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 #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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

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

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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

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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

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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 #63 ~ the fine art of living happily in 2013

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

In the week that the new World Happiness Report 2013 is published, we are highlighting stories from our latest Happiness At Work Edition #63 that clue us in to some of the art and artfulness that can help us to live and work more happily in our 2013 settings.

WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT 2013

REPORT CALLS ON POLICY MAKERS TO MAKE HAPPINESS A KEY MEASURE AND TARGET OF DEVELOPMENT

Report ranks the happiest countries, with Northern Europe in the lead

…“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said Professor Jeffery Sachs. “More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development.”

The Report shows significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years. There is some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries. For the 130 countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41 (Figure 2.5).

For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available.

The Report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.

Governments are increasingly measuring well-being with the goal of making well-being an objective of policy. One chapter of the Report, written by Lord Gus O’Donnell, former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, shows just how this can be done. It shows how different are the policy conclusions when health, transport and education are viewed in this light…

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photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

Improving Wellbeing Should Be Our Global Priority

Action For Happiness directorDr Mark Williamson makes a compelling case for concentrating more of our energies, resources and resourcefulness on increasing wellbeing across our planet:

People’s daily experiences and concerns differ enormously around the world. While a farmer in Angola prays for a good harvest, a manager in Greece worries about losing her job. And while a mother in Egypt comes to terms with life in a conflict zone, a doctor in Denmark struggles with work-related stress.

But there is one thing that unites people’s experiences in every country: they all involve human beings who want their experience of life to be good rather than bad. We share a universal desire for wellbeing. This is more than just a survival instinct; we want to be happy and have the best possible lives for ourselves and those we love.

Whether we’re aiming to alleviate poverty in Africa, end conflict in Syria or reduce stress in US workplaces, the fundamental reason we care about these things is that they are bad for human wellbeing. They cause suffering and pain. Similarly, if we’re aiming to boost economic activity, reform our education system or cut public sector spending, we should only do so if we believe this will ultimately be good for people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing provides a common lens through which we can look at the many challenges and opportunities in our world and decide on our collective priorities.

This is the central idea behind a groundbreaking report published today – the World Happiness Report. Launched in the midst of a major debate about what the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be for 2015-2030, the report argues that people’s ‘subjective wellbeing’ – their self-reported sense of happiness with life – should be a central measure of progress for every nation. It is a substantial piece of work edited by, among others, the influential development economist Jeff Sachs.

Recent years have seen a huge growth in wellbeing research and we now have valuable data from all around the world about people’s levels of life satisfaction. Not only can wellbeing be measured in a reliable and meaningful way, the findings have great relevance for public policy and global priorities. What was once seen as a sideshow is now a mainstream movement, with support from influential figures such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and former head of the UK civil service, Lord Gus O’Donnell.

To illustrate how relevant the wellbeing data is for global issues, let’s return to those four examples in my introduction, as they all relate to countries with interesting findings. Firstly, the farmer in Angola. Although Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the lowest wellbeing (it is home to 9 of the bottom 10 countries, the other being Syria), there are a few green shoots. Over the last five years, Angola has actually seen the largest improvement in wellbeing globally, as it continues to regain stability after its terrible 27 year civil war.

However, for the manager in Greece and mother in Egypt, the trends are less encouraging. Unsurprisingly, these are the two countries that have seen the largest falls in wellbeing over the last five years. Of all the countries affected by the Eurozone crisis, Greece has been the hardest hit. Its drop in wellbeing is greater than would be predicted simply from falls in income, reflecting wider problems from loss of trust and social cohesion. And in Egypt, the significantly lower wellbeing surely reflects the Egyptian people’s suffering under the Mubarak regime and the ongoing struggles since the 2011 uprising.

Finally, what about the Danish doctor? Well, she’s at least fortunate to live in Denmark, the country which once again tops the world wellbeing league, closely followed by Norway. With Sweden also in the top 5, we might well ask how these Northern European nations always seem to deliver world-beating levels of wellbeing. Yes they have fairly high GDP per capita, but they’re far from the top of that league. More tellingly, they have some of the highest levels of interpersonal trust and lowest levels of inequality.

The World Happiness Report also provides another extremely compelling reason to prioritise wellbeing, and the research here is really quite startling. It shows that happier people tend to be healthier, recover from illness more quickly and live longer. At work, they perform better, exhibit more creativity, are absent less often and are better at cooperation and collaboration. And in wider society, they have better relationships, exhibit more pro-social behaviour, have greater self-control, engage in less risk-taking behaviour and are more likely to have a positive impact on others. So happier people are not lazy, naïve, inward-looking or selfish, as some sceptics suggest; they are actually more economically productive, healthy, socially-minded and generous.

So what practical changes might we make if we adopted wellbeing as a global priority? Of all the suggestions in the report, the most notable is the call for a fundamental shift in our approach to mental health. Worldwide, depression and anxiety disorders account for up to a fifth of the entire burden of illness…Making treatment for mental illness more widely available may well be the single most reliable and cost effective way to improve national wellbeing.

What then should be the world’s development goals for the coming years? Making wellbeing our global priority would surely underpin, rather than undermine, existing sustainable development aims. It would also provide a consistent means to track how successful countries are in delivering improvements in people’s quality of life. The reason that existing goals like universal education, gender equality, maternal health and sustainability matter so much is because they are all fundamental to human wellbeing.

Wellbeing isn’t some luxury for the privileged few, it’s the thing all of us want most for ourselves and the people we care about – whether in a field in Angola or an office in London. It should be at the heart of every discussion of local, national or global priorities.

Link to the original article 

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photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Happiness: The Next Key Performance Indicator

Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more and are better citizens, according to the second “World Happiness Report.”

by 

Most industrialized nations track their gross domestic product, exports and unemployment rates, among other key economic and social metrics that help quantify their standing in the world.

A new report calls on policymakers to include happiness in the mix.

Authored by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics, the second “World Happiness Report” describes how measurements of wellbeing can be used to assess the progress of nations.

Published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the report “further strengthens the case that wellbeing is a critical component of economic and social development,” according to the report’s editors…

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photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Bonnie Greer 2013 Opening Lecture (Audio)

https://soundcloud.com/lahf/to-save-our-lives

Theatre maker and cultural commentator Bonnie Greer deliverers the second annual lecture to open the 2013 Creativity and Wellbeing Week on the evening of 17 June 2013 in a collaboration with Community Learning at Tate Modern.

In this talk, Bonnie uses a story about how art saved her own life to make  the case for the necessity of artists, arts and culture for  wellbeing in our contemporary lives.

Here are the definitions for wellbeing that Bonnie offers (from 9’10”):

…a positive outcome that is meaningful for people, and for many sectors of society as well.  People have to see and feel that their lives are going well.

Wellbeing is also what people think, and what they feel, bout their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, their resilience, and the possibility of the realisation of their human potential, along with their overall satisfaction with life.

Another definition of wellbeing is a valid population measure that is beyond morbidity, mortality and economic status that tells us how people perceive their life is going from their own perspective.

And wellbeing is also associated with other realities like self-perceived health, longevity, healthy behaviours, mental and physical illness, social connectedness, productivity, factors in the social and physical environment…

Positive emotion, I’ve learned, is not just the opposite of negative emotion.  Positive emotion is a measurable dimension – we can actually see its effects.  It’s a dimension in which your job, your family, your health and your economic environment are as you want them to be.  Also as you imagine them to be.  Also as you think you deserve them to be based on your qualifications, your hard work, your mental and emotional capacity.  Positive emotion is a dimension in which you feel that you are understood and you are appreciated and you can function, you can make a contribution.

So wellbeing has to encompass positive emotions.  And these have been measured and shown in various health studies to decrease the risk of illness, of injury, and recovery is faster.  Studies have also been shown that the human immune system functions better with positive emotions.

So positive emotions keep us healthy and they keep us happy.

These ideas are developed and enriched during a vital, dynamic and defiantly optimistic Q&A session with the audience, which includes Damian Hebron from London Arts Health Forum (LAHF) (from 42’58”):

Bonnie Greer: I know a one-year-old who is showing me how to do an iPad.  And of course that means we’re in a revolution.  We haven’t got the tools yet to gauge how that human being is perceiving the world.  There will also be a place for live performance, live engagement, because we need the one-on-one, the body needs the one-on-one.  And we’re going to have to be more fierce about that.  I think what’s going to happen, in the next 10 years or so, as generations do, they’re going to be in technology but they’re going to turn around and look for the lie…  We’re losing empathy as human beings.  We’re losing the ability to look one another in the eye, to talk to one another, to listen to one another, to engage with one another.  And it’s affecting our health.  It’s affecting our mental health and it’s affecting our physical health.  So one of the things that culture can do is stand in the juncture of this revolution and create forms and new engagements and new links by which these two – the live and the technological can come together … We need to see technology as a way to enable empathy to be created.  That’s our first thing.

(from 50’56”)

We may be forced to define human capability, to measure human capability.  That may be one of the things those of us in culture.  And in a very tangible way I don’t how you begin to do that.  We’re going to need to make that case.  But in a strange way I am optimistic.  Because there is so much independence now … there’s a lot of independence-mindeness where people are breaking out and doing what they need to do, doing what they want to do in order to create these forms.  What we have to do is to make language to speak to those people who we have to justify what we do…

(from 53’15” in response to a question about what leadership skills we now need to engage people with power and resources: what is it that we need to do in terms of individual leadership, leadership as a group, leadership as a nation, to reach the people we need?

Damian Hebron:  One thing is what Bonnie was talking about: to speak the language that people are used to hearing. The other thing is what is unique about the arts and that is stories.  The things that really reach people is the storytelling.  One thing that artists can do well is to tell stories.  And that is something that will always be powerful and that people will always crave.  It can be easy to forget what we do so well which is to tell spell-binding stories in interesting and magical ways that actually speak to the whole human experience… to tell the stories of all human beings…  all of the side range of voices in contemporary society that you don’t always get to hear from other quarters.

Bonnie Greer:  One of the things that I love about the UK and that is really exciting about the UK is that you guys are rebels… It may not look like it or feel like it sometimes, but people want to make their own work in their own words, do their own work in their own way…  People make culture very easily here, and are open to it, and know how to do it, and naturally feel the links between culture and wellbeing…  We need to learn to shape stories to make a picture of how a community is functioning as a political entity, and also as a health entity… We mustn’t be put off by people who want to put us in the back of a bus, or call us all kinds of names, or say we don’t rate.  Culture, and we know this, is what saves people’s lives and it holds a community together.  And we must keep finding the language for saying this over and over and over and over and over.

(from 58’55”)

We have to make a case for cultural GDP.  We have to make a case for culture in our work and in our lives .  We have to say to policy makers: “If we weren’t here what would it look like?  What would community look like?  …

(from 1:07:05)

Maybe we need to go back to what the Ancient Greeks thought about culture and art.  It wasn’t just about decoration.  It wasn’t just a way to pass time.  It was a way in which human beings were able to understand the environment in which they were in, and to understand each other.  But not only that, it kept them well.  And one the things that we can do as cultural practitioners, is maybe we’re the people who have to use the word ‘wellbeing’.  Maybe we’re the people who have to define wellbeing and not be afraid to do it, not be ashamed to do it, not be embarrassed to do it.

Because, in the end, wellbeing is what we’re all striving for.  Wellbeing is what is going to cut those bills down.  Wellbeing is what is going to allow us all to go forward.  And culture becomes a way in which people can make and keep themselves well…  

Being well is about being able to see the possibilities for yourself as a human being…

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Work Isn’t Life – Reprise

This is a superb article in which Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants asks some really great questions about happiness at work in our contemporary lives:

The historian and author, Studs Terkel, famously wrote, “Most of us have jobs that are too small for  our spirits.” 

 A few of you might be reacting to the title of this article thinking, Hey, my work is my life,” or My job is the most fulfilling thing in my life.

But that’s not what this article is about. Because life isn’t work. Yes, it can be a Big part of life, but it isn’t life.  In fact, in the recent popular news of a palliative nurses’ summary of the regrets of those who are dying, the only mention of work was, “I wish I had not worked so hard,” especially from men.

While it is thought that Freud said  Work and love are the cornerstones of our humanness, it is true that work is the primary activity in most people’s lives.   Work and love (however we define it) still are the primary forces that drive most of our actions.

For many, the role of work has changed dramatically in modern life.  The way we work is being redefined. The meaning of work is in the process of global redefinition. Yet, in many ways work’s deeper meanings still form the underlying basis for how work motivates us.

David Whyte, the inspiring author of “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, writes, All of us living at this time are descended from a long line of survivors who lived through the difficulties of history and prehistory: most of whom had to do a great deal of work to keep the wolf, the cold and the neighboring tribe from the door. Work was necessity: work meant food, shelter, survival and a sense of power over circumstances. Work was, and still is, endless.”

While the need for “food, shelter and survival” remains, the meaning of how we define work – and the context of work as part of life is changing.  And an important part of that equation is our constantly evolving sense of our “power over circumstances.” How that power is defined and who determines it is a critical aspect of the meaning of work – and life.

70 hour standard work weeks have, sadly, become the norm for many [us].  Even though there have been some gains in corporate policies (over half of companies surveyed say they offer some form of flex-time) research shows that employee experience doesn’t match corporate reports.  In many cases, employers send their workers double-messages about expectations about the hours and ways they work.

We don’t discuss “work addiction” much anymore because it has become endemic in the [our] work culture.

We tend to think that the  “movement” for work-life balance is simply about the real need to manage stress in this culture.  Even though recent studies all point to the workplace as the single greatest source of stress in the culture, the desire for more life outside of work and more life at work, goes beyond “stress management.”

A growing body of research has revealed that as many women are approaching “mid-life” (technically these women are  the upper percentages of the  Gen X  30- 44-year-old age cohort ) they are “becoming on average, sicker and sadder.” Results from six recent major happiness studies show that this drop in happiness occurs regardless of marital or child status, economic conditions or work-life factors.

Marcus Buckingham, author of Find Your Most Successful Life: What the Most Successful and Resilient Women Do Differently writes, Over the last 50 years, women have secured greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same period, have become less happy, more anxious, more stressed and, in ever-increasing numbers, self-medicating.” 

For those juggling the real demands of family and work, they do so in many workplaces that are still sorely lacking in support of life outside of work…

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

The Need to Ask New and Different Questions

If how we define work – and how we do that work is going through a major transition –  then we need to start asking a whole new set of questions about meaning.

  • Is work still expected to be drudgery? 
  • Do the demands of a job supersede our “personal” needs and desires?
  • How does the crumbling model of authoritarian command and control organizations impact the new mindset of work? 
  • How much emotional and creative freedom should we expect from our work?

Again, author David Whyte offers some illuminating thoughts, “The great questions that touch on personal happiness in work have to do with an ability to hold our own conversation amid the constant background of shouted needs, hectoring advice and received wisdom. In work, we have to find high ground safe from the arriving tsunami of expectations concerning what I am going to DO. Work is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself. It is a place of powerful undercurrents, a place to find ourselves, but also, a place to drown, losing all sense of our own voice, our own contribution and conversation.”

After hundreds of years of working in the shadow of a “Protestant” ethic, we are redefining work. But in the process, we are also redefining what makes a fully human life.  To do that, we must challenge every assumption that underpins the public and corporate policies that govern work.  But we also have to face our own thinking about what we believe about work, success and of course – money.  Money is a big elephant in our mental room.

Our own personal beliefs often justify work without adequate life as much as weak public policy or self-serving corporate practices do.  We may not (now) have the economic freedom to fully realize the balance of work and life – but we can reclaim what that means for us. It must begin there.

Link to read this article in its entirety

Seek Work-Life Harmony, Not Balance – 5 Key Strategies

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Randy Conley advises a re-think about the now perhaps outdated notion of work-life balance:

Work-life balance is a fallacy.

The very term is an oxymoron. Is “work” something you do apart from your “life?” Does your “life” not consist of your “work?” And think about the definition of the word balance – “a state of equilibrium or equal distribution of weight or amount.” We have bought into the idea that having fulfillment in our personal and professional lives means we have to give them equal weight and priority. It sets up a false dichotomy between the two choices and leads to perpetual feelings of guilt and remorse because we never feel like we’re giving 100% in either area.

Instead, we need to seek work-life harmony. Consider the definition of harmony – “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.” Work-life harmony is rooted in an integrated and holistic approach to life where work and play blend together in combinations unique to each individual. I can’t define what harmony looks like for you, but I can share five ways to help you discover it for yourself.

1. Be clear about your purpose in life ~ clarifying your purpose provides focus, direction, and energy to every area of your life

2. Seek contentment, not happiness ~ happiness is fine, but true work-life harmony comes when you find contentment….

3. Understand the seasons of life ~ our focus areas will ebb and flow. When driven by our sense of purpose, they all fit harmoniously together at the right time in the right way…

4. Establish reasonable boundaries ~ the banks of a river provide the boundaries that support the direction and flow of the water. Without those boundaries, the river becomes nothing more than a large puddle…

5. Be present ~ operating from a mindset of work-life balance instead of harmony … creates stress, tension, and guilt, because we always feel we’re out of balance, spending too much energy on one aspect of our lives at the expense of another. The result is we’re never fully present and invested in all areas of our life….

Achieving work-life harmony isn’t easy. It involves trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. There is constant assessment and re-calibration of how you’re investing your time and energy, but the payoff is less stress, peace of mind, and increased devotion and passion toward all you do in life.

Link to read  Randy Conley’s guidance in full

Don’t Send Yet! 9 Email Mistakes You’re Probably Making – and how to fix them

Are your emails too long?  Too short?  Sent to too many people?  Or at the wrong time?  Learn how to say exactly what you want – without annoying those on the receiving end

BY: 

Email. The bane of your existence, a tool that seems to define many of your waking hours, a mode of communication invented only two decades ago.

We all use it, some of us love it, and many of us dread it.

There are plenty of tips and tricks about making email more efficient–using specifictools like boomerang, limiting yourself to certain hours per day and chasing the dream of inbox zero…

Are your emails getting the results you want?

When you improve the way you write and learn how to design better messages, you will resonate with the reader, improve sharability, and increase the bottom line.

Last week, I caught up with writer, designer, and strategist Sarah Peck, who teaches workshops on developing effective communication skills. We talked about using email to get more of what you want and what mistakes everyone is making in this commonplace communication form.

Here are nine common mistakes you might be making:

1. Sending emails only when you need something.

The best time to build any relationship is before you need something, not waiting until the moment you need something…

2. Forgetting that there’s a person on the other side of your email.

Just as you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s house for dinner and bark out a command, often those little niceties in the intro and end of a message can go a long way. Social cues aren’t dated constructs; they’re valuable warm-up phrases in communication. Start by saying hi, comment on someone’s latest achievements, and wish the other person well…

3. Using the first person too much.

Many emails–and essays–are written exclusively in first person. Shift the focus to the recipient and consider what they want, need, or would like to hear. After writing an email, scan it quickly for how many times you use the word “I.” See if you can edit some of them out…

4. Sending the email at the wrong time.

Just because you’ve written it now doesn’t mean it needs to be sent at this exact moment. Delaying the send is one of the most powerful and underutilized tools of emailing.

Evaluate whether or not the message is urgent and needs to be replied to immediately. If you’re cleaning up your inbox during your scheduled time, fire off the messages that are urgent and consider sending messages in the morning…

5. Sending to too many people.

More recipients in the “To” field does not mean that you’ll necessarily get more answers. In the age of digital marketing, people who blast messages in broadcast form without understanding who is in the “to” line can erode their chances of a message being opened. A perfect email is one that’s sent to exactly who it needs to go to, with a specified desired outcome…

6. Knowing nothing about the person receiving your email.

Do your homework on the recipient. One great tool to glean fast information about who you’re talking to is Rapportive, a sidebar that lets you see the latest public posts (and a picture) of the person you’re communicating to.

7. Forgetting to send updates or interim messages.

If you’re waiting for an important message from someone, the time spent waiting for a delivery can seem interminable. If there’s a long delay in sending an item that’s highly anticipated or expected, or you’ve experienced a few hiccups–send a one-liner email to update your receiver on the status of the project. You’ll know that you need to send a quick note when you start to get anxious about not delivering or they seem to be a bit flippant.

8. Making messages too long.

Depending on the nature of the message, emails can vary from a few words to thousands of words. The longer the email, the less likely that someone will read the entire thing. Long emails generally mean that a larger strategy, framework, or document might be in order…

9. Using email exclusively.

Efficiency does not necessarily mean one single system. Often, redundancy in communication can be extremely helpful, as each tool (video, chat, email, Skype) adds a layer of human nuance back into the correspondence that’s happening…

Now: 4 ways to focus on writing better emails:

Tell sticky stories. Everything makes more sense with an illustration. Highlight and example, illustrate an ideal customer avatar, or tell a specific instance of a problem you had. Setting the context and the stage (that seems obvious to you, the writer), makes it easier for people to understand the pain point, the context, and the reason why you’re writing. When people can see your story–who you are, where you come from, why you’re doing what you’re doing–it’s easier for them to become a part of it.

