or worse yet, turtle.  And the negativity, the keel, is what allows the oat to stay on course and manageable.  … And when the keel matters most is when you’re sailing upwind, when you’re facing difficulty.  Experiencing and expressing negative emotions really is part of the process of flourishing…

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photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

One of the things it is helpful is to know is the causality of how lightly creating the mindset of positive emotions makes positive emotions follow.  Create the mindset of positivity by being:

  • Open
  • Appreciative
  • Curious
  • Kind

and above all being:

  • Real and Sincere

Another thing that can really useful is to step on the scale regularly and track your positive ratio, just as a mindfulness tool.  You can do this via a 2minute test on Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity website to figure out what your positivity ratio is for this day.  Knowing one day’s ratio may not give you much information, but if you take this short test every day for two weeks you can probably get a sense of what your life is like right now…

This is a way of keeping track of your daily emotional diet so you can progress your wellbeing goals.  Begin by asking:

  • When have you felt this emotion, clearly, deeply?
  • What triggered that emotion?
  • When was the last time you felt it?
  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • What was happening?

And our Appreciative Inquiry practice would suggest another question: How could you take any of these conditions into something that is not so happy for you?

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves.  On is Negativity.  It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame,  and hate.  The other is Positivity.  It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and, above all, love.’

“Which wolf wins?”

“The one you feed.”

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photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc

Updated Thinking on Positive Ratios

In this extract from a July 2013 paper in American Psychologist,, Barabra Fredrickson backs up and furthers her ideas against more recent research:

Even when scrubbed of Losada’s now-questioned mathematical modeling, ample evidence continues to support the conclusion that, within bounds, higher positivity ratios are predictive of flourishing mental health and other beneficial outcomes. …

The Role of Positivity in Human Flourishing

…To flourish has become an increasingly popular goal among those interesting in applying the fruits of positive psychology. Loosely speaking, I have described human flourishing as being beyond hap- piness in that it encompasses both feeling good and doing good (Fredrickson, 2009). …

Following ancient philosophies articulated by Aristotle and others, hedonic well-being captures individuals’ global satisfaction with life alongside their pleasant affect, whereas eudaimonic well-being encompasses their sense of purpose and meaning as well as their resilience and social integration. In the article with Losada, we further specified this “feel good plus do good” definition by opening with “To flourish means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience” (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 678). …

Feeling good, however, does more than simply reflect the presence of human flourishing. From the perspective of the broaden-and-build theory, positivity takes on a far more vital role with respect to human flourishing. Beyond being one dimension of flourishing, positive emotions have also been found to promote the development and maintenance of flourishing.

…Daily experiences of positive emotions forecast and produce growth in personal resources such as competence (e.g., environmental mastery), meaning (e.g., purpose in life), optimism (e.g., pathways thinking), resilience, self-acceptance, positive relationships, as well as physical health. In other words, feeling good does not simply sit side by side with optimal functioning as an indicator of flourishing;

feeling good drives optimal function by building the enduring personal resources upon which people draw to navigate life’s journey with greater success. 

Further evidence that positive emotions are a key active ingredient in flourishing mental health comes from a detailed unpacking of a Tuesday in the life of flourishing individuals, in comparison to a Tuesday in the life of those not flourishing and to a Tuesday for those identified as depressed (Catalino & Fredrickson, 2011). Using the Day Reconstruction Method … our results showed that relative to those who do not flourish or who are depressed, people who flourish experience bigger “boosts” in positivity in response to routine daily events such as helping another person, interacting with others, playing, learning, and engaging in spiritual activity. Moreover, flourishers’ greater positive emotional reactivity, over time, predicted their growth in resources. In turn, flourishers’ greater growth in resources predicted their higher levels of flourishing symptoms at the end of the study (controlling for initial levels of flourishing). We uncovered virtually no differences between flourishers and others in the degree of negative emotions experienced on the targeted Tuesdays. We also uncovered surprisingly few differences between depressed people and non flourishers…

This pattern of results suggests that human flourishing is nourished by small, yet consequential, individual differences in positive emotional experiences in response to pleasant everyday events. Flourishers don’t simply “feel good and do good.” Rather they do good by feeling good. So, just as greater negative emotional sensitivity has been found to seed and maintain depression, a phenomenon called negative potentiation, a parallel positive potentiation process appears to seed and maintain the beneficial—yet all too rare—state of human flourishing (Catalino & Fredrick- son, 2011).

The Effects of Too Much Positivity 

Within the spectrum of normative emotional experience, the notion that excessive positivity might be harmful is consistent with the long-standing evidence that life satisfaction is better predicted by the frequency rather than the intensity of a person’s positive emotions (Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 1991) and that by far the most frequently experienced positive emotions are the mild and moderate ones. Whereas increasing levels of positive emotions bring benefits up to a point, extremely high levels of positive emo- tion carry costs that begin to outweigh these benefits.  …It bears noting, however, that some researchers do not find signs of dysfunction at very high levels of happiness (e.g., E. T. Friedman, Schwartz, & Haaga, 2002). …

The Value of Positivity Ratios

… Considerable evidence indeed undergirds the claim that when it comes to positivity ratios, within bounds, higher is better. … and … we suggested that a second tipping point, at positivity ratios of about 11:1, might be associated with a downturn in flourishing. Although we did not have data suitable for testing this second tipping point, we noted that such a phenomenon was consistent with the then emerging ideas that (a) problems can occur with too much positivity and (b) appropriate negativity plays an important role in human flourishing.

…One available cross-sectional study examined the effects of positivity ratios on creativity in a sample of 595 retail employees in Portugal (Rego, Sousa, Marques, & Cunha, 2012). The researchers found the classic inverted-U relation between positivity ratios (based on employee self-reports) and employee creativity (based on supervisor ratings). Higher positivity ratios predicted greater creativity up to a point, beyond which creativity took a downturn. The optimal positivity ratio for creativity in this sample was found to be 3.6:1 (Rego et al., 2012). Drawing on theorizing by Oishi and colleagues (2007), which suggested that “ultrahappy” employees may become complacent toward problems and opportunities, Rego and colleagues (2012, p. 265) concluded that a “modest level of negative affect, if combined with high levels of positive affect, may help to generate creativity,”  …

In sum, then, the claim that flourishing mental health is associated with higher positivity ratios than is non flourishing remains unchallenged. Indeed, positive potentiation—the ability of certain people to extract more positive emotions out of common, everyday events—a process evidently unique to flourishers (Catalino & Fredrickson, 2011), could well account for the differential positivity ratios between flourishers and nonflourishers. Descriptively, this means that striving to raise one’s positivity ratio from a low level to a moderately high level in hopes of attaining flourishing mental health remains a reasonable and healthy goal.  …

Concluding Thoughts

As Brown and colleagues (2013) highlighted, my book Positivity (Fredrickson, 2009), written for a wide readership, made considerable use of the ideas presented in my 2005 AP article with Losada (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). Even for this audience, however, I took precautions not to present the ratio as an unquestionable fact. “Science is never complete,” I wrote. “The stakes in terms of human welfare are too high for me to rest easy in the belief that clever theory or fancy math alone can provide the answers” (Fredrickson, 2009, p. 138).  …

[But] the data say that when considering positive emotions, more is better, up to a point, although this latter caution may be limited to self-focused positive emotions. The data also say that when considering negative emotions, less is better, down to a point.

Negativity can either promote healthy functioning or kill it, depending on its contextual appropriateness and dosage relative to positive emotions.  …

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photo credit: Bennyboy218 via photopin cc

Business Success: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

by 

When I was growing up, any time I was anxious about something, my dad would say, “Don’t let worry in. Worry is the thief of joy.” My mom always used to tell me, “Honey, will this matter in five years? If not, then it doesn’t really matter now.” It was good advice,  and I find myself saying the same things to my own kids. You probably say them to your kids. But like many things, not giving in to worry is much easier said than done.

In today’s Business Success column, Jude Bijou, author of the award-winning book is Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life, offers some great advice on not succumbing to worry — along with it common companions, stress and frustration — at work, with seven simple steps.

7 Ways to Improve Your Mood at Work

 Our job is where we spend the majority of our waking hours, and where stress, worry, and frustration can easily impede our performance, productivity, and workplace relationships. Here are 7 easy ways to stay upbeat and positive, and to flip bad moods into good ones quickly and effectively.

1. Stop “what-iffing” and “deadlining.”

“What-iffing” is when your thoughts are fixated on the past–what you did wrong in the meeting, or why you got passed up for the promotion. “Deadlining” is when your thoughts are focused on the future–worrying about the project that has to get done or wondering how the client will react to your presentation. Unhappiness is caused by thinking about the past or the future. When you’re completely “in the now,” you can’t be unhappy. Stop what you’re doing, take some breaths, and just “be.” …

2. Drown out negative chatter.

Counteract an unhappy thought with a positive statement that’s irrefutable and 100% true. The negative chatter that goes on inside our head is untrue and based on false assumptions derived from anger, sadness, and fear. You can interrupt thoughts by finding a statement that’s true and repeating it over and over until you feel better. For example, instead of “I’ll never get all of this done in time,” you can say “I’ll do what I can.” If you can find a contradictory statement to repeat that’s 100% true, it will change your mood.

 3. Be grateful, not grumpy.

Think of something you’re grateful for. This simple technique really works wonders. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, depleted, or unhappy at work, simply close your eyes and think hard about one thing that makes you happy. … You can’t think about something you’re grateful for and something you’re unhappy about at the same time.

 4. Say NO! to “trash thinking.”

Trash thinking is like trash talking. It’s putting yourself or someone else down. Most of us are aware of when we’re thinking mean thoughts about a coworker, client, or employee, or when we’re being hypercritical about ourselves. The first step is to be aware. The second step is to say “no.” You can even say it out loud at a good volume: “NO!” Find a private space and stomp around the room and yell it. Pretty soon you’ll be smiling again. Probably even laughing!

 5. Be the “happy one” at work.

Moods are contagious, and when you become known at work for being ridiculously, unstoppably upbeat, people will begin to smile before you even open your mouth. You can avoid the common squabbles and doldrums employees and bosses suffer simply by smiling a lot at the beginning of your day and saying out loud, “What a gorgeous day for data entry,” or “Isn’t it nice to be employed?” People will love to work with you because you’re happy. What they don’t know is that you’re making yourself happy too!

 6. Just get over it.

Practice accepting what is. When we stop expecting people and situations to be different than they are, we’re instantaneously less frustrated and more able to look within to decide what we want or need to do currently. Remind yourself, “People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.” If you can get over your frustration that things aren’t the way you want them to be, you will enjoy yourself more and maybe even learn a new way of approaching a problem.

 7. Wear someone else’s shoes.

Instead of being self-absorbed, it’s a great practice to suspend your own position and just listen in order to understand where someone else is coming from. You don’t have to agree, but listening well is the ultimate in giving and will bring you feelings of connection and love. Happiness at work comes when we have a sense of fellow feeling with our coworkers–that we’re all in this together, and we have each others’ backs.

 Want to find out more about the attitudes and emotions that dominate your character and may be sabotaging your business success or happiness at work? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.

Link to read the original article

Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton becomes youngest winner with The Luminaries

By Tim Masters

One of the themes in her book that she  draws up in her acceptance speech and talks about in her Today Programme interview is of the difference between value and worth.  The West Coast of New Zealand’s south island – as of this week now also officially recognised by its Maori name Te Waipounamu (“the waters of greenstone”) – lured the Europeans for the high value of its gold, which is made in the price it commands as a currency that is bought and sold, and attracted the Maoris for the worth of its pounamu (“greenstone”), which can only be given.

In this interview Catton says:

.A worth-based economy and a value-based economy are two very different things in that value is conferred in the act of spending, whereas worth is conferred in the act of giving…

There’s a line in the first part of the book that says ‘Every man has his currency…”

..the central myth of a gold-rush is that you could turn up and quite literally pluck your fortune off the ground and, in so doing, completely remake yourself is such an intoxicating idea…

The New Zealand Herald coverage of this story reported:

In accepting the award, Catton said her book was “a publisher’s nightmare.”

She said she was very aware of the pressures on contemporary publishing to make money.

“It is no small thing that my primary publishers … never once made those pressures known to me while I was writing this book,” she said.

“I was free throughout to concern myself not of questions of value, but of worth.”

Robert Macfarlane, chair of the judges, says of this book:

This is a luminous novel.  It is a dazzling novel.  It is vast without being spiralling, it is intricate without being fussy, it is experimental while also giving us the extraordinary pleasures of storytelling and immersion in its world.  It’s about greed and gold and what we value.  And what we value, it turns out, is love.”

Link to read the original article, see the BBC news report about her win, and hear Eleanor Catton talk about her themes in the BBC Radio 4 audio clip of her interview or The Today programme the morning after winning the prize

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photo credit: geoftheref via photopin cc

As a footnote, it is worth hearing both MacFarlane’s and Catton’s Man Booker 2013 night speeches:  MacFarland for a masterclass in how to speak extemporaneously and give meaningful believable praise, and Catton for a softly brilliant display of speaking with a soft voice that nevertheless conveys great impact and authority.

Eleanor Catton: ‘Male writers get asked what they think, women what they feel’

In a Guardian coverage of this story, Charlotte Higgins describes meeting Catton the morning after her win as ‘a person who radiates immense self-possession and quiet authority‘, reporting:

When the [announcement] came , the TV cameras showed a face as still as a marble sculpture, pinned into immobility by shock. Then she dove into her handbag and rootled through it until she found her acceptance speech, which she delivered in a clear but tremulous voice. “The superstitious part of me didn’t want to make the speech too easy to find,” she explains. “At the same time I knew I’d never be able to relax if I hadn’t prepared something. At times of emotional intensity I need a script.”

…With the prize also comes that mixed blessing, fame, and she’s already bothered by the uneven treatment accorded to men and women in the public eye.”I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel,” she says. “In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.”

[Catton says about] the ideas of the book. “The paradox is,” she says, “the relationship between, on the one hand, the characters being the masters of their fates, and on the other hand that being predetermined.” She talks of the astrological structure as being akin to a structure a composer might work within, and mentions her interest in the book Gödel Escher Bach, which explores patterns and systems in the work of the mathematician, artist and composer.

“One of the most baffling things is when people assume that when something is structurally ornate it is less human than something that is not structurally ornate,” she says. “That puzzles me – I feel as a person the most alive and human and full of wonder when I am contemplating complexities. The ability of humans to read meaning into patterns is the most defining characteristic we have.”

It’s the seriousness of Catton’s work that strikes you when talking to her – her belief in the novel both as a “builder of empathy” and as a carrier of ideas. When I spoke to one of the Man Booker judges, critic Stuart Kelly, he said that it was her ability to “make the novel think in a way that the novel doesn’t do normally” that set her apart; the way that, for example, she sets astrology and capitalism into play as competing systems of dealing with the world, but at the same time has produced “a rip-roaring read”.

For Catton – the daughter of a philosopher and a librarian – the novel is a tool for thinking with, as well as feeling with…

“What I like about fiction most is that it resists closure and exists, if the reader is willing to engage, as a possible encounter – an encounter that is like meeting a human being.”

Link to read this original article

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photo credit: Mad Hatter’s Photography via photopin cc

Happiness At Work – What We Can Learn from the Swiss

 writes…

Switzerland’s citizens regularly rank among the world’s happiest, so what makes them so cheerful during their working hours?

…As well as earning more and working less, the OECD also ranks Switzerland highly for the connectivity of its citizens, with 94% of them stating that they know someone they could rely on in a time of crisis. Feeling connected to each other doesn’t just bring happiness in our social lives, but in our working lives too.

In his book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, author Alain de Botton explains that a job feels meaningful “whenever it allows us to generate delight or alleviate suffering in others.” Unless you’re working in healthcare or as Lindt chocolatier, this might not seem like a daily occurrence, but by bringing a little joy to your colleagues you could also push your own happiness level up to Swiss proportions.

Consulting firm DHW (Delivering Happiness at Work) claims you can bring a smile to your team’s faces by making sure that everyone knows your company’s core values, having an open and accessible CEO and by making sure you tell people when they’re doing a good job.

While shorter hours and a politics-free world might be the dream, if you’re looking to find a little more fulfilment in your workplace you could do worse than just handing out a compliment or two, noticing when a colleague is having a bad day, or simply putting the Swiss into chocolate and sharing it round the office. Who knew being happy was so easy?

