Seligman’s PERMA+1 Essentials for Flourishing

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

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

Martin Seligman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ways to find greater positive emotion

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

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

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

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

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ways to build stronger relationships

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

 

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

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

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ways to increase your sense of meaning

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

4 Ways to Find Meaning in Any Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiness At Work - BMA

Post Script:

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

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

See also

Second Wave Positive Psychology: An Introduction

Learning to find light in the darkness…

Plus many more stories and articles in our eclectic collection:

Happiness At Work

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

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

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

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

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

some articles about Happiness At Work

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

by Alexander Kjerulf

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

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

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

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

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

2: Emotions are contagious…

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

4: Unexpected things make us happy…

5: Making others happy, makes us happy…

read this full article here

The Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Praise at Work

by Shawn Achor

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

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

read this article here

27 Insights for Creating and Sustaining Workplace Happiness

by PAUL JUN

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

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

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

some articles about Making Great Relationships at work

The Biggest Performance Management Mistake

by Jacob Shriar

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

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

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

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

continue reading this article here

How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain

By 

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

read this article here

Your coworkers are more important than you think

by 

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

read this article here

The Power of Treating Employees Like Family

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

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

some articles about Resilience and Personal Mastery

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

by Karen Liebenguth

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

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

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

So how do you develop a resilient workforce?

read these five tips for developing greater resilience here

Why Resilience Is Good for Your Health and Career

by Laura Landro

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

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

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

continue reading this article here

How People Learn to Become Resilient

by 

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

read this article here

see also

Is Resilience Written in our DNA?

an examination of the different research findings…

The Only 7 Things You Can Control in Life

BY CATHERINE GOLDBERG

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

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

1. Your Breath…

2. Your Self-Talk…

3. Your Gratitude…

4. Your Body Language…

5. Your Mental and Physical Fitness…

6. Your Diet…

7. Your Sleep…

read more about these seven things here

some articles about Performance & Productivity

Multitasking is Killing Your Brain

by Larry Kim

Our brains weren’t built to multitask.

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

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

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

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

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

read the full article here

some articles about Making a Better World

The World’s Happiest Man on Altruism

by Oliver Haenlein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

read the original article here

some articles about Stillness, Solitude and Mindfulness

13 untranslatable words for happiness

by Elsa Vulliamy

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

Some of the best are listed below:

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

read this article here

The End of Solitude

by William Deresiewicz

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

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

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

continue reading this article here

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

By  and 

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

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

take the test and read the full article here

articles about Contemporary Trends in Work & Organisations

Time to say goodbye to the open plan era?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

read this article here

10 Job Skills You’ll Need in 2020

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

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

Holacracy: The System To Make Your Team More Productive

by by Jacob Shriar

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

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

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

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

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

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

read this article in full here

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

Frederic Laloux on Reinventing Organisations

Brian Robertson’s Google talk on Holacracy

Jos de Blok l Organisation without management l Meaning 2015

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

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

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

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

Part Two: The Positive Organisation

Do you aspire to survival, or to flourish?

The questions that drive positive organizing are these:

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

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

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

Happiness At Work edition #132 – February 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here

7 workplace myths disproven by research [infographic]

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

Read the full article here

Where To Start On Empathy? 5 Essential Reads

Nathan Wiltshire writes

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

1. Empathy: A handbook for revolution by Roman Krznaric

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

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

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

3. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen

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

4. Empathy: A motivated account by Jamil Zaki

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

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

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

Read the original article here

10 Ways to Make Employees Happier in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

1. Thank your employees every day

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

2. Foster friendships at work

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

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

3. Pay attention to employees’ needs

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

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

4. Nurture your company’s culture

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

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

5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other

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

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

6. Create better leaders

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

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

7. Show employees empathy

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

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

8. Prolong the honeymoon

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

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

9. Unite your team

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

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

10. Give “thank-you” gifts

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

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

Read the full article here

What Does Your Communication Say About Your Culture?

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

Is it the impact you want?

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

Leadership expert 

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

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

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

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

Perception is reality

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

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

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

Don’t kill the messenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Bang explosions create lasting scars

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here

Life as a Gymnasium, Trading and Investment as Workouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work As Gymnasiums

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

Making Your Workouts Work For You

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

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

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

Read the original article here

Also on this theme…

Science Proves That Hugs Can Boost Your Immune System

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

Why Managers Need To Focus On Employee Happiness

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

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

And this has now been proven by research…

Happiness At Work edition #122

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

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

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

Judy Garland – Be A Clown Lyrics by Cole Porter

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

Are you playful?

Do people find you funny?

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

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

Humour and Playfulness:

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

You like to laugh and tease.

Bringing smiles to other people is important to you.

You can usually see the light side of all situations.