Use the four-sentence, one-link rule: Keep your email to under four sentences (or five!). Focus on the pain point or problem you’re solving. Limit yourself to only one link. If you have to, make that link a document.

Be responsive and reflective: Observe how others communicate and adapt your style to meet them midway. Customize your communication by mirroring the style of a received message. Does someone send short messages with formal addresses? Respond in style.

Bookmark emails that you love with Evernote. Use the vast number of emails in front of you (and in your inbox) as clues to great messaging. Watch what emails you open first and are most excited about. Create a few folders in your mailbox system for great introductions, sample short messages, and thank-you notes that you like. Keep these for future use if you’re ever in a bind. In any art, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel–and paying attention to great writers (and what we personally enjoy) is a great way to get started.

Email is our number one form of communication, which means that everyone is a writer. The most powerful thing you can do in both your personal and business life is learn how to write well and tell great stories. Messages that persuade, content that converts, and language that inspires action are critical for getting what you want.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

How To Maintain Your Creativity When Working From Home

Andra writes in PIXEL77

There are a great many benefits to working from home, including flexibility of working hours, taking unscheduled days off, waving goodbye to working in formal business wear and spending more quality time with the family. However, working from home can also produce challenges, including reduced creativity…

Fortunately, you need not despair as there are a number of strategies to help you maintain your creativity.

Have a Change of Scenery…

Do Something Different…

Start a Pet Project…

Get Some Exercise…

Analyse Why Your Creativity is Waning…

Take A Nap…

Seek Help From Your Peers…

Take Time for Laughter….

Link to read Andra’s suggestions in full

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

You’re Doing What?? (Part 2)

Rosella Hart remembers the good and the bad aspects of directing a show with Shaky Isles Theatre and her 7 month old son in the room:

Baby is not really welcome in most places in fact. Not truly…perhaps if they are impossibly well behaved the whole time.. perhaps in certain social settings… but I am not aware of any model in our society that allows for the mum/baby unit to exist together in a working or professional context (if they WANT to; a crucial point and another topic)

So having an opportunity to work creatively in a company that would welcome us as a unit was something I really had to do, knowing I might not get another chance for a long time…

OK, so the bad stuff first…for me, it was stressful to split my focus, I had moments of feeling like a bad parent and honestly it was a relief when he was taken out for a few hours. I wasn’t able to be at opening night, and promptly broke out in stress hives the next day (which I have never had before) and by the time the show opened I was pretty much at the end of my physical endurance regarding sleep. In retrospect, probably the biggest down-side was that rehearsals began just as he was starting to get better at sleeping, and the combination of disrupted daytimes and a knackered mother once the show was up and running, did put us on a bad sleep cycle which we have only just now started to kick (now being a year later)

BUT, I got to do something else with my brain, and socialise, which I wasn’t doing before; partly because I was too tired, disorganised and unmotivated to get out the house, but also not having family or close friends in London. My theatre family filled that gap (as it always has done). Although my physical health suffered, I think my mental health was better for it, and if I had the choice to make again, I would do it again.

For Jasper it was definitely a positive experience. Socialising every day all day with other adults, in that specific environment, listening to and watching actors work (he was particularly fascinated by the ‘yes-no’ game in improvisation) and also to be taken away from me for a bit and have some time with other (wonderful, creative) people was great for his development. The negative impact on his sleep after being fed, held and prammed to sleep all day every day for a few months, was a big price to pay, but really it was me that paid it…

It’s funny how often the word ‘inclusion’ is bandied around, usually in terms of disability or minority, seldom in regard to babies and children, who must be among the most excluded groups out there. Or perhaps ghettoised; there is plenty for kids, but it is a world apart. So many gigs and interesting things start after bed time, which means that if, like me, your wee one isn’t really sleeping reliably at night without you, as an adult you are suddenly cut off from a huge part of adult life, especially if you have no aunties, uncles, grandparents etc around to help out. Not something you can really appreciate or factor in before having kids. One of the best things for me about being in the production was the opportunity to do something normal and not about ‘baby’, and to be enabled to do that by the support of people who believed that I should be able to…

So… thinking of doing it yourself? A few ideas…

Link to get Rosella’s suggestions and read her story in full 

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

Making Awesome People Happy At Work (and stopping them from quitting)

Taro Fukuyama, co-founder and CEO of AnyPerk writes about happiness at work and his take on why it matters so much:

It’s fairly common knowledge that happy employees are simply better at their jobs. No matter the industry, hours, or education required, individuals perform better when their spirits are high. They are more engaged, more motivated, more likely to be pleasant to one another and any customers they encounter, and are thinking more creatively to solve problems and improve company operations.

This makes perfect sense, and the opposite is equally true. Employees who are miserable, angry, depressed, or just generally unhappy do not perform to the best of their abilities. They are disengaged and easily distracted, they cut corners and deflect responsibility, and simply don’t care about the quality of work they produce.

And yet a great deal of businesses just don’t do it. They think that extra investment in perks, or making their employees happier won’t get them anything other than in the red.

They’re wrong. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Noelle Nelson, you can literally Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy. I’d have to agree – when CEOs and managers can put their egos aside and focus on making the actual workers happier, they’ll be richer too.

The challenge? Well, because every company, and every individual, is different, there’s no steadfast rulebook for making employees happy and engaged. It’s interpretive at best, and most companies will have to reflect on their own internal processes and workflow to determine how to make the company a more enjoyable place to work.

While this is vague at best, there are a few principles to follow. And they’re obvious to some – but you’d be surprised how many companies (startups and Fortune 500′s alike) fail to provide them:

1. Recognition

People want to know when they are doing something right. They want to receive credit for their accomplishments, and they want to know that their contributions to goals of the company are seen and appreciated…

2. Individuality

This goes hand in hand with recognition, but on an even more individualized level. People don’t like to feel like cogs in a machine, with no identity beyond their job description. The best way to avoid this is to get to know employees individually, and, more importantly, to understand the complex and unique lives that each and every one of them lead…

3. Perks

People want to be proud of the place they work, not just of the company’s end product or service, but also proud of what it means to be an employee of that particular company. One of the best ways to add prestige to particular job is to include bonuses that go beyond a standard paycheck…

4. Understanding

…As a CEO, a manager, or anyone ordering around other people, you have to understand, use and work on your own product. I don’t care if you’ve got a million meetings. I don’t care if you like your comfy chair and the lack of stress. As a manager you should be as or more stressed as the employees. If they’re not, they’re probably a crappy manager.

This also means that if someone makes a mistake you cannot and should not skewer them. Disciplining an employee is a necessary and painful evil. Making an example of them and breaking them on a personal level is worthless. I’d also wager it makes you worthless too.

5. Ignorance of “Company Culture”

Your company culture should not be complex. It should be about doing good work, making your customers happy and executing on an idea. This may come with a few elements of stress. This may involve the eventual firing of people. This should not at any point involve not taking someone on because they’re not a good cultural fit.

“Culture” in companies has become an abused term to ostracize and oust those who might disagree with the incumbent staff. It’s very easy to be upset when someone says that something that everyone does is wrong, or that someone who has been around for a while is doing wrong. You have to be wiling to review every process and element of your company with a critical eye…

Conclusion

Much of this boils down to respect, and just taking steps to foster a work environment that radiates positivity. When individuals are surrounded by smiling, happy people, they tend to feel that way themselves. Happiness has a way of breeding more happiness, and when each employee feels like an asset to the company, those feelings of value multiply upon themselves.

Value really is the key principle here – what can companies do make employees feel valued?

By treating each worker with respect, recognizing their individuality, and trying to make sure that whatever the job may be, it fits in with the other aspects of their lives as best it can, businesses can build a mutual commitment between workplace and employee…

When a company legitimately cares about its employees (and shows it), it’s much easier for the employee to care about the wellbeing of the company, and put in the effort to help it flourish.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

Smiling In Facebook Photos Can Predict Wellbeing For Years Down-The-Line

Turns out your smiley Facebook friends really are happier than you

By 

Take a quick look at your current Facebook profile picture. Are you posing alone? Is is a boisterous group picture? A professional-looking headshot? Is there duckface involved?Whether you’re teetering with a Coors Light in your hand or sitting serenely in a tasteful pose, a new study says there’s only one thing that really matters: Are you smiling?

According to researchers at the University of Virginia, the intensity of smiles in Facebook profile pictures can accurately predict the well-being of undergraduates over the course of their college careers.

“One implication of my paper is that you can get a fairly accurate indication by looking at people’s Facebook photos based on how intensely they’re smiling in the photos how good those people are socially,” says one of the researchers, post-doctoral instructor Patrick Seder. The paper, titled “Intensity of Smiling in Facebook Photos Predicts Future Life Satisfaction” explains that it took authentic looking photos with smiles (no “jokey” pictures allowed) to make these predictions…

The researchers looked at two groups of Facebook users, taking their first assessments in 2005 and 2006. They selected users were freshman in their first semester at the University of Virginia, and had profile picture photographs that could be analyzed for smile intensity. They measured the intensity of the sample groups’ smiles after taking them through a series of tests to gauge their general well-being and levels of extroversion. The researchers checked back in with their subjects at the end of their college careers and looked at their contentment levels again.

They found that the students who had the most intense smiles in their profile pictures during the first semester of school reported more happiness both in that first semester as well as 3.5 years later. They also found that they could predict whether these students would increase their reported well-being based on the smile intensity.

To boil it down, the students with bigger grins in Facebook photos posted at the beginning of college reported more life satisfaction both during the time period they posted the photos, and at the end of their college careers…

the researchers noted that people who express positive emotions tend to elicit positive emotions in other people (in simpler terms, smiling is contagious). Since people value those who make them smile, a Facebook photo that reinforces the image of someone as a smiley, happy person could strengthen relationships.

It’s a sort of “the chicken or the egg?” conundrum. Do you smile because you’re happy or do you smile and become happy? Either way, there’s a correlation. And since these researchers ran the test twice and got the same results, you’re probably better off playing it safe and deleting that sourpuss face profile picture.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

Put On A Happy Face(book)

By 

…Although many people believe we self-aggrandize on Facebook, research finds that for the most part, what we see is who we are; our Facebook profiles tend to be pretty accurate expressions of our personalities.

But we all know that even people whose lives appear to be thrill a minute on Facebook sometimes get cranky; sprout zits; have boring evenings; fight with their significant others; have bad hair days; and other not super-duper fun things. They just choose not to share those moments.

Let us consider instead the positive power of Facebook for making us feel good about ourselves: We can do the same thing. We can make ourselves look fun and fascinating on Facebook by selective posting. What’s more, if we do it without making stuff up, then we are actually the person we appear to be on Facebook.

Maybe you’re not as dull as you think. There’s a really good chance you look as cool to other people as other people do to you. While you’re busy envying other people’s lives, maybe other people are envying yours…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

What happens To Your Brain When People Like Your Facebook Status

THORIN KLOSOWSKI reports on more new research using Facebook to understand more about what might help to make us happy:

In research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that they could predict people’s Facebook use by looking at how their brain reacted to positive social feedback in a scanner:P

Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself compared to praise of others.  And that activation was associated with more time on the social media site.

As it turns out, the social affirmation that comes when people like your status updates is addictive, which might help explain why people tend to spend so much time on Facebook:

On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically.  Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively.

The research is still fresh, but it makes sense that social media addiction is tied to the reward center of the brain…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: andyi via photopin cc

photo credit: andyi via photopin cc

And this research throws upside down some of the conclusions many us of us might have been making about the effects on young people of video gaming…

New video game research concludes gaming improves emotional, social, psychological well-being

BY 

A research group comprised of members from various Australian universities has concluded a review showing strong positive effects on the well-being of young people across key areas.

The review analysed over 200 papers from various research teams across the world and revealed strong patterns that show many of the negative myths surrounding video games are, well, exactly that.

Among the key findings from the analysis are that:

  • There are many creative, social and emotional benefits from playing videogames, including violent games (Kutner & Olson 2008).
  • Although ‘excessive’ gamers showed mild increases in problematic behaviors (such as somatic symptoms; anxiety and insomnia; social dysfunction, and general mental health status), it was nongamers who were associated with the poorest mental health correlates (Allahverdipour et al 2010).
  • Frequency of play does not significantly relate to body mass index or academic grade point average (Wack & Tentelett-Dunn 2009)
  • Videogames have been found to be an effective play therapy tool. Children can be helped to change their views of themselves and the world around through metaphors in games, e.g., ‘the force’ in Lego Star Wars, gaining ‘attributes’ in SSX-3 (snowboarding), and conquering ‘quests’ in RuneScape (Hull 2009).

“We found that playing video games positively influences young people’s emotional state, vitality, engagement, competence and self-acceptance,” explain the authors of the review on The Conversation, saying that it is “associated with higher self-esteem, optimism, resilience, healthy relationships and social connections and functioning”.

“Emerging research suggests that how young people play, as well as with whom they play, may be more important in terms of well-being than what they play. Feelings of relatedness or flow while playing, and playing with people you know are better predictors of well-being than the genre of game played.”

You can read the full story and analyse the findings for yourself over at The Conversation.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth In Ancient Wisdom by Joanthan Haidt

abduzeedo recommends this book is about positive psychology, the title is The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, which I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying:

In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims – like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – can enrich and even transform our lives.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an “elephant” of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual “rider.”

Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche’s contention that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth.

An exponent of the “positive psychology” movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don’t matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness.

Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues

photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx via photopin cc

photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx via photopin cc

Empathy + Placebo = Healing?

Psychotherapy, voodoo, and complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) are all cut from the same cloth; they are ‘healing methods’ that relieve symptoms because they provide two key things: empathy and the placebo effect (E&P).

…Belgian physicians Mommaerts and Devroey in a new paper: From “Does it work?” to “What is it?” … say that, given that Empathy + Placebo effect are a powerful psychological force, it makes little sense to ask of any particular complementary/alternative medicine, “Does it work?”.  So long as it provides non-specific Empathy + Placebo effect, just about any intervention will work…

Empathy + Placebo effect is often the only thing people need.  But it can be hard to find it in mainstream medicine. The authors write:

Complementary/alternative medicine represents a failing of scientific medicine, in that complementary/alternative medicine seeks to address patients’ needs that are lost in the technologically focused interactions of modern medicine. Complementary/alternative medicine represents many patients’ search for empathy.

Perhaps there’s a solution: more empathy in mainstream medicine, or in general, some kind of ‘pure’ Empathy + Placebo effect that doesn’t rely on unscientific foundations? This is what the authors suggest….

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

There Is No App For Happiness

 writes in The Huffington Post Blog

“No poet is ever going to write about gazing into his lover’s emoticons.”

I bought a perfectly good flip phone three years ago, but lately people tease me about it as if I’m using something from the Victorian Era. Before that, I had a different flip phone, which followed an analog cell phone. Remember those? And before that, I had a telephone with a wire that stuck in a wall. You want to know which one had the best sound quality? The one that stuck in the wall. But I digress… What I want to talk about is what hasn’t been upgraded: the quality of human communication. The quality of our conversations with friends and loved ones hasn’t improved one bit. In fact, many people now send text messages instead of conversing at all. We have far greater access, but far less intimacy.

Information technology is expanding at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been impacted, yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, we find that we have become anxious, sleep-deprived, depressed, and over-medicated. For example, one in four women in the United States takes antidepressants and/or anti anxiety medication, with men not far behind. And for sleep? The Center for Disease Control has declared that insufficient sleep is an epidemic.

My premise is not that technology is supposed to increase our happiness but that our society now believes it does. We have become confused as to the difference between happiness and entertainment. The constant glancing into our smart phone to see if anyone has pinged us, while a friend is sitting across the table speaking to us, are indicators that we are addicted to something that is making us less considerate and more alienated.

Here is one of the most important statistics you may ever read that explains the clash of human happiness with text-based technology. According to research from 1981, approximately 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal. So although we are more connected than ever, when we communicate with text, it is only 10 percent of us that is connected. It is no wonder we feel more alienated. The overuse of social media, texting, and gaming is causing our society, especially young people, to develop symptoms that remind me of Asperger syndrome — verbal difficulties, avoiding eye contact, inability to understand social rules and read body language, and difficulty in forming true friendships.

Emotional intimacy requires personal knowledge of the deeper dimensions of another being and is developed through trust. Trust can begin, or end, with a first glance, because, like other animals, we inherently know a great deal about each other through body language and tone of voice. In fact, we often ascertain the trustworthiness of a person in mere seconds, without a word spoken. Based on nonverbal communication we regularly make life-altering decisions; whether or not to begin a business relationship, accept a date with someone, or allow someone to look after your child. We rely on nonverbal communication at the deepest level of our being.

Innovators are making great strides in programing humanoid-type robots that have faces and can produce human expressions. These robots are programmed to make eye contact and to read and respond to human emotional expressions, tone of voice, and body language. The strange and perhaps history-bending irony is that we are teaching robots to make eye contact and watch for nonverbal cues, but meanwhile, we humans are now avoiding these things, opting instead to send texts and then adding smiley faces to crudely humanize the message. We are humanizing robots as we voluntarily dehumanize ourselves.

In my new book, There is No App for Happiness, (Skyhorse August 2013) I introduce readers to three imperatives that accelerate change from the inside out, humanizing change that I believe can make us happier. The one I will mention here is Life-Span Management. We have an incongruous schism between the concepts of our time and our life as if they were two completely separate things. In one hand we have a precious short life, and in the other hand we have time to kill. Time is not only money, it is much more than that; it is the minutes and seconds of our mortal life. Your time is the finite resource from which you experience this world — everyone, everything, and especially that which you are devoted to and live for. Because it is a finite resource, whether we are aware of it or not, we all purchase each time-event at the cost of another. When we come to this realization, a giant bell rings as we comprehend how much of our life-span we have been wasting on meaningless activities that serve no one and nothing. Happiness costs something. What are you willing to sacrifice to have more life/time? And what is stealing your time?

Remember Steve Job’s famous quote? “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

I am sharing this quote not because it is unique, because it isn’t. I share this particular quote because these words were spoken by the icon of tech success. Jobs achieved great wealth, power, and fame, only to discover that his favorite things in life were free — and not made from silicon.

To be clear, I am not anti-technology. Quite the contrary, I am even an advocate of self-driving cars. But I think that we have to select our technology wisely. If we bring technology into our life, it should simplify our life and give us more free time, not take it away. If it doesn’t make your current life run more seamlessly, get rid of it. Everything new is not better.

Maybe it’s time we start applying Silicon Valley style innovation to ourselves so that we find a path to a more meaningful experience of living, and a more sane world.

Link to read this  article in its original

photo credit: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

photo credit: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry

Alison Nastasi gives a few brief definitions of poetry by famous poets:

We’ve been thinking about poet Meena Alexander’s incredible address to the Yale Political Union, in which she refers to Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry. The English poet’s work famously stated, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Alexander concludes:

“The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history…In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist… Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.”

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

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

Other poets have attempted to interpret “what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable.” …

Percy Bysshe Shelley

There are a few more choice snippets from Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry, that articulated the essence of poetry:

“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.”

“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man.”

Emily Dickinson

“If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

Robert Frost

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”

Salvatore Quasimodo

“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.”

Mary Oliver

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”

William Wordsworth

“I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.”

John Cage

“There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.”

Kahlil Gibran

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”

William Hazlitt

“Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.”

Edith Sitwell

“Poetry is the deification of reality.”

photo credit: youngdoo via photopin cc

photo credit: youngdoo via photopin cc

Marianne Moore

“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.”

Theodore Roethke

“You must believe: a poem is a holy thing — a good poem, that is.”

James K. Baxter

“The poem is a plank laid over the lion’s den.”

Link to read the full set of quotations

photo credit: Cali4beach via photopin cc

photo credit: Cali4beach via photopin cc

STEM Subjects versus the arts: why languages are just as important

Lucy Jeynes writes in Guardian Professional:

…I confess that I myself wondered whether reading 19th century French novels could honestly be considered study and not pure indulgence. When I first entered the world of work, I felt that perhaps I should have studied something more “useful”. It has taken the perspective of a 20-year-career in a fairly technical, male-dominated field to appreciate the enormous benefits of my degree.

Living and studying in other countries has helped me to understand cultural cues, essential in today’s global economy. The study of other languages has given me a deep understanding of the richness of English, which enables me to say precisely what I mean.

Studying languages has helped me to write compelling proposals, unambiguous tender specifications, complex arbitrations, engaging conference speeches and insightful trade press articles – all of which have helped me to reach the top of my career in facilities management.

In a profession filled with engineers and surveyors, the ability to communicate technical content effectively and quickly has turned out to be a valuable skill…

…Belinda Parmar is right to highlight the gender bias: only 33% of university languages students are male. We need more men to study languages, just as we need more women to study STEM subjects. In our technological age, we still need thinkers, writers and artists. Otherwise, who will develop the content for all the wonderful devices that geeks are inventing?