Link to the original article

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photo credit: tom*quah via photopin cc

Turning the Tables on Success

by Adam Grant

In today’s workplace, what goes around comes around faster, sinking takers and propelling givers to the top.

In the old world of work, good guys finished last. “Takers” (those in organizations who put their own interests first) were able to climb to the top of hierarchies and achieve success on the shoulders of “givers” (those who prefer to contribute more than they receive). Throughout much of the 20th century, many organizations were made up of independent silos, where takers could exploit givers without suffering substantial consequences.

But the nature of work has shifted dramatically. Today, more than half of U.S. and European companies organize employees into teams. The rise of matrix structures has required employees to coordinate with a wider range of managers and direct reports. The advent of project-based work means that employees collaborate with an expanded network of colleagues. And high-speed communication and transportation technologies connect people across the globe who would have been strangers in the past. In these collaborative situations, takers stick out. They avoid doing unpleasant tasks and responding to requests for help. Givers, in contrast, are the teammates who volunteer for unpopular projects, share their knowledge and skills, and help out by arriving early or staying late.

After studying workplace dynamics for the past decade, I’ve found that these changes have set the stage for takers to flounder and givers to flourish. In a wide range of fields that span manufacturing, service, and knowledge work, recent research has shown that employees with the highest rates of promotion to supervisory and leadership roles exhibit the characteristics of givers—helping colleagues solve problems and manage heavy workloads. Takers, who put their own agenda first, are far less likely to climb the corporate ladder.

The fall of takers and the rise of givers hinges on a third group, whom I call “matchers.” Matchers hover in the middle of the give-and-take spectrum, motivated by a deep-seated desire for fairness and reciprocity. They keep track of exchanges and trade favors back and forth to keep their balance sheet at zero, believing that what goes around ought to come around. Because of their fervent belief in an eye for an eye, matchers become the engine that sinks takers to the bottom and propels givers to the top.

Takers violate matchers’ belief in a just world. When matchers witness takers exploiting others, they aim to even the score by imposing a tax. For example, matchers spread negative reputational information to colleagues who might otherwise be vulnerable, preventing takers from getting away with self-serving actions in the future. On the flip side, most matchers can’t stand to see generous acts go unrewarded. When they see a giver putting others first, matchers go out of their way to dole out a bonus, in the form of compensation, recognition, or recommendations for promotions. Of course, these responses aren’t limited to matchers. Givers, too, are motivated to punish takers and reward fellow givers. But I’ve found that in the workplace, the majority of people are matchers, which means that they are the ones who end up dispensing the most taker taxes and giver bonuses. In an interdependent, interconnected business environment, what goes around comes around faster than it used to.

At Google, for example, an engineer named Brian received eight bonuses in the span of a single year, including three in just one month. He volunteered his time to train new hires and help members of multiple cross-functional teams learn new technologies, and his peers and managers responded like matchers, granting him additional pay and recognition. Consistent with Brian’s experience at Google, a wealth of research shows that in teams, givers earn more respect and rewards than do takers and matchers. As Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer notes, “Groups reward individual sacrifice.”

Interdependent work also means that employees will be evaluated and promoted not only on the basis of their individual results, but also in terms of their contributions to others. This reduces the incentives for takers to exploit givers, encouraging them to focus instead on advancing the group’s goals. As a result, takers engage in fewer manipulative acts—which reduces the risks to givers—yet they still contribute less than givers. This allows givers to gain a reputation for being more generous and group-oriented. And a rich body of evidence has shown that these qualities are the basis for sound leadership.

In fact, when givers become leaders, their groups are better off. Research led by Rotterdam School of Management professor Daan van Knippenberg has shown that employees work harder and more effectively for leaders who put others’ interests first. This, again, is a matching response: As van Knippenberg and Claremont Graduate University professor Michael Hogg found, “going the extra mile for the group, making personal sacrifices or taking personal risks on behalf of the group” motivates group members to give back to the leader and contribute to the group’s interests. And a thorough analysis led by Nathan Podsakoff, a professor at the University of Arizona, of more than 3,600 business units across numerous industries showed that the more frequently employees give help and share knowledge, the higher their units’ profits, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee retention rates.

By contributing to groups, givers are also able to signal their skills. In a study led by researcher Shimul Melwani of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, members of five dozen teams working on strategic analysis projects rated one another on a range of characteristics and behaviors. At the end of the project, team members reported which of their colleagues had emerged as leaders. The single strongest predictor of leadership was the amount of compassion that members expressed toward others in need. Interestingly, compassionate people were not only viewed as caring; they were also judged as more knowledgeable and intelligent. By expressing concern for others, they sent a message that they had the resources and capabilities to help others.

Today, these signals are ever more visible: Givers are aided by the fact that the anonymity of professional life is vanishing. In the past, when we encountered a job applicant, a potential business partner, or a prospective service provider, we had to rely on references selected by that candidate. When takers burned bridges with one contact, they could eliminate that person from their reference list. But now, online social networks offer a much richer database of references. Odds are that through a quick search of our LinkedIn or Facebook networks, we can find a common connection with knowledge of that person’s reputation. By reaching out to the mutual contact to obtain an independent reference on the candidate’s past behavior, decision makers can screen out takers and favor givers. Of the billion Facebook users around the world, 92 percent are within four degrees of separation—and in most countries, the majority of people are just three degrees apart.

Such tools have made it tough for a taker to hide in the shadows. At Groupon, for example, Howard Lee was heading the South China office, and received a slew of applications for sales jobs. He searched his LinkedIn network for common connections, and located quite a number of them. When he discovered that certain candidates had a history of self-serving behavior, he quickly moved on, focusing his time and energy on candidates with track records as givers.

Taken together, these trends are changing the characteristics that we value in people. Two of the defining qualities of great leaders are the ability to make others better and the willingness to put the group’s interests first. Because givers today add increasing value in leadership roles and interdependent work, hiring processes can be modified to assess which candidates are inclined to contribute more than they receive. For development, promotion, and retention, leaders and managers should focus less on individual skills and talents, and more on the extent to which employees use their skills and talents to lift others up—rather than cutting them down. The employees with the greatest potential to excel and rise will be those whose success reverberates to benefit those around them.

Along with investing in people who are already disposed toward operating like givers, it will be of paramount importance to create practices that nudge employees in the giver direction. In many organizations, owing to their tendencies to claim credit and promote themselves, successful takers are more visible than successful givers. To make sure that employees are aware that it’s possible to be a giver and achieve success, it may be necessary to locate and recognize respected role models who embody an orientation toward others. That way, when what goes around comes around faster than it used to, it will be for the benefit of employees and their organizations.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

Happiness Works – The Happy Planet Index

by Nic Marks

I am often asked about how I came up with the idea of the Happy Planet Index. For those of you who are not familiar with the index it was first released in 2006 by the new economics foundation and is the first global measure of sustainable well-being. The index seeks to capture the tension at the heart of the sustainability agenda – that our pursuit of good lives now is threatening our capacity to lead them in the future.I wanted to create an index which held this tension. One that respected the fact that much of modern life in developed western economies is really rather good. I felt that the environmental movement as whole tended to focus too much on what was wrong and didn’t give enough credit to what was going right. For example life expectancy across the globe has dramatically increased over the last 100 years and continues to do so. In our past, surviving to adulthood was a challenging business – lives were short and brutish.Whilst there have been many huge successes there are also alarm bells ringing….

…But If people are going to start making changes in their lives, happiness has to be introduced into the sustainability debate. The debate must be reframed – instead of focusing on the negative (‘the planet can’t continue like this…’) we need to be thinking in terms of securing and ensuring happy healthy lives for everyone.

This way of thinking enables people to imagine new ways of being that are happier and more sustainable. For example, there has been a growing trend of people who are choosing to occasionally work from home, saving wasted time and energy, and freeing up more time for other activities. Trends like these must be encouraged and extended by the political systems in which we live. How much happier and more sustainable might our lives become if cars were phased out of or limited in city centres, while cycling facilities and clean reliable transit systems were improved. Hundreds of small changes, representing win-wins for people and the planet, can make a real difference.

The business world has a massive role to play in this transition too and a happiness perspective offers an exciting potential alignment of interests. All of us want to do meaningful work and what could be more purposeful than working towards to a better future for us all. So organizations that rise to the sustainability challenge will most likely be rewarded with employees who are highly motivated and engaged.

It is this potential alignment of the purpose of nations with the needs of citizens and businesses that makes me hopeful about the future. The Happy Planet Index seeks to capture this optimism without denying the scale of the challenges.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Adn! via photopin cc

photo credit: Adn! via photopin cc

The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed

By ,

Ms. Bronnie Ware, a woman who worked for years with the dying, wrote a list of the top 5 regrets people say aloud on their deathbed …

…we’ve supplemented each regret with some rockstar advice on how to not have these regrets in the digital age.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

TNW Advice: …

“Yesterday, I had an epiphany that for the first time in my life, who I am and who I want to be are virtually one in the same. It’s so much more effective to be yourself than to pretend to be something your not because doing the latter is so emotionally taxing, you’ll never be someone that is fully committed. Being yourself pays dividends.”  -Brett Martin, the CEO and Founder of Sonar, a hot new social, location-based mobile application.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

TNW Advice: …

…being a Dutch-based company, our roots are in relaxation. We know how to unwind after hard days.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

TNW Advice: 

…We’d like to take this time to remind you that as much as we love living in the virtual world, sometimes a hug, a long chat over a glass of wine or a phone call to a loved one far away is more valuable than any social media valuation, no matter how ludicrous.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

TNW Advice: …

…defer to real life for those that matter. Pokes, Likes and Comments are not the same as ladies’ lunches, beach trips and dinner parties. Make the time.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have sillyness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

TNW Advice: If you’re reading this, chances are you have a long way to go before you die. So, please, allow yourself to be happy. Smile in the sunshine, kick the ball around with your son, have a glass of wine with your partner in the afternoon, move to Argentina, buy yourself a Kindle for the love of reading; whatever it is, be good to yourself.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: campra via photopin cc

photo credit: campra via photopin cc

The One Word To Never Ever Say Again At Work

By 

If someone asked how your day was going, what would be your knee-jerk reaction? If you’re a member of the American workforce, there’s a good chance your immediate response would be a single word: “Busy!” But in many cases, these lamentations about our jam-packed schedules amount to little more than a humblebrag about how important we are (so many things to do and people to see!)…

Busyness has become something of a badge of honor — a way to hint at our own relevance and superior productivity without saying it in so many words — but in reality, constant busyness may be a sign of just the opposite. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that if you’re busy all the time (and not giving yourself a chance to rest and recharge), you’re very likely doing something wrong.

Here five reasons to try to let go of excessive busyness — or at least stop telling people how busy you are.

It could be harming your productivity.

Too much busyness can easily prevent you from actually getting things done. When we fill our days up with one task after another and frequently multitask — rarely giving our full focus to the task at hand — it can keep us from doing any one thing to our best ability. In other words, quantity takes precedence over quality.

Working unceasingly and without substantial breaks has been shown to be an ineffective way to master a task. Studies in Berlin in the 1990s on young violin players — looking at the daily practice habits of elite players (those who were likely to become professionals one day) as compared to average players — yielded some surprising data. The elite players weren’t more successful because they practiced more. Both groups on average spent the same amount of time practicing each week. And whereas the average players spread their practice out through the day, the elite players worked in two intense periods of deliberate activity each day, followed by down time. The elite players were not only more relaxed, but they slept an extra hour each night, writer Cal Newport notes.

It could hinder your communication and connection with others.

According to Nell Minow, co-founder of The Corporate Library, the word “busy” can be “profoundly toxic” to both our careers and our personal lives. When someone asks how we’re doing and we answer “Busy,” Minow argues, it’s a statement of our own self-importance and the relative lack of importance of the person we’re talking to, which automatically precludes the possibility of authentic interaction.

“I promise that if you eliminate this word from your life, you will instantly, permanently and powerfully be more conscious about your choices and more effective in your communication with others,” Minow wrote in a recent Huffington Post blog,“How ‘Busy’ Became A Toxic Word.”

You might be suffering from a bad case of Time Deficit Disorder.

Do you feel busy and frantic all day? Get anxious just looking at all the blocked-out slots on your Gmail calendar? You might have a case of the unofficial but all-too-real Time Deficit Disorder (also known as “time famine”). If you’re feeling constantly pressed for time, the best remedy may be the most unlikely one: Giving more of your time away to others. A 2012 study from Yale and Harvard researchers  found that those who are more eager to devote some of their time to helping others are less likely to feel that time was their “scarcest resource.”

Another solution? Schedule time into your schedule to do nothing — a strategy LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner calls the “single most important productivity tool” he uses. Weiner says creating meeting-free “buffers” in his day affords him the time he needs to think strategically about the company’s big picture.

It could be a veil for underlying laziness.

We tend to think of being busy as the opposite of being lazy, but the two qualities may be more connected than we’d like to think. If you’re constantly busy, there’s a good chance that you’re expending a great deal of energy on tasks that may feel urgent — but aren’t actually all that important. Viewing busyness as a virtue actually keeps us from doing meaningful work, according to iDoneThis COO Janet Choi, and in this sense, busyness is a form of laziness.

“It’s easy, even enticing, to neglect the importance of filling our time with meaning, thinking instead that we’ll be content with merely filling our time,” Choi told Fast Company. “We self-impose these measures of self-worth by looking at quantity instead of quality of activity.”

You may not be managing your energy well.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and author of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” knows better than anyone that excessive busyness can be a destructive force in our work and lives. We’ve been taught that “more, bigger, faster” is always better. But this “volume is God” mentality, Schwartz explains, presumes that we have unlimited resources — which, of course, we don’t.

Renewal is actually a way to increase our capacity to be more effective, Schwartz explains, allowing us to get more out of the time we put into a task. The time spent on a task is not the same as the energy spent on a task, and taking time to rest and recharge can help you to get more done by allowing you to be more intentional with your energy — so when you’re relaxing, you’re really relaxing, and when you’re working, you’re fully engaged with work.

“Renewal is not for slackers,” Schwartz said in June at The Huffington Post’s conference, “Redefining Success: The Third Metric.” “Renewal is a way in which to increase your capacity to be more effective.”

To read the original article and watch the US TV news report on this story

photo credit: SamuelJohn.de via photopin cc

photo credit: SamuelJohn.de via photopin cc

Unhappy Employees Outnumber Happy Ones By 2 to 1 Worldwide (Gallup Research)

Susan Adams reports…

Since the late 1990s, Gallup has been measuring international employee satisfaction through a survey it has been honing over the years. In total it has polled 25 million employees in 189 different countries. The latest version, released this week, gathered information from 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries.

Overall, Gallup found that only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. That means they feel a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection to their employe and they spend their days driving innovation and moving their company forward.

The vast majority, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning they pretty much hate their jobs. They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish.

Add the last two categories and you get 87% of workers worldwide who, as Gallup puts it, “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.” In other words, work is more often a source of frustration than one of fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers. That means that most workplaces are less productive and less safe than they could be and employers are less likely to create new jobs.

To do its engagement tally, Gallup put together a list of 12 statements. I’ll list them here and you can see how you measure up:

1. I know what is expected of me at work
2. I have the material and equipment I need to do my work right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
10. I have a best friend at work.
11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

The most obvious fix for unhappy workers goes back to the 12 questions. Communicate with your workers, telling them what you expect of them, praise them when they do well, encourage them to move forward. Give them the tools they need and the opportunity to feel challenged. For workers the trick is to find an employer that is paying attention to those questions.

Link to read the original Forbes article

How Vulnerability Can Be A Strength

by Viral Mehta

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone — but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy. –Walter Anderson

…Stepping outside is far from comfortable, and can even be painful. And when we experience something painful, the tendency is to dissociate ourselves from the feeling, to become numb to it. We fragment our reality and stop being in relationship with this part of our experience, meaning that we don’t learn from it, let alone transform it. Instead, if we embrace our vulnerability, we can fully accept the discomfort and learn to observe our entire reality deeply and intimately — just the way it is.