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

6 Possible Ways To Exercise Your Humour and Playfulness

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

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

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

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

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

Judy Garland – Be A Clown Lyrics by Cole Porter

Benefits of Humour

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

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

Physical benefits of mirth and laughter:

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


Cognitive benefits of humor and mirth:

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

Emotional benefits of humour and mirth:

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

Social benefits of humour and mirth:

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

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

Link to the original article

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

Charlie Chaplin

Happiness Is Our True Nature

by World Peace Sustainability Clown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original post in full

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

Emeli Sandi

14 Leaders Reflect on Humour and Fun

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

Link to all 14 links in the original article

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

Humour and Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darrell Hammond

 

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

What’s Your Leadership Mnemonic? 

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

Leadership In a Nutshell

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

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

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

D for developmentDevelop your leadership ability and develop your team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fun With Your Team

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

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

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

Instead of hiring a fun consultant, a leader can:

1. Lighten up

2. Smile

3. Be energetic

4. Maintain a consistent, positive attitude

5. Keep calm under stress and a crisis

6. Poke fun at yourself

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

8. Be happy

9. Enjoy your work

10. Be a team player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boss’s Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

Enjoying Your Days

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

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

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

So what are they?

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

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

Wavy Gravy

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

Everything was a fog.

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

All those things were crystal clear.

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

How I longed for some humor in my life.

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

And then IT hit me.

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

Whether good or bad, our emotions are contagious.

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

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

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

Again, more laughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just why did the frog cross the road?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ask yourself:

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

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

Eliezer Yudkowsky

Becoming a Humorous Person

“Comedy is acting out optimism.” – Robin Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

send in the clowns

the smile on the face of the clown

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

Tim Burton

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

Pop Quiz

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

Pop quiz: Who do you think said those words?

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

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

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

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

e)     A fortune 500 executive vice president

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

I’ve even said them myself.

A Dirty Little Leadership Secret 

Have you ever felt like a fake?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.

I’ve been there.

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

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

Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence.

Put an End to Imposter Syndrome

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

1)    Honour your past and your present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Visualise the Critical Voice & Have a Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4)    Laugh

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

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

5)    Inner Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6)    Catcher’s Mitt Curiosity

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

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

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

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

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

7)    Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Link to read the whole article

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

Amy Poehler

How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach

adapted précis from an article by Leo Babauta

The One Step to Finding Your Purpose

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

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

Some of the problems caused by this personal bubble:

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

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

Including the difficulty in finding our life purpose.

The Wider View, and Our Life Purpose

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

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

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

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

How to Get Out of the Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

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

John Lydon

Creativity – the strategic tool of the 21st century

By 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Happiness & Its Causes article

A Surprising Way To Connect With Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a sampling of their responses.

Positive:

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

Negative:

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

Surprise:

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

Observations about the meeting:

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

How can leaders lower protective barriers and let others in?

Link to read the original article

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

Ernest Borgnine

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

By 

Susan Pearse is an acclaimed leadership expert

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

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

Rut 1: Avoidance

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

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

Rut 2: Holding on

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

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

Rut 3: Complacency

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

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

Rut 4: Self Talk

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

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

Rut 5: Indecision

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

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

Link to read the original article

Happiness At Work edition  #108

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

Enjoy…

Happiness At Work #87 ~ sometimes it’s good to be up in the clouds

This post invites you to put your head in the clouds for a while and think about creative thinking…

'Sometimes its good to be up in the clouds' photo by Sue Ridge

‘Sometimes its good to be up in the clouds’
photo by Sue Ridge

This week’s title comes from a new photo by artist Sue Ridge, which heads up this selection of stories that invite us to think about what our thinking, and especially our creative thinking, might ideally be made of…

Insight test – how much do you know about insightful working?

To get started with this, here’s a quick and surprising challenge to test your existing thinking by Gary Klein, author of Seeing what others don’t: the remarkable ways we gain insights:

Our ability to create insights is critical for innovation and adaptation.

Otherwise we would remain stuck in mental ruts formed over our lifetime. Insights let us see things in new ways. Many people, however, have the wrong ideas about insights. Here is a short test, only 12 items, to assess your knowledge of insights. For each item, note down the number at the left if you agree with the statement and think it has been sufficiently established.

  1. Brainstorming is an effective method for groups to generate insights.
  2. Insights depend on having fresh eyes, which is why greybeards – the so-called experts – tend to be trapped by their previous experience.
  3. Organizations desire insights and encourage their workers to come up with out-of-the box ideas.
  4. The way insights emerge is that we run into an impasse, struggle for awhile, then let our minds wander until suddenly there is a flash of illumination.
  5. Correlation doesn’t imply causality, so we shouldn’t get sidetracked by coincidences.
  6. A major barrier to insights is when we have flawed beliefs and assumptions.
  7. To correct flawed assumptions we should use critical thinking methods such as listing all the important assumptions we are making, to see which might be wrong.
  8. Scientists generate insights by running controlled experiments to test their hypotheses.
  9. Good scientists work carefully so that they won’t make erroneous claims.
  10. To handle a challenging project we should start by pinning down the goals so that we can systematically achieve success.
  11. Good ideas often come about by accident so we should expose ourselves to lots of different fields and different types of specialists.
  12. A well-designed computer workstation, tailored to the way we work so that it filters out irrelevant data and highlights the important cues, can boost our chances for having insights.

