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

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

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

photo credit: leezie5 via photopin cc

Happiness: the next big business metric?

Kristine A. Wong writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the original article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Guardian article

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

An Evening With Daniel Goleman

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

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

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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

Can A Girl Change The World?

by 

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

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

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

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Link to read the original article

The New Economics of Enough

BY: DAN O’NEILL & ROB DIETZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

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photo credit: delitefulimage via photopin cc

Less Technology, More Happiness?

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

1. Pay full attention to what you’re doing

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

2. Ask yourself “what matters most?”

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

3. Give face-to-face priority over virtual

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

The Key To Happiness At Work? Change Your Perception

 writes…

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

The economic case for investment in ecotherapy

GAVIN ATKINS writes in the nef blog:

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

photo credit: Keoni Cabral via photopin cc

Where’s Your Inner HERO? Positivity at Work

by 

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

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

Finding Your Workplace “HERO”

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

What are HERO resources?

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

Link to read the original article 

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

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

How to Focus a Wandering Mind

By Wendy Hasenkamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: pshutterbug via photopin cc

photo credit: pshutterbug via photopin cc

Why a richer society isn’t making us happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

photo credit: Iguana Jo via photopin cc

What is a ‘mentally healthy workplace’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

photo credit: UrvishJ via photopin cc

Child’s Play (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

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

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

Play is the highest form of research.  – Albert Einstein

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

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

Link to view this photo collection

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

photo credit: kooklanekookla via photopin cc

21 Reasons To Quit Your Job And Become A Teacher

 writes

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

Here are some of these reasons:

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

photo credit: Bistrosavage via photopin cc

Shyam Sankar: The rise of human-computer cooperation

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

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

photo credit: vernhart via photopin cc

Matt Locke:  Empires of Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the full transcript o this presentation

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article 

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Can kindness movements make a difference?

By Sam Judah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

photo credit: vramak via photopin cc

What Are Charities For?

BBC Radio 4 Analysis, Monday 14th October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to hear this and other Radio 4 Analysis programmes

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

photo credit: Sol S. via photopin cc

Short on Time? Try Mindfulness

By Emily Nauman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #69

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

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

photo credit: Mooganic via photopin cc

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Happiness At Work #67 ~ the art and practice of patient nurture

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.  
– Hal Borland

This week’s Happiness At Work theme is inspired by Steve McCurry’s beautiful photo portrait of trees in his blog collection

Sentinels and Sanctuaries (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection shows us in our relationships with trees and in these heart-lifting images, illuminates the timeless wisdom we associate with these majestic cohabitants of our planet.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a
claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
–  Robert Louis Stevenson

Follow this link to see Steve McCurry’s Sentinels and Sanctuaries and to enjoy a certain lift to your day

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

Following on from these thoughts, here are some of the articles from this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #67 that draw on ideas of nurture, cultivation, slowness, patience, subtlety and longevity.

We’ve Gotten The Pursuit Of Happiness All Wrong, Until Now

Aside from basic survival, the pursuit of happiness is arguably one of the most fundamental concerns of every human being on the planet (not to mention a driving force behind the $10 billion-a-year self-help industry). But according to Cornell cognitive psychologist Shimon Edelman, author of The Happiness Of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About The Good Life,, we’ve been going about it backwards…

According to Edelman, understanding the workings of our own minds can help us to comprehend not only the nature of happiness but, perhaps eventually, how to optimize the brain for well-being. Recent developments in cognitive science have shed light on how positive emotional states (including pleasure, happiness, and euphoria) occur in the brain — and why we’re hardwired for happiness.

“In the past 10 years, neuroscience has witnessed a revolution. We used to treat the brain as a black box into which very limited glimpses were available, but we are starting to comprehend the basic principles within which the whole thing operates,” says Edelman, explaining that these simple principles are accessible to anyone who’s interested in getting to know his or her own mind…

Part of the reason we’re always seeking happiness is that it’s so fleeting in nature. As Edelman explains, “[Happiness] seemed difficult to grasp and hold onto… One has this compelling need to go on.”

This “need to go on” — to continue the pursuit — is one of the brain’s evolutionary advantages. “A species that rests on its laurels wouldn’t be doing that for very long,” he says.

But not all happiness is gone at a moment’s notice: eudaimonic happiness, which has to do with the way we evaluate our own lives and the feeling that we have lived well, is inherently longer-lasting than any state of pleasure, joy or euphoria (“hedonic happiness”). The distinction of these two domains of happiness goes back to Aristotle, who said that eudaimonic happiness happiness (also translated as “human flourishing,” or “living well,”) could be had by living in a way that follows a larger purpose beyond oneself. Happiness, for Aristotle, wasn’t the result of a life-long pursuit — it was the activity of pursuing.

“Eudaimonic happiness happiness is something you build up over a lifetime,” Edelman says. “In a sense, it’s a great consolation for older people — it’s nice to know that on that component, people can get more and more happy as they age if they led good lives.”

This eudaimonic happiness pursuit of the good life can also keep us in good physical health, according to recent research. A University of California study found that the two different types of happiness were associated with different gene expression. People with high levels of eudaimonic happiness happiness had low inflammatory gene expression and high antiviral gene expression, while those with high levels of pleasure-seeking happiness exhibited higher inflammatory gene expression.

“What happiness does in the short term, it also does in the long term,” says Edelman. “This [eudaimonic happiness] is what can be built and cherished and enhanced and preserved.”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

Do You Want A Meaningful Life or A Happy Life?

In this long, erudite and thoughtful article,  reports on his findings and conclusions from a a survey that asked nearly 400 US citizens, ranging in age from 18 to 78, about the extent to which they thought their lives were happy and the extent to which they thought they were meaningful.

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning.  How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Parents often say: ‘I just want my children to be happy.’ It is unusual to hear: ‘I just want my children’s lives to be meaningful,’ yet that’s what most of us seem to want for ourselves. We fear meaninglessness. We fret about the ‘nihilism’ of this or that aspect of our culture. When we lose a sense of meaning, we get depressed. What is this thing we call meaning, and why might we need it so badly?

…We found five sets of major differences between happiness and meaningfulness, five areas where different versions of the good life parted company.

The first had to do with getting what you want and need. Not surprisingly, satisfaction of desires was a reliable source of happiness. But it had nothing — maybe even less than nothing ­— to add to a sense of meaning. People are happier to the extent that they find their lives easy rather than difficult. Happy people say they have enough money to buy the things they want and the things they need. Good health is a factor that contributes to happiness but not to meaningfulness. Healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning. The more often people feel good — a feeling that can arise from getting what one wants or needs — the happier they are. The less often they feel bad, the happier they are. But the frequency of good and bad feelings turns out to be irrelevant to meaning, which can flourish even in very forbidding conditions.

Meaning and happiness are apparently experienced quite differently in time. Happiness is about the present; meaning is about the future, or, more precisely, about linking past, present and future. The more time people spent thinking about the future or the past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives were. Time spent imagining the future was linked especially strongly to higher meaningfulness and lower happiness (as was worry, which I’ll come to later). Conversely, the more time people spent thinking about the here and now, the happier they were. Misery is often focused on the present, too, but people are happy more often than they are miserable. If you want to maximise your happiness, it looks like good advice to focus on the present, especially if your needs are being satisfied. Meaning, on the other hand, seems to come from assembling past, present and future into some kind of coherent story.

This begins to suggest a theory for why it is we care so much about meaning. Perhaps the idea is to make happiness last. Happiness seems present-focused and fleeting, whereas meaning extends into the future and the past and looks fairly stable. For this reason, people might think that pursuing a meaningful life helps them to stay happy in the long run. They might even be right — though, in empirical fact, happiness is often fairly consistent over time. Those of us who are happy today are also likely to be happy months or even years from now, and those who are unhappy about something today commonly turn out to be unhappy about other things in the distant future. It feels as though happiness comes from outside, but the weight of evidence suggests that a big part of it comes from inside. Despite these realities, people experience happiness as something that is felt here and now, and that cannot be counted on to last. By contrast, meaning is seen as lasting, and so people might think they can establish a basis for a more lasting kind of happiness by cultivating meaning.

Social life was the locus of our third set of differences. As you might expect, connections to other people turned out to be important both for meaning and for happiness. Being alone in the world is linked to low levels of happiness and meaningfulness, as is feeling lonely. Nevertheless, it was the particular character of one’s social connections that determined which state they helped to bring about. Simply put, meaningfulness comes from contributing to other people, whereas happiness comes from what they contribute to you. This runs counter to some conventional wisdom: it is widely assumed that helping other people makes you happy. Well, to the extent that it does, the effect depends entirely on the overlap between meaning and happiness. Helping others had a big positive contribution to meaningfulness independent of happiness, but there was no sign that it boosted happiness independently of meaning. If anything, the effect was in the opposite direction: once we correct for the boost it gives to meaning, helping others can actually detract from one’s own happiness.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself

A fourth category of differences had to do with struggles, problems, stresses and the like. In general, these went with lower happiness and higher meaningfulness. We asked how many positive and negative events people had recently experienced. Having lots of good things happen turned out to be helpful for both meaning and happiness. No surprise there. But bad things were a different story. Highly meaningful lives encounter plenty of negative events, which of course reduce happiness. Indeed, stress and negative life events were two powerful blows to happiness, despite their significant positive association with a meaningful life. We begin to get a sense of what the happy but not very meaningful life would be like. Stress, problems, worrying, arguing, reflecting on challenges and struggles — all these are notably low or absent from the lives of purely happy people, but they seem to be part and parcel of a highly meaningful life. The transition to retirement illustrates this difference: with the cessation of work demands and stresses, happiness goes up but meaningfulness drops.

Do people go out looking for stress in order to add meaning to their lives? It seems more likely that they seek meaning by pursuing projects that are difficult and uncertain. One tries to accomplish things in the world: this brings both ups and downs, so the net gain to happiness might be small, but the process contributes to meaningfulness either way…

The final category of differences had to do with the self and personal identity. Activities that express the self are an important source of meaning but are mostly irrelevant to happiness. Of the 37 items on our list that asked people to rate whether some activity (such as working, exercising or meditating) was an expression or reflection of the self, 25 yielded significant positive correlations with a meaningful life and none was negative. Only two of the 37 items (socialising, and partying without alcohol) were positively linked to happiness, and some even had a significant negative relationship. The worst was worry: if you think of yourself as a worrier, that seems to be quite a downer.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself. Even just caring about issues of personal identity and self-definition was associated with more meaning, though it was irrelevant, if not outright detrimental, to happiness. This might seem almost paradoxical: happiness is selfish, in the sense that it is about getting what you want and having other people do things that benefit you, and yet the self is more tied to meaning than happiness. Expressing yourself, defining yourself, building a good reputation and other self-oriented activities are more about meaning than happiness...

Questions about life’s meaning are prompted by more than mere idle curiosity or fear of missing out. Meaning is a powerful tool in human life. To understand what that tool is used for, it helps to appreciate something else about life as a process of ongoing change. A living thing might always be in flux, but life cannot be at peace with endless change. Living things yearn for stability, seeking to establish harmonious relationships with their environment. They want to know how to get food, water, shelter and the like. They find or create places where they can rest and be safe. They might keep the same home for years. Life, in other words, is change accompanied by a constant striving to slow or stop the process of change, which leads ultimately to death. If only change could stop, especially at some perfect point: that was the theme of the profound story of Faust’s bet with the devil. Faust lost his soul because he could not resist the wish that a wonderful moment would last forever. Such dreams are futile. Life cannot stop changing until it ends. But living things work hard to establish some degree of stability, reducing the chaos of constant change to a somewhat stable status quo.

By contrast, meaning is largely fixed. Language is possible only insofar as words have the same meaning for everyone, and the same meaning tomorrow as today. (Languages do change, but slowly and somewhat reluctantly, relative stability being essential to their function.) Meaning therefore presents itself as an important tool by which the human animal might impose stability on its world. By recognising the steady rotation of the seasons, people can plan for future years. By establishing enduring property rights, we can develop farms to grow food.

Crucially, the human being works with others to impose its meanings. Language has to be shared, for private languages are not real languages. By communicating and working together, we create a predictable, reliable, trustworthy world, one in which you can take the bus or plane to get somewhere, trust that food can be purchased next Tuesday, know you won’t have to sleep out in the rain or snow but can count on a warm dry bed, and so forth…

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

My own efforts to understand how people find meaning in life eventually settled on a list of four ‘needs for meaning’, and in the subsequent years that list has held up reasonably well.

The point of this list is that you will find life meaningful to the extent that you have something that addresses each of these four needs. Conversely, people who fail to satisfy one or more of these needs are likely to find life less than adequately meaningful. Changes with regard to any of these needs should also affect how meaningful the person finds his or her life.

The first need is, indeed, for purpose. Frankl was right: without purpose, life lacks meaning. A purpose is a future event or state that lends structure to the present, thus linking different times into a single story. Purposes can be sorted into two broad categories. One might strive toward a particular goal (to win a championship, become vice president or raise healthy children) or toward a condition of fulfilment (happiness, spiritual salvation, financial security, wisdom).

Life goals come from three sources, so in a sense every human life has three basic sources of purpose. One is nature. It built you for a particular purpose, which is to sustain life by surviving and reproducing. Nature doesn’t care whether you’re happy, much as people wish to be happy. …It doesn’t care what you do on a Sunday afternoon as long as you manage to survive and, sooner or later, reproduce.

The second source of purpose is culture. Culture tells you what is valuable and important. Some cultures tell you exactly what you are supposed to do: they mark you out for a particular slot (farmer, soldier, mother etc). Others offer a much wider range of options and put less pressure on you to adopt a particular one, though they certainly reward some choices more than others.

