Positive psychology is not yet twenty years old. In the short time since Martin Seligman’s 1998 call to turn on a scientific inquiry into what helps human beings to flourish, rather than merely survive, we have discovered an enormous amount about what we can all learn to do and practice and ultimately master to grow and sustain our own and each other’s happiness.
And doing this is much more than a luxury. Research is showing that our happiness is integral to our individual success, in terms of our performance and productivity, our creativity and learning, and our resilience and positive responsiveness to change and uncertainty. And it is an equally vital aspect of making strong trusting relationships in our families and friendships, our teams and wider networks, as much as in our societies and increasingly interconnected, interdependent global systems.
Introducing Seligman in Dublin, TCD professor of psychology Ian Robertson described him as a “polymath” engaged in nothing less than “a movement which is creating a paradigm change in how humanity thinks about itself”.
Seligman described himself as a self-confessed pessimist and depressive who tries out his own techniques first on himself before expanding them to his own family and then his students.
He was a relatively late convert to the concept of wellbeing and happiness. As a psychologist, he recalls, happiness was regarded as the “froth on the cappuccino”, immeasurable and irrelevant to his profession.
“Thirty years ago there was no theory of wellbeing which distinguished it from suffering and no interventions that built wellbeing. That has changed over the past thirty years.”
It might seem obvious given the recent emphasis on wellbeing and happiness, but the focus of psychology and psychiatry was, for so long, on alleviating suffering and examining mental illness rather than the pursuit of happiness.
He defines wellbeing as what “non-suffering, non-oppressed people choose to do”. It pertains not only to individuals but also to corporations and even nation states.
Seligman’s understanding of wellbeing includes the notion of “flourishing”, where human beings create the conditions for making the best of themselves and their circumstances.
Seligman’s model for wellbeing is made up of five building blocks summed up in the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, strong Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. These five concepts together represent a definition of wellbeing.
We add one more – Resilience – and use this framework in our training and coaching programmes as a springboard to help people explore what they feel most and least satisfied about in their work and lives, and what they can do to keep strong their highest elements and build up their lowest scoring elements.
Here then are the five+1 essential elements for flourishing:
Positive emotion is feeling happy or comfortable in a situation, what we think of when we think of happiness.
ways to find greater positive emotion
Use your Signature Strengths every day
Experience ~ do what you know makes you happiest
Gratitude ~ keep a Gratitude Journal for at least 21 days
Exercise ~ even 20minutes a day is better than none
Music ~ listen to music to lift or change your mood
Mindfulness exercises: focus in on your breathing – even 2minutes a day makes a very big difference
B A L A N C E ~ explore what this means to you and how you can get better balance in different aspects of your life
Engagement is when we are completely absorbed by something, whether it is our work, pastimes, making the dinner, or any activity that we find just the right level of challenge and interest to take our fullest and finest attention. This totally engaged state is known as “flow”, occurring when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. Greater “flow” brings greater happiness.
Having strong Relationships relates to those that bring us benefit. Human beings are “hive creatures”, Seligman says, not just selfish individuals.
Strong Relationships come from feeling respected and valued, loved and loving, and involves: love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, giving, teamwork and easy self-sacrifice.
ways to build stronger relationships
The more you feel that you have made someone else happier the more ~ and the longer ~ you will feel happier yourself.
Really listen. Try to listen even more fully and openly.
Give ~ your time, your attention, your interest, yourself…
Appreciate ~ others, yourself, beauty and excellence
Make moments to enjoy being with people who matter to you
Meaning is the extent to which you feel that what you doing adds up to something beyond and unrelated to your own self-interest and ego. It is the idea making a positive difference to something you care about, of belonging to and serving something that you believe to be bigger than yourself, such as a cause or activity linked to your deepest values. “The more meaning people have at work, the more productive they are,” Seligman says.
ways to increase your sense of meaning
Ask… By doing this work what do I help to achieve? What else? What else? And what do these things help to achieve? …
4 Ways to Find Meaning in Any Job
Know what fuels you. Our personal values are hard-wired to our sense of purpose. When you know what you value right down in your bones, you’re able to anchor any activity or behaviour to a sense of something that genuinely matters, bringing your work alive with meaning and purpose. Discover what your values are and then look for how they can connect to what you do.