Study what you love and you will do well. You will find a way to build it into your career: learning anything is never a waste.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: rAmmoRRison via photopin cc

photo credit: rAmmoRRison via photopin cc

To Change The World (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela

Steve McCurry’s new collection celebrates moments of people learning, and, as always,, his photos are powerful testimony to the very best of what it can mean to be human and alive in today’s world across our blue planet.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. 
– Plutarch

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
– John Steinbeck

Follow this link to feast your eyes and your soul on Steve McCurry’s images

photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

Transitions

Mary O’Connor reflects in the Shaky Isles Theatre blog about change and moving on:

Etymology:- 1550s, from Latin transitionem (nominative transitio) “a going across or over,” noun of action from past participle stem of transire “go or cross over”

“I’m not very good at transitions” I say to myself, to others…

“it’s just this bit, I’ll be ok when Autumn comes with leaves , conkers, apples , Halloween, golden light and a promise of Christmas” is not an end.

I’m on a bridge. From one experience to the next. So, I’m not good at bridges? This bridge feels a little bit rickety right now?

Ok ,  so I’m going to have to let go, and hold onto the bridge. Look where I’m going. Look ahead.

Link to read Mary’s piece in full

Happiness At Work Edition #63

You will find all of these stories, and many more, in this week’s  Happiness At Work Edition #63 of 13the September 2013

We hope you enjoy…

photo credit: mysza831 via photopin cc

photo credit: mysza831 via photopin cc

Building the Human City – extracts from David Clark’s visionary book

building-human-city-cover

In Building the Human City – the origins and future potential of the Human City Institute (1995 – 2002) David Clark writes:

The world, of which the city is now an essential and integral part, is one that faces a crucial choice between community and chaos. It is a choice that must be made in the context of a world which enters a new millennium facing the age-old problems of poverty, homelessness and disease…Warfare has become vastly more dangerous [and] the emergence of international terrorism, allied to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, means that no corner of the globe can any longer regard itself as secure. Virulent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, appear on the scene just as others are apparently vanquished. Most challenging of all, our small and fragile planet is now faced with an exploding world population and the ultimate destruction of a life- sustaining environment…

[But these] problems mask a deeper challenge. Fundamentally, it is not the problems outlined above which threaten humankind most profoundly, but our inability to transform our fragmented world into a world order in which we can affirm our common humanity and ensure the future well-being of our planet…

The humanising power of community

The communal task 

A difficulty we face in seeking to harness the power of community is that, though the threat of global chaos is now easy enough to recognise, the concept of ‘community’, like a bar of soap in the shower, seems to slip from our grasp the harder we try to grab hold of it. Why is this?

The educational task

If our first task in seeking to overcome the threat of chaos is to reinstate the concept of community, our second is to move ‘learning’ to the top of the agenda.

To develop a sense of community powerful enough to prevent the chaos which threatens human civilization, we need to create social collectives that never cease learning how to enrich both their own sense of community and that of others. Our world has to become a global community made up of a multitude of social collectives which are learning communities, from institutions to small groups, if humankind is to survive and flourish in the years ahead.

Leadership

If accessing and nurturing the humanising power of learning communities is a necessity for the salvation of the planet, then we urgently need to develop a style of leadership appropriate for that task.

The city as a model of the power of the learning community

Whatever we think of this massive change to the nature of human civilisation, the city is here to stay. Thus the city has become the measure of whether or not humankind will be able to live together in a world which is safe, fulfilling and harmonious. The communal quality of life within a Belfast, a Jerusalem, a Bagdad, a New York or a Kabul is a barometer of how well or badly we are doing.

If our cities fall apart, chaos will ensue.

We  opted for the word ‘human’ in the title given to the Human City Initiative because, from an academic perspective, we felt that the concept of the human had so much in common with that of the learning community that the two could be regarded as virtually synonymous. Both related to humankind’s need for a sense of security, significance and solidarity, both were about learning and both embraced the personal and corporate dimensions of human relationships. The core components of a learning community are a sense of security, significance and solidarity, learning as education and the type of leadership required to enhance these attributes.

In his final chapter 7: Liberating the power of the human city, Clark writes:

The image of the human city

What sort of city needs to become an ideal-type for global well-being? Visions are in plentiful supply. But the visions we have for cities are as much social constructs as for any other collective. Cities are what we make them. The challenge, therefore, is to ‘re-imagine’ the city in a way which can make it a communally powerful means of global transformation.

The image of the human city is one that inspires people to connect across a diversity of often divisive social boundaries, cultural, ethnic, occupational and religious. It encourages people to discover what it means to be human in not only a personal, but an interpersonal, inter-agency and city-wide way.

The building blocks of the human city as a learning community

The hearing

The hearing is an important, if temporary, form of learning community. Its essential characteristic is a visioning process which stretches the imagination, opens up new possibilities for human growth, promotes learning as education and, in conjunction with the concept of ‘human city sites,’ enables participants to develop their own innovative and creative agendas for urban revitalisation.

The  emphasis [in the hearing] is not on problem solving or addressing issues as such, but on imaginative ideas that break the mould of traditional practice and harness pent up human creativity.

This visioning process is not a once-and-for-all affair. Its purpose is not to produce a blue-print for the correction of current ills which can then be passed up (or down) the system for implementation. Its aim is more messy, yet more creative. It seeks to enthuse participants with hope for the future founded on visions which may never have been dreamed up before, and to produce an energy which only hope can generate if visions are to be turned into reality.

The Human City Institute’s hearings

The Institute’s hearings tackled the perennial problem of the raising of the hopes of participants only to dash them again. Those who met understood that the purpose was to engage in a mould-breaking and not a problem solving exercise. There was an appreciation of, and respect for the educational nature of hearings which often became journeys of discovery in themselves. Participants were genuinely surprised by the innovative nature of many of the ideas that emerged and went home excited and energised by new hopes, rather than depressed by the conviction that the enormous problems of urban life would never be solved.

The Human City Institute made a number of attempts to stimulate hearings through the use of the arts. In the early days, projects were mooted to enable people to share their visions in response to photographs which exemplified aspects of the human city, as well as projects to encourage school children to draw and paint pictures as to how they hoped Birmingham might look in the future. Discussions were also held as to whether drama could be used in the same way. Though never fully implemented, these ideas offer other ways in which citizens might be helped to bring their imagination to bear on what a human city would look like.

Hearings give visionary energy to the humanising power of the learning community. The liberation of hope brings dedication and commitment, not only to plans for the future, but to associated endeavours in the present. Nevertheless, most of the Human City Institute’s hearings necessarily remained one-off encounters and short-lived communal phenomena unless linked directly to human city sites. Building the hearings process into the life of such sites, the usual form of which is the human group, and across every sphere of city life, remains a major challenge, but also opens many creative and exciting possibilities for the future.

The human group

The power of the human group

One of the most perceptive theses advanced for the humanising power of the communal group is that of Etienne Wenger (1998, 2002). Wenger calls his groups ‘communities of practice’, these being informal collectives which can occur anywhere and at any time. They are shaped by ‘mutual engagement’, ‘a joint enterprise’ and ‘a shared culture’. Their importance lies in three main areas: their adaptability and flexibility in enabling an organisation to achieve its primary task, their capacity for ongoing learning in the fulfilment of this role, and the sense of identity and belonging they can offer their members. Wenger applies the concept of communities of practice mainly to the world of business, but argues that it has universal application.  He believes that such communities have a key role to play in the sustainability of organisations in a global economy, not least through their immediate access to and ability to process personal experiences, insights and ideas.

Wenger’s communities of practice have much in common with our human groups.

Human networks are able to promote the kind of learning which is more about ‘education’ than socialisation, knowledge and skills. Because networking paves the way for surprising experiences and innovative relationships, the mould of old ways of thinking and doing is more easily broken, and learning as a journey of discovery comes to the fore. Networking also opens up the possibility of multi-group membership. This not only enables citizens to overcome previously dehumanising divides, but can offer ‘a critical source of learning’.  Thus networking not only increases the communal energy of the human city but enriches its educational possibilities.

Human networking also offers a vital spiritual dynamic to the human city.  If a city is to reach its full human potential, then what Haughton, writing from a Christian perspective, calls an ‘exchange of life’ (the liberation of human creativity in which the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts) has to take place. Networking as a key form of human ‘connectivity’ and creativity, through which citizens are able to experience new visions and dream new dreams, has the ability to liberate spiritual energy vital for the creation of the human city.

Harnessing the communal power of the human network

For networking to reach it full potential, it must facilitate face-to-face encounters. In the human city, indirect or impersonal engagement can never suffice to enrich and enhance the life of learning communities. Therefore, if networking is to further the building of the human city, it has to provide an opportunity for people to converse on a personal level, and to engage as unique and identifiable persons in innovative and liberating ways across boundaries which have previously kept people apart.

In 1994, the Rockefeller Foundation produced its ‘Millennium Report’ based on the premise that, ‘Without communication – properly understood as dialogue, connection and engagement in the process of being a citizen and living in a community – there is no revitalisation’.  If ‘communication as engagement’ is to liberate the humanizing power of learning communities then a great deal of work remains to be done on how such communication can be achieved.

The human neighbourhood

Breaking the mould of neighbourhood regeneration

In reality, most neighbourhoods are made up of groups or constellations of groups which often relate more naturally to groups of a similar kind in neighbourhoods other than their own. Bonding on the basis of shared territory remains important and can give residents a sense of ownership of and pride in the place where they live. However, the Institute believed that the human city can only come about when local groups are able to network within and across neighbourhood boundaries in order to share ideas, experiences, skills and resources.

The human institution

Of course the social exclusiveness and injustices of urban life must be addressed. However, until it is realised that the city is not going to become fully human until the wealthy as well as the poor, the strong as well as the weak, across all sectors, are active participants in building learning communities, little will change. 

To transform institutions into learning communities requires a cultural shift of a profound and long-term kind.  

There are some signs that private sector institutions are beginning to recognise the need to espouse the qualities of the learning community. The concept of the business as ‘a learning organisation’ gathered momentum in the late ‘eighties  and, unlike certain ‘flavours of the month’ within that sector, has stayed the course remarkably well. Particularly influential here has been the pioneering work of Argyris and Schon (1978) and, a little later, of Senge (1990), with Hawkins (1991, 2000) offering further interesting insights.

Unfortunately descriptions of the learning organisation have encompassed a confusing array of organisational concepts and models, with extended lists of loosely connected features being par for the course. The private sector’s understanding of ‘learning’ has often been superficial, its pre-occupation being with what we have called instruction and training rather than ‘education’. Nonetheless, the fact that the private sector has begun to espouse the concept of the learning organisation may give some hope of the eventual emergence of the human institution within that sector.

Seeking to promote businesses as more open and inclusive systems has also been the purpose of ‘the social audit’, a venture developed in the UK by the New Economics Foundation. However, this has been taken up by only a very limited number of companies.

Despite encouraging signs of progress, the large majority of institutions within all sectors remain victims of a market-driven, competitive and often divisive culture, only employing their expertise and resources for the benefit of the city as a whole where profit, reputation or survival are at stake.

How then can the idea of institutions as learning communities, and their potential contribution to the building of the human city be made more of a reality?

Visioning

The Human City Institute’s endeavours in encouraging institutions to engage in some form of visioning about what might be involved in becoming a more human institution is one example of a catalyst for change. Such visioning helped institutions to begin to recognise that, even in a market-drive economy, giving a more human face to the way they operate is not only possible, but could enhance the nature of their organisational culture, image and effectiveness. Furthermore, the very fact of engaging in the process of envisioning what it meant to be a human institution immediately engaged them in a process which is a key feature of the learning community.

Human groups and networks

Close on the heels of the importance of visioning comes the potential of communal groups and networks to promote humanising change within institutions. The fostering within institutions of a wide range of human groups as mini learning communities and, through effective networking, enabling them to share insights, ideas, skills and resources, offers genuine hope for the communal transformation of institutions.

Wegner argues that we should begin to view the nature of the institution ‘not so much as an overarching structure as … a boundary object. It connects communities of practice into an organisation by crossing boundaries. It does not sit on top; it moves in between. It does not unify by transcending; it connects and disconnects’. Where institutions undertake this kind of intermediary role, they offer to those groups associated with them a corporate identity that strengthens each group’s sense of community without constraining and cramping creativity and identity. Thus the institution as a learning community is able to enhance the humanity of the whole by providing the time, opportunity and resources for its component groups to develop a synergy which if they remained separate entities would be impossible.

However, the Human City Institute was only able to promote attempts at institutional transformation at a very tentative level and on a very limited front.  [But its] belief that the visioning process, and nurturing and connecting human groups within large institutions to help transform the latter into learning communities and, as a consequence, beginning to transform our cities into human cities, remain a very important legacy.

Partnerships

The human city is a holistic city. It requires the contribution of all its citizens, from the small human group to the multi-national corporation. Even if institutions begin to develop the characteristics of learning communities, real progress towards the creation of a more human urban culture will depend on their pursuing that goal collaboratively.

The contribution of the human church to the human city

That the church as an institution, along with other faith communities, often fails to recognise the unique role it could play in building the human city, and fears to enter into genuine partnership with other institutions for lack of losing its own identity, is typical of the communal dilemma facing our world. But where it stands apart and will not risk its life for the sake of the common good and the development of a new humanity, it will ‘lose its life’, as its founder once warned. The revitalisation of urban life urgently needs the ongoing contribution of the faith communities as a resource for the shaping, nurturing and practical expression of the vision of what it means, individually and collectively, to be human.

The contribution of the human school to the human city

The distinctive contribution of the school to the creation of the human city focuses on learning as education. The school seeks to demonstrate and communicate to other institutions that education is not just about the assimilation of knowledge or the acquiring of skills, but about learning which is person-centred, an open journey of discovery, risks exploring ideas and cultures not experienced before, and is concerned to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the twenty-first century. At the same time the human school knows that unless it nourishes its life as a community, little genuine education will occur. As in the case of the church, therefore, the school needs to be seen as an institution that can help every sector to understand what it means to be human, and how to foster and harness the power of the learning community for the benefit of the city as a whole. Thus the human school should be welcomed with open arms by other institutions as a model of the learning community with a vital contribution to make to building the human city.

Cities as partners

There remains an even bigger picture. If the renewal of our cities requires a new quality of partnership between its own institutions, the future of human civilization demands a new quality of partnership between its cities. Co-operation between cities is steadily moving up the international agenda, not least across Europe where Eurocities, the European association of metropolitan cities, already has over a hundred members. Between as well as within all cities and countries, much more needs to be done to promote partnerships which embrace the private, public and voluntary sectors, which affirm the distinctive contribution of every form of urban institution (including the faith communities), and which develop the inter-city and international networking of human groups.

The communalising process  

It is imperative for any city concerned with urban renewal to move beyond what its citizens report to be their immediate needs. The mould of failed urban regeneration will not be broken until citizens and city leaders alike become much more creative in their thinking. One of the problems in the attempt to gather the views of Bristol residents about the future of their city and, indeed, of the Birmingham local authority to tap its citizens’ ideas for the development of the city at the start of a new millennium, was an inability to foster genuinely imaginative ideas.

The stress on imagination is one of the strengths of Landry’s idea of ‘The Creative City’ (Landry, 2000). As Imagine Chicago has also clearly shown, it is imagination which lies at the heart of liberating the humanising power of learning communities. Encouraging the expression of imagination not only creates vigorous participation, but energy for future action. Those involved in urban renewal need to stimulate the imagination of citizens much more creatively if the tired old patterns of community development are not simply to be repeated ad infinitum.

Accessing imagination is an ongoing process. But visions then need to be made a reality.

Visions of the future will always need adaptation in the cold light of day but, as this happens, it is important that the spark which ignited the vision in the first place is not extinguished. It needs to be recognised that nurturing a plethora human groups (wherever possible as human city sites), and enabling their visions to be worked out as humanising agendas, is the next essential stage in building the human city, a stage which requires considerable time, energy and skill, [especially] leadership.

It is essential that the process of building the human city also embraces networking. Enabling groups to engage in visioning will not get very far unless they can be connected, and thereby encouraged, supported and resourced, by means of the networking process. Such networking remains one of the greatest challenges for urban renewal programmes for, though the power of information technology is now immense, even human groups can all too easily become possessive and introverted. Enabling such groups to link and share is essential if their visioning is to lead to the emergence of human institutions and the human city. Far more time and effort needs to be given by those engaged in urban renewal to discover how human groups can be persuaded and equipped to view networking as not only beneficial to their own endeavours but also to the wider city.

Networking not only strengthens human groups as learning communities but opens up the possibility of institutions assuming a more human face. The networking of those human groups located within institutions, potentially has massive implications for the communal quality of institutional life. Yet more is needed. For only when institutions overcome their propensity for exclusivity and establish genuine partnerships with one another, will the building of the human city really get under way.

Leadership

To build the human city requires a massive cultural transformation. It needs a new vision of community and of learning, as we have defined them, being placed at the heart of urban renewal. It requires a communalising process which begins at the level of the human group. It necessitates our building the city as a learning community through a range of collective social forms, within all sectors, whose ability to liberate the synergy of a shared human endeavour has hitherto been neglected. But for this cultural transformation to take place, a new style of leadership, both corporate and individual, is also required.

The leadership needed to build the human city will be committed to the principles on which the human city is founded. We have integrated these principles into our ‘Twelve Signs of a Human City’. Given such a commitment, it is the role of the community educator, above all as an intermediary agent or agency, which is of paramount importance if the human city, together with its human neighbourhoods and human institutions, is to come into being.

For a city to be a human city, ‘a new kind of professional’ is needed. The latter will be one able to work across boundaries, cultural, social and institutional, to make new and creative connections which will harness the humanising potential of urban institutions. The human city requires leaders who, as community educators, possess the skills of empathy, affirmation, negotiation, conflict resolution and reconciliation. It is a highly creative yet demanding role, at this point in time unrecognised for the abilities and wisdom needed, and not rated as a priority in an urban culture where institutions and their leaders remain as insular as ever. But without leaders equipped and resourced to undertake this boundary-spanning and cross-cultural role, both within and between institutions, no human city can be built.

The role of local government

A great deal rests on the shoulders of local government, as itself a key intermediary agency, if the style of leadership needed to harness the communal power of the human city is to be readily available.

Local government has two especially critical tasks to perform in its role as an intermediary agency. First, it needs to promote the sharing of visions and insights as to what makes a city human. Here the importance of visioning once again comes to the fore as a vital mainstream endeavour for the liberation of civic life from the domination of what is inhuman in all its diverse forms.

Local government’s second major task is to ensure that in building the human city, the insights, experiences and abilities of all its citizens are brought fully into play. This means identifying and equipping a ‘new kind of professional’, community educators, who can operate on behalf of local government as intermediary agents across sometimes divisive functional, occupational, social and cultural boundaries, in relation to all sectors and over a wide range of neighbourhoods. The importance of this type of leadership remains as yet largely unrecognised and, even where acknowledged in principle, is often resisted or neglected in practice. The departmentalism of much of local government itself has prevented the emergence of such intermediary appointments, though the need for them has been argued for some time. Without this kind of catalytic leadership, liberating and synergising the communal power of the city’s humanising communities will not be accomplished.

Endword

The practice of urban revitalisation described in this book has focused attention on ‘the local’ rather than ‘the global’. It has done so because of our conviction that the survival of our world lies in the triumph of community over chaos, and that the key to that achievement is the building of the human city in place of the inhuman city.

Though this is a global task, it will not be achieved unless we recognise that the human city is a community of learning communities, and that building such a city has to begin at every level of city life, but notably at the level of the human group. This is why much of our attention has been given to how the humanising power of the latter can be liberated in order to kick-start the transformation of urban institutions, the city itself and eventually our world. To build large, we will need to begin, but by no means end, small.

Nevertheless, if civilization is to fulfil its immense human potential, and thereby avoid the chaos which otherwise looms large, cities across the globe, from Birmingham to Baghdad, from Dallas to Delhi, from Manchester to Mexico, from London to Lahore, will need to address the task of how to become human cities. If our planet is to become the home of ‘a world community’ then the power of community to promote what is truly human has to move to the very top of the agenda. ‘This is the dichotomy of the city: its potential to brutalise and its potential to civilise’, writes Richard Rogers.  It is also the dichotomy facing our world.

The choice is ours.

Appendix 2

What the Human City Institute is striving to promote (March 1999)

  • An explosion of interest in ‘the human city’ as a new vision for a new millennium.
  • A growing recognition of the fundamental importance of the human factor in any sustainable city of the future.
  • A zeal to rediscover ‘the soul’ of the city.
  • Enthusing urban communities to ‘re-imagine’ their cities as human cities.
  • Developing new forms of ‘hearing’ as a democratic means of imagining the human city and its possibilities.
  • Actively involving ‘all kinds and conditions’ of citizen in the creation of the human city.
  • Searching out and affirming the special contribution of the faith communities to the creation of the human city.
  • Specialised groups addressing the transformation of particular aspects of city life as their distinctive contribution to the human city (e.g. the human family, the human neighbourhood, the human school, the human hospital, the human business, the human police force, the human media, etc…….).
  • Establishing self-supporting networks of ‘human city sites’ involving all sectors, crossing every neighbourhood and touching all aspects of the life of city.
  • The imaginative use of information technology to connect, sustain and develop networks of human city sites.
  • The publication of papers and articles, backed up by seminars, workshops and conferences, to stimulate new thinking about the human city at both a professional and practical level.
  • The transformation of government, locally and nationally, so that it becomes the facilitator of those seeking to build human cities.
  • The creation of ‘human city forums’, partnerships working for the creation of the human city, in cities and towns across the UK and internationally.