That brings us to the third source of goals: your own choices. In modern Western countries in particular, society presents you with a broad range of paths and you decide which one to take. For whatever reason — inclination, talent, inertia, high pay, good benefits — you choose one set of goals for yourself (your occupation, for example). You create the meaning of your life, fleshing out the sketch that nature and culture provided. You can even choose to defy it: many people choose not to reproduce, and some even choose not to survive. Many others resist and rebel at what their culture has chosen for them.

The second need for meaning is value. This means having a basis for knowing what is right and wrong, good and bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are among the first words children learn. They are some of the earliest and most culturally universal concepts, and among the few words that house pets sometimes acquire. In terms of brain reactions, the feeling that something is good or bad comes very fast, almost immediately after you recognise what it is. Solitary creatures judge good and bad by how they feel upon encountering something (does it reward them or punish them?). Humans, as social beings, can understand good and bad in loftier ways, such as their moral quality.

In practice, when it comes to making life meaningful, people need to find values that cast their lives in positive ways, justifying who they are and what they do. Justification is ultimately subject to social, consensual judgment, so one needs to have explanations that will satisfy other people in the society (especially the people who enforce the laws). Again, nature makes some values, and culture adds a truckload of additional ones. It’s not clear whether people can invent their own values, but some do originate from inside the self and become elaborated. People have strong inner desires that shape their reactions.

The third need is for efficacy. It’s not very satisfying to have goals and values if you can’t do anything about them. People like to feel that they can make a difference. Their values have to find expression in their life and work. Or, to look at it the other way around, people have to be able steer events towards positive outcomes (by their lights) and away from negative ones.

The last need is for self-worth. People with meaningful lives typically have some basis for thinking that they are good people, maybe even a little better than certain other people. At a minimum, people want to believe that they are better than they might have been had they chosen or behaved or performed badly. They have earned some degree of respect.

The meaningful life, then, has four properties. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realising our goals and values. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.

People ask what is the meaning of life, as if there is a single answer. There is no one answer: there are thousands of different ones. A life will be meaningful if it finds responses to the four questions of purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. It is these questions, not the answers, that endure and unify.

Link to read this much longer original article in full

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

Why You Should Stop Trying To Be Happy

MARK MANSON writes…

Happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves.

It’s not the end results which define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s process of overcoming all odds with people you care about.

And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy. Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy.

Cue statements about “finding happiness within,” and “knowing that you’re enough.” It’s not that happiness itself is in you, it’s that happiness occurs when you decide to pursue what’s in you.

And this is why happiness is so fleeting. Anyone who has set out major life goals for themselves, only to achieve them and realize that they feel the same relative amounts of happiness/unhappiness, knows that happiness always feels like it’s around the corner just waiting for you to show up. No matter where you are in life, there will always be that one more thing you need to do to be extra-especially happy.

And that’s because our ideal self is always around that corner, our ideal self is always three steps ahead of us. We dream of being a musician and when we’re a musician we dream of writing a film score and when write a film score, we dream of writing a screenplay. And what matters isn’t that we achieve each of these plateaus of success, but that we’re consistently moving towards them, day after day, month after month, year after year. The plateaus will come and go, and we’ll continue following our ideal self down the path of our lives.

And with that, with regards to being happy, it seems the best advice is also the simplest: Imagine who you want to be and then step towards it. Dream big and then do something. Anything. The simple act of moving at all will change how you feel about the entire process and serve to inspire you further.

Let go of the imagined result; it’s not necessary. The fantasy and the dream are merely tools to get you off your ass. It doesn’t matter if they come true or not.

Live. Just live. Stop trying to be happy and just be.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Is There Any Value In New Age Thinking?

MICHEL BAUWENS writes…

…One of the first tangible benefits of the New Age was to reintroduce the importance of consciousness to the western world and to recognize that spirituality was not just a matter of belief but of experience. New Age traditions contained a vast array of methods that could open up new vistas of perception. For many people, they created an opportunity to re-integrate these methods into their lives and experiment with different alternatives.

New Age thinking also provided a vehicle to overcome the separation of mind and body that was characteristic of western individualism prior to 1968. In many ways it represented what Freud called a “regression in service of the ego”, a return to repressed areas of bodily energy, instincts, emotions, mind and consciousness. Unfortunately, it frequently stayed in that regressive mode. New Age thinking was too anti-rational, too disdainful of the critical subjectivity that was one of the hard-won features of the West. But to paraphrase Lenin, it was probably a necessary “infantile” stage in the development of alternatives. It also offered avenues for people to work on themselves, a positive orientation in an otherwise dark period for social change.

In other ways, New Age thinking was an heir to utopian socialism. Given the difficulty of changing society in radical ways at the macro level, people began to change their own lives by abandoning blind trust in the mechanistic approaches to the human body that were espoused by Western medicine; and by leaving aside the knowledge-stuffing, rote-learning style of education they were fed in order to treat children as whole persons. These changes have made the world unrecognizable from thirty years ago.

Whatever the negative features of the neoliberal age, many institutions have become more humane, more egalitarian, more respectful, and more attuned to the whole individual. People have changed, institutions have evolved, and many small-scale communal experiments have yielded valuable learning experiences even if they have failed to change the bigger picture…

If both New Age thinking and anti-spirituality are exaggerated reactions to each other, the task now is to find a critical subjectivity that rejects the ‘dictatorship of the mind’ – the belief that societies already know the direction or end-point in which they are heading.

What would that consist of? For me, the key step is to reject the view that sees spirituality in terms of individual experience alone, and replace it with a spirituality that functions around relationships between different people.

In pre-modern times, people lived as members of communities with roles that were largely externally defined; in modern times they live as atomized but autonomous self-directing individuals who are bound together through social contracts and institutions. Post-modernity, seen as a critique of neoliberal capitalist structures, sees the individual as increasingly fragmented, and it has developed a strong critique of all the forces that have shown us that we are not nearly as autonomous as we think, including language and power. But this process has also left us stranded as fragmented individuals without much sense of a direction, forever deconstructing realities but rarely reconstructing them with much success. Therefore it is time for something new.

In an age of peer production, in which more and more individuals are socialized through the internet, a relational spirituality can be born among people who cooperate with each other in a wide variety of networks. As we become engaged in communities of our peers that produce collective value, the horizontal dimension of spirituality returns to center stage.

In this new context, the view of human beings as fragmented is no longer a reason for despair. On the contrary, our inner multitude of interests is what enables us to contribute to a range of different, peer-driven projects. The individual psyche can then be constructed through each person’s contributions to the life of the whole, and through the recognition they receive from the communities in which they take part.

Today, individuals are no longer defined only by their membership in traditional communities or rigid roles. In my world, for example, an increasing number of people see themselves as contributors to open-source software systems like Linux rather than employees of Microsoft or Google. In this context, the key to an integrated self is to construct a rich identity of contributions that stem from active participation in many different communities. No longer New Age or Old Age but building on elements of both, a relational spirituality could form a cornerstone of the contributive societies on which the twenty-first century will be built.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: leo.prie.to via photopin cc

photo credit: leo.prie.to via photopin cc

Staying Sane In Insane Times

 writes

If we look at what is happening around us today, it can feel that the world is spinning out of control.

Open any newspaper, turn on any TV, read the headlines online or even check your phone’s text alerts and you’re bombarded…and that’s without even taking into account personal and work issues.

For many of us it seems overwhelming, especially if we allow ourselves to care.

So, how do we remain sane in these insane times?

I believe the tools lie with our inner resources, as expressed in a series of relationships.

Relationship with self:

The relationship we have with ourselves starts with being wholly self-aware without being judgmental or self-effacing. Only then can we cultivate the capacity to sense our strong emotions without being defined by them. When we know ourselves we can be more open with ourselves – relating to ourselves not as we think we should be, but as who we truly are, and giving us a chance to be our best self. If we are aware of ourselves inwardly, we learn to stand strong outwardly.

Relationship with others:

Relationships with others also begin with self-awareness, the characteristic that allows us to relate to others in recognition of our common desire to feel safe, trusted, loved and nourished. We all desire for someone to listen to us, pay attention to us, even challenge us. We form much of ourselves within the framework of our relationships with others as we develop, grow and change within relationships. Our own self-awareness and our connection to others are the strongest forces in staying sane.

Relationship with stress:

Stress is a double-edge sword — it can be a wake-up call or it can cause our demise. Stress can make us sick, but it can also stimulate us to make changes and learn new things. When we differentiate between the bad stress that causes us to feel overwhelmed and the good stress that causes us to keep us fit and purposeful, we can forge ahead without feeling overwhelmed by circumstances.

Relationship with our stories

We live in relationship with our own stories — the ones we believe, the ones we edit as we grow and we change, the ones that come from our beliefs. Many of us have stories that begin I am never going to be… I can’t handle… I don’t… I can’t…. When we realize what we are saying, we can work on changing the narrative. Instead of defining ourselves, we can adjust ourselves. Learning how to revise our own stories gives us the power to navigate sanely through chaos and confusion.

It’s never going to be easy to remain sane when we’re surrounded by insanity, but it is worth trying.

These inner resources — our relationships with ourselves, with others, with stress and with our stories — are the cornerstone to our sanity. They give us choices in how we react to what is happening around us, and the capacity to live with what we deal with on a daily basis…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

Is Resilience In Hibernation?

Phil Vernon writes…

Resilience is a wonderful metaphor. It somehow conveys in a single word the qualities of bending without breaking, of healing after an injury, of tensile rather than brittle strength.

Oak and palm trees are resilient to the power of strong winds, before which they bend and then straighten again. Resilient people pick themselves up after being knocked down, draw on their reserves of ideas and strength to deal with difficult challenges, or hunker down until the gale has blown itself away. Resilient economies bounce back, and resilient ecosystems restore themselves after the fire or the flood has passed.

Resilience is not necessarily a good thing, of course. Patrimonialism and corruption can be resilient to change, as can power dynamics which sanction the marginalisation and harm of women, children or vulnerable people.

American academic Andrew Nathan writes of the Chinese Communist Party’s “authoritarian resilience”, i.e. its ability to adapt and continue to thrive despite its authoritarian, undemocratic approach to power. But most often resilience is used to describe positive and useful features of society.

International Alert is a peacebuilding organisation. We say peace is when people anticipate, manage and resolve the inevitable conflicts which arise in and between societies, and do so without violence; and we describe communities and societies as resilient when they do so.

Their resilience in the face of stress is largely due to the nature of relationships and institutions, which provide them with tensile, rather than brittle strength. Freedom and equality of opportunity are key indicators of relationships and institutions conducive to peace…

Nassim Nicolas Taleb , in his book Anti-fragility – things that gain from disorder, published last year by Random House, explains that resilience is demonstrated best in decentralised and organic societies which can flex and respond locally to stress, and least in over-centralised and rigid societies where individual and local initiatives are discouraged. This is no doubt one reason why, as Andrew Nathan recently wrote, “the resilience of the authoritarian regime in China is nearing its limits”.

So, resilience is not merely a useful metaphor, but one which expresses a powerful idea which we would do well to try and understand. If societies resilient to stress are less vulnerable to disaster and violent conflict, and if critical factors in their resilience include freedom and equality, then building resilience to stress must presumably be an ambition worthy of us all…

But if “resilience” is indeed headed for another period of hibernation, I suspect there is a deeper reason why. It is a very powerful conceptual approach and analytical tool, allowing a broad, comprehensive analysis of the extent to which households, communities, regions, countries, societies or states are able or unable to deal with, survive and bounce back from natural or man-made stress.

For those with patience, the concept lends itself to participatory approaches to identify factors which increase or limit resilience (or, for those who prefer the glass half-empty approach, factors which increase or reduce fragility and brittleness). So far, so good.

SHORT-TERM PROJECT PROBLEM

The problem is, those seeking levers through which to make significant changes which can be measured in terms of the typical lifespan of development projects, are unlikely to find them easily in a resilience analysis. Resilience is – almost by definition – not something that can easily be “built”, and certainly not built to order.

The clue is in the word itself – resilience is something to be found in the nature of societies, hence a quality which grows organically. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains, it is the effect of finely woven networks.

Resilience comes from education, and especially the kind of education which helps young people develop their curiosity and ability to adapt and continue to learn. It is to be found in networks of diverse reciprocal relationships between individuals and groups, on which they can draw to get ideas, help, resources in time of need. It is to be found in the freedom of men and women to make their own informed choices, and to participate in politics.

It is to be found in competent and accountable governance, in a free, functioning press, in fair-systems of justice, and so on, and from the interwoven combination of all of the above.

Unfortunately, those in power in more fragile, less resilient societies often see these kinds of features as good in theory, but unwelcome in practice. Rather like St Augustine who prayed for chastity – “but not yet, O Lord” – they’d often prefer to enjoy the spoils of power for now.

Meanwhile those in international development organisations who support these kinds of features in principle, are unable to promote them because they simply do not lend themselves sufficiently to logframes, short-term projects, and the like.

Our development institutions and organisations may not be adequate to the task of promoting resilience in fragile societies. And so ‘resilience’ may be destined to pass back into hibernation. That would be a shame. Because ironically, it describes the problem of underdevelopment, human insecurity and inadequate governance too accurately to be useful.

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photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

A New Level of Leadership Thinking

By 

“The problems that exist in the world today can’t be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my win must cause someone else to lose. Put another way, I often am tempted to believe that if someone does what I’m doing, they’ll limit my freedom or my market or my opportunities to experience success. We view the world as a particular size and we must carve it up in a way that everyone gets a little. When things like money get scarce, we think we have to hang on to what we have, and if we give someone too much there won’t be enough left for ourselves.

Back in the 1970′s and 1980′s, that was the prevailing mindset. A market could only be “so big” and each company had to get their share. We had to climb our way to the top and often to get ahead, we had to get ahead of someone else.

“Exceptional insight, productivity and generosity make markets bigger and more efficient.