Turn up the texture of experience. Your sense of meaning can be found in the simple moments of life. Find ways to increase the intensity of what you bring by looking out for ways to be help, or show your warmth, or give your attention, or even by taking a deep breath of fresh air not because you’re stressed out, but because you love how it feels in your chest.
Leave a room better than when you found it. Decide never to leave a room until you’ve done something to contribute, make a difference, or leave it better than when you entered. Offer your insight or expertise, appreciate someone for something they’ve said or done, or simply give someone your fullest hearing.
Leave a little legacy as often as you can. Look at your legacy as something you possess that you can gift to others by your own free will. Your time, consideration, skill, empathy, hospitality, experience — all of these things and more are things you can gift to others.
Accomplishment would appear to be self-evident, he states, but it is startling how self-discipline trumps talent. It is twice as important as IQ for predicting academic success, Seligman says.
Accomplishment comes from a combination of our own internal source of pride in what we have done and achieved along with sufficient recognition and appreciation from others. One of the top reasons people give for feeling unhappy at work is insufficient recognition and appreciation from their manager. And Gallup’s research into strengths based leadership concluded that if every manager were to spend 3-5 times as much of their conversations with their people talking about their strengths and achievements as they do about their weaknesses and failings, this one change alone would triple people’s productivity, engagement and commitment to their work and the organisation.
Resilience means making the best of – even becoming stronger as a result of – setbacks, failure, hardship or trauma. It involves elasticity, bouncing back, flexibility and is grown from the capabilities of optimism, courage, buoyancy, self-determination, and perseverance.
Resilience is “the capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).
Seligman advocates simple techniques that will enhance one’s sense of wellbeing – one of which is to write down “three good things” that occur during the day.
“It turns out that when people do this, six months later they are less depressed and have higher positive emotion compared with a placebo.”
What works for the individual also works for larger organisations. Seligman pointed to research in the United States that showed a startling correlation between the type of language used on Twitter and incidences of fatal heart attacks.
One would seem ostensibly to have nothing to do with the other, but there was an unerring correlation between negative language used on the social media platform and increased risk of heart attacks.
“I think this is causal,” he says. “If you change the way people think and talk about the world, you can change things like the heart attack and death rates.”
The critical question, Seligman says, is whether PERMA can be taught. Can happiness be improved? Do these techniques work? Can the success or otherwise of such techniques be measured? He maintains the answer to all these questions is yes.
Studies in Bhutan have shown marked differences in schoolchildren to whom wellbeing was taught against a placebo group that was not taught wellbeing.
Bhutan has made national wellbeing – gross national happiness – a goal as distinct simply from gross national product. Children who were taught the techniques of positive psychology experience half the rate of depression and anxiety as adolescences, Seligman says.
Similarly, Seligman was employed by US army chief of staff George Casey to teach positive psychology to drill sergeants. Casey wanted an army that was mentally as well as physically fit and strong, and has spent €150 million teaching resilience psychology to soldiers.
The result has been a notable decrease in incidences of suicide, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Governments should follow suit, Seligman says.
Here is one more quote from Martin Seligman, from when I heard him speak the Action for Happiness event in 2016:
“I believe it is within our capacity that by the year 2051 that 51% of the human population will be flourishing. That is my charge.” Martin Seligman
These are some of the highlights I have especially enjoyed and drawn ideas from during the last six week’s trawl for stories, research and practical tips about how to make greater relationships, happiness and resilience for ourselves and the people we work with.
As this burgeoning new field of inquiry expands and gains more and more momentum, it is becoming harder to slim down our selection rather than to find relevant material, and we really hope you will find something amongst this mix, and in the rest of the collection, to use to nourish your own aspirations, learning, leadership and flourishing.
Happy workplaces are more profitable and innovative, attract the best employees and have lower absenteeism and employee turnover rates. Simply put, happy companies make more money.