It may seem like such opportunities are rare, but they’re surprisingly accessible. Here are a few statements that crack open a beautiful vulnerability within everyday situations:

  1. “I was wrong.” It’s hard to say this at any time, but especially hard at work — we often fall prey to the myth that we are paid to be right. I remember reading a story about someone who made a multi-million dollar mistake at work, and subsequently went in to his boss’s office to resign. The boss was wise, though. “Why would I let you go now, after having spent millions of dollars training you?!” By owning up to our mistakes, we open ourselves to learning from them.
  2. “I don’t know.” Not knowing is itself uncomfortable. Confessing it to others is doubly so. But it is also one of the most liberating things we can embrace. When I admit that I don’t know, I use up less energy in pretending to know, and give myself more space to explore the mysteries of an inherently emergent reality.
  3. “I am sorry.” Whether intentionally or unintentionally, our actions can be hurtful to others. When this happens, the tendency of both parties is to disconnect and create a separation. By apologizing, I might think that I’m losing ground in a relationship. In reality, I am building a proactive bridge of empathy — and a possibility for a greater and truer connection.
  4. “Thank you.” In giving thanks, we might fear that we are betraying a need for support. In reality, we display more confidence and less insecurity when we graciously acknowledge what we have received. It also serves as a tuning fork, making us aware of the abundance of gifts we continually receive from our surroundings. At a deeper level, in expressing gratitude, we wake up to our fundamental inter-dependence.
  5. “I love …” In a recent commencement address, author Jonathan Franzen spoke of the dangers of remaining on the surface of life, of just “liking” instead of loving. In his words, love is what forces you to “expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected can be catastrophically painful.” But there’s a pay-off. In his own experience, love “became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of myself that I’d never even known existed.” Love helps us go beyond our limited notions of self.

Latin vulnerare which means ‘to wound’, and so at the root of vulnerability is my own sense of wounded-ness. To be authentic in a moment in which I feel wounded, I have to honestly acknowledge the places where I feel hurt and then muster up the strength to just be with the pain. This takes tremendous courage.

Literally speaking, courage comes from the Latin cor, meaning heart. So when I open up to any experience fully, with courage — our whole heart — it naturally opens me up to a deep love. The blind musician Facundo Cabral said it beautifully: “If you are filled with love, you can’t have fear,” he said, “because love is courage.” True vulnerability, in its most profound form, is an act of love.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: SuperFantastic via photopin cc

photo credit: SuperFantastic via photopin cc

The Genetic Predisposition To Focus on the Negative

by Jeremy Dean, psychologist and the author of PsyBlog.

Around 50% of Caucasians have the ADRA2b gene variant.

Some people are genetically predisposed to spot negative events automatically, according to a new study published in Psychological Science (Todd et al., 2013).

A gene called ADRA2b seems to cause people to take particular note of negative emotional events.

The study’s lead author, Professor Rebecca Todd explained:

“This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world. The findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-coloured glasses — and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception.”

This could help explain why it is that some people seem particularly predisposed towards seeing the negative aspects of the world around them, while it passes others by.

Not only is the gene linked to differences between people in their attention, but also to memory. People with the gene likely also find negative events are enhanced in their memories.

It may mean that people with the gene are more likely to suffer from uncomfortable flashbacks to negative memories or even posttraumatic stress disorder.

Statistically, around 50% of Caucasians have the ADRA2b gene variant, but the rates are much lower in other ethnicities.

As with many genes, though, they interact with the environment: their effect on our individual psychology is partly determined by our upbringing, those around us and how we choose to think and act.

Just because there is a gene that influences our starting point, that doesn’t stop us having some control over where we end up.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: StephenMitchell via photopin cc

photo credit: StephenMitchell via photopin cc

Time To Rethink Youth Behaviour, NZ Survey Reveals

Young New Zealander’s are obsessed with social media, want to be rich and famous and cave to peer pressure – if this is what you think, then think again.

Several stereotypes about young people, held by adults have been busted in the second annual Youthtown Voice of New Zealand Survey.

Over 1,100 teenagers, completed the survey commissioned by Youthtown and conducted by Point Research, which aims to give young people aged 13-18 a voice on the things that matter most to them.

Surprisingly just one-third of young people believe social networking is important to them, debunking the adult view that social media rules young lives.

“They may spend a lot of time on sites like Facebook and Snapchat, but ultimately young people want to hang out with their friends in person,” Head Researcher of the Youthtown Voice of New Zealand Survey, Alex Woodley, said.

The adult misconception that young people are most influenced by peer pressure has also been set straight, with 73 per cent of young people indicating that their parents have the most influence over their lives, and only forty three per cent noting their friends.

 Survey respondents also revealed that they don’t look up to celebrities or personalities because of their ‘fame’. Of the people they look up to, intelligence with ability (27 per cent), determination (11 per cent) and self-belief and confidence (10 per cent) were the strongest qualities young people admire.

“These are extremely positive messages spoken, straight from the mouths of young New Zealanders. The future really is in great hands,” Youthtown CEO, Paula Kearns said.

photo credit: Arjan Almekinders via photopin cc

photo credit: Arjan Almekinders via photopin cc

2013 Youthtown Voice of New Zealand Survey KEY SURVEY FINDINGS 
1. Young people believe that their parents have the most influence over their life
2. The most protective factors for youth are related to positive relationships; feeling cared about by their family, having caring adults to turn to; having supportive friends with positive social values
3. 3/4 of young people agree there is a purpose to their life and they have a lot to offer the world
4. Approximately 1 in 6 of respondents do not really have anyone they can talk to when they are having a hard time
5. Young people admire celebrities with intelligence, talent, determination, confidence and self-belief. They don’t look up to celebrities or personalities because of their ‘fame’
6. Most young people feel good about things that make them different from other people
7. Young people are HAPPY! Over 3/4 of respondents rate their happiness as ‘6’ or more on a ten point scale
8. Young people identify with, and respect people, who are unaffected by the opinions of others (example, Ellen Degeneres and Demi Lovato)
9. Young people strongly believe in equality and acceptance of one another
10. 1/4 of young New Zealander’s currently volunteer or do community work of some sort
11. Most young people who volunteer, do so in youth centres or camps
12. Young people would like more opportunities to contribute to their community
13. Time and information are the greatest barriers preventing young people from volunteering
14. Only 1/3 of young people believe social networking is important to them, and one third say it’s not important at all. Most prefer to socialise at home or at a friend’s house

15. Nearly 9 out of 10 young people have a Facebook account and just under 1/4 have a Twitter account
16. Adventure, travel, better work opportunities and higher salaries are attracting our young people off-shore (10% don’t see their future in New Zealand)
17. More job opportunities and higher wages would make New Zealand an even better place to live
18. Job opportunities, events or activities and affordable accommodation or housing are the main reasons young people would want to live in and spend their future in New Zealand cities
19. 68% of young people said they are ‘worried’ or ‘moderately concerned’ about getting a job or career they want
20. 13% of young people ‘definitely’ see a future in New Zealand. Adventure, travel, better work opportunities and higher salaries is what attract our young people off shore

 Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: illuminaut via photopin cc

photo credit: illuminaut via photopin cc

Deepak Chopra: Who Is Right About Happiness (Part 2)

Our doubts about happiness can’t be answered abstractly. The best theory can’t make you happy; you have to test it. This testing requires choices, and choices are limited. If you stand back, most people live their lives according to a set of beliefs, and over the years they manifest what they expect out of life. (That’s why so many highly successful people were raised by loving, supportive mothers who told them how wonderful they were. If you go through life with such positive expectations, your choices are likely to be self-affirming rather than self-defeating.) The importance of choice tells us something important right off the bat. There is no such thing as a passive road to happiness. Even if humans are designed to be happy, they must activate the possibility rather than wait for the design to unfold on its own.

Despite the fad for viewing happiness as accidental, it’s more productive to test for yourself the kind of decisions that promote happiness. What should you do to make yourself happy right this minute? The array of possibilities is quite wide.

  • Avoid stressors that are avoidable.
  • Fix problems immediately – don’t procrastinate.
  • Bond with people you care about.
  • Do things that are meaningful to you.
  • Give your brain positive input. Avoid needless negativity.
  • Address the signs of depression and anxiety.
  • Assert control over your life. Don’t be dependent on others or dominated by them.
  • Be of service.
  • Walk away from situations you can’t improve.
  • Find a source of genuine fulfillment.
  • Don’t do things you know to be wrong.
  • Speak your own truth.
  • Express appreciation and affection toward others.
  • Find something that inspires you. Don’t waste time on distractions.
  • Allow time for play.
  • Leave room for down time.
  • Set aside a fixed time for reflection and meditation.
  • Focus on long-term pleasures, like planning a vacation, rather than short-term gratification.

Notice that nothing on this list is a matter of faith, religion, or spiritual aspiration. No one is appealing to perfect love, understanding, or compassion. Happiness doesn’t await a tremendous kind of personal transformation. Instead, these are practical choices that are well documented to improve a person’s happiness. One finding from positive psychology that’s actually positive is this: To make a happy life, make your day happy. Immediate decisions matter the most.

You might cast a skeptical eye at the things I’ve listed, believing that this is nothing but a laundry list that is too long to be useful. But let me suggest otherwise. Most people are unhappy because they ignored the items on the list. They allowed too much stress to enter their lives, or they refused to walk away from impossible situations, or they allowed themselves to become dependent on somebody else, just to give a few leading examples. The other lesson from this list is that living unconsciously doesn’t bring happiness – each item asks for focus and awareness. What you aren’t conscious of, you can’t change.

So before you lament that life is unfair or that only a select few are born to be happy, consider every item on the list as it applies to you today, right this minute. Set aside your beliefs about ultimate happiness and focus instead of today’s happiness. It’s also useful to itemise the things that are almost guaranteed to create unhappiness.

  • Putting up with unnecessary stress.
  • Denying that a problem exists and putting off its solution.
  • Isolating yourself, not interacting with people you care about.
  • Engaging in routine or meaningless work.
  • Exposing yourself to needless negativity and negative people in general.
  • Feeling depressed or anxious and simply putting up with it.
  • Allowing someone else to dominate you, make decisions for you, or exerting too much control.
  • Acting selfish, offering little or nothing to others.
  • Stubbornly enduring an impossible situation.
  • Putting your own fulfillment on hold.
  • Doing things you know to be wrong.
  • Going along to get along, not upholding your own values.
  • Forgetting to express how much you appreciate and value others.
  • Wasting time on distractions.
  • Treating everything as work, duty, or obligation.
  • Leaving no room for down time.
  • Allowing yourself no time to reflect and meditate.
  • Focusing on short-term gratification.

Many will be tempted to protest that two laundry lists are worse than one. Both are unrealistic. In fact, you have enough time in the day to do everything on the positive list and avoid everything on the negative list. What you need isn’t enough hours in the day. You need to value self-awareness. Once you want to be more aware, the intention to create happiness becomes realistic – you are motivated to be the author of our own fulfillment. It’s amazing how many people don’t value their happiness enough to pay attention to it. Once you do, you will discover for yourself if lifelong happiness is feasible or not. It won’t be a matter of theory or delayed gratification.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Miles Cave via photopin cc

photo credit: Miles Cave via photopin cc

How To Become A “Best Places To Work” Company

 writes…

The leaders of these companies all agreed that creating a workplace where employees enjoyed working started with the company culture. As leaders, they were in the position to significantly influence the culture.  These leaders learned that they have to:

  1. Live and breathe the values of the company
  2. Be transparent even when it is difficult
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

This list probably isn’t new to many of you, but it isn’t easy to accomplish.

The Best Places to Work survey and other employee engagement surveys are a snap shot in time. It measures how employees perceive the company they work for at the time they answer the questions.

But for a great workplace to be sustainable, leaders need to take the role of a movie director making sure that their actors and actresses have a great environment to be inspired to create Oscar winning performances day in and day out.

So what do you as a leader need to do to improve the perceptions of employees?

Firstyou need to understand that as a leader you need to personify the values of your company. Values are only values if you and the people around you practice them day in and day out.

As a leader, you need to be demonstrating company values in a way that is visible to others around you.  People can interpret your values by:

  1. The decisions you make
  2. Behaviors you show externally
  3. Organizational goals
  4. Interpersonal interactions
  5. Performance feedback

You need to insure that all of these are aligned with your company values.

Second, ask these questions at the end of each day to determine if you are living company values on a daily basis:

  1. What decisions did I make today and how do they reinforce specific company values?
  2. Which people did I interact with that demonstrated one of the company values?  And, how did I provide feedback to them to reinforce company values?
  3. Who made a decision or acted in a way that was not aligned with company values? And, how did I coach the person into alignment?
  4. On a scale of 1-10, how well was I aligned with company values today?

And thirdplan for the next day.  Who will you be interacting with and what potential decisions will you be making.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Dia™ via photopin cc

photo credit: Dia™ via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Is Spreading (NixonMcInnes)

Belinda Gannaway of Social Business Consultancy NixonMcInnes posts this success story about how their own company’s creative and immensely do-able solution to increasing happiness at work is starting to spread across the globe

When we launched the NixonMcInnes happiness index nearly three years ago, @steveWINton’s blog post Measuring Happiness in the Workplace generated a huge amount of interest…

But our low-tech approach to measuring happiness is now no longer restricted to our own office here in Brighton. Last week, Chris Evans at Radio 2 talked about us and our practice on air and while in Denver for the WorldBlu conference on democracy at work, Will received a call from Inc. Magazine in the US. They had been talking to a Californian company about their approach to measuring happiness at work – using tennis balls and buckets. Asked where they had got the idea from, they said they’d read about it on our blog post!

Following a day with us in Brighton, the digital team at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have now set up their own happy buckets. Tim Lloyd, Head of Digital Communications at BIS, explains: “We liked the look of it when we visited. And sometimes my feeling of success or disappointment is out of kilter with others in the team.”

So the happiness index gives Tim another way to gauge how his team is feeling – and whether that matches his perception. And then do something about it.

And they’re not the only ones – another of our clients, Orbit Group, one of the UK’s most forward thinking housing organisations have also set up their own Happiness Index in their Customer Services Centre. Alongside the buckets, they have an inspirational quote of the day, chosen by one of the advisors.

Happiness at work has been on our agenda for a long time and it is climbing up the global business agenda in big strides. People are starting to understand that as well as improving quality of life, a happier workforce delivers better customer experiences, are more flexible, adaptable and innovative. Put simply, happiness affects the bottom line.

Link to the original article

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photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

Here is how NixonMcInnes brilliantly use their deliberately low-tech~high-tech approach to measuring – and constantly working to improve people’s happiness at work:

Is Everybody Happy? Measuring Happiness in the Workplace

At the end of the day, as we leave the office, we each drop a tennis ball into either the Happy or Unhappy bucket, to capture how we felt, on balance, throughout the day. The following morning, the balls are counted (by either Max, or a band of merry pixies, I’m not sure which) and the totals scrawled on a piece of paper stuck to the door. At the end of each week, Pete, our industrious chairman, tots up the numbers and logs them in a Google spreadsheet. It’s poetry in motion.

To complete the feedback loop, we periodically fetch and process the data from the spreadsheet using Google App Engine, and display it on our internal, Geckoboard-powered dashboard, keeping the data nice and visible, and allowing us to answer the all-important question:over time, as a group, are we becoming more or less happy?

Last week was a bad week, but we’re working on it!

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photo credit: massdistraction via photopin cc

5 Ways To Make It Easier For Men (and Boys) To Channel Empathy and Compassion

This  Greater Good article by Kozo Hattor provides a whole selection of practical ideas for making the benefits of mindfulness more attractive and inviting to men and boys, and illustrating them with a number of success stories from the cartoon Kung Fu Panda channelling his inner peace to quell enemy fire, to the  Dhamma Brothers success with mindfulness practice to make lasting positive change in a men’s prison.

Boys and men commit the vast majority of violent acts, from domestic violence to murder. We’ve got to get at the root causes…

We’ve spent nine weeks on the Cultivating Compassion Training (CCT) course at Stanford University strengthening our attention, building awareness of our bodies, and learning to confront pain in ourselves and in others—and throughout the course, male students were dropping out like 12th-seeded teams in the NCAA basketball tournament.

This gender imbalance was not unique to Stanford’s CCT. Two-thirds of students at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, are female, according to teacher Gil Fronsdal, an ordained Soto Zen priest who was also a Theravada monk in Burma. Elad Levinson, the director of programs at Spirit Rock Mediation Center, says, “The sociodemographic of Spirit Rock consists of primarily women.”

All of these programs integrate mindfulness meditation—the practice of focusing attention on our thoughts and feelings without judging them. That might not sound like much, but study after study finds that practicing mindfulness can bring a host of physical, psychological, and social benefits. More recently, evaluations of programs like CCT are finding that mindfulness is a very effective way to cultivate compassionate intentions and behaviours.