Let’s see how you did. Review your responses, changing any that don’t seem quite right. And here is the answer key: Zero. None of these items has been clearly established. Some are just wrong, contradicted by the data. Others seem unlikely and have not been supported by evidence. Here are some brief explanations:

  1. Brainstorming is a popular technique but the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that groups using it get fewer ideas, and less creative ones.
  2. Experience doesn’t get us into a rut unless the task is so repetitive and mindless that we tune out. A study of insights that I conducted found that experience was essential in 2/3 of the incidents.
  3. Organizations resist insights because they are dis-organizing and disruptive, and get in the way of smooth management. Most people view novel ideas as impractical and unreliable.
  4. This impasse strategy sometimes holds, but it is only one of several different ways that insights emerge. In a sample of 120 insights, only 25% involved impasses.
  5. Correlation doesn’t prove causality but many important insights started out when someone noticed a coincidence.
  6. People who gain insights often held flawed beliefs. What set them apart is that they were able to abandon these beliefs whereas others fixated on their flawed beliefs and were trapped by them.
  7. The strategy of listing assumptions has never been shown to improve performance, and it doesn’t even make sense because the beliefs that trap us are often based on hidden assumptions that we aren’t aware we are making. So we would never list them.
  8. When scientists run experiments and get results that support their hypotheses they haven’t gained any insights at all. Only when the results don’t work out as expected do scientists have to seek insights. Other parts of the scientific method, such as just observing the phenomenon of interest, are richer sources of insight.
  9. Claims that can’t ever be wrong are usually pretty bland. Scientists would do better to make the most extreme claims they can defend. Unfortunately, too many scientists are so risk averse that they censor themselves.
  10. Many challenging projects involve “wicked problems” that don’t have a clear goal. The only path to success is to gain insights about the goal along the way. Locking in on the initial goal is likely to lead to failure.
  11. There is no clear evidence that deliberate exposure to lots of diverse ideas will result in more insights.
  12. A well-designed workstation may feel comfortable but it will trap us in our traditional routines and make it harder to have insights about better ways to do the job. If the workstation filters out “irrelevant” cues, it may filter the cues that might spark insights.

The field of insight is marked by myths and superstitions. Only by exposing these outdated ideas can we expect to make progress in using our uniquely human talent to make discoveries and achieve insights.

Link to  the original article

Mindfulness Bell: a 5 minute meditation

This 5 minute mindfulness bell meditation is wonderful for whenever you want to clear your mind, relax and then get on with your day.

The recording contains nothing but the pure sound of a Tibetan singing bowl being repeatedly struck with a soft mallet. It was taken from Mindfulness Bells Volume 1. Christopher Lloyd Clarke recorded this bowl in his personal studio in 2011 using some of the most high-end microphones and audio processing equipment in his collection. Christopher is known for being a bit obsessed with sound quality, so we hope that you can appreciate the lovely tonal balance and detail that is present in this recording, even if it’s just in YouTube video format.

This calming sound is a wonderful focal point for meditation. Simply absorb your attention in the sound of the mindfulness bell. No mantra is required, no special breathing techniques are needed, just let your awareness be consumed by the sound of the bell.

Your mind will become clearer and more calm with each and every bell strike, and as the bells fade into silence, your mind is given the opportunity to experience a very natural state of stillness.

A high bell sound rings out at the conclusion of the meditation.

Please come back often and enjoy this 5 minute meditation anytime you want to clear your mind and relax!

For more information or to download the full 60 minute version, please visit http://www.the-guided-meditation-site…

career maze4

The Golden Ratio for Productive Creativity in the Workplace

by 

Perhaps the most defining barrier in the modern workplace is the ability to seamlessly integrate creative and productive processes. The challenge is faced by both leaders and employees. Though they welcome constructive creativity, the former find it difficult to integrate workflow beyond simple productivity. Creative solutions are often seen as an experimental indulgence, though no less desired from team members. Employees on the other hand find the productivity warp-drive seems to rule their every move, particularly in environments where managers are less project-focused and more task-focused. In fact, an Adobe study called “State of Create” showed that an estimated 75% of participating employees felt like ‘their employers put more pressure on them to be productive than to be creative. Simply put, this group finds little time for (or reward in) creative pursuits.

An organization’s survival is based not only on its productivity, but also on quality and ability to innovate – two traits that are pivotally dependent on creativity. An organization’s ability to integrate productivity with creativity is entirely dependent on taking an “outside” point of view, a broad scope of the entire structure from top to bottom. Here is where you’ll find a golden ratio of creativity-based productivity measures that will help you finally fill this elusive gap.