But how do you create a happy workplace? We believe some of the answers are found in positive psychology…
Traditional psychology looks at everything that can go wrong with our minds – psychosis, neurosis, phobias, depression etc – and asks how it can be treated/cured. It’s an incredibly important field but positive psychology asks the opposite question: When are we happy? What does it take for people to live good lives and thrive psychologically? The field has been especially active for the last 30 years and we are learning some really interesting and surprising things about happiness.
Here are the five findings from positive psychology that we believe are the most relevant in the workplace.
1: Positive emotions have many beneficial effect on us and on our job performance…
2: Emotions are contagious…
3: Small actions can have a large effect on our happiness…
I am now working with (my wife) Michelle Gielan and Amy Blankson from the Institute for Applied Positive Research to find out how long a happiness boost lasts from a single pay increase versus more frequent organic boosts like digital praise. Our hypothesis is that if a company gives a pay increase, the engagement bump is short-lived, as the new income level becomes the mental norm — necessitating another raise later to maintain the same level of engagement. This is in line with current research on extrinsic/intrinsic motivation as described in the HBR article “Does Money Really Affect Motivation?” But because the peer recognition program is ongoing, there is no indication of a tolerance point at which the engagement scores return to a baseline.
As our companies continue to grow and expand and technology advances, we are finding ourselves increasingly fragmented from our social support networks both at work and at home. The digital revolution has increased our speed of work dramatically. And this research suggests that technology may also be one of the keys to connecting us back together — creating the type of effective, organic and peer-based praise people need and deserve as they endeavor to lead their teams to greater success…and hopefully greater happiness.
Psychologist and author Martin Seligman posited that “authentic happiness” is a combination of engagement, meaning, and positive emotions. He studied people from all over the world and discovered that when a person exercises certain traits or virtues—like duty, kindness, and leadership—it promotes authentic happiness.
The two realms of life that are most likely to elicit engagement, meaning, and positive emotions are our social relations and the workplace. And yet, if you ask around, you’ll sadly come to the realization that most workplaces hinder engagement and positive emotions.
Here are 27 resources from great thinkers, researchers, and leaders on helping you hone in on happiness so that you can cultivate it within your team and your day-to-day activities.
some articles about Making Great Relationships at work
This result suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude “muscle” that can be exercised and strengthened (not so different from various other qualities that can be cultivated through practice, of course). If this is right, the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future. It also potentially helps explain another established finding, that gratitude can spiral: The more thankful we feel, the more likely we are to act pro-socially toward others, causing them to feel grateful and setting up a beautiful virtuous cascade.
According to a meta-analysis by Gallup, one determinant of positive employee attitudes — in addition to having learning opportunities and adequate office supplies — is answering yes to the question “I have a best friend at work.” Perhaps company policies could include 45-minute lunch breaks, since American researchers found that this length of time spent in substantive conversation — not small talk — fosters a sense of closeness between mere acquaintances. Exchanging weekend war stories at your neighbour’s desk has more value than you might think…
“Parenting is the stewardship of the precious lives that come to you through birth, adoption or second marriages. Leadership is the stewardship of the precious lives that come to you by people walking through your door and agreeing to share their gifts with you.” This insight ultimately transformed how Chapman runs his company. In a new book Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, Chapman and coauthor Raj Sisodia explain how any company can integrate this perspective into their organization.
‘How do I tend to respond to difficult or challenging times at work?’
The workplace throws up a steady stream of obstacles and challenges e.g. colleague relationships, organisational ways of working, workloads etc., and it’s our resilience or the ability to cope with the obstacles that come our way, to bounce back, learn from mistakes, to make amends when necessary, and most important of all, begin again without rumination or regret, which determines our wellbeing at work.
Resilience was once seen as a rare human feat – but now, research shows that within a well-functioning emotion system, resilience can be standard and that people’s levels of resilience are not set in stone, but can be improved through experience and training.
Resilience is often defined as the capacity to adjust to change, disruption or difficulty and move on from negative or traumatic experiences in a positive way.
Studies find people with the most resilience tend to be more productive, less likely to have high health-care costs and less often absent from work. Now, some employers are offering programs to help employees become more resilient. They are providing webinars and group coaching to teach skills and habits that help people stay focused and functioning during stressful times at work or home…
A recent review of more than a decade of studies, led by researchers at the University of Nebraska and published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, found resilience training in the workplace can help improve employees’ mental health and subjective well-being, and offer wider benefits in social functioning and performance.