This situation leads to more opportunities and ultimately a payoff for everyone involved.” Seth Godin, Linchpin.

I wonder how much of our current leadership model needs a mental overhaul.

Why do we have leaders who seem committed to “if you win, I must lose” thinking? Do we see any problems, or situations where we use what Stephen Covey called two-alternative thinking? Two-alternative thinking is based on “if you win, I must lose” thinking. His great book, The 3rd Alternative was a great reminder that synergy is the answer to two-alternative thinking. Synergy is when everyone agrees to find a win-win solution. Compromise means everyone gets less than they hoped. Synergy means everyone gets more.

…to what degree do my own actions and old-world thinking create the problems we experience today?

What can I do to introduce a level of thinking that rises above the problems and works together for a synergistic solution?

What’s it going to take?

Link to read the original article

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photo credit: USFS Region 5 via photopin cc

A Better Work-Life Balance Attracts Top Performing Parents & Millennials

Greg Moran writes…

…A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. …More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.

 But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability…

Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.

Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

Developing next generation leaders for a sustainable future – the stewardship model

Kai Peters, Chief Executive, Ashridge Business School writes…

…The global financial crisis and the rapid pace of globalisation are radically changing the definition of what makes a good business leader. Traditional heroic models and charismatic styles of leadership are under attack, largely because corporate scandals have destroyed trust in the integrity of many of those in power…

A new post-heroic approach to leadership is needed, where executives empower, inspire and strengthen the leadership of others. This will enable the executives of the future to build strong sustainable organisations that are held in trust for future generations – in sharp contrast to a conventional command and control leadership style focused on reducing costs and creating profit.

The steward leader – a model for next generation executives
Leaders should rededicate themselves to care and the principles of stewardship – a form of leadership that focuses on others, the community and society at large.

Stewardship advocates service over self-interest and provides a road-map for developing the next generation leader. Steward leaders have both the desire and the skills to develop organisations which are sustainable in every sense of the word.

What does a steward leader look like?
Steward leaders are those who are motivated by justice and dignity and who can see the bigger picture. Their emphasis is on delivering results with others – and they are skilled in bringing networks and resources together in pursuit of a common aim…

Can stewardship be developed?
In our new book ‘Steward Leadership’, we identify the nine essential dimensions of stewardship and debate what they are and how they can be developed.

Development of a stewardship mindset cannot, however, be ‘taught’ by a teacher or facilitator – it requires the individual to have some kind of internal impetus to evolve in this way and a willingness to move away from conventional approaches.  Our research suggests that non-rational resources, such as dreams, insights, creative and spiritual experiences and emotions, are important in developing sustainable leaders. People who are prepared to step outside of the ‘norm’ and draw on these resources have less to fear from being authentic and wearing their heart on their sleeve.

What does this mean for organisations in terms of talent management and leadership development processes? 
…Managers least likely to succeed are those who place high value on ‘conforming’ to the expectations of others.  They may think the right thoughts and want to make the ethical decisions, but find the accepted social environment of the organisation difficult to break away from.

In practical terms, organisations who want to develop steward leaders need to shift their approach to development and place higher priority on providing immersive, experiential learning which impacts leaders on an emotional level and motivates and inspires them to embed sustainability in the business.  Witnessing the effects of climate change or deforestation first hand, for example, can be a transformative experience.

The following five points are key to helping organisations achieve real shifts in mindsets and develop new sustainable behaviours:

  • Experiential learning is crucial. Getting a first- hand experience of what today’s global and societal challenges are all about is what makes a rationally understood idea at the back of the mind come alive and makes someone want to act on it.
  • You can’t just give people a random experience; you have to help them work out its business relevance. The best mechanism is a project-based business challenge, where participants have to develop some kind of project with business value based on their experience.
  • Clear sponsorship and involvement from the CEO and other senior leadership is vital. This is one area is where walking the talk really counts. The stories those at the top tell must be true, consistent and authentic if people are to believe and follow.
  • Unconventional approaches to development may be met by scepticism within the business at first – but it’s important to allow potential leaders to explore their spirituality, work on psychological issues (i.e. Perfectionism, fear of failure) which may be impeding their progress and to support them in their attempts to embrace a wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings.
  • Provide active support when individuals return to the organisation after an experiential development experience.  This helps convert a shift in mind-set to a habitual new behaviour. Consider things like giving people enhanced job roles, encouraging line managers to be supportive, having a dedicated co-ordinator to provide on-going encouragement recognising and rewarding positive new behaviours.
  • Steward leadership is a more empowering form of transformational leadership. These developmental activities help leaders adopt the qualities of ‘stewards’ earlier in people’s careers, and earlier in their lifetimes, to help create a new, more sustainable, future.

Link to the original article in full

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

Showing That You Care

Mary Jo Asmus offers some practical advice about how to lead in ways that nourish people…

…Many managers get so caught up in the day to day work of keeping themselves and others on task and working toward achieving the bottom line that they forget about the people who are making it all happen.

A leader creates, sustains and repairs relationships. They care about the people who are getting the work done.

What have you done lately to show your leadership?

How are you demonstrating to your employees that you care about them?

Start today to:

Get to know them. It’s not that hard, it just takes some intention and time. Walk around. Greet people. Pick up the phone and call those who work remotely. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them about their life outside of work (family, hobbies, etc.). Ask them what you can do to make things easier.

Delight in their individuality. People don’t come to your organization as clones. Everyone is different and each deserves to be treated as a unique individual who is full of potential. Get to know what they do well, what they enjoy doing, and give them the freedom to do it their way. Enjoy and celebrate their uniqueness.

Support them. When things get tough, be there to support them. When things are going well make sure they know that you’ve noticed. Remove the barriers to their ability to achieve their full potential by guiding, giving feedback, and coaching them.

Stretch them. One of the highest compliments you can give an employee is to provide an opportunity for them to stretch; it shows that you care enough to see them achieve something more. Watch for those who are ready, and encourage them to stretch in assignments that will help them to grow and develop.

Demonstrate your gratitude. A quick thank you on the run to your next meeting is not always enough. Reach into your heart and express your gratitude for the things they do that have meaning to you and the organization. Look them in the eye and let them know what they did and explain how their actions touched you and others around you.

Show them that you care. Reach into your heart to repeat the above over and over again.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

2013 World Mental Health Day: Taking Care 

By LISA KANTOR

Today (10th October 2013 ) is World Mental Health Day. Today, I take a moment to reflect on the many challenges faced by those living with mental illness, especially those who are unable to access treatment.

Today is the perfect day to urge others to support mental health prevention, mental health education, and improved access to mental health treatment. Today is our chance to restart the conversation about mental health, to speak openly about uncertainties and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses, and to move toward eliminating the damaging and unnecessary stigma that lingers around mental illness…

Promoted by the World Health Organization, World Mental Health Day is dedicated to increasing awareness of the mental health issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. These millions of people are our acquaintances, friends, loved ones, co-workers — ourselves.

How can we become more attentive and compassionate to those who suffer with mental illness? In addition to education, early intervention, and increased resources – I believe in the power of mindfulness, taking good care of yourself (self-care), and being able to reach out for help when you need it. Although often regarded as self-indulgent, self-care is such an important piece of mental health and wellness. Jennifer Louden expresses this concept so gracefully:

Self-care is essential for our survival; it is essential as the basis for healthy, authentic relationships; it is essential if we honestly want to nurture the people we care about. Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of. And they feel renewed too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: shoothead via photopin cc

photo credit: shoothead via photopin cc

Taking Care of Yourself When You’re Depressed

By 

These are several simple but meaningful ways you can practice self-care, even when that’s the last thing you want to – or can – do.

Your Holy Trinity

Borchard suggested starting with three basics: sleep, diet and exercise. She referred to these as her “holy trinity.” She goes to bed at the same time every night and sleeps for the same amount of hours. (She needs eight hours.) “Diets full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids promote mental health,” she said. So her diet includes salmon, dark green vegetables and whole grains. “Exercise has antidepressant capabilities, plus you are essentially telling yourself that you intend to get better. I think sometimes we have to lead with the body, and the mind will follow.”

Feed Your Senses

Whenever Serani feels her “depression looming within,” she focuses on nourishing her senses. “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness” by J. Karat is packed with studies showing how feeding your sense of sight, smell, sounds, taste and touch produces dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin – feel-good neurochemistry that helps heal depression.”

There are many ways you can supply your senses. Serani suggested opening up the windows to let sunshine soothe you; sipping a warm cup of tea or coffee; wrapping yourself in a blanket; listening to soft music; and lighting a candle.

Be Prepared

Self-care requires preparation, Serani said. That’s why it’s important to keep the things that soothe you by your side and in your home. It makes moving into self-care mode much easier, she said. “Stock up on comfort foods, teas and coffees, store scented candles or incense nearby, pre-program radio stations to soothing music you like, drape a velvety blanket on a couch or chair.”

Practice Self-Care Daily

Self-care also requires regular practice, Serani said. She encouraged readers to avoid waiting until you’re drained or depleted to attempt self-care. “Use [the above] sense-oriented techniques often so there’s an ease that comes from their use.”

Self-care is critical for healing depression. As Borchard said, “You get well faster and stay well longer.” But some days, self-care will feel especially far away. On those days, “Be easy with yourself.” Beating yourself up only makes you feel worse and stops you from getting better, she said. “Consider yourself a good friend, and speak to yourself as such.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

Simple Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Schools – and at work too

This article is written as a guide to increasing happiness in schools, but Elena Aguilar‘s suggestions offer great value too for increasing our happiness at work, so I couldn’t resist a little tweaking to adapt them into a more adult-friendly set of guidelines…

1. Slow Down

When we slow down, we notice more, we appreciate more, we take stock of relationships, learning, and goals. Everyone can benefit from slowing down… There’s a direct correlation between our levels of contentment and the pace at which we live our lives…

2. Get Outside

Being outside, even for just a few minutes a day, can heighten our state of well-being. We breathe fresh air, feel the elements on our skin – the warmth of the sun, the sting of wind, the moisture of rain – which connects us to the natural world. Even when it’s cold out, or when it’s warm and glorious, we can [get] outside for a quick (5 minute) walk, or we can do silent reading outside and our feelings of happiness might increase.

Furthermore, when the weather is comfortable, why can’t we have some of the many meetings we all have to sit in outside? Last year I took my instructional coaches to the forest for one of our professional development days. In addition to hiking, we read, talked, learned, and wrote — all of the activities we usually do in our office.

3. Move Your Body

We all know this already, but I’m going to remind you anyway: Moving our bodies increases our happiness. Even if you can’t [get] outside, you can incorporate stretching breaks into [your] days…  Moments of movement are great and our brains start producing the endorphins that make us happy right away.

4. Blast Good Music

Music in a fast tempo and in a major key can make us feel happy and it has a measurable positive impact on our bodies – it can even boost our immune system, decrease blood pressure, and lower anxiety. Playing music as [people enter a room] can be welcoming and can create a positive atmosphere. Those of us who facilitate learning for adults can also do this. Imagine coming into an early morning staff meeting to the sounds of salsa or to Johnny Nash singing, “I Can See Clearly Now.” You probably feel happier just thinking about this.

5. Sing

Now sing along with those tunes, or sing in your car or in the shower — and see how you feel. Singing requires us to breathe deeply, which makes us happier. Singing along to some of our favorite music makes our brain release endorphins…

6. Smile

Even if you’re not a smiley person, try smiling more often – aim for authentic, genuine smiles, but if you can’t produce one, go ahead and fake it. Yes, even fake smiles can move you along towards a more content state of being. And more than that, they can have an affect on those looking at you. … just see what happens if you smile more often at the people you interact with on a daily basis.

7. Incorporate Quiet Time

My new email pen pal in Bhutan, a teacher in a school for boys aged 6-18, describes how all students in Bhutan practice meditation. Of course, this makes sense given that this is a Buddhist nation. He describes this as a primary way in which his country works to build a happy populace. There’s an abundance of evidence about how meditation causes changes in our brain chemistry that produces feelings of calm and wellbeing. In our country, some schools are incorporating mindfulness meditation, but I also think we could work towards similar ends by simply incorporating more quiet time into our daily routines.

Link to read the original unadapted article of guidelines for use with students

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

10 Easy Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

The above suggestions are matched and extended in this list, offered in The Mind Unleashed

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression…

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight…

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.  In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger…

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it. …

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy…

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally…

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives…

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested…

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees…

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Lifeshowed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live…

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you…

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: bies via photopin cc

photo credit: bies via photopin cc

Happiness 101 – Teaching our Children the Habits of Happiness

What happens when people learn the habits of happiness and practice them every day?

Do you know how to be happy?

Erin Michelle Threlfall is a theatre artist, activist and educator whose passion is making the world a better place via theater, the arts, her infectious exuberance and the classroom. Originally from the US, she’s taught at schools in Ghana, South Korea, Togo, and Bali. She focuses on nurturing global citizenship, happiness, and social activism within her students and leads dynamic workshops on inquiry-based learning and integrating the arts into the classroom.

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

Want To Be An Artist? Try A Little Narcissism

Jillian Steinhauer reports

A new study has found that narcissistic people are more likely to consider themselves creative and do creative things than their non-narcissistic counterparts. Um … we needed a study to tell us that?…

In the end, people with narcissistic tendencies were not only more likely to say they were creative; they also were more likely to do creative things. The personality traits of extraversion and openness also corresponded to increased creative activity, which is telling about what this study really shows: that self-confidence goes a long way.

If you believe you’re good enough at something, chances are you’ll do it, even if it’s unstable or difficult, as so many creative pursuits are. And chances are you’ll continue trying to do it even in the face of rejection, which is also required in creative fields like art and writing.

Link to read the original article in full

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

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

Are Your Strengths Holding You Back?