Is that something that boys and men need? “Men tell you what is on their minds, but not what is in their heart,” says Levinson, who has 40 years of psychotherapy and 20 years of leading men’s groups under his belt. Perhaps not coincidentally, boys and men commit the vast majority of violent acts, from domestic violence to murder. Many struggle with expressing empathy and compassion

At military boot camps and police academies, men learn to control their breathing and focus on a target before firing a weapon. Sports are a great training ground for mindfulness: Basketball players are taught to clear their mind by going through a routine when shooting a free throw. Being in “the zone” is active meditation in its highest form.

Notice, however, that in all of these mindfulness practices, compassion is removed from the equation. These boys and men are being trained for win-or-lose competition..

While some argue that this is the result of a biological predisposition, contemporary research inneuroplasticity, by scientists like Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, finds that even short-term compassion meditation training (30 minutes a day for eight weeks) alters the brain activity in regions associated with positive emotional skills like empathy. That is true for both men and women. As Davidson says, “Compassion is indeed an emotional skill that can be trained.”

You can use your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better”

We understand the benefits. The need is there. But how do we get men to participate in mindfulness and compassion training? Here are five ways to plant the seeds of compassion in boys—and cultivate its growth in men.

1. Use pop culture to teach mindfulness to boys

When my wife and I tried to teach our sons how to meditate, they immediately sat down “crisscrossed apple-sauce” and closed their eyes. “What are you thinking about?” I asked my five year old. “Inner peace,” he replied.

It turns out that he learned this technique from Po in the movie Kung Fu Panda…

“If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation,” says the Dalai Lama. Some might argue with that point, but given research showing how mindfulness meditation leads to greater compassion, perhaps portrayals of meditation in action belong in the Netflix queues of young children.

Shows like Kung Fu Panda and Avatar: The Last Airbender feature characters that gain power—as well as peace of mind—through meditation. The Jedi Knights of Star Wars consistently preach mindfulness to each other, specifically as a way to foster compassion and restraint.

 

2. Give boys role models of mindfulness and compassion

I meditate every day. Sometimes I meditate in my sons’ bedroom, which gives them a sense of security. “Daddy, will you ‘medtate’ in our room, please?” is a common bedtime request of my three year old.

Our sons also practice Kristen Neff’s self-compassion techniques daily. Whenever they say, “thank you,” they put their hands on their hearts and bow deeply. My wife and I want them to connect with what Bruce Lee calls the “emotional content” of their actions. Some parents at our son’s kindergarten have noticed this pose of gratitude and taught their children the gesture.

3. Start with boys in school 

A program in Oakland, the Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA), “work in juvenile halls, detention camps, and at-risk schools in California, serving young people with histories of violence, substance abuse, and deep trauma,” as Congressman Tim Ryan writes in “Toward a More Mindful Nation.”

Scientific evaluations of many of [the mindfulness programs like this one] are finding that they boost academic achievement and reduce behavioral problems. As Congresman Ryan writes:

These people and many others all over America and the world are changing the way we approach chronic poverty and disconnection. These programs reveal to our children that a negative and dangerous life is not their only option. With mindfulness skills they see that they have choices and the wherewithal to overcome the adversity in their lives. As these programs grow and lead to deep, systemic change, our country will be a safer and healthier place because of it.

4. Meet men where they are 

Rather than try to get a few good men to attend compassion training, why don’t we find areas where men are a captive audience, and teach compassion there?

Mindfulness meditation has already been incorporated into the US military’s Marine Corps. At the Quantico, Virginia base, soldiers are offered an eight-week mindfulness course in order to better deal with anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. “I can’t think of any aspect of my life that it hasn’t helped me with,” reports Major Jeff Davis.

“Prisoners are such great role models for the rest of us,” says Jenny Phillips, director of the  Dhamma Brothers, a documentary about the beneficial effects of Vipassana meditation practices administered in an overcrowded, understaffed, maximum-security prison for men outside of Birmingham, Alabama. “The Dhamma Brothers suggests the possibility of freedom from that which imprisons us all,” writes Phillips in her director’s statement.

Phillips plans to release free teaching curriculum for schools to teach The Dhamma Brothers. The curriculum includes not only guides to teach and discuss the film and its companion book, but also experiential exercises on mindfulness, meditation, and cultivating loving-kindness.

Catching boys in the home, children at school, kids in front of the flat screen, and adults in institutions might just start a revolution that will end the gender imbalance of compassion.

5. Make compassion training manlier 

Finally, we might try to make mindfulness and compassion training more attractive to men.

Part of the struggle is to simply encourage men to lead other men into mindfulness. “Men tend to go deeper when they are not with women,” claims Elad Levinson. Gil Fronsdal notes that when he taught a meditation retreat without a female co-teacher, his gender ratio sometimes reached 50-50. So maybe having male teachers leading a class for men-only would help.

We can use examples of mindfulness in military, sports training, and popular culture in order to illustrate the concepts and build credibility among men. Levinson argues that compassion trainings need to be “culturally relevant, delivered by credible people who can relate to men, and learning accessible.”

Link to the original article

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photo credit: ‘PixelPlacebo’ via photopin cc

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photo credit: Gunnsi via photopin cc

The Advantage of Dealing With Giants In Our Life

Malcom Gladwell wants us to rethink how we think about the giants in our lives whether they be outsized opponents, disabilities, misfortunes, or oppression. We all face or have faced odds that seemed to be stacked against us. Odds that we are forced to deal with.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell shares two ideas. First, “much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” The battle makes us better. It develops us and reveals strengths that we didn’t know we had.

Second, giants are not always what we think they are. The powerful and strong are not always what they seem. Often their strength can expose their greatest vulnerability. Their size can be their undoing. What we see as their overwhelming advantages can also be the thing that limits their options.

We know but easily forget, that there is a point where more doesn’t make a difference and more still becomes a disadvantage. “We all assume,” writes Gladwell, “that being bigger and stronger and richer is always in our best interest.” A wealthy man told Gladwell about the relationship between wealth and parenting:

My own instinct is that it’s much harder than anybody believes to bring kinds up in a wealthy environment. People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they’re ruined by wealth as well because they lose their ambition and they lose their pride and they lose their sense of self-worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There’s some place in the middle which probably works best of all.

Gladwell makes the point that certainly some people triumph over their disabilities in spite of them. They simply won’t let them stand in their way. But there are those that succeed because of their disability. “They learned something in their struggle that proved to be of enormous advantage.” Challenges can cause us to develop skills we might not otherwise have developed if we choose to respond that way.

Although Gladwell makes the point that there are “desirable disadvantages,” in that it is the difficulty that eventually led to a person’s success and made them a better person, it is not to suggest that we should wish for more disadvantages or wish them on other people. We all have disadvantages, some are huge and some are not, but the lesson is in how we see them. How we react.

Some of what we perceive as advantages—opportunities or resources that we wish we had—have actually ruined people or diminished their full potential in some way.

The thread that runs through all of Gladwell’s examples is how individuals or organizations turned their disadvantages to their advantage—how they defeated giants by reframing their perceived advantage. There is no formula here as to what will work and what won’t. The question is as it has always been, how will you respond to what you have been given?

The key lesson is that for the most part, difficulties are what you make of them.

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photo credit: xJason.Rogersx via photopin cc

Everyday Jet Lag

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

If you consider yourself to be a born morning person or an inveterate night owl, there is new research that supports your desire to wake up early or stay up late.

Each of us has a personal “chronotype,” or unique circadian rhythm, says Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and one of the world’s experts on sleep. In broad strokes, these chronotypes are usually characterized as early, intermediate or late, corresponding to people who voluntarily go to bed and wake early, at a moderate hour or vampirishly late. If you are forced to wake up earlier than your body naturally would, you suffer from what Roenneberg calls “social jet lag.”People with an early chronotype may do well with a 7 a.m. workday rising time, but others do not. Sleeping out of sync with your innate preferences can be detrimental to your health, especially for late chronotypes, who tend to be the most at odds with typical work schedules.

…Research has shown that a single hour of social jet lag, the mismatch between your chronotype and your schedule, increases your risk for obesity by about 33 percent. In a study published in June in Chronobiology International, late-night chronotypes gained more weight during their freshman years at college than other new students did, even though college is one of the best fits for night owls.

The brain can also be affected. Another study in Chronobiology found that “individuals having a preference for evening hours to carry out their daily activities are prone to depression,” more than earlier chronotypes are…

Almost every cell in our bodies is likely to reflect our chronotype. In a study in May in Chronobiology, scientists … found that late chronotypes tended to have activity in genes that contribute to later sleep onset, offering further evidence that the urge to stay up late or to rise early is not a lifestyle choice but resides in our DNA.

Few people have the luxury of organizing their lives by their chronotypes. If you can’t convince your boss that your body clock requires a later start, consider “getting outside more,” Roenneberg says. Infusions of sunlight nudge most chronotypes toward an earlier sleep time. …The summertime clock typically disrupts sleep for all chronotypes, he says. “Everybody sleeps better when it ends.”

Want to know your personal chronotype? Complete the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire developed by Dr. Roenneberg and his colleagues.

Link to the original article 

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photo credit: Marooned via photopin cc

The Key To Great Feedback: Praise the Process, Not the Person

by Heidi Grant Halvorson

…scientific studies of motivation have identified clear, principled reasons why some types of feedback work, and others don’t. It is neither mysterious nor random. If you’ve gotten it wrong in the past (and who hasn’t?), then you can do a better job giving feedback from now on by sticking to a few simple rules:

Rule #1:  When things go wrong, keep it real.   

It’s not easy to tell someone that he screwed up, knowing it will cause him anxiety, disappointment, or embarrassment. But don’t make the mistake of protecting a team member’s feelings at the expense of the truth, because without honest feedback he can’t possibly improve. Remember that negative emotions exist for a reason – they motivate us to take action to fix the problem.

Never try to make a team member feel that he wasn’t responsible for what went wrong (assuming he is, in fact, to blame), just because you don’t want to be “hard” on him. Letting him off the hook for his own mistake will rob him of a sense of personal control over his own work. Nothing is more de-motivating than feeling powerless. The short-term discomfort is nothing compared to the long-term damage that powerlessness can do.

Rule #2:  When things go wrong, fight self-doubt.

We all need to believe that success is within reach, regardless of the mistakes we have made in the past. This requires us to be tactful, to share feedback without surrendering the possibility for improvement. To do this,

  • Make your advice specific. What exactly can your team member do improve? When you are a leader, helping others figure out how to do it right is just as important as letting them know what they are doing wrong.
  • Emphasize actions that she has the power to changeTalk about aspects of her performance that are under her control, like the time and effort she put into a project, or the strategic approach she used.
  • Avoid praising effortStudies show that being complimented for “effort” after a failure not only makes people feel stupid, but also leaves them feeling incapable of reaching their goal. In these instances, it’s really best to stick topurely informational feedback – if effort isn’t the problem, figure out what is, and let the employee know.

Rule #3: When things go right, avoid praising ability. 

I know we all like to hear how smart and talented we are, and so naturally we assume that it’s what our team members want to hear, too. Of course they do. But it’s not what they need to hear to stay motivated.

Studies show that when we are praised for having high ability, it leaves us vulnerable to self-doubt when we encounter difficulty. If being successful means you are “a natural,” then it’s easy to conclude when you’re having a hard time that you just don’t have what it takes.

Instead, praise aspects of your employee’s performance that wereunder his control. Talk about his creative approach, his careful planning, his persistence and effort, his collaborative attitude. Praise the process, not the person. That way, when he runs into trouble later on, he’ll remember the process that helped him to succeed in the past, and put that knowledge to good use.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

7 Habits of Highly Positive People

HENRIK EDBERG writes…

In this article, I will share the seven habits on how to be a highly positive person — or if you are already positive, to become even more positive. If you are in a funk right now, following these habits will also get you right back on track.

1. Don’t let bad things pull you down

Highly positive people take bad things and see the good things in them.

Bad things can happen to anyone. The difference between a positive person and a negative one isn’t the events that happen to them but how they respond to those events. While negative people let bad things pull them down, positive people don’t. They take bad things and make the best out of them.

As Randy Pausch once said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

A great example is Oprah Winfrey, one of the most influential women in the world. She was, for a time, the world’s only black billionaire. Oprah may be rich and successful today, but she faced extreme hardship as a child.

When she was born up till the age of six, Oprah lived in rural poverty with her grandmother. She was so poor that she often wore dresses made of potato sacks, for which the local children made fun of her for.

When she was nine, Oprah was sexually abused–by the people closest to her, her cousin, uncle, and a family friend. At 13, after years of abuse, Oprah ran away from home. She was pregnant at 14 but her son died shortly after birth.

She attended an affluent suburban high school, Lincoln High School, but had her poverty constantly rubbed in her face as she would ride to school with fellow African-Americans who were servants of her classmates’ families.

Despite this extreme hardship, Oprah did not let it get her down. She overcame her adversity to become a benefactor to others, first becoming a radio anchor at 19, then having her own daytime talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show at 22. Through the show, she has helped millions of people around the world, empowering people to take charge of their life and drawing from both her life lessons and her interviewees’ life lessons to inspire others.

If Oprah had caved in the face of hardship, she would never be where she is in life. She is such a positive light because she chose to make the best out of difficulties she was dealt with and subsequently use these lessons to help others.

Likewise for you, don’t ever let yourself get pulled down by your difficulties. Rather, ask yourself what you can learn from them and how you can turn them around to create the life you seek. Such a proactive approach is the start to living an empowered, happy life.

2. Appreciate every good thing that comes your way

Highly positive people are grateful for every good thing that comes their way.

A month ago I conducted a 14-day gratitude challenge on my personal development blog, Personal Excellence, to over 200 participants. Aside from the assigned gratitude tasks to be done one task a day, I asked my participants to identify at least three things to be grateful for every day.

While it was awkward to deliberately find things to be grateful for at the beginning, many participants quickly eased into the task after a couple of days. From friendships, to daily coffee, to burnt toast, to family vacations, to life itself, many gained a new-found appreciation for these very things which they tended to take for granted.

The participants emerged from the challenge more appreciative and positive of life, even though their lives have technically not changed much compared to before the challenge.

Many of us tend to focus on the negative things in life and that naturally makes us feel negative. Why not pay attention to the many great positive things in our lives instead? For example, instead of being upset at the traffic jam you are in right now, why not be grateful for the vehicle you get to drive?

Instead of lamenting about your lousy boss, why not be grateful that you have a boss to lament about as opposed to being retrenched or unemployed? You’ll be surprised to see how many great things you already have going on with this little mindset shift.

3. Lead a well-rounded life

Highly positive people lead a well-rounded life. This means they don’t let work take over their life; neither do they let their relationships override their personal agenda.

I used to devote all my attention to work, to the point where I deprioritized my social life and my personal leisure. While it was great fun working since my work (helping others to grow) is my passion, I became very uninspired after a while because I was neglecting my other life areas. This was when I realize the importance of a well-rounded life to my emotional well-being.

So today, I ensure that I devote time to the core areas of my life: career, love, family, friends, self (through recreation), and contribution. My life wheel video shares the 11 core areas that make up our lives (collectively termed as the “life wheel”) and how to start achieving a 10/10 in all the areas.

4. Deal with your problems right away; don’t let them linger

Highly positive people deal with their problems right away rather than ignore them.

One thing I consistently teach on my blog and in my coaching is not to ignore your problems. Because ignoring your problems doesn’t mean that they will go away. Often times they will linger around and weigh you down subconsciously, even though you don’t realize that.

For example, I used to be an emotional eater where I would eat in response to my emotions like stress and sadness. For a long time I never dealt with this problem, choosing instead to drown myself in food whenever I felt bad.

Later I realized that I was utterly miserable because my stress eating (a) was causing me to gain extra weight, and (b) had turned me into a slave of food. It was only two years ago when I began tackling this issue and a year ago when I achieved complete resolution.

A simple tip to deal with your problems is to (a) keep a record of all outstanding issues you’d like to deal with, then (b) work on them one at a time. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming tackling multiple problems, but doing it one at a time will help you to manage things easily.

5. Let go

Highly positive people let go of the things that do not support them in living a conscious and positive life. This includes toxic and negative relationships.

I once had to let go of a deep friendship of 10 years because we were severely holding each other back. While I was always working on bettering myself, he tended to procrastinate on his own development and would at times live vicariously through my progress.

His lack of proactiveness in living the life of his dreams would negatively impact me as we had always agreed to work on our life goals together and take action together as best buds. I also felt that I was responsible for his inactions if he was truly living vicariously through my own goal progress.