In December the New York Times Magazinepublished an essay called “The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience.’ ” It pointed out that the word is now used everywhere, often in ways that drain it of meaning and link it to vague concepts like “character.” But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught. In recent years, we’ve taken to using the term sloppily—but our sloppy usage doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been usefully and precisely defined. It’s time we invest the time and energy to understand what “resilience” really means.
We make millions of little decisions all the time, and the result of each one is either net positive, net negative, or neutral. The more net positive decisions we can make (and the fewer net negative ones), the better. Net positive decisions—brushing your teeth before bed, eating healthy meals, and regularly going to the gym—help you feel good and bring you one step closer to your goals despite the effort they entail….
While the healthier choice may seem harder, it pays off bigger. And you’ll be surprised by just how easy these choices can be once you make the effort. By learning how to master the seven things that are within our control, you will start to make more net positive decisions, fewer net negative ones, and find that empowering, positive behaviors become second nature. So let go of all the stuff you can’t control and start using your time to master what you can control. Before you know it, you’ll be living your best life ever!
Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time, and bombarding them with information only slows them down…
New research suggests the possibility that cognitive damage associated with multi-tasking could be permanent.
A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.
The one caveat is that research isn’t detailed enough to determine if multitasking is responsible for these effects, or if existing brain damage results in multitasking habits. Still, no matter how you spin it, multitasking is no good.
The lesson? Multitasking is not a skill to add to the resume, but rather a bad habit to put a stop to. Turn off notifications, create set email checking time slots throughout the day (rather than constant inbox refreshing), and put your mind to the task at hand.
Matthieu Ricard, also known as ‘the world’s happiest man’, spends much of time now trying to teach the world how to be happy, and how to show empathy, kindness and compassion to one another.
His latest book, Altruism, provides a complex look at a remarkably simple approach to solving the ills of the world. Ricard’s work has always revolved around positive transformation, and now he has published an 800-page guide to using one of the traits most inherent to human nature to overcome the challenges of the 21st century.
Ricard summarises his work: “I used everything I could learn through 70 years, and I researched for five years to point out that altruism is not a luxury or utopia, but the only answer to the challenges of our times.”
The book took him five years to write, and contains an impressive 1,600 scientific references, providing a convincing argument on how important the widespread adoption of genuine concern for the wellbeing of others could be for changing the world.
He takes a three-pronged look at the world’s main challenges: the economy in the short-term, life satisfaction in the mid-term, and the environment in the long-term.
“People are basically good. If you look at evolution, one of the difficult points was how evolution can explain altruism; now you see all the great evolutionists like Martin Nowak with ideas that actually say cooperation has been much more creative to evolution than competition. Those are not just eccentric guys; they are the core of the science.”
Ricard believes that we are perfectly placed to start tapping into what is already a part of us, to create something better: happier societies, a more compassionate business environment, and a less damaging approach to the environment.
Those who would find solitude must not be afraid to stand alone.
What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge — broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider — the two cultures betray a common impulse. Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.
So we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone…
Overall, the link between creativity and distractibility ties in nicely with one of the main assertions Kaufman and Gregoire make in their book: that a creative mind is an open mind. This may even help explain why experiments since at least the 1960s have discovered a link between creativity and mental illness. “Being open to and curious about the full spectrum of life — both the good and the bad, the dark and the light — may be what leads writers to score high on some characteristics that our society tends to associate with mental illness,” Kaufman and Gregoire write, “at the same time that it leads them to become more grounded and self-aware.” Having an open mind means a lot more stuff is going to wander on in there, for better or for worse. “Everything is interesting, and you want to pay attention to it all,” Carson said.
But in the annoying, everyday scenarios, this can be a problem, for the obvious reasons. Sometimes you do have to filter out distractions. Alas, it’s not yet clear from the research whether it’s possible for a person to temporarily improve their latent inhibition. Instead of trying to train yourself to ignore distractions like email or texts, it may be better to avoid them completely, at least while you’re trying to get creative work done. Marcel Proust is said to have worked while wearing ear plugs; the 19th-century novelist Franz Kafka once said, “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ — that wouldn’t be enough — but like a dead man.” Both men have a point.