Sue Roberts, a very wise and wonderful trainer and occupational psychologist we sometimes get the joy of working with, says that our strengths can be problematic in two ways:

  1.  on the one hand, the stronger we are in any particular quality, the further away we are from its opposite (which is why the opposite of our strengths are weaknesses if we haven’t learned to practise them up into our skill set);
  2. less well-known, our strengths can become liabilities if we deploy them inappropriately in situations that call for quite different qualities and behaviours.

This idea is picked up and discussed by Michelle McQuaid – a positive psychology researcher, author and workplace trainer – who writes…

Do your strengths ever get you into trouble? You know those moments when the things you like doing and are good at, go just that little bit too far. For example, when your strength of humour has you making one joke too many. Or your strength of creativity has you take one idea a bit too far. Or your strength of kindness has you give and give to everyone else until there’s nothing left for yourself. We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we?

For me it was my strength of zest. As a senior leader for many years in large organisations, my abundant energy and vitality made it possible to drive and deliver solutions that literally left people’s heads spinning. It was great from a task achievement perspective, but probably burnt through more relationships with my colleagues than I’d care to count. You see other people simply struggled to keep up.

Of course this was pointed out to me more than once during my performance reviews, but “going too fast” was always presented to me as a weakness that needed improvement. Can you imagine how that sounded? Here I was thinking what a great job I was doing, feeling really engaged, energised and enjoying my work and delivering results. Only to hear later that others felt my efforts were completely misfiring.

I walked away from those meetings feeling confused, disillusioned and completely burnt out…

Can a strength really derail your work? A growing body of evidence suggests using your strengths makes you more likely to achieve your goals, to feel less stressed and to have a greater level of well-being. Outcomes most of us are longing for.

However, researchers are also discovering that to use your strengths optimally you need the right strength, in the right amount, in the right way and at the right time. You need to find the ‘golden mean’ – where you’re neither underplaying, nor over overplaying what you do best.

How can you avoid overplaying a strength? Sometimes our strengths are overplayed because the context has changed. For me this would happen when I was busy storming through a project and our business needs would suddenly shift meaning we should slow down for a bit. Learning to read the signs about when my zest was needed – and when it wasn’t – was one way I started to turn around my negative feedback.

The biggest shift came though when I finally became aware that I had the choice to dial up – or dial down – my strength of zest. Turns out I didn’t have to run through life with my foot flat to the floor all the time just to do what I did best. Perhaps I’d just been going too fast, for too long, to see I had the choice!

By learning how to manage my strengths, I became more aware of how my zest could be intimidating for my team who feared they’d never be able to keep up. I learnt to value the need to give others time to get on board before I took off. And I began to appreciate the power off being willing and able to slow down – at least some of the time. As a result, my professional and personal life soared.

Link to read the original article in full

Here is a link to where you can get your free VIA Me Character Strengths profile built from the six virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence, and Wisdom

photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

Tune Out Distractions – and Tune Into Happiness (Shawn Achor)

HARVEY SCHACHTER reports…

Too much noise can knock you off balance.

That’s the warning from Shawn Achor, San Antonio, Tex.-based author of the bestselling book The Happiness Advantage and the recently published Before Happiness. But Mr. Achor is not talking about the noise of a neighbour’s stereo blasting away or drilling at a construction site across from your office. For him, external noise is the flood of information, often negatively tinged, that washes over you each day. And the internal noise, usually negative, that invades our thoughts throughout the day.

Our ancestors looked to external noise for clues to threats. In a sense, we are doing that as we scan e-mails, newspapers and other information each day. At a basic level, noise distorts our reality – Las Vegas casinos overload our brains with sounds and lights to distract us from the reality that we’re losing money. He says that the noise from the information we receive, so much of it negative, pushes us into a “negative reality,” in which our equanimity is tipped, our stress heightened, and our potential limited.

“If you can decrease the noise, it can have a huge impact on happiness. If we can find some balance – turn away from constant messages – the brain can scan the present for things you are grateful for,” the positive-psychology lecturer said in an interview.

He points to a Fortune 100 company where he recently worked with the management team. They have a policy to use no technology on Sundays – to shut down. The result, they found, was greater productivity during the week owing to that day of rest. The policy, it’s worth noting, applied only to the top team, not others who work for them, which he found ironic.

He distinguishes between signals and noise. A signal is information that is true and reliable, alerting us to the opportunities, possibilities and resources that will help us attain our true potential. Noise is everything else – information that is false, or unnecessary, or prevents us from seeing a world where success is possible.

He lays out four criteria for identifying noise:

Unusable: Your behaviour won’t be altered by the information. “Once you start applying this mental algorithm, you’ll realize that, sadly, most of the information that floods your brain on a daily or even an hourly basis fits into this category,” he writes in his latest book. An earthquake or coup in a country across the globe may be tragic, but it’s essentially extraneous to your life, so don’t let it jolt you into a negative space.

Untimely: You are not going to use the information imminently, and it could change by the time you use it. If you intend to hold stocks for the long run, why check the stock market each day?

Hypothetical: It is based on what someone believes “could be” instead of “what is.” Economic and weather forecasts head the list. “What if you could have back all the minutes of your life you’ve spent listening to predictions – 90 per cent of which have been wrong?” he asks in the book.

Distracting: It distracts you from your goals. Much of the e-mail you received today, let alone your surfing of websites, took you no further toward your big goals.

He urges people to start distinguishing between the signals and noise that come at you, and reduce your brain overload by stopping the addiction to noise. Eliminate the things that are hypothetical, and the reports about car accidents in foreign countries. “Don’t turn a blind eye to the world, but focus on the things that are meaningful,” he said in the interview. “The more we focus on noise, the less we hear the important signals.”

At companies he works with, he asks people to experiment by decreasing their information intake by 5 per cent – specifically information that qualifies as noise. Set boundaries as well, looking at your e-mail only periodically. When you head to a website, scan only for information that matters to you. “Five per cent is a small number, so people feel it’s possible. It turns down the volume a bit,” he said. Perhaps that 5 per cent is spread through the week, or only a chunk of weekend time when you grab a respite. You’ll find reducing the noise, even slightly, increases your social connection with others, which he says is the greatest predictor of happiness.

He has noise-cancelling headphones for flights so he can isolate himself from the din around him. Similarly, you want to reduce the noise from internal doubt, fear of the future, and self-criticism. Studies show that if an employee or child is fearful, they will often fail on the next project or math test. Your noise-cancelling headphones allow you to think of positive moments that counteract those fears, such as three successes you had in similar situations.

He offers three principles to live by:

I will keep my worry in proportion to the likelihood of the event.

I will not ruin 10,000 days to be right on a handful. “Some people worry for 10,000 days about various things to get past one bad day. They give themselves 10,000 bad days to have one good day,” he says.

I will not equate worrying with being loving or responsible.

In short, be conscious of the noise coming at you – external and internal – and reduce the incidence of the noise to increase your balance and happiness.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #67

All of these stories, and more, are part of this week’s new Happiness At Work collection, which I hope you enjoy…

Link to see the full Happiness At Work Edition #67 collection

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #63 ~ the fine art of living happily in 2013

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

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

WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

Improving Wellbeing Should Be Our Global Priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the original article 

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Happiness: The Next Key Performance Indicator

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

by 

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

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

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

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

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Bonnie Greer 2013 Opening Lecture (Audio)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from 50’56”)

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

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

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

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

(from 58’55”)

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

(from 1:07:05)

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

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

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

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Work Isn’t Life – Reprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

The Need to Ask New and Different Questions

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in its entirety

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

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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

Work-life balance is a fallacy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read  Randy Conley’s guidance in full

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

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

BY: 

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

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

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

Are your emails getting the results you want?

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

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

Here are nine common mistakes you might be making:

1. Sending emails only when you need something.

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

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

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

3. Using the first person too much.

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

4. Sending the email at the wrong time.

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

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

5. Sending to too many people.

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

6. Knowing nothing about the person receiving your email.

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

7. Forgetting to send updates or interim messages.

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

8. Making messages too long.

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

9. Using email exclusively.

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

Now: 4 ways to focus on writing better emails:

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

How To Maintain Your Creativity When Working From Home

Andra writes in PIXEL77

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

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

Have a Change of Scenery…

Do Something Different…

Start a Pet Project…

Get Some Exercise…

Analyse Why Your Creativity is Waning…

Take A Nap…

Seek Help From Your Peers…

Take Time for Laughter….

Link to read Andra’s suggestions in full

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

You’re Doing What?? (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Recognition

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

2. Individuality

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

3. Perks

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

4. Understanding

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

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

5. Ignorance of “Company Culture”

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

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

Turns out your smiley Facebook friends really are happier than you

By 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

Put On A Happy Face(book)

By 

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

What happens To Your Brain When People Like Your Facebook Status

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: andyi via photopin cc

photo credit: andyi via photopin cc

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

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

BY 

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

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

Among the key findings from the analysis are that:

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

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

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

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

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx via photopin cc

photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx via photopin cc

Empathy + Placebo = Healing?

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

There Is No App For Happiness

 writes in The Huffington Post Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this  article in its original

photo credit: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

photo credit: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

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

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

Emily Dickinson

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

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

Robert Frost

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

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”

Salvatore Quasimodo

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

Mary Oliver

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

William Wordsworth

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

John Cage

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

Kahlil Gibran

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

William Hazlitt

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

Edith Sitwell

“Poetry is the deification of reality.”

photo credit: youngdoo via photopin cc

photo credit: youngdoo via photopin cc

Marianne Moore

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

Theodore Roethke

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

James K. Baxter

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

Link to read the full set of quotations

photo credit: Cali4beach via photopin cc

photo credit: Cali4beach via photopin cc

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

Lucy Jeynes writes in Guardian Professional:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: rAmmoRRison via photopin cc

photo credit: rAmmoRRison via photopin cc

To Change The World (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

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

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

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

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

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

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

photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

Transitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read Mary’s piece in full

Happiness At Work Edition #63

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

We hope you enjoy…

photo credit: mysza831 via photopin cc

photo credit: mysza831 via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #61 – how relationships matter to our learning, our communication and our happiness

The stories we are specially highlighting from this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, draw out ideas and new understandings about the connection and importance of relationships, to our happiness, yes, but for our learning and our creativity too.  And as well, as of course, to our effective communications, for the very definition of communicate, from its Latin root communicare means to share, to exchange.  And thus communication without relationship is more than an oxymoron, it is an impossibility.

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

–by Roman Krznaric

If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid…

…empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history—and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years—reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

…Respect the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. Highly Empathetic People challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them…

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. Highly Empathetic People expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”…

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,”  attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” Highly Empathetic People listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences…

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change…

Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children.  That’s why Highly Empathetic People support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence—and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement…

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of Highly Empathetic People is that they do far more than empathise with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough…

Empathising with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organisations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

Link to read this story in full, including  another video talk

50 Smiles Guaranteed To Make You Smile (get happy in less than 5 minutes)

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~Mother Teresa

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

Ken Wert writes…

It seems that with smiling, you can actually have your cake and eat it too!

Not only are smiles expressions of positive feelings (like happiness, excitement and enjoyment), the act of smiling, even if forced, enhances the very positive feelings that make us want to smile. So the smile is both cause and effect. The more we smile, even if we don’t particularly feel like it, the more we feel like it.

Moreover, one person’s smile is another person’s reason to smile. The smile, it turns out, is one of the most contagious of human conditions.

Why a post filled to the brim with happy faces?

This post is meant to instigate a ripple effect of smiles across the globe as you grin from your heart to your face (or your face to your heart, since smiling works in both directions) as you share your smile with others and they share theirs in turn (and please feel free to share this post with them too, while you’re in a sharing mood!).

Read the quotes and words under each photo and look at the smiley faces and see what happens to your own mood! Put yourself in the shoes of the happy faces and see if you can feel what they seem to be feeling.

And then just try not to smile. I bet you a 100 smiles you can’t make it to the end of this post without one creeping onto your kisser! :)

Link to this article and its 50 smiling faces

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

Steve McCurry’s Blog: When Words Fail

“When words fail, music speaks.”  (Hans Christian Andersen)

The brilliant photographer’s latest collection features his photos of people making music.

Ravishing and joyful and overflowing with relationships…

Link to Steve McCurry’s When Words Fail photographs

Looking To Genes For The Secret To Happiness

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Our genes may have a more elevated moral sense than our minds do, according to a new study of the genetic effects of happiness. They can, it seems, reward us with healthy gene activity when we’re unselfish — and chastise us, at a microscopic level, when we put our own needs and desires first…

…those volunteers whose happiness, according to their questionnaires, was primarily hedonic, to use the scientific term, or based on consuming things, had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body. Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also had relatively low levels of other markers that increase antibody production, to better fight off infections.

The volunteers whose happiness was more eudaemonic, or based on a sense of higher purpose and service to others — a small minority of the overall group — had profiles that displayed augmented levels of antibody-producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression…

…purpose is an elastic concept, not necessarily requiring renunciation but only that “you think first of someone else” or “have a goal greater” than your immediate gratification. Being a parent, participating in the creative arts or even taking up exercise so that you can live to see your grandchildren may ease you toward eudaemonia, he says. It may even be that this will enable your genes to respond more favorably to how you’re conducting your life.

Link to read the unedited version of this story

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

Business Renaissance Must Be Human-Centric

by 

…The typical approach is to define all the potential variables, then prioritize them based on impact, frequency, risk exposure…you see where I’m going with this, right? This is 20th century thinking to deal with a 21st century issue. Not the brightest approach, yet we keep banging our collective heads against the idiot wall and think something positive will happen if we just repeat it enough times.

The renaissance is, and must be, human-centric.