While we tried to work things out in the beginning, it never happened. All our attempts to resolve this issue drained us as we kept going round in circles. After years as buddies, we were simply not compatible as each other’s good friend anymore.

We finally parted ways after 10 years and we immediately felt relieved of a dead weight.

Looking back I wish we had moved on earlier because the later years of our friendship actually drained us more than they helped us to grow.

Think about the negative things in your life right now — from toxic people, to energy vampires, to negative beliefs, to unhappy thoughts, to things that trigger unhappy memories — and start letting go of them, one by one. The sooner you let them go, the happier you will be.

6. Take responsibility for your life

Highly positive people take responsibility for their lives because they realize that happiness is a choice.

For all the problems, heartaches, toxic people, and baggage you are facing, take responsibility for them. While you may not have created those problems and they may be the result of others’ misactions, you can still take responsibility for experiencing them. Doing so puts you in the position to put a stop to them.

For example, I once experienced a heartbreak with someone I liked. While initially I faulted him for bringing me such pain and anguish, it was only in the later years when I took responsibility for my emotions and the situation that I was finally able to move on.

I later realized that I can literally control my happiness by taking responsibility of my negative emotions (and subsequently my life). Because it’s when I do that I can then take action to address my unhappiness and the situations causing it, rather than putting blame on others. Subsequently, I was able to easily move on from two other relationships that didn’t work out.

7. Spread love and kindness (by helping others)

Last but not least, highly positive people spread love and kindness to others without expecting to get anything back in return.

One of the most rewarding things one can do in life is to help others. This is something I have experienced every day for my past five years of running my personal development blog.

The changes I see in my readers’ lives, the happy looks on their faces, and the deep emotional shifts they experience from reading my articles or attending my courses — these bring so much joy into my life and are reason enough for me to continue what I’m doing forever.

While some of us may think that we need to achieve X status or Y age before we can help others, that’s not true at all. The simplest things can help others: one little phone call to a distanced friend, one pat on the back to congratulate a co-worker for a job well done, or a shoulder to lean on for a friend in need.

I started my blog at a relatively young age of 24 which most people wouldn’t think of as an old-enough age to offer help or advice to others. That was a limiting belief on their part though, because we can always help others no matter how old we are or where we are in life.

In the past five years I was able to help many break through limiting careers, let go of toxic relationships, gain strength from hard moments, excel in their goals, and achieve greater heights by simply focusing on helping those I can help, one step at a time.

If I had thought that one person couldn’t make a difference, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post today, and neither would I be running a personal development blog or doing life coaching for others.

You have more power than you think you have, so use that to help others. You will find that when you give, you will naturally receive in return as well.

Apply these 7 habits of highly positive people

Which habits resonate with you? Which can you start applying right away?

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: mondi via photopin cc

Warsan Shire announced as first ever Young Poet Laureate for London

Carol Ann Duffy today announces the first ever Young Poet Laureate for London at a reception event on National Poetry Day at the Houses of Parliament.

24 year old Londoner, Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire, has been selected from a shortlist of six talented young poets, and will go on to enjoy a life-changing, whirlwind year of commissions, public appearances and residencies – creating work that reflects on our ever changing capital, culture and society. This will begin with a residency at the Houses of Parliament itself. She will be supported in her role by London’s writer development agency, Spread the Word

Steve Moffitt, Chief Executive, A New Direction, said:

‘It is a privilege for A New Direction to support and be part of the realisation of the first Young Poet Laureate for London. It is our vision that London leads the world as a city where young people can participate in and experience the best of arts and culture.

The Young Poet Laureate is symbolic of what is best about our city and creates a unique opportunity for a new voice to be heard. The opportunity not only offers a platform for the best in spoken word and poetry young talent to be celebrated and shared but also harnesses London’s greatest asset – our young people.’

Warsan Shire is a 24 year old Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer, editor and educator who is based in London.

Born in 1988, Warsan has read her work extensively all over Britain and internationally – including recent readings in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, America and Kenya – and her début book, ’TEACHING MY MOTHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH’ (flipped eye), was published in 2011.

Link to read the original article 

Warsan Shire – For Women Who Are Difficult to Love

‘…you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.’

To Be Vulnerable and Fearless: An Interview With Warsan Shire

by Kameelah Janan Rasheed

…In “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth”, she fills the vacant pages with haunting images of women’s bodies occupied by war and displacement. In Ugly, a girl “carries whole cities in her belly” and a mother cautions that “if she is covered in continents,/if her teeth are small colonies,/if her stomach is an island/if her thighs are borders?/What man wants to lie down/and watch the world burn/in his bedroom?/Your daughter’s face is a small riot,/her hands are a civil war,/refugee camp behind each ear”. Her poetry carries the energy of multiple women, the depth of many generations, and the weight of many lives lived…

When Warsan Shire writes, she does precisely that; she opens a wound and as an emotional cartographer, maps the terrain of her trauma and sutures the wound through her poetry. Fearless and vulnerable, she pulls back layers to expose not only the pain, but the healing as well.

On “No Shame Day”, Warsan shared about struggling with Bulimia, stating, “That whole part of my life is almost a myth, I was twenty years old, killing myself and not one person noticed.”  Healed by the site of an “oiled and steamed” woman with hips as wide as hers at a hammam in Marrakech, Warsan reminds her reader, “if our secrets are secrets because we are told to be ashamed, then we must share them.”…

Back on February 25, 2011, you wrote “the birth name”.  In this piece you wrote, “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue” and ”my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” Can you discuss these two lines?

Warsan means “good news” and Shire means “to gather in one place”. My parents named me after my father’s mother, my grandmother. Growing up, I absolutely wanted a name that was easier to pronounce, more common, prettier. But then I grew up and understood the power of a name, the beauty that comes in understanding how your name has affected who you are. My name is indigenous to my country, it is not easy to pronounce, it takes effort to say correctly and I am absolutely in love with the sound of it and its meaning. …

Clearly, you are not “just a poet”.  In your biography, you comment that you curate and teach workshops around the art of healing through narrative. Can you describe the structure of these workshops? Why did you begin these workshops? What is you favorite moment from these workshops?

My workshops are around the idea of using poetry to heal trauma, and I begun these workshops because I wanted to share with people how I had found healing, through creating…the cathartic ritual of letting go and using memory and confession as a form of creation. My favorite moment is when we share the work. And the recognition of safety. The trust that we have built in such a small space of time. The permission to be vulnerable.

Link to read the original article in full

Warsan Shire – Trying To Swim With God

photo credit: Elena Kalis via photopin cc

photo credit: Elena Kalis via photopin cc

The Quiet Secret To Success

When we look at people who are at the top of their field, they all have grit: persistence and passion for their long-term goals. But this doesn’t mean that they burn the midnight oil day in and day out in pursuit of achievement.

Just as elite performers are strategic about what they practice, they are also strategic about how long they practice for. If you think success requires practicing until your fingers bleed or mind spins or muscles give out, for hour upon hour upon hour of endless, relentless, intrinsically boring practice, I have some good news for you: Research suggests that’s not the way to get there.

In our modern, fast-paced, and technology-driven culture, we sometimes forget that we are humans, not computers. Like other animals, we humans are governed by our ultradian and circadian rhythms. Most people are familiar with the concept of our circadian rhythms: In the 24-hour period between when the sun rises and sets, we sleep and wake in predictable cycles. When we travel into different time zones, our circadian rhythms get out of whack, and as a consequence, our lives also can feel similarly discombobulated. …

Our brain-wave patterns cycle in ultradian rhythms as well, and about every hour and a half to two hours, we experience a significant “ultradian dip,” when our energy drops and sleep becomes possible. When we work through these dips—relying on caffeine, adrenaline, and stress hormones to keep us alert—instead of letting our bodies and brains rest, we become stressed and jittery, and our performance falters.

In his studies of truly great performers, K. Anders Ericsson, the psychologist and author of several landmark studies on elite performance about whom I wrote last week, found that they practiced and rested a lot more than their good but not elite peers. For example, violinists destined to become professional soloists practiced an average of 3.5 hours per day, typically in three separate sessions of 60-90 minutes each. Good but not great performers, in contrast, typically practiced an average of 1.4 hours per day, with no deliberate rest breaking up their practice session.

So it isn’t just that elite performers work more than others; they rest more, as well. The top violinists mentioned above slept an hour a night more than their less-accomplished classmates. They were also far more likely to take a nap between practice sessions—nearly three hours of napping a week.

Super-high-achievers sleep significantly more than the average American. On average, Americans get only 6.5 hours of sleep per night. (Even though studies show that 95 percent of the population needs between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.) Elite performers tend to get 8.6 hours of sleep a night; elite athletes need even more sleep. One study showed that when Stanford swimmers increased their sleep time to 10 hours a night, they felt happier, more energetic—and their performance in the pool improved dramatically.

High performance requires more sleep because it involves higher rates of learning and sometimes physical growth. When we are awake, adequate sleep allows us to focus our attention on our practice; when we are sleep deprived, our overworked neurons become uncoordinated, and we start having trouble accessing previously learned information.

When we sleep, our brain consolidates what we’ve learned while we were awake, making it a part of our working memory that we can access later. Sleep allows us to remember tomorrow how to do what we’ve practiced today, and it enables us to recall the information and knowledge we’ve just learned.

The amount of sleep that we get—and how disciplined we are about following our body’s natural circadian and ultradian rhythms—affects not just our health but our productivity and performance. But what does sleep have to do with grit?

Grit is the ability to maintain perseverance and passion towards our long-term goals; we cannot persevere in the face of difficulty if we are fatigued physically, mentally, or emotionally. We can’t persist over the decade or so it takes to achieve true mastery if we become sick or exhausted or burned out along the way. And we can’t improve our skills—intellectually, physically, or artistically—if our learning, memory, and reaction times are impaired due to lack of sleep and rest.

So being gritty isn’t just about pushing yourself 24/7 toward your goals, in both good and bad weather. It’s about making progress toward your goals consistently and deliberately, in a way that works with our human biology, allowing for proper refueling and consolidation of knowledge.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Kevin_Morris via photopin cc

Rumination: The Danger of Dwelling

By Denise Winterman

The UK’s biggest ever online test into stress, undertaken by the BBC’s Lab UK and the University of Liverpool, has revealed that rumination is the biggest predictor of the most common mental health problems in the country.

A bit of self-reflection can be a good thing, say psychologists. But just how serious can it get when introspection goes awry and thoughts get stuck on repeat, playing over and over in the mind?

Rumination and self-blame have long been accepted by health professionals as part of the problems that can lead to depression and anxiety – the two most common mental health problems in the UK, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

But new research has demonstrated just how significant and serious their impact on mental health can be.

The findings of a ground-breaking study, published in the journal PLOS ONE today, suggest that brooding too much on negative events is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety and determines the level of stress people experience. The research even suggests a person’s psychological response is a more important factor than what has actually happened to them…

“We found that people who didn’t ruminate or blame themselves for their difficulties had much lower levels of depression and anxiety, even if they’d experienced many negative events in their lives,” says Peter Kinderman, who led the study and is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool…

The human mind is an extremely complex machine and it’s generally accepted there is no single cause for depression and anxiety by professionals in the field. But some factors have more impact than others.

The study found traumatic life events, such as abuse or childhood bullying, were the biggest cause of anxiety and depression when dwelled upon. This is followed by family history, income and education. Next comes relationship status and social inclusion.

“But these didn’t merely ’cause’ depression and anxiety,” he says.

“The most important way in which these things led to depression and anxiety was by leading a person to ruminate and blame themselves for the problem…

It’s important to get across what the findings mean for the average person, says Dr Ellie Pontin, a clinical psychologist and research associate at the University of Liverpool, who was also involved in the study.

“It’s actually a really positive message and should give people hope,” she says.

“It can be very hard to be told your problems are because of what you have experienced in the past or your genetics, things you can’t change. The way you think and deal with things can be changed.”

Other professionals agree…

“And helping someone tackle negative thought processes is not something that has to be done exclusively by clinical psychologists.

Link to the original article

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photo credit: David Kracht via photopin cc

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

BY 

People can tell whether or not they have your full attention. You may think that you can fake it, but you can’t. You may believe that because you are on the telephone, invisible to the person with whom you’re speaking, that they won’t know that your mind is really somewhere else. But they know….

I know we live in a world of distraction, but this makes your full undivided attention a gift. Giving that gift is proof positive that you care about the other person and what they’re saying.

I know that it’s difficult to focus when there is so much going on around you. But really listening to someone is also a gift. The person you are speaking with wants to be heard–just like you want to be heard. The ability to listen can define and differentiate you in a world full of people who can’t–or won’t.

I know you’re busy. If you want to reclaim your time, then focus on being effective in the moment, not distracted. Effectiveness with other human beings is accomplished not through efficiency, but through caring. And giving someone your full attention and focus is an exceptional gift of caring in the world that is too busy and too distracted to care.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: Nicholas Erwin via photopin cc

7 Life Changing Benefits of a Surprisingly Simple Meditation Technique

By 

“Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

if you can, I’d encourage you to get out of the city and go for a walk.

Here’s why:

1. You will learn to cope with the ups and downs.

There are times when the going is easy, where you run for the sheer exhilaration of it.

But you’ll discover inner reserves of strength to cope with the pouring rain and the difficult climbs, and appreciate the blue skies even more.

2. You will learn that small steps quickly add up to a big achievement.

When I was pregnant, I had muscle pain in my hip, which made walking extremely painful. I ended up on crutches, taking the tiniest step after small step in agony.

It took me forty-five minutes to walk a route that usually took ten.

But I knew I would get there in the end if I just kept moving, because, as my dad always says, “Just remember, all you have to do is get one foot in front of the other.”

And then do it again.

And again.

It feels like glacial progress when you’re in the middle of it.

But when you look back, you will marvel at how far you’ve come.

3. You will learn that sometimes, the path ahead is unclear.

This is when you have to really be courageous, trusting your intuition and experience to find the right path, and finally coming to a decision, and moving on.

4. You will learn flexibility.

Often when walking, you have to change your route because the weather or other unexpected obstacles can dash the best-laid plans.

You will learn to shrug your shoulders, go with the flow, and adjust.

5. You will learn to keep going, no matter what.

It’s called perseverance.

When the climb uphill seems endless and painful, you remind yourself that the pain is temporary.

You know from doing this countless times before that it will be so worth it in the end.

6. You will learn to appreciate every sparkling, unique second.

When you’re walking, your senses are alert. You are truly alive.

You notice curious birds hovering overhead, a blade of grass fluttering in the breeze, the sounds of a trickling stream, the shape of the cloud, and the way the wind ripples the water on the lake.

You will marvel at how the combination of all these things on this particular day at this particular moment will never again be repeated in the entire history of the universe in quite the same way, and feel so grateful.

Others may be making the same journey as you, but the paths they chose to the top may be different. They’ll see different things, and experience the day uniquely.

No one will ever experience this moment in the same way as you.

7. You will learn the importance of the journey.

They say when you’re having fun, time flies.

But I think that’s wrong, because when I walk, time seems to slow down.

I absorb so much, notice so much, simply be so present in the walk that I feel like I’ve been walking for hours when in reality, only a short time has passed.

Actually, it is when I’m in my normal routine in London that the days whiz by in a flash, and I wonder what I’ve achieved.

The familiar surroundings, the concrete of the city, the crowds of rushing, stressed out commuters—meditation is certainly possible in these circumstances, but for a stronger will than mine.

In the city, we are so focused on achieving our goals that our mind is often totally focused on our plans for the future. When we reach one goal, we think “Right, done, what’s next on my to do list?” We rarely sit back and take time to enjoy the journey.

As my meditation teacher says, “We are human beings. Simply be.”

Walking is the best way I know to experience this.

Why not try it?

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: dogpong via photopin cc

Daydreaming in autumn leaves

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The Importance of Taking Time Out (The School of Life)

Damon Young writes in The School of Life Blog

For many, “me time” has a hint of triviality. If hours devoted to paid and unpaid work—from the desk to the freeway to the nappy-change table—are useful, then minutes to oneself are useless: the moments left behind by valuable labour. There is also a mood of luxury to it, as if “me time” were a day spa commodity: expensive pampering with coconut, lime and sandalwood, while body parts are trimmed, painted or rubbed.

Yet “me time” is simply another word for leisure. And leisure need not be useless or costly. The Romans had a word for it: otium. For a civilised retiree, otium … was time to cultivate oneself; to reshape and rejuvenate one’s character.