David Clark (Director)

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting Area

Appendix 5
Twelve signs of a human city 

1.  A human city is committed to being a new kind of city.

~+~ A human city is a place alive with the energy of hope, enables imagination and creativity to flourish and looks for the revitalisation of every aspect of its corporate life.

~+~ It is a city which is a dynamic community of communities that offers a powerful sense of security, significance and solidarity to all its members.

~+~ It is ‘a rainbow city’ which delights in diversity and difference in pursuit of the common good.

~+~ It is a city which creates a new culture and a new language9 to embody and communicate what it means to be human.

~+~ ‘A human city enables those who share a vision of the human city to work together with others to make that vision a reality.’

2.  A human city is committed to all its citizens.

~+~ A human city is about ‘value for people’ before value for money.

~+~ It is where ‘all matter and each counts’.

~+~ It is a city where people acknowledge and respect one another, where they care and share.

3.  A human city is committed to affirming the whole of human experience.

~+~ A human city treasures the human achievements of its past, and celebrates the human endeavours of the present.

~+~ It is a city committed to human wealth creation.

~+~ It is about the fulfilment of all that it means to be human; in body, mind and spirit.

~+~ It is a city with a heart and a soul.

~+~  It is a compassionate and ‘faith-full’ city.

~+~  It is a place of fun and laughter.

4.  A human city is committed to a life-enhancing environment.

~+~  A human city gives life to those who live and work there, or visit it.

~+~  It is safe, clean and healthy.

~+~  It is a city within which people can move about easily and comfortably.

~+~  It is full of natural beauty and architectural grace.

~+~  It harnesses and uses all its resources in ways that sustain the planet.

5.  A human city is committed to social justice.

~+~  A human city recognises, repents and confronts the suffering that inhumanity causes.

~+~  It places the concerns of the poor and the marginalised high on its agenda.

~+~  It is committed to the vision of a just, peaceful and inclusive city, revitalised by forgiveness and reconciliation.

~+~  It upholds human rights and human responsibilities.

6.  A human city is committed to truth and integrity in public life.

~+~  A human city fosters a culture of trust founded on mutual respect and honesty.

~+~  It is about open, informative and straight communication within all spheres and at all levels of civic life.

7.  A human city is committed to the transforming power of the human group.

~+~  A human city is dependent on a multitude of human groups contributing in their own ways and situations to the creation of a human city.

~+~  It is a city where ‘small is beautiful’.

~+~  It values the human scale and the human touch.

~+~  It is a city with a human face.

8.  A human city is committed to being a place of lively and creative encounters.

~+~  A human city provides spaces and places where people can meet and talk.

~+~  It encourages its citizens to come together to share their experiences, stories and concerns.

~+~  It provides forums for vigorous discussion and debate about the meaning and nature of the human city.

~+~  It fosters many forms of networking which can link and connect those striving to build the human city.

9.  A human city is committed to genuine partnership.

~+~  A human city recognises that the humanity of the part and the humanity of the whole are inextricably linked.

~+~  It is a city which brings together diverse sectors (public, private and voluntary), neighbourhoods, cultures, faiths and generations in innovative and creative ways.

~+~  It is a city which fosters the commitment, empathy, tolerance and tenacity which all true partnerships require.

~+~  It is a city which works with any other city that shares its vision.

10.  A human city is committed to democratic leadership and participation.

~+~  A human city gives a voice to all who live and work there, and hears what they say.

~+~  It enables its members to participate in the decisions that affect them.

~+~  It is a city which believes in the mutual accountability of all who live and work there.

~+~  It is a city where those who lead use their power to empower others.

11.  A human city is committed to learning for living.

~+~  A human city is a learning city.

~+~  It is involved in an ongoing quest to discover what it means to be human.

~+~  It is a city which creates a multitude of opportunities for attentive listening, innovative exchanges, open dialogue, ongoing reflection and the birth of new understandings.

~+~  It is a city which provides an education for life.

12.  A human city is committed to ongoing change.

~+~  A human city is about fundamental and continuing change because its concern is the transformation of the inhuman into the human.

~+~  It is a city which never ceases to challenge and redeem those things which would destroy its humanity.

Dreamscape MP900449128

Happiness At Work ~ a route map to edition 5 (3rd August 2012)

Welcome to this week’s Happiness & Wellbeing At Work collection of stories, ideas, images and sounds.

Our Top Happiness & Wellbeing Story This Week

We actually posted different versions this story in last week’s collection, but with all the emotions of the Olympics and the heightened sense of being one joined up interconnected world this gives us, the findings from the Stanford Study showing how important a sense of AWE is for us all seem especially relevant – as individuals as much as for our continued survival and evolution as a species…

The Benefits of Being Awestruck

We lose our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall.

When do people feel as if they are rich in time?  Not often, research and daily experience suggest.

However, three experiments showed that participants who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available and were less impatient. Participants who experienced awe were also more willing to volunteer their time to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction. Mediation analyses revealed that these changes in decision making and well-being were due to awe’s ability to alter the subjective experience of time. Experiences of awe bring people into the present moment, which underlies awe’s capacity to adjust time perception, influence decisions, and make life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.

A Three-Movement Choral Suite Based on Carl Sagen

Enjoy this choral response to this theme…

“Something incredible is waiting to be known.”  Carl Sagen

Stories still coming from last week’s ONS initial report into the wellbeing of people in the UK…

ONS publishes first data from wellbeing survey, UK

Three-quarters of people aged 16 and over rate their satisfaction with their lives as ‘seven’ on a scale of 0 to 10, according to the first results from the survey of subjective wellbeing carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Want to know how to be happy? It’s complicated!

Earlier this week, the Office of National Statistics released the first annual results of its ‘Measuring National Wellbeing Programme’.

They found that people’s perceived quality of life varies according to who they are, what groups they are part of – gender, ethnicity, profession – and where they live.

But what do these happiness figures actually tell us? Can they lead individuals, communities or policy-makers to work out how to make things better?

For politicians and policy-makers these numbers could become something of a barometer, an indicator of how various policies are working, especially if measured over time. But how do they help us make decisions about what will improve our own wellbeing?

Comment: The British Search For Happiness

In Western societies there has been a tendency to link happiness and prosperity, and although most people will agree that “you can’t buy happiness”, they will persist in the belief that greater wealth will make them happier. Numerous studies have shown that an increase in income may indeed result in a short-term increase of happiness, but this increase will not last. These studies have revealed a paradox which suggests that rather than produce greater happiness increased wealth can have the opposite effect. This may seem baffling to most of us who are struggling to get increase profits or get that raise but it is something that Eastern tradition has acknowledged for centuries. It is summed up succinctly in a Buddhist proverb: “No food, one problem. Much money, many problems.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus claimed that the only path to happiness is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power to change. This is not to say that people should not strive to make things better, but that they should not worry too much if they do not succeed.

Former US president Roosevelt once described happiness as “the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort” and in western societies people have become so focused on achievement that they sometimes lose sight of their limitations.

Whilst the onset of hot weather and the start of the Olympic Games might give us a much needed boost of joy, we can rest assured that even if the rains return and Team GB fails to win a single medal, the stoical people of Britain will still be able to muster a smile at themselves and continue their elusive search for happiness.

Why Cameron’s happiness agenda can only backfire

The government’s changes to housing and disability benefits, cuts to mental health services and the drastic reduction in legal aid are making people miserable.

Perhaps it’s time some kindly soul had a private word in the prime ministerial ear. Dear Mr Cameron, thank you so much for the interest you’ve shown in my happiness. I really appreciate everything you’re trying to do to help me, so please don’t take offence if I tell you that, actually, you’re making me quite unhappy. Perhaps we could meet for a cup of tea and I’ll tell you a few simple things you could do that would make me a whole lot happier. I’d have told you before but I never knew you cared.

What makes us happy? Family, future dreams and lying half-naked in a park

The government’s Index of Wellbeing, which measures how happy we are, revealed last week that being 65, married and a homeowner are the secrets to joy. Here, three people from different generations tell us what makes them content

Tim Lott: You’ve Got To Fight For Your Right To Frown

Smart, creative people aren’t going to figure [high in any Happiness Index] because they tend to suffer a disproportionate amount of unhappiness. Bruce Springsteen, who revealed last week that he was suicidal at the height of his success in the 1980s, is just one of the endless examples.

One research finding after another has demonstrated that happy people have a less accurate view of reality than depressed people. All this leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion for happiness academics – being happy is not the most important thing in life.

People who are unhappy are perceived as dangerous failures. So-called “negative” people are to be shunned, as if they carried a dangerous, transmutable virus.

There has been a spate of literature that suggests that it is the happy people who are the sick ones. Eric G Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy points out how “generative melancholy” can be a hugely creative force. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die is a counterblast against American “positive thinking”, the idea that every disaster or setback is an “opportunity” for “moving on”.

But the world is run not by realistic melancholic introverts, but fantasising, optimistic extroverts – politicians, for instance, and bankers. This is good, to an extent. We need people who can believe in success against all the odds – believe that anything can be possible, believe that change can come, believe that they can make huge unearned profits.

But we need pessimists too. Sadness should not be taboo – it should be respected, like the priest and the funeral director. We treat it like the embarrassing guest at the wedding, we want it to shut up and go away, but it is in all our hearts and so it should be.

Springsteen would never score highly on the national happiness index. Neither would I, or most of the people I admire. I like happy people, and I like to be around them. But don’t disown the frown.

Still, mustn’t grumble, eh?

It was in struggling to find the essence of Britishness that the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, struck upon the common thread that runs through the nation; the expression “mustn’t grumble”.

That is, of course, often the prelude to a grumble. And given the weather this summer, plus the £9bn cost of staging the Olympic Games, we’ve surely earned the right to a world-class whinge should we wish one.

This week, the economic news has given us plenty more opportunity. Yet it’s a ledger of wellbeing that is being stacked heavily with information on both sides.

Perhaps the most circular element of wellbeing is defined as “the value of recognising the importance of well-being in the lives of consumers and customers”.

That is, it adds to your wellbeing to know that someone cares about your wellbeing. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Simply being asked what we think can make us feel a bit more, well, worthwhile.

This stuff is easily derided. But it’s worth noting that a withering dismissal from Labour brought the strongest rebuke to his own side that I’ve seen in the five years since Lord Jack McConnell left the Scottish Labour leadership. He reckons wellbeing and mental health must be taken much more seriously in politics.

More Happiness & Wellbeing Stories This Week

Olympicstastic! From Grumpy to Happy ! – Shelley Silas

I can understand if you don’t like or care about sport, but this is about so much more, a community and city coming together, collective enjoyment, London being transformed in a way it probably never will be again in my life time, of people being happy, talking to each other, getting into the spirit of the games and having fun…

And during all of this, I have been overcome by how lovely people have been, in the streets, in tubes, school kids and parents and teachers, total strangers, all out there enjoying what I am enjoying, laughing and having fun and bringing us together. I know the world isn’t in great shape, and while we are enjoying, people are being slaughtered and wars continue, I don’t think any of us is unaware of that, but it’s a joy to let go of it for a short time, to revel in our stunning city, at what the organisers have actually worked towards, an amazing feat of planning and skill and creativity. And I find that I am happy and excited and enthused and passionate and I hope I can stay this way, when the Olympics and Paralympics end and London is restored to its usual beautiful self, when the sand has gone and the grass is restored, when I am allowed into the pool for a length or two, and the city returns to normal. And I will use public transport more because it works, and it has been easy and a joy to let someone else do the driving.

Happiness On The Podium – OECD Better Life Index

“The Olympic movement gives the world an ideal which reckons with the reality of life”, so said Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games: This ideal goes far beyond the world of sports and echoes a universal quest for happiness and well-being. It is also a valuable reminder that while keeping track of reality, one should constantly strive towards a better life.

The Olympics are all about universality and humanity, opposing nations in sport while uniting people throughout the world. The three Olympic values, of “excellence”, “friendship” and “respect” underline the universal appeal of the Olympic Movement.

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck King of Bhutan, when outlining his vision of “Gross National Happiness”, referred to similar ideals: “As citizens of the world, our unifying force, our strength must come from something that is not bound by nation, ethnicity or religion – from fundamental human values. Values shape the future of humanity.” How do we reconcile these ideals with everyday life concerns? If asked about the Olympics, Londoners are more likely to raise more mundane concerns, revolving around overcrowded streets and the difficulty of obtaining tickets for their favourite sporting event. So can we say citizens around the world unite in their definition of happiness and do their priorities coincide? Well not really, to judge by people’s choices when building their own Better Life Index.

Some common trends across countries emerge. Governance, for example, is surprisingly unimportant to many people…Life satisfaction and health, on the other hand, are very popular across the board…

London 2012: let’s turn our Olympics venues into community arts centres

Crispin Truman: the long-term legacy of the games depends on a bottom-up approach, not a top-down volunteering model

St Paul's Church, Circomedia

If churches can do it, so can we: St Paul’s Church, Bristol, home to Circomedia. Photograph: Circomedia

If we believe Sebastian Coe, London 2012 legacy plans are further ahead than that of any previous Olympic host city with the best in sustainable, inclusive and innovative architecture. But to deliver a positive and lasting legacy of economic impact, social cohesion and enhanced community identity, it is imperative that we adopt a bottom-up, community and volunteer led approach. It’s also imperative that we turn our Olympic venues into long-lasting, community-serving sites. Reusing and regenerating them as arts and culture venues is just one of the possibilities…

‘Happiest Olympic Worker’ video sensation, Rachel Onasanwo, talks to the Daily News

Rachel Onasanwo, 23, became the talk of the Olympics Monday after a video showing her enthusiastically welcoming the crowds to the opening ceremony went viral.

84% of British holidaymakers claim holidays are worth more than the money they spend on them

Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health have revealed 84 per cent of British holidaymakers claim holidays are worth more to them in terms of wellbeing than the money they spend on them.

The UK’s largest healthcare charity and Kuoni Travel surveyed 2,845 UK adults between 14 April to 30 June 2012 to find out how a holiday can help to alleviate the effects that everyday life has on the public’s mental and physical wellbeing.

The research showed that taking a break can improve people’s lives in four key ways:

– It enables to break out of a routine

– Offers an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones

– Puts a fresh perspective on people’s lives

– Enables us to relax and recharge our batteries

Our economic ruin means freedom for the super-rich

A programme that promised freedom and choice has instead produced something resembling a totalitarian capitalism, in which no one may dissent from the will of the market and in which the market has become a euphemism for big business. It offers freedom all right, but only to those at the top.

Clinging to Economic Growth Suffocates the Imagination

Listen to the news today and you would think that economic growth was the only answer to all our problems. But 40 years ago The Limits to Growth, written by a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published by The Club of Rome, broke a modern taboo: it suggested that growth itself might be the problem….

There is a popular view that economic growth can be saved by efficiency measures, recycling and technological substitution, such as nuclear and renewable energy replacing fossil fuels. Yet the model allowed even for these variables, and crashed under the pressure of growth just the same…

Clinging to growth suffocates the imagination needed to devise more convivial ways to share a finite planet. At the very least, and with so much evidence to the contrary, the burden of proof now lies heavily on those who reject the original message of the Limits report, for them to demonstrate how, and under what circumstances, we could possibly enjoy “growth forever” in a finite world. Kenneth Boulding, the founder of general systems theory, thought this to be a view held only by “madmen and economists”.

“Localization is the Economics of Happiness”

We know what makes us happy—but too often our economic decisions stand in the way. Helena Norberg-Hodge, director of the Economics of Happiness and winner of the 2012 Goi Peace Award, on how to change all that.

Our global economy is effective at many things—moving huge quantities of goods across great distances, for example, or turning mortgages into profits. What it’s not so good at is determining whether these activities are worthwhile when it comes to improving the lives of the people who live and work within the economy (not to mention preserving the natural systems on which the whole shebang depends). In many cases, economic policies that increase trade or production actually decrease well-being for millions, even billions, of people.

 That’s the reality that’s leading more people (and, increasingly, governments, from Bhutan and Bolivia to Britain and France) to ask a very simple question: What’s the economy for, anyway? Do the rules and policies we create to govern the flow of money and goods exist to create ever more money and goods, or to improve our lives? And if we decide we’d like to prioritize the latter, how do we rewrite the rules to do that?

The Economics of Happiness tackles these questions on six continents, examining ways our economic decisions promote, and diminish, human happiness. I spoke with Helena Norberg-Hodge, the film’s director and the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, about what her research tells us about the relationship between economics and happiness.

Wellbeing, sustainability and economic prosperity: connecting the dots

Addressing these issues collectively rather than pitting them against one another is key for creating a better future

The ONS’s broader conception of wellbeing, which is based on the public’s views, offers greater potential for compatibility. For example, there are strong links between healthy lifestyles and sustainable lifestyles. If Britons ate more vegetables and less meat, we’d be healthier, and so would the planet. Sustainable travel behaviours (eg driving less, and cycling and walking more) can improve fitness, reduce stress, reduce traffic and improve air quality.

These links between wellbeing, sustainability and economic prosperity should be central to the government’s thinking as it seeks a positive agenda beyond deficit reduction. Unfortunately, ministerial responsibility for the three objectives is spread across several departments: the Cabinet Office leads on wellbeing, Defra on sustainable development, the Department of Energy and Climate Change on climate policy and the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on economic policy. This casts the three critical issues of our time as competing priorities, when in fact there are huge opportunities to develop complementary policies and solutions, and create a better future for people and the planet.

Cows’ social habits ‘may be a way to improve wellbeing’

HOW cows make friends is to be investigated in a three-year study.  Scientists want to understand more about “social networking” within Britain’s dairy herds.

The aim is to help farmers improve the health and welfare of their cows, thereby increasing milk yields.

Study leader Dr Darren Croft, from the University of Exeter’s Animal Behaviour Research Group, said: “Emerging evidence on wild animal populations supports the idea that the group structure and relationships between the animals affect their health and wellbeing.

Bhutan Bets Organic Agriculture Is The Road To Happiness

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan drew international attention a few years back for saying gross national happiness should trump gross domestic product when measuring a nation’s progress. If you’re going to prioritize happiness, the Bhutanese thinking goes, you’d better include the environment and spiritual and mental well-being in your calculations.

 But Bhutan, which has only 700,000 people — most of whom are farmers — has another shot at international fame if it can make good on a recent pledge to become the first country in the world to convert to a 100 percent organic agricultural system.

Sustainable Happiness — Lessons From Bhutan

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with the honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigme Y. Thinley. He had profound things to say about the importance of Gross National Happiness for individuals, as well as for societies looking at the well-being of their citizens. Here are some ideas that can increase your long-term happiness.

More money does not equal more happiness. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “[Gross National Product] fails to take into account the social and environmental costs of so-called progress. We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental wellbeing are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”

Social Well-Being:  “No man (or woman) is an island. We are part of the whole.” — John Dunne. People need people — it’s pretty simple. Yes, food and shelter are imperative, but “after the baseline has been met happiness varies more with the quality of human relationships than income.” What then helps create good relationships?

• Thoughts Influence Actions: How you respond to a situation often influences the outcome. Are the thoughts that you are thinking (and the actions that result from them) making the situation better or worse? People often feel your intentions and thoughts even if it they are not spoken. Being present to your thoughts is powerful.

• Practice Gratitude: This is one of the foundations of sustainable happiness. If you regularly jot down or even notice three things you are grateful for, you can raise your happiness level substantially. By focusing on what brings you happiness, whether it’s a smile, a sunset or a sweet conversation, you will become attuned to that and notice it in the most unexpected places. Do it for 28 days and you’ll see the change.

• To Feel Good, Do Good: The kindness that you extend another helps them, but actually serves you even more. It provides a long lasting good feeling that no one can take away. One of my favorite quotes is: “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” — Saint Basil. Create the community that you want to be part of.

Economic Well-Being: One thing that has perhaps been forgotten is that “economies exist to serve the well-being of people; not visa versa.” What does that really mean?

• Success and Happiness: Many people share the belief that happiness comes after you achieve success. “If I just had this salary, title or toy, then I could…” New research states that if you want to be more productive and more successful, cultivating happiness is the way to get there. “Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed … The hormone dopamine that permeates your system when you are positive also turns on all the learning centers in the brain.” To influence your bottom line and your well-being, activate your happiness.

• The Idea of Balance: Having high-quality work definitely contributes to happiness, but focusing on the material pursuit alone can cause major stress and depression. The happiest countries in the world value a vibrant community, trusting relationships and time together over the workaholic attitude that more is more. Economic well-being is important, but so is the balance that comes with a meaningful and connected life.