It is a return to seeing the value in a person as a person, not an asset to sweat. Life is complex. Technology is complex. Intertwining two complex systems results in chaos. We have learned to respond to chaos in our personal lives as a means of necessity. We seem to feel the organization should somehow be exempt from it. So, we create demanding and manipulative policies that only serve to frustrate, disengage and manipulate people…

It will be a changing of the guard that will be necessary, but difficult for many people. It will affect how we do business, how we define success and how we structure education regarding business. This is good. This is necessary. This is overdue…

Link to read the unedited version of this post

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

5 Steps To Building A Culture of Communication

It’s important to understand the gravity of effective communication in business, then build a culture around it. Putting great communication at the center of your business is the greatest way to ensure success. Bill Gates said it best, “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Here are a few steps that will help you build a culture of communication in your business.

1. Don’t Punish the Bad Ideas…

2. Every Personality is Different, Think of Key Ways to Communicate with Everyone…

3. Async Communication… a simple and passive way of communicating with your team on your own schedule when messages aren’t urgent or time based. This can be through email, or third party tools designed with this type of discussion method in mind… 

4. Talk, Even When It’s Not Comfortable…

5. Enable Transparency in Every Aspect…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Babies Learn To Recognise Words In The Womb

BETH SKWARECK

…The research team gave expectant women a recording to play several times a week during their last few months of pregnancy, which included a made-up word, “tatata,” repeated many times and interspersed with music. Sometimes the middle syllable was varied, with a different pitch or vowel sound. By the time the babies were born, they had heard the made-up word, on average, more than 25,000 times. And when they were tested after birth, these infants’ brains recognized the word and its variations, while infants in a control group did not, Partanen and colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Babies who had heard the recordings showed the neural signal for recognizing vowel and pitch changes in the pseudoword, and the signal was strongest for the infants whose mothers played the recording most often. They were also better than the control babies at detecting other differences in the syllables, such as vowel length. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth…

…Just because babies can learn while in utero doesn’t mean that playing music or language recordings will help the child. Partanen says there is no solid evidence that stimulation beyond normal sounds of everyday life offers any long-term benefits to healthy babies. Moon adds that playing sounds to a fetus with speakers close to the belly could even be risky because this could overstimulate the fetal ear and the rapidly developing brain. Too much noise can interfere with the auditory system and may disrupt the baby’s sleep cycles.

Rather than playing recordings for healthy babies, Partanen sees potential treatments for children at risk for dyslexia or auditory processing disorders, if hearing certain sounds in pregnancy turns out to speed up language learning—”but that’s a big if.” His team’s study looked only at babies less than a month old, and it’s not clear whether the babies will retain the memories as they get older, or whether in utero learning has an effect on language learning or ability later in life.

Link to read this article in full

origin_4657619168

Handling Conflict

By 

Stevenson Carlebach, who used to teach acting and directing, says there are many similarities between his former profession and what he does now. For starters, “when an actor takes on a character they’re actually sort of negotiating with their mind to think like the character. When you’re trying to negotiate, you’re doing the same thing, you’re negotiating with your mind to be less antagonistic or to be more cooperative, to be more creative,” he says.

In other words, a good negotiator is really just a good actor in that they’re able to put themselves in another person’s shoes which promotes both empathy and understanding. As Carlebach says, both actors and negotiators are essentially asking what’s driving or motivating the other person, what’s causing them to behave in a certain way, and whether they too would behave in the same way under similar circumstances. But unlike actors, negotiators have their own interests to consider in this process as well.

He employs various exercises to do this including one he calls the “hot buns exercise” where three participants each assume a particular role: that of enquirer whose job it is to stay curious and ask open questions about a topic of their choice, that of speaker who takes a different perspective to that of the enquirer, and that of enquirer’s coach whose job is to observe whether the enquirer is, in fact, asking open questions.

Carlebach notes, “Going into this exercise everyone thinks, you know, ‘how hard can it be, I’m an open-minded person, sure I can do this.’ But within a minute the enquirer is only asking leading questions. They can’t stay curious. You know, ‘how could you be so stupid’, kind of questions. For most of us, we’ve never observed ourselves being close-minded.”

Indeed for many folk, this realisation proves to be a light bulb moment…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: It'sGreg via photopin cc

photo credit: It’sGreg via photopin cc

School Is A Prison – and damaging our kids

This research showing how young people are are at their most unhappy when they are in school mirrors research findings by London School of Economics Mappiness study, which found that people are most miserable when they are at work, second only to when they are ill.  What sort of world have we made for ourselves, and what will it take for us to start to undo and remake the conditions we live in and terms of engagement for the greatest time we spend of our lives: our education and our work?

As  writes in his article:

Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work

…Most students — whether A students, C students, or failing ones — have lost their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school. In a recent research study, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl and Jeremy Hunter fitted more than 800 sixth- through 12th-graders, from 33 different schools across the country, with special wristwatches that provided a signal at random times of day. Whenever the signal appeared, they were to fill out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness, by far, occurred when they were in school and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school playing or talking with friends. In school, they were often bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science.

As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that learning is unpleasant. We think of it as bad-tasting medicine, tough to swallow but good for children in the long run. Some people even think that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness, because life after school is unpleasant. Perhaps this sad view of life derives from schooling. Of course, life has its ups and downs, in adulthood and in childhood. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix. Research has shown that people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Rise of Authority Or Why Being An Expert Is Not Enough

The importance of relationship is emphasised, too, in this post, by , which draws the distinction between getting power and influence from being able to speak with authority – dependent entirely upon the perceptions made by the receivers of your communication – as opposed to expertise, a more fixed position of claiming to be right.  Authority comes from a blend of Aristotle’s’ three modes of credibility: Logos (appeal to the objective rational argument), Pathos (successfully connecting into a shared understanding of our values, beliefs, feelings and the things we hold to be most important), and Ethos (the credibility, believability, perceived authenticity and trustworthiness – gravitas – of the speaker):

…You have authority when the audience says you do. You earn that praise by “bringing the thunder” every day…

How do you spot an Authority in a crowd?

First, they aren’t trying to be an expert. ** They are trying to matter.**

They want their skills, perspective, and tools to be useful. They are in it for the long-term. This is why they seem to stay relevant, even when the latest fad cools and disappears.

You will also see:

Confidence  They are willing to take a stand, point out error, and go it alone. Their confidence doesn’t come from a slick website or a clever book title. It comes from years refining their craft.

Openness  An Authority welcomes inspection. They hate black boxes. They believe they grow when everyone can collaborate on a point of view. For this reason, Authorities often frustrate their followers because they are willing to change their mind. They don’t confuse decisiveness with stubbornness.

Curiosity An Authority is obsessed with “what if”. They quickly tire of the same line of conversation. They are looking for new connections and they are intensely focused on the unconventional strategies that the expert’s dismiss.

Productivity An Authority embraces “the grind”. They know that Authority is perishable. Authority stays fresh when it publishes. They are more afraid of being inconsequential than being perfect. [They bring ways] to force the world to push back and make them better.

The good news is that you’re an Authority. You have to decide how you’ll grow and cultivate your skills and experience…

Link to read this article in full

Our own top tip for optimising the authority you can bring to your communications is to become obsessively interested in your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they know already, what position they are likely to be hearing you from, what problems, threats and difficulties they are wrestling with, and anything and everything else you can think of to wonder about them.  And then go into the communication ready to learn and notice as much as you possibly can during every stage of your encounter.

Another technique that helps to raise the level of authority you will be perceived to have is to surprise your listeners.  If people think they know what you are going to say, and you seem to start on track with these expectations, they are not likely to really listen openly to what you actually do say.

Here are some more ideas from  about increasing your powers of persuasion with more extravert, people-oriented people:

Keys To Persuading Expressing Personalities

…how best to persuade someone who is an expressive or influencer personality? When I think of an expressive, Oprah Winfrey immediately comes to mind because she’s someone who is more relationship-focused than task-oriented. Like the Trump, Oprah also likes to control situations and others.

The following describes this personality type:

Expressives like being part of social groups; enjoy attending events with lots of people; are more in tune with relating to people than working on tasks; are imaginative and creative; can usually win others over to their way of thinking; like things that are new and different; have no problem expressing themselves…

Some persuasion advice when dealing with an expressive-type person:

Definitely spend time engaging the liking principle with them, because they want to like the people they interact with. Oprah certainly cares about closing the deal but she also cares about you and your story so look for ways to connect with her. If she likes you it’s a good bet she’ll go out of her way to help you.

Expressive personalities responded more to reciprocity than any other personality type so look for ways to genuinely help them and they’ll respond in kind much more than pragmatics or thinkers will.

As was the case with pragmatics, in a business setting overcoming uncertainty is key for expressives.

Sharing trends and what others are doing – the principle of consensus – can be quite effective with expressives. Oprah types want to move the masses and they know it’s easier to swim with a wave rather than against it so share what many others are already doing.

Sharing hard data or using the advice of perceived experts is the most effective route with this group.  However, while authority was the #1 principle chosen by expressives, it wasn’t as effective as it was with the other personalities. Show Oprah the numbers or share insight from experts and it will give her pause to consider your request.

When it came to using consistency – what someone has said or done in the past – this was the #3 choice for expressives. For this group it’s not as much about being right as it is being true to themselves and what they believe. Look for ways to tie your request to his or her beliefs or values and the chance you’ll year “Yes” will increase significantly.

Scarcity was no more effective for this group than the others. Definitely don’t force the issue unless something is truly rare or diminishing. Oprah Winfrey and her expressive friends don’t like to miss out on opportunities but just know you won’t be as effective with the scarcity strategy as you might be with Donald Trump and his pragmatic buddies.

Link to read the unedited version of this article

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Here is some excellent advice from Steve Roesler about the power and potency of using silence in our communications:

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings.”Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what’s coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological: When you pause to create a “curious” state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what’s happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good “Stand-Up” leader and speaker?

Perhaps this is connected to intelligence coming from a new study into our inhibitory brain neurones and the role they play in selecting, shutting down and filtering out the information coming at us:

Researchers discover how inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning

We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Now neuroscientists are beginning to explain the science behind the adage.

For years, neuroscientists have struggled to understand how the microcircuitry of the brain makes learning easier for the young, and more difficult for the old. New findings published in the journal Nature by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine show how one component of the brain’s circuitry — inhibitory neurons — behave during critical periods of learning…

The brain is made up of two types of cells — inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Networks of these two kinds of neurons are responsible for processing sensory information like images, sounds and smells, and for cognitive functioning. About 80 percent of neurons are excitatory. Traditional scientific tools only allowed scientists to study the excitatory neurons…

…The prevailing theory on inhibitory neurons was that, as they mature, they reach an increased level of activity that fosters optimal periods of learning. But as the brain ages into adulthood and the inhibitory neurons continue to mature, they become even stronger to the point where they impede learning.

[But this new study] found that, during heightened periods of learning, the inhibitory neurons didn’t fire more as had been expected. They fired much less frequently — up to half as often.

“When you’re young you haven’t experienced much, so your brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information. It seems that the brain turns off the inhibitory cells in order to allow this to happen,” Kuhlman said. “As adults we’ve already learned a great number of things, so our brains don’t necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently.”

Link to read the unedited version of this report

And for more ideas and knowledge about the fine art of persuading people, see:

42 Tips for Masterful Presentations

Posted by: Arnold Sanow

8 Must-Read Books on Influence and Persuasion

by JENNIFER MILLER

and in the week that we commemorate 50 years since one of the greatest speeches ever made, see:

15 Things You Might Not Know About the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By 

 

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

 

The Poetry of Childhood

BY RICHARD LEWIS

…The ability of children to easily enter into the life of something other than themselves—to exchange their own mind for the mind of another—grows not only out of their innate playfulness, but out of a fluidity and plasticity of thought that is, in many ways, an inborn poetic gift. It is, perhaps, a way of seeing in which the seer does not distinguish between herself and the nature outside of her, an imaginative grasping of the whole of life before it becomes separated into subject matters and academic disciplines. One might think of it as a wilderness of thought that encompasses a multitude of growing worlds, each connected and dependent on the other—a truly ecological means of thinking and perceiving…

…the mind of the child and an event or object from outside of the child are subtly and gently brought together. This means of expressing and interpreting the world is not something that was taught, but a spontaneous way of explaining that what is of me is also what is happening around me.

Certainly this is true of Marilyn from New Zealand, who wrote lyrically and suggestively, when she was seven years old, of this shared mind between an insect and herself:

Nothing is better than the song the cricket sings. The sound of the cricket brightens my feelings and makes me sing too. My mind is the cricket’s mind and I wish I was a cricket. Hop, hop the black cricket. The cricket pokes out his feelers and I can hold them and the song of the cricket is my mind.

…So much of this childhood ease with both the visible and invisible, what we know and don’t know—the pure sense of expectation and delight in the mystery of what is happening and about to happen—is not only a function of our mind’s ability to balance opposites through the equipoise that is our imagination, but also a way of experiencing the world poetically. I don’t mean a poetry of verse and poems, but a poetic understanding that allows us to stand, for instance, in the middle of a stream and say nothing, and yet to feel, if only fleetingly, a sense of how we and the flowing water are of one being. Or to walk down a city street and accidentally walk through the shadow of a tree that seems to move with us, to want to follow us—an expectation, an incandescent moment of which we are suddenly made aware. Each is only an instant, but an instant that carries with it a form of knowledge accessible to children and adults alike, one we rarely include in our current estimates of intelligence or achievement. This awareness should not be seen as a lack of development or a passing innocence, but as a container of thought that we carry with us over a lifetime. Within it, we, the stream, the tree, and the tree’s shadow share the same language.