The scholar and statesman Seneca, for example, took up philosophy in his spare hours. “It is not carried on with the object of passing the day in an entertaining sort of way and taking the boredom out of leisure,” he wrote in a letter to his friend Lucilius. “It moulds and builds the personality, orders one’s life, regulates one’s conduct.”

As Seneca saw it, his hours of otium were essential for a good life: time to take stock, reflect upon himself and the world, and to improve his mind with conversation and study. “What really ruins our characters,” he wrote, “is the fact that none of us looks back over his life.” Seneca’s point was straightforward: his character required a mindful captain, not just a cruising autopilot. His “me time” was very serious, precisely because of what the “me” suggests: the cultivation of the self.

…Exercise is also part of “me time”: not only because it relaxes us, but also because it improves us. Regular jogging, for example, can promote the virtue of constancy: less caprice, more consistency. Martial arts like Judo and boxing can develop courage. A brisk walk is good for the lungs and legs, and also the intellect: the state of “transient hypofrontality” helps innovative ideas to develop. Rock climbing prompts humility.

“Me time” can also be for art and craft. Working at Lloyd’s Bank and caring for his wife Vivien, T.S. Eliot had “me time” in the very early mornings: for poetry. The discipline he developed as a banking clerk was translated into his art. His art, in turn, made his strained emotions and harried thoughts more vivid, clear and beautiful. He was exhausted, but oddly contented with himself (if not his marriage). Jane Austen had “me time” too, with a few intricate manuscripts: one of them, Pride and Prejudice, has its bicentennial birthday this year.

Not everyone has Eliot and Austen’s gifts, but creative hobbies need not be world-class. The point is to translate the vague tangle of life into something ‘out there’ in the world. We ‘objectify’ ourselves, to use Marx’s helpful language, in phrases, clay figures, pastel sketches, knitted jumpsuits, and the garden. (Jane Austen was also a very keen gardener.) In doing so, we can better reflect on ourselves. Alongside their decorative pleasures, and the joy of skillful striving (often called ‘flow’), art and craft are a chance for a more honest consciousness.

In each case, “me time” is neither trivial nor necessarily costly. What makes it valuable is not its price tag or popularity. Its worth is existential: “me time” is for care of the self. This is selfish, not because it thieves from others, but because it sees the self as an adventure: something to keep revising and refining.

At its best, this adventure is no egotistical conceit: by developing ourselves, we have more to give others. With regular “me time” we can be stronger, more lucid, courageous or aware of our own flaws. At the very least, we are simply more sane.

Link to read the original article

Teach Kids to Daydream

 writes…

Mental downtime makes people more creative and less anxious.

Today’s children are exhausted, and not just because one in three kids is not getting sufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation in kids (who require at least nine hours a night, depending on age) has been found to significantly decrease academic achievement, lower standardized achievement and intelligence test scores, stunt physical growth, encourage drug and alcohol use, heighten moodiness and irritability, exacerbate symptoms of ADD, and dramatically increase the likelihood of car accidents among teens. While the argument for protecting our children’s sleep time is compelling, there is another kind of rest that is equally underestimated and equally beneficial to our children’s academic, emotional, and creative lives: daydreaming.

Daydreaming has been found to be anything but counter-productive. It may just be the hidden wellspring of creativity and learning in the guise of idleness.

…I’m talking about the kind of mind-wandering that happens when the brain is free of interruption and allowed to unhook from the runaway train of the worries of the day. When the mind wanders freely between random thoughts and memories that float through our consciousness, unbidden. Television, videogames, and other electronic distractions prevent this kind of mental wandering because they interrupt the flow of thoughts and memories that cement the foundation of positive, productive daydreaming.

Legendary cognitive psychologist Jerome L. Singer goes so far as to call daydreaming our default mental state. Singer proposed in his 1966 book, Daydreaming: an Introduction to the Experimental Study of Inner Experience, that we have two mental networks, working memory and daydreaming. The two cannot operate at the same time, so when we engage our working memory network, we shut off our daydreaming network.

The two forms of thinking may be different, and mutually exclusive, but they are both necessary to our emotional and intellectual health.

Scott Barry Kaufman, cognitive psychologist and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, argues that while this dreamy, reflective state might look like idleness to an outside observer, daydreaming kids are at work. “Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming”—an article Kaufman cowrote with Rebecca McMillan—reads:

There is, however, another way of looking at mind wandering, a personal perspective, if you will. For the individual, mind wandering offers the possibility of very real, personal reward, some immediate, some more distant.

These rewards include self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion.

In other words, daydreaming only appears lazy from the outside, but viewed from the inside — or from the perspective of a psychologist, such as Kaufman, or a neuroscientist, such as Mary Helen Immordino-Yang — a complicated and extremely productive neurological process is taking place. Viewed from the inside, our children are exploring the only space where they truly have autonomy: their own minds.

Immordino-Yang’s work on the virtue of mental downtime includes the paper “Rest is not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education.” The title quotes a 19th-century British banker named John Lubbock, who wrote, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” Lubbock, according to Immordino-Yang, was way ahead of his time in understanding the value of idleness to our essential neurological functioning. What Lubbock called rest, Immordino-Yang calls “constructive internal reflection,” and she considers it is vital to learning and emotional well-being:

[I]nadequate opportunity for children to play and for adolescents to quietly reflect and to daydream may have negative consequences — both for social-emotional well-being and for their ability to attend well to tasks.

…When researchers sought to find ways to alleviate the anxiety caused by high-stakes testing, they found that simply giving students a few minutes to think about and write down their thoughts on the test significantly increased test scores, particularly for students for whom test anxiety had become a habit. In the researchers’ words,

Expressive writing eliminates the relation commonly seen between test anxiety and poor test performance. Moreover, it is not any writing that benefits performance, but expressing worries about an upcoming high-pressure situation that accounts for enhanced exam scores under pressure.

…we should stop snapping our children out of their daydreams. Instead, we should protect this time much as we protect bedtime. Kick your children outside and close the door behind them. Encourage them go for a walk around the neighborhood without an electronic device. Tell your child what I have told you, that that silence and daydreaming are as important to their health and learning as sleeping and studying. Take a serious and objective look at how much time your child spends playing video games, responding to texts, messaging, watching television, or messing around on the Internet and carve out some of that time for daydreaming.

Model this behavior for them and re-discover your own love of daydreaming; don’t snap out of it, fall into it, and encourage your children to do the same. I have incorporated opportunities to daydream into my daily life, because they feed both my teaching and my writing. First thing in the morning when I am awake, but have not yet opened my eyes. On walks in the woods, free of earbuds or an agenda. The otherwise onerous and repetitive task of weed-pulling and raking has also proven fertile ground for this kind of mental meandering. The activity does not matter: Any place or occasion or task that allows the brain to wander will do.

Teach your kids how to just be. How to value silence and be at peace with nothing but their thoughts to occupy them. Make the romantic notion of laying back on the soft grass with nothing to do other than to watch the clouds pass overhead a reality. … To paraphrase two of my favorite dreamers, William Shakespeare and W.H. Auden, round out our children’s days with sleep and allow them to build their air castles undisturbed.

Link to read original article

Why We Need Fairytales – Jeannette Winterson on Oscar Wilde

…since JK Rowling‘s Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, children’s literature has been repositioned as central, not peripheral, shifting what children read, what we write about what children read, and what we read as adults. At last we seem to understand that imagination is ageless. Wilde’s children’s stories are splendid. In addition, it seems to me that they should be revisited as a defining part of his creative process…

Fairytales always involve reversals of fortune. This works in both directions: beggars become kings, palaces collapse into hovels, the spoilt son eats thistles. Wilde’s own reversal of fortune from fame and money to destitution and exile shares the same rapid drama. Fairytales are also and always about transformation of various kinds – frogs into princes, coal into gold – and if they are not excessively moralistic, there is usually a happy ending. Wilde’s fairytale transformations turn on loss. Even “The Star-Child”, in which meanness and vanity are overcome by compassion, ends with a kingdom that lasts only three years…

Reason and logic are tools for understanding the world. We need a means of understanding ourselves, too. That is what imagination allows. When a child reads of a Nightingale who bleeds her song into a rose for love’s sake, or of a Selfish Giant who puts a wall round life, or of a Fisherman who wants to be rid of his Soul, or of a statue who feels the suffering of the world more keenly than the Mathematics Master who scoffs at his pupils for dreaming about Angels, the child knows at once both the mystery and truth of such stories. We have all at some point in our lives been the overlooked idiot who finds a way to kill the dragon, win the treasure, marry the princess.

As explanations of the world, fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not. There are different ways of knowing. “Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: rogiro via photopin cc

The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction Like Nothing Else

BY: JONATHAN GOTTSCHALL, author The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, writes

In the first of a three-part series, author Jonathan Gottschall discusses the science of storytelling–not just escapism, stories have real power to hold human attention and shape our thinking.

Humans live in a storm of stories. We live in stories all day long, and dream in stories all night long. We communicate through stories and learn from them. We collapse gratefully into stories after a long day at work. Without personal life stories to organize our experience, our own lives would lack coherence and meaning. Homo sapiens (wise man) is a pretty good definition for our species. But Homo fictus (fiction man) would be about as accurate. Man is the storytelling animal…

As Scott Donaton argued in a recent Co.Create post, … “The challenge is clear by now,” Donaton writes, “Intrusive, interruptive, self-centered marketing no longer works the way it once did, and its effectiveness will only continue to diminish in the social age. The question is what will replace the legacy model. There’s a one-word answer: stories.” Story is the answer for two reasons, both of them backed by compelling science. First, because people are naturally greedy for stories, they have a unique ability to seize and rivet our attention. Second, stories aren’t just fun escapism–they have an almost spooky ability to mold our thinking and behavior. In this post, I’ll describe the science behind the attention-seizing power of stories, leaving their molding power for a follow-up post…

The human mind is a wanderer by nature. The daydream is the mind’s default state. Whenever the mind doesn’t have something really important to do, it gets bored and wanders off into la-la land. Studies show that we spend about half of our waking hours–1/3 of our lives on earth–spinning fantasies. We have about two-thousand of these a day (!), with an average duration of fourteen seconds. In other words, our minds are simply flitting all over the place all the time.

So this is the most fundamental challenge we face in the attention economy: how do we pin down the wandering mind? How do we override the natural tendency for a mind to skip away from whatever we are showing it? By telling stories. In normal life, we spin about one-hundred daydreams per waking hour. But when absorbed in a good story–when we watch a show like Breaking Bad or read a novel like The Hunger Games–we experience approximately zero daydreams per hour. Our hyper minds go still and they pay close attention, often for hours on end. This is really very impressive. What it means is that story acts like a drug that reliably lulls us into an altered state of consciousness…

Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them.

But this all leads to a bigger question. Most of us think of stories as a way to pleasantly while away our leisure time. Is there any evidence that story is actually effective in influencing us–in modifying our thinking and behavior? Yes. Lots. That’s the subject of my next post.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Pörrö via photopin cc

photo credit: Pörrö via photopin cc

Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

By Ferris Jabr

Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity

…Americans and their brains are preoccupied with work much of the time. Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. What if the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas? “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

In making an argument for the necessity of mental downtime, we can now add an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence to intuition and anecdote. Why giving our brains a break now and then is so important has become increasingly clear in a diverse collection of new studies investigating: the habits of office workers and the daily routines of extraordinary musicians and athletes; the benefits of vacation, meditation and time spent in parks, gardens and other peaceful outdoor spaces; and how napping, unwinding while awake and perhaps the mere act of blinking can sharpen the mind. What research to date also clarifies, however, is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working. Rather—just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night—many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self…

In a recent thought-provoking review of research on the default mode network, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California and her co-authors argue that when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics—processes that depend on the DMN. Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself. While mind-wandering we replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewriting our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future. We craft fictional dialogue to practice standing up to someone who intimidates us or to reap the satisfaction of an imaginary harangue against someone who wronged us. We shuffle through all those neglected mental post-it notes listing half-finished projects and we mull over the aspects of our lives with which we are most dissatisfied, searching for solutions. We sink into scenes from childhood and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures. And we subject ourselves to a kind of moral performance review, questioning how we have treated others lately. These moments of introspection are also one way we form a sense of self, which is essentially a story we continually tell ourselves. When it has a moment to itself, the mind dips its quill into our memories, sensory experiences, disappointments and desires so that it may continue writing this ongoing first-person narrative of life.

Related research suggests that the default mode network is more active than is typical in especially creative people, and some studies have demonstrated that the mind obliquely solves tough problems while daydreaming—an experience many people have had while taking a shower. Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime. In a 2006 studyAp Dijksterhuis and his colleagues asked 80 University of Amsterdam students to pick the best car from a set of four that—unbeknownst to the students—the researchers had previously ranked based on size, mileage, maneuverability and other features. Half the participants got four minutes to deliberate after reviewing the specs; the researchers prevented the other 40 from pondering their choices by distracting them with anagrams. Yet the latter group made far better decisions. Solutions emerge from the subconscious in this way only when the distracting task is relatively simple, such as solving an anagram or engaging in a routine activity that does not necessitate much deliberate concentration, like brushing one’s teeth or washing dishes. With the right kind of distraction the default mode network may be able to integrate more information from a wide range of brain regions in more complex ways than when the brain is consciously working through a problem.

During downtime, the brain also concerns itself with more mundane but equally important duties. For decades scientists have suspected that when an animal or person is not actively learning something new, the brain consolidates recently accumulated data, memorizing the most salient information, and essentially rehearses recently learned skills, etching them into its tissue. Most of us have observed how, after a good night’s sleep, the vocab words we struggled to remember the previous day suddenly leap into our minds or that technically challenging piano song is much easier to play. Dozensof studies have confirmed that memory depends on sleep…

All in a day’s work
That learning and memory depend on both sleep and waking rest may partially explain why some of the most exceptional artists and athletes among us fall into a daily routine of intense practice punctuated by breaks and followed by a lengthy period of recuperation. Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson of The Florida State University has spent more than 30 years studying how people achieve the highest levels of expertise. Based on his own work and a thorough review of the relevant research, Ericsson has concluded that most people can engage in deliberate practice—which means pushing oneself beyond current limits—for only an hour without rest; that extremely talented people in many different disciplines—music, sports, writing—rarely practice more than four hours each day on average; and that many experts prefer to begin training early in the morning when mental and physical energy is readily available. “Unless the daily levels of practice are restricted, such that subsequent rest and nighttime sleep allow the individuals to restore their equilibrium,” Ericsson wrote, “individuals often encounter overtraining injuries and, eventually, incapacitating ‘burnout.’”

These principles are derived from the rituals of the exceptional, but they are useful for just about anyone in any profession, including typical nine-to-fivers. Corporate America may never sanction working only four hours a day, but research suggests that to maximize productivity we should reform the current model of consecutive 40-hour workweeks separated only by two-day weekends and sometimes interrupted by short vacations.

Psychologists have established that vacations have real benefits. Vacations likely revitalize the body and mind by distancing people from job-related stress; by immersing people in new places, cuisines and social circles, which in turn may lead to original ideas and insights; and by giving people the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep and to let their minds drift from one experience to the next, rather than forcing their brains to concentrate on a single task for hours at a time…

Put your mind at rest
Many recent studies have corroborated the idea that our mental resources are continuously depleted throughout the day and that various kinds of rest and downtime can both replenish those reserves and increase their volume. Consider, for instance, how even an incredibly brief midday nap enlivens the mind…

An equally restorative and likely far more manageable solution to mental fatigue is spending more time outdoors—in the evenings, on the weekends and even during lunch breaks by walking to a nearby park, riverfront or anywhere not dominated by skyscrapers and city streets. Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of South Carolina and a pioneer of a relatively new field called ecopsychology, argues that whereas the hustle and bustle of a typical city taxes our attention, natural environments restore it. Contrast the experience of walking through Times Square in New York City—where the brain is ping-ponged between neon lights, honking taxies and throngs of tourists—with a day hike in a nature reserve, where the mind is free to leisurely shift its focus from the calls of songbirds to the gurgling and gushing of rivers to sunlight falling through every gap in the tree branches and puddling on the forest floor…

photo credit: (matt) via photopin cc

photo credit: (matt) via photopin cc

Beyond renewing one’s powers of concentration, downtime can in fact bulk up the muscle of attention—something that scientists have observed repeatedly in studies on meditation. There are almost as many varieties and definitions of meditation as there are people who practice it. Although meditation is not equivalent to zoning out or daydreaming, many styles challenge people to sit in a quiet space, close their eyes and turn their attention away from the outside world toward their own minds. Mindfulness meditation, for example, generally refers to a sustained focus on one’s thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment. For many people, mindfulness is about paying close attention to whatever the mind does on its own, as opposed to directing one’s mind to accomplish this or that.