Most employees spend around 40 hours a week in the workplace. It’s the space in which they reason, react, collaborate, build relationships and think creatively…
With employee wellbeing moving up the organisational agenda it isn’t surprising to find businesses re-examining how their workspaces affect employees, for good or for bad.
But other forces too are pushing them to think differently. There has been much discussion about the impact of the multi-generational workforce and of the complications that arise as the requirements and preferences of different generations play out in the modern workplace.
Nor is it just generational differences; different kinds of job roles, work patterns, skill sets and perhaps even personality types also need to be taken into consideration. There is a growing appreciation of the need to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace design, towards one that appreciates the diversity of employee needs.
As businesses seek to gain and maintain competitive edge and remain agile in a world of increasingly flexible work patterns, the need to rethink the working environment is almost inevitable.
With more organisations recognising this, it’s becoming clear that the office of the future is going to look very different from the workplace of the past.
The world of work—and the world in general—is changing. People are living longer, new technologies are emerging, and we’ve never been more globally connected. That means the skills we use now in the workplace are not necessarily the skills we’ll need in the future.
In this three-part series, Professor Robert Quinn looks at how HR can stop being in the ‘bandage business,’ and how they can harness the findings of his research on Positive Organizations to emerge as a strong strategic business partner. This is part one. Read part two and part three too.
…in a world where 70% of the global workforce is unengaged and 52% of the management workforce is unengaged, how do we create cultures where people flourish and exceed expectations?
Leadership development and cultural vitality are big HR challenges that face every organization.
…the story of a Chief People Officer who got out of the bandage business. She altered the culture of a major business school. In the process she reinvented herself and became invaluable to her organization.
We are more and more recognising that the ‘soft people skills’ are neither unimportant nor inevitable, and we fail to give them our best attention and expertise at our peril.
“…given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.” Stella Duffy
Our headline post for this new Happiness At Work collection takes its words from Stella Duffy, writing about the real power of brilliant everyday people to make brilliant things happen – and yes, that would be all of us.
What last year’s very first Fun Palaces experiment discovered, heightened and celebrated was the huge talent, enthusiasm, energy and abilities of people to make something together when there is the right mix of invitation, belief, openness, trust, and recognition.
80% of the 3,000+ people who made them and 80% of the 40,000+ people who took part in last year’s Fun Palaces across the UK and in other countries were experiencing arts activity for the first time. And 90% of makers believed their Fun Palace made people very happy or happy.
And there is much we might learn from this to take into our organisations, teams and work relationships, as the article about relationships at work collected here all suggest.
Try reading this imagining that Stella Duffy is talking about your organisation, even if you are not a professional working in the arts, science or community engagement…
The 3,183 people across the UK who signed up to make local Fun Palaces last year did so for many reasons…
For most, whatever their initial reason for getting involved, it was the local aspect that proved crucial: working with neighbours (many of them not already friends), local councillors and public buildings, often for the first time, to make great, inclusive work – and making it locally.
One of the things we’re proudest of with Fun Palaces is that it’s not about outside experts. Contrary to many subsidised engagement programmes, this project doesn’t fly in experts to make a difference. It does not look for experts to tell a group how best to function, nor does it believe that experts are best-placed to inspire communities to create their own arts and sciences events. We do not bring in world-class orchestras or top-ranking scientists to work with Fun Palaces; we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to – and we don’t want to.
The local person – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.
Joan Littlewood said she believed in the “genius in every person” – and we do too. We believe that everyone can make great work, in every field, and that what is lacking is not willing, hard work – nor the brilliance necessary for ordinary people to become expert – but opportunity and encouragement…
What we learned from our Fun Palaces pilot in 2014 was that the experts are already in communities, that excellence of engagement is far more valuable than a subjective excellence of artistic quality.
We also learned that, given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.
Real people, ordinary people, the people: the ones who know their own community’s needs and wants, because they live in it, offering engagement and participation far from Westminster, from the grassroots up.