To Be Alive

It was there
Something—happened
What was it
A bird
A fish
A lizard
Was it the girl
Listen.
I hear it again
It is the wind
Wind.
It created me
I am its friend
The wind lives
in a secret garden
far away from me
It comes and I sleep
Sleep and the wind and I
drift to air.

by David, aged 10

Link to read this story in full

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photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

Design Thinking: Creating A Better Understanding Of Today To Get To A Better Tomorrow

Kevin Bennett, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” co-authored by U.Va. Darden ProfessorJeanne Liedtka, writes about the importance of getting inside the thinking and perspective of other people to better solve our own problems and realise our own ambitions in these fundamentals of creativity:

…The value of design thinking is in allowing us to see “A” more clearly.  For it is in focusing on “A” that we truly understand ourselves, each other and our world.

Design thinking guides us through an archeological dig to better understand “A” with a sense of openness to exploration and discovery. In this archeological dig, design thinking takes up ethnographic research tools to help us truly understand customers and other stakeholders. “Journey mapping” enables us to map other people’s personal experiences by walking in their shoes. “Mind mapping” allows us to understand the values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of individuals, to see the world through their eyes as they walk through their journeys.

Design thinking also helps us to see the world differently by looking to areas and organizations with seemingly nothing in common with our own. Throwing ourselves into another culture, industry or company can often shake up our own thinking. For example, in France, a group of banks and insurance companies said that design thinking “equipped us bankers and insurers with a new pair of glasses through which to see the world, our society, our clients and our jobs differently.”

In exploring “A” we open ourselves up to thinking differently, to innovations and solutions not previously contemplated. Many of the resulting insights and ideas will appear rough and not fully formed, but our research shows that there will be diamonds among them. And in finding these gems, we can not only better achieve our goals, we can test the very goals we set out to achieve.

Thus in focusing on “A” we can not only better achieve our goals in our businesses, organizations and lives, we can also better ensure we are picking the right ones in the first place.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Stress Does Not Fuel Creativity

Never Eat Alone co-author Tahl Raz interviewed author, speaker and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields for the Social Capitalist about his recent book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. During the interview, Jonathan discussed how stress actually reduces your creativity.

Research shows the higher your anxiety levels ratchet up, the lower your creativity goes. Also, one of the key things for creativity in business is a type of problem solving called “insight-based problem solving.” So to solve problems, you can come up with innovative ideas in two ways, either insight-based or analytically based.

Now analytical would be, “Ok, I have a big idea,” and if somebody said, “How did you get to that idea?” you could explain the steps, you could reverse them and back out and tell them how you got to it.

The insight-based solution is the one where you have this tremendous idea, but if someone said, “How did you get there?” you would have no idea. It’s the thing that just comes to you. What we know and what the research actually shows is that creativity plummets as anxiety goes up.

But even more specifically, insight-based problem solving, which is the highest level of problem solving because it introduces new paradigms, also plummets as anxiety goes up.

To read the full transcript of Jonathan’s interview, click here.

For more ideas about being more creative see also:

Six Ways to Expand Your Perspective

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

Wait, What’s That? The Science Behind Why Your Mind Keeps Wandering

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AN ATTENTION DEFICIT, YOU’RE FAR FROM ALONE.

BY: 

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)

BELLE BETH COOPER

How Meditation Affects You

Better Focus…

Less Anxiety…

More Creativity…

More Compassion…

Better Memory…

Less Stress…

More Grey Matter…More grey matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

Stifling Ourselves With The Need To Be Right

John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise, … provides some thoughtful – not to mention wry – perspectives on the importance of keep alive our sense of not knowing, giving compelling reasons for why it is that an acute sense of what we don’t know may be much more critical to our vitality and future possibility, than our certainties:

“What most people and societies become when they believe they know everything: incurious, self-satisfied, flabby, and prone to wearing tunics and lounging on grassy lawns…

“While there may be legitimate, eternal mysteries out there that are beyond our comprehension, history, in fact, shows us that if we do ask questions, we are likely to find answers eventually – which is perhaps more frightening than ignorance…. Being curious is the bravest human act, aside from skydiving.”

We shut ourselves off and limit our potential when we are certain we know what we really don’t, or maybe even can’t, know with certainty. We even make things up to make sense of life, and we confabulate, and [maybe unconsciously] “fill in gaps in memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.”

Link to read more of this article

Schein on Dialogue

From the blog Theatrical Smoke, some reflections from Edgar Schein’s “On Dialogue, Culture, and Organizational Learning”:

…dialogue, for Schein…starts from a change in mental approach–the use of a somewhat unnatural “suspension”–instead of reacting when we hear discomfiting information that triggers us, we pause for a moment, and evaluate what we’re thinking. “Is this feeling I have true? Or is it based on a mistaken perception?” we ask ourselves, and wait a bit for additional information before we decide how to act. Dialogue means bringing a kind of mindfulness, or cognitive self-awareness as we talk–”knowing one’s thought as one is having it,” says Schein.  Thinking about a thought rather than being the thought. Leaving the animal-like, mechanical push-and-pull of a conversation, and watching, as it were, partially from above…

…if we’re using dialogue, we’re watching ourselves thinking as we simultaneously listen to what people are saying, we’re seeing and assessing our built-in assumptions as they pop up, we’re thinking about what language means, we’re holding multiple possibilities in mind simultaneously. … we create a psychologically safe space where we can efficiently develop new languages and new models…

…without dialogue, says Schein – and this is the kicker – you can’t do much at all. Dialogue is “at the root of all effective group action,” it allows groups to “achieve levels of creative thought that no one would have initially imagined,” and, finally, without it, you can’t learn, you can’t change, and you can’t adapt:

“Learning across cultural boundaries cannot be created or sustained without initial and periodic dialogue. Dialogue in some form is therefore necessary to any organizational learning that involves going beyond the cultural status quo.”

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

Prompts That Get Us To Analyse, Reflect, Relate and Question

This technique is offered by  in Teaching Professor Blog as a teaching aid to help students learn, but we think it has excellent potential as a tool for us all to keep our own experiential learning continuous with our day-to-day activities:

This particular technique involves a four-question set that gets students actively responding to the material they are studying. They analyze, reflect, relate, and question via these four prompts:

  • “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea … that you learned while completing this activity.”

  • “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea … is important?”

  • “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”

  • “What question(s) has the activity raised for you?  What are you still wondering about?”  [You might need to prohibit the answer “nothing”.]

Link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative

 offers these really helpful techniques:

Think left

…researchers have found that information in your left visual field is more likely to help you solve a problem creatively than information perceived by your right visual field – which means placing inspirational information or items on your left is one way to help promote more creative thinking…

Cut out distractions

When an idea starts rolling around inside your brain, part of your visual cortex shuts down … to allow the ‘germ’ of an idea to bubble up to the surface and into awareness.  New research shows that cutting off the distractions of the outside world, even for a short time, seems to help the brain have more insights.

Break patterns

…Activities that ‘open your mind’ by breaking established cognitive patterns enable new and original associations to occur. Scientists suggest trying something different, changing routines, reading or watching things that demonstrate creative thinking, or doing puzzles that require creative thinking.

Take it easy

…The trick is to immerse yourself in a mindless, easy task like arranging Lego blocks into colours, mowing the lawn, walking, doing the housework or meditating. Activities like these enable the frontal lobes to relax, allowing thoughts to flow more freely and subconscious ideas to percolate into conscious ideas more readily…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

Learning how to live

Why do we find free time so terrifying? Why is a dedication to work, no matter how physically destructive and ultimately pointless, considered a virtue? Jenny Diski urges you to down tools while you can.

BY JENNY DISKI

…What if you answered the question “What do you do all day?” with “Nothing”? It isn’t as if that could possibly be true. If you spent all day in bed watching television, or staring at the clouds, you wouldn’t be doing nothing. Children are always being told to stop doing “nothing” when they’re reading or daydreaming. It is lifelong training for the idea that activity is considered essential to mental health, whether it is meaningful or not. Behind the “nothing” is in part a terror of boredom, as if most of the work most people do for most of their lives isn’t boring. The longing people express to be doing “creative” work suggests that they think it less boring than other kinds of work. Many people say that writing isn’t “proper work”. Often they tell me they are saving up writing a book for their “retirement”. Creative work sits uneasily in the fantasy life between dread leisure and the slog of the virtuous, hardworking life. It’s seen as a method of doing something while doing nothing, one that stops you flying away in terror…

…Leisure, not doing, is so terrifying in our culture that we cut it up into small, manageable chunks throughout our working year in case an excess of it will drive us mad, and leave the greatest amount of it to the very end, in the half-conscious hope that we might be saved from its horrors by an early death…

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #61

You will find all of these articles – and more – with ideas and practical tips related to these themes of learning, making strong relationships and learning to be happier and more creative in this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, as well as stories about happiness at work, leadership and resilience and wellbeing.

We hope you find things to enjoy and use.

Happiness At Work #57 ~ altruism, helping others & living ‘the good life’

Photo by Martyn Duffy

Photo by Martyn Duffy

The emergent theme coming through many of the stories of this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #57 considers what it means to be living The Good Life in our 21st century age of abundance and austerity, and the importance of altruism and helping others for our own happiness and even success…

Steve McCurry’s Blog: Light of Faith

Each week Steve McCurry’s new photo collection arrives in my inbox as a little gift, and I always save looking at them until I know I can take my time to quietly enjoy then and ket my mind go wherever they want to take me.  This week’s collection is no exception, and, even if you do not share any of the beliefs portrayed here, I think you might still find, as I did, that these images make worthwhile focus to just stop a moment and notice and consider the importance in all of our lives of reflection, stillness, breathing and breathing together…

I have seen many manifestations of faith during my travels over the past three decades.
Some have been spontaneous, some have been part of a liturgy,
some have been prescribed rituals,
Some have been in magnificent buildings, others have been outside under a tree.
Some people’s faith is embedded in the way they live their lives.  Steve McCurry

Here is the link to these photos

Not All Happiness Is Created Equally, and Genes Show It

By 

photo credit: USACE HQ via photopin cc

photo credit: USACE HQ via photopin cc

Provocative new research suggests happiness or positive psychology can affect your genetic makeup.

However, not all happiness is the same, and different types of happiness may have significantly different effects as the body responds in a unique manner to dissimilar forms of positive psychology.

Researchers from UCLA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered people who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene expression profiles in their immune cells.

That is, the “do-gooders” had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.

However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite.

The “feel-gooders” had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression…

Here is the link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Eileen Delhi via photopin cc

photo credit: Eileen Delhi via photopin cc

Virtue Rewarded: helping others at work makes people happier

Altruists in the workplace are more likely to help fellow employees, be more committed to their work and be less likely to quit, new research by UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs shows.  And these workplace altruists enjoy a pretty important benefit themselves — they are happier than their fellow employees.

“More and more research illustrates the power of altruism,” says La Follette professor Donald Moynihan, “but people debate whether we behave altruistically because of hidden self-interest, such as the desire to improve how others see us.

“Our findings make a simple but profound point about altruism: helping others makes us happier.  Altruism is not a form of martyrdom, but operates for many as part of a healthy psychological reward system,” Moynihan says…

Here is the link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis via photopin cc

photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis via photopin cc

 

Helping Others Makes Us Happier At Work, Research Finds

Here’s a good reason to help your coworkers with an upcoming project or presentation: Altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and are less likely to quit their jobs, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But beyond all that, researchers found perhaps the biggest benefit of office altruism: Those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others.

“More and more research illustrates the power of altruism,” Donald Moynihan, a professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the university, said in a statement. “Our findings make a simple but profound point about altruism: Helping others makes us happier. Altruism is not a form of martyrdom, but operates for many as part of a healthy psychological reward system…”

Here is the link to the rest of this article

Belongingness: Essential Bridges That Support the Self

by Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D.

Recent research is establishing the critical nature of social belongingness.

…people with greater perceived social support enjoy greater self-esteem, fewer illnesses, and longer lives.  In fact, research in our own lab has shown that people not only demonstrate better outcomes (e.g., less depression, less loneliness, greater self-esteem, greater happiness) from better quality relationships with people, but that even the quality of interactions with one’s dog can provide additional benefits above and beyond human social support (McConnell et al., 2011).  Social connection is a perception rather than an objective quality, and many sources may play an important role in augmenting one’s sense of connection and belongingness.

Promoting happiness: It is better to give than to receive

Another recent lesson from the research literature is that we are actually happier when we give to others than when we give unto ourselves.  One interesting benefit of social belongingness is that we spend a good amount of time caring for others, and recent research has shown that even in a consumer-driven culture, we can be happier when we address others’ needs instead of our own…

Here is the link to read this article in full

Good News, We’re Slightly Happier…But Why?

. Director of Action for Happiness

…Research suggests that the external circumstances of our lives generally have a smaller impact on our happiness than our attitudes and actions. And at Action for Happiness, our review of the latest evidence has identified ten areas where actions we take as individuals tend to increase our wellbeing. We call these the Ten Keys to Happier Living. They include having positive relationships and strong social connections, giving to others, being mindful, staying physically active, taking a resilient approach to adversity, pursuing life goals and being part of something bigger than ourselves. These are the real drivers of wellbeing just as much as having a job, good health or being married.

The ONS identified the Jubilee celebrations and Olympics as factors that may have contributed to our boost in wellbeing since last year. I suspect this may indeed be true. But if so, this is not thanks to our love of the Royal Family or our outstanding sporting success. It’s because these events encouraged actions which helped us to connect in our communities, to share enjoyable times together and to feel part of something bigger. Although these once-in-a-lifetime events won’t be repeated any time soon, there’s still so much more we can do to create and maintain those community connections and that positive and outward-looking spirit…

Here is the link to read the full piece by Mark Williamson considering what the first year-on-year UK national happiness statistics might mean.

How Do We Measure A Good Life?