Mindfulness training has become more popular than ever in the last decade as a strategy to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Many researchers acknowledge that studies on the benefits of mindfulness often lack scientific rigor, use too few participants and rely too heavily on people’s subjective reports, but at this point they have gathered enough evidence to conclude that meditation can indeed improve mental health, hone one’s ability to concentrate and strengthen memory. Studies comparing long-time expert meditators with novices or people who do not meditate often find that the former outperform the latter on tests of mental acuity.Meditation appears to increase the volume and density of the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area of the brain that is absolutely crucial for memory; it thickens regions of the frontal cortex that we rely on to rein in our emotions; and it stymies the typical wilting of brain areas responsible for sustaining attention as we get older.

Just how quickly meditation can noticeably change the brain and mind is not yet clear. But a handful of experiments suggest that a couple weeks of meditation or a mere 10 to 20 minutes of mindfulness a day can whet the mind—if people stick with it. Likewise, a few studies indicate that meditating daily is ultimately more important than the total hours of meditation over one’s lifetime…

“When people in the military have a gym they will work out in the gym. When they are on the side of a mountain they will make do with what they have and do push-ups to stay in shape,” Jha says. “Mindfulness training may offer something similar for the mind. It’s low-tech and easy to implement.” In her own life, Jha looks for any and all existing opportunities to practice mindfulness, such as her 15-minute trip to and from work each day.

Likewise, Michael Taft advocates deliberate mental breaks during “all the in-between moments” in an average day—a subway ride, lunch, a walk to the bodega. He stresses, though, that there’s a big difference between admiring the idea of more downtime and committing to it in practice. “Getting out into nature on the weekends, meditating, putting away our computers now and then—a lot of it is stuff we already know we should probably do,” he says. “But we have to be a lot more diligent about it. Because it really does matter.”

Link to read this rich and densely referenced in it full original version

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

Ruth Owen: “There’s no point being a woman and trying to be a man”

by 

The CEO of Whizz Kidz talks about discrimination, never crying in the office and why women need to stop whinging and learn to play the game

…”Sometimes I think women aren’t always as tough as men, they tend to agonise about things and they can be too nice,” she says. “At the same time you’ve got to be sensible, there’s no point being a woman and trying to be a man.”

Owen has experienced more discrimination in her career than most, although it’s clear she doesn’t resent it, if anything it spurred her on to achieve more. When she landed a job in direct sales her boss pointedly asked her how she thought her wheelchair would make her clients feel. Her response was typically direct.

“I said let that be my problem, not yours,” she explains with a steely glint in her eye. “I’d been through all the interviews, all the tests, and I said ‘I happen to have four wheels to my bum but if I do a good job and I deliver then we’ll all be happy, and if you’re not happy then sack me, the risk is all with me, not with you’.”

So does she feel that perceptions of disabled people have changed? “I think people’s perceptions from the Paralympics have changed, I get a lot more offers of help than I’ve ever had. People are more aware. But do I really think things have changed in terms of employment for young disabled people? Absolutely not. I think people are blinkered.”

Employers still struggle with binary ideas about what makes a good employee and this affects young disabled people, who can’t get work experience, she explains. “We can’t all be leaders, but every company needs good workers and it’s important to have different people in the workplace because we need balance.”

Owen talks openly about having to use the men’s toilets in a previous role, as the women’s were down a flight of stairs. “I used to ask my client to go in first to check there weren’t any men in there,” she adds.

Perhaps because of this, she has little sympathy for those who are quick to claim they are being treated unfairly at work. “Sometimes women can be a bit whingy about their lot in life and I actually don’t think we need to behave like that. You need to work on your talent and push yourself a bit. Men can make it difficult for you though, it’s not easy. And it can be very subtle too.

“As a woman you’ve got to walk that very fine line of being pushy but nice to other people along the way.” When she started out, the office environment was mostly white, male and suited, she explains. “I worked out very quickly the politics of it all and what I needed to do to climb.” …

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Andy Murray. via photopin cc

photo credit: Andy Murray. via photopin cc

How Some Of The World’s Most Successful People Discovered Their Spiritual Side

The Huffington Post  |  By 

…with nearly one in five Americans identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” and countless successful people in a range of professions saying that meditation is their greatest secret to success, some of America’s most beloved public figures and successful business leaders are following suit, opening up about their first “big jelly” moments of spiritual awakening — and telling the world why they believe.

Here are 10 amazing spiritual “coming out” stories from successful thinkers, performers and business leaders…

Link to the original article to read these stories

photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

You will find these and many more stories in this weeks new collection:

Happiness At Work Edition #68

Happiness At Work #67 ~ the art and practice of patient nurture

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.  
– Hal Borland

This week’s Happiness At Work theme is inspired by Steve McCurry’s beautiful photo portrait of trees in his blog collection

Sentinels and Sanctuaries (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection shows us in our relationships with trees and in these heart-lifting images, illuminates the timeless wisdom we associate with these majestic cohabitants of our planet.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a
claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
–  Robert Louis Stevenson

Follow this link to see Steve McCurry’s Sentinels and Sanctuaries and to enjoy a certain lift to your day

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

Following on from these thoughts, here are some of the articles from this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #67 that draw on ideas of nurture, cultivation, slowness, patience, subtlety and longevity.

We’ve Gotten The Pursuit Of Happiness All Wrong, Until Now

Aside from basic survival, the pursuit of happiness is arguably one of the most fundamental concerns of every human being on the planet (not to mention a driving force behind the $10 billion-a-year self-help industry). But according to Cornell cognitive psychologist Shimon Edelman, author of The Happiness Of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About The Good Life,, we’ve been going about it backwards…

According to Edelman, understanding the workings of our own minds can help us to comprehend not only the nature of happiness but, perhaps eventually, how to optimize the brain for well-being. Recent developments in cognitive science have shed light on how positive emotional states (including pleasure, happiness, and euphoria) occur in the brain — and why we’re hardwired for happiness.

“In the past 10 years, neuroscience has witnessed a revolution. We used to treat the brain as a black box into which very limited glimpses were available, but we are starting to comprehend the basic principles within which the whole thing operates,” says Edelman, explaining that these simple principles are accessible to anyone who’s interested in getting to know his or her own mind…

Part of the reason we’re always seeking happiness is that it’s so fleeting in nature. As Edelman explains, “[Happiness] seemed difficult to grasp and hold onto… One has this compelling need to go on.”

This “need to go on” — to continue the pursuit — is one of the brain’s evolutionary advantages. “A species that rests on its laurels wouldn’t be doing that for very long,” he says.

But not all happiness is gone at a moment’s notice: eudaimonic happiness, which has to do with the way we evaluate our own lives and the feeling that we have lived well, is inherently longer-lasting than any state of pleasure, joy or euphoria (“hedonic happiness”). The distinction of these two domains of happiness goes back to Aristotle, who said that eudaimonic happiness happiness (also translated as “human flourishing,” or “living well,”) could be had by living in a way that follows a larger purpose beyond oneself. Happiness, for Aristotle, wasn’t the result of a life-long pursuit — it was the activity of pursuing.

“Eudaimonic happiness happiness is something you build up over a lifetime,” Edelman says. “In a sense, it’s a great consolation for older people — it’s nice to know that on that component, people can get more and more happy as they age if they led good lives.”

This eudaimonic happiness pursuit of the good life can also keep us in good physical health, according to recent research. A University of California study found that the two different types of happiness were associated with different gene expression. People with high levels of eudaimonic happiness happiness had low inflammatory gene expression and high antiviral gene expression, while those with high levels of pleasure-seeking happiness exhibited higher inflammatory gene expression.

“What happiness does in the short term, it also does in the long term,” says Edelman. “This [eudaimonic happiness] is what can be built and cherished and enhanced and preserved.”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

Do You Want A Meaningful Life or A Happy Life?

In this long, erudite and thoughtful article,  reports on his findings and conclusions from a a survey that asked nearly 400 US citizens, ranging in age from 18 to 78, about the extent to which they thought their lives were happy and the extent to which they thought they were meaningful.

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning.  How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Parents often say: ‘I just want my children to be happy.’ It is unusual to hear: ‘I just want my children’s lives to be meaningful,’ yet that’s what most of us seem to want for ourselves. We fear meaninglessness. We fret about the ‘nihilism’ of this or that aspect of our culture. When we lose a sense of meaning, we get depressed. What is this thing we call meaning, and why might we need it so badly?

…We found five sets of major differences between happiness and meaningfulness, five areas where different versions of the good life parted company.

The first had to do with getting what you want and need. Not surprisingly, satisfaction of desires was a reliable source of happiness. But it had nothing — maybe even less than nothing ­— to add to a sense of meaning. People are happier to the extent that they find their lives easy rather than difficult. Happy people say they have enough money to buy the things they want and the things they need. Good health is a factor that contributes to happiness but not to meaningfulness. Healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning. The more often people feel good — a feeling that can arise from getting what one wants or needs — the happier they are. The less often they feel bad, the happier they are. But the frequency of good and bad feelings turns out to be irrelevant to meaning, which can flourish even in very forbidding conditions.

Meaning and happiness are apparently experienced quite differently in time. Happiness is about the present; meaning is about the future, or, more precisely, about linking past, present and future. The more time people spent thinking about the future or the past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives were. Time spent imagining the future was linked especially strongly to higher meaningfulness and lower happiness (as was worry, which I’ll come to later). Conversely, the more time people spent thinking about the here and now, the happier they were. Misery is often focused on the present, too, but people are happy more often than they are miserable. If you want to maximise your happiness, it looks like good advice to focus on the present, especially if your needs are being satisfied. Meaning, on the other hand, seems to come from assembling past, present and future into some kind of coherent story.

This begins to suggest a theory for why it is we care so much about meaning. Perhaps the idea is to make happiness last. Happiness seems present-focused and fleeting, whereas meaning extends into the future and the past and looks fairly stable. For this reason, people might think that pursuing a meaningful life helps them to stay happy in the long run. They might even be right — though, in empirical fact, happiness is often fairly consistent over time. Those of us who are happy today are also likely to be happy months or even years from now, and those who are unhappy about something today commonly turn out to be unhappy about other things in the distant future. It feels as though happiness comes from outside, but the weight of evidence suggests that a big part of it comes from inside. Despite these realities, people experience happiness as something that is felt here and now, and that cannot be counted on to last. By contrast, meaning is seen as lasting, and so people might think they can establish a basis for a more lasting kind of happiness by cultivating meaning.

Social life was the locus of our third set of differences. As you might expect, connections to other people turned out to be important both for meaning and for happiness. Being alone in the world is linked to low levels of happiness and meaningfulness, as is feeling lonely. Nevertheless, it was the particular character of one’s social connections that determined which state they helped to bring about. Simply put, meaningfulness comes from contributing to other people, whereas happiness comes from what they contribute to you. This runs counter to some conventional wisdom: it is widely assumed that helping other people makes you happy. Well, to the extent that it does, the effect depends entirely on the overlap between meaning and happiness. Helping others had a big positive contribution to meaningfulness independent of happiness, but there was no sign that it boosted happiness independently of meaning. If anything, the effect was in the opposite direction: once we correct for the boost it gives to meaning, helping others can actually detract from one’s own happiness.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself

A fourth category of differences had to do with struggles, problems, stresses and the like. In general, these went with lower happiness and higher meaningfulness. We asked how many positive and negative events people had recently experienced. Having lots of good things happen turned out to be helpful for both meaning and happiness. No surprise there. But bad things were a different story. Highly meaningful lives encounter plenty of negative events, which of course reduce happiness. Indeed, stress and negative life events were two powerful blows to happiness, despite their significant positive association with a meaningful life. We begin to get a sense of what the happy but not very meaningful life would be like. Stress, problems, worrying, arguing, reflecting on challenges and struggles — all these are notably low or absent from the lives of purely happy people, but they seem to be part and parcel of a highly meaningful life. The transition to retirement illustrates this difference: with the cessation of work demands and stresses, happiness goes up but meaningfulness drops.

Do people go out looking for stress in order to add meaning to their lives? It seems more likely that they seek meaning by pursuing projects that are difficult and uncertain. One tries to accomplish things in the world: this brings both ups and downs, so the net gain to happiness might be small, but the process contributes to meaningfulness either way…

The final category of differences had to do with the self and personal identity. Activities that express the self are an important source of meaning but are mostly irrelevant to happiness. Of the 37 items on our list that asked people to rate whether some activity (such as working, exercising or meditating) was an expression or reflection of the self, 25 yielded significant positive correlations with a meaningful life and none was negative. Only two of the 37 items (socialising, and partying without alcohol) were positively linked to happiness, and some even had a significant negative relationship. The worst was worry: if you think of yourself as a worrier, that seems to be quite a downer.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself. Even just caring about issues of personal identity and self-definition was associated with more meaning, though it was irrelevant, if not outright detrimental, to happiness. This might seem almost paradoxical: happiness is selfish, in the sense that it is about getting what you want and having other people do things that benefit you, and yet the self is more tied to meaning than happiness. Expressing yourself, defining yourself, building a good reputation and other self-oriented activities are more about meaning than happiness...

Questions about life’s meaning are prompted by more than mere idle curiosity or fear of missing out. Meaning is a powerful tool in human life. To understand what that tool is used for, it helps to appreciate something else about life as a process of ongoing change. A living thing might always be in flux, but life cannot be at peace with endless change. Living things yearn for stability, seeking to establish harmonious relationships with their environment. They want to know how to get food, water, shelter and the like. They find or create places where they can rest and be safe. They might keep the same home for years. Life, in other words, is change accompanied by a constant striving to slow or stop the process of change, which leads ultimately to death. If only change could stop, especially at some perfect point: that was the theme of the profound story of Faust’s bet with the devil. Faust lost his soul because he could not resist the wish that a wonderful moment would last forever. Such dreams are futile. Life cannot stop changing until it ends. But living things work hard to establish some degree of stability, reducing the chaos of constant change to a somewhat stable status quo.

By contrast, meaning is largely fixed. Language is possible only insofar as words have the same meaning for everyone, and the same meaning tomorrow as today. (Languages do change, but slowly and somewhat reluctantly, relative stability being essential to their function.) Meaning therefore presents itself as an important tool by which the human animal might impose stability on its world. By recognising the steady rotation of the seasons, people can plan for future years. By establishing enduring property rights, we can develop farms to grow food.

Crucially, the human being works with others to impose its meanings. Language has to be shared, for private languages are not real languages. By communicating and working together, we create a predictable, reliable, trustworthy world, one in which you can take the bus or plane to get somewhere, trust that food can be purchased next Tuesday, know you won’t have to sleep out in the rain or snow but can count on a warm dry bed, and so forth…

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

My own efforts to understand how people find meaning in life eventually settled on a list of four ‘needs for meaning’, and in the subsequent years that list has held up reasonably well.

The point of this list is that you will find life meaningful to the extent that you have something that addresses each of these four needs. Conversely, people who fail to satisfy one or more of these needs are likely to find life less than adequately meaningful. Changes with regard to any of these needs should also affect how meaningful the person finds his or her life.

The first need is, indeed, for purpose. Frankl was right: without purpose, life lacks meaning. A purpose is a future event or state that lends structure to the present, thus linking different times into a single story. Purposes can be sorted into two broad categories. One might strive toward a particular goal (to win a championship, become vice president or raise healthy children) or toward a condition of fulfilment (happiness, spiritual salvation, financial security, wisdom).

Life goals come from three sources, so in a sense every human life has three basic sources of purpose. One is nature. It built you for a particular purpose, which is to sustain life by surviving and reproducing. Nature doesn’t care whether you’re happy, much as people wish to be happy. …It doesn’t care what you do on a Sunday afternoon as long as you manage to survive and, sooner or later, reproduce.

The second source of purpose is culture. Culture tells you what is valuable and important. Some cultures tell you exactly what you are supposed to do: they mark you out for a particular slot (farmer, soldier, mother etc). Others offer a much wider range of options and put less pressure on you to adopt a particular one, though they certainly reward some choices more than others.

That brings us to the third source of goals: your own choices. In modern Western countries in particular, society presents you with a broad range of paths and you decide which one to take. For whatever reason — inclination, talent, inertia, high pay, good benefits — you choose one set of goals for yourself (your occupation, for example). You create the meaning of your life, fleshing out the sketch that nature and culture provided. You can even choose to defy it: many people choose not to reproduce, and some even choose not to survive. Many others resist and rebel at what their culture has chosen for them.