Environmental Well-Being: Let’s first look at the inner ecosystem and then the environment at large.

• Happiness Is Contagious: The truth is that we are social animals, and every human being is influenced to some extent by those around them. Emotions are contagious. A scientific study has suggested that happiness is contagious to the third degree. By being happy, you are actually raising the happiness levels of three other people, who may not even know why they’re feeling uplifted. We have the power to improve the emotional environment around us and to create ecosystems of well-being. The cost is zero and the benefits are immeasurable.

• Think Inconvenient Truth: Unless we look out for one another, the generations to come will be in dire straits. There are tangible things to do. At the personal level, leave somewhere better than you found it, and buy from companies that support your future. On the societal level, encourage corporations and governments to make decisions that are good for the long term and for the generations to come.

In the words of Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Jigme Y. Thinley, “Sustainable development means survival. It is about how we, as a species, must live within the bounds of what nature can provide. Sustainable development is not a choice. It is an absolute necessity.” The good news is that it is not too late. Each and every person has the power to move toward greater well-being on all levels. You can make a difference in your own life and actually be the difference for someone else.

Brain Images Predict How Smart You Are

New research making the case for the predominant importance for intelligence of left-brain thinking…

While other regions of the brain make their own special contribution to cognitive processing, it is the left prefrontal cortex that helps coordinate these processes and maintain focus on the task at hand, in much the same way that the conductor of a symphony monitors and tweaks the real-time performance of an orchestra.

Nevertheless, we remain convinced by the arguments for the need to value and develop our right-brain thinking made by Ian McGilchrist in his brilliant book, The Master and his Emissary – The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World – see:

RSA Animate – The Divided Brain

Explore – The big thing’s that’s changed has been the external environment of what it means to teach in university

“The big thing that’s changed has been the external environment of what it means to teach in university. Universities used to be communities; they used to be places where intellectual life really happened. They were also places where avant-garde stuff was happening. And that’s – in England anyway – completely ground to a halt. Universities are largely sold as factories for production of increasingly uninteresting, depressed people wandering around complaining. There’s been a middle-management take-over of our education, and it’s depressing. So universities, like the university I was at – Essex, which was a radical, experimental, small university, but had a bad reputation but did some great stuff – have become a kind of pedestrian, provincial university run by bureaucrats. That was one of the reasons why I got out when I got out in 2004.”  Simon Critchley

Study: Kids’ Friends — Not Grades — Lead To Adult Well-Being

Stories of parents pushing kids to succeed in school above all else have been making headlines lately, but new research has found that social relationships are a much better predictor of adult well-being than a kid’s grades.posted about 23 hours ago

An obsession with academic success and college acceptance (at least in the media) has been giving way recently to an anxiety that a certain class of over-involved so-called helicopter parents”may be pushing their kids too hard. And now, new research shows that academic success may, indeed, not be the perfect preparation for a good life. One team looked at a group of New Zealanders over a period of more than thirty years, and what they found may offer a corrective to twenty-first century American achievement obsession…


Regardless of the length of their lives, children with trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 — a chromosomal abnormality that can cause shortened lifespans and severe disabilities — not only led happy lives, but enriched the lives of their families, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics July 23.

“Despite the fact that often these children live less than a year and they are disabled, families find they are happy children. They find joy in their children. They enrich the family, enrich the couple and the child’s life had meaning,” said study author Dr. Annie Janvier,

“Part of what we would like to do is expand the imagination of the providers — based upon the data that is available — to a range of possibilities for these children,” Benjamin Wilfond of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute at the University of Washington said.

The Secret Society of Happy People will celebrate the 13th Annual Happiness Happens Day on August 8th.

The day originally began to encourage people to talk more about happiness, says Society Founder Pamela Gail Johnson. “But we’re also realists,” she says, “and understand that life is a mixture of good and bad events and moments. Even on a day known for its overall unhappiness like Sept. 11, 2001, people still had babies, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, and fell in love. We don’t seek to suppress the bad news, but instead to keep it in a balanced perspective to our happy moments.”

Secret Society of Happy People.  Founded: August 1998.  The Secret Society of Happy People encourages the expression of happiness and discourages parade-raining. Parade-rainers are those people who don’t want to hear your happy news. And no, we don’t tell people to be happy if they aren’t or how to be happy.

Scientists in Britain have launched the first study of how dairy cows interact with each other, in the hope of finding ways of making them happier and more productive.

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

Routes To Resilience

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work workshops for disabled artists that we are making in collaboration with Ardent Hare 

Be Happy, Creative AND Productive

crayons

Ardent Hare has partnered with BridgeBuilders with whom we’ve had a long standing and successful realtionship and secured funding to invest in a pool of Resilience Advocates to champion the message of the importance of well being to effectiveness and success for a wide variety of business and community audiences.

We will be staging the first seminar in London at Whitechapel Gallery on Monday 17th September exploring the link between the ‘harder edged’ side of self employment and survival with what we might think of as the ‘softer edged’ side of personal and professional happiness and wellbeing and how this affects productivity and creativity.

Ardent Hare has confimed the first of 2 FREE seminars exploring the link between the ‘harder edged’ side of self employment and survival with what we might think of as the ‘softer edged’ side of personal and professional happiness and wellbeing and how this affects productivity and creativity.

The first event will be staged on Monday 17th September, 1-5pm

at Whitechapel Gallery, Clore Creative Studio, Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX

These Seminars will:

  • Provide a guide to achieve personal and professional happiness and wellbeing
  • Explain the steps towards successful self employment
  • Share insights into productivity and creativity
  • Connect like minded creative people

The day will offer networking opportunities with other artists, refreshments and an information pack.

Highly inspiring speakers including Mark Trezona from BridgeBuilders.

The venue is wheelchair accessible. BSL interpreters and a speech to text operator will be present. Information will be available in large print. Some travel bursaries may be available (book early to benefit from these).

To book your place please contact Suzanne Rose email: suzanne@ardenthare.org.uk

Advance booking required as limited places available.

Want To Find Happiness At Work? Focus!

A well-documented study conducted by two Harvard researchers who set out to measure happiness, shows that 47 percent of the time people think about something other than what they are doing, and that mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.  Even when they looked at more pleasant mind-wandering, they say it’s not as good as just being focused on what you’re doing.

 The key, as many philosophies and religious traditions have taught for centuries, is to first notice when you’re not “present” — like the conceptual artist who was worrying instead of listening to the question he was asked.

 Then make a conscious decision to “be there” for the here and now.

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

“The exact attributes of what you are looking for do not exist in any job,” says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.

He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it. “We create our own experience,” he insists…

Happiness @ work: Change the story to change your life

First a blunt truth: There is no such thing as job security any more if it ever existed. Your only security is your ability to deliver recognisable value, which has two parts – understanding of processes and methodologies and the ability to relate to others.

The story you are telling yourself is that young managers, or at least this particular one, don’t like you, presumably because you are old, and that you could be fired. No wonder you are under a great deal of stress. What you probably do not see is that you create this busily by the nature of the story you tell yourself.

Instead, say something like – I have spent more than 20 years with my company and have a wealth of institutional memory and knowledge that will be invaluable to the company that has acquired mine. My job is to use the knowledge and skills I have to make sure that my managers’ energy is channeled and does not drive the train off the tracks…

Happiness@Work: Don’t Crib, Count Your Blessings

Here is what the author says in a posting in  The Economic Times

Right now you are focusing more on how much you dislike your dreary job than you are in doing it. Reverse this. Then consider your co-workers — how can you make their day better in some way? Consciously try to do this to one person each day. The more you give attention and help, the better YOU will feel.

The more you do so, the more others will want to be a part of your circle. First your boring job will become less boring and then downright rejuvenating and finally it will disappear by morphing into something that really turns you on.

In Pictures: 10 Steps To Happiness At Work

1) Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

2) Practice “extreme resilience”

3) Let go of grudges

4) Don’t waste time being jealous

5) Find passion in you, not in your job

6) Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

7) Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

8) Invest in the process, not the outcome

9) Think about other people

10) Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Six Principles for Business Ethics

“Pass the New York Times Test”  The test is simple. “If you would not feel comfortable with everyone you know reading about what you are currently doing, don’t do it.” The contrary is also true: If you would be proud to make headlines, redouble your efforts.

“Be accurate: When I say something as if it is a fact, be sure that it is a fact.”   “I don’t have a problem with someone saying, “I’m not sure but my best guess is…  But I do have a problem with someone stating something as a fact when it is not a fact.”  Better to be uncertain than unreliable.

“Listen to the buzzing: It’s there for a reason.”  The buzzing we hear when we know that something is wrong but we can’t quite put our fingers on it. At work, this often happens when we get requests from superiors that aren’t illegal or even obviously immoral but that strike us as peculiar and ill-advised. Listen to the buzzing and be forthright when something is wrong.

“Maximise happiness, not wealth.”  “Measuring ourselves and others in terms of the amount of money they made and the positions they had reached is hazardous and dreary. Our goal in life is happiness, not richness”, a goal that is mindful of a wider variety of concerns — family, friends, health, peace of mind — than simply the size of one’s bank account.

 “Be as disciplined morally as I am financially”  Moral decision-making will always be open to dispute, but we should aim to ensure that whatever decisions we reach are the consequence of careful thinking.

“Continuously reevaluate my principles.”  Business ethics begins as a commitment, but strengthens by habit. At the same time, our experience at work can complicate and even change our moral convictions. By reevaluating our principles, we make them more relevant to the challenges we face. Our principles must live through us if business ethics is to be a way of life.

Struggling Through Change? Let ADKAR Help You

Changing involves learning, which takes up resources (mainly our time and energy). If we can’t see the benefits in changing, we will struggle to motivate ourselves to change. Even when we commit to the change, we can still struggle to see it through.

The ADKAR model addresses the people dimension of change management and sets five goals for successful implementation: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement

Internal Time: The Science of Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired

Debunking the social stigma around late risers, or what Einstein has to do with teens’ risk for smoking.

Inflight wellbeing companies emerge to give your weary mind and body a reprieve

Let’s face it – long-haul, economy-class travel can be brutal. Passengers suffer any number of indignities and exasperations in the back of the plane.

But some of the physical repercussions of lengthy flights – dehydration, dry eyes, leg pain and, if you’re like me, swollen feet – are a particular nuisance if you don’t have time to recuperate (or even shower!) before running straight into meetings upon landing.

It’s little wonder, then, why the inflight wellbeing market is starting to gain the attention of airlines. Below are four companies working to help make your mind and body feel better in-flight.

In Praise of Downtime

Americans work more hours than any other group in the Western world, but we’re not necessarily more productive. This has to change.

Making Friends at Work – Survey Says Majority of Canadians Have Close Relationships with their Colleagues

Parker says workplace friendships can be a good thing for a company’s overall business.

“There is no denying that workplace friendships can contribute to a positive workplace culture. It means increased productivity and creativity, heightened morale, enhanced personal performance and stronger team cohesiveness,” she explains. “Employers who encourage a positive and collaborative workplace will gain a competitive edge when it comes to recruting top talent.”

Happiness In Gender Equality Movement

In the early days of the second wave feminism, a feminist canard stated that “feminists need happiness like a fish needs a bicycle”. In Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan devoted the whole first chapter of her book to “the problem that has no name”, which is the widespread unhappiness of women, thus underlining women’s desire in something more than just a husband, children and a home.

 Now that equal opportunity and equal pay statutes apply, happiness has again eluded women. Indeed, women’s overall level of happiness in Western countries has dropped since 1972, both in comparison to where they were 40 years ago, and in comparison to men (Buckingham 2009). More than 1.3 million men and women have been surveyed in the US and other developed countries through six major studies of happiness, which all gave the same result: greater educational, political and employment opportunities have corresponded to decreases in life happiness for women, relative to men.

 If the above conjecture implies that financially independent women are not necessarily happy, the inverse must also hold true; financially dependent women are not necessarily unhappy. What then, are the non-quantifiable components of their happiness, given that happiness is not about economic prosperity only?

Happiness Secret: A Greened-Up Office

For a fresh weekday pick-me-up, add foliage to your work space. A study in the journal HortScience found that employees who worked in an office with plants were more satisfied with their jobs–and their co-workers and bosses–than those whose spaces were less green…

 New Economics Foundation launches guide on measuring wellbeing of beneficiaries

A new guide aims to help charities measure how their services improve their beneficiaries’ lives.

 Measuring Well-being: a guide for practitioners, from the think tank the New Economics Foundation, is intended to hlp them gauge their impact on wellbeing.

 NEF hopes that charities and voluntary groups will use it to gain a better understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs and assist in improving the design and delivery of projects, improve fundraising efforts and help direct services towards those most in need.

Life after university – 14 careers tips for arts graduates

A round up of all the best comments, insights and examples from our live chat last week – what next for arts graduates?

Covering letter tips: expert advice for graduates

A panel of career advisers on how graduates can ensure their covering letter survives an employer’s cursory glance and spells out why they are perfect for them…

Leadership and Happiness At Work

The HRZone Interview: Dr Cary Cooper on well-being at work

NB: To read this interview in full you will need to register for free with HRZone, but here is a long extract from it…

Dr Cary Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School and author of more than 150 books on topics ranging from occupational stress and women at work to organisational psychology.   He is also a regular contributor to TV, radio and the press and, in 2001, was awarded a CBE for his contribution to occupational safety and health.

 Here he talks to HRZone about such issues as well-being, the need for a new breed of manager and the importance of engendering hope and pride in the workplace.

My theory is that we don’t select managers with high social and interpersonal skills, we select on task competence. When you study for an MBA, do you learn how to manage people? No.

We train them on knowledge of HR and of operational management, but don’t select on interpersonal skills. So if business schools aren’t doing it and we carry on hiring in the same way, then we will carry on getting the wrong people in.

In tough times, you need people with great social skills. We need a two-pronged attack: select with social skills as a significant feature of recruitment and, if they are already in a job, then train them – there are some people who are trainable and there are some who are not.

Bad managers can lead to high turnover and lower levels of job satisfaction. People could leave, physically or psychologically through presenteeism.

Leaders are people who set a vision. Managers build teams and work with people. Visionary people often have good interpersonal skills, but not all of them – look at all the things coming out about Steve Jobs.

Everyone thinks employee engagement is a magic bullet for all our problems, but it’s not. HR will say ‘our employee engagement has gone up from 75 to 76’ but cynically say that they don’t see any improvement in morale.

Engagement is great, but let’s make sure good work-life balance is there, we manage by praise and reward and make sure employees are clear about what is required of them in their jobs.

Wellbeing – having little stress and a lot of satisfaction and contentment – is down to how you’re managed, how you’re paid, whether you are trusted, valued and whether you have good relationships.

Things that take that away well-being are a bullying boss, an insecure job, long hours, lack of clarity about job role, lack of flexibility and poor work-life balance.

 Q Why is well-being such a big issue right now?

A lot of companies don’t like to talk about stress or be perceived as a stressful organisation so they talk about well-being. Well-being is about reducing stress and being positive and giving hope.

You need positive psychology – get rid of negatives and create positivity about hope, and make people feel good about where they are. Pride and hope are important.

The driver for well-being has been for organisations dealing with stress. Sickness numbers are dropping, but what we are dealing with instead is presenteeism. People are frightened of taking time off sick, but a good manager can see someone who’s not well.

A good manager with social skills will tell someone to go home or ask the worker who’s been off sick a lot if there is something bothering them. Instead they think that someone turning up like that is good because it shows commitment.

Some HR people are frightened of doing that and finding negatives and worried about being seen as responsible for those negatives.  I think HR needs to do four things:

 + Fight for flexibility for everyone, not just those people with kids

+ Recruit people on their social skills

+ Audit well-being/stress in companies and then bring employees together to solve the problem. You might get someone from outside to do the audit but it’s important to get employees to decide what to do. You wouldn’t want to walk into your GP’s surgery and find they’ve already written you a prescription before you open your mouth. So you need to find out what’s wrong and do it in an anonymous way

+ The biggest thing we can do for the UK is get women in senior operational management jobs, not on the board, because you need to get senior and middle managers who are going to move into those jobs. Women have higher EQs generally so, in manager roles, have more natural social skills.

We should forget the traditional work pyramid and look at it as a square: If you’re a teacher, why shouldn’t you get paid as much as the head? Why shouldn’t a good chief engineer earn as much as a CEO?

Using data to direct employee wellbeing initiatives

It is becoming increasingly popular for organisations to make significant investments in the health and wellbeing of their staff. But how can employers measure exactly what they are getting for their money?

Astute employers and HR teams in large organisations are rapidly realising that the state of their employees’ wellbeing has a direct impact on performance and productivity in the workplace.

Indeed, studies (Mills et al, 2006/7) have proven this link and highlighted the opportunity for returns in productivity that far outweigh the investment required in health and wellbeing solutions. The big-ticket health issues, such as stress and lack of sleep, are proving to be productivity killers in many organisations. Businesses are becoming aware that a good degree of nurturing people into ruder health and, equally as important, a more positive state of mind about their health, can pay dividends for a brand’s reputation and its bottom line.

Collecting, analysing and acting upon data are critical elements to any successful organisational change and employee health and wellbeing is no exception. It is not, as often is believed, hard to measure and manage.

On the contrary, it is at the heart of making successful and measured improvements, whether that is on a one-to-one personal level for individual employees or in terms of driving the big changes within your organisation’s culture.

Data is important before you begin a wellbeing programme, throughout the early stages and remains so through the course of your organisation’s life.

Once you’re gripped by health and wellbeing data as a source of insight into performance, neither you nor many of your employees will want to let go.

Leadership and Followership

The people who turn out to be the best leaders are those who have previously been the best followers.” —Alexander Haslam

The leader needs to be multifaceted and emphasize different facets at different times. Those who fail to do that have a limited shelf life.” —Stephen D. Reicher

When we think about leadership, we tend to focus almost entirely on the leader. Yet without followers, there is no leader. Leadership is participatory: leaders and followers exist in a mutually beneficial relationship where each adds to the effectiveness of the other.

Key to this process is listening, because leadership is as much about listening as it is about talking, or perhaps more so…

Servant Leadership: Helping People Come Alive

In his book Drive, best-selling author Dan Pink talks about the evolution in our understanding of what really motivates people, especially in our professional lives. According to Pink, the latest behavioral science research points to three key drivers: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Another way to frame this is empowerment, perfectibility, and purpose, and servant leaders endeavor to create a culture that fosters each of these three intrinsic motivations…

Arts organisations need to engage their own staff as well as their audiences

Give everyone the same message at the same time and never say nothing, says Nick Loveland of Town Hall & Symphony Hall, and these ideas would work for any organisation.  For example…

Give your team a voice

That’s exactly what we did. We created a staff forum called VOICE (Views, Opinions, Ideas, Comments, Expectations), chaired by a senior manager but made up from elected people right across the business. It meets four times a year and discusses everything from feedback on our new appraisal scheme, to the date of the next Christmas party!

Staff are encouraged to post agenda items in bespoke mailboxes around the building (called VOICE boxes – get it?) and everything raised is discussed and fed back, both up and down the communication channels. VOICE has been going for four years now – it’s made a real difference to the way in which people feel their views are being heard.

I Want it Yesterday: The Dangers of the Business World’s Obsessive Focus on the Short Term

We are a society consistently in search of a quick fix—from diets to energy, we want the quick and easy solution, and we want it today, to hell with what tomorrow brings.

Research conducted by Andrew Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England and PriceWaterhouseCoopers on “short-termism” in the investment arena provided results that most of us would find shocking.  They found that the majority of FTSE-100 and 250 executives (those running the largest companies in the world) would choose an investment with a low return option if they could get it sooner.

When you extend this logic out over a longer time period, the result is that investments, or projects with long-term payback beyond the 30- to 35-year time frame, are treated as having no value at all!

It’s time to recalibrate our lens to see the value in the long-term, and not be blinded by a myopic focus on only the here and now.

The Ten Most Influential Women in Technology

Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo! was an exciting development for her legion of fans — both male and female. It was also an undeniable cause for celebration among those who would like to see more women in positions of power, not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout corporate America. In 2012, it’s hard to believe that only 19 companies out of the Fortune 500 are led by women. The tech industry has made somewhat more progress than other sectors — at least at the very highest levels — as the accomplished and inspiring women on this list demonstrate.

One hopes for a day not too far away when the appointment of a woman — yes, even an expectant mother — as CEO of a major American company is noteworthy not for gender, but for the executive’s experience, accomplishments and track record of achievement. Hopefully one day soon lists like this one will no longer be necessary. But until then here is a collection of the most influential women in technology, led off by Mayer herself.

7 Things Successful Leaders Do Differently

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of coaching, teaching, and talking to thousands of leaders from varied walks of life. What I’ve noticed is that while most are successful on some level, a handful of them have that something extra. Their path hasn’t always been easy, and they’ve encountered numerous challenges, but this select group of leaders thrives both personally and professionally. Here is what they do differently…

Personal Happiness & Wellbeing

“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” — Pascal

This is a curious quote, and certainly counter to common wisdom, which tells us that connections and community are the road to bliss while solitude and silence lead to serial killing.