Hard-wired to be Creative: How Creativity Precede Productivity
It all begins with reimagining creativity as a concept. Some would protest they’re not gifted with creativity. However, while some people have more raw talent than others, creativity is a tool of the mind that (like any other mind-based approach) can be sharpened though disciplined practice.Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, comments that while “Creativity shouldn’t be seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn’t be thought of as a process reserved for artists and inventors and other ‘creative types.’ The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code.” Creativity, as Lehrer discusses in an article withMashable writer, Josh Catone, can be taught. Lehrer adds definition to the kindled realization that imagination can be cultivated and improved upon.Programmed to be creative, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by eliminating it from our corporate culture – and moreover, from the fundamental way in which we do business. If we’re hard-wired to be creative, then aren’t we performing at diminished levels if we proceed without this deeply incubated and inherent capacity to create and perform?
On the Shoulders of Giants: How Leaders Are Responsible for Fueling Creative Productivity
As leaders, we set the benchmarks. Our role in spearheading creative productivity is by recognizing that “true leadership requires original thought and imagination that can motivate others, solve problems, and cultivate innovation and initiative along the way.” Pulled from a Forbes article entitled “The Content You Read Shapes How You Lead”, by Glenn Llopis, succinctly highlights why it’s critical for leaders to place the first proverbial stepping stone laying the foundation for a creatively productive corporate culture.Leaders are encouraged to treat creativity as a tool necessary for innovation. For those with an aversion to a word that has been associated with crafting and a flood of Pinterest-inspired ideas, know that a creative mind is a strategic mind. As I mentioned in an earlier post entitled, “The Creativity-Productivity Paradox: Play and Time”, creativity is the ability to connect the dots. To add weight to the argument, I quote Liane Davey’s Harvard Business Review post entitled “Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles”, in which she writes, “Strategic people see the world as a web of interconnected ideas and people and they find opportunities to advance their interests at those connection points.” The individual (and the organization) that is able to flex this type of creative thought has a higher chance on coursing through a path that is more result-driven rather than task-driven. In a nutshell, the creative mind has produced the productive mind.

Link to the original article

WHY Music: The New Power Shake – Blending Creativity, Well-Being and Learning

by Frank Fitzpatrick, multi-Platinum record producer, Grammy-nominated songwriter, social entrepreneur and award-winning filmmaker

As the world continues to spin in more unpredictable and exponential ways, the worlds of ideas-once-separated are being tossed into the same blender.

What is great about the omnipotent ingredient of music is that music is the juice that can make it all work together: cognitive and social development, motivation and emotional engagement, and mindfulness and well-being. Maybe it is because, as Beethoven taught us, music understands humankind in a way that humankind is yet to understand music. Sadly, because music has been so devalued and misunderstood by those leading in these other fields, it is underutilized at best.

One of the emerging trends …that I find encouraging is the desire to move toward creating greater well-being for the individual learner – being more conscious about what we put into the mix and shifting the values around priority outcomes. It is reassuring to have health, well-being and mindfulness be part of a dialogue that too often gets dominated by test scores and brain capacity.

We still have a long way to go, however, to get music fully embraced as a critical and omnipotent ingredient for education, successful learning, and the well-being of [today’s young people]. Music here has been removed from school curriculums, and public funding for the music-based arts programs has all, but disappeared. In one of my weekend meetings with the education gurus, I learned about an upcoming two-day global think tank that will help set the framework for open learning analytics to be used to measure learner outcome in education for the next fifteen years. Of the 50 experts at the table, music and the arts don’t have even one representative. Shocking! With all the evidence about the impact of music on learning and creativity, the development of the human brain, and the vitality of the human spirit, it should be a no-brainer to insist on music as an integral part of every child’s education.

So, as I head off to Austin for another education forum, armed with the latest in new technology, leading scientific research, a box of power tools for emotional engagement, and enough creative ideas to fill a 747, I will take my WHY Musicsoapbox with me. Maybe if I throw some magical ingredients into the blender and sing my mantras at the top of my voice — like “There is no M in STEM without Music!” — I might get a few more music warriors to join the movement.

Link to the original article

12 Questions to Exponential Knowledge

One of the very best ways to think about anything is through questions, and the fine art of asking really great questions is perhaps one of the most important capabilities for us to keep practising, practising, practising.

I have adapted some of these really great questions from the Leadership Freak to increase their openness and relevance for us all…

Knowledge and questions:

‘The opportunity of knowing is “not knowing,” effectively.’

Few things surpass the beauty of questions from someone with knowledge. You learn the most about others by the questions they ask, not the statements they make.

Use what you know to know more. Even ignorance can ask great questions.

7 ways to gain knowledge:

  1. Argue to apply. Theories are wonderful. Application brings them to life.
  2. Challenge to prove right.
  3. Go with not against.
  4. Explore for clarification not to devalue. It’s easy to shut others down and learn nothing.
  5. Understand purpose before discounting ideas. Knowledge seeks the reason behind reasons and ideas.
  6. Bring context to discussions. How might supervisors view this, for example.
  7. Pursue clarity until action emerges.

‘Action creates it’s own clarity.’