How do we measure a good life? Do we judge it by the quality of an individual’s relationships and sense of meaning and purpose?  Or, do we judge it according to an individual’s wealth, status and power?  These external measures of success seem to count for a lot and yet, they clearly don’t buy happiness.  Park Avenue psychiatrists and their patients know this all too well.  Complaints about burnout, loneliness, meaninglessness and broken relationships are often at the core of their unhappiness.  They spend so much time ticking boxes that they lose sight of what really matters. In the name of “success,” they often sacrifice their mental and physical health.

If tangible achievements don’t amount to happiness, then what does? …  As I began exploring the meaning of “the good life” a few years ago, I learned about the field of Positive Psychology.

In broad terms, Positive Psychology focuses on human strengths and well-being.  Essentially, it is the scientific study of what makes life worth living versus traditional psychiatry and psychology that studies mental illness and pathology.  Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, Positive Psychology focuses on what’s right.  Along these lines, Positive Psychology is interested in a different kind of success: Success with a capital “S” that focuses on well-being.

One of the key takeaways from Positive Psychology is that relationships with other people matter most…

Here is the link to read this article in full

Guardian Books podcast: The pursuit of happiness

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

For Oliver Burkeman, a contented life must embrace uncertainty and get friendly with failure. But could the active pursuit of happiness be part of the problem?

Jules Evans takes a more can-do approach, looking back to the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers and tracking it through to the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy of today, which helped him to escape depression in his early 20s…

Here is the link to listen to this podcast

photo credit: profzucker via photopin cc
photo credit: profzucker via photopin cc

And here is a link to the video of Jules Evans talking about his journey out of depression with the help of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and its connection to the Ancient Greek’s idea of what Living A Good Life means…

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

…Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me…
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard…
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings…
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends…
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Here is the link to read this article in full

photo credit: scion_cho via photopin cc

photo credit: scion_cho via photopin cc

Searching For Happiness: What Makes Life Meaningful?

by Amie Gordon

Picture it – a cabin in the woods next to a gurgling river, a garden out back with beautiful flowers and delicious produce, a feeling of being close to nature, like my ancestors.  More time for important social interactions, which are really at the heart of a meaningful life.  No more random interneting or hours spent ignoring my husband in favor of my smart phone. Instead I’ll spend my days doing meaningful things, going to bed with the setting sun and sleeping as much as I need.  Really, imagine it.  Don’t you all want to come and join me in the woods?

But would I really be happier if I gave up modern conventions and moved to an isolated cabin?…

Here is the link to the full article to find out how Amie Gordon answers this question

photo credit: keppet via photopin cc

photo credit: keppet via photopin cc

The Quality of Life

by VENKAT

This is a long and deliberately provocative, fiery and funny essay that challenges many of the ideas and principles we believe and build our work towards.  While I do not agree with every thing written here, it is rich with ideas worth thinking about.  Here is my deliberately biased and unapologetically biased précis of this essay:

The idea of quality of life is very twentieth-century.  It sparks associations with ideas like statistical quality control and total quality management.  It is the idea that entire human lives can be objectively modeled, measured and compared in meaningful ways.  That lives can be idealised and normalised in ways that allow us to go beyond comparisons to absolute measures.  That lives can be provisioned from cradle-to-grave.  That an insistence on a unique, subjective evaluation of one’s own life is something of a individualist-literary conceit…

…That conception of the quality of life, as the sum total of material conveniences acquired and brutalities of nature thwarted through technology, seems naive today.  But with hindsight, it was much better than what it evolved into: baroque United Nations statistics that reflect institutionally enabled and enforced scripts, which dictate what people ought to want.

In 2013, the concept of quality of life is effectively drowning in the banality of self-reported statistical surveys based on unreconstructed concepts overloaded with institutionalised connotations.

Just looking at (for example) the Gallup well-being survey categories – career, social, financial, physical, community – depresses me.  It’s not just that the words themselves denote banal categories with which to think about life.  You know that they also have the force of committee interpretations by statisticians and economists behind them.  Committees that probably included no writers of imaginative fiction or speculative philosophy…

Nobody, other than bureaucrats who fund research and economists, asks the question “how much income is needed to be happy?”  We already know that talking about happiness without talking about what trade-offs we are making to pursue it is meaningless.  The rest of us real people ask the question “how much wealth is required to be free of scripts that dictate what trade-offs you are allowed to make?”…

…The problem isn’t specific stupid numbers or specific ideas about how to live on certain incomes.  The problem is that we have stupid discussions about numbers because we cannot have intelligent discussions about what quality of life means.  Our culture forces us to argue about how others ought to pursue quality-of-life. You there, save for college.  You there, buy a house.  You there, get your calories and daily protein requirement before you get your psychadelics…

…It is easy to dismiss such ideas as the  criticism of hard-working bureaucrats in thankless jobs by first-world residents working the top of their Maslow hierarchy of needs.  Perhaps those navigating the bottom of the hierarchy of needs in Africa benefit from hard-nosed attempts to reduce poetic thoughts about freedom into clean-edged models and metrics.

The problem is, this approach doesn’t work in Africa either.  And it is paternalistic to suggest that it does…

…When you actually meet people living in tough conditions, you realise that they don’t exactly make up dreams for their lives in some UN-approved sequence; water first, food next, healthcare third, money fourth, philosophy when I am rich, alcohol and marijuana never.  With “democracy” injected somewhere along the an S-curve from pre-industrial squalor to post-industrial anomie.

Humans are capable of nurturing rockstar dreams even while they are schlepping their twenty-miles-a-day to fetch water.  There is a reason there is music and art in all societies, not just the privileged ones…

…Even for those literally living on less than a dollar a day, the quality of life is about more than a hard daily scramble for the “basics.”  Humans strive to live full lives whatever their situation.  This requires freedom…

…So the search for meaning in life does not wait on the satisfaction of basic needs.  Any notion of quality of life that starts with a breakdown and classification of quality of life into more and less basic needs is starting in the wrong place.  Any model that conceptualises development as a progressive fulfilment of needs in a predictable sequence, and offers aid constrained by that sequence (or worse, penalises attempts by beneficiaries to break out of the sequence), is headed for a very quick unraveling.

You need music and literature even when you are hungry and ill.  There is a reason middle-class revolutionaries stir up popular passions among the hungry and dispossessed with theology, philosophical rhetoric and self-actualization narratives rather than narratives driven by the logic of access to basic resources…

…So to repeat, the Maslow pyramid isn’t some sort of sequential script for life.  Once truly acute stressors — we’re talking being chased by lions right now – are removed, the quality of life is a function of the whole pyramid, not just the level you happen to be navigating at that moment.  Life isn’t a video game.  You never really complete a level and move on.  You don’t need to complete a level before being afforded a glimpse of the next one.  You don’t need to tackle the levels in a set order…

…Human life, modeled by economists, measured by bureaucrats, and celebrated by statisticians, seems to miss the point in some deep way.  If we need those sorts of experts to tell us what constitutes a good life, and whether or we’ve achieved it, something is already very wrong…

…A deep truth about the human condition as captured in the Maslow hierarchy is that it is much easier for humans to help each other with acute needs at lower levels of the hierarchy.  For all non-acute needs, and acute needs in the upper levels, the only defensible way to help others is to increase their freedom of action.  Whether they choose to make themselves happy or miserable with that freedom is up to them.

So how did we get ourselves into a situation where institutions, politicians and economists are trying to tell us what quality of life ought to mean?  How did we get to the point where arbitrary ideas like home ownership and a college education have been inserted into the script of oughts and shoulds?…

…Right problem, wrong approach.  Not aesthetically or ideologically wrong, but physics wrong.  But still, it is better than the not-even-wrong approach of UN economists.

So it is a start.  We have asked the right question.  What does it mean to live a quality life today?…

…Freedom is not the same as access to entrepreneurial modes of being. That is still provisioning with an element of gambling.

But at least we’ve made another small improvement.  From not even wrong questions and answers to right question, wrong answer, we’ve arrived at right question, workable starter answer. 

We are getting somewhere.  Frustratingly slowly and painfully, but we’re moving.

It’s a start.

Here is the link to read Venkat’s provocative and thought-provoking essay in full

Janis Ian’s The Great Divide with pictures

Last night I went to watch Chasing Ice, a devastatingly beautiful and frightening film about photographer John Balog’s portrayal of the dying icebergs as they crumble away, and then when I went looking for Janis ian’s song The Great Divide to add to this post, I found this photo essay tribute made by rjbalano reminding us of climate change catastrophe.  If you need still need convincing about why all these ideas matter so very much and so urgently, I hope you will watch this…

One Guaranteed Way To Boost Your Happiness

By Jeanette Leardi

…“Happiness is a sense of wellbeing we experience when we are engaged in meaningful and manageable projects in our lives,” says Carleton University associate professor of psychology Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D, and author of “The Procrastinator’s Digest.” “One of the key attributes of humans is that we are goal-oriented beings.”

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., University of California–Riverside professor of psychology and author of “The How of Happiness,” would agree. “People who strive for something personally significant, whether it’s learning a new craft, changing careers, or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” she writes. “Find a happy person, and you will find a project.” …

But committing to a goal won’t automatically guarantee that you’ll feel better about your life. Sure, you’ll be busier, but not necessarily happier. That’s because some goals are unreasonable, inappropriate, impractical or unachievable. Explains Lyubomirsky, “The type of goal … that you pursue determines whether the pursuit will make you happy.”

So what kind of goal will help you lead a happier life? …

Here is the link to find practical answers to this questions and read this article in full

photo credit: c@rljones via photopin cc

photo credit: c@rljones via photopin cc

What makes a great talk, great: Chris Anderson at TEDGlobal 2013

It’s an alchemic question that’s very hard for us to answer: what makes a great TED talk?‘ writes Kate Torgovnick in her blog post about this…

In this talk, which was given to a gathering of 100+ TEDx organizers from 43 countries during the TEDx Workshop at TEDGlobal 2013, our curator Chris Anderson stresses the incredible power of a well-structured, honest talk.

We’re giving someone a new worldview that, 30 years later, might make them think differently, might make them act differently,” says Anderson in this video. “Sometimes I think a  (presentation) is like playing Tetris with the brain. All these ideas are coming in and you’re trying to fit them in and slot them so that they are received.

“What are the two things you need to do if you want to persuade a group of people to come with you on a journey?  Well you need to start where they are and you need to persuade them to come with you…”

In this talk Chris Anderson reminds us how astonishing it is that we can transmit a complex idea from our head into the heads of a listening group of people just through communication.  But, of course, we can also fail in this and leave our audience unchanged, unknowing and uncaring about what we wanted them to understand, care about about, act upon…

Here is the link to this talk to hear what Anderson considers the key to a good talk — taking the audience on a journey. In it, he shares his advice on how to do so authentically, without forcing it…

photo credit: Erwyn van der Meer via photopin cc

photo credit: Erwyn van der Meer via photopin cc

Chris Anderson shares his tips for giving a killer presentation

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick

In this essay in The Harvard Business Review’s June issue, Anderson shares his fine-tuned advice for delivering a powerful talk. Here are some of his words of wisdom…

We all know that humans are wired to listen to stories, and metaphors abound for the narrative structures that work best to engage people. When I think about compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey. A successful talk is a little miracle—people see the world differently afterward.”

If you frame the talk as a journey, the biggest decisions are figuring out where to start and where to end. To find the right place to start, consider what people in the audience already know about your subject—and how much they care about it. If you assume they have more knowledge or interest than they do, or if you start using jargon or get too technical, you’ll lose them. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it, and convincing the audience members that they should, too.”

“Perhaps the most important physical act onstage is making eye contact. Find five or six friendly-looking people in different parts of the audience and look them in the eye as you speak. Think of them as friends you haven’t seen in a year, whom you’re bringing up to date on your work.“

There is a link to the full article by Chris Anderson at the end of this TED Blog post

photo credit: MendezEnrique via photopin cc

photo credit: MendezEnrique via photopin cc

Dr Mark Williamson: My Manifesto for a Happier World

…what does a happier society look like and how can we make it happen? As Director of UK-based Action for Happiness, a growing global movement of people who care deeply about this topic, I’ve had the privilege to meet with many of the world’s leading experts as well as engaging with many of our 80,000 supporters and followers to hear their views.

My conclusion is that a happier society is possible – and rather than being some nebulous or idealistic dream, there are some clear actions needed to make this happen. It will of course require a shift in priorities for our governments and institutions. But it will also only happen if we as individual citizens play our part, particularly by choosing to live in a way that contributes to the happiness of others.

So below is my 12-step manifesto for a happier world, which calls for change not just from our leaders but from all of us. I’m not pretending these are simple changes or can happen overnight. But if we were to put these ideas into practice I’m certain we could create a society which is not only happier, but also more productive, caring, fair, responsible and sustainable.

For our political leaders:

    • Ensure a Stable Economy…
    • Focus on Wellbeing
    • Support the Disadvantaged…
    • Prioritise Human Relationships

For our institutions:

    • Healthcare for Mind And Body…
    • Education For Life…
    • Responsible Business…
    • Balanced Media...

For each of us as individuals:

    • Family Values…
    • Contributing In The Community…
    • Making A Difference…
    • Taking Care of Ourselves…

Together our actions make a profound difference…

Here is the link to read the detail of Mark Williamson’s Manifesto

photo credit: Fukecha Nabil via photopin cc

photo credit: Fukecha Nabil via photopin cc

Happiness Infusion Blog

You might like to check out this pretty comprehensive set of tools, techniques and gentle knowledge bringing that Eric Karpinski, a.k.a. The Happiness Coach, offers every couple of his weeks via his blog.  As he writes in his introduction:

These biweekly “Happiness Infusion” posts are the place to find key ideas and tips from the exciting science of positive psychology.  I share powerful conclusions backed by controlled studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  My goal is to make these fully accessible to those with little scientific training and succinct enough that a two-minute read will get you something thought-provoking or useful in YOUR life.