Of course, I’m being facetious. As an introvert, I’m all for staying quietly in one’s room, and I find solitude not only pleasant, but necessary. Staying quietly in my room is easy. But has that inoculated me from unhappiness? Of course not.

Granted, Pascal is not saying that solitude prevents unhappiness, only that the inability to be alone is the cause of unhappiness. And not just a cause, the sole cause.

That’s big talk.  I don’t buy it…

Take the Happiness Experiment

Take the entertaining video test above to get a taste of some of the counterintuitive findings (NB only Parts 1 and 2 are available)…

Happiness is a state of mind. We all know that. But when it comes to deciding whether another person is truly happy, our perceptions are colored by our own states of mind–in particular, by our  value judgments. A person can have all the mental characteristics of a happy person, but if he or she is living what we consider a “bad life,” we are far less likely to judge that they are happy. Surprisingly, the same moral evaluations do not seem to enter into our concept of unhappiness.

Don’t Know What To Do?  Try Kindness

The original meaning of kindness, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “kinship; near relationship; natural affection arising from this”? Acting kindly and showing affection as Caregivers and partners to those close to us can bring immediate and long-term positive results to stressful, difficult, traumatic situations.

Kindness helps improve any situation, even with those not so close to us.

Charlie Mafei: Finding Happiness

So many people make the mistake of saying, “my life sucks right now so I am going to get into a relationship to make it better.” My advice is that this never works. If you are feeling unhappy alone, bringing someone else into your unhappiness is not going to fix the problem. Instead, change the things in your life that are making you unhappy first! Once you have found happiness in your life, it will be so much easier to find someone else to invite into your life.

We all deserve “IT.” We all deserve happiness, love and success. If you do not have these things in your life, give it some thought and ponder, “What can I do to make my life happier?” For many of us, looking at our lives closely and asking ourselves this question is not an easy endeavor. But trust me. You have to do this before you can move on to happiness. Start the journey today by looking into yourself and find what makes you unhappy. Once you have determined what is making you unhappy take actions to fix it. If you need help, seek it. Some people turn to friends or family, some turn to therapy or religion while others may even stop into that fortune teller’s shop they pass all the time. Whatever it takes, do it! You deserve it!

Happiness is … ?

Well what is it anyway? A conference gets to the science of our smiles…

“Happiness is not just one thing,” says Lambert. “To pleasure, engagement with life, meaningful relationships and achievement, I would add health because health is really the foundation of the five pathways to happiness.”

In life, the glass is both half empty and half full. “On a happiness scale of 10, most people are a seven or eight,” says psychologist Jamie Gruman. “To focus exclusively on happiness would mean you are blinded to real life.”

Positive, not pop, psychology

“Positive psychology recognizes that you have to see the light and the dark,” says social psychologist Jamie Gruman, “whereas pop psychology (in the how-to-be happy guides) focuses on the glass being half full. That is not the valid scientific way.”

Too happy?

People who are optimistic bode better than those who are pessimistic, says Gruman. But you can be too optimistic. You don’t want a pilot flying into a tornado because he thinks he’ll be fine. You don’t want to wake up with a mole on your arm that has changed in size and ignore it. You want to go to a doctor to make sure it isn’t skin cancer.

 Happiness is?

 “Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make us buy nice things.” — Author Gregory David Roberts

 “Rules for happiness: Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.” — Philosopher Immanuel Kant

 “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi

 Here and now –  Happiness is also about living in the moment, adds Alberta psychologist Louise Lambert. “We create a lot of our distress when we are living in the past or projecting ourselves too far ahead to the future. Wherever your feet are is where your brain needs to be today.”

One Key to Happiness: Let Go of Some Long-Term Goals

I suggest something radical. I believe it’s time we let go of outcome-based goal setting and instead focus on the process of living the lives we want right now. Letting go of outcome-based goals can bring us freedom. We can start by:

1. Letting go of expectations.  Just in case life hasn’t already shown you otherwise, the world doesn’t necessarily owe you anything. Goals are great, and they can help us focus our efforts toward doing and being better. But you need to focus on having them remain goals and not turning them into expectations.

2. Letting go of outcomes.  Focusing on the process is a far better way to set goals.

3. Letting go of worry.  It’s a hard habit to break, but it doesn’t do us any good. Can you think of one single thing that got better because you worried about it? Obviously it’s different from sitting down and crafting an action plan to solve a problem. All worrying does is create an uncomfortable rut.

4. Letting go of measuring.  We’re competitive. We like to compare ourselves to other people. We love to race to see if we’re good enough to win. As I wrote earlier this year, we’re all striving for happiness. But we don’t have units of happy we can measure.

5. Letting go of mindless tracking.  A bit different from measuring or comparing yourself against others is letting go of tracking every penny in and out. The goal isn’t to track every penny but to know where your money goes.

Goals can be a great things. We just need to do a better job making sure they don’t turn into expectations that leave us disappointed and unhappy.

Index of Wellbeing: Our duty to be perpetually happy

As Bruckner explains in his principle work on the Cult of Happiness, Perpetual Euphoria: On The Duty to Be Happy, the idea that everyone must be in a constant state of happiness is a rather new one. With the final overthrow of Christian values by th 1968 generation, of which Bruckner was part of, a new moral order, one which said everyone must be happy, replaced the traditional Christian idea that happiness could only be achieved by salvation in the afterlife, while pursuit of earthly happiness was sinful. The Communist attitude, of self-sacrifice now, through manual labour in hope of the brighter red future of happiness is also gone.

That is not to endorse either Christian or Communist attitudes towards happiness, nor condemn the idea that people can be happy on earth in the here and now. What is problematic is the idea that everyone has some sort of duty to be happy or should be happy.

You Are Probably Wrong About You

Relying on our intuitions alone for self-knowledge is dangerous, because thanks to the nature of the adaptive unconscious, they are often no more accurate than a shot in the dark.

James Duncan Davidson, TED’s official photographer, on why we don’t like looking at photographs of ourselves.

Good social relationships in your youth might translate to happiness as an adult, while doing well in school seems to have little influence on well-being later in life, new research suggests…

Early Relationships, Not Brainpower, Key to Adult Happiness

Social connection is a more important route to adult well-being than academic ability…

We know very little about how aspects of childhood and adolescent development, such as academic and social-emotional function, affect adult well-being — defined here as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived strengths.

The researchers found, on the one hand, a strong pathway from child and adolescent social connectedness to adult well-being. This illustrates the enduring significance of positive social relationships over the lifespan to adulthood. On the other hand, the pathway from early language development, through adolescent academic achievement, to adult well-being was weak, which is in line with existing research showing a lack of association between socioeconomic prosperity and happiness.

The analyses also suggest that the social and academic pathways are not intimately related to one another, and may be parallel paths.

What Children Can Teach Us About Happiness

The How of Happiness. The Now of Happiness. The Tao of Happiness. Looking for Happiness. Map To Happiness. Finding Happiness. Authentic Happiness. True Happiness. The Happiness Hypothesis. The Happiness Plan. The Happiness Project. The Happiness Solution. The Happiness Diet. And my favourite, Eat Your Way To Happiness.

Books on happiness are almost as popular as ones about teenage vampires in love. Yet, for those of us with small children, it’s hard to find time to read an entire book (or rinse shampoo out of our hair). But here’s the good news: we’re surrounded by real-life examples of people who are successfully pursuing happiness each and every day.

Here’s why I think little kids are happiness experts… 14 Things Kids Know About Happiness

Does Having Kids Make You Less Happy?

Those worried about children and what they do to us point to studies indicating that children reduce parental happiness. In one, published in 2004, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and associates found that among 16 activities, taking care of children ranked above only housework, work and commuting in its enjoyableness for working women. Other studies concluded that marital quality declines significantly after a couple transitions to parenthood.

However, research that takes into account parents’ different circumstances indicates that parents who are able to spend more time taking care of their children “take much less of a happiness hit from having kids,” according to economist Betsey Stevenson.

We may be answering the wrong question. The question is not how much happiness children bring or take, but how good is the happiness? We need to return to a precept that social philosophers and religious texts have long extolled: that a good life is not one centered around squeezing as much pleasure out of life as possible.

What My Son’s Disabilities Taught Me About ‘Having It All’

Maybe it’s my Buddhist outlook, but I’m not consumed with worry and frenzy and despair like I’m “supposed” to be. I don’t enjoy that my 12-year-old son is still in diapers and sometimes purposely makes a mess in the bathroom. Or that he dumped his Thanksgiving dinner on my sister-in-law’s pregnant belly. Or that he screams in the parking lot of Whole Foods until people call the cops on us. On the other hand, he is my son, and he is what I have. And he has a nice smile.

When I look at friends and acquaintances, many with perfectly beautiful children and wonderful lives, and see how desperately unhappy or stressed they are about balancing work and family, I think to myself that the solution to many problems is deceptively obvious. We are chasing the wrong things, asking ourselves the wrong questions. It is not, “Can we have it all?” — with “all” being some kind of undefined marker that shall forever be moved upwards out of reach just a little bit with each new blessing. We should ask instead, “Do we have enough?”

Educating for Empathy

More and more educators are helping kids develop empathy—and a recent contest highlights some of the most inspiring projects…

“In terms of where we are culturally and as a changing world, empathy is more essential today than it has been in any point in history,” says Lennon Flowers, who is helping to run the initiative (her official title at Ashoka is “change manager”). “What are we educating kids for? I would suggest it’s probably not the ability to take tests for the rest of their lives, but rather the ability to work with others and collaborate effectively in the future.”

Hating Ms. Maisy: The Joy, Sorrow and Neurotic Rage of Reading to Your Children

For the past eight years, off and on, I’ve been reading picture books aloud to my children. You read the same book out loud every night for two years, and you wind up spending a lot of time thinking about it.

A lot. Of. Time. Arguably too much time.

Inevitably you start to develop strange, intense, sometimes unhealthy relationships with those picture books. Especially the ones that are in heavy rotation.

12 Frugal Ways to End a Bad Day on a Good Note

Although I’m all for indulging in activities to boost your mood, retail therapy is definitely a pricey way to do it. And it might make you feel worse in the long run if your shopping expedition makes a dent in your bank account. Here are some wallet-friendly ways to turn around a bad day…

Drew Ramsey MD: Eat For Happiness: 5 Rules

Emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Another found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults over the course of approximately six years. And a huge study of women’s diets by the Harvard School of Public health concluded that those whose diets contained the greatest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression.

As a physician, I know all too well that strict regimens of any kind are almost always doomed to failure and then often leave people feeling worse off than before. That’s why the best prescriptions are often those that are simple and easiest to follow. With that thought in mind, here are the five basic rules I give to patients, friends, and family who want to simplify their choices at mealtime and maximise their brain health.

1. Skip the processed foods.

Brain-healthy nutrients are found in whole foods such as seafood (vitamin B-12, omega-3 fats), leafy greens and lentils (folates and magnesium), whole grains and nuts (certain forms of vitamin E that protect brain fat), and tomatoes and sweet potatoes (top sources of lycopene and other carotenoids, fat soluble antioxidants that decrease inflammation). Once you start eating a plant-based diet of nutrient-dense, whole foods, your moods will level out, your blood sugar will stop spiking and crashing, and your thinking will get clearer.

2. Go organic.

Many insecticides and pesticides are neurotoxins, and although some claim the science isn’t settled about their health risks, remember that the same was said about cigarettes for decades before their dangers were officially recognized. Organic food usually costs a little more, so it’s smart to start by switching to organic apples, celery, peaches and other produce that normally rank highest in contaminants.

3. Don’t fear fats.

Trans fats still found in many packaged baked goods are among the unhealthiest substances around, which is another good reason to stay away from processed foods. But the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, which are found in whole foods like fish, butter, yogurt and full-fat milk, are great for your brain. One researcher calls them “nutritional armor.” Studies show that these two fats help protect your brain against mood disorders, while low levels of DHA have been associated with increased risk of suicide. And these fats don’t make you fat! In fact, foods with healthy fats help you feel satiated, so you end up eating less.

4. Mind your meat.

Meat is brain food. Along with other animal products like seafood, eggs and dairy, the right meat is a protein-rich source of omega-3 fats DHA and EPA and another fat, CLA, which is associated with fighting cancer and reducing levels of deadly abdominal fat. A plant-based diet is essential for brain health, but a diet completely free of animal products has its own problems. It forces one to take nutritional supplements, which are expensive and aren’t always absorbed sufficiently in the body. Not all meat is created equal, though. “Grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” beef and chicken have more beneficial nutrients in them and are free antibiotics and harmful hormones fed to factory farmed animals. Eggs that are “farm fresh” have higher nutritional value because they were laid by hens with a healthier natural diet.

5. Make friends with farmers.

Shopping at your local farmers market can give you added motivation to stay away from a pre-packaged processed-food diet. Getting to know the people who grow your food also offers you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what you’re eating. The goal is not to become a food snob, but to make that vital connection between your fork and your feelings and choose foods that support your emotional well-being and enhance your sense of vitality.

Good Mood Food: The Link Between Happiness And What You Eat

A USA TV show with the author of Mood Food – enjoy…

It turns out that what you put in your grocery basket could be affecting the way you feel. Dr. Drew Ramsey, co-author of “The Happiness Diet” visits The Couch to talk good mood food.

Explore – So you know, how pain relievers work, animated by the team at TED-Ed.

Percy Bysshe Shelley Frets About Information Overload … in 1821

…just as our complaints have their plus ça change quality, so do their corollaries. We end up finding ways to make the sea of information seem less sea-like. We find ways, essentially, to fool ourselves into a sense of sense-making. As controversial as Shelley’s ideas about poetry may have been at the time, they speak also to an enduring assumption: that the workings of human creativity — the clarity of curation, the filter of poetic understanding — are what will finally save us from ourselves.
Whether we are buoyed by the floods of information or drowned by them will depend on our ability to make wisdom out of knowledge, and knowledge out of data. For humans of the 21st century as much as the 16th, our intelligence is contingent on our ability — just as Shelley said — “to imagine that which we know.”

Guardian Books podcast: The pursuit of happiness

Is positive thinking the route to happiness? Oliver Burkeman and Jules Evans make the case for looking on the dark side, while the narrator of Joanna Kavenna’s latest novel takes off in search of a new way of living

Art, Performance and Sound

Unlimited – Southbank Centre

Unlimited at Southbank Centre: 30 August – 9 September, 2012

‘Unlimited celebrates disability, arts, culture and sport on an unprecedented scale and encourages disabled and deaf artists to push beyond their personal best alongside Paralympic athletes, by creating work which opens doors, changes minds, and inspires new collaborations.’ Arts Council England

 

88 Years of Olympic Games Logo Design

London 2012: Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony history is only a partial truth

Boyle gave us a tear-jerkingly optimistic sense of the inevitability of progress. Here was social history as taught to my generation and Danny Boyle’s, where we learned how – from Factory Act to Tolpuddle martyrs, from Chartists and Reform Act to the Butler Education Act – power was gradually wrenched from a small elite. See how the Voldemort tendency is still trounced by the people’s enduring affection for the collective good of the NHS and the BBC.

That’s the romantic history, the struggle retold in most of literature and art, where ragged-trousered heroes are pitted against villainous landed aristos and satanic mill owners…

Here’s the catch to the Boyle vision. Since the days of those confident history textbooks charting milestones of social advance, so much has gone into reverse. Imagining ourselves social democratic doesn’t easily make us so, when economic forces are stronger than the power of mere votes. Our postwar founding myth as social democrats is in danger of becoming as unreal as the prewar empire-building story. We can no longer count on the march of progress.

The 10 Craziest Moments of the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Digital Age, As Imagined by Artists

Imagine a device that allows people to engage in cultural exchange through the distribution of videos and images. Users can create media libraries and share them via telecommunications technologies. Sound like the internet? Artist Stan VanDerBeek envisioned it in the 1950s. Comprised of seventy contributors whose work spans fifty years, the New Museum’s new exhibition Ghosts in the Machine is a “prehistory of the digital age,” in which artists use simple technologies to imagine our technological future.

Anais Nin on Paris vs New York, 1939

“The ivory tower of the artist may be the only stronghold left for human values, cultural treasures, man’s cult of beauty.”  Anais Nin

The Happy Post Project: Spreading Cheer Via Post-It Note

“What makes you happy?” For GOOD Maker’s “Stories for GOOD” finalist The Happy Post Project, this question acts as a springboard for all of its global movements, ranging from art displays at festivals, college campus visits, TEDx conferences, and man-on-the-street interviews.

The Happy Post Project has been to Japan to help collect and spread positive messages of hope and happiness to Tsunami victims. In the Bronx, organizers paired up with artist Dan Paluska as part of the “This Side of Paradise” installation, in which Happy Post filled an entire room with Post-Its and invited visitors to add their thoughts.

The project has visited cities across the United States and set up an installation in landmarks like Times Square and Chicago’s reflective Cloud Gate. The next project involves heading back to Chamarro’s roots in Colombia to in attempt to spread happiness to three communities affected by the nation’s ongoing civil conflict. The project has even received the stamp of approval from President Juan Manuel Santos.

Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei – A Short Documentary

Ai is unique among his contemporaries in the art world for his willingness to confront social issues not only through visual media but also through media commentary. As Klayman puts it, “Weiwei the artist had become as provocative with his keyboard, typing out a daily diatribe against local corruption and government abuses” on his blog. Ai claims his political involvement is “very personal.” “If you don’t speak out,” he says above, “if you don’t clear your mind, then who are you?” He has written editorials for English-language publications on why he withdrew his support from the Beijing Games and what he thought of last Friday’s opening ceremony in London (he liked it). And, of course, he’s become a bit of a star on Twitter, using it to relentlessly critique China’s deep economic divides and suppression of free speech.

But for all his notoriety as an activist and his well-known internet persona, Ai’s sculpture and photography speaks for itself. Unfortunately, due to his arrest and imprisonment by Chinese authorities in 2011, he was unable to attend the opening of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in LA, and he is still under constant surveillance and not permitted to leave the country. But, true to form, none of these setbacks have kept him from speaking out, about his politics and his art. In this short video, he discusses the significance of Zodiac Heads, his most recent monumental vision.

A portrait of India in The Indian Memory Project

Ordinary photographs of everyday people can tell us as much about the past as history books, Anusha Yadav, curator of The Indian Memory Project, tells Shiva Kumar Thekkepat

‘Happiness’ reigns in chalk art fest

The sidewalk chalk drawing said it simply: “You Can’t Stop My Happiness.”

Unusual Art: The Body as Canvas

Last weekend, Austria played host to the 15th Annual World Bodypainting Festival. Over 200 participants from 40 countries worldwide competed in categories ranging from ‘brush and sponge’ to ‘airbrush’ to ‘special effects.’

Ukulele Ladies of Ellen Wilkinson School: I will survive

Book review: Mrs Ali’s Road To Happiness

The road to happiness is never straight and Farahad Zama has got that right with his sequel to The Marriage Bureau for Rich People. Set in Vizag, it follows the story of the extended Ali family, a quiet God-fearing people who find themselves in the eye of the storm when they break with convention.

A Treasured Event – A Unique Theatrical Event of Titanic Proportions

Tickets are now on sale for Treasured – a large scale, multimedia theatrical event which will be performed in Liverpool’s stunning Anglican Cathedral from 1 – 6 October 2012. Inspired by the story of the Titanic and its 2012 centenary, Treasured will feature cutting-edge film and light projection from Illuminos and jaw-dropping aerialist performances from Wired.

Escape Velocity

Places available for disabled children and young people at September workshops
As part of the build-up to Treasured, Aspire will be providing a series of creative workshops for disabled children and young children and their families. The two hour workshops, funded by BBC Children in Need, will be held at Liverpool Cathedral every Saturday in September. The workshops will be inspired byTreasured and will involve participants in a variety of creative and performing arts activites.

London’s Necropolis Station

Few cities can boast a railway line for the dead. The London Necropolis Railway station was constructed by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company, specifically to serve their Brookwood Cemetery, 25 miles away in Woking, Surrey. The Company’s logo was, somewhat ghoulishly, a skull and crossbones.

Murder, Marple and Me at the Gilded Balloon Teviot Wee Room, Edinburgh at 3.15pm, until August 26 (not 13-20)

If you’re at Edinburgh Festival this month go see this – the supersonically talented Stella Duffy directed and Martyn Duffy has made the sound…

Preview: Murder, Marple and Me, Gilded Balloon Teviot Wee Room

Festival regular Janet Prince stars as Margaret Rutherford in the play

Festival regular Janet Prince stars as Margaret Rutherford in the play

IT was the outcome neither wanted. When Margaret Rutherford took on the challenge of playing Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple on the big screen, both women baulked at the prospect.

 Eventually they overcame a mutual dislike and distrust to form an unlikely bond, and it’s this relationship which forms the subject of a new play, directed by acclaimed crime writer Stella Duffy and starring Festival regular Janet Prince….

Happiness At Work ~ route map to edition 4

Happiness At Work ~ edition 4 (27 July 2012)

Here is guide to through this week’s collection of articles, news, reviews, ideas, pictures and sounds linked to Happiness & Wellbeing in our work and in our lives.  