12 questions toward exponential knowledge:

  1. What impact has this had on your life and/or work?
  2. How did you come to these ideas?
  3. How could others put these ideas into practice?
  4. What difference does it make?
  5. Why does this matter?
  6. What are you trying to accomplish?
  7. Who else is affected by this, and how?
  8. Who benefits? Why? How?
  9. What happens if you try?
  10. What happens if you don’t try?
  11. What if you fail?
  12. What if you succeed?

How can we grow our knowledge, especially when we think we know enough already?

Link to the original article

Mary Lou Jepsen: Could future devices read images from our brains?

As an expert on cutting-edge digital displays, Mary Lou Jepsen studies how to show our most creative ideas on screens. And as a brain surgery patient herself, she is driven to know more about the neural activity that underlies invention, creativity, thought. She meshes these two passions in a rather mind-blowing talk on two cutting-edge brain studies that might point to a new frontier in understanding how (and what) we think.

Can Cognitive Training Make You Smarter?: Interview with Author Dan Hurley

An interview by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D with author Dan Hurley exploring the promise of cognitive brain training.

Dan Hurley‘s popular feature in The New York Times Magazine, “Can You Make Yourself Smarter?” brilliantly presented multiple perspectives in the cognitive training debate. In his latest book, “Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power“, Dan expanded his investigation of the cognitive training literature and also reviewed other interventions that attempt to increase intelligence. 

How do you define “intelligence”?

Psychologists define it with tests. But those tests are ultimately designed to measure the real-world ability to figure things out, solve problems, and see meaningful patterns in the world around us. And it’s not just “book smarts.”  It includes our ability to understand ourselves and those around us, to handle whatever life throws at us, to make sense of things. Intelligence is what allows us to learn from our experience, to gain insight into life, to juggle multiple demands. With the internet these days, information is everywhere. But intelligence is how we make sense of all that information.

You spend some time in the first chapter defending the importance of intelligence. Why did you feel the need to do that. Do you think intelligence is underrated in society?

If you’ve ever been called “stupid,” as I was a kid, you know how intensely personal and important it is. If you’ve ever had a learning-disabled child, or if your parent is becoming impaired by Alzheimer’s disease, you know how important intelligence is. …These days, it’s become politically incorrect to talk about intelligence. The intelligentsia (pun intended) prefer to talk about grit and determination, or “emotional” intelligence. But wishing away the importance of intelligence doesn’t make it go away.

What areas of the cognitive training field are most contentious?

Even some of the psychologists who have found strong benefits for training feel nervous about the commercial advocacy of companies like Lumosity. We all know that physical exercise builds muscles…but we don’t yet know exactly which kinds of cognitive exercises work best. That said, I have counted about 75 randomized, placebo-controlled trials (and they’re all cited in my book) demonstrating significant benefits from various kinds of cognitive training—from “working memory” training to physical exercise, learning a musical instrument, mindfulness meditation, transcranial direct-current stimulation and more. I found only four randomized, placebo-controlled trials that found no benefit whatsoever. That’s pretty overwhelming.

You spoke to K. Anders Ericsson, who studies the development of expertise. Does he think that cognitive training increases in intelligence are irrelevant to the development of world-class expertise?

Ericsson believes that the benefits you get from practice apply only to the specific skill you’re practicing. He published studies showing that even if you practiced memory tricks to learn how to remember a hundred random numbers in a row, you still were no better at remembering a hundred letters in a row, or anything else. In the lingo of psychologists, he believes that training doesn’t “transfer.” Malcolm Gladwell made Ericsson famous in “Outliers” by describing his so-called “law” of 10,000 hours of practice. Ericsson has published studies suggesting that talent doesn’t matter, and that the only thing that does matter is practicing for 10,000 hours in order to become an expert. Whether you want to be a concert pianist or a world-class chess player or anything else, supposedly all you need to do is practice for 10,000 hours and then you’ll be a master.

What do you think of Ericsson’s perspective?

Ericsson’s claims have not been supported by other researchers who have found that talent does matter, and that training in certain tasks does result in “transfer” to improvements in other abilities. Some chess grandmasters practiced for much less than 10,000 hours before they reached the top, whereas other people can practice for much more than 10,000 hours and still not make it. The same is true of intelligence as a trait. Just because you study and study and study doesn’t mean you’re going to get into Harvard. We all know that. Some people are smarter than others. The real question is whether you can increase your intelligence so that the hard work you put in will pay off better.

What kind of effect does cognitive training have on the brain?

There is no question that training causes structural and functional improvement in the brain, as seen on MRI. Most of the changes are seen in the frontal areas of the brain, where high-level thinking occurs. Mindfulness meditation, for instance, has been shown to produce increased white-matter connections between the anterior cingulate cortex, an important region for complex decision-making, and the rest of the brain.

What cognitive functions did you find are most trainable?

Working memory is the ability to juggle multiple items of attention, to manipulate and analyze information. If you try to multiple 26 by 37 in your head, the reason it’s so hard is because of the demands it puts on your working memory. Tons of studies, including the latest one by Randy Engle, show that by training on certain kinds of working-memory tasks, you can improve your working memory overall. This is profoundly important for your ability to multi-task and think through complicated problems.