Admittedly this is a real potpourri of seemingly random bits and pieces of research, but it has been made up into an intriguing provocation to some of the assumptions and beliefs that w might need to let go of in the new world of work we are making for ourselves.
During the course of my work and life, many people ask me for advice on where to begin their own explorations into empathy. Having personally consumed hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and video content, I thought I would help de-clutter and put on a platter some of the best sources to not only get started, but to challenge your thinking. Happy reading!
Out of all high-level discussions on empathy, this is by far the most ideal introduction to the topic. As an inspirational yet very accessible read, I suggest this as the ideal stepping-stone into empathy. By approaching the exploration from a philosophical lens, the author provides a high level overview of empathy, interwoven with many excellent historical illustrations and practical real-world examples. Also, there is a great TED talk previewing the book.
I like this book as the strongest practical demonstration empathy, in which Orwell immerses himself in a homeless life. For me its impact comes as much from the descriptions of lived experience on the street, as it is for knowing that this was a transformational period for the writer. The reader really gets a strong sense for how this experience provided Orwell with the deepest of insights into humanity, which he would use as the basis for later seminal works that remain relevant today – 1984 and Animal Farm. This might even inspire you to seek immersion in your own life, to intensify your own empathic exploration beyond your usual comfort zone. It is suggested second on this list deliberately as you will find it easier to make the connection between the author’s empathic journey if you start the book with an understanding of empathy basics provided by Roman Krznaric.
This was the first book I ever read by a neuroscientist. I chose this because it seemed logical that in order to really understand empathy, it is necessary to get to the very source – the human brain. Zero Degrees turned out to be an easy to read and fascinating account of the conditions that leave some people without the neurological capacity for empathy. For anyone interested in empathy, this is a key insight as it demonstrates that the vast majority of us can be empathic.
After reading the first three, this will be a slightly more testing read as the author provides a more technical account of empathy. This has been added to the list mainly because it will make you consider what brings people to empathy (or not). It discusses the selectiveness of empathy, that it is dependent on several personal and situational factors, and that we even avoid empathy under certain conditions. Why do we act when a family member is in need of help, or even a fellow countryman, but not the millions living in poverty in far away places? These are fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves. It may seem overly technical for some – however, those who can stick with it will gain new levels of insight.
Having read the first four on this list, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, I now have some understanding of empathy… but what the heck am I supposed to do with it?’ One of the great challenges I see at the moment is the rapidly developing thought leadership in the clinic sphere, coupled with a relative dearth of advice on applied empathy. Well Designed takes steps towards a practical framework for applying aspects of empathy in product design. The author combines his background in design thinking and develops it to address the need for robust empathic insights. To do this he leverages ethnographic techniques and an immersive account of empathy, which indicates that observation is an essential starting point. The steps contained with this book are simple enough for anyone to try – not only in product development, but also in service or process design.
Derek Irvine, employee recognition expert and co-author of The Power of Thanks, suggest his top ten tips to reinvigorate employees, and build and foster a more dynamic company culture…
One simple way to breathe new life into your workforce and culture is by focusing on “thanks” and social recognition.
According to Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 73% of employees who are recognised at work feel happier in their jobs. Thanking your employees daily and, in turn, encouraging them to consistently thank each other, will go a long way; as will implementing a recognition program that can help streamline and track moments of “thanks” in your company.
By saying “thank you,” you will not only have happier employees, but employees who are more engaged, motivated and loyal to you as their employer.
Here are 10 ways to create a culture of recognition, and make your employees happier in 2015:
1. Thank your employees every day
While “thank you” is instinctual, it’s most powerful when it occurs repeatedly, and in a timely manner. Focus on recognizing employees on a consistent basis throughout the year.
Work friendships inspire and motivate employees, make employees feel more loyal and connected to their company, and provide the foundations for building trust among colleagues. By encouraging friendships at work, you create a happier employee and also an employee who’s more productive and committed in the workplace.
3. Pay attention to employees’ needs
Some managers are more task-focused than people-focused. Instead of looking at their employees and their needs, they’re looking at their to-do lists.
By keeping your head up, you’re not only in a better position to see and acknowledge your employees’ needs, but also their contributions, which puts you in a much better position to reward their work.
4. Nurture your company’s culture
Choose the values that define your company, and then encourage your employees to express those values in their everyday behaviour.
Instituting a recognition program can help breathe life into these values and make them actionable for employees every day.
5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other
Every company is a collection of communities and of human beings, bonded by their connection to each other through their work.
By giving employees the opportunity to congratulate and thank each other for their work, a culture of recognition naturally emerges through associative behavior.
6. Create better leaders
There’s an old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.
By encouraging people to thank their teams often and, in turn, encourage the same behaviour among employees, a palpable rise in employee happiness will occur.
7. Show employees empathy
The importance of humanity in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s one of the critical components of developing and retaining employees because, as humans, we have an incredible need for acknowledgement and compassion.
Listen, support and protect your employees, and encourage the same behavior among all teams by celebrating instances where great connections occur.
8. Prolong the honeymoon
New hires love their jobs, are more engaged and feel appreciated and acknowledged at work. However, after passing the one-year mark, these feelings tend to wane.
In order to keep employees happy, make every year feel like the first year. Recognise and appreciate your employees as often as possible so their enjoyment and engagement in the job starts high and stays high.
9. Unite your team
Today’s multigenerational workforce calls for an adaptable culture that is functional for a variety of different styles and approaches.
Understanding people’s motivations and work styles, and being sure to make room for all of them in a united workplace, will help you make great strides in energizing your team.
10. Give “thank-you” gifts
Everyone loves receiving gifts. So why wouldn’t the same apply in the workplace?
Consider giving employees a gift with tangible value, such as a choice of merchandise or gift card, which will in turn improve their engagement, motivation and happiness.
There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:
Verbal: Face-to-face, words, tone;
Written: Email, text, tweet;
Non-Verbal: Body language;
Interpretation of environment: Atmosphere, cultural styles.
Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different from yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.
However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.
Perception is reality
How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation.
Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly.
Organisations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.
Don’t kill the messenger
First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less.
To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh, S***” will replace 50 “Atta boys!” in five seconds! This is the same with first impressions.
In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.
Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting.
In addition, behaviours are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organisational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones?
Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your return on investment (ROI)!
Big Bang explosions create lasting scars
We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organisation wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently.
Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.
But experts say this causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.
These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organisational culture. For companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.
When Positive Psychology starts being applied to finance you know it’s being taken seriously!
Although written specifically for finance professionals, especially traders, Brett N. Steenbarger’s ideas here lift easily across and into many of our professional lives, and offer some strengths-based ways to treat ourselves with greater humanity, recognition and appreciation…
My initial post introduced positive psychology as a bridge between the real and the ideal–between who we are and who we aspire to be. The radical paradigm shift of positive psychology is that we don’t cross that bridge simply by solving problems and resolving conflicts. We evolve by building upon our strengths: by becoming more of who we are when we are at our best.
The notion of life as a gymnasium suggests that how–and whether–we develop hinges on the quality of our workouts. In life, as in the weight room, it’s use it or lose it. We either exercise and develop our strengths or we allow them to fall into disuse. That perspective yields a very different way of looking at our daily calendars and weekly planners: What have I exercised this day, this week? What strengths have I strengthened and which have I neglected? Am I working out, exercising the best within me? Or am I merely coping, keeping head above water in status quo mode?
Development requires expansion, not shrinking. In any gym it is only when we push our boundaries that we expand, becoming stronger, faster–more fit.
Work As Gymnasiums
Because of the need for continuous adaptation, [21st century work] requires ongoing workouts of our psychological capacities. Successful [professionals] must maintain a steady discipline of risk control, a self-confident capacity for decisive action, and also an unusual open-mindedness and flexibility when change occurs. Opportunities are ever-changing, which means that successful [professionals] must be analytical and creative, optimistic and cautious. On top of it all, skilled [professionals] must manage themselves as well as they manage risk and reward. If we fail to maintain focus/concentration, emotional balance, and self-control, our decision making suffers and we can fail to profit from even the best ideas.
Making Your Workouts Work For You
Positive psychology suggests one powerful strategy: dissect, analyse, and study your most successful decisions and actions. Reverse engineer your successes and you will discover your principles for peak performance.
This is what is known in psychology as a solution-focus. To bridge real and ideal, immerse yourself in what you do when you most closely approximate your ideals. If you unearth a great idea and manage it well, break down how you generated the idea, how you turned the idea into an successful strategy, how you managed the risk and reward, and how you managed yourself to sustain good decision making. If you study your own work over time, patterns emerge. You’ll see errors you need to correct, but you’ll also observe strengths you can build upon. In studying your successes, you will realise that, at times, you already are well along that bridge toward your ideals.
You can’t sustain great workouts if you don’t know your best practices. Exercising your strengths requires that you know what your strengths are. If you begin to catalogue your best work, you will observe your patterns of success: the ways in which you leverage your strengths.
What is it about the middle that seems to suck away at our happiness?
This week’s headline research news reports a mid-life slump in our happiness levels in the West, which then progressively rise again from the age of about 55 on through to the rest of our lives. And in another research story looking at what really are the factors that contribute to high flying success for women leaders, Harvard Business School researchers point out a mid-career slump in optimism and ambition for women that is not experienced by their male counterparts.
Middle aged people suffer a huge decline in happiness, a new study has shown. The phenomenon discovered by the Lancet Global Health, however, only affects those living in the affluent West.
The study, which uses global survey data, found that western countries, including the UK and USA, experienced a dip in levels of life satisfaction between the ages of 45 and 55, with happiness levels rising again into old age.
The report used four years of Gallup World Poll data from more than 160 countries and covered more than 98 percent of the world’s population.
Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London said that the reasons behind the dip were numerous and highly complex, but that there were potential explanations and many lessons to be learned.
Co-researcher Angus Deaton, of Princeton University, suggested that one reason for the dip in satisfaction could be the increased pressure to become financially successful during middle age.
“This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present wellbeing, so as to have increased wealth and wellbeing later in life,”he said.
The results of the study further showed that levels of life satisfaction worldwide followed a predictable pattern depending on geographical location.
African countries experienced low levels of satisfaction, with sub-Saharan Africa facing prolonged and continually low results.
Other areas such as Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union saw a steady decline in satisfaction with age.
Despite being the most affluent geographical sector, the West was the only region which saw levels increase after a decline. The increase of satisfaction appears to coincide with the common retirement age, suggesting that the decrease in pressure to earn could contribute to rising levels of happiness in the elderly.
This new research report is interesting for lots of reasons:
Firstly it uses data from four years of Gallup research and includes 98% of the world’s population and the fact that we can now develop intelligence drawn from the experience of most of humankind is in itself is worth noting.
Secondly it’s author, Angus Deaton, wonders whether the midlife happiness slump for 45-55 year old Westerners his study has uncovered may be partly due to a peak of felt responsibility to earn at this stage of life, and thus show a connection between earnings and happiness at work that is far less apparent for other age groups.
Thirdly, this study points up Westerners as the only the group who show an increase in our happiness levels after a decline. The trend for African populations is to stay relatively low throughout their lives, and for Eastern Europeans to become less happier the older they get. The capacity that Westerners have to become happier again from the age of 55 and to keep getting progressively happier right through into our eighties is both wonderfully encouraging and compelling evidence that our happiness is not a fixed state and is influenced as much by our attitude to life as it is to our current circumstances.
And finally, this study highlights – superbly and once again – that our happiness is a complex dynamic quality of life that cannot be nailed down to any one or two factors. I am always pleased when this point is recognised because the more we try and boil down happiness into something simple, fixed and finite the more useless and even potentially harmful it becomes to us.
Of extra interest is the tangential finding this report references from a different study that suggests we British folk are genetically predisposed told the glums because of a short form of the gene responsible for producing serotonin, the neurochemical responsible controlling for the brain’s happiness levels. This contrasts with the Danes who seem to possess something closer to a happiness gene, and may perhaps help to explain why they routinely top the happiest country index.
This article reports the same story and presents its data in graph form, noting…
In a study published yesterday in The Lancet, Deaton and researchers from University College London, Stony Brook