The collection is published every Friday.
To view postings in the previous collections, go to Archives and choose 6 July for edition 1;  13 July for edition 2; and 20 July for edition 3.

We hope you find something here to delight, something you can use, something that confirms what you knew already, and something that improves your happiness.  At least…

Out To Sea

Photo by Jason Owen, nathanowenphotography

“When was it, in his lifetime, that people first spoke of attitudes that are either positive or negative?  

In his childhood, they were happy or sad, those people, depending on their characters.  No one, then, described a miserable neighbour as having  a negative attitude, and his limitlessly cheerful Aunt Rose, who looked on the bright side when there was no brightness visible, would have been mystified to hear that her attitudes to the problems she refused to acknowledge with more than a few slightly clouded moments of reflection was of the positive kind.”

from Paul Bailey’s novel: Chapman’s Odyssey (2011)

This Week’s Top Happiness Story

First ONS Annual Experimental Subjective Well-being Results 

The Report itself…

This report presents experimental estimates from the first annual Subjective Well-being Annual Population Survey (APS) dataset, April 2011 to March 2012. Overall estimates of people’s views about their own well-being are provided as well as estimates for: key demographic characteristics (such as age, sex, ethnic group), different geographic areas and countries within the UK, aspects which are considered important for measuring national well-being (such as personal relationships, health and work situation) These first annual estimates of subjective well-being are considered experimental statistics, published at an early stage to involve users in their development. ONS is collecting subjective well-being estimates to complement existing socio-economic indicators to allow a fuller statistical picture of the nation’s well-being.

The Story…

As part of the UK government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP, the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of detailed subjective data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary according to factors including sex and ethnic group.

Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile.”

As might be expected, these statistics are being given different spins by different reporters.  Here are a range of these…

The Economist…

National Wellbeing: The Importance of Being Happy

ACCORDING to Bobby Kennedy, speaking in 1968, the problem with GDP is that it “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” As he pointed out, GDP “counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programmes which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.”

Forty-four years later, one group is trying to catch up—the British government. This morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first provisional “national well-being report”, which attempts to measure the “subjective well-being of individuals, which is measured by finding out how people think and feel about their own lives.“ The idea started with David Cameron, who, back in the (possibly?) happier days of November 2010, denounced the “incomplete” GDP statistic, and called for a better measure of national happiness—dismissing the idea that it would be “wooly and impractical.”

So how has it turned out?

Surprisingly, black Britons are far less happy than other ethnic minorities or than white people. Londoners are also the grumpiest, least self-assured and most anxious of all—the capital comes out worse than all other regions (that may not be a surprise). And middle-aged people are also less happy than younger or older people—the mid-life crisis is not a myth, it seems.

All of which is interesting, but hardly ground-breaking. You don’t need an ONS database to know that if you make people healthier and give them work then they will be happier.

But an interesting thought is what will happen over time.

The Young Foundation

In A Recession, Does Wellbeing Matter?

In this period of economic downturn, measures that focus on ‘wellbeing’ and ‘happiness’ may appear out of sync with the national mood and may not resonate with an anxious public. With public sector cuts, changes in benefits and reduced public services, there will be many who suggest that material deprivation is perhaps a more acute concern than the nation’s happiness and wellbeing. We would assert that a better understanding of the nation’s wellbeing and resilience will be one of many aspects that will help us to weather the current financial conditions.

Nonetheless, measures of wellbeing are a way of capturing the bundle of experiences and circumstances that add up to what is generally described as life satisfaction. The use of objective and subjective data – understanding the way in which people describe their lives, as well as objective indicators, provides a more rounded view of what is social progress.

The Guardian…

Wellbeing index points way to bliss: live on a remote island, and don’t work

First annual results of Measuring National Wellbeing Programme show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness…

Far more significant, however, appears to be the impact of work: not only not having it – which leads twice as many unemployed people to rate their satisfaction levels as low or very low as those in a job – but also what kind of work you do. The highest average life satisfaction was reported by those in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or law and was lowest among “process, plant and machine operatives”.  Higher scores were given by groups of employees “with more responsibility and control over their work, as well as higher incomes”.

The Daily Mail…

Feeling down? Up sticks and move to the Shetlands! PM’s ‘well-being’ survey shows that’s where Brits are happiest

  • Scots and Northern Irish are happier than the English and the Welsh
  • People aged between 16 and 19 and 65 and 79 are the happiest people in Britain
  • Britons are most unhappy if they live in urban areas in South Wales, the West Midlands and London

Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary behind the survey, said the results showed it is ‘bliss’ to work outdoors.  He added that the findings proved it isn’t just money that matters.  ‘If you are working in forestry, or in agriculture, then you really are close to bliss,’ he said.

BBC News…

ONS well-being report reveals UK’s happiness ratings

People who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives, the first national well-being survey says…

Three quarters of people aged 16 and over in the UK rated their overall “life satisfaction” as seven or more, with women more likely to report higher levels of well-being and a sense that their life is “worthwhile” than men but also higher levels of anxiety.

The Scotsman…

Analysis: Serious business of government cannot afford to ignore happiness of its people

In the 19th century, when economics was first forming as a discipline, it was thought impossible to make reliable comparisons of happiness between people. So income was used as a proxy measure, and this way of thinking stuck.

However, as Robert Kennedy pointed out during his 1968 presidential campaign, economic measures are a very narrow guide to policy – they count spending that leads to “air pollution and cigarette advertising” but not “the health of our children or the quality of their education”.

Over the past 30 years, a wealth of scientific evidence has built up showing that we can now measure people’s overall happiness with life.

This sort of evidence has led to growing calls for wellbeing indicators to be used as headline measures of national progress, to help judge the success of overall government policy.

 This Sky News report comes with an interview with a very smug man ridiculing these measurements as meaningless, and suggesting that our crime, divorce and employment statistics already tell us everything we need to know about people’s wellbeing.  If you say so Edward Skidelsky…

Well-being Report: UK’s Happiness Revealed

The results of the first “happiness index” reveal that age, sex and ethnic background impact peoples’ satisfaction across the UK.

The director of the Measuring National Well-Being Programme, Glenn Everett, said: “By examining and analysing both objective statistics as well as subjective information, a more complete picture of national well-being can be formed.

“Understanding people’s views of well-being is an important addition to existing Official Statistics and has potential uses in the policy making process and to aid other decision making.”

Wales Online…

Wales’ happiest place to live is Anglesey – as William and Kate can testify

People in Torfaen were the least happy with their lives, with nearly a third giving a low score for their levels of satisfaction with live and a quarter not feeling the things they do were worthwhile.

Councillor Bob Wellington, leader of Torfaen Council, said: “It’s no surprise to see that those areas hit hardest by the decline of industry in the 80s are at the lower end of this index and, of course, the associated social issues have been made worse by the ongoing recession.”

“As a council we’ve got an important role to play in protecting and supporting our most vulnerable people, particularly during the current economic situation. We will continue working with our public sector partners in police and health to help make Torfaen a safe, prosperous, sustainable place where everyone has the opportunity to be the best they can be.”

and The Rutland Times…

Rutland is the happiest place to live in England says Office of National Statistics

NB Orkney and Shetland are the happiest places to live in the UK.  Or so say these statistics..

Revealed: The Happiest Place In The UK

The top five was made up of:

  1. Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland
  2. Rutland
  3. Anglesey
  4. Wiltshire
  5. West Berkshire

The bottom five, meanwhile was:

  1. North Ayrshire
  2. Blaenau Gwent
  3. Swansea
  4. County Durham
  5. Blackpool

 

Bright Blue Blog – Contributors – Richard Layard

Values and Action For Happiness

Richard Layard, Friday 20th July 2012

What is needed is one single principle which can guide and inspire us in all that we do. In a secular age that principle should be “Produce as much happiness in the world as you can, and as little misery”. That is the great Enlightenment idea that brought Europe out of the Middle Ages and needs to be at the centre of our culture for the 21st century. It should guide us personally in the decisions we make about our families and our work. And it should guide our politics. The whole debate about specific values and specific policies should be conducted with reference to that objective.

Can Happiness Be Measured?

Can we measure wellbeing scientifically?

Economist Richard Layard, supporter of the new national happiness index, believes we can; philosopher Julian Baggini is having none of it…

Richard Layard: Unless people have the feeling they are making their own way through life, they can’t be happy. This is not a formula for a totalitarian system, which we know empirically produces the most miserable societies

Julian Baggini: You could only have an international index if it were constructed around one specific idea. That is the fundamental danger of this. It is not credible that there could be a single understanding of wellbeing that all people at all times would settle on…the moment you try to create this single wellbeing index, you’re trying to nail down wellbeing to one conception, and I think that is in a way totalitarian.

David Cameron: The Next Age of Government TedTalk

Here is David Cameron in 2010, quoting Bobby Kennedy with some passion, and setting out his intentions to begin measuring Gross National Wellbeing in the UK…

More Happiness & Wellbeing News and Stories

Depression And Heart Disease On Global Health Agenda

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) compiled a list of the 10 leading causes of global disease, comparing 2004 with predictions for 2030, it came up with some surprising results.

In 2004, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease were the world’s No 1 and No 2 causes of ill health and premature death. But by 2030, depressive disorders and heart disease are forecast to replace them at the top of the global morbidity and mortality table.

By 2030, Depressive Disorders And Heart Disease Are Forecast To Be At The Top Of The Global Morbidity And Mortality Table

In many countries, job cuts have left fewer people in work. Those who remain are having to cope with almost unmanageable workloads, increased job insecurity, and longer hours. Their managers are often under increasing pressure, too, leading to more abrasive and aggressive management styles. This, in turn, leads to greater stress for workers.

But we shouldn’t despair. There are solutions to these workplace issues, such as training managers to improve their social and interpersonal skills, or using technology to create more flexible working arrangements. We can learn to work smarter, not longer, and create “engagement cultures” where employees and managers work together more collaboratively.

James Meadway – The Worsening Recession Reveals Chronic Weakness

Breaking the decline starts with ending austerity. But it has also to include a fundamental effort to improve energy efficiency, and the provision of sustainable, decent work. That would mean a plan to transform the economy – shrinking finance, investing in green infrastructure, creating jobs.

Damning Verdict on City: ‘No Longer Fit For Purpose’

A high-level government review into the City of London has concluded that it is riven by short-termism and staffed by too many people earning too much money.

A report commissioned by business secretary Vince Cable was made public this morning and finds a financial sector that is no longer fit for purpose.

In particular, Mr Kay says that regulation needs an overhaul and that traders seeking short-term profits are not acting in the wider interests of the public and should be marginalised.

Is it possible to combine the words love and business in the same sentence? I ask this question because of the self-censorship that is prevalent in the corporate world. While business is made up of human beings, its mechanised approach has turned many of us into human doings. For far too long employees have been expected to leave large parts of themselves at home before they head off for the office or factory.

The lexicon of the corporate world has been dominated by the words of war and scarcity; battling for market share, hostile takeovers, invading new territories and the like. That loud and crude battle cry has largely shut out the quieter voice of community and collaboration and, dare I say it, love.

I know of many management consultants and sustainability professionals who bring spirituality into their work but do it under a cloak of business speak for fear they will be ridiculed and ostracised.

As companies recognise their connection to society goes deeper than the impacts of their share price movements, the time has come to tear down this particular defensive wall that many businesses have built around themselves. All the signs, from the collapse of financial markets to the Occupy Wall Street movement, are highlighting the need to return to core values and a better way of doing business.

Stressed parents, Depressed Kids

Children today are more depressed than they were at the height of the Great Depression, researchers say, and second-hand stress is a major culprit.

Too much visual stimulation from devices such as television, computers and video games are partly to blame, Dr Shanker says. But high parental stress from factors including economic crisis, marital breakdown and urban living are significantly affecting a child’s ability to self-regulate.

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing,” he says.

“The solutions are real easy, the solutions themselves are not rocket science. Get your kid to bed, have your kid eat properly,” he says.

He also says some activities can help children to “top up the gas” when they are depleted of energy.  Sports, music, yoga and non-competitive Tae-Kwon-do all play an incredible role at helping kids regulate themselves.

Personal Happiness and Wellbeing

Defining wellbeing is not straightforward – not least because  the word mutates a lot around the context in which bis being used, for instance, in health terms there will be emphases on diet, exercise, and mental health; whereas in a work context the focus will be more on confidence, autonomy, sense of meaning or purpose, contribution and accomplishment, high quality relationships, feeling respected and recognised, and continuous learning and growth: a feeling of being able to achieve our full potential.

Our baseline framework continues to be Martin Seligman’s Flourishing framework: Positive Emotion + Engagement + Meaning + Accomplishment + Relationships

What Is Wellbeing?

This article provides a helpful enough explanation of wellbeing to help get a sense of what it means…

 The term wellbeing is very popular. If you type the word wellbeing or well-being in Google then a multitude of pages will be displayed. However, it is not easy to define the term wellbeing. Wellbeing is not the absence of illness.

Wellbeing is not simply maintenance and survival; it also includes growth and fulfillment (the actualization of potential). A wellbeing person has good physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Such people has sound health, more energy, feels satisfied, spreadhappiness and command respect from others.

Attributes of wellbeing: the various attributes of wellbeing are highly correlated.
1. Understanding others’ difficulties and situations ( empathy)
2. Honesty and reliability in behavior ( ethical conduct)
3. Seeing positive features in others and being positive ( positive thinking)
4. Taking cognizance of realities of life and dealing with them accordingly( realistic orientation)
5. Having confidence in oneself ( self-respect)
6. Taking care of what one says or does ( self-discipline)

Not All Happiness is the Same

…it seems that we experience two different kinds of happiness. The calm type of happiness is related to a focus on the present moment, and is most common in older adults. The excited type of happiness is related to a focus on the future and is most common in younger adults.

Although we are unaware of it, these types of happiness also affect our preferences. We seem to like products that will maintain the type of happiness we are experiencing right now. So, if we are experiencing calm happiness, we select calm products. If we are experiencing excited happiness, we select exciting products.

Happiness: The Female Perspective

As a woman, my subjectively female theory is that women are no less happy now than past generations were. I have interviewed over 100 women for articles and for books. They ranged in age from those in their 20’s to those in their 60’s, and they were from all walks of life and educational levels. Not being happy had no age, educational or social limit. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing activity.

Does Sunshine Make Us Happier?

As much of Britain basks in longed-for sunshine one senses that, despite all the economic gloom, our national spirits have been lifted. We instinctively believe that warm weather makes us happier. But is it true?

Yesterday’s well-being statistics suggested the opposite. The happiest region of the whole UK is the most northerly – Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Some islands see only around 1,000 hours of sunshine a year compared to a UK average of 1,340 hours.

Science is still trying to make sense of what is going on. The link between cold, dark climates and depression seems so plausible and yet Icelanders exhibit remarkably low levels of SAD. Some suggest this might be down to a genetic factor (Canadians of Icelandic origin also appear to have lower levels of SAD), while others think they may be protected by eating lots of fish, a diet high in Vitamin D.

The British public, it seems, remains largely committed to the view that if it lived in a warm, sunny environment instead of enduring waves of Atlantic cloud and rain, everyone would be a lot happier. For proof, people confidently assert that suicide rates are higher in countries straddling the Arctic Circle.

But proportionately, far more people kill themselves in the warmth of South Korea than in the ice of Scandinavia. Finland, which has the highest suicide rate of the Nordic nations, has a similar level to France and Belgium.

Probably not then.  Still feels like it does though.

Faster. Higher. Stronger – How will the Olympics affect you?

On the eve of the Olympics and Paralympics, Christian Jarrett dives into the psychology of competition

BBC Podcasts – FORUM – A World of Ideas

The secrets of Endurance. Rasmus Ankersen, Rachel Sussman, Marek Kukula. 21 July 2012

Sat, 21 Jul 12

Duration:
41 mins

Available:
24 days remaining

Why is it that so many top long distance runners are from Kenya? Is it genetics that leads to the high performance we can expect to see in the London Olympics? Or maybe the stamina of the world’s best athletes is above all about their mental attitude, the ability to deliver excellence, no matter what. Just some of the aspects of endurance we are exploring on the Forum this week with high-performance anthropologist Rasmus Ankersen. Also on the programme, award winning photographer Rachel Sussman takes us hunting for the longest living organisms on Earth. And endurance that dwarfs anything found on our planet: the mind boggling staying power of the stars in the sky. The UK’s Public Astronomer Marek Kukula is our cosmic guide.

Happy All The Time

New research offers hope for those seeking a durable boost in happiness…

The idea that a person can get happier and stay happier after a major life change has taken major hits in recent decades, with researchers finding that lottery winners are no happier than nonwinners after 18 months and the happiness boost that follows marriage fades, on average, in about two years.

But a new wave of research is suggesting that the picture is more complex, and rising above your long-term happiness level or “set point” may be possible, at least for some individuals.

“Long-term levels of happiness do change for some individuals,” Diener and his colleagues wrote. “The more intriguing question, then, is why happiness set points change for some individuals more than for others.”

The jury is still out on that one, but Sheldon’s study suggests that some of us may be better at savoring positive changes and that some changes may create a more durable happiness than others.

36 Scientific Facts About Happiness

A list satisfyingly worthwhile clicking through.

Project Compassion Stanford: Putting Compassion to Work: Google, Gratitude and Getting Canned

When facing adversity, we can either shut down or we can open up. Our immediate, defensive inclination is to close, to follow the seductive but narrowing pull of emotions such as anger or fear. Opening up is better for clear-headed decision-making and creative problem solving (so the data show). But it is difficult. It requires a good measure of self-compassion and a softness toward the situation and those involved.

 Are We Addicted to Gadgets or Indentured to Work?

Sound familiar: Mind racing at 4 a.m.? Guiltily realizing you’ve been only half-listening to your child for the past hour? Checking work email at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed? Dreading once-pleasant diversions, like dinner with friends, as just one more thing on your to-do list?

Guess what: It’s not you. These might seem like personal problems — and certainly, the pharmaceutical industry is happy to perpetuate that notion — but they’re really economic problems.

Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

 

When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.  Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.

A traumatic event doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.” (Jane McGonigal)

Positive Psychology Special Issue, March 2003

Although now eight years old – and that’s a long time in the science of happiness of wellbeing – this special edition of Psychology Today contains some really helpful background to the genesis of Positive Psychology in its first article, Positive Psychology: Fundamental Assumptions

FOR the last half century psychology has been largely consumed with a single topic only – mental illness – and it has done fairly well with it. Psychologists can now measure with some precision such formerly fuzzy concepts as depression and alcoholism. We now know a fair amount about how these troubles develop across the lifespan, and about their genetics, their biochemistry and their psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve some of these disorders. But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable has relegated building the states that make life worth living to a distant back seat.

plus the later article  Trauma and Personal Growth, is helpful reading around the idea and development of resilience, especially as it manifests as Post Traumatic Growth…

It has been found that between 30 and 90 per cent of people who experience some form of traumatic event report at least some positive changes following trauma, with the figure varying dependent on the type of event and many other factors.  These positive changes can underpin a whole new way of living that embraces the central tenets of positive psychology.  People may

  • change their life philosophy, learning to appreciate each day to the full (i.e. positive subjective experience) and renegotiating what really matters to them in the full realisation that their life is finite;
  • believe themselves to be wiser or act more altruistically in the service of others (i.e. positive individual characteristics) and have a greater sense of personal resilience and strength, perhaps coupled with more acceptance of their vulnerabilities and limitations;
  • dedicate their energies to social renewal or political activism (i.e. positive institutions and communities); or
  • report that their relationships are enhanced in some way, for example valuing their friends and family more (i.e. positive social relationships).

plus  some of the initial research that was happening in 2003 linking wellbeing with organisational life, leadership style and work loads in the article Positive Organisations

Many staff now seem to be granted greater autonomy over when they work and how they achieve their work goals. Many academics, for example, now primarily work at home.  Kanter (1997) and Handy (1995) argue that it is now commitment to common values that forms the glue that keeps the modern organisation together.

But at the same time increasing workloads plus an increase in measurement of the work being done has led to greater stress for many workers. It appears to be largely for this reason that job satisfaction measures have tended recently to go down rather than up.

Book Review:  What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth

“Ordinary people have the power to live lives just as dramatic and driven as those of superheroes, overcoming traumas no less daunting.” So claims Dr. Joseph, who uses part of Nietzsche’s time-tested phrase “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” as part of the book’s title. His experience, research, and writing back up this proclamation and provide perspective and hope for everyone who has, is or will, experience a traumatic event(s) in their life. That includes about 75% of humanity who must face some form of trauma during their lifetime.

Building better philanthropy for a better society

The government supports charitable giving because it wants to encourage individuals to contribute to social wellbeing. With the dust settling on the coalition’s ill-fated attempt to cap personal tax relief on giving, now is an opportune moment to look, not only at ‘how we do good’, but whether we are doing it as well as we could.