What interventions are the most effective in improving cognitive ability?

Working-memory training has proved really useful, although exactly which kinds of working-memory tasks are most useful remains unclear. Susanne Jaeggi has focused on the N-back task, which anyone can check out online at www.soakyourbrain.com.  Others prefer various other kinds of working-memory tasks. But plenty of research also shows that physical exercise, learning a musical instrument, and mindfulness meditation can all bring significant benefits. One of the coolest parts of my training was learning to play the Renaissance lute.

Teenagers everywhere want to know: are there any cognitive benefits of first-person shooter games?

Absolutely. These games are so good at improving reaction times that they are used by the U.S. military to train pilots and operators of drones. These games can also improve the “useful field of view,” your ability to see and respond to stimuli at the periphery of your vision, which is incredibly important when driving a vehicle. Other computerized games have been shown to improve older people’s ability to distinguish very fine differences in shades of gray. Strangely, this ability has been shown to be one of the single most important markers of longevity. So if you get better at it, will you actually live longer? That’s not yet clear. But improving your ability to see and respond to your environment can be potentially lifesaving.

How important is exercise?

Research has proved beyond doubt that the brain is actually connected to the heart and lungs via something called the “neck.” Physical exercise is perhaps the best-proved method for improving cognitive function in older people. It’s also critical for children and middle-aged sloths. Some researchers believe that cardiovascular exercise is best, while others insist that strength training is more important.

What about vitamins? Which one should take the most of if I want to think more quickly? Or should I just continue to drink lots and lots of caffeine?

I know that many people believe in the benefits of vitamins and dietary supplements. But there are no good studies showing that any of them really help cognitive function. Large studies of fish oil given to pregnant women have even suggested that there might be some risks to the intellectual abilities of their children. Caffeine, on the other hand, has been repeatedly shown to enhance not just attention, but motivation and even, most recently, memory. And if you can believe it, nicotine also helps. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are of course extremely dangerous and greatly increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and much more. But studies in both humans and animals confirm that nicotine, given through a patch or gum, can be a great cognitive enhancer. I actually started using a 7 mg nicotine patch and found it useful, without any noticeable addictiveness.

Can mindfulness meditation make you smarter? What cognitive functions are most affected by mindfulness meditation?

A series of studies by Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang have shown that mindfulness meditation can enhance all kinds of cognitive abilities. Mind-wandering is not helpful when you’re trying to write an article or take a test. On the other hand, some recent studies have suggested that allowing your mind to wander can also be helpful when you need a breakthrough. Some of the greatest scientific insights have occurred when scientists were spacing out.

How transferable are improvements in specific cognitive functions to intelligence more generally?

It’s easy for psychologists to give you a series of tests, have you practice some exercises, and then run follow-up tests to see if you improve better than people who didn’t do those exercises. But figuring out what the real-world benefits are to those improvements is much, much harder. A recent study of older adults given just ten hours of training found that even ten years later, they still enjoyed significant benefits in daily functioning. A hundred years of studies have proved that IQ tests and other tests of cognitive function are very, very predictive of real-world abilities. They’re not perfect—no test is—but on average, just like blood-pressure tests, they’re pretty good at predicting how you’ll do in the future. Many large corporations, as well as the U.S. military, give these tests not because they love tests, but because they really help pick out people who can be successful from those who just lack the ability to learn and function.

After you assess the results of your own cognitive training, you put it all in perspective by saying:

“And so what? Those are just numbers on a test. In the end, for all of us, the best test of cognitive abilities is one for which there is no answer key. It’s called life.”

Link to the full original article

What’s so positive about positive psychology?

asks Robert Biswas-Diener in Psychology Today

Chances are, if you are reading this then you are at least passingly familiar with the emerging field of positive psychology.

Although every religious and philosophical tradition through antiquity has offered insight into the “good life” it is only in the last couple decades that we have truly been able to turn scientific attention to this important topic in a sophisticated way. Modern scientists have used careful research designs, validated assessments and rich theory to produce new and sometimes counter-intuitive ideas about age-old topics such as happinessresilience, and hope.

Among the set-pieces of this modern movement are so-called “positive psychology interventions.” These are, more or less, simple behaviours in which a person can engage to improve her own well-being. The most famous of these is the “gratitude exercise.” In this exercise people are instructed to jot down “three things” for which they are grateful. The list might include a reliable automobile, a sunny afternoon, or a healthy child. The list will change from person to person and from time to time. The results are in, however: the gratitude exercise appears to boost individual happiness and buffer people from the deleterious effects of depression. This finding has been replicated and most famously so with a randomised controlled study conducted by positive psychology founder Martin Seligman and his colleagues.  

Since that initial study appeared in 2005 there have been other positive psychology interventions that have been tested and have shown—at least in a preliminary way—evidence for small boosts in happiness. One of these is the “counting kindnesses” intervention conducted by Keiko Otake and her colleagues. As the name implies people who kept a tally of their daily kindnesses felt a little spring in their step as a result.