The second need for meaning is value. This means having a basis for knowing what is right and wrong, good and bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are among the first words children learn. They are some of the earliest and most culturally universal concepts, and among the few words that house pets sometimes acquire. In terms of brain reactions, the feeling that something is good or bad comes very fast, almost immediately after you recognise what it is. Solitary creatures judge good and bad by how they feel upon encountering something (does it reward them or punish them?). Humans, as social beings, can understand good and bad in loftier ways, such as their moral quality.

In practice, when it comes to making life meaningful, people need to find values that cast their lives in positive ways, justifying who they are and what they do. Justification is ultimately subject to social, consensual judgment, so one needs to have explanations that will satisfy other people in the society (especially the people who enforce the laws). Again, nature makes some values, and culture adds a truckload of additional ones. It’s not clear whether people can invent their own values, but some do originate from inside the self and become elaborated. People have strong inner desires that shape their reactions.

The third need is for efficacy. It’s not very satisfying to have goals and values if you can’t do anything about them. People like to feel that they can make a difference. Their values have to find expression in their life and work. Or, to look at it the other way around, people have to be able steer events towards positive outcomes (by their lights) and away from negative ones.

The last need is for self-worth. People with meaningful lives typically have some basis for thinking that they are good people, maybe even a little better than certain other people. At a minimum, people want to believe that they are better than they might have been had they chosen or behaved or performed badly. They have earned some degree of respect.

The meaningful life, then, has four properties. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realising our goals and values. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.

People ask what is the meaning of life, as if there is a single answer. There is no one answer: there are thousands of different ones. A life will be meaningful if it finds responses to the four questions of purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. It is these questions, not the answers, that endure and unify.

Link to read this much longer original article in full

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

Why You Should Stop Trying To Be Happy

MARK MANSON writes…

Happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves.

It’s not the end results which define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s process of overcoming all odds with people you care about.

And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy. Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy.

Cue statements about “finding happiness within,” and “knowing that you’re enough.” It’s not that happiness itself is in you, it’s that happiness occurs when you decide to pursue what’s in you.

And this is why happiness is so fleeting. Anyone who has set out major life goals for themselves, only to achieve them and realize that they feel the same relative amounts of happiness/unhappiness, knows that happiness always feels like it’s around the corner just waiting for you to show up. No matter where you are in life, there will always be that one more thing you need to do to be extra-especially happy.

And that’s because our ideal self is always around that corner, our ideal self is always three steps ahead of us. We dream of being a musician and when we’re a musician we dream of writing a film score and when write a film score, we dream of writing a screenplay. And what matters isn’t that we achieve each of these plateaus of success, but that we’re consistently moving towards them, day after day, month after month, year after year. The plateaus will come and go, and we’ll continue following our ideal self down the path of our lives.

And with that, with regards to being happy, it seems the best advice is also the simplest: Imagine who you want to be and then step towards it. Dream big and then do something. Anything. The simple act of moving at all will change how you feel about the entire process and serve to inspire you further.

Let go of the imagined result; it’s not necessary. The fantasy and the dream are merely tools to get you off your ass. It doesn’t matter if they come true or not.

Live. Just live. Stop trying to be happy and just be.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Is There Any Value In New Age Thinking?

MICHEL BAUWENS writes…

…One of the first tangible benefits of the New Age was to reintroduce the importance of consciousness to the western world and to recognize that spirituality was not just a matter of belief but of experience. New Age traditions contained a vast array of methods that could open up new vistas of perception. For many people, they created an opportunity to re-integrate these methods into their lives and experiment with different alternatives.

New Age thinking also provided a vehicle to overcome the separation of mind and body that was characteristic of western individualism prior to 1968. In many ways it represented what Freud called a “regression in service of the ego”, a return to repressed areas of bodily energy, instincts, emotions, mind and consciousness. Unfortunately, it frequently stayed in that regressive mode. New Age thinking was too anti-rational, too disdainful of the critical subjectivity that was one of the hard-won features of the West. But to paraphrase Lenin, it was probably a necessary “infantile” stage in the development of alternatives. It also offered avenues for people to work on themselves, a positive orientation in an otherwise dark period for social change.

In other ways, New Age thinking was an heir to utopian socialism. Given the difficulty of changing society in radical ways at the macro level, people began to change their own lives by abandoning blind trust in the mechanistic approaches to the human body that were espoused by Western medicine; and by leaving aside the knowledge-stuffing, rote-learning style of education they were fed in order to treat children as whole persons. These changes have made the world unrecognizable from thirty years ago.

Whatever the negative features of the neoliberal age, many institutions have become more humane, more egalitarian, more respectful, and more attuned to the whole individual. People have changed, institutions have evolved, and many small-scale communal experiments have yielded valuable learning experiences even if they have failed to change the bigger picture…

If both New Age thinking and anti-spirituality are exaggerated reactions to each other, the task now is to find a critical subjectivity that rejects the ‘dictatorship of the mind’ – the belief that societies already know the direction or end-point in which they are heading.

What would that consist of? For me, the key step is to reject the view that sees spirituality in terms of individual experience alone, and replace it with a spirituality that functions around relationships between different people.

In pre-modern times, people lived as members of communities with roles that were largely externally defined; in modern times they live as atomized but autonomous self-directing individuals who are bound together through social contracts and institutions. Post-modernity, seen as a critique of neoliberal capitalist structures, sees the individual as increasingly fragmented, and it has developed a strong critique of all the forces that have shown us that we are not nearly as autonomous as we think, including language and power. But this process has also left us stranded as fragmented individuals without much sense of a direction, forever deconstructing realities but rarely reconstructing them with much success. Therefore it is time for something new.

In an age of peer production, in which more and more individuals are socialized through the internet, a relational spirituality can be born among people who cooperate with each other in a wide variety of networks. As we become engaged in communities of our peers that produce collective value, the horizontal dimension of spirituality returns to center stage.

In this new context, the view of human beings as fragmented is no longer a reason for despair. On the contrary, our inner multitude of interests is what enables us to contribute to a range of different, peer-driven projects. The individual psyche can then be constructed through each person’s contributions to the life of the whole, and through the recognition they receive from the communities in which they take part.

Today, individuals are no longer defined only by their membership in traditional communities or rigid roles. In my world, for example, an increasing number of people see themselves as contributors to open-source software systems like Linux rather than employees of Microsoft or Google. In this context, the key to an integrated self is to construct a rich identity of contributions that stem from active participation in many different communities. No longer New Age or Old Age but building on elements of both, a relational spirituality could form a cornerstone of the contributive societies on which the twenty-first century will be built.

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photo credit: leo.prie.to via photopin cc

Staying Sane In Insane Times

 writes

If we look at what is happening around us today, it can feel that the world is spinning out of control.

Open any newspaper, turn on any TV, read the headlines online or even check your phone’s text alerts and you’re bombarded…and that’s without even taking into account personal and work issues.

For many of us it seems overwhelming, especially if we allow ourselves to care.

So, how do we remain sane in these insane times?

I believe the tools lie with our inner resources, as expressed in a series of relationships.

Relationship with self:

The relationship we have with ourselves starts with being wholly self-aware without being judgmental or self-effacing. Only then can we cultivate the capacity to sense our strong emotions without being defined by them. When we know ourselves we can be more open with ourselves – relating to ourselves not as we think we should be, but as who we truly are, and giving us a chance to be our best self. If we are aware of ourselves inwardly, we learn to stand strong outwardly.

Relationship with others:

Relationships with others also begin with self-awareness, the characteristic that allows us to relate to others in recognition of our common desire to feel safe, trusted, loved and nourished. We all desire for someone to listen to us, pay attention to us, even challenge us. We form much of ourselves within the framework of our relationships with others as we develop, grow and change within relationships. Our own self-awareness and our connection to others are the strongest forces in staying sane.

Relationship with stress:

Stress is a double-edge sword — it can be a wake-up call or it can cause our demise. Stress can make us sick, but it can also stimulate us to make changes and learn new things. When we differentiate between the bad stress that causes us to feel overwhelmed and the good stress that causes us to keep us fit and purposeful, we can forge ahead without feeling overwhelmed by circumstances.

Relationship with our stories

We live in relationship with our own stories — the ones we believe, the ones we edit as we grow and we change, the ones that come from our beliefs. Many of us have stories that begin I am never going to be… I can’t handle… I don’t… I can’t…. When we realize what we are saying, we can work on changing the narrative. Instead of defining ourselves, we can adjust ourselves. Learning how to revise our own stories gives us the power to navigate sanely through chaos and confusion.

It’s never going to be easy to remain sane when we’re surrounded by insanity, but it is worth trying.

These inner resources — our relationships with ourselves, with others, with stress and with our stories — are the cornerstone to our sanity. They give us choices in how we react to what is happening around us, and the capacity to live with what we deal with on a daily basis…

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photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

Is Resilience In Hibernation?

Phil Vernon writes…

Resilience is a wonderful metaphor. It somehow conveys in a single word the qualities of bending without breaking, of healing after an injury, of tensile rather than brittle strength.

Oak and palm trees are resilient to the power of strong winds, before which they bend and then straighten again. Resilient people pick themselves up after being knocked down, draw on their reserves of ideas and strength to deal with difficult challenges, or hunker down until the gale has blown itself away. Resilient economies bounce back, and resilient ecosystems restore themselves after the fire or the flood has passed.

Resilience is not necessarily a good thing, of course. Patrimonialism and corruption can be resilient to change, as can power dynamics which sanction the marginalisation and harm of women, children or vulnerable people.

American academic Andrew Nathan writes of the Chinese Communist Party’s “authoritarian resilience”, i.e. its ability to adapt and continue to thrive despite its authoritarian, undemocratic approach to power. But most often resilience is used to describe positive and useful features of society.

International Alert is a peacebuilding organisation. We say peace is when people anticipate, manage and resolve the inevitable conflicts which arise in and between societies, and do so without violence; and we describe communities and societies as resilient when they do so.

Their resilience in the face of stress is largely due to the nature of relationships and institutions, which provide them with tensile, rather than brittle strength. Freedom and equality of opportunity are key indicators of relationships and institutions conducive to peace…

Nassim Nicolas Taleb , in his book Anti-fragility – things that gain from disorder, published last year by Random House, explains that resilience is demonstrated best in decentralised and organic societies which can flex and respond locally to stress, and least in over-centralised and rigid societies where individual and local initiatives are discouraged. This is no doubt one reason why, as Andrew Nathan recently wrote, “the resilience of the authoritarian regime in China is nearing its limits”.

So, resilience is not merely a useful metaphor, but one which expresses a powerful idea which we would do well to try and understand. If societies resilient to stress are less vulnerable to disaster and violent conflict, and if critical factors in their resilience include freedom and equality, then building resilience to stress must presumably be an ambition worthy of us all…

But if “resilience” is indeed headed for another period of hibernation, I suspect there is a deeper reason why. It is a very powerful conceptual approach and analytical tool, allowing a broad, comprehensive analysis of the extent to which households, communities, regions, countries, societies or states are able or unable to deal with, survive and bounce back from natural or man-made stress.

For those with patience, the concept lends itself to participatory approaches to identify factors which increase or limit resilience (or, for those who prefer the glass half-empty approach, factors which increase or reduce fragility and brittleness). So far, so good.

SHORT-TERM PROJECT PROBLEM

The problem is, those seeking levers through which to make significant changes which can be measured in terms of the typical lifespan of development projects, are unlikely to find them easily in a resilience analysis. Resilience is – almost by definition – not something that can easily be “built”, and certainly not built to order.

The clue is in the word itself – resilience is something to be found in the nature of societies, hence a quality which grows organically. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains, it is the effect of finely woven networks.

Resilience comes from education, and especially the kind of education which helps young people develop their curiosity and ability to adapt and continue to learn. It is to be found in networks of diverse reciprocal relationships between individuals and groups, on which they can draw to get ideas, help, resources in time of need. It is to be found in the freedom of men and women to make their own informed choices, and to participate in politics.

It is to be found in competent and accountable governance, in a free, functioning press, in fair-systems of justice, and so on, and from the interwoven combination of all of the above.

Unfortunately, those in power in more fragile, less resilient societies often see these kinds of features as good in theory, but unwelcome in practice. Rather like St Augustine who prayed for chastity – “but not yet, O Lord” – they’d often prefer to enjoy the spoils of power for now.

Meanwhile those in international development organisations who support these kinds of features in principle, are unable to promote them because they simply do not lend themselves sufficiently to logframes, short-term projects, and the like.

Our development institutions and organisations may not be adequate to the task of promoting resilience in fragile societies. And so ‘resilience’ may be destined to pass back into hibernation. That would be a shame. Because ironically, it describes the problem of underdevelopment, human insecurity and inadequate governance too accurately to be useful.

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photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

A New Level of Leadership Thinking

By 

“The problems that exist in the world today can’t be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my win must cause someone else to lose. Put another way, I often am tempted to believe that if someone does what I’m doing, they’ll limit my freedom or my market or my opportunities to experience success. We view the world as a particular size and we must carve it up in a way that everyone gets a little. When things like money get scarce, we think we have to hang on to what we have, and if we give someone too much there won’t be enough left for ourselves.

Back in the 1970′s and 1980′s, that was the prevailing mindset. A market could only be “so big” and each company had to get their share. We had to climb our way to the top and often to get ahead, we had to get ahead of someone else.

“Exceptional insight, productivity and generosity make markets bigger and more efficient.

This situation leads to more opportunities and ultimately a payoff for everyone involved.” Seth Godin, Linchpin.

I wonder how much of our current leadership model needs a mental overhaul.

Why do we have leaders who seem committed to “if you win, I must lose” thinking? Do we see any problems, or situations where we use what Stephen Covey called two-alternative thinking? Two-alternative thinking is based on “if you win, I must lose” thinking. His great book, The 3rd Alternative was a great reminder that synergy is the answer to two-alternative thinking. Synergy is when everyone agrees to find a win-win solution. Compromise means everyone gets less than they hoped. Synergy means everyone gets more.

…to what degree do my own actions and old-world thinking create the problems we experience today?

What can I do to introduce a level of thinking that rises above the problems and works together for a synergistic solution?

What’s it going to take?

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photo credit: USFS Region 5 via photopin cc

A Better Work-Life Balance Attracts Top Performing Parents & Millennials

Greg Moran writes…

…A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. …More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.

 But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability…

Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.

Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains…

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photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

Developing next generation leaders for a sustainable future – the stewardship model

Kai Peters, Chief Executive, Ashridge Business School writes…

…The global financial crisis and the rapid pace of globalisation are radically changing the definition of what makes a good business leader. Traditional heroic models and charismatic styles of leadership are under attack, largely because corporate scandals have destroyed trust in the integrity of many of those in power…

A new post-heroic approach to leadership is needed, where executives empower, inspire and strengthen the leadership of others. This will enable the executives of the future to build strong sustainable organisations that are held in trust for future generations – in sharp contrast to a conventional command and control leadership style focused on reducing costs and creating profit.

The steward leader – a model for next generation executives
Leaders should rededicate themselves to care and the principles of stewardship – a form of leadership that focuses on others, the community and society at large.

Stewardship advocates service over self-interest and provides a road-map for developing the next generation leader. Steward leaders have both the desire and the skills to develop organisations which are sustainable in every sense of the word.

What does a steward leader look like?
Steward leaders are those who are motivated by justice and dignity and who can see the bigger picture. Their emphasis is on delivering results with others – and they are skilled in bringing networks and resources together in pursuit of a common aim…

Can stewardship be developed?
In our new book ‘Steward Leadership’, we identify the nine essential dimensions of stewardship and debate what they are and how they can be developed.

Development of a stewardship mindset cannot, however, be ‘taught’ by a teacher or facilitator – it requires the individual to have some kind of internal impetus to evolve in this way and a willingness to move away from conventional approaches.  Our research suggests that non-rational resources, such as dreams, insights, creative and spiritual experiences and emotions, are important in developing sustainable leaders. People who are prepared to step outside of the ‘norm’ and draw on these resources have less to fear from being authentic and wearing their heart on their sleeve.

What does this mean for organisations in terms of talent management and leadership development processes? 
…Managers least likely to succeed are those who place high value on ‘conforming’ to the expectations of others.  They may think the right thoughts and want to make the ethical decisions, but find the accepted social environment of the organisation difficult to break away from.

In practical terms, organisations who want to develop s