Happiness At Work #112 ~ ways to build resilience (happiness’ armour-plated cousin)

This week’s Happiness At Work takes another look at resilience – the tougher, stronger, beefed up cousin of happiness.

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

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

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

In their book, ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,’ Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy feature a type of workplace resilience which has caused innovative CEOs all over America and abroad to hire Marketplace Chaplains

Zolli described the thinking in a recent New York Times piece, Learning to Bounce Back “[A] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.”

Here is an extract from the article Yes Teach Workers Resilience – but they still have a breaking point too published in The Guardian in January this year…

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

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

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

But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”? Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.

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

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

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

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

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

Defining resilience

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

Resilience has been defined as an attitude that enables the individual to examine, enhance and utilise the strengths, characteristics and other resources available to him or her.

Other definitions of resilience include:

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

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

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

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

Here are the essential components of resilience that we teach in our training, mapped into our model of Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities:

Southwick & Charney's 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities mapped to 5 dimensions  Mark Trezona (C)

Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities mapped to 5 dimensions
Mark Trezona (C)

Essential Elements of Resilience

Emotional ~ organisation, problem solving, self-determination.

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

When faced with an event we will appraise the situation reflecting on our own skills and make an assessment of whether or not they are sufficient to navigate the event successfully. If we feel there is a deficiency, this can lead to reduced optimism and positivity. Having prior experience of successful problem solving provides confidence and can assist in the development of a positive attitude. People with high levels of determination are strong self-believers; they believe that they will be able to tackle most things, which gives them positive feelings.

Psychological ~ vision, self-confidence, self-determination.

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

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

It also means that when competing demands arrive it is easier to allocate time and energy when appraising them according to goals/vision, which will direct what takes precedence. Having a vision can contribute to self-confidence, hope and excitement about the future. Having goals has been stated as being essential to our survival.

Physical ~ self-determination, vision, self-confidence.

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

This dimension implies that a healthy body composition is an essential requirement of the physical aspect of resilience. However, the literature on physical exercise suggests that resilience derives from the degree of effort required in each session, and the commitment to an exercise programme over a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of significant effort three times per week over three to four months (Leith, 2010).

This model was developed for the US army, so it may be that the dimension reflects that cohort. A commitment to an exercise programme as described requires self-determination. The actual achievement of this goal contributes to mood control, creates positive emotions and raises self-confidence and, consequently, self-belief.

Social ~ interaction, relationships, self-confidence.

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

We need others to survive, and our methods of interacting will affect the degree to which we obtain our needs. Mowbray advocates strengthening our ability to create reciprocity, the ability to respond, understand and assist in the needs of others and, in return, the “other” will respond to your needs.

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

Family ~ relationships, interaction, vision, self-confidence.

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

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

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10 tips for building resilience

assembled by The American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association has assembled information from topnotch experts and developed 10 tips for building resilience.

1.  Make connections.

Having good relationships gives us the social support we need in order to bounce back from the inevitable trials and tribulations we must face. Having someone who listens to our stories is essential to our well-being. Knowing that we have a friend who will support us when we’re struggling and celebrate with us when we’re successful is one of the most important ingredients for having a happy life.

If you want to strengthen this aspect of your life you’ll benefit enormously from working to improve your skills around showing empathy, which enables others to know that you understand how they’re feeling. Being able to recognize and respond in a caring manner when other people express emotions is the key to being a friend, which is the best way to surround yourself with people who’ll be there for you when you need them.

  1. Help others.

When we do something to help another person make progress on a project we often make the difference in their being able to achieve success. This gives us a sense of having the power to make the world a better place. Studies show that the happiest people on earth are those who take time to make a meaningful difference in the lives others.

  1. Maintain a daily routine.

Creating rituals that we follow every day is crucial for developing and maintaining healthy habits. Brushing your teeth is a good example of a healthy daily ritual that, once established, we feel compelled to do.

  1. Plan times to take breaks.

The adult human brain can maintain concentration for a maximum of 90 minutes. Regular breaks are important for alleviating the anxiety that accumulates as we feel the pressure to do well, fit in, please others, etc. If you walk around 10 minutes 3 times during the day you’ll burn off significant amounts of stress chemicals.

  1. Promote a balanced lifestyle.

Learning to have a healthy balance in life is crucial to your well-being. Learning to eat properly, get enough exercise and rest, and have fun in ways that involve people rather than electronic devices provides a foundation for being a high-functioning individual.

  1. Keep moving toward goals.

Setting reasonable goals and then taking one step at a time to move toward them builds confidence that we can slowly but surely overcome the challenges we face in life. Focusing on progress and effort keeps us motivated to continue moving forward.

  1. Nourish a positive self-view.

How people feel about themselves is based on how they talk to themselves about their present situation as well as how they envision their future. Quiet your inner critic by reviewing how you’ve successfully handled hardships in the past. Use those lessons to see how to deal with your current problems.

  1. Cultivate an optimistic outlook.

Often we have a difficult time looking beyond our present situation. We need a long-term perspective that enables us to see that it’s possible to move on to recreating good things in life even after bad events have occurred. Everyday take a few minutes to envision life as you’d like it to turn out.

  1. Develop your character strengths.

We have the opportunity to learn the most as a result of the tough times we encounter. Appreciate those character strengths that you’ve developed while struggling with the challenges of life.

10.  Keep learning.  Accept change as a constant.

Change automatically evokes the fear response. Happy people control their fear by giving themselves quiet time to figure out how to adapt successfully to their new situation.

More than anything else, building resilience relies upon us recognising that how we choose to think about and explain what happens to us matters much much more than the actualities of what happens to us, no matter how severe, unexpected or apparently outside our control this might feel.  This idea is encapsulated in what experts are now identifying as a ‘growth’ versus a ‘fixed’ mindset…

Fixed mindset vs Growth mindset

by Derek Sivers

It’s a little bit like “nature vs nurture”:

People in a fixed mindset believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.

People in a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.

This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly deep. The fixed mindset is the most common and the most harmful, so it’s worth understanding and considering how it’s affecting you.

For example:

In a fixed mindset, you believe “She’s a natural born singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing.”

In a growth mindset, you believe “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”

The fixed mindset believes trouble is devastating. If you believe, “You’re either naturally great or will never be great,” then when you have any trouble, your mind thinks, “See? You’ll never be great at this. Give up now.”

The growth mindset believes trouble is just important feedback in the learning process.

Can you see how this subtle difference in mindset can change everything?

More examples:

In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure.

In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve.

In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence.

In a growth mindset, you keep up your confidence by always pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning.

In a fixed mindset, you look inside yourself to find your true passion and purpose, as if this is a hidden inherent thing.

In a growth mindset, you commit to mastering valuable skills regardless of mood, knowing passion and purpose come from doing great work, which comes from expertise and experience.

In a fixed mindset, failures define you.

In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks.

In a fixed mindset, you believe if you’re romantically compatible with someone, you should share all of eachother’s views, and everything should just come naturally.

In a growth mindset, you believe a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.

In a fixed mindset, it’s all about the outcome. If you fail, you think all effort was wasted.

In a growth mindset, it’s all about the process, so the outcome hardly matters.

Link to read the original article

NWLW Building Resilience

In this Working Families video Julie Hurst distils the resilience intelligence into a robust triangle of:  Control, Well-Being and Bounce Back…

A short film from Working Families exploring practical tips and insight from experts and working men and women across the generations about how they build their energy and resilience to be the best they can be at work and enjoy a full life.
• Get the balance right for you
• Find focus and energy when work gets tough
• Keep relationships alive

Little Daily Stresses Can Kill You, Science Says

It might surprise you to know that that your daily dose of little hassles like traffic snarls and annoying arguments can also add up over time and become lethal.

A Shocking Rise in Mortality

To come to this conclusion, a new study led by Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, looked at 1,293 male veterans, following them for as much as two decades. The research team tracked the veterans’ levels of everyday stress, as well as high stress incidents such as a divorce or losing a job, and analyzed their effects on mortality.

What they found might shock those harried by a pile up of seemingly small daily stresses.

Accumulating a lot of these annoyances over time can be as deadly, it seems, as a devastating life event – at least for older men.

Those study subjects who reported low levels of everyday stress had a 28.7 percent mortality rate. And how about those with high numbers of little stressors? By the end of the study, 64.3 percent had passed away.

That’s an alarming jump in the mortality rate, but if your life isn’t exactly a model of calm and peacefulness, don’t get too worried. You still have time to change. It takes a while for little stresses to do their damage. “We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress–if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality,” Aldwin comments.

Fighting Back Against Stress

There are also countermeasures you can take, according to Aldwin–and don’t worry, these don’t involve the often impossible-seeming task of removing all those little annoyances from your life.

The key to not having stress impact your health is simply how you think about it.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems. Taking things in stride may protect you,” Aldwin says, adding: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”

That might not sound like the most scientific advice even given, but other research backs up Aldwin. The same stressors can have wildly different effects depending on how you mentally process them, according to this fascinating TED talk from Stanford University health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress,” she explains.

Not making mountains out of molehills seems to be pretty powerful medicine after all.

Link to read the original inc. article

10 Times When It’s Okay to Be Lazy

Two concepts we tend to lump together are laziness and being unproductive.

But it is possible to be lazy and be productive at the same time; it just depends what areas of your life you’re seeking to improve.

Here are 10 examples of times when it’s okay to be lazy while still improving yourself and your life.

1. When your spouse wants to spend time with you

…The time you spend with your significant other can drastically impact your relationship, so make sure that you put it higher on your priority list than paperwork or household chores.

2. When you’re stressing yourself out

…If you’re stressing yourself out about managing bills, work or your home life, take an hour or two to chill out. You’ll be doing something beneficial for your health and you’ll also find that when you return to the tasks you want to get done, you can focus on them a lot more calmly, thus making your work more productive.

3. When you’re missing the little things

…Take a few minutes to watch the sky change colors and then get back to work.

Watching the sun set, or just making time for the small pleasures in life in general, is thought to have a number of healthy benefits. Plus, they can serve as a great source of inspiration and motivation for future productivity.

4. When you feel a cold coming on

With the seasons changing, most of us are likely to experience a slight onset of sickness. However, if you handle the early signs of a cold by allowing yourself a lazy day, you’re much less likely to get an all-out illness.

Some people actually try to work harder when they feel a cold coming on, believing that they’ll be able to get all of their work done before they start to feel truly awful. However, there will always be more work to do; nipping your cold in the bud is the best thing you can do to keep your health and productivity maxed.

5. When you’re no longer being productive

Sometimes we confuse productivity with simply doing things. And that’s an oversight. Just because you’re working on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s productive work.

If you’re no longer interested in what you’re working on or you’re experiencing a mental block, your time may very well be better spent taking a nap or grabbing dinner.  That way, your mind gets time to recharge and you can resume your task later and with better results.

6. When you’re feeling exhausted

There’s a difference between simply not wanting to do something and actually being exhausted. Whether you’re exhausted mentally or physically, it’s wise to listen to what your body is telling you.

If you’re physically exhausted, take a night to veg out in front of the TV or plan a relaxing evening playing board games. If you’re mentally exhausted, just the opposite may be true for you. Exercise is a great way to let go of stress and release some extra endorphins to make you feel good.

7. When you’re spending too much money

While soup and sandwiches might not be ideal for dinner every night, they can definitely be ideal if you’ve been going out to eat often. …Having a lazy meal at home can be a nice change of pace – for both you and your wallet.

8. When you’re planning to aggressively

…Many unexpected things will likely happen to you in the next few weeks, so don’t waste your energy trying to plan and organize everything in advance. Be lazy and go with the flow. You’ll be less stressed and the weeks ahead of you will seem more interesting.

9. When you’ve run out of ideas

New ideas and boosted creativity come much more easily to a rested, lazy mind than to a frantic, overactive one.

If you’ve got some serious mental blocks about an upcoming project or task, play a mini-game on your computer or browse your favorite websites for a while until you feel nice and rested. Then go back to brainstorming and see what new and creative ideas you can come up with.

10. When you’re done

Our society places a lot of value on the number of hours we spend working each week. But the number of hours you spend working at your job shouldn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of work you produce.

If you can produce high quality work in less time than the next guy, I say well done. If you need more time to achieve high-quality work, I still say well done.

The point is that it’s useless to work towards a time-centric goal when you should be working towards a quality-centric goal. Working for quality and not hours can not only improve your career, but also your satisfaction with yourself and the options available to you later in life.

If you’re done with your to-do list, you deserve some lazy time. You just need to hold yourself accountable for the quality of work you’ve produced.

I hope this list has given you a new perspective on what it means to be lazy, and the ways in which it’s okay to be lazy in your own life.

This article pulls together the different intelligences we now have from psychology, neurology, biology and economics to provide an excellent guide to building our happiness…

10 Ways To Build Happiness

by

Here are some facts you need to know:

1. Neuroscience confirms that optimizing our cognitive potential means priming our brain to be happy.  Old school:  Get successful then you will be happy    New school:  Prime your brain to be happy in order to optimize your potential and succeed.

2.  Happiness leads to greater productivity. “A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.”  Shawn Anchor, Harvard Business Review, June 2011

3.  Happiness fortifies the immune system, positively impacting health and longevity

4.  Studies conclude that certain aspects of our ancestral environment are important to health and wellbeing; sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important to physical and psychological health (CJ Fitzgerald, KM Canner, Department of Psychology, Oakland University)

Here are five simple, practical, actionable steps to kickstart results to experience more happiness in your life.

1.  Reduce emotional and cognitive exhaustionFind new ways to see changes, challenges and problems that help you build greater emotional and cognitive dexterity.  Impossible, think again.  

2.  Take time to take time.  Taking even five minute breaks (zone out time, no stress, no pressure, no problems) every 90 minutes will go a long way in driving greater productivity and happiness.  Here are a list of great exercises that take less than 3 minutes.  Enjoy!

3.  Reset your GPS. Become solution focused.  Start looking or the solution amidst the problem because your brain is an idiot savant that will seek out confirmation of what you are thinking and believing.

4.  Embrace your ability to become a possibility thinker because the greatest solutions are born of the most challenging problems.  Success is all about seeing things differently.  Each time you can catch yourself falling into a habitual pattern of thinking, and step forward by looking at a challenge or problem with new eyes you are building resiliency as well as cognitive and emotional adaptability.
5.  Start your day the right way… with a smile.  The way you start the day is important.  If you get up on the wrong side of the bed, start again.  Find something that shifts your mood, so that you start your day on the right foot.

6.  Take five minutes or more a day to put your brain in an alpha state.  Here is a practical transformative exercise you can do in less than 2 minutes. Bonus, if you stick to it and try it consistently for a week you will see that it works!  Simple, practical and powerful!

7.  Make happiness a priority for yourself and for others Become purpose centred.  Understand what really drives you, what gives you the greatest sense of fulfilment and use this self knowledge to find new ways to live and work purposefully.

8.  Improve your relationship with yourself and othersFind new ways to socialize, to develop social bonds of trust and kinship at work and in your personal life.  Enhancing the quality of your interaction with others adding a human and social dimension to your work and life is critical on a number of levels.

9. Create an environment that makes you happy. sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important.  Determine what you need to feel better and adjust your work and or living environment accordingly.

10.  Put on a happy face.  Believe it or not the simple act of smiling is a mood elevator. Use your smile  more frequently.  It helps and it works!

Link to read the original Switch & Shift article

Rising to the Human Challenge

by Mark Lukens

All business has a human side. Part of it is the obvious one – human resources. Part of it is the fundamental one – customers. Part of it is what makes work satisfying rather than draining – acting like a human being.

The human side of business isn’t easy. It can be difficult to get right and is sometimes emotionally gruelling. But those difficulties are a challenge that we have to rise to, and sometimes they’re what makes the human side worthwhile.

Accepting Your Discomfort

Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism emphasise accepting rather than struggling against discomfort. Stress prevention techniques such as mindfulness draw on this same tradition. Acceptance can be a valuable part of rising to the human challenge.

It often feels easier to avoid a difficult situation or piece of work than to tackle it. This instinct can lead to destructive behaviour, pushing back against the discomfort and the relationship causing it. Trying to seize control, sabotage the situation or evade it.

But that pushing creates conflicts. Better to accept that discomfort is part of being human, and if a relationship or piece of work is causing you discomfort then that’s a sign that it matters to you. Try to accept that discomfort, to use it to work out what’s going wrong, and to find ways to fix the situation. Better to work hard at one difficult situation and see it through than to give up on a dozen because you were uncomfortable.

Working at Relationships

Hollywood has taught us to see human relationships as things that just happen. You meet someone and you immediately feel that spark, whether it’s love, hate or something in between. Or perhaps fortuitous circumstances push you together and transform that dynamic.

But just as a cowboy won’t ride into town to save you at the end, high quality relationships don’t really appear out of nowhere. They involve hard work. When they’re going well that work feels easy. When they aren’t it can feel unbearable. But because they’re built on work they can be fixed.

Fixing a damaged working relationship isn’t easy, but it is one of the most important challenges of the human side of business. You have to recognize what’s going wrong, accept that you may be part of the problem, and find common ground to rebuild from. The combination of humility, empathy and hard work required is a challenge, but it’s always better than just giving up and sinking into acrimony.

Embracing What’s Best

This doesn’t mean you should just passively accept every aspect of how people behave. It means embracing what’s best in people and working to tap into that. Some things are inevitable, like some moments of discomfort and occasional conflicts in the workplace. But others can be challenged.

For example, one of the biggest obstacles to change is the human instinct to seek familiar patterns and the discomfort we feel when those patterns are disrupted. That instinct means that we’re programmed to avoid change, even though it’s a vital part of modern business. So accept the discomfort, not the instinct of avoidance. Embrace change and all the possibilities it can unleash.

That kind of differentiation is part of the human challenge.

A More Human Business

As human beings we are not always comfortable, or wise, or right. We all face difficulties and we all make mistakes. Facing those difficulties in ourselves, in our relationships and in the space around us can allow us to build better relationships and a better business.

So rise up to the challenges that make us who we are and make your business more human.

Link to read the original Switch & Shift article

Language of Hands (Steve McCurry)

Steve McCurry’s newest photo collection puts the focus on hands and, as ever, evokes in this collection a deeply intimate portrait of the wonderfully grand and many textures of what being human means…

Behold the hands
how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate,
refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command, 
mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of
variation which makes the tongue envious.
– Michel de Montaigne

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photo collection

Fun Palaces Live 2014

4th & 5th October 2014

Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist

The first ever international celebration of Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood’s inspirational Fun Palaces ideas goes live the weekend after next.  If you’re in the UK there’s bound to be at least one happening near you.  And whatever Fun Palace you go to, it will be an extraordinary special and not to be missed experience.  

Visit the website and find out what is going on where and how you can be part of it…

Happiness At Work edition #112

You can find all of these articles, and many more, in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #112 collection, published on Friday 26th September 2014.

Enjoy…

Happiness At Work #110 – self-mastery, learning & success

This week’s headline theme considers self-mastery:  what is it, how is it integral to our learning and our success, and how might we strengthen and develop greater self-mastery?

It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.  That’s the the equivalent to the hours spent over five years in a full-time job.  And although this number as an absolute is hotly debated, as you will read in the stories below, the fact remains that the more time we spend practising anything the better we get at it, and the better at something we want to become the more time we better be prepared to put into it.

This is good news for those of us who are are not-so-very-young anymore and have plenty of hours doing what we do already on the meter.  But what does it mean for learning something new…?

Well, certainly practice, if not making us perfect, is needed to progress us closer towards our ideal state. And practice demands great amounts of self-discipline, determination, willpower, self-belief, perseverance, self-regulation, stamina, optimism, self-reliance and resilience – perhaps summed up best by Charles Handy in his book The New Alchemists as the three essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs: Drive, Doggedness and Difference.

Notice the repeated emphasis on the self in these essential capabilities.  More and more self-mastery is becoming one of the essentials for our 21st century work and lives.

Nice word but what is it and how can we develop it?

I first encountered the notion of self-mastery as Personal Mastery twenty-something years ago when I discovered Peter Senge’s Five Discipline for Organisational Learning.

He titled his ideas The Fifth Discipline  to underscore the necessity of Systems Thinking, and if, for Senge, Personal Mastery was not the most important, he made it the his first and arguably the one upon which all the others then depend upon and build out from.  

We have developed his ideas to extend into individual capabilities with resonance for everyone one of us, and here then is what we can learn about self-mastery from Senge’s model for deliberate continuous learning and adaptation:

It is also worth looking at the other four of Senge’s disciplines for some of the consequences and outcomes that can follow from having high Personal Mastery.

  1. Personal Mastery ~ learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we most desire; continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision and focusing our energies; developing resilience and searching out a wider reality; knowing what ‘playing to our strengths’ means and being willing and able to act differently from our natural style and preferences to better match the demands of the situations we face.
  2. Mental Models ~ learning to expose our internal assumptions and beliefs about the world,  to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny; being able to unveil and communicate the assumptions inside our thinking, making our thinking open and porous to influence from others.  This discipline enables us to recognise our different mindsets and change them to more helpful when we need to.
  3. Shared Vision ~ building a sense of shared purpose and commitment with the rest of our group by unearthing the collective pictures of the ideal future we hope to create, and the principles, values and practices by which we hope to get there.  Knowing why what we want is necessary and compelling and has worth and meaning outside our own self-interests.
  4. Team Learning ~ discovering and expanding what we know through the act of listening to each other, using dialogue to suspend assumptions and genuinely ‘think together’ and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to transform our conversations into collective learning so that our group can reliably create intelligence and capability greater than the sum of its individual parts.
  5. Systems Thinking ~ a way of thinking about the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of our system, and a language for describing this to each other.  This discipline enables us to look out for the consequences of our choices and actions, to see how to change systems more effectively, and to use all of the disciplines together as an ensemble in order to act in tune with the larger processes of our natural, social, and economic ecosystems.

Linked closely to these ideas and amplifying their importance for both ourselves and the people and organisations we work with is the idea of Achieving Potential, also the top-line outcome from having high level happiness at work.  And our thinking about what this means is inherited from Maslow’s hierarchical model of different level needs, and places Self- Actualisation – achieving our fullest potential – at the pinnacle of his pyramid.

What follows is a number of articles that have been collected in this week’s new Happiness At Work #edition 110 that add different ideas, insights, and guidance for building this increasingly crucial capability of self-mastery.

 

 

Self-Mastery: Learning Personal Leadership

“Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.” 

– Theodore Roosevelt, former US president.

What do you think when you hear the term “self-mastery”? You might picture someone like a martial arts master – calm, focused, and in control at all times. Or, maybe you imagine people who have their lives planned, and are in control of their own future.

Do you show these traits on a regular basis? Do you feel in control of your career and your goals? Or, like many people, do you feel that you should take more control of your actions and emotions?

In this article, we’ll examine what self-mastery is – and we’ll look at what you can do to develop it within yourself.

What is Self-Mastery?

When you have developed self-mastery, you have the ability to control yourself in all situations, and you move forward consciously and steadily towards your goals. You know your purpose, and you have the self-discipline needed to do things in a deliberate, focused, and honorable way.

Think about people you know who don’t have any self-mastery. They’re probably impulsive and rash. They might let their emotions control them, yelling at colleagues when they’re angry, and then being overly polite to make up for this later. They’re unpredictable and, as a result, people see them as untrustworthy.

When you demonstrate self-mastery at work, you prove to your colleagues that you have the inner strength and steadiness needed for effective leadership. So it’s well worth the effort to invest time developing self-mastery. You’ll likely become a happier, more balanced person – and you’ll find that opportunities arise because of this.

Developing Self-Mastery

Self-mastery is a broad term that covers many aspects of your personal and professional life. Developing self-mastery can mean working on many of these areas. (If so, it may be best to focus on one or two areas at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.)

Look at the following areas of your life to develop self-mastery:

1. Goals

Self-mastery starts with a vision of how you want your life to be.

Think about people you know who have incredible self-discipline . Chances are that they know exactly where they want to go in life, and this vision gives them the strength to get there.

This is why it’s so important to start with a clear vision of your short-term and long-term objectives. Learn how to set personal goals , and get into the habit of moving towards these goals every day. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve in life, the easier it is to move forwards calmly and confidently.

2. Attitude and Emotion

Your attitude and emotions play a major role in self-mastery. Those who show strong self-mastery don’t let their emotions control them – they control their own emotions.

Focus on something positive every day. Be grateful for things, even if these are just things like that fact that you do a job you enjoy, or that the weather is beautiful on your drive to work. Having gratitude and a positive outlook will set the tone for the rest of your day.

Resist the temptation to blame yourself when things go wrong.Self-sabotage  is a quick and cruel way of stopping yourself from reaching your true potential. If you find that you’re undermining yourself, consciously make yourself stop. Instead, think of something positive and encouraging.

You can also change negative thinking with cognitive restructuring . Write down the situation that is causing your negative thoughts. Next, write down the emotions you feel, and list the “automatic thoughts” you have while experiencing these emotions. Then, list the evidence that supports these negative thoughts, and the evidence that refutes them. Finally, list some fair, balanced, objective thoughts about the situation.

Being able to manage and control your emotions helps you buildemotional intelligence . This is your awareness of others people’s needs and emotions, and your knowledge of how your own emotions affect those around you. Those who have good self-mastery are always aware of others, and they work hard to make sure that their emotions don’t negatively impact other people.

3. Willpower

Think about how many times you’ve set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It’s happened to all of us, and we probably felt ashamed or disappointed that we didn’t achieve what we wanted.

Willpower is an essential part of self-mastery. It’s what pushes you forward to take action, even if you’re feeling scared or hesitant. Willpower is also what keeps you moving towards your goals in the weeks or months ahead.

To boost your willpower, make sure you have both rational and emotional motives for what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to stop surfing the web in work time, a rational motive could be that it’s against company rules, while an emotional motive could be that other people will lose respect for you when they see that you are not working hard.

For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. So, use your initial burst of willpower to change your environment, so that it supports your efforts to reach your goal.

For instance, imagine that your goal is to improve your self-confidence  at work. At the beginning, when your willpower is strong, you could focus on changing the environment in your workplace by making a list of everything that hurts your self-confidence. You could also create a plan for overcoming those obstacles, and post items and affirmations  in your office that provide reminders about your goal.

After a week or so, you might find that your willpower is not as strong. But, because you changed your environment, you’re better prepared to continue working towards your goal, because you have a foundation already in place.

4. Focus

Improving focus is also key to self-mastery. For instance, how much time do you waste during your work day? How much time do you spend on the Internet, talking casually with colleagues, or getting coffee? What could you accomplish if you fully used the hours available to you?

Start by working on your concentration . Focus on one task at a time, and slowly increase your level of focus.

At first you may find that you can’t concentrate on a task for more than one hour at a time, before you get tired anddistracted . Try to increase this to two hours by adding 15 minutes of focused work every day. This will allow you to strengthen your focus to two-hour stretches – and then even more, if that’s what you need to get things done.

Key Points

Achieving self-mastery takes time and hard work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

It’s best to work on one or two areas at a time. Start by identifying your life and career goals. Then, focus on maintaining a positive attitude during the day. Also, try not to let negative emotions impact anyone else.

Other strategies, like building your willpower and strengthening your focus, will help ensure that you keep moving forward toward your goals – while further building self-mastery.

 

Why Only 20% Of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential

by Vanessa Loder

Research shows that only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential. I recently sat down with Shirzad Chamine, who believes he has identified exactly why most of us do not reach out true potential, and what we can do about it. In his New York Times Bestseller Positive Intelligence, Shirzad distills his groundbreaking research on the ten well-disguised mental Saboteurs that hold people back, and how you can overcome them. He shares the key to improving your performance at work and feeling happier and less stressed in as little as 21 days. Does this sound too good to be true?  Ironically, that may be one of your Saboteurs talking right now!

Shirzad believes it is critical that leaders become aware of the duel perspectives “raging inside their minds.” The constant battle is “between the ‘Sage’ voice that serves them versus the ‘Saboteur’ voices that undermine them.” According to Shirzad, while this conflict between Sage and Saboteur happens inside every mind, it intensifies with most entrepreneurs.

For many entrepreneurs, your identity becomes very wrapped up in your business, which is why it can feel so personal when things don’t go well . This leads to additional stress, which is what fuels the Saboteurs. Shirzad says that the reason only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential is due to the destructive power of their Saboteurs.

There are a total of ten Saboteurs, “internal enemies” as Shirzad calls them; however, most people are undermined by only a couple of them, depending on personality and background. The ten Saboteurs are: Judge, Controller, Victim, Restless, Stickler, Pleaser, Avoider, Hyper-Rational , Hyper-Achiever, and Hyper-Vigilant.

There is a specific subset of Saboteurs that tend to afflict entrepreneurs:

Judge:
The Judge causes the greatest damage. It beats you down constantly over your flaws and mistakes. The lie the Judge tells is that by beating you up over your imperfections, you stay driven.

Controller:
The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to your own will. By overdoing this, it causes resentment in others and prevents them from developing themselves, because they have to do things your way.

Hyper-Rational:
The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions, regarding them as unworthy of your time and attention.

The key to overcoming these Saboteurs and reaching your full potential involves three strategies:

1.   Weaken Your Saboteurs

To weaken your Saboteurs, you need to observe and label the Saboteur thoughts and feelings when they arise. Start off by exposing which of the ten Saboteurs are your primary internal enemies. Then create a “mug shot” of each one, profiling key beliefs, assumptions, and feelings. This helps you intercept the Saboteur when it shows up in your head and switch to the Sage alternative. It takes a little practice, but the results are game changing for the company, and life changing for the leader.

For example, if you are feeling stressed out at work and notice yourself saying “I’m such an idiot for saying xx in that meeting”, you might say to yourself “Oh, the Judge is back again, saying I’m going to fail”. It is a powerful act of mindfulness to notice and label your Saboteurs, realize they are not serving you and choose to move into Sage mode instead.

2.   Strengthen Sage

The Sage perspective is always available, and Shirzad outlines five specific Sage powers in his book that you can use to meet any challenge. One of the most powerful tools Shirzad gives to switch from Saboteur to Sage involves asking yourself, “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”

The next time you are faced with a challenge, try taking a few deep breaths and then ask yourself  “Hmmm……What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”  Force yourself to come up with a list of at least threegifts or opportunities. By simply asking this question, you will start to shift into Sage mode and open yourself to a better outcome.

3.   Strengthen Your PQ Brain

In addition to identifying and labeling your primary Saboteurs and strengthening your Sage, the final tool to achieve your potential involves improving your Positive Intelligence (PQ) brain muscles through repetitive exercises.

Positive Intelligence measures how well you are able to control your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest. One example Shirzad uses in his book to illustrate this is when your mind tells you that you should do your best to prepare for a big meeting, it is acting as your friend. When your mind wakes you up at 3:00am anxious about the meeting and racing in a loop over and over again about potential problems, it is acting as your enemy. The key to reaching your potential lies in your ability to use your own mind as your biggest alley rather than your biggest saboteur.

Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to strengthen your PQ Brain. Shirzad suggests doing at least one hundred PQ reps each day for twenty one days and he provides examples of how to do this in the book. Meditation is a great way to strengthen your PQ brain muscles.

To determine your current PQ Score and learn tools to strengthen your PQ brain, click here. According to Shirzad, a PQ score of 75 is the tipping point for a net-positive PQ Vortex, which results in an exponential boost in productivity.

Shirzad believes the reason many management trainings are ineffective is that there is too much focus on “insight,” and too little on building and maintaining new mental habits or muscles. He says “Transformation is 20% insight, 80% muscle”. 

And he has found that if you commit to the three tools above for a period of twenty one days, you will build new PQ muscles to create lasting change.

Link to read the original Forbes magazine article

 

 

Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert?

People at the very peak of there fields have been shown to have put in 10,000 hours getting to that level.  How does this translate for the rest of us…?

A much-touted theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. No innate talent? Not a problem. You just practice. But is it true?

The 10,000-hours concept can be traced back to a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.

It highlighted the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin, who had studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.

The psychologists didn’t see any naturally gifted performers emerge and this surprised them. If natural talent had played a role it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect gifted performers to emerge after, say, 5,000 hours.

Anders Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”.

It is Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely popular book, Outliers, that is largely responsible for introducing “the 10,000-hour rule” to a mass audience – it’s the name of one of the chapters.

But Ericsson was not pleased. He wrote a rebuttal paper in 2012, called The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists.

“The 10,000-hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell who stated that, ‘Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.’ Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalisation to a magical number,” Ericsson writes.

Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.

“In contrast, Gladwell does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice,” Ericsson writes.

Gladwell counters that Ericsson doesn’t really think that talent exists.

“I think that being very, very good at something requires a big healthy dose of natural talent. And when I talk about the Beatles – they had masses of natural talent. They were born geniuses. Ericsson wouldn’t say that.

“Ericsson, if you read some of his writings, is… saying the right kind of practice is sufficient.”

Gladwell places himself roughly in the middle of a sliding scale with Ericsson at one end, placing little emphasis on the role of natural talent, and at the other end a writer such as David Epstein, author of the The Sports Gene. Epstein is “a bit more of a talent person than me” Gladwell suggests.

One of the difficulties with assessing whether expert-level performance can be obtained just through practice is that most studies are done after the subjects have reached that level.

It would be better to follow the progress of someone with no innate talent in a particular discipline who chooses to complete 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in it.

And we can, thanks to our wannabe professional golfer, Dan McLaughlin.

“I began the plan in April 2010 and I basically putted from one foot and slowly worked away from the hole,” he says.

“Eighteen months into it I hit my first driver and now it’s approaching four years and I’m about half way. So I’m 5,000 hours into the project. My current handicap is right at a 4.1 and the goal is to get down to a plus handicap [below zero] where I have the skill set to compete in a legitimate PGA tour event.”

David Epstein hopes that McLaughlin can reach his goal, but he has some doubts. In the sporting world innate ability is mandatory, he believes.

A recent study of baseball players, Epstein points out, found that the average player had 20/13 vision as opposed to normal 20/20 vision. What this means is that they can see at 20 feet what a normal person would need to be at 13 feet to see clearly. That gives a hitter an enormous advantage when it comes to striking a ball being thrown towards them at 95mph from 60 feet (or 153km/h from 18m).

Using an analogy from computing, Epstein says the hardware is someone’s visual acuity – or the physiology of their eye that they cannot change – while the software is the set of skills they learn by many, many hours of practice.

“No matter how good their vision is, it’s like a laptop with only the hardware – with no programmes on it, it’s useless. But once they’ve downloaded that software, once they have learned those sports-specific skills, the better the hardware is the better the total machine is going to be.”

But is there a simpler way to think about all this? Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they’re already good at – because they enjoy it?

“Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and the teacher being at the board writing an equation, and you look at it and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do,” says Gladwell.

“For those people to go home and do two hours of calculus homework is thrilling, whereas for the rest of us it’s beyond a chore and more like a nightmare.

“Those that have done the two hours’ practice come in the following day and everything is easier than it is for those who didn’t enjoy it in the first place and didn’t do the two hours’ homework.”

What Dan McLaughlin is hoping is that what he lacks in innate talent he more than makes up for with his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

If Dan’s plan goes well he could be mixing it with the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2018. If not, he will just be a very good golfer.

Link to read the original BBC News article

 

The significance of 10,000 hours was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success which included The 10,000 Rule as a chapter.  But, Josh Kaufman in his TEDxCSU Talk, The First 20 hours: How To Learn Anything has some helpful guidelines to give us to become very good at something, anything, in just 2o hours…

The centrepiece of Gladwell’s book was practice well, practice well and you’ll reach the top of your field.

What Dr Ericsson was actually saying [in his 1993 paper] was “It takes 10,000 hours to get the top of an ultra-competitive filed in a very narrow subject.”

But here’s what happened.  Ever since Outliers came out, reached the top of the bestseller list and stayed there for three solid months, all of a sudden the 10,000 Rule was everywhere.  And a society-wide game of Telephone started to be played.  So this message ‘It takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of an ultra-competitive field’ became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become good at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to learn something.’  But that last statement is not true…

And the story of the Learning Curve is when you start you are grossly incompetent and you know it.  With a little bit of practice you get really good really quick.  That early level of improvement is real fast.  Then, at a certain point, you reach a plateau, and the subsequent gains become much harder to get.

How long does it take to get from being grossly incompetent to being reasonably good at something?  My research says 20 hours.

You can go from know nothing about any subject – learn a language or learn how to draw or how to juggle flaming chainsaws – if you put 20 hours of deliberate focused practice into learning that thing, you will be astounded at how good you are.  And 20 hours isn’t that hard to accumulate – it’s just 20minutes a day for two months.

But this demands more than just fiddling around for about 20hours.  There’s a way to practice intelligently and efficiently that will make sure you invest those 20hours in the most effective way that you can.  And here’s the method…

4 Simple Steps To Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Deconstruct the skill.  Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you’re done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces… The more you’re able to break apart the skill, the more you’re able to decide what are the parts of the skill that will actually help me to get to what I want.  And then you can practice those most important parts first, and this get to what you want to be able to do in the least amount of time possible.
  2. Learn enough to self-correct.  Get 3-5 resources on what it is you’re trying to learn – books, dvdd, course, anything – but don’t use those as a way to procrastinate.  What you want to do is learn just enough to self-correct as you’re  doing.  The learning needs to enable you to know when you’re making a mistake and then do something helpful to correct it.
  3. Remove practice barriers.  Remove dust rations – television, internet, social media – all of the things that limit you actually sitting down and doing the work.  The more you are able to use just a little bit of willpower to remove the things that get in the way of your practice, the more likely you are to actually do the practice.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours.  Most learning has a deeply frustrating part.  We don’t like to feel stupid, and feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work.  So by pre committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 2o hours you will be able to overcome that frustration barrier and stick with it long enough to reap the rewards.

The major barrier to learning anything is emotional.  What do you want to do?  Go out and spend 20 hours on it.

Have fun.

Here is Josh Kaufman’s full TEDTalk, including his demonstration of how well he has learned to play dozens of songs on the ukelele, practicing his own 2o hour guidelines:

Josh Kaufman is the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’, as well as the upcoming book ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.’ Josh specializes in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In his talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way.

 

Forget About Willpower: How to Install New Habits and Achieve Great Things

by 

As we learn new things, we often feel inspired to change.

We discover the possibility of achieving something greater and fall in love with that future idea.

You’ll agree with me in that doing things just once or twice won’t do the trick, right?

To achieve the end result, you need to repeat the same positive action, over and over again, until at one point it becomes automatic. And then, you’ll have a habit that you can’t live without. It becomes part of your routine.

New habits can give your brain pleasure

Installing a new positive habit has the power to bring you closer to your ideal self. But this is just a small part of the story.

Most people tend to perceive the notion of new habits as a ‘bore’ or as a painful thing to do, and feel discouraged to even try. This is because nobody told them about the additional benefits of a habit that has been successfully installed:

  1. It feels effortless. You don’t have to think about it much. You just go on autopilot – like when you brush your teeth.
  2. You don’t need willpower because your behaviour is automatically triggered by a contextual cue (rather than self-control).
  3. There’s a promise of reward from completing the action. And your brain gets pleasure from a completed task.
  4. The automation of common actions frees mental resources for other tasks or thought processes.
  5. We perform thousands of actions a day, 95% of which are automatic: a new habit is part of this group.

This is how you can create freedom and space for other things in your life. Who doesn’t want to create health habits that are sticky and that make us feel great?

Now you may think: “But don’t we need to go through a phase of pure willpower in order to create a new health habit?”

Stay tuned, that’s what we’re here to explore – how to create a health habit that will stick, without having to employ pure willpower.

Can you rely solely on willpower to change?

If we’re talking about long-term change, then the answer isno.

Willpower is the ability to ‘mindfully’ control oneself. Controlling oneself in order to change a behaviour isn’t that easy. It’s an effort.

In contrast, a habit is an almost ‘mindless’ behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. Unlike willpower, a habit feels easy.

Willpower alone will not get you to long-term success. It’s the birthing of a new habit that will.

As Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habitwe create a habit through a cue which leads to a routine, that ends in a habit. It is the routine or habit that allows us to access a part of our brain that runs on relatively little gas.

How do you go from self-control to easy habit?

When you feel good internally after completing what you set out to do, you build into your own self accountability. You want to do more of it because you received positive feedback from the task and you felt good doing it.

You completed the new task and you added to your habit strength. It’s almost as if you perpetuate the new behaviour through letting it build its own muscle, if you will.

What’s more, installing a good action in your routine can trigger a positive ripple effect on many other health behaviours.

Australian researchers Oaten and Cheng conducted a study that concluded how one repeated action (in this case exercise) can trigger a variety of positive behaviours and faciliate the improvement of self-regulation.

Is habit automation all you really need to do?

Research led by USC Professor Wendy Wood shows that lack of control – or willpower – doesn’t automatically mean success or failure.

When you don’t have self-control, what really matters is the underlying routine, or the habit groove you’ve already installed – good or bad.

Dr. Wood, who is a leading researcher on habits, goes on to tell us this:

Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control.

Is this also true for your eating habits?

Yes.

The same principle applies to our eating behaviours.

Willpower – or self-control – is a limited resource and can become depleted as the day goes by.

If you’ve been juggling difficult clients or stressful situations at work to the point of mental exhaustion, there will be none or very little willpower left at the end of your day. That means a reduced ability to change what and how you eat.

This is because when we’re exhausted, our brain defaults to previously installed automatic behaviours – such as the late-night snacking habit.

So in the long run, developing a habit or an automatic reaction is more effective than self-control: you’ll perform it anyway, even when your mental energy runs out.

Can automation be used for athletic performance?

Absolutely. Here’s an example.

When an athlete is in ‘the zone’ and goes for the gold at the Olympics, it isn’t about self-control; it’s about automation. It’s about relying on that 95% of their (subconscious) machinery that they worked so hard to optimise.

For this reason, most aspiring gold-medalists are already training for 2016. Because, when it comes to star performance on the competition day, relying on automatic actions and intuitive skills is more powerful than having a ‘mental debate’ on how to control an outcome.

So how do you set up a habit?

Start simple and start small.

When you choose an action to push yourself towards your goal, plan specifically when and where you will do this action. Be consistent; choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week. This will help with the adherence, or stickiness.

Surround yourself with new habit-forming contextual cues. These are the subconscious triggers for your new action, which can be, for instance, a time of the day, a certain place, a sound, a particular smell, foods that you keep in the kitchen, or a pre-installed behaviour – typically small things.

The less overwhelming the cues, the better your chances of grooving a habit.

Your goal here is to pay attention to the cues (or to plant new cues) around you, which act as reminders. As your brain reacts to the cue, completing the subsequent action feels like a reward.

It’s this feeling of accomplishment or reward that will cause your brain to want to do it again. When it comes to perpetuating the behaviour, repetition is king!

The bottom line

Remember, it’s about automation. This means that we remove any debates inside your head about whether to perform the action or not. Even when you don’t have the energy to exert self-control (willpower), a habit can keep you on track and in line.

Now it’s over to you! Join in the conversation and tell us in the comments below:

  1. Which new habit can you install this week?
  2. What triggers do you need to plant or remove to make this happen?

This is a supportive and safe place to share and learn from each other!

Link to read original article

 

 

4 Odd Yet Effective Ways The Smartest People Prioritize Their Days

I think perhaps I would suggest looking at these and selecting the one or two that you believe could have the greatest positive impact of how you do things, rather than take them all – with particular caution around Tip 2…

The hardest part is getting started.

When there’s a long list that needs tackling every day, the hardest part is tackling what needs to be done first. You may feel intimidated to start your next big project or pull your colleague aside for an awkward, but much-needed confrontation.

And prioritizing isn’t getting any easier. In his book Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff blames this modern-day condition on our “continuous, always-on ‘now’“ world which has made us lose our sense of direction.

Successful people know that planning, organizing, and protecting your time is no easy feat, but if you don’t have your priorities straight, who will? Below are four unconventional methods that keep the brightest minds focus on exactly what they need to:

1. Think About Death

Reflecting on death might not be what comes to mind when you want to tackle your to-do list, but studies find it helps you re-prioritize your goals and values. Buddhist teachings encourage reflections of death with the idea that a better understanding of mortality also helps us better understand our purpose in life.

2. Wear The Same Clothes Every Day

When you downsize your closet, you also cut down on the number of choices you have to make every day, which means you can now focus on what’s most important: your priorities.

Plenty of CEOs adopt this “uniform” strategy. Steve Jobs wore the same jeans and black turtleneck day in and day out. Oracle’s Larry Ellison also preferred black turtlenecks, but often wore them underneath fashionable slim jackets. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sticks to khakis, blue shirts, and sometimes a dark jacket. Aspokesperson for the company once said: “[Bezos would] rather spend his time figuring out how to cut prices for customers than figuring out what to wear each day.”

Leo Widrich, cofounder of Buffer, despises these daily decisions so much, he wears the same clothes every day (he owns five white T-shirts and two pairs of pants) and also eats the same dinner six times a week. Widrich believes that the fewer decisions he has to make, the better his decisions will be.

In an interview with Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama agrees with Widrich’s way of life: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus yourdecision-making energy. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

I notice though that every one of these examples is a man.  What would we think of a woman who came to work constantly wearing the same outfit?

3. Know The Difference Between Urgent And Important

Like Rushkoff, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how easy it is to lose track of goals if the importance of tasks are confusing. To differentiate between “urgent” and “important” tasks, the 34th President of the United States broke the two into very basic distinctions:

  1. An urgent task requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive mode. An example of an urgent task is calming the baby or attending a meeting.
  2. An important task contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. An example of an important task is planning the company’s next relationship-building mixer. Important tasks can sometimes also be urgent, but often are not.

Author Stephen Covey popularized Eisenhower’s Decision Principle in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

4. Make An “Avoid At All Cost” List

Warren Buffett knows that you can’t be amazing if you focus on everything you’re interested in at once. This is exactly why, to keep his focus laser sharp, Buffett advises making a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in the next few years. From this list, pick the top five that are most important to you.

Now you have two lists and Buffett suggests you “avoid at all cost” the longer one. According to the business magnate, adding your second most important items into your focus only prevents big things from happening.

Whether it’s reflecting on mortality or getting rid of your wardrobe, the smartest people know that there’s never more time in the day–only better ways to manage your time through prioritizing. And if you’ve tried it all and still get sidetracked from what’s really important, it’s time to learn the most simple, yet effective way you can prioritize: Start saying no.

Link to read the original Fast Company article

6 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Making a Change

Creating success in work and life, on our own terms

Understanding the process of change — why we are the way we are, and how to change when we really want to—is incredibly important. The attribute of driving effective change can give you the keys to the kingdom of success and happiness. However, , if you don’t learn how to use it, you can stay mired in a dark hole of frustration that can lead to self-defeat and low self-esteem.

So let’s start with what we typically know: Changing behaviors is hard. (Change is hard, period.) You get wired to certain behavior patterns, and your brain gets stuck in a groove that takes concerted, conscious, and consistent effort to change. And even when you do manage to change for a few days, weeks or months, it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns.

The good news is that we know, through the latest neuroscience, that our brains are “plastic.” This means they can create new neural pathways, which allows you to create change and form new patterns of behavior that can stick over time. You find a new groove, so to speak. But it takes work—sometimes, a lot of work. And it takes time. The popular myth that you can quickly and easily change a deeply-ingrained habit in 21 days has been largely disproven by brain and behavioral scientists. They now think it actually takes anywhere from six to nine months to create the new neural pathways that support changing behavior.

Sorry.

There are three things you need to make any change, whether mental, emotional or physical: desire, intent, and persistence.Our culture is filled with magazine covers that say you can meet your dream partner by the weekend, land your dream job in five days, or lose 10 pounds in two weeks. This can leave mere mortals feeling completely inadequate when they fail to achieve such results, which are completely unrealistic, if not downright impossible, in the first place.

When you consider that only 8% of people actually follow through on intentions to change a habit, you can see why it’s so critical to understand enough about the change process, and yourself, to smooth a path to success.

So what are the steps and considerations? Here are some questions to think about, as you begin to create positive change in a lasting way:

Do you really want it?

There is no point in saying you are going to stop working so much, so you can get some semblance of balance in your life, if in reality you really don’t care that much about balance, and you really love to work. Who are you doing it for? Don’t kid yourself. You must be serious and care about the change you decide to make, so you’ll be willing to work for it and follow through.

What need is being served by what you are doing now?

Your current behavior is there for a reason, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Hard to swallow, but true. Whether you’re a workaholic, 20 pounds overweight, have anger management issues, or are unhappily single—your current situation is serving you somehow. So take some time to think about this. Whether the need is relaxation but the behavior is binge drinking, or the need is recognition but the behavior is overwork, you first need to identify what need is being served by your current behavior. Once you have the answer, you can work out how to meet this need in another way, smoothing the path to change.

How else can you meet your needs?

So, you have identified the current behavior and how it is serving you. Now think about how else you could get this same need met. You may relate to this example. For some people, eating foods they know are not only bad for them, and in fact likely to leave them feeling tired, grumpy, and full of self-loathing, is less about the foods, and more about the nurturing, comfort, or distraction they provide. How else could you get your need met? Perhaps retreating to your meditation cushion, your yoga mat, the bath tub, or even your bed, would give you an even greater sense of the nurturing you need, without the guilt, the self-esteem crash from not following through on your intention, and, of course, the pounds. So when you think about the needs you have, how elsecan they be met?

What’s the price of not changing?

You will experience ambivalence on the change path, no question about it. And that’s okay. But to progress down the road, you have to ask yourself: What is the price of not changing? If you really want a promotion, but are too fearful to ask for the management training you need, the price is staying in the same role. Is overcoming your fear worth the goal? Or if you really want to get healthy, lose weight and get fit, but you don’t want to have to cut the sugar and get out walking, what is the price of that behavior? Putting on yet another 10 kilos? Think about and write down any negative effects your current behaviors are creating in your life—self‑loathing, boredom, career stagnation, frustration. Once you have hit this wall of realization, you are in the perfect place to turn around and move forward.

What positive image can pull you forward?

It is known, from research in positive psychology and neuroscience, that you’ll have more success when you move towards something positive rather than away from something negative. It is also known that positive images pull you forward. (Think vision boards, athletes visualizing their performance success, or thinking through the positive outcome of a business presentation before it takes place.) It works, and science proves it. So what positive image of the outcome you want can you visualize to pull you toward success? Come up with one; have it firmly in your mind; place it on a wall, in your computer, in your journal, or anywhere you will reference it; and look at it frequently. It can be especially helpful when your resolve is slipping, to remind you what you are working so hard for.

Are you acknowledging success?

When you have made progress on your efforts, it is important to acknowledge that achievement. When you celebrate your efforts, you create upward spirals of momentum that help reinforce the positive change and make it stick. Recognizing your efforts also helps to reinforce the direction in which you are moving, and motivates you further toward your goals. Recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating progress, however small, is a key to success on your change path.

Change can be challenging. Anyone who has tried to change a habit knows this is true. But it is possible. And you can smooth the path to success by being aware of the cycle of change, being prepared, and being consistent. The result is worth the effort, if you want it badly enough to work for it.

Link to read the original article in full

 

 

The Science of Happiness

Here is a brand new MOOC from Berkeley starting next week which I thought you might like to know about…

Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner andEmiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.

We all want to be happy, and there are countless ideas about what happiness is and how we can get some. But not many of those ideas are based on science. That’s where this course comes in.

“The Science of Happiness” is a free, eight-week online course that explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the course zeroes in on a fundamental finding from positive psychology: that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. Students will learn about the cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.

What’s more, “The Science of Happiness” will offer students practical strategies for nurturing their own happiness. Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities. So each week, students will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.

The course will include:

  • Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
  • Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
  • Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
  • Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
  • Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.

Link to register for this free online course

Happiness At Work edition #110

All of these articles and more are collected in the latest edition of Happiness At Work, the weekly free online paper from BridgeBuilders STG of the best stories, research news and articles about learning and leadership, happiness and employee engagement, creativity and resilience from across the web over the previous week.

I hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from.

And do feel welcome to bring your ideas, challenges, insights and experiences to our Facebook page

Happiness At Work #109 ~ our ordinary power

 

Several years ago while I was enjoying the fun and reward of making learning programmes with him, Mike Phipps posited this great question, which turned out to be compelling enough to found a new leadership development practice, Politics at Work

“As you go about your day-to-day activities, where do you get your power and influence from…?”

I have always loved this question, and this week’s Happiness At Work theme considers the potency and power to be found in the ordinary and the everyday.

How can we learn to be happier with what we already have, without having to make any radical changes or costly additions to our current circumstances and without having to depend upon the decisions, actions or behaviours of other people?

What is perhaps already there, right under our noses and within our reach, that we might draw from to advance our own and each other’s success and happiness?

What new potency and life can be discovered in the everyday material of our lives if we would just give ourselves a bit more time and attention to notice?

These are the questions that this collection of articles helps to highlight…

 

Power & Politics at Work – Mike Phipps

Imagine what you could do if you no longer had to ‘play politics’ at work to get things done? How much time would you save?

Eric Liu: Why ordinary people need to understand power

Far too many Americans are illiterate in power — what it is, how it operates and why some people have it. As a result, those few who do understand power wield disproportionate influence over everyone else. “We need to make civics sexy again,” says civics educator Eric Liu. “As sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement.”

 

12 Things People in Denmark Do That Make Them the Happiest People in the World

by Remi Alli

On March 20th — the International Day of Happiness — the United Nations recognized “happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” And when it comes to the happiest people, the “World Happiness Report 2013” identified the bacon-loving country of Denmark as holding the highest levels of happiness … but why?

1. They understand the meaning of “It takes a village …”

The Danes place tremendous importance on social, economic and overall security, thus this common quip holds true. In general, volunteerism is given high priority. Ultimately, it appears that community support helps Denmark the most.

2. They are one of the most generous.

Denmark ranks third in the most recent figures for foreign aid expenditure per capita, very generously providing for developing countries and disaster relief.

3. They treat each other with respect.

The Danes are often extremely proud when another Dane launches a successful career, regardless of where they are in the world. For example, the actors Scarlett Johansson (Danish father) and Viggo Mortensen are very popular. Perhaps their cultural regard towards one another also leads to the low reported incidence of corruption in their leadership too.

4. They don’t believe in income inequality.

With an unofficial but recognized $20 minimum wage rate, workers have many reasons to be happy. In addition, their roughly 80% unionization provides them relatively decent leverage if they don’t receive worker benefits. Even still, there are quite a few wealthy people along with a high standard of living, and many wealthy job providers don’t consider their businesses successful until they are able to pay for their workers to have comparable lifestyles to themselves. Employers often cover employee health insurance, too. Denmark is also known for its large GDP per capita.

5. They view certain milestones in reverse (to the U.S.).

Perhaps the Danes are well versed in the psychological reasoning that banning something only increases its desirability. There is no minimum drinking age, for example; Denmark allows parents to decide for their children under age 16. At 16, certain types of alcohol can be bought, while at 18 any legally sold alcohol can be purchased. Eighteen is also the legal age to drive.

6. They don’t support violence.

Other than soldiers in the United Nations, Denmark is not currently involved in any wars, which many believe often create more problems than they resolve, including generations of despairing, disillusioned and forgotten veterans. They also do not have guns readily available and boast an estimated 90% voter turnout rate.

7. They believe that education is a right.

The Danes teach their youth not only Danish but English, giving them a wide perspective and ability to relate as global citizens. Also, university is mostly free to willing students and these students also receive grants towards tuition as an educational incentive. Specifically, the government provides around $1,000 monthly for 70 months towards a degree and students can often easily sign up for loans.

8. They are pretty advanced in social equality.

Denmark outlawed job discrimination against gay people in 1948 and hold values such as tolerance and community accountability quite high — no victim mentalities here.

9. They believe in a military relative in size to its population.

A proportional militia allows more government funding to flow directly to its citizens, rather than subsidizing real or perceived threats.

10. They hold socialist (and capitalist) values.

The Danes believe that people come before profit. Thus, the Danish government provides quite a lot in pensions, unemployment, subsidized child care, free education for professionals, quality infrastructure and sickness benefits, which the Danish understand and appreciate.

11. They understand and appreciate what their taxes subsidize.

Danes pay a pretty penny in taxes: anywhere in range of 36% to 51% in state taxes, along with a 25% sales tax, and around a 1% voluntary church tax. Their Government is also quite astute in managing these particular financial affairs, allowing Danes fairly decent retirement funds and sound infrastructures. While most European countries’ middle class pay more tax than in the United States, the Danish belief in taking care of its citizens means the wealthy pay more in taxes than the working class.

12. They prioritize health.

Many food additives are banned, such as the trans fats that are mostly found in cheap, fried food items. To top it off, with plenty of flat land and a small population, much of Denmark is ideal for the avid bicyclist. The Danes also boast a healthy life expectancy.

Link to read the original article

Happiness: you can work it out

Ditch the guilt, banish your inbox and stop blue-sky thinking. As we return to our desks after the summer fun, Richard Godwin finds the formula for feeling good in the office

Early on in his new book, Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan relates a conversation he once had with a friend who is (or rather, was) a high-powered media executive. She spent most of the evening complaining that her line of work made her miserable. Her boss, her colleagues, her commute — all of it brought her down. When she came to pay the bill, however, her final statement took him by surprise. “Of course, I love working in Medialand!” It is apparent contradictions such as this that illuminate Dolan’s central thesis.

A professor of behavioural sciences at LSE, Dolan came from what he describes as a “lower working-class” family in east London to become one of the world’s leading experts in the emerging study of happiness. Daniel Kahneman, the fabled Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, views him as something of a protégé. The Office for National Statistics has employed him to help establish the framework of David Cameron’s national wellbeing survey.

He is part of a wave of social scientists whose discoveries at once confound your expectations and provide an appreciable way of acting on that knowledge. It’s self-help for pseuds, in other words, in the best traditions of Kahneman’s own Thinking, Fast and Slow, or Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, and full of facts that make you go: “Huh.”

Did you know, for example, that accidents among small children — which have been in decline for decades — have risen since the invention of the smartphone? (Distraction is one of the most significant barriers to happiness, as well as to responsible parenting.) Or that people who tweet about how they’re trying to lose weight actually lose more weight than people who don’t? The rate is 0.5 per cent of weight loss per 10 tweets. Dolan includes that as an example of how peer pressure may be turned into a positive — if losing weight is indeed what makes you happy. The evidence suggests that it does not in the long term.

Dolan’s central insight is that how we evaluate our happiness is very different from how we actually experience it. His media friend thought she was happy (“I love working in Medialand!”). But what was really important, Dolan argues, is her day-to-day experience of it. “[We] generally pay more attention to what we think should make us happy rather than focusing on what actually does,” as he puts it. If we want to be happy, we should get better at working out what makes us happy in the moment.

For this he cites what he calls the “Pleasure Purpose Principle”. We need to balance both pleasure and purpose to experience happiness. It explains why we “solve” a crappy day at work (purpose) with an evening in front of the TV (pleasure). However, when pleasure has no purpose, that doesn’t make us happy either — which is why we’ll often choose to watch some worthy documentary over a silly romcom. Likewise, if there is no pleasure in our purpose — for example, if we’re working on something that we know is a pointless waste of time — it makes us unhappy. Take the dreaded “unassigned” Hooli staff in the sitcom Silicon Valley. Making money from doing nothing does not make them happy. As Dolan counsels: “Happiness is ultimately about the pleasure-purpose principle over time.”

And while the insights are applicable in many areas of life, it’s at work they are most acute. It’s where we spend most of our conscious lives, after all. Here are 10 of the take-home lessons.

Your attention is a scarce resource. Use it wisely …

All work and no play leads to regret …

Future happiness does not compensate for present misery…

…But do consider the present benefits of future decisions …

Change your environment …

Making decisions is difficult. Seek help …

Don’t think about the weather …

Minimise distractions …

Surround yourself with people who increase your happiness…

…But do not compare yourself too much with people around you …

Link to read the full article

Ask Your Employees These 4 Simple Questions to Elicit Productive Feedback

by Susan Steinbreacher

[It is all too easy to become] caught up in the “bigger picture” and the intricacies of your role. But by doing so, it is possible to become disconnected from the day-to-day operations of your business, particularly your impact on employees, customers and suppliers.

When you are only thinking about this broad view, you may notice a downturn in sales, more customer complaints, or employee productivity taking a dive. You may begin to question the way in which you [are working], spending many long, exasperating hours trying to determine why [you are] not moving in the right direction. That is when the “human-side” of the operation — the satisfaction of employees, customers and others who interact with the company — is negatively impacted.

It’s at this point that you’d better start asking questions.

To improve employee engagement and make positive changes in the workplace, leaders should be asking employees for their honest opinion about what is working — or not working — in the organization. If handled properly, the results can yield feedback that may enable you to bolster morale, streamline systems and increase customer satisfaction.  It may even help you to become a better leader.

To get employees talking, you don’t need to have them fill out a huge questionnaire. Instead start with these four simple questions.

1. What are we doing when operating at our best? The goal here is to extract out best practices. The answers you receive will also speak to the culture of the organization and will allow you to leverage those best practices in your marketing collateral as well as when recruiting employees.

2. What are you hearing customers say about our business? The objective of this inquiry is to capture — directly from the front line — what customers or clients are saying. Look carefully for emerging patterns.

3. If you were in my shoes and could make all the decisions, what would you do and why? The purpose of this question is three-fold. First, it engages the employee and demonstrates that management cares about what they think. Second, it puts part of the responsibility on the employee to think more like a leader and put themselves in your shoes. Not only does this instigate creative thought, but it also generates empathy for the responsibilities of company leadership. Most importantly, since the employee is closest to the customer, they will be able to suggest clearly-defined opportunities for improvement.

4. What is the “one essential thing” I need to know in order to make this business a success? This question gets to the heart of how your organization’s time, resources and initiative should be directed in order to prosper. Once again, look for patterns and, if possible, further validate those findings through customer surveys or focus groups.

Be aware that some associates may be fearful of backlash and not be willing to tell it like it is. To avoid this response, meet in small groups, one-on-one (or even allow anonymity) during the process. Determine what works best for your company and don’t forget to show appreciation for the feedback you receive. Recognize that you may be inclined to disagree or provide an explanation for some of your employee’s reactions — so try to keep an open mind.

This exercise achieves multiple benefits. You acquire worthwhile data and, at the same time, the employee will feel that they are recognized, heard and respected.

Take your employee’s feedback and work with it. Build a supportive environment that promotes creativity. Get clear about the relationships between associates, suppliers and customers. Keep it positive and let your employees know that you are receptive to new ideas. Finally, do a little soul searching on your own contribution. Use your insight and focused attention to instil confidence and commitment in your employees that will support them in their efforts to do their very best for your organization.

Link read the original article

 

How To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness

by Jane Porter

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?

Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. “It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences,” says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. “As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better.”

Hanson assures he isn’t just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. “This is not just ‘smell the roses,'” he says. “I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”

Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:

~ Recognise your negativity bias…

~ Don’t just think positively.  Think realistically…

~ Know what’s going on in the brain…

~ Follow the 10-second rule…

~ Think of your brain like a cassette recorder…

…Our brains are working just fine, you might be thinking. Why mess with something that’s not broken? But the fact of the matter is happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you can teach your brain to experience more fully.

“We should not fool ourselves,” says Hanson. “We’ve got a brain that is pulled together to help lizards, mice, and monkeys get through the day and pass on their genes. We’ve got a brain that’s like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. Be muscular from the inside out. Grow the good stuff inside yourself.”

Link to read the rest of this article

 

How To Accept A Compliment (Without Just Giving One Back)

By 

We’d be lying if we didn’t admit that getting a compliment is an instant mood booster. While we all know there’s a difference between meaningful compliments and ones that are more surface-level, how you act on the receiving end of praise is just as important as how you act when offering it.

A recent survey found that the majority of us know how to properly respond to a compliment, but do we really know how to accept them? For those who get squeamish, self-deprecating or just all-around awkward when someone applauds you, here is how to master the art of accepting a compliment:

Notice your body language.

How we carry ourselves is key to any conversation, but when it comes to really accepting compliments, body language could be your greatest ally. Our bodies can sometimes say way more than the words we speak — and they can also influence our thought patterns. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in her TED Talk on the power of body language, standing confidently, even when you don’t feel that way on the inside, can influence cortisol levels in the brain and can potentially influence success.

Bonus: Research shows that when we flash those pearly whites,we’re instantly boosting our mood. The same goes for our posture — standing straight can boost our self-esteem. No room for bad thoughts when you’re too busy feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Two words: Be mindful.

At its core, mindfulness is about having total awareness of your thoughts as they happen — and with this awareness also comes alack of judgment or categorization of these thoughts. By practicing mindfulness, we’re recognizing the compliment and our initial thoughts on it — and then choosing not to react in a negative manner. Need help incorporating more mindfulness in your everyday life? Try these tricks.

Realize the difference between humility and self-deprecation.

There’s a quiet power in modesty — it helps you see the good in others, it makes you more conscientious and a better leader. However, there’s a fine line between being humble and putting yourself down.

Even women with high self-esteem reject compliments, but mainly because they want to appear more modest, social psychologist Laura Brannon told TODAY. But in reality, humble people accept themselves for who they are. “Many people think of humility as … thinking very little of yourself, and I don’t think that’s right,” Mike Austin, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, previously told HuffPost Healthy Living. “It’s more about a proper or accurate assessment. A big part of humility is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses, morally or otherwise.”

Don’t compliment them back right away.
How many times have you been paid a compliment only to feel compelled to return the favor? This behavior — while inherently kind — isn’t the most effective way to help you accept genuine praise better.

As psychologist Susan Quilliam tells the Daily Mail, many women do this because it gets the attention off of them — another habit that could reinforce the idea that you don’t deserve the compliment in the first place (and you do). Complimenting others just for the sake of it can also feel disingenuous — so it’s better to leave it at a simple “thank you.”

Store it in your memory.

When we have self-critical thoughts after hearing kind remarks, it usually stems from the delusional idea that people don’t really mean what they say — or worse, they’re wrong about your positive qualities. And simply put, that’s just not true. Next time someone pays you a genuine compliment, file it in your memory and think about it when you’re feeling inadequate. The sooner you start believing you’re worth the praise, the easier it will be to accept it graciously — and you’ll be much happier for it.

Link to read the original article

The Irritating Reason That Overconfident People Get All The Breaks

by Dr Jeremy Dean

People who are overconfident in their own abilities are considered more talented by others than they really are, a new study finds.

These overconfident individuals are probably more likely to get promoted, to become the leaders of organisations and even nations.

On the other hand, people who are not so confident in their abilities are judged as less competent than they actually are.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, provide evidence for a controversial theory of the evolution of self-deception (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

Being better at deceiving yourself makes you better at deceiving others, some have argued, and this study provides evidence for the theory.

Dr. Vivek Nityananda, who co-authored the study, explained:

“These findings suggest that people don’t always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived.

We think this supports an evolutionary theory of self-deception.

It can be beneficial to have others believe you are better than you are and the best way to do this is to deceive yourself — which might be what we have evolved to do.”

The study shows how belief in your own abilities doesn’t just affect you but also those around you, who also pick up on your levels of self-belief very quickly.

The authors conclude that…

“…[since] overconfident individuals are more likely to be risk-prone, then by promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk.

From our smallest interactions to the institutions we build, self-deception may play a profound role in shaping the world we inhabit.” (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

Link to read the original article

The Psychology of Our Willful Blindness and Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril

by 

How to counter the gradual narrowing of our horizons.

In Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, serial entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan examines the intricate, pervasive cognitive and emotional mechanisms by which we choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to remain unseeing in situations where “we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.” We do that, Heffernan argues and illustrates through a multitude of case studies ranging from dictatorships to disastrous love affairs to Bernie Madoff, because “the more tightly we focus, the more we leave out” — or, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz put it in her remarkable exploration of exactly what we leave out in our daily lives, because “attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator.”…

“Whether individual or collective, willful blindness doesn’t have a single driver, but many. It is a human phenomenon to which we all succumb in matters little and large. We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial. We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs. It’s a truism that love is blind; what’s less obvious is just how much evidence it can ignore. Ideology powerfully masks what, to the uncaptivated mind, is obvious, dangerous, or absurd and there’s much about how, and even where, we live that leaves us in the dark. Fear of conflict, fear of change keeps us that way. An unconscious (and much denied) impulse to obey and conform shields us from confrontation and crowds provide friendly alibis for our inertia. And money has the power to blind us, even to our better selves…

“Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. And what’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty. We think we see more — even as the landscape shrinks…

And yet wilful blindness, Heffernan argues, isn’t a fatal diagnosis of the human condition — it may be our natural, evolutionarily cultivated tendency, but it is within our capability to diffuse it with the right combination of intention and attention. She reflects on the heartening evidence to which the various studies reviewed in the book point:

“The most crucial learning that has emerged from this science is the recognition that we continue to change right up to the moment we die. Every experience and encounter, each piece of new learning, each relationship or reassessment alters how our minds work. And no two experiences are the same. In his work on the human genome, the Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner reminds us that even identical twins will have different experiences in different environments and that that makes them fundamentally different beings. Identical twins develop different immune systems. Mental practice alone can change how our brains operate. The plasticity and responsiveness of our minds is what makes each of us most remarkable… We aren’t automata serving the master computer in our heads, and our capacity for change can never be underestimated…

“We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking. The very fact that willful blindness is willed, that it is a product of a rich mix of experience, knowledge, thinking, neurons, and neuroses, is what gives us the capacity to change it. Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?”

Link to read the rest of this  Brain Pickings article

Ziyah Gafić: Everyday objects, tragic histories

Ziyah Gafić photographs everyday objects—watches, shoes, glasses. But these images are deceptively simple; the items in them were exhumed from the mass graves of the Bosnian War. Gafić, a TED Fellow and Sarajevo native, has photographed every item from these graves in order to create a living archive of the identities of those lost.

Happiness At Work edition #109

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

We hope you enjoy the surprise of unearthing something delightful that was already there sometime over the coming week…

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 #107 ~ leadership lessons for us all

How can we all draw from some of the latest (and some of the oldest) leadership thinking to increase our own happiness and success at work, and the happiness and success of the people we work with, whether or not we have formal leadership written into our job descriptions?

This week’s post draws from and deliberately considers some of the latest and most influential ideas about leadership alongside our thinking about happiness at work.

And, because we know that our happiness is hugely affected by our own thinking and behaviour, we take this same principle through into accepting the contemporary challenge for us all to be able to bring leadership capabilities and intelligence to our work now, whether or not our job title explicitly recognises this to be part of our role.

All of these articles are collected with many others in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #107.

 

Organisational Change Can Start Wherever You Are

By Jesse Lyn Stoner

Do you wish senior leaders would make some changes in your organization?

Instead of waiting and wishing for someone from above to provide leadership, you can make a significant impact no matter what your role is.

“Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders.” (Steven Covey)

The assumption that organizational change has to start at the top is wrong.

Peter Senge says to “give up traditional notions that visions are always announced from ‘on high’ or come from an organization’s institutionalized planning process.

Michael Beer of Harvard Business School agrees. “Managers don’t have to wait for senior management to start a process of organizational revitalization.”

You might be wondering, “How can I change my organization when my boss and senior managers can’t?” The truth is, you have more power and influence than you might think.

Make your own world better.

The place to start is in your own backyard. What is your sphere of influence? Consider not only your position, but your sources of influence.

You have the greatest opportunity to provide leadership with your own team. Focus your leadership efforts on:

  1. Helping your team identify a clear purpose and the practices to achieve it.
  2. Providing access to resources, removing roadblocks, representing your team in the larger organization and protecting them from demands from on-high that will derail them.

Don’t try to do it alone.

If you just announce the changes you think need to be made, chances are they won’t be implemented well. Provide leadership by focusing your team’s attention on the right questions and involving them in finding the answers.

As a team, discuss these questions:

1. What is our purpose? What is the value of the service we provide?

2. What would we look like if we were magnificent at fulfilling our purpose? What would we accomplish? What results would we see?

3. What could our relationships look like? -with each other on the team and with other departments?

4. How would we be working together? What would be happening and not be happening?

Once you are in agreement on the vision, you can begin to look at changes you need to make that will help you get there. Start with changes that are within your control as a team – internal communications, coordinating efforts, decision-making. Consider creating a Team Charter.

The Ripple Effect

As your team changes and begins to thrive in new ways, others will notice, and like the ripple effect, it just might begin to spread to other areas of the organization.

Link to the original article

 

 

How to Grow Your Emotional Intelligence

 

How to Influence Your Manager: Passive Versus Proactive Followership

from the book, Followership: What Is It and Why Do People Follow? by Laurent M. Lapierre and Melissa K. Carsten

…Followers are essential to any organization. Without followers there are no leaders and without proactively engaged followers there is little room for company growth. Proactive followers are not ‘yes people’. They support their leaders by questioning their assumptions and offering competing views on how to overcome important challenges. In the current climate, a lack of proactive followership may lead to company-wide failure. There is however, a fine line between constructive and destructive behavior.

Excluding situations where a boss continues to make decisions to the detriment of the organization and its people, it’s important to balance the line between a passive and proactive follower.  A passive follower is one which is strictly obedient and refrains from questioning their leader’s decisions or ideas even if they disagree. Conversely, a proactive follower is one that contributes to decisions which affect the group and displays independent thinking. As such, this style of followership is more of a partnership.

So, if you are given the opportunity to actively influence your leader, how do you do so constructively?

Offer Your Expertise, Not Your Inexperience

Evaluate the worth of your advice before you give it– where does this come from? Can you support your advice with experience? Have you thought about the potential implications? By holding back on weakly grounded ideas, or by exaggerating their worth, you could be hindering the decision process. Play devil’s advocate. Ask yourself whether the information is significant to the manager’s decision, and whether the decision is based on solid evidence or facts. If not then it may be advisable to keep quiet and let another colleague have the opportunity to voice their experience in this situation.

A proactive follower is one that contributes to decisions which affect the group and displays independent thinking. As such, this style of followership is more of a partnership.

 Be a Trusted Contributor

Regardless of whether you are largely a passive or proactive follower, if there is no trust you cannot influence, and it is a key factor on the leader / follower partnership. A passive follower has to be trusted to do their job to the best of their ability and a proactive follower needs to give trustworthy advice.

If a proactive follower gives their advice in a manager relationship where there is no trust, the leader may see the guidance and involvement in decisions as a threat to their position. In this occasion it may be wiser to display passive behaviour. The more that the subordinate shows that they have earned the manager’s trust; it is more likely that the proactive followership will be well received.

Be Aware of your Manager’s Stress Levels

We have all been there, when a sudden deadline means you have to react swiftly. During these times your manager will be have a limited time to make a decision. Decision making delays such as challenging assumptions or even their logic can lengthen the process and this delay could actually be costlier than accepting the leader’s decision. Displaying proactive followership should only be done if the opinion or challenge will significantly improve the final decision. Otherwise the advice will be treated with contempt or manifest itself into distrust.

Link to read the original Switch & Shift article

 

A Googler’s Critique of Google Performance Reviews

This post was written anonymously by a current Google and former Microsoft employee.  It details the author’s perspective on her first-hand experience with Google’s performance review system.

“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”  –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Institutions are built on the trust and credibility of their members. This maxim holds true for employees and their employers just the same as it does for citizens and their government. Whereas the electoral process in modern democracies allows you and me to rate our government’s performance, performance rating systems make employees the subject of evaluation. In both cases, however, faith in the integrity of the process is the only thing that ensures order.

Managing a performance rating system that motivates, rewards, and retains talented employees across an organization tens of thousands large is a grueling, never-ending challenge. How does an organization balance values core to its DNA and its continued success — merit, openness, innovation, and loyalty — all while maintaining perceptions of fairness?

As someone who has lived through cycles of the ever-evolving performance evaluation and rating mechanisms at tech giants Microsoft and Google, a few observations emerge:

Forced curves undermine the spirit of collaboration and foster a mindset of hoarding pie instead of expanding it

There are particular specialized organizations that benefit from having a defined numerical goal. For example, a quarterly sales quota is a very clear measuring stick, as are portfolio returns, bugs resolved, or customers satisfied. But absent specific, level measures of productive output, large firms face the uphill battle of linking performance to rewards.

When you force fit a curve to the array of employee responsibilities, which vary in scope and complexity, it becomes virtually impossible for one lowly employee to pinpoint what distinguishes “good” from “poor” or “great”.

I’ve found myself asking, “Did I score well because I put in the hours or because I got an easy draw?” Or, “Is managing a profitable line of business more merit worthy than building a floor for a failing business?”

In my experience, people managers suffer through this ambiguity just the same. Despite the wealth of data they have about their direct reports, they’re unable to articulate the rationale (or broader context within the cohort) underlying the numerical scores they assign. And in the absence of transparency or an understanding of how individual contributions compare to team success, self-preservation rules supreme.

And even with the recent moves away from strict numerical curves, there remains a finite pool of awards to be distributed, which doesn’t reflect the mentality they’re trying to foster.

Celebrating performance through evaluation cycles (quarterly, semiannually, annually) creates a sense that every day work does not matter

The climb toward credible ratings grows steeper when you divorce an accomplishment from recognition with an annual or semiannual review. The emotional impact of a successful presentation or a new policy is nowhere to be found in a set of six month old notes. Worse still, seeing changes to compensation or a performance rating system in response to months old polling data address past concerns (and possibly the concerns of past employees).

Even data-rich, data-loving companies shy away from being transparent about how they arrive at individual ratings which produces a perception of arbitrary assessment and a false notion of precision

How do employees adapt and improve if they aren’t working at the trading desk or privy to examples of exceptional performance? They turn to Glassdoor, HR brochures, or worse of all, personal anecdotes to bolster their own assessment of whether they are receiving a “fair” deal. Unfortunately, not one of these third party sources has the nuanced understanding of an employee or his/her team necessary to provide context. What’s often left is a broken, trust-less relationship.

Performance rating systems are reactive and intended to buoy the ship against alarming trends in survey data and rates of attrition; improvements and tweaks are subject to lengthy implementation cycles

Employers seek to improve their performance rating systems and do so by soliciting regular feedback from their employees. The intention is that a system designed in collaboration will better serve all and engage employees. Where these good intentions run awry is at the implementation stage — it takes at least one quarter for to synthesize feedback and evaluation potential changes. The feedback loops for employee performance as well as the performance review system are out of sync with actual job performance and employee sentiment.

How to Do Better

So what can these firms do to win the war for credibility? Be transparent. Throw open the doors and share the notes. Make measurement and compensation public. Have peers drive the rating process. The power of transparency is well understood. There are already measures in place to build engagement among employees and alignment within teams:

• Empowering employees to reward one another

• Have everyone share in company profits (e.g. stock awards or profit sharing)

• Create awards for exceptional team performance (e.g. working across divisions or elevating the division through combined efforts)

• Pool risk vertically (e.g tying manager performance to team performance)

Increased context and knowledge builds comfort and trust for employees and managers alike. When employees know how they’re measured, there’s less room for suspicion. And when they know can connect the dots between individual performance and team success, there’s greater job satisfaction.

Ultimately, the goal of a performance rating system is to reward and retain capable employees by keeping them happy and feeling like they have a fair deal.

Transparency goes a far way toward lending credibility to the process and building commitment to the company, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Giving employees greater flexibility in what they take on and the efforts they lead also builds a sense of ownership and commitment. Opportunities such as 20% projects (wherein employees spends 20% of their time working on something about which they’re passionate) or cross organizational initiatives (e.g. building a volunteering program) are excellent examples of empowering employees through choice. But there’s room for this notion of self direction to go even further — a completely open allocation (e.g. 100% self directed time) or letting employees choose their manager are two programs I would certainly sign up for.

What it boils down to is that employees want to know how they are being evaluated and want to know that they’re making conscious choices. Because while you vote with a punch card at the election booth, in the workplace you vote with your feet.

Link to read the original article in full

 

Ditch the Fear, Leaders Need to Create a Culture of Fun

from 360degree feedback: A Leadership Blog

Many people agree: a workplace culture of fear limits employee engagement, productivity, and retention—and by turns, the bottom line. But often, leaders aren’t cognizant that they’ve created that environment. However, Gallup surmises that lost productivity due to lack of employee engagement costs U.S. companies $300 billion annually. Other studies show that happier—and therefore more engaged—employees are more likely to be more “creative, productive, and committed.” In other words, good leadership doesn’t have to be with an iron fist—in fact, more often, it shouldn’t include iron or fists at all.

One way for leaders to ensure that they aren’t creating a culture of fear is to consciously do the exact opposite—create a culture of happiness and fun. Which can be daunting; after all, to some leaders, “fun” might seem frivolous, and other leaders might see “happiness” as the employee’s responsibility. However, just a few changes to the environment can make all the difference to an employee’s productivity.

To start, you can try something small, like improving consistency, timing, and relevancy of your performance feedback. It’s hard to capture everything an employee has done over a year in just one annual review; sending an email, writing a quick note of thanks, or even just a little face-to-face recognition once or twice a week can help your employee feel valued and therefore happier. To get into the habit, try choosing one day each week (Feedback Friday, perhaps) when you’ll focus on something each of your employees has accomplished in the previous week.

Once you’ve mastered regular, timely feedback, try creating a culture of celebration—the wins, the triumphs, the key learnings your team experienced are all worth public note. Gather your group together (whether for a quick conference-room meeting or even an after-work happy hour) and let everyone know what their teammates have been up to. You’ll show your employees their worth, and you could be starting to create a stronger, more supportive and reciprocal team atmosphere.

To continue creating a fun workplace, allow your staff to actually have fun. Let them bring their personalities into the office. It doesn’t have to be extensive, and you can certainly set limits, but remember that employees often like to feel comfortable in their work-spaces, and that can start with a little decoration. You can lead the parade in your own work-space, by adding hints or bursts of decoration, and you can even go a step further by adding a level of relaxed enjoyment through daily banter. Once your employees see you acting that way, they’ll likely follow suit.

Link to read the original article

 

4 Surefire Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Organisation

By ,

Here are 4 Surefire Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Organization

  1. Pet Projects. Institute time and resources for employees to fund and work on pet projects. This is time spent away from teams and leadership who can stifle creativity simply because of their natural influence on the employee. A simple remark from a manager can redirect an employee’s focus, and potentially move them away from creative solutions. This doesn’t have to be uncontrolled free time; you can develop timelines and budgets to ensure productivity and output expectations are in place.
  2. Coach. Some organizations, such as Chipotle, have begun rewarding staff based on their ability to produce and promote successful team members, rather than their skill at boosting the bottom line. Managers manage, leaders lead — but coaches develop their employees, identify their strengths, and push them away from failure and towards success.
  3. Upend Reviews. The typical review process ensures that an employee’s goals align with the organization and provides the employee with constructive criticism on how they can improve their performance. It could be argued that an employee’s performance isn’t the responsibility of the employee, but instead, of the leaders they work under. Upend your reviews, and have your employees review the leadership of the company to garner feedback on what type of environment they require to increase creativity. Then, make the necessary changes.
  4. Reward Risk. Many of the most monumental failures both educate and drive change in an organization. You don’t want to risk your company, but it’s time to eliminate the “Employee of the Month” politics and, instead, develop a program where creativity and risk are rewarded. Don’t single out one employee — identify a positive result attained from each employee, and recognize them for their creativity. Then, sit back and watch the inspiration and genius blossom!

We Are in the Age of Creativity

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin says it best:

“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job. Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin. The job is not the work.”

If we’re to overcome the stagnation we’ve institutionalized within our national education and management systems, it’s going to require dramatic change. I hope each of us will embrace the change needed to foster creativity within our organizations.

Link to read the original article in full

 

7 Secrets Of Happy Small Business Owners

by 

Here are the top 7 secrets of happiness from everyday small business owners that we can all learn from…

1) Associate with a Good Cause

When things get hectic or frustrating around the office, it will help your mental state to remember you are also working to make the world a better place. To feel the most fulfillment, do more than just donate money. Participate in charitable events, lunches or meetings. You’ll meet great people, become more connected to the cause, and experience increased levels of happiness. The human brain releases a pleasure inducing chemical after altruistic actions — it’s that simple!

2) Work & Life Balance

However much you may love your job or business, it can’t truly replace the psychological fulfillment of family, friends or fun! It may sound cliche, but having a work and life balance will make you a happier worker. The happiest small business owners make ample time for family and entertainment, even if it’s just on the weekend. Not only will your family dynamic be improved by your presence, spending time with family is proven to lower stress levels and increase one’s overall happiness. The trick to making quality family and friend time work, however, is to avoid talking about your job or business! For those without families, you can experience the same effects from pursuing a hobby that interests you, even if it’s as simple as reading a book!

3) Disconnect & Recharge

Similar to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, small business owners who describe themselves as “happy” agree that taking time to disconnect and recharge every day greatly contributes to their sense of well being. You should take a midday break, and disconnect in the evenings. Walking around (hopefully outside) at lunch actually helps get your creative juices flowing. Once you get home, giving yourself a break from emails and app alerts in the evenings will lower your stress levels and improve the quality of your sleep. After all, you’re the brains behind your small business operation, don’t you want to give the ole’ cerebrum a chance to rest?

4) Get to Know Your Team

Water cooler chit chat may seem like an unproductive use of time, but getting to know your employees well will dramatically increase the quality of your work life. Not only will you be able to decipher who your most trusted and valuable assets are, but when you have a good relationship with your employees, you’ll find that you derive pleasure and happiness from their individual successes right along with them.

5) Be Your Own Biggest Fan

There’s no way around it: words of encouragement make you feel better. While it’s important to remain grounded in reality, don’t hesitate to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve one. Being cheered on makes you feel great, but there might not be someone around to give you kudos for many of your accomplishments. It may seem a bit silly at first, but trust us, you’ll experience the positive mental boost even if you’re congratulating yourself.

6) Open Communication

Don’t let frustrations or innovative ideas build up — that sort of stress can take years off your life and dramatically impact your day-to-day happiness. Instead, develop workplace strategies to clear the air, and open up the communication channels amongst your team. Small business owners rate “good intra-team communication” as one of the key factors to an improved quality of work life. So long as you’re respectful and constructive, there is no reason to keep your thoughts and feelings hidden. Try holding weekly retrospective meetings, or giving the Kaizen philosophy a try! It’s a great idea to not only express your constructive criticisms, but also your hopes and dreams for the company. Being heard and understood simply feels great!

7) Focus on Accomplishing Small Tasks

It can feel daunting and overwhelming to work for months on end to accomplish a major business goal. Instead, visualize longer-term objectives as a series of individual tasks that you must accomplish. This way, you’ll get to enjoy the encouraging sense of achievement more often. Accomplishing tasks (and then giving yourself kudos for it!) more frequently will help you stay motivated and increase your overall feeling of job satisfaction.

Link to the original article

 

Marcus Aurelius: Debts and Lessons

Aurelius, the ruler of the Roman Empire for almost two decades, was also the author of the immortal Meditations

“The questions that Meditations tries to answer are metaphysical and ethical ones,” Hays writes. These are timeless questions that we are still asking. Why are we here? How can I cope with the stresses and pressures of daily life? How can I do what is right? How can I cope with loss and pain? How can I handle misfortune? How do we live when we know that one day we won’t?…

From his adopted father, Aurelius learned:

Compassion. Unwavering adherence to decisions, once he’d reached them. Indifference to superficial honors. Hard work. Persistence. Listening to anyone who could contribute to the public good. His dogged determination to treat people as they deserved. A sense of when to push and when to back off. … His searching questions at meetings. A kind of single-mindedness, almost, never content with first impressions, or breaking off the discussion prematurely. His consistency to friends-never getting fed up with them or playing favorites. Self-reliance, always. And cheerfulness. And his advanced planning (well in advance) and his discreet attention to even minor things. His restrictions on acclamations-and all attempts to flatter him. … His stewardship of the treasury. His willingness to take responsibility—and blame—for both. … And his attitude to men: no demagoguery, no currying favor, no pandering. Always sober, always steady, and never vulgar or a prey to fads.

Link to read the original article in full

Businesswoman

working woman

 

High performance leadership: You can’t lead when you’re running on empty

by 

Here are some words for the wise on high performance leadership:

1. Take care of yourself

If you aren’t displaying high performance leadership, it affects your clients, your employees and your family. Are you working out? Do you get enough sleep? How’s your nutrition? What changes do you have to make to be able to stay in top form not just today — but for the long-haul?

2. Keep short accounts

When issues come up between people it takes time and energy to resolve them. That’s time and energy that you could be using to get work done! Most days it feels so much more rewarding to get that work done than to have some dramatic conversation resolving things with a co-worker. But over the long-haul those unresolved conversations become like weights dragging down the performance of your whole team. Take a minute to apologize when you blow up, or resolve issues when you become aware of them. Not only will you be free from that weight, but dealing with those issues in the moment will mean more productivity in the long run.

3. Be brave…

Your team is there to support you. If you have the right team they wantyou to succeed. So let them know what you need from them. Be clear.

You need things from them. Be clear, and ask for what you need.

4. …and kind.

Catch some people doing something good — let them know how much you appreciate their support. When we are paying their salaries it can be easy to think, “Why do I have to thank them, I’m paying them!” Even when you are being paid, it feels good to be thanked, to have your efforts recognized. And, for some people, that “thank you” means more than the paycheck.

Link to the original article

 

Remembering Warren Bennis

by Art Kleiner, editor-in-chief of strategy+business

Warren Gamaliel Bennis passed away on July 31. For those of us who personally knew this influential writer and commentator on leadership and organizations, one of his most notable attributes was his understanding of the paradox of human nature: our ability to simultaneously drag ourselves down and rise to great heights. His famous aphorism—that while managers know how to do things right, leaders know how to do the right thing —is one of his many legacies; it’s a guiding principle for anyone with influence. Risk-averse decision makers, Warren said, don’t become effective leaders, because excessive caution keeps them from doing anything important.

While managers know how to do things right, leaders know how to do the right thing.

Of course, doing the right thing is far harder than many leaders want to admit. Warren set impossibly high standards for himself, but he also forgave himself (and everyone else) full-heartedly for not meeting them. This forgiveness was one reason, I think, so many people were drawn to him. He never let us forget our potential, or feel limited by our failure to realize it.

He was a living symbol of pragmatic humanism: the ability of people to make a better world by mustering the efforts of our imperfect selves toward perfect ends. And he was an uncommonly prescient observer of the political and social milieu of his time. He foresaw the collapse of Russian communism (in the 1960s), the dangers of total transparency (people need a little secrecy to collaborate across boundaries), and the cultural colloquy between young and old (articulated in his terrific book Geeks and Geezers, coauthored with Robert J. Thomas and published in 2002, when Warren was 77 years old.)

Warren’s personality, which was visible in everything he did, was one of erudite conviviality and perceptive generosity. He was an incorrigible, but discreet gossip—interested not in spreading the worst about other people, but in sharing insights about their essential selves.

…another classic Bennis idea, “the unconscious conspiracy,” which proposed that, unless leaders are careful and skilled, the realities of everyday life will always combine to drag them away from their true purpose.

Link to read the original article

 

The Four Leadership Lessons Millennials Really Need

by Steve Denning, who writes about leadership issues from a Millennial perspective.

1. There is no Eureka moment

Everyone tells you to “follow your dream.” But few of us in our twenties actually know what that is. At this point in our lives, we’re still exploring. In her bookThe Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, psychologist Meg Jay describes the twenties as a “developmental sweet spot that comes only once.”

What people don’t tell you is that your calling develops over time. It doesn’t come to you in an epiphany. In How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Krsnaric writes: “I regularly hear people lament that they are ‘still searching for their vocation’ or envying others who have ‘found their ultimate calling.’ […] Their search, however, is almost certain to be unsuccessful. Not because vocations do not exist. But because we have to realize a vocation is not something we find, its something we grow – and grow into.”

Dan Pink offered a similar perspective in his Weinberg College commencement speech: “The smartest, most interesting, most dynamic, most impactful people … lived to figure it out…. Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living— to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.”

2. 100 percent is easier than 98 percent

It’s not news that winning at life requires good execution. But why do we still have such a hard time actually getting things done? In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt writes: “The mind is divided in many ways, but the division that really matters is between conscious/reasoned processes and automatic/implicit processes. These two parts are like a rider on the back of an elephant. […] Learning how to train the elephant is the secret of self-improvement.”

One way to train the elephant is to form habits. By forming a habit, you train your brain to go into autopilot. Which is why, to steal the line from Clayton Christensen, “100 percent of the time is easier than 98 percent of the time.” By making it a rule, you are removing the decision-making part of deciding to do an activity. This is especially critical for activities we don’t want to do. Exercise, diet, studying for the GRE, paying bills, you name it. If you skip it just once, you are sending a signal to your brain that you can skip it. From there, it’s a slippery slope. You are back to having to decide whether to exercise or watch TV. And very rarely will exercise win that battle.

Turning long-term goals into habits is especially critical. Malcolm Gladwell has reminded us in Outliers: The Story of Success that to become an expert you need to put in 10,000 hours. That’s about equal to 5 years! Putting in that kind of time requires discipline. But if you don’t actively take control of what you spend your time on, your expertise could easily become Facebook or Candy Crush. And no one wants that. Shane Parrish in Farnam Street elaborates on how procrastination can engulf you. If you don’t control your own mind, your mind will control you.

David Foster Wallace addressed this brilliantly in his Kenyon commencement speech in 2005: “[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.”

Psychologically, many of us find it easier to say we never tried than to say we tried and failed. Don’t be that person. Be the doer, not the dreamer, no matter how hard.

3. Networking: Become the buyer, not the seller

The problem with networking today is that most people see themselves as the seller and the person they are networking with as the buyer. People are so uptight that it isn’t fun for anyone. Reframe the situation: you are now the buyer. You will have much more fun and it will lead to a much more fruitful meeting.

The good news is once people start actively “networking,” they actually likedoing it. Dr. David Hamilton explains that “doing good deeds triggers an increased level of dopamine in the brain. The good feeling associated with this is commonly known as Helper’s High.”  This principle is also documented in the Ben Franklin effect. You are more likely to do a favor for someone that you have previously also helped.

It’s important because it has been shown that how you get your future jobs or salary raises is often not through your immediate circle of friend, but your acquaintances. The economist James Montgomery studied the concept of “weak ties” and explains “that weak ties are positively related to higher wages and higher aggregate employment rates.”

Networking might seem like a high investment in time. But the reward (both for your work and your happiness) will be well worth it. Most people know who they want to get coffee chats with or who they can connect with for the benefit both parties. The difference is that the best networkers actually act on it.

4. Trust yourself: no one has the right answer

Recent graduates often wait for the moment when they will be 100 percent in control — the moment when they will have graduated to be a full-blown “grown up.” The truth is that that moment never comes. Everyone is fudging it.  “You’ll meet a lot of people who, to put it simply, don’t know what they’re talking about. … Develop your own compass, and trust it.” says Aaron Sorkin.

Ultimately you have to trust your gut. Steve Jobs still said it best, “Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”

People often conflate success with salary and job title. But life is composed of so many variables. It is subject to change at any given moment.  Real success is a long-term game. The only thing you can control is yourself: your will, your desire, your perseverance. Success will follow whoever wants it most.

Link to read the original Forbes article

 

Happiness At Work edition #107

See more articles about leadership and learning, creativity and happiness at work in this week’s new collection

Happiness At Work #104 ~ highlights in this collection

 

Here are some of the best stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #104

15 Life Lessons From Banksy Street Art That Will Leave You Lost For Words

Using striking stencil art and profound imagery, Banksy has captured the interest of art lovers, activists, and graffiti artists around the globe. His mysterious identity (and refusal to use social media accounts) has only sparked more intrigue, with media outlets and fans prying to earn a peek into his life. But why use graffiti as a means to communicate?

By displaying art in crowded cities across the world, Banksy puts social and political issues in our face. These pieces force us to stop and think—something that we often avoid doing in our day-to-day lives.

and see more Banksy art at: https://www.artsy.net/artist/banksy

Other highlights from this week’s collection:

Understanding The Value Of Charisma In Leadership

Great leaders focus on how to make the vision they have for their organization something that we all care about because they connect it to what matters to us; that we can see the value and purpose it will create not just for those our organization serves, but for ourselves as well.

Seen from this light, we need to recognize that being a charismatic leader is not beyond our reach; that it’s not a special quality that only those who breathe this rarefied air are entitled to possess and exude.

Rather, this potential lies within all of us – waiting for us to push our focus beyond our smartphones and computer screens, to put down whatever we are busying ourselves with so that we can be fully present to hear and understand what those around us are trying to share…

HR Roundtable: How to Make Change Sustainable

Change, and change agent, have become terms that are thrown around in HR to the point of being ineffective catchphrases. This article presents ideas from a Roundtable event that aimed to take a different approach to “change.” To see if they could come up with ideas that put some substance to this topic which could be translated into action within companies, people considered these three questions:

+ What obstacles exist in organizations that deter/destroy change?

+ What keeps employees from embracing change?

+ How can change be sustainable in organizations?

Maybe you will find an idea or two in this to add to your own change activities…

How to Make Yourself Happy

Almost everyone wants to be happy, but surprisingly few people know how.

However, a growing body of research has identified one reliable path: doing something rewarding, especially philanthropy.

Acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient but also “create a pleasurable ‘helper’s high’ that benefits the giver,” says Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker, who’s studied the phenomenon. Indeed, studies show that people who regularly volunteer report greater happiness than those who don’t. Here’s how this works…

How To Rediscover Your Motivation

Changing the way you think and adding a few key habits can help you get back the motivation that you lost somewhere along the way…

What Your Personality Type Means For Your Career

This infographic gives an interesting display of the different Myers Briggs Personality Types and the different ways they translate into our work…

Maria Popova: Staying Present and Grounded in the Age of Information Overload

How do we answer the grand question of how to live—and more importantly—how to live well? This is the deeply philosophical (and yet eminently pragmatic) inquiry that lies at the core of Maria Popova’s remarkable blog, Brain Pickings. Since she launched Brain Pickings as a passion project back in 2006, it’s grown impressively, becoming an intellectual touchstone for inquiring minds that now draws several million readers a month.

Not surprisingly, Popova’s work ethic is as relentless as her curiosity. Yet, after eight years of providing a service that lights up creative minds around the world, she is feeling the strain. Over tea, we talked about her struggle to dial back the pace of her workflow, and the tension between “getting things done” and being present in your own emotional reality…

Happiness At Work edition #104

Click here to go to the Happiness At Work #104 collection

Happiness At Work #103 – highlights in this edition

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Happiness At Work – edition #103

Here is this week’s new collection.

You will find the usual concentration of positive ideas and practical ways forward in the articles we have featured.

But we start with a story, because although bad news, we thought you might want to know about this research…

Bosses have ‘no admirable qualities’ say one in eight workers

Being disorganised, failing to motivate staff and not caring about employees’ career progression are managerial traits which leave one in eight workers with nothing to admire about their bosses.

As many as one in seven staff said they do not have a good relationship with their manager, and a third feel less motivated to do a good job for the company when this is the case, according to a new survey.

The research from Investors in People has suggested a need for re-evaluating management style, as not only do 12% of workers say they cannot name one quality they admire in their manager, but three-quarters also admit to talking about their boss behind their back.

22% simply do not work as hard if they do not get on with their boss.

The most unpopular trait among bosses was not giving reward or recognition where it’s due, with 19% of workers stating that this was a quality they disliked.

“It’s not something that companies should just accept as inevitable; bad bosses result in unhappy, unproductive staff who will leave your business sooner.” (Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People)

For those workers who do admire certain traits in their bosses, the most popular quality was being trusted to do the job, named by 34% of employees. Being approachable and having experience in the job was also ranked highly among staff.

 

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Here are some of the highlights in this collection:

 

Eye Witness (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Eyes speak a universal language, and no interpreter is needed.

Steve McCurry’s latest photo collection focuses our attention on people’s eyes. As always his images are rich and luxurious in humanity and show us how alike we are across our diverse cultures.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others.
 (Audrey Hepburn)

 

Workplace happiness more important than higher salary, survey finds

Eight in 10 UK workers value recognition and a good relationship with their colleagues over a big salary, research carried out by the Association of Accounting Technicians reveals (AAT).

In its survey of 2,000 UK employees, the AAT found that pay was the sixth most important factor for people staying in their current job, with getting on with colleagues and bosses and enjoying the job the most important.

Overall, employees wanted to have greater responsibility the most in their job, with 15% of employees saying they disliked their current job because it was dull and unfulfilling or their boss did not appreciate them.

Eight in 10 of the 2,000 employees surveyed said they would simply turn down a job that paid more if they did not get on with their workmates…

 

How 5 Post-it notes can make you happy, confident, and successful

You know why older people are happier?

Research shows as we age we remember the good and forget the bad:

…older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less. [Science Daily]

Research shows thinking about the good things actually does make you happier. Reminders, something as simple as a post-it note, are very powerful — and for more than just remembering to buy milk. Studies show simple reminders help people act more ethically, quit smoking, and save more money.

Here are five little reminders that can help you create big changes…

Why Are Some People Stuck In Their Ways?

A Q&A with Shawn Achor about his latest book Before Happiness.

“We think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order…Before somebody can make a change to their health and their happiness, their brain has already constructed a picture of reality in which change is possible or not. Basically, this predicts whether or not they’ll be able to make that change…”

What is the Secret to Leadership Presence?

Presence is an ineffable blend of appearance, communication skills, and gravitas. People who give us their undivided attention most vividly manifest presence.

That means being present for the moment, for others, for the mission, and for the task at hand. There’s a reason why the words “presence” and “present” have the same root.

But even as it has become more important, being present has become more difficult, thanks to technology.

What to do…?

Research Shows Successful Leaders Aren’t Just Smart – They’re Also Socially Adept

Catherine Weinberger, a UC Santa Barbara economist, studied what high achievers have in common and she discovered that today’s workplace values a combination of book smarts and social adeptness.

Everyone can improve their social game in some way, shape or form. Perhaps you aren’t good at meeting new people, or maybe you tend to a little passive-aggressive in the leadership department. No matter which social struggles you experience, these six strategies will help you become more socially adept…

How Does Music Affect Your Productivity?

Music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity – but does music itself help one to create? Does what’s playing make you better at your job?

This article provides a thorough and engaging survey of what the latest research tells us about music helps and hinders our activity…

 

Click here to go to the latest Happiness At Work collection

Wishing you a very happy, creative and successful week.

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We hope you enjoy these collections and we wish you success and happiness with all that you are making and making happen…

Happiness At Work is a weekly collection of the best ideas, stories, links, tools & techniques for improving Happiness & Wellbeing At Work for Individuals, Leaders and Organisations, curated by BridgeBuilders STG Limited 

The collection is refreshed with new stories every Friday, and we welcome any suggestions of links you would like to see included in new collections.

The stories all remain permanently in this site, and you find previous collections at any time by clicking on the Archives menu in the top left of the screen, and choosing an earlier Friday back to the first edition published 6th July 2012.

 

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

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

How Workplace Happiness Affects Your Paycheck

by Ken Sundheim for Undercover Recruiter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dopamine, serotonin and the brain’s reaction:

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

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

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

Consider the following:

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

Exercises:

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

In the end:

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

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

The science of happiness explained in one infographic

by Omar Kardoudi for Sploid – headlines for the future

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

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

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

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

Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

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

Practice “extreme resilience”

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

Let go of grudges

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

Don’t waste time being jealous

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

Find passion in you, not in your job

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

Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

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

Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

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

Invest in the process, not the outcome

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

Think about other people

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

Swap multitasking for mindfulness

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

This Graph Perfectly Illustrates How To Be Happy At Work

by Drake Baer for Business Insider

Screenshot 2014-07-11 12.35.15

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

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

His take on flow:

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

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

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

In contrast, flow is something you can create.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good news is it can be trained.

5 Tips To Increase Happiness At Work

by Growth Engineering

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Epicurean Guide To Happiness

by  Sharath Komarraju

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

Necessary and Unnecessary Desires

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

Pleasurable pains and painful pleasures

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

Friends, Freedom and Philosophy – the ingredients for happiness

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

The Connection Between Employee Engagement and Emotional Intelligence

by Peter LaMotte for Switch and Shift

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

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

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

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

Qualities of Emotional Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Get From Giving

by Eric Karpinski, The Happiness Coach

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

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

Giving is contagious and grows the pie for everyone

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

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

Giving directly drives our happiness

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

How to give 

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

Your Challenge

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

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

by Ryan M. Niemiec in Psychology Today

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

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

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

Register here

Happiness At Work edition #102

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

Enjoy…

 

Happiness At Work #101 ~ how to make your own success story great

Pyramid of Success - John R. Wooden, Basketball Coach

Pyramid of Success – John R. Wooden, Basketball Coach

This week we highlight the power of our minds to create what happens to us.

What we choose to tell ourselves dramatically affects the story we make for our own life.  And the stories we choose to tell and make in our communications give us the power to affect and influence the lives of the people we work.

Ultimately stories give us the ability to create and enact not just our own hero’s success story of greatness, but the power to change the world and people’s lives.

Here is a great set of brain exercises by way of a warmup.

The right answers, when you find them, just see so obviously right you’ll know when you’ve found them.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did…

Brain teaser to exercise your cognitive skills: Where do words go?

Here is a brain teaser whose aim is to stim­u­late the con­nec­tions or asso­ci­a­tions between words in your tem­po­ral lobe. You will see pairs of words, and your goal is to find a third word that is con­nected or asso­ci­ated with both of these two words.

For exam­ple, the first pair is PIANO and LOCK. The answer is KEY. The word key is con­nected with both the word piano and the word lock: there are KEYS on a piano and you use a KEY to lock doors. Key is what is called a homo­graph: a word that has more than one mean­ing but is always spelled the same.

Ready to stim­u­late con­nec­tions in your tem­po­ral lobe(s)? Enjoy! (Solu­tions are below. Please don’t check them until you have tried to solve all the pairs!)

1. LOCK — PIANO

2. SHIP — CARD

3. TREE — CAR

4. SCHOOL — EYE

5. PILLOW — COURT

6. RIVER — MONEY

7. BED — PAPER

8. ARMY — WATER

9. TENNIS — NOISE

10. EGYPTIAN — MOTHER

Link to read the original article and to get the answers

What follows in this post are some different ideas about how we can do this.

Cristiano Ronaldo — Greatness Awaits (World Cup)

The journey of a hero at its earliest, most humble beginnings is nothing more than a desire for greatness…

And legends aren’t born from mediocrity. They are born from excellence. They are born from being the best. From being the hardest working. Legends are born from failure. They are born from falling down time and time again and having the grit to get back up again. Legends are born from adversity. They are forged in the crucible of struggle. Heroes come and go. But legends, legends live forever…

Story Pyramid or arc

Story Pyramid or arc

Nancy Duarte on Failure, Bootstrapping, and the Power of Better Presentations

How to use the hero’s story to present better, the tension of creative work and commerce, learning to let go, and the power of turning failure into your life’s work…

Most believe great presenters are born and not made. Nancy Duarte would argue against this. After all, she received a C- in Speech Communication class in college. Since then she’s gone on to become a world-renowned author and expert on the art and science of delivering compelling presentations.

Today her firm works with the world’s top brands like Cisco, General Electric, The Food Network, and Twitter to help their employees evolve their presentation skills into messages that shift beliefs and behaviors. In addition, her books Slide:ologyResonate, and HBR’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations do much to fill in the knowledge gaps of how to make presenting easier and more engaging for your audience.

Presenters tend to quickly go to tools like PowerPoint, which is used second only to email, to communicate. But strong communicators are able to visualize their ideas…

Your vision needs to be clear and if people can see what you’re saying, they will understand you. Practice sketching what you see.  There is tremendous power in being able to sketch out an idea so others can see it…

“You have the power to change the world…”

If you put slides between you and another person, you cheat yourself out of an opportunity to create a personal connection. In one-on-one situations, you have the chance to make a really rich human connection yet so many times that opportunity is lost due to putting technology between you and them.

Instead of looking at each other, people end up looking at technology. When you’re on-on-one, try using a piece of paper between you instead.  You can have some concepts on the paper, or it could be a printout of your slides that you both build on, or even start with a blank sheet of paper.

What this type of setup says is, “Let’s both create something.”

Link to read the original 99u article

 standing over the clouds

How can I cope better with setbacks?

by Jan Hills, adapted from the content in her new book, Brain-Savvy HR

You and a colleague have been working on a new project proposal which gets rejected by the board. You’re gutted, and finding it hard to get past the sense of disappointment, the feeling that your career has stalled. But your colleague seems to be much more philosophical about the decision. She’s shrugged it off and seems to be getting on with things. Didn’t she have as much invested in getting the project off the ground – didn’t it matter as much to her? Or is she just coping better?

The difference is resilience.

It’s the art of adapting well in the face of adversity: when a proposal is rejected, when a valued colleague moves to another company, or if you lose your job in a downsizing. Some people describe it as the ability to bend without breaking.

Biologically, resilience is the ability to manage the physical and neurological impact of the stress response. Stress can have a significant impact on the immune system, and make us physically ill, but the effects are entirely dependent on how we, individually, react to it. (Read more about that in the chapter in this section “I can’t avoid stress in my job.”

What makes us resilient?

Studies of twins suggest that at least some of our response to stress, and our ability to cope with it, is inherited. Having a sociable personality that embraces novel tasks and interests, and being accepting of yourself and your faults makes someone more resilient.

But our environment also comes into play: the patterns of behaviour we’ve learned, our education, support from our family, our income and security. But research also shows that we can build resilience with some discipline and consistent practice.

Resilience in the brain develops through repeated experience. Any experience, whether positive or negative, causes neurons in the brain to activate. The strengthened connections between them create neural circuits and pathways that make it likely we will respond to the same or a similar situation in the same way that we reacted before.

This is the brain’s natural way of encoding patterns that become the automatic, unconscious habits that drive our behaviours. It relies upon the neuroplasticity of the brain: its capacity to grow new neurons and, more importantly, new connections among the neurons. When we choose to act in particular ways, repeatedly, to the extent we form new habits and ways of behaving, we are engaging in self-directed neuroplasticity.

How can we become more resilient?

Some of the effective strategies that are well-supported by scientific evidence for developing resilience include:

Learn “emotional regulation”

Two approaches to self-regulation that have been extensively studied are reappraisal and mindfulness meditation…

Reappraisal is a technique for reinterpreting the cause of a negative emotion or stress. So instead of seeing your rejection for promotion as a failure, you reappraise it as an opportunity to build mastery and deepen expertise in your current role

Columbia University’s Kevin Ochsner has found that reappraisal results in changes in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex: the centre for planning, directing and inhibiting. It also decreases the activity of the amygdala, responsible for emotion. The result is that an experience is less emotionally charged and it’s possible for the person to interpret it more positively. People who practise this technique report greater psychological wellbeing than those who suppress their emotions.

So when you’re faced with a negative experience you may find it useful to ask yourself: “Is there a different way to look at this?” Be like the optimistic friend who would put a different spin on it for you.

Our experience of using this strategy with clients, especially in very tough circumstances, is that it can be challenging and it takes practice. Ochsner has found that training in reappraisal, especially using the technique of distancing from the problem, is successful.

Another method for increasing resilience and managing emotions is mindfulness meditation, which has been found to improve focus and wellbeing, and encourage more flexible thinking. Brain scans have shown increases in activity in the left prefrontal cortex (which is associated with emotional control), a boost in positive emotions, and faster recovery from feelings of disgust, anger and fear.

Adopt a positive outlook on life

Optimism is associated with good mental and physical health, which probably stems from a better ability to regulate the stress response. Psychologist Barbara Frederickson has found that negative emotions tend to increase physiological arousal, narrow focus and restrict behaviours to those which are essential for survival, like just getting your report done in the usual way, and avoiding social interaction and helping anyone else.

Positive emotions, by contrast, reduce stress and broaden focus, leading to more creative and flexible responses. In this frame of mind you’d be more likely to come up with a new report format which works better, get input from colleagues, or help your junior by coaching them to do the data analysis.

Do you believe you’re in control?

Psychologist Julian Rotter has developed the concept of “locus of control.” Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience: they have an internal locus of control. Others believe that things are done to them by outside forces, or happen by chance (an external locus).

These viewpoints are not absolutes, says Laurence Gonzales, author ofSurviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. “Most people combine the two,” he says, “But research shows that those with a strong internal locus are better off. In general, they’re less likely to find everyday activities distressing. They don’t often complain, whine, or blame. And they take compliments and criticism in their stride.”

Developing an internal locus takes discipline and self-awareness, but it enables you to envisage options and scenarios based on intuition and foresight, which means you can create plans in anticipation, or in the midst of a challenge.

And what about optimism?

Resilience is associated with a type of realistic optimism. If you’re too optimistic you may miss negative information or ignore it rather than deal with it. Over-optimism results in taking or ignoring risks, which may actually increase stress. The most resilient people seem to be able to tune out negative words and events and develop the habit of interpreting situations in a more positive manner. Oxford psychologist Elaine Fox says we can train ourselves to do this.

What this means for us in business is that we should take a positive outlook whilst carefully assessing and acknowledging risks using techniques like pre-mortems and appreciative enquiry.

Get fit

Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve attention, planning, decision-making and memory. And exercise appears to aid resilience by boosting levels of endorphins as well as the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin which may elevate mood. It also suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Develop your resilience muscle

Researchers recommend “workouts,” or tasks that get gradually more challenging. This idea of “stress inoculation” is based on the theory that increasing the degree of difficulty teaches us to handle higher levels of challenge and stress.

If you dread giving presentations then offering to give the after-dinner toast at an annual dinner, and signing-up for a speaking club, can be part of a process gradually training yourself out of the fear.

The same approach as training for a marathon also works for mental challenges, according to the authors of Resilience: the science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. However, just as with an athlete’s training and competition programme, it’s important to build-in recovery time: extended periods of stress without a recovery period can be damaging. One of the skills of resilient people, according to performance psychologist Jim Loehr, is knowing when they need a break.

Maintain your support networks

Developing your network of supportive friends, family and colleagues is another important way to enhance your resilience. Don’t be too busy to do lunch, help someone or stop and talk to a colleague: it reduces your stress response and bolsters your courage and self-confidence, and creates a safety net.

Social ties make us feel good about ourselves: they activate the reward response in our brain. Objectively evaluate your network and analyse its strengths. You may have support in your home life, but do you also have it at work? Who do you know who could help you with different types of challenges? Who understands you, and has the skills you could call on in a crisis?

Follow good role models

We’re familiar with the idea of role models in business and leadership development. But thinking about who your models are for resilience may be a new idea for you. Consider who you know who has been through tough times in the business and has come through. What are the characteristics of their strength and how did they manage the challenge?

Psychologist Albert Bandura believes modelling is most effective when the observer analyses what they want to imitate by dissecting different aspects and creating rules that can guide their own action.

It’s all about belief

Psychologist Edith Grotberg believes that everyone needs to remind themselves regularly of their strengths. She suggests we cultivate resilience by thinking about three areas:

  • Strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models: these are external supports.
  • Self-belief, caring about other people, being proud of ourselves: these are inner strengths that can be developed.
  • Communicating, solving problems, gauging the temperament of others, seeking out good relationships: these are the interpersonal and problem-solving skills that can be acquired.

At the heart of resilience is a belief in ourselves. Resilient people don’t let adversity define them: they move towards a goal beyond themselves and see tough times as just a temporary state of affairs.

Link to read the original HRZone article

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Instinct Can Beat Analytical Thinking

Researchers have confronted us in recent years with example after example of how we humans get things wrong when it comes to making decisions. We misunderstand probability, we’re myopic, we pay attentionto the wrong things, and we just generally mess up. This popular triumphof the “heuristics and biases” literature pioneered by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky has made us aware of flaws that economics long glossed over, and led to interesting innovations in retirement planning and government policy.

It is not, however, the only lens through which to view decision-making. Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has spent his career focusing on the ways in which we get things right, or could at least learn to. In Gigerenzer’s view, using heuristics, rules of thumb, and other shortcuts often leads to better decisions than the models of “rational” decision-making developed by mathematicians and statisticians.

Gerd Gigerenzer:

I always wonder why people want to hear how bad their own decisions are, or at least, how dumb everyone else is. That’s not my direction. I’m interested to help people to make better decisions, not to state that they have these cognitive illusions and are basically hopeless when it comes to risk…

Assume you are a turkey and it’s the first day of your life. A man comes in and you believe, “He kills me.” But he feeds you. Next day, he comes again and you fear, “He kills me,” but he feeds you. Third day, the same thing. By any standard model, the probability that he will feed you and not kill you increases day by day, and on day 100, it is higher than any before. And it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and you are dead meat. So the turkey confused the world of uncertainty with one of calculated risk. And the turkey illusion is probably not so often in turkeys, but mostly in people…

Gut feelings are tools for an uncertain world. They’re not caprice. They are not a sixth sense or God’s voice. They are based on lots of experience, an unconscious form of intelligence.

I’ve worked with large companies and asked decision makers how often they base an important professional decision on that gut feeling. In the companies I’ve worked with, which are large international companies, about 50% of all decisions are at the end a gut decision.

But the same managers would never admit this in public. There’s fear of being made responsible if something goes wrong, so they have developed a few strategies to deal with this fear. One is to find reasons after the fact….

Using data more intelligently is a good strategy if you have a business in a very stable world. Big data has a long tradition in astronomy. For thousands of years, people have collected amazing data, and the heavenly bodies up there are fairly stable, relative to our short time of lives. But if you deal with an uncertain world, big data will provide an illusion of certainty. For instance, in Risk Savvy I’ve analyzed the predictions of the top investment banks worldwide on exchange rates. If you look at that, then you know that big data fails.

In an uncertain world you need something else. Good intuitions, smart heuristics.

Link to read the original Harvard Business Review article

moerakiboulders

Rethinking the Placebo Effect: How Our Minds Actually Affect Our Bodies

by 

Among the most intensely interesting pieces in the Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion collection is one by science journalist Jo Marchant, who penned the fascinating story of the world’s oldest analog computer. Titled “Heal Thyself,” the piece explores how the way we think about medical treatments shapes their very real, very physical effects on our bodies — an almost Gandhi-like proposition, except rooted in science rather than philosophy. Specifically, Marchant brings to light a striking new dimension of the placebo effect that runs counter to how the phenomenon has been conventionally explained. She writes:

It has always been assumed that the placebo effect only works if people are conned into believing that they are getting an actual active drug. But now it seems this may not be true. Belief in the placebo effect itself — rather than a particular drug — might be enough to encourage our bodies to heal.

Recent research confirms what Helen Keller fervently believed putting some serious science behind the value of optimism. Marchant sums up the findings:

Realism can be bad for your health. Optimists recover better from medical procedures such as coronary bypass surgery, have healthier immune systems and live longer, both in general and when suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia.

What researchers are now realizing is that positive beliefs don’t just work by quelling stress. They have a positive effect too — feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out fine, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself…

Optimism seems to reduce stress-induced inflammation and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. It may also reduce susceptibility to disease by dampening sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter governs what’s called the “rest-and-digest” response — the opposite of fight-or-flight.

Just as helpful as taking a rosy view of the future is having a rosy view of yourself. High “self-enhancers” — people who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.

Marchant notes that it’s as beneficial to amplify the world’s perceived positivity as it is to amplify our own — something known as our “self-enhancement bias,” a type of self-delusion that helps keep us sane. But the same applies to our attitudes toward others as well — they too can impact our physical health.

Link to read the original Brain Pickings article

7 Life-Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Pickings, Illustrated

by 

“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.”

See also this beautifully drawn reworking of the seven things Maria Popova learned from the first seven years of making her eclectic and wonderful blog

Happiness At Work edition #101

You can also see these drawings and find all of of these stories and more in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.

 

Why Should We Be Thinking About Happiness At Work right now?

fairheadricky

With everything else that we have to deal with at the moment, why should we think about happiness at work?

This is the question I want to try and answer in this week’s post.  It is inspired partly by noticing how often I am told by people that happiness at work is all very nice, but irrelevant, or at best an unaffordable luxury, in an organisation which is having to battle through major change and upheaval, and battling to make the best of decimated staff numbers and budgets or even remits, and battling to try and redefine the organisation’s raison d’être in a world that has shifted its priorities and radically reframed its expectations, and in a world where many people are feeling fundamentally unsure about the purpose and value of the work they are doing.

In this environment, surely there are far more pressing concerns that demand the reduced time, energy and resource that remains to us?

And yet, when I am working with people on creating specific solutions to these problems – with individuals in coaching and webinar sessions, with teams in workshops, and with leaders in strategic thinking and action learning meetings – again and again some of the best tools and techniques that people are choosing to build from come from the new science of happiness and the principles and practices of happiness and resilience at work in particular.

Remember what it was like to be constantly dreaming up bigger and better ideas for what we do and how we do it and what we might achieve by doing it?

Remember being fuelled by an excitement about what might be possible and what we might do together if we dared, as often we did?  When we knew how what we did made the world, not merely more able to carry on, but a better, finer more wonderful place to inhabit somehow?

What follows is a collection of writings that have all been published in the last week or so that are collected in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #98.   I hope something here can provide a way of thinking about and, even more critically, a framework for doing something about the very real and complex problems we are most certainly facing in these times of major cultural, economic, social and personal shift and upheaval.  I hope you will find here ideas and approaches that will point your way to solutions that can significantly progress us out of these hard times of enforced change and adjustment and, little by little, layer by layer, incrementally move us toward a way of working and working together that is sufficiently reimagined and recalibrated and reforged fit enough and strong enough to be grown into a world much closer to our wanting.

Here might be solutions that are sustainable enough and inclusive and flexible and achievable enough and worthwhile enough to bring us out of these siege condition times of having to just survive somehow, to “keep calm and carry on”, and into a more hopeful aspirational and far greater future that we can all feel galvanised and inspired to be an active part of.

The first article, Mindfulness, Purpose and the Quest for Productive Employees, considers the emerging field of happiness at work development, variously known as ‘positive business,’ ’employee happiness,’ workplace happiness,’ ’employee wellbeing,’ and ’employee engagement,’ with particular emphasis on the dual necessities for a sense of real purpose and meaning alongside great relationships at work…

“If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing,  And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”

In Arts & Ideas: Free Thinking – Arianna Huffington & Richard Hytner – 29 Apr 14  Arianna Huffington, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric, that puts wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving alongside the conventional success criteria of money and power. She is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with these two metrics, but they alone are

like sitting on a two-legged stool: sooner or later your are going to fall over – and we need the Third Metric to have any hope for a life of meaning and purpose,  

This is followed by advertising exec and leadership thinker Richard Hytner and Ashridge Business School leadership learning expert Kerrie Fleming talking about stress in business and the nature of leadership.

Gallup: The 10 Qualities of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs presents new research that highlights, alongside the things we might expect such as Business Focus, these critical happiness at work capabilities…

2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others.

3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing product or idea into something even better.

4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all.

7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing.

8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business.

9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth.

The Three Human Capital Management Concerns Keeping U.S. CEOs Up At Night identifies the growing urgency of a skills gap crisis as the next technology tools radically add to the existing changes we are already dealing with, and asks…..

How prepared are you for this challenge? To answer that question, simply ask yourself another question: How invested are you in your people’s skills?

Asian Leaders Value Creativity and Intuition More than Europeans Do looks at the leadership styles in different countries, noticing that the fast growing organisations in Asia and Eastern Europe, put more emphasis on intuition and creativity and also place greater value on coaching than leaders who are “traditionalists.”…

Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Blues proposes the need for much flatter organisations with a higher interest and value given to frontline workers and a much more integrated, involved, inquiring, delegated and inspiring style of leadership to counter the severely depressed levels of staff engagement in most organisations…

As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.

The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement cites recent research studies that show that while 70% of staff currently feel less than engaged in work, just a 1% increase in employee engagement can yield $100,000 increase in revenue.  In another study less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback.  The author’s study discovered that 43% of employees claimed they knew what their company’s goals were but were unable to name any specifically, and concludes…

It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.

Practice Makes Perfect, Especially With Your Organisational Values draws from The 31 Practices technique of actively practicing one of your core values each week to establish, incrementally and over time, an environment of striving to achieve the best and an expectation that this will be achieved, and how people can receive good quality feedback in a relatively “safe” environment so that they can continually learn and improve…

In most organisations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organisations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.

Four Ways Sadness May Be Good for You, while accepting without question the power and importance of happiness and positivity in our work and lives, points out the benefits and importance that sadness has to play too.  Sadness is not necessarily the opposite of happiness, but a right-brain imaginative part of our thinking that can feed richly into our creativity and our drive to change the world for the better…

Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

And for a glimpse into the already-here future, The High-Tech Headband That Can Make Your Stressed Brain Happy Again is an interview with neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist Ariel Garten, the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. This technology, which brings closer together the magic of art, science, learning, technology and mindfulness, aims to help us address the stress that comes from our obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’, that when compounded by financial woes and health concerns put us in a constant state of fight or flight, causing us to be more reactionary and further perpetuating the cycle of stress….

I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way — not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.
Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet.  Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.
And, before all of these from our BridgeBuilders Guide to Happiness At Work here are the principles we believe are most important to understand and learn to adopt to increase our own and each other’s happiness at work:
1st Principle of Happiness At Work:

• Developing our own happiness will bring us greater success than trying to be more successful will ever increase our sense of happiness.  Read More …

2nd Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We all know how happy we are (or are not).  Read More …

3rd Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happiness can be learned.  Read More …

4th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happiness relies upon a good level of self-understanding.  Read More …

5th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happy relationships are absolutely critical to our happiness.  Read More …

6th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Our happiness depends much more upon how we think about our work than it does on how our work actually is.  Read More …

7th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We can increase our happiness at work by developing expertise in specific skills, especially

~ Appreciative Inquiry (knowing how to play to our strengths) ~
~ Creativity ~
~ Extraversion and Introspection ~
~ Listening ~
~ Self-Mastery ~
~ Leadership Skills ~
~ Team Working ~
~ Resilience ~

8th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We find what we go looking for.  Read More …

9th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• There is no one right way to happiness. Different things will work for different people at different times. And Happiness At Work, just like learning, is more a continuous ongoing practice of increasing mastery rather than an end or finishing point.  Read More …

 

trapeze artists fully-committed

Mindfulness, purpose and the quest for productive employees

In the first article of a new series on workplace culture, Amy Westervelt writes in the The Guardian about a growing number of businesses are learning that employee satisfaction and employee productivity go hand in hand

Over the last few years, there has been a marked increase in the number of companies touting their happy workplaces – and in the number of consultants promising to make any workplace more palatable. A handful of business schools have begun integrating positive psychology into their curricula, using the discipline to teach students how to create a happy workplace – or a positive business. As interest in the field has grown, so have its names: its strategies are known, variously, as “positive business”, “employee happiness”, “workplace happiness”, “employee wellbeing” and “employee engagement”.

Last month, the first Positive Business Conference took place at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The gathering featured speakers from Procter & Gamble, Humana, and McKinsey, who discussed their experiences with the rollout of positive business strategies.

One of the first companies to measure – and engineer – the contributors to employee satisfaction was, of course, Google. In its attempts to create the world’s happiest workplace, the company staffed its HR department with sociologists. They experimented with employee interactions, offering workers free lunch to encourage them to stay on-site, and then organizing the cafeteria in such a way that employees stand in line just long enough to have an interaction with each other, but not long enough to get annoyed by the wait.

In addition to Google’s various lauded – and often lampooned – perks, which include everything from on-site massage therapists to a fleet of bikes for employees to use at will, the tech company routinely offers employees workshops in skills to boost their wellbeing and productivity, ranging from yoga to the popular “search inside yourself” class (now also a book), which teaches mindfulness.

A growing – and diverging – discipline

Google may have blazed the trail when it comes to employee satisfaction, but it has been joined by legions of tech companies in the last year, particularly in Silicon Valley and the UK, which currently find themselves in the middle of another dot-com style talent war.

“In tight labor markets like California, you really do have to be good at this to retain talent,” says Jane Dutton, PhD, professor of business administration and psychology at University of Michigan. “It was more trendy before and I think it’s now real economic imperatives, but there are multiple imperatives, it’s not just about retention and the attraction of talent.”

Within the positive organizational universe, the experts tend to divide into two camps: those who feel that employee happiness hinges largely on a sense of purpose, and those who feel that relationships are the secret sauce. Dutton falls into the latter camp. “Having positive relationships at work is seen as a major predictor of employee engagement, and that’s a major driver of customer engagement,” she says.

When it comes to cultivating health and well-being among workers, Dutton says that the most important consideration is community. “Meaning or purpose is part of it, but I would bet on positive relationships,” she explains. “Evidence on the almost instantaneous effect of positive human connections on people’s bodies convinces me that if I had to choose whether my workplace had purpose or positive connections, I’d bet on connections.”

However, Dutton notes, human connections and workplace purpose are interconnected. “If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing,” she explains. “And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”

Leading the charge for Team Purpose is Aaron Hurst, CEO of consulting firmImperative. …Hurst’s company has quickly become the go-to firm for startups wanting to move beyond perks and create happy workplaces where employees will want to stick around for a while. It has worked with Twitter, eLance, and Etsy in the last few year, and Hurst brings to the table his experience consulting with LinkedIn, where he helped to launch the website’s “board” and “pro-bono” functions.

“I’ve seen it over and over, what people want from their careers are things that help them boost purpose in their lives,” Hurst says.

While Imperative provides quantitative surveys and reports of employee happiness as part of its offering to employers, it also makes a point to include more qualitative elements. “Data only matters in context,” says Fullenwider. “The way I see it, the value of data is that it’s a language that can help you speak to the unconvinced to get that initial buy-in on why this stuff matters. After that, it’s a lot of good old-fashioned insight, talking to people, slowly moving the needle – really digging in and working on creating a healthy workplace.”

Imperative bases its quantitative work on the research of Dr. Martin Seligman, head of the positive psychology department at the University of Pennsylvania. Working for the US military, Seligman developed a measurement tool that tests emotional and psychological wellbeing. He and his staff recently simplified it to an 18-question survey called the PERMA scale (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, Accomplishment).

The quantified self, qualified

Matt Stinchcomb, vice president of Values and Impact at Etsy, says that the PERMA scores were really useful when he was first starting to work with Imperative. “I’m fortunate enough to work at a company where I don’t have to convince the CEO, but having it science-based makes it much more convincing to the data-driven folks in our company,” he says. “And being able to go into the board meeting and present numbers around this sends a signal that this is something we are taking seriously.”

This data clarified a large number of questions, such as which Etsy offices tended to be happier, and whether employees with male or female managers reported different happiness scores. And many of these lessons impacted the company’s policies. For example, Stinchcomb says, “We saw that people who were more active as volunteers had higher wellbeing scores, so we launched a program to give people 40 hours a year to volunteer, which they could either spread out over the year or take all in one week.”

Ultimately, Stinchcomb says, Etsy learned that one snapshot of how the company’s employees felt in a given week was not going to amount to meaningful change. “I realized we needed more of a continual read on employees, but without constantly pestering them with a survey, so we started to look at all the other signals that would indicate employee wellbeing: participation in things, for example, or something as simple as employee feedback,” he says.

“We needed to find the middle ground between heart and data,” Stinchcomb explains. “Maybe it’s enough that we’re looking into this at all, that we care enough about our employees’ wellbeing to want to improve it. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘hey, be nice and respect each other.’ Rather than worrying about what wellbeing is and how much wellbeing exactly, let’s just do the stuff we already know makes people feel good and then just measure stuff like retention rates that we already have.”

Arts & Ideas: Free Thinking – Arianna Huffington & Richard Hytner – 29 Apr 14

Arianna Huffington talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric. Richard Hytner and Kerrie Fleming look at stress in business and the nature of leadership. Zia Haider Rahman on his debut novel In the Light of What We Know which contains elements of his own Bangladeshi background, a scholarship to Oxford and time spent as an investment banker on Wall Street. Plus Anne pays tribute to the late Maya Angelou’s influence and humour.

Link to listen to this BBC Radio 4 podcast

time keeping

Gallup: The 10 Qualities of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Wondering if you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur? New research from Gallup offers a window into what separates those who launch and grow successful companies from less successful peers.

Gallup studied more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to arrive at a short list of the 10 qualities of highly successful entrepreneurs. They will be discussed in a book by Gallup chairman Jim Clifton and consultant Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal called Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder, scheduled for release in September 2014.

1. Business Focus: They base decisions on the potential to turn a profit.

2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others.

3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing product or idea into something even better.

4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all.

5. Determination: They battle their way through difficult obstacles.

6. Independent: They will do whatever it takes to succeed in the business.

7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing.

8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business.

9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth.

10. Risk-Taker: They have good instincts when it comes to managing high-risk situations.

What if you are weak in some of these areas? Can you still make it as an entrepreneur?

Citing research showing that entrepreneurship is between 37% and 48% genetic, Gallup’s conclusion is that entrepreneurs with a natural gift for things like opportunity spotting will find it easiest to succeed but that others can compensate somewhat for a lack of inborn talent through efforts like working with coaches and getting technical assistance. And, of course, factors like skills and experience also play a role in entrepreneurial success.

Link to read the original Forbes article

stick-figures-working-300

The Three Human Capital Management Concerns Keeping U.S. CEOs Up At Night

by Bhushan Sethi

After surveying 1,344 CEOs in 68 countries, we found that 70% of US CEOs are concerned about the skills gap. And 86% say technology advances are going to transform their businesses within the next five years. So the relationship between talent quality and financial success isn’t just causal. It’s completely consequential.

1.     Transformation requires trust – Departmental changes are nothing new, and most employees will go along to get along when the degree of change is small and the rate is slow. Bigger changes require more. Employees need to trust their leaders when the leaders ask them to take a leap of faith. This is going to be harder to do than it used to be. Five years after the financial crisis, just 32% of US CEOs say the level of trust with employees has improved. Being transparent about where the company is going and what it takes to be successful is an approach managers will have to embrace to regain that trust.

2.     The people you have now are the people you’ll have later – In the past, large-scale change could be achieved by replacing people.

But the skills gap that comes with the level of changes now happening is just too big for managers to fire and rehire their way out of the problem. To cope with this degree of change, training for tomorrow must become as important as revenue today.

The leader’s role here is to point towards a common goal, motivating people to learn from each other so that they can achieve this new opportunity. The skills gap, in other words, is very much a leadership gap.

3.     The meaning of a diploma – As much as we bemoan the paucity of skills training in higher education, it’s not possible for schools to be close enough to industry to have a perfect match between training and needs. The good news is that industry can do more. A number of companies are offering MBA programs at night inside their own buildings. Others are working hand-in-glove with community colleges to train operators for their plants. There are even instances where companies have approached high schools to encourage shop classes so that people will develop welding and pipefitting skills. There are no limits to the practical, if inventive, ways companies can develop the talent they need.

Looking at these problems and their solutions, it becomes clear that the secret to closing the skills gap isn’t closing the skills gap – it’s seizing the leader’s mantle.  That’s not a title or a position, but a role of pointing to the valley, telling the people about the danger ahead and then inspiring the changes necessary to survive and prosper.

How prepared are you for this challenge? To answer that question, simply ask yourself another question: How invested are you in your people’s skills?

Link to read the original article

working together

Asian Leaders Value Creativity and Intuition More than Europeans Do

Do leadership styles differ around the world? This is one of the questions explored by our recent International Business Report. We asked 3,400 business leaders working in 45 economies to tell us how important they believe certain attributes are to good leadership.

Patterns in their responses point to some intriguing cultural differences. While the top traits – integrity, communication, and a positive attitude – are almost universally agreed upon by respondents (and confidence and the ability to inspire also rank high globally) not everyone is aligned on the importance of two other traits: creativity and intuition.

Nine in ten ASEAN leaders believe creativity is important, compared with just 57% in the EU; while 85% of ASEAN leaders think intuition is important, compared to only 54% in the EU. More generally, we find greater proportions of respondents in emerging markets falling into the leadership camp we would call “modernist.” They put more emphasis on intuition and creativity and also place greater value on coaching than leaders who are “traditionalists.”

This is an intriguing discovery, but it immediately raises a follow-on question. It’s conceivable that our survey captured a gap that still exists for now but is shrinking, as globalization brings a certain sameness to businesses around the world. Will we see a steady convergence in leadership – and toward the Western style – as developing economies mature?

Many believe so…

I’m not so sure. Given the superior growth rates of their economies, it might be that leaders in emerging markets are gaining the confidence to stick with the management approaches that have apparently been working for them – or that they have the agility to adapt to whatever techniques and tone prove best suited to their fast-evolving local markets.

And here is the really big factor in play as leadership styles continue to evolve: Women still have far to come as business leaders. Today, just 24% of senior business roles around the world are held by women, but the proportion of female CEOs is on the rise. Awareness is growing that diversity, of all sorts and in any walk of life, leads to better decisions and outcomes. There is now a wealth of empirical evidence proving that greater gender diversity correlates with higher sales, growth, return on invested capital, and return on equity. One recent study from China even finds that having more women on company boards reduces the incidence of fraud. Meanwhile, uniformity of background often yields uniformity of opinion and worse decisions. The pressure is on to make boardrooms and management ranks less “male and pale.”

It has often been claimed that a key way in which business women differ from business men is in their leadership styles. For example, research shows that women leaders, on average, are more democratic and participative than their male counterparts. Studies have also shown that, as investors, women are more risk-averse and, at the household level, tend to invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.

Looking across the global landscape today, we find women more prevalent in the upper echelons of companies in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Perhaps it is not just coincidence that where we see more women leading, our survey finds more openness to using creativity and intuition – and also a higher value placed on the ability to delegate. In any case, these parts of the world, with their higher proportions of women in leadership, have a fair claim to be arriving sooner at the well-blended leadership style of the future.

Decision-making based on analytics is all the rage now, and certainly represents progress in many areas where managerial decisions have been made in the past on “gut feel.” But there are still many decisions in business that, either because they relate to future possibilities or because they involve trade-offs of competing values, can’t be reduced to data and calculations. One could argue that those are the very decisions – the ones requiring creativity and intuition – where leadership is most called for and tested.

In a fast-moving, digitally-powered world, creativity and intuition could be the difference between gaining ground as an innovator and getting left behind.

rat racing across the wheels of work

Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Blues

by Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School

The New York Times ran a troubling story, “Why You Hate Work,” in last week’s “Sunday Review.” The article indicated that employees work too hard and find little meaning from their work. The anecdotes we all hear about this topic are reinforced by the Gallup Poll, which shows that only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work.

The issues raised are ones I have worked on for many years. With the drive for higher productivity in the workplace, there is little doubt that people are putting in longer hours than they did two or three decades ago. In part, this drive comes from never-ending, short-term pressures of the stock market. An even greater factor is the global nature of competition today, which pits American organizations directly against counterparts in Asia, where work days are long and onerous.

The much greater issue raised, however, is that many workers do not find meaning in their work. A shockingly low 25 percent of employees feel connection to their company’s mission. (Contrast that to the 84 percent of Medtronic employees who feel aligned with the company’s mission.) In my experience, if employees don’t feel a genuine passion for their work and believe that it makes a difference, engagement drops off dramatically. When engagement falls, so does productivity.

Message not being heard

Many senior executives have been focused on building mission-driven organizations for the last decade. The CEOs I know are fully committed to getting everyone focused on mission through regular engagement with employees—much more so than CEOs in my generation. So if CEOs are focused on the mission, why aren’t these messages getting through to employees?

“Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire”I believe the answer lies in the highly bureaucratic, multilayered organizations that companies are using to execute their plans. There is so much pressure to realize short-term results that middle managers are consumed by making this month’s numbers rather than building teams that focus on achieving their company’s mission. Innovating under intense operational pressure is nearly impossible.

In addition, the heavy burden of compliance with government regulations and internal corporate requirements is taking a toll on people, limiting their creativity, and causing them to be risk-averse. In this environment, desired qualities like empowerment, engagement, and innovation are subordinated to control aspects. No wonder people aren’t engaged and having fun!

Finally, we have lost sight of the importance of first-line employees—the people actually doing the work—and have given all the power to middle management. We have driven down compensation for first-line employees, increased their hours, and taken away their freedom to act with myriad control mechanisms. When it comes to layoffs, it is the first-line people who get laid off, not the middle managers, as senior leaders protect the people closest to themselves.

What’s the solution to this dilemma? I believe we need to restructure large organizations by giving much more responsibility and authority to first-line workers and paying them accordingly—with appropriate performance incentives. We need to trust employees, not control them, by empowering them to carry out the company’s mission on behalf of customers. They should be given full responsibility for performance, quality, achievement of goals, and compliance with company standards.

To realize this change, organizational structures need to change. Dramatically. For starters, companies have far too many layers of managers. The best way to address this is to widen the span of control for everyone between the CEO and first-line employees. Instead of six to 12 direct reports, all managers should have 15 to 20 people reporting to them. For many managers, this violates traditional management principles, but it also dramatically reduces the number of layers between the CEO and first-line staff. I know many extremely effective executives, including Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy and Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak, who have more than 18 direct reports and handle the load extremely well. It just requires ensuring that all your direct reports are competent to do their roles and that you use a superb system of delegation, so that you’re not over-managing subordinates.

Required: leaders who inspire

Next, the role of middle management requires fundamental changes. Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire in these roles. They should work alongside their employees, doing more than their fair share of the most challenging aspects of the work. Their leadership role is to champion the company’s mission and values, and to challenge others to meet higher standards on behalf of their customers. It is the job of these leaders to facilitate the work of the people they lead by making their jobs easier, and removing bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles. Middle managers who cannot make this shift may have to move on to new roles elsewhere. All of these actions make these leaders more like partners and coaches than bosses and controllers in the traditional sense.

Finally, the most senior executives in the organization should be engaged every day with the first-line: working with them in the marketplace and in customer meetings; roaming around the labs, quizzing innovators, scientists and engineers about their latest ideas; visiting production facilities and service centers to check on quality and customer support. That means far less time holding lengthy business reviews in their conference rooms or having 1:1 meetings in their offices. Executives who are fully engaged with first-line employees every day will have a much better sense of how their businesses are running, and their presence will be highly motivating and even inspiring.

As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.

Link to read the original Harvard Business School article

change curve

The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement

by Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany

It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.

While you want to believe your team is working towards your company goals, the truth is they might just be working in the dark. A recent Gallup poll has discovered 70 percent of workers are feeling a little less than engaged on the job.

Why are employees checking out? Likely because they can’t see how their daily efforts contribute to your company’s strategic goals. While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organization as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.

While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organisation as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.

In fact, most of them can’t even name your company goals. In the “How Leaders Grow Today” survey by ClearCompany and Dale Carnegie, 43 percent of employees claimed to be familiar with company goals, yet couldn’t list any specifically. Your team needs more than the Cliff Notes version of how their contributions add value to the organization if you want a happy, engaged, and productive workforce.

Your company needs to turn on some lights, so employees can see how their efforts make a difference. Here are a couple tips to light the way towards alignment:

Improve Transparency

Transparency is the lightswitch you need to get your team moving together in the right direction. A survey by Fierce, Inc. asked 800 responders what practices were currently holding their company back. Nearly half of all respondents identified a lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as problem areas keeping their organizations from thriving.

Helping employees “see” company-wide goals with easy visualization can ensure your best people are clued in and engaged, without constantly barraging employees with company messaging. With high levels of transparency, your team never has to wonder how their work contributes to overall company goals or how they add individual value. So it should come as little surprise the most effective communicators use more metricswhile explaining goals, the same way talent alignment systems provide real-time tracking so employees can see their value.

Organizations which share information and encourage participation also have greater levels of employee trust. Employee trust is an important component when it comes to engagement and morale, which in turn both have huge impact on a company’s bottom line.

Just how much can employee engagement affect a company’s profits? Best Buy wanted to find the answer, so they tracked the influence of employee engagement at a specific store. What they found was an increase of only .1 percent had a substantial impact. At the store in question, this tiny uptick in engagement equaled more than $100,000 additional funds in the store’s annual operating budget.

Make Real-Time Adjustments

Sometimes in business you need to make a big pivot to be successful. This is why the ability to make real-time adjustments is so important. Unfortunately, less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback.

The ability to pivot has been instrumental in the successes of multiple businesses, including Twitter. The 140 character microblogging service started life as Odeo, a podcasting platform. In 2005, Odeo got some bad news when Apple officially moved into the podcasting arena. Without a clear backup plan, the 14 member team at Odeo began working full-time on a pivot, including hosting “hackathons” where members worked on concepts. One such concept was a status update platform, which eventually became the massively popular Twitter.

Without real-time tracking, it’s tough to see what your best people are working on and working towards. Employees feel like they can’t provide feedback and executives don’t understand how to motivate teams to do their best work. By tracking progress in real-time, you can make adjustments and stop small problems from snowballing into huge challenges.

You can also better play to the strengths of your best employees if you can see where they excel in their workflow and where they’re falling short. After all, an article in Human Capital Review by Robert Biswas-Diener and Nicky Garcea explains how highly engaged employees report using their strengths 70 percent of the time in their day-to-day work. According to this report, by taking a strengths-based approach to managing your employees you can expect at least a 36 percent increase in performance.

Playing to the strengths of your team means higher engagement and productivity. Real-time adjustments also mean you can stop goal deterioration and work cascading in the wrong direction. Since you can see your team’s work, you can keep everyone focused on your company goals. From the employee perspective, tracking their own progress means they can take ownership of work while still being able to see how their contributions align with overall corporate strategy.

by leadership coach Alan Williams

The more I practice, the luckier I get.” — golf legend Gary Player

Practice is about applying an idea, belief or method rather than the theories related to it. Practice is also about repeatedly performing an activity to become skilled in it.

The value and benefit of practice is taken for granted for performers at the highest level in fields such as sport, music, and art.

Can you imagine teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Toronto Maple Leafs in ice hockey, Dallas Cowboys in American Football, Manchester United in soccer just turning up on match day? In the arts, would the cast of Cirque du Soleil or the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet just turn up on the day of the performance? Even the Rolling Stones practice!

Practice and reflection: The missing links

From the sporting world we see that anyone who wants to learn and improve needs to commit time and effort to practise, to notice what works and doesn’t, to keep training until a routine is improved, perfected.

How does this translate to organizations?

Training exists of course – focused on new recruits or “teaching” new skills and technical knowledge that may be required. Skilled execution is highly valued.

But, in most organizations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organizations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.

What does practice do for you? 

Practice enables you to broaden your repertoire, to deepen your knowledge, insight and capability. The brain, once thought to be a “fixed” entity, is malleable. Purposeful practice builds new neural pathways and constant repetition deepens those connections, making that new option a readily available choice.

The result of all this practice?

The seemingly super-sharp reaction time of various ball sports is an illusion. In standard reaction time tests, there is no difference between, say, a leading tennis player compared to other players. BUT, the player is able to detect minute signals which, from years of practice, has led them to read the direction of the serve before the ball has even been played.

It’s this practice that has created unconscious patterns and distinctions that the player responds to equally unconsciously – resulting in the seemingly super-sharp responses.

The power of purposeful practice

Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian ice hockey player, has been described as the greatest ice hockey player ever. His talent captures this attention to the context of a game rather than focusing on distinct actions alone.

Gretzky’s gift…is for seeing…amid the mayhem, Gretzky can discern the game’s underlying pattern and flow, and anticipate what’s going to happen faster and in more detail than anyone else.”

Purposeful practice is the primary contributing factor (above natural talent) to excellence in sport and life. To be a truly practised at a skill or habit, hours of sustained practice are required – estimated at 10,000 hours. The focus and attention to the practice and learning from that practice is fundamental.

At this level of competence, you have developed what is described as reflection-in-action, where you are critically aware of what you are doing – judging each moment for its suitability against an inner set of criteria – at the same time that you are actually doing the activity. One of the reasons Brazil is so successful at soccer is because most of the footballers played futsal. The smaller, heavier ball demands greater precision and encourages more frequent passing.

Failure comes with the territory

Paradoxically, failure is a key part of success because it is an opportunity to learn. Shizuka Arakawa, one of Japan’s greatest ice skaters, reports falling over more than 20,000 times in her progression to become the 2006 Olympic champion.

Practicing any skill is a full mind, heart and body event. As you build new physical skills, you’re laying down and deepening neural pathways. As you develop competence and strength in a particular skill, you’re building up the positive emotions associated with execution.

Practice in something can lead to belief in your ability to do it. This principle is one that informs coaches and practitioners working in the area of somatics and embodiment.

How can organizations create the culture and space for practice in order to grow and learn? Individual practice at work is a systemic question – it’s about the prevailing culture, skills and process – as well as individual focus and motivation.

Specifically, how can you establish an environment of striving to achieve the best and an expectation that this will be achieved? To what extent do people receive good quality feedback in a relatively “safe” environment so that they can learn and improve?

Everybody then benefits from the virtuous circle of being with others who are excellent at what they do. This “multiplier” effect impacts across groups and communities.

The 31 Practices approach

31Practices is an approach to putting values into practice every day. To become part of the fabric and the way of being (rather than just words in a glossy document), the values have to be practiced each day, by everybody in the organization.

For example, an organization may have the core value “relationships,” and a Practice to bring this value to life, “We invest time with stakeholders to build long-lasting relationships.” On the day of this particular Practice, all employees are therefore very mindful and consciously looking for opportunities to build strong relationships with colleagues, customers, suppliers, communities. The impact?  Let’s consider this:

Today, instead of sending an email update, I took the time to call the project sponsor and ask her what she was noticing. I learned that a key team member was in the process of resigning and this information enabled me to prepare a shift in resource. The call took five minutes; it would have taken me longer to compose the email. I felt great.”

Over the course of one month, you live each of the organization’s values through a number of different Practices. Initially, like anything new, you may feel uncertain, but over time, the Practices are repeated, becoming habitual. You will find that you start adopting the Practices more generally, not just the one that day.

This works across small and large groups. Marriott’s Daily Basics program was based on the same principle and operated across 3,000 hotels globally.

The key point is that, just as with sport or other activities, hours of purposeful practice of behaviours and attitudes that are explicitly linked to living core values will result in a strong values-based culture.

sad-face
Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

Being sad from time to time serves some kind of purpose in helping our species to survive. Yet, while other so-called “negative emotions,” like fear, anger, and disgust, seem clearly adaptive—preparing our species for flight, fight, or avoidance, respectively—the evolutionary benefits of sadness have been harder to understand…until recently, that is.

With the advent of fMRI imaging and the proliferation of brain research, scientists have begun to find out more about how sadness works in the brain and influences our thoughts and behavior. Though happiness is still desirable in many situations, there are others in which a mild sad mood confers important advantages.

Findings from my own research suggest that sadness can help people improve attention to external details, reduce judgmental bias, increase perseverance, and promote generosity. All of these findings build a case that sadness has some adaptive functions, and so should be accepted as an important component of our emotional repertoire.

Here are some of the ways sadness can be a beneficial emotion.

1. Sadness can improve your memory.

Our research finds that happiness can produce less focused and attentive processing and so increases the chances of misleading information being incorporated into memory, while a negative mood improves attention to detail and results in better memory.

2. Sadness can improve judgment.

Sad moods reduce common judgmental biases, such as “the fundamental attribution error,” in which people attribute intentionality to others’ behavior while ignoring situational factors, and the “halo effect,” where judges tend to assume a person having some positive feature—such as a handsome face—is likely to have others, such as kindness or intelligence. Negative moods can also reduce another judgmental bias, primacy effects—when people place too much emphasis on early information and ignore later details.

So negative mood can improve the accuracy of impression formation judgments, by promoting a more detailed and attentive thinking style.

3. Sadness can increase your motivation.

When we feel happy, we naturally want to maintain that happy feeling. Happiness signals to us that we are in a safe, familiar situation, and that little effort is needed to change anything. Sadness, on the other hand, operates like a mild alarm signal, triggering more effort and motivation to deal with a challenge in our environment.

Thus, people who are happier will sometimes be less motivated to push themselves toward action compared to someone in a negative mood, who will be more motivated to exert effort to change their unpleasant state.

A sad mood can increase and happy mood can reduce perseverance with difficult tasks, possibly because people are less motivated to exert effort when they already experience a positive mood. Sad mood in turn may increase perseverance as people see greater potential benefits of making an effort.

4. Sadness can improve interactions, in some cases.

In general, happiness increases positive interactions between people. Happy people are more poised, assertive, and skillful communicators; they smile more, and they are generally perceived as more likable than sad people.

However, in situations where a more cautious, less assertive and more attentive communication style may be called for, a sad mood may help.

Why would this be? In uncertain and unpredictable interpersonal situations, people need to pay greater attention to the requirements of the situation to formulate the most appropriate communication strategy. They must be able to read the cues of the situation and respond accordingly. Sad people are more focused on external cues and will not rely solely on their first impressions, which happy people are more inclined to trust.

Sadness is not depression

The benefits of sadness have their limits, of course. Depression—a mood disorder defined, at least in part, by prolonged and intense periods of sadness—can be debilitating. And no one is suggesting that we should try to induce sadness as a way of combating memory decline, for example. Research does not bear out the benefits of doing this.

But my research does suggest that mild, temporary states of sadness may actually be beneficial in handling various aspects of our lives. Perhaps that is why, even though feeling sad can be hard, many of the greatest achievements of Western art, music, and literature explore the landscape of sadness. In everyday life, too, people often seek ways to experience sadness, at least from time to time—by listening to sad songs, watching sad movies, or reading sad books.

Evolutionary theory suggests that we should embrace all of our emotions, as each has an important role to play under the right circumstances. So, though you may seek ways to increase happiness, don’t haphazardly push away your sadness. No doubt, it’s there for good reason.

happy face

Muse is wearable technology, but it doesn’t create mind-blowing experiences. Just the opposite. Muse is a brain sensing headband that measures how overwhelmed your brain is from everything life throws at it — and it helps calm your mind and rid yourself of unproductive and unhealthy stress. This is just the beginning of what Muse can do. In the future, using this technology, you’ll be able to customize and control your home environment based on your brain state, turning sci-fi into reality.

Ariel Garten is the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. She’s a neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist. She’s closing the gap between science, art, technology and business.

I started working with brain sensing tech in labs over a decade ago and was immediately fascinated by the potential to help people peer into the workings and behaviors of their own minds. It didn’t seem right that these incredible tools weren’t available to the general public, and I really wanted to use my background in neuroscience and psychotherapy to help others. Together with my business partners, we decided to make it happen.

Muse is going to be part of every day life as an indispensable tool helping people overcome mental, physical and emotional barriers. It’s going to allow us to free ourselves in ways we never thought possible.

How does it work? Muse has sensors to detect and measure the activity of your brain, similar to the way a heart monitor measures your pulse. The sensory input is translated into real-time feedback on your tablet or smart phone via Bluetooth. You can see if your brain is stressed or calm, and with scientifically proven exercises, you can bring your brain back to that healthy state of calm, training your brain. I think one of the best parts is that this exercise only takes three minutes a day (if only this could happen at the gym).

What will Muse fix in the world? My interview with Ariel, one of the brains behind the headband:

What do you think is one of the most important things in the world that needs to be fixed?

Unproductive stress! Between 70-90% of doctor’s visits are stress related illnesses (source: The American Institute of Stress). With rising costs of health care and the number of people with limited access to it, if we could help people reduce their stress imagine the impact on their wellbeing — financial, physical, mental or emotional.

Arianna Huffington speaks very candidly about this. After collapsing from overworked exhaustion a few years ago, she has since become a dedicated advocate of moving away from the popular two-track focus on money and power. She talks about prioritizing life: wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving. Ultimately it all points towards a more balanced and less stress-controlled life.

Obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’ can be harmful enough, but compound that stress with relationships, family, financial woes and health concerns and you find yourself in a constant state of fight or flight. This causes people to be more reactionary which further perpetuates the cycle of stress.

I want to help give people the ability to stop and take just a few minutes a day to regroup and refocus; to give them a chance to get perspective on the things that matter and the things that don’t. Being able to train your mind to do this isn’t as hard or time consuming as people think. It’s about committing to it just like an exercise routine or healthier eating habits. A healthy mind is just as important.

A statistic from Harvard states that we spend 46.9% of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing. This absence from the present moment also causes unproductive stress.

What will the world look like when it’s fixed?

The world will look a lot healthier when this is fixed. People will discover ways to be more productive and creative, and thus feel a greater degree of satisfaction.  Their professional and personal relationships will improve because stress will be less of a barrier to listening, communicating and cooperating with others. Personal motivation will be higher because the negativity of stress will be less of a factor in their daily lives. All of this adds up to a greater sense of wellbeing; dare I say “happiness.”

What are you doing to help fix it?

I’m tackling the fix in a couple ways. The first is developing and launching this new product, Muse: the brain sensing headband, that combines my passion for neuroscience with my desire to help as many people as possible. I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way—not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.

Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet.  Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.

The second way I’m helping fix it is as a therapist.  From as far back as I can recall I’ve always felt compelled to make people feel better. Being a therapist gives me the opportunity to do that one-on-one. There are so many people suffering from stress and negative thoughts, and I’ve seen it lead to harmful actions and feelings. I’ve had the opportunity to help people identify root causes of stress and destructive thinking to help them heal.  With Muse, I’m able to share that on a much larger scale.

What can others do to help fix it?

In the work environment, people can look to encouraging healthier working habits and environments. So much productivity is lost due to employee stress that manifests itself in various ways. The healthiest work environments are transparent and open, and where communication and collaboration foster creativity. Leaders need to be open to change and geared towards fostering more happiness in the workplace. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a good example. I’d say InteraXon is another, and we model ourselves on the other good examples out there. And we all Muse.

As individuals, seek small adjustments to lifestyle habits. If we can be open minded to new suggestions and tools and new ways to approach problems, we can become less fixed. This opens us up to new ideas and possibilities.

What is a mistake you’ve made that you learned from and others can also learn from it?

When we began creating this technology, I was a little naive and somewhat idealistic. I didn’t realize how many barriers we’d come to face. We’re essentially cutting the path in a field that is still unfamiliar to many people and we’re building a technology that will change the world – not a short order. I’ve been a lifelong optimist and so I have a hard time imagining blocks to success – but there were a few, namely in manufacturing and finance. A lot of ups and downs I never even considered. But the manifestation of InteraXon’s vision is now a tangible product now and that makes the challenges worthwhile.

While a good degree of optimism is absolutely necessary to keep a team inspired, grounded optimism is an even greater asset when working to bring a vision to life.

Beyond looking into our brains today, what will Muse mean for the future?

Muse will continue to further self-understanding, whether it be through helping people be happier by reducing their stress or helping them up their golf game as they become more able to concentrate on what is important to them. In the future, Muse will enable people to do things like customization and control of their home environment based on their brain state – for instance, adjusting the lighting and music to match your mood. Really, the possibilities are vast and we’re just at the beginning of exploring the potential of this technology.

Happiness At Work edition #98

All of these articles are included in this week’s new collection.
I hope you find much here to enjoy, use and prosper from.
happy face sad face happiness is a choice