The publication of the counting kindnesses intervention set me to wondering what the causal mechanisms were that might form the foundation of positive psychology interventions. Could it be, for instance, that the gratitude exercise actually boosts appreciation and this improved mindfulness translates to a better mood? Or might it be that gratitude works primarily by reminding people to appreciate things they overlook, and in this ways functions primarily by acting as an antidote to the natural human tendency to adapt.

Privately, I have been worried by what I see as the uncritical acceptance of these intervention techniques by some coaches and other human service professionals. It’s nice to know that these techniques work — for the most part — but isn’t it even nicer to understand how they work?

For months I harbored a sneaking suspicion that positive psychology interventions such as counting kindnesses and the gratitude exercise were simply “listing interventions.” That is, I was curious to know if we might find the same rise in happiness if we had people simply list anything positive. Imagine having people keep a daily “courage diary” in which they listed three ways they didn’t let discomfort hold them back. Or picture a scenario in which people tally hopes, such as “three things that are likely to happen in the next two weeks that you are eagerly looking forward to.” Could it be that any instance of pen, paper and positivity constitutes an effective positive psychology intervention?

Interestingly, this exact premise was tested in a study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The researchers replicated the classic Seligman study using a sample of nearly 1,500 adults ranging in age from 18 to 72. They included the gratitude exercise, a “positive placebo” in which they had participants write for 10 minutes each evening about a positive memory, and a control placebo in which they had participants wrote for 10 minutes each evening about an early life memory (not necessarily a positive one). Using the same happiness assessment employed by Seligman in the original study, the researchers discovered that the positive memory exercise performed roughly in the same way that the gratitude exercise did: both boosted happiness and did so over three and six month follow-ups.

Now, on the one hand, it would seem that the researchers have created yet another positive psychology intervention. Hooray! We can now add the “positive memory exercise” to the stable of happiness boosting activities.

In the end, however, the researchers draw much the same conclusion I do: there is some common factor that acts as the therapeutic mechanism for many of these “listing interventions.”  According to the researchers, engaging in any activity that makes positive self-information more accessible is likely to have a tonic effect on people. This does not mean that we should dismiss positive psychology exercises as somehow “fake.” It does mean that we should not rush to mental closure on their effectiveness or the ways in which we use them. This is an important study because it opens the door to exciting new research questions:

  • Are there different types of positive psychology interventions?
  • Will some types work better with certain people than with others?
  • Are there people for whom these activities are contra-indicated?
  • Is salient positive self-information as powerful as positive information about loved ones?
  • How might these interventions be modified to be more effective across cultural boundaries?

We are just scratching the surface of these tools.

Link to the original article

A Calling To Be Creative

by Douglas Eby

What leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?

Given that everyone is creative to some degree, why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?

Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.

One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.

In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”

She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”

Creating can be more or less dispassionate, guided by engineering, product development or social needs, for example – but much of what we value in the arts comes from a place in the soul as well as mind.

“Acting is hardly a common career in Kenya for the child of a powerful politician, but Nyong’o’s father, one-time health minister Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, said the family had always supported her dreams.

“She started acting very young, right from kindergarten, and even at home with just the family, she would come up with make-believe stories and perform them for us. She was always imaginative and creative.”

She “was inspired to follow an acting career after working as a production assistant on the 2005 drama ‘The Constant Gardener.’ Actor Ralph Fiennes then told her only to get into acting if she couldn’t live without it. “It’s not what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear,” she said.

That idea of pursuing acting – or another art, of course – only if you “can’t live without it” or be happy unless you do it, is something many of the actors and other artists I have quoted over the years say fits for them and their own “calling.”

In her article “The Special Challenges of Highly Intelligent and Talented Women Who Are Moms,” Belinda Seiger writes that in her private psychotherapy practice and her personal life, she has “known many gifted women who seem to possess what I refer to as the ‘rage to achieve.’

“They are constantly driven to learn, to create and to be intellectually productive even while raising young children. Many of these women face periods of frustration when the demands of family and their need for intellectual immersion collides.”

But, Seiger adds, being a mother and actively engaged in other work is not easy: “As one friend who was getting her second master’s degree put it: ‘mass chaos’ ensues when one attempts to become immersed intellectually while simultaneously remaining attentive and available for family responsibilities…”

She notes that “Like gifted children and young adults; gifted adults are distinguishable not only by their IQ’s but by their intensity, multiple talents, high energy, curiosity and obsessive need to increase in-depth knowledge in subjects that interest them. Trying to ignore these qualities can result in a depressed mood, anxiety and feelings of being unfulfilled emotionally and intellectually.”

Link to the original article

Mindfulness Can make You More Creative

by Jeremy Dean, a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick“.

An ‘open monitoring’ style of meditation can promote divergent thinking, a crucial aspect of creativity, finds research published in the journalFrontiers in Cognition (Colzato et al., 2012).