Here is the link to the summary of contents of all of his posts, very helpfully listed under the headings of:

  • Fundamentals of Positive Psychology
  • Happiness Habits
  • Making Time for Your Happiness
  • Managing Negative Emotions
  • Sleep and Happiness
  • Mindfulness and Meditation

And here is the link to the rest of this week’s Happiness At Work #57 collection of stories, articles, research news and practical techniques.

Enjoy…

Photo by Martyn Duffy

Photo by Martyn Duffy

Happiness At Work #56 ~ this week’s highlights

Photo by Martyn Duffy

Here are some of the stories we especially like in this week’s new collection of

Happiness At Work #56 of 26th July 2013

Step Back, Relax and Enjoy Summer

Diane Lang is a frequent guest on TV and radio and has been featured in many magazines, newspapers, and blogs and has a website, dlcounseling.com.

How can we live mindfully? Here are some steps Lang recommends:

1. Be an active listener: When someone is talking to you, stay present. Don’t think about anything else. Stay focus. Give direct eye contact. Ask questions. Summarize. Show you’re listening by the non-verbal messages with you send tiwth your eyes, hands and face.

2. Do one thing at a time: We are a society of multitaskers, but to be mindful we need to slow down, focus on the task, get totally absorbed on what we are doing, get into “flow.”

3. Simplify your life: Don’t fill your day just to be occupied. That is just being busy without purpose. Do the things you enjoy and love. Don’t waste time and energy on things that are just “fillers.”

4. Take some time each day to do nothing: “I mean nothing,” Lang says. This doesn’t mean thought time or nap time. It means just sitting and observing. Try to clear your mind completely and enjoy the silence.

5. Embrace nature: Another way to be quiet is by being surrounded by nature. Sit outside. Take a walk. Go for a swim. Lay in the sun (but wear sunscreen!).

6. Avoid judgment: That takes away from the experiences of the season. Don’t look at mindfulness as a chore. It’s just a state of being. It’s enjoying every moment. It’s being alive in every moment. It’s being fully involved in every activity and conversation.

7. Mindfulness is awareness: Be aware that every moment of your life is important, no matter how big or small.

8. Truly accept your life: Accept where you are at this moment. Be aware of your emotions. Don’t push them down or avoid them. They will eventually rear there ugly head. Accept them, feel them and then you can move forward. Don’t intellectualize or repress your feelings. If you feel what is happening, the negative feelings will pass quicker. Use your negative emotions as a teachable moment.

9. Mindfulness means self-compassion: Have a “higher talk” with yourself. Watch the tape recorder playing in your head. Change your self-talk. Use positive affirmations.

Link to read more

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

How Naps Affect Your Brain and Why You Should Have One Every Day

Written by 

…Studies of napping have shown improvement in cognitive function, creative thinking and memory performance…the body clock and your body’s best time for everything, we’re naturally designed to have two sleeps per day…

…while the left side of your brain takes some time off to relax, the right side is clearing out your temporary storage areas, pushing information into long-term storage and solidifying your memories from the day…

Here are some tips to help you work out the best way to get the most from your nap:

  1. Learn how long you take to get to sleep…
  2. Don’t sleep too long…
  3. Choose the right time of day…
  4. Practice…

Link to read this article

Study: Happiness of British Teenagers is in Decline

Britons ages 14-15 were less likely to be happy about school, their appearance and the amount of choice and freedom they have, than the others surveyed, the report said.

The charity, which questioned 42,000 8-17-year-olds, said all of society has a part to play in boosting children’s well-being.

“The well-being of our future generation in Britain is critical. So it is incredibly worrying that any improvements this country has seen in children’s well-being over the last two decades appear to have stalled,” Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said in a statement.

“These startling findings show that we should be paying particular attention to improving the happiness of this country’s teenagers. These findings clearly show that we can’t simply dismiss their low well-being as inevitable ‘teen grumpiness.’ They are facing very real problems we can all work to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family conflict or being bullied.”

Link to read more

Happiness peaks during 20s and 60s, slumps in mid-50s: study

Backing up a popular well-being theory called the U-shape, new research shows people are happiest around age 23 and then again around age 69. Most people are the least satisfied with life in their 50s, but ditching regrets could help get them back on the happy track.

BY 

Schwandt’s data comes from more than 23,000 surveys that were conducted in Germany, among participants between ages 17 and 85. They were asked how satisfied they were with their current life, and how they expected to feel about life in five years.

The research also shows that people are bad at predicting their future well-being.

“The young strongly overestimate their future life satisfaction while the elderly tend to underestimate it,” Schwandt said.

Link to read more

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone…

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11 Steps To Happiness At Work (in photos)

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 11 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations…

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Happiness in the Workplace: Enjoyed By Few, But Achievable For All

If you still have doubts about – or need to make the case for – the importance of happiness at work this excellent article by Kaitlin Louie summarises some of the key research into the link between professional and organisational success and happiness, and then goes on to outline some of the best advice about how to increase happiness at work from experts in the field…

Whether we realize it or not, happiness is one of the ultimate goals of everything we do. From the jobs we strive to obtain to the homes and cars we buy to the company we keep, many of our daily decisions are steps towards what we believe will bring us joy. Given the importance we place on achieving happiness throughout our lives, it comes as no surprise that workplace contentment is a topic of strong public interest and discussion. We spend a great deal of our waking hours at work, thinking about work and preparing for work. Books have been written on the subject, and there are numerous studies and articles that attempt to explain what it takes to find true and lasting professional happiness…

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photo credit: mckaysavage via photopin cc

photo credit: mckaysavage via photopin cc

The Secret to Entrepreneurial Happiness

…if happiness cannot be bought — and yet we use it to measure our business success — what can we do to attain it? Over the last decade, researchers in Positive Psychology have discovered a number of behaviours that boost happiness. To boost your own, practice these four behaviours:

  1. Create a social circle of like-minded entrepreneurs…
  2. Give your time away…
  3. Set attainable goals…
  4. Practice gratitude…

Link to read full article

What Silicon Valley Developers Can Teach Us About Happiness At Work

By 

…For some companies, like Mindflash, Agile has been a way to redefine success — an alternative to a workplace culture of stress and burnout that ultimately takes a toll on both employee well-being and the company’s bottom-line profits…

Here are four Agile principles that anyone can use to boost productivity — and happiness — at work.

Take breaks…

Focus on what you enjoy and what you’re good at…

Eliminate unnecessary work…

Take time to reflect…

Communicate face-to-face…

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Are Shallow People Happier At Work?

A nice reflective piece by By Gretchen Rubin (which also includes video conversation about what helps to make happiness at work) …

One surprising thing about happiness? That it has such a bad reputation.

Happiness, many people assume, is boring–a complacent state of mind for self-absorbed, uninteresting people…

In fact, however, studies show–and experience bears out–that happiness doesn’t make people complacent or self-centered. Rather, happier people are more interested in the problems of other people, and in the problems of the world. They’re more likely to volunteer, to give away money, to be more curious, to want to learn a new skill, to persist in problem-solving, to help others, and to be friendly. They’re more resilient, productive, and healthier. Unhappy people are more likely to be defensive, isolated, and preoccupied with their own problems.

Some people are argue that it’s better to be interesting than happy. But that’s a false choice…

I often think of Simone Weil’s observation, adapted for unhappiness and happiness: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” …

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Ed Diener’s ‘Science of Happiness’

By 

…Guaranteed happiness boosters include meditation, doing exercise, helping others, having interests you’re passionate about … the list is long. Diener is very careful here to distinguish between lasting contentment and short-lived pleasure. “So we talk about it as sustainable happiness because sometimes people try the short and quick things that don’t work like drugs, and alcohol and lots of sex and sensation-seeking, and we say no, turn to the things we know work in the long run,” he says.

And what works better than anything else is having close supportive relationships. When Diener and founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman who presented at Happiness & Its Causes 2012, looked at the data, they discovered the top five percent, “the really, really happy people” all had very strong connections with others, “people who would really step up and help them and go to bat for them. And it was universal.” …

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Bioeconomics: The Hidden Megascience

…If we conceive of human beings as Homo economicus, as non-sentient automatons whose behaviours can be described by algorithms, sentience will be ignored if not forbidden and felt experience will be seen as irrelevant. This is exactly what is happening.

By contrast, to see reality as a living process would literally change everything. This is the challenge of Enlivenment as a “transcendent paradigm.” Its insistence that our policies focus on living experience provides the deepest possible ethical leverage for intervening in our global system.3 Of course, this approach is moot in today’s political culture. But political change must start with our imagining of a different reality. Only by imagining a different world have people ever been able to change the current one…

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The Art of Memory

By 

…I’m very interested in hearing about any techniques that might help me do this, including those described here by accomplished memory athlete Daniel Kilov, who will be presenting at our Mind & Its Potential conference later this year.

Kilov says that when he tells people he’s a memory athlete, many wonder why he bothers given it’s so easy in today’s world to retrieve whatever information we want by clicking on Google or Wikipedia. He believes their question goes to the “heart of the conception we have of memory and of the relationship that we think it has to learning”, a conception that’s formed when we’re at school and asked to memorise through boring repetition. “It’s a conception of memory as being a dull, impersonal and ineffective parroting,” he says.

His preferred conception of memory is that it’s creative, personal, fun and highly effective. Moreover, he espouses the value of memory techniques as a potential revolution in education. Not that this would be the first time excellent recall skills have enjoyed high status in academia. As a matter of historical fact, the art of memory has its origins in ancient Greece where, says Kilov, it was practiced universally by the great thinkers of the time who “recognised that creativity, focus and critical analysis were the kinds of things that could only happen in the minds of well-trained mnemonics.”

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The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

THORIN KLOSOWSKI

…Everyone prefers to learn a little differently, so unfortunately you might need to experiment with different methods as you’re taking on a new skill. The above list certainly doesn’t inlucde everything, but it’s a starting point to learning more effectively. You’re bound to hit plenty of barriers along the way, and sticking with it isn’t always easy, but the benefits are worth it: a bigger, smarter brain that can process things easily…

Link to read the full article of knowledge and guidelines about how to learn well

Leadership Lesson: Do You Hear Me?

by Andy Uskavitch

Listening requires you to stop what you’re doing and to have patience with the conversation.”

Leaders need to focus in order to keep listening, or else we’re just . . . hearing.  Too many leaders have so many things on their minds that if they don’t just stop and focus on listening, it’s not long before they’re thinking about other things and slipping into the hearing mode…


Link to read full article including practical Active Listening techniques

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

The Four Facets of Communication at Work

This article was written by Neil Payne, Founder and Marketing Director of translation services company Kwintessential.

Ask ten people what they think contributes to a successful working environment and you can bet your bottom dollar the majority will agree on one factor – communication. We recognise and value communication for its contribution to a better workplace through the efficiencies it brings, performances it enhances, trust it builds and morale it nurtures.

Communication is good, and as a result most organisations seek to promote it in one form or another at the heart of their affairs. However, as we all know, sometimes things are not as we would like them to be; communication can be inconsistent, non-existent or simply poor. The consequences are on the whole negative and can lead to an organisation with problems…

Although there are many facets to communication, a simple approach is to look at the four key areas of the organisation, the culture, the people and the platforms…

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Steve McCurry’s Blog: Eye Witness

The latest eye-opening photos from master photographer of human life around our planet…

Eyes speak a universal language, and no
interpreter is needed

Link to these photos

Fishes and Trees: Timely Mindfulness Tips from Albert Einstein

Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Albert Einstein

12 Tips on Mindfulness From Albert Einstein

    1. I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. Use your passionate curiosity! How to begin? Use mindfulness. Settle into yourself, hear those whispered truths.
    2. Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. Are you trying to drive and kiss? Trying to work a “job” and hold your dreams ’till some future whenever? Stop that. Start kissing.
    3. Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.** Fish who are paying attention, being mindful, know that trying to climb a tree is a waste of a life. Smart fish go for the water, that place from which one happily thrives.
    4. The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious — the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Is there any room in your life for the mysterious? If not… bummer. That’s the space wherein fish understand that trying to climb a tree is pretty stupid. Mindful awareness can help you see the mysterious body of water that’s right in front of you.
    5. Any fool can know. The point is to understand. Any fool fish intellectually knows that climbing a tree just isn’t going to happen. But. To understand the ramifications, and make a different choice, well… that’s where mindfulness comes in handy.
    6. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. Cultivating a mindful awareness practice helps us manage those inevitable difficult times. It helps us get in the water rather than trying to climb trees.
    7. Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. If all the fish around us are crazily trying to climb, it’s more challenging to see with our own eyes that it’s a no-win effort. Feeling our way with our hearts is the minority position. (70 percent disengagement in the workforce?) Mindfulness goes a long way toward giving us the courage to do what needs doin’.
    8. The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. Yes, you’ll need to do something different in order to swim in your own little pond (or big fat ocean). What can help you make the necessary changes? That’s right… mindfulness.
    9. The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.Mindful awareness helps develop the ability to drop into the gift of your intuitive mind. If more fish cultivated this practice… well, just imagine the results!
    10. I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am. Most fish aren’t stopping long enough to know how they feel about anything. Mindfulness helps us feel into what is true. When we understand that, we can begin making better choices for ourselves and the people we love.
    11. Imagination is the highest form of research. Imagination? Feeling into your heart? Intuition? None of these concepts is high on the list of most organizations. What might be wrong with this picture? Start asking yourself what you need to know. Do it through mindful awareness. Align with Einstein.
    12. The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. How much of you is dying inside while you’re madly trying to climb a tree when you really belong in the water? Develop your mindfulness muscle. Start living.

Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all for everything on the planet. But it sure does help. With almost everything…

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For all of these articles, plus many more, please see this week’s new collection of stories about happiness and wellbeing at work, resilience & self-mastery, learning & creativity, leadership and artistry …

Happiness At Work edition #56 of 26th July 2013

We hope you find things in this to enjoy and use.