The UK is one of the most generous nations in the world, but how far can our charitable impulse meet the gaps in social wellbeing arising from austerity measures? A new research report from the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) concludes that to increase the impact of philanthropy in our troubled times, we have to address its geographical, attitudinal, ethical and policy dimensions.

Where markets fail, philanthropy needs to go beyond mere charitable hand-outs to mobilise the skills and expertise of successful entrepreneurs behind struggling communities. It also needs to provide financial support and safety-nets to help innovative smaller-scale enterprises move beyond grant dependence to long-term sustainability.

Why Society Doesn’t Change: The System Justification Bias

“Society’s tendency is to maintain what has been. Rebellion is only an occasional reaction to suffering in human history: we have infinitely more instances of forbearance to exploitation, and submission to authority, than we have examples of revolt.” (Zinn, 1968)

Study Awe – Inspiring Experiences Change Our Perception of Time

In addition to confirming the expansion of time, the study shows that awe can ease impatience and actually make you more willing to volunteer time in the name of others. People also begin to prefer an actual experience over a material good. And just in case that wasn’t good enough, an awesome moment can increase your overall satisfaction and happiness in life.

TEDxExeter – Mike Dickson – What is enough?

How much is enough for you to live a happy and fruitful life?   How we are better to think about how we can maximise our lives rather than maximise our incomes.

Chela Davison: A Love Story – Coming To Terms With The Human Experience

If we spent one-third of the energy that we spend on chasing happiness on getting better at being in pain, our experience of being alive would dramatically expand. We’d need to chase less and run away from less. We’d be open to a wider range of experience and not slapping assessments on these experiences and what they mean for our worth in society. We’d actually be able to drop into deeper states of happiness and bliss when they arise because we’re not fending off the pain that is just around the corner or seeping through the cracks of our high state. We’d be able to more fully, authentically and intimately show up for the events of our lives because we wouldn’t be spending the majority of our energy and attention on trying to dodge, stuff down, sidestep or prevail over pain.

Happiness At Work

It’s Official: Work Makes People Happy, Says ONS

HR Magazine’s response of ONS National Survey of Wellbeing brings a comparison with…

separate analysis by the CIPD suggests the finding that work affects happiness, only holds true if people are managed well and engaged with their work.

The CIPD’s Employee Outlook survey includes the four subjective wellbeing questions asked by the Office for National Statistics. The survey of more than 2,000 employees found that employees who agree they trust their senior managers and feel they are consulted about important decisions have much higher levels of wellbeing than those that disagree.

Getting more people into work should boost national happiness – but there’s also a huge amount more happiness to be had if people who already have jobs can be managed better.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said:  “How people are managed on a day to day basis is central to their wellbeing beyond the workplace. Good managers spend time coaching and developing, providing high quality feedback, and rewarding and recognising good performance. Managers also need to have an interest in people as individuals and where possible provide flexibility and support if they are going through difficulties in their lives outside work.”

Explore – “Artists and salespeople are fundamentally…

Generation Sell – a provocative Creative Mornings talk by William Deresiewicz

This is an intelligent thoughtful critique of today’s creative entrepreneurial culture and a lament of the lack of any true avante garde in art or thought that it has brought with it.  An excellent lecture fully worth the investment of time it asks for: the talk itself is 28minutes, followed by the Q&A, also worth hearing.  Highly recommended listening…

 Artists and salespeople are fundamentally different people. It’s the nature of being an artist to be always consumed with doubt. That’s the nature that fuels your exploration. And it’s the nature of the salesperson to suppress all doubt and to speak in exclamation points. Now those functions have to exist in the same person.”

Here are two stories that bring the other side – the excitement and enthusiastic case for the new technology-driven entrepreneurialism…

TaskRabbit Looks to Expand Cities and Offer an API 

Founder Leah said TaskRabbit and similar companies are gaining in popularity as consumers change their views about ownership and sharing. “We are at the beginning of a change on the Web where more companies are popping up that allow people to share resources,” she said. “You see people swapping clothing, sharing cars and bicycles. TaskRabbit is allowing people to share their free time. We can empower people to share themselves.”

See the TedTalk video of Leah Busque talking about the changing habits of consumers, and urging all of us to take the leap with anything we feel passionate about.

Disruptions: Looking Beyond Silicon Valley’s Bubble

There are truly excited inventors, designers and programmers here, some of the brightest people in the United States, who are trying to build something that will fix a problem in the world. This is why I love working in Silicon Valley.

Luckily for people who live outside the bubble of Silicon Valley, there is a wonderful group of creators here who believe that everything is broken and that technology, creativity and guts can actually fix it.

Why Creators Need To Be professionals

So why is it so important for every aspiring creator to turn pro?

Because if you don’t, then you won’t have what it takes on those days – and trust me, there will be plenty of them – when you wonder why you’re doing this, and you’re tempted to give in to Resistance. Or to give up altogether.

Life in Lady Writer Heaven

It turns out that the outside world and all its demands aren’t just distractions from writing, as most writers tend to think, they are also buffers for our bruised psyches. They pull us away from our muse, to be sure, but they also protect us from our own demons. When there are phone companies to fight with, deadlines to meet, aging mothers to be nursed, eyebrows to wax—who has time to schedule in soul searching?

The good news is that when you face down the demons, the muse gets inspired by the fight. One morning, I woke up pickled in melancholy. Why am I so sad? I kept wondering as I wandered around the cottage. I’m supposed to be in lady writer heaven. I’m supposed to be productive as all hell. I’m supposed to be ecstatic, my fingers dancing across the keyboard…

As Woolf wrote about a woman’s experience of finally being alone: “All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others…it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”

Increase Your Productivity and Happiness At Work

Whether you love your job or not, there are times of the work day that just aren’t as enjoyable as others. The typical work day is full of ups and downs, times of the day that fly by and others that you just can’t wait until they’re over with. When you’ve “hit the wall” and feel like you’re accomplishing nothing, or when you are just hating life at work, here are a few things that you can do to cheer yourself up and get back on track.

3 Simple Ways to Make People Happy at Work

This straightforward set of guidelines for improving people’s happiness at work suggest three key things to get, which we have given alternative headings to, drawing from Martin’s Seligman’s framework of five essentials for what he calls Flourishing: Engagement in what we are doing; a sense of Meaning beyond and unrelated to our own egos from what we are doing; and  high quality Relationships, feeling a part of strong supportive network, team or family.  The other two essentials are Positive Emotion, or the emotional feeling of happiness; and Accomplishment, the satisfaction and fulfilment of a job well done.

Here are Margaret Hefferman’s Top Three…

Learn these three strategies to make your employees happy, and extravagantly execute them. You’ll create a better business…

Professional growth (Engagement)
People want to stretch, to develop their natural talents, feel their life has a narrative and is going somewhere. When they feel that they are growing, they may be exhausted but they’re also inspired, energetic, and willing to take on a great deal. (That’s one reason why investing in people can deliver a higher return that investing in new technology.) Anyone who reports to you (and anyone who reports to them) should have a professional development plan. That will keep everybody engaged, busy, and–eventually–happy.

Strong community (Meaningful Work)
Everybody wants to be proud of where they work, to feel that they are investing the most precious thing they have – time – in something that matters.  Superficial social-responsibility projects won’t fill this gap for you. You need to create direct links between the success of the business and the community you serve. These need to involve the entire work force and should be active, public, visible, and long lasting. Many companies get their staff to choose the causes or charities they support. The more they’re engaged in these commitments, the more meaningful they will be to them–and your company community.

Fair treatment (Strong Relationships)
“Everybody here is somebody.” That’s how one call-center rep once explained to me why he loved the company where he worked. The job wasn’t thrilling, the pay wasn’t great, but every single person was treated with love and respect. Just walking through the door, he said, made you glad to come to work. When people got sick, co-workers worried. When someone was due to retire, she most likely came back to work part time, just for the camaraderie. Sooner or later, everyone in a company like this talks about it as being like “family.” The CEO knows everyone’s name–even the names of everyone’s kids and pets. This kind of fair–and kind–treatment also means startlingly low turnover rates, which also saves money. But it’s not really about the money.

These themes are extended and developed further by Psychologist Carol Ryff on wellbeing and aging

Six key components of well-being seem to capture what it means to function positively. One is positive self-regard, what I call “self-acceptance.” Another is having high-quality relationships with other people – “positive relationships with others.” Another is having a sense of direction in your life – “purpose in life.” Another component is feeling that you’re making the most of your talents and potential, utilizing your capacities, which I refer to as “personal growth.” Feeling you can make choices for yourself and your life even if they go against conventional wisdom is referred to as “autonomy.” The last one is managing the demands and opportunities in your environment in ways that meet your needs and capacities. We call that “environmental mastery.”

Embedded within these reflections is the idea that varieties of well-being around the world each are prone to their own forms of excess and inadequacy. However, until we look at well-being in multiple contexts, we may be blind to what these forms of excess are. The way to gain this understanding is to look at the experiences of, and ideals about, well-being around the world.

It’s like looking in a mirror. We see ourselves and our own views about what it means to be well by looking in a different cultural mirror. Maybe that helps us we see that what we do isn’t always the best. Maybe it needs to be slightly shifted this way or that.

That’s a bias I bring. I think learning about cultural differences enriches everybody.

Employee Satisfaction and Talent Acquisition: Why Wellbeing is a Must

In the current employment market, small and medium enterprise (SME) employers need to do everything possible to attract and retain the best staff. And while it’s true that SME organisations have traditionally scored well on important points such as employee satisfaction, there are always opportunities for gaining an edge over the competition and demonstrating how staff are valued.

Domestic violence has a significant, yet invisible, impact on the wellbeing of a large number of UK employees

Compared with 20 years ago, employers are now much more likely to be open to the view employee well-being is a mainstream business issue. Some are even becoming more comfortable with the notion that they have some role to play in supporting their staff to make and sustain lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or eating more healthily. But there remains a dark corner of the wellbeing landscape where almost nobody goes, even though it affects a shockingly high proportion of the workforce.

I am referring to domestic violence, a topic that, for too many, remains a taboo; and I realise that just by raising it, I am exposing the uncomfortable boundary between an employee’s private business and an employer’s duty of care. So why is domestic violence a workforce wellbeing issue at all?

One in four women report being victims at some point in their lives and 20% of women at work report taking a period of absence as a direct consequence of domestic violence.

If your strategy is focused on healthy options in the canteen or subsidised gym membership, perhaps it is time to assess whether there are less obvious threats to employee wellbeing, to which you should also be giving priority…

UST Work & Well-being Study – Some initial findings

The central concept to the study’s links between well-being, performance and retention is a word coined by the project team: presenteeism.  They describe presenteeism and its connection to well-being:

We believe, and our initial evidence suggests, that your employees’ well-being, satisfaction with elements of jobs and satisfaction that their reasons for working are being met lead to higher performance through reduced presenteeism, heightened engagement and increased feelings of inclusion.
Presenteeism comes from the term “absenteeism” and refers to being at work physically, but unable to concentrate fully. This notion comes from the health and wellness literature, where it originally meant coming to work sick and therefore not performing well. We expanded the concept to consider lack of concentration due to a series of work-related and personal factors. Low well-being in any area of one’s life may cause presenteeism, which impacts performance.

In addition to presenteeism and engagement, the study also comprehensively measures well-being, satisfaction, performance and intention to quit. The researchers plan to follow up in six months to see whether those who intended to quit actually do.

The lowest levels of intention to quit were for those with high overall life well-being and high satisfaction that the job was meeting the employee’s purpose for working.

The next lowest levels of intention to quit were for anyone with high well-being, regardless of their levels of job-specific satisfaction.

Five Keys to Success as the rate of Change Accelerates

For hundreds of years, people have felt the world was changing faster and faster. You can find writing from two hundred years ago lamenting the rate of change that you would believe was written yesterday, yet with the perspective of history, there is no question that the rate of change today, in nearly any category, is greater than it has ever been before.

While all this change may seem daunting and cause you frustrations or stress, the reality is if we want to succeed, we must learn to do more than just “live with” or “deal with” change – we must learn to understand and master it.  The full-on task of learning to understand and master change is a much larger topic than can be addressed here, yet there are five key ideas that will help you when you apply them.

The Incubation Effect: How to Break Through a Mental Block

At a time when we always seem to be in a hurry, we need reminding that taking a break is a simple but effective tool for boosting creativity. To come up with creative solutions to problems, your chances are increased by incorporating breaks into your work-flow.

Creative? Introverted? Then You’re Probably Not Seen As A Leader

“Our results show that regardless of how open minded people are, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty either because they have an immediate goal of reducing uncertainty, or feel uncertain generally, this may bring negative associations with creativity to mind which result in lower evaluations of a creative idea. Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas… yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.”

Happiness and Career… if you know what we mean… 

Adrienne Burke talking about the two types of working style identified by Howard Green concludes that happiness for all us depends on our sense of doing something that matters, whether we prefer ‘administrative’ style work or ‘entrepreneurial’ style work…
In the end, what makes people happy is probably in large part irrelevant to the question of entrepreneurship and working in small companies. More often, what we find is that people think about happiness independent of their vocation.  More relevant are questions like: What are your passions? What gets you excited? What will make you feel you have added value?

Do you just want to make a lot of money and then kick back? That works for some people, but it’s striking how many people we encounter who have done well in their careers still say they arelooking for something to do with their lives. They now have the financial freedom they chased, but it has not made them feel their lives are worthwhile. “Worthwhile” seems to come from doing something that feels like it is adding value, helping other people or somehow making the world a better place. That, at least, seems to be the common thread among the people we meet who are on fire, at any age. The mission can be almost anything, but in every case it is something.

Why Career Plans Are Dangerous

In hi s twice-weekly blog Action Trumps Everything he is suggesting that more of us are set to lose our jobs in the changing world, and identifies only three categories who can reasonably rely on having future work:
1) skilled trades people;
2) people who can tolerate how their jobs are going and
3) people who can afford to coast into the sunset

Perspectives – the new economics foundation magazine

Download the very first edition of the new nef Perspectives magazine…

Perspectives explores some of the latest insights into human behaviour and how they can help organisations make better decisions.

Most adults are producers as well as consumers. In fact we spend the majority of our waking hours working. And work is often a social activity: we usually produce alongside others, in teams. We started to gather perspectives on this line of inquiry with the premise that individuals at work are just as irrational as individuals at the shopping mall.

How do we form and instil habits within the organisations we work for? How does an organisation balance its instinct to survive while exploring new opportunities? Corporations are not engines that robotically maximise shareholder value; nor are charities machines that blindly deliver an altruistic purpose.  Both rely on the power of fallible minds to achieve their goals.

This edition of Perspectives stems from our ambition to better understand what makes organisations effective – and that means understanding the individuals that work in them.

Leadership

Overcome Leadership Challenges

As a leader how and what do you do to maintain resiliency in leadership?  By resiliency, I mean, recover speedily from problems and maintain elasticity, bend, stretch and not break during challenging situations.

All organizations encounter challenges, issues and difficulties everyday including financial shortfalls, downsizing, increased workloads, and succession issues.

These challenges force the organization to turn inward and look at itself and its effectiveness. It is a time to regroup and assess where the organization stands.

If the organization embeds and nurtures a culture based on mutual trust and where all members of the organization strive to be trustworthy and treat one another with respect and caring then you have a solid foundation to deal with the challenges and issues you face. But where do you begin? It begins with a focus on people and a focus on building and enhancing positive relationships.

Most peoples want to be part of the solution. They would like to have a sense that their ideas are heard, not necessarily accepted but considered with some action taken. They want to be part of the team, participating, engaging and solving some of the challenges.

Here are 6 steps to take when you face leadership challenges…

Leaders, Engage Then Train & Realise the Results

How Far Along Are You in These 3 Components?

  1. Empowered Learning Culture. Employee engagement starts and flourishes in a learning culture where all question, explore, are accountable, and learn from mistakes. When formal training occurs in this culture, the participants both apply it themselves and teach it to colleagues through the engagement that occurs each day. Leaders realize the results of the training as it spreads throughout the organization.
  2.  Engage for Accountability. If you mistakenly implement employee engagement primarily as rewards and recognition, you miss the true benefit — employees who are excited to be accountable. From this vantage point, any training the employees receive feeds back into the business in thorough application. Conversely, if as leaders you are delegating rather than engaging, you once again miss the true return on training — ownership to apply where appropriate.
  3.  Skin in the Game. Perhaps the most controversial component is offering advanced training to those who have shown personal initiative to learn some on their own. Of course there are training programs that you would want all employees to take. Yet for the advanced training that everyone hopes for, you must know how you will choose. Current job description has a been a default for years. Yet for leaders to truly realize company results of training, it makes sense to consider initiative and action as an indicator of developmental success.

Better Way to Coach Employees

Coaching is the process of preparing your employees to succeed.  Good coaches can create the mental resources, emotional resilience, business skills, and career development that employees need to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, while coaching is a well-established part of the sports world, it’s a neglected art in the world of business. Much of the time, coaching is relegated to a five-minute conversation at the end of a yearly performance review.

There’s a better way to handle business coaching. Try this five-step process…

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” (Simon Sinek)


The Power of Conversational Leadership

Intimacy
Inclusion
Interactivity
Intentionality

Art, Performance and Sound

East London – Photo Gallery – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

East Side Story
The “other London”—gritty, gratified, but with a rising cool index—gets ready for its close-up as the venue of the Summer Olympics.

Neil Harbisson: I Lsten To Colour (TedTalk)

Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely color blind, but these days a device attached to his head turns color into audible frequencies. Instead of seeing a world in grayscale, Harbisson can hear a symphony of color — and yes, even listen to faces and paintings.

Natalie Kossar’s “(You’re My) Stereotype”

Something to smile through.  Enjoy…

Maira Kalman on Identity, Happiness, and Existence

“How are we so optimistic, so careful Not to trip and yet Do trip, and then GET up and say O.K.”

Mysteries of the Vernacular

This one is PANTS

Yoko Ono on NBC Nightly News: “I envisioned the world smiling together”

YOKO ONO: “If we all start to smile in the world something will happen. I think that it will be better for the world maybe.”

An ‘Unlikely Pilgrimage’ Toward Happiness

Hear and/or read an extract from Rachel Joyce’s new novel: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry 

Rachel Joyce’s novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryis about a man who very suddenly, with no warning or planning, sets off on a pilgrimage from the very southernmost part of England to the very northernmost part…

The unlikely pilgrimage is also utterly spontaneous. Harold originally intends only to mail a letter to his friend, but he walks past the mailbox … and just keeps walking, north to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border… and ‘this is a man who’s only ever walked to the car,” says the book’s author, Rachel Joyce, “And without his mobile phone, and wearing completely inappropriate shoes, and just with a light waterproof jacket,” Joyce says. “He sets off with no props. …

Tno Seghal Fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall With Storytellers

For the millions of visitors who are expected to pass through Tate Modern’s doors between Tuesday 24 July, when the work opens to the public, and 28 October, when it closes, the experience of being stopped and spoken to by a complete stranger may be uncomfortable. For Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, it is “the most complex, difficult and dangerous project we have ever put into this museum”.

According to Sehgal the work is about the relationship between the individual and the mass: “It is about what it means to belong to a group, which is also quite a personal question for me.”

Handheld Time Machines

Cities are full of noise and scuffle, and they don’t always reveal their history.

Armed with a fistful of maps from 1901 and a smartphone bristling with data-recording apps, one man tries to uncover a city’s secrets…

Mark Ware will produce a multi-channel soundscape installation that will be sited within the Cathedral’s Chapter House for three consecutive days during March 2013.  The sound installation will feature only sounds that have been in existence for 900 years (for example, the sounds of the sea).  The work will last ninety minutes and will be repeated throughout the day.  The aim will be to create a piece of work that encourages contemplation and relaxation.
Some more history from the archives via Open Culture, this Is Karl Jung being warm, relaxed and utterly charming…
To celebrate the birthday of Carl Gustav Jung, founder of analytic psychology and explorer of the collective unconscious, born on July 26, 1875 in the village of Kesswil, in the Thurgau canton of Switzerland…we present a fascinating 39-minute interview of Jung by John Freeman for the BBC program Face to Face. It was filmed at Jung’s home at Küsnacht, on the shore of Lake Zürich, and broadcast on October 22, 1959, when Jung was 84 years old. He speaks on a range of subjects, from his childhood and education to his association with Sigmund Freud and his views on death, religion and the future of the human race. At one point when Freeman asks Jung whether he believes in God, Jung seems to hesitate. “It’s difficult to answer,” he says. “I know. I don’t need to believe. I know.”

Stephen Covey has given us a lasting legacy of habits, principles, and cornerstone concepts, as well as a rich vocabulary to think about, express, and live our personal leadership.  The language that Covey gave us is all about choice and change, commitment, continuous learning, discipline, efficiency and effectiveness, happiness, integrity, freedom, listening, personal development, perspective, principles, time management, trust, spirit, values, and vision.

It’s a big deal.  It’s a lifetime of contribution.  His legend lives on through his legacy.

Here is a taste of that legacy and the wisdom that Stephen Covey has shared with the world  …