Divergent thinking is the kind which is often used at the start of the creative process, in which new ideas are generated.

The typical psychological test of divergent thinking asks participants to name as many uses as they can for a mundane object like a brick or a pen.

In the study by Dr. Lorenza Colzato and colleagues, participants who’d been meditating in an ‘open monitoring’ style came up with the most uses for the mundane object.

An ‘open monitoring’ style of meditation is where you don’t focus on a particular object or sensation, such as your own breath; rather you pay attention to whatever thoughts or sensations you are experiencing at the time.

Problem-solving

The results are fascinating because the study of how meditation affects creativity has had mixed results over the years.

Part of the problem is that there are many different types of creativity and many different types of meditation, which are not often delineated by the studies.

However, this is not the only study to make finer distinctions and show the benefits of meditation for creativity.

A study by Ren et al. (2011) has looked at another crucial area of creativity: problem-solving.

This requires different skills because it’s about gaining a vital insight into a problem that’s already defined.

In this study, people were given insight problems to try and solve.

The results showed that, compared with a control group, those who learned a simple meditation technique, involving focusing on the breath, solved more of the insight problems.

Benefits of meditation

Together these two studies suggest that different types of meditation may be useful for different aspects of creativity.

For generating new ideas, an open monitoring style performs best, then for solving an existing problem, a more focused attention style provides the best results.

It also may begin to show why the previous studies on the connection between meditation and creativity have provided such mixed results.

→ Read on: the benefits of meditation.

Link to the original article

The Heart of Mindfulness

by Marina Illich, Co-founder and Principal at Broad Ventures Leadership

A Sioux saying has it that the longest journey we’ll ever make is the journey from our head to our heart. As an Ivy League-trained academic, some part of me still winces when I hear this kind of adage, thinking it sounds a bit trite or misguided.

But if there’s one thing that more than 20 years of mindfulness training has taught me, it’s this: Few challenges are more important than making that short and inestimably long trip from head to heart.

What brings me to this topic? America is in the throes of a “mindfulness revolution” (see Time magazine’s cover article and Wisdom 2.0). In every sector from business to politics, education, parenting and the military, people are using mindfulness techniques to become more self-aware.

This is good news. Across the nation, women and men are learning simple practices to handle the overwrought stresses of post-modernity with more grace and aplomb. Corporations are teaching executives how to increase focus and attention. Schools are teaching children to be more self-aware and self-regulating. And books offer sage counsel to help parents navigate modern child-raising without losing their marbles. In myriad ways, mindfulness is offering us critical and fabulous skills to slow down and reconnect.

But I also see a worrisome trend afoot. Increasingly, mindfulness is being equated with stress reduction or learning how to center under pressure to enhance performance. This is cause for alarm.

The intention of mindfulness is not to make us more “chill” with the insanities and inanities of our post-modern lives.

It is not designed to help us better tolerate the steam-rolling experience of 12-hour work days and three-hour commutes, short shrift meals and dwindling hours of sleep. It is not there to make us endlessly up our performance inside a crushing cascade of information overload. And it is certainly not designed to have us watch calmly as the earth’s weather patterns erupt into a contagion of calamity.

Mindfulness is not meant to make us better at living lives that drain our ingenuity, silence our compassion, or demoralize us into a state of collective catatonia.

The purpose of mindfulness is to wake us up. It’s designed to reconnect us with our intrinsic ingenuity and our indestructible, innate excellence. The Buddhist world that modern mindfulness practices emerged from is explicit about this: human beings are wired for excellence.

It maintains six ways — known in Buddhist Sanskrit as paramitas — that we are designed to be extraordinary.

1) We are wired to do the right thing, no matter how much the world tests us.

2) We are wired to tolerate what feels intolerable to become fearless in making the world a better place.

3) We are wired for stamina, the kind that has us stand by our vision, unflagging, even when no one believes in us.

4) We are wired to be decisive, acute and undeterred in pursuing what really matters.

5) We are wired to see ourselves and others with the wisdom of kindness and tolerance.

6) And, finally, we are wired to kindle greatness in others through our generosity of spirit.

I’ve taken some liberty in translating from the Sanskrit to make a point: Mindfulness is not about retreating into some bastion of heady, personal calm. Mindfulness is about courageously turning our hearts inside out so that we can actualize our deeply human ability to find solutions and stand in our universal goodness, no matter what the circumstances.

Practice mindfulness to be calmer. Hone your breathing meditation so you can be more resilient at work and more present with your kids. Do your noting practice so that you know yourself better. But more than anything, practice mindfulness to break your heart open to your extraordinary excellence and the excellence of everyone around you.

Maybe, just maybe, if we do this kind of work – thankless, heartbreaking, and upending though it may be – we can usher in the kind of collective ingenuity that our world calls for.

Link to the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #87

All of these articles, along with many others, are included in this week’s new collection of ideas about creativity and learning and leadership and resilience and happiness, when the new collection publishes online on Friday 7th March.

Link to the full Happiness At Work Edition #87 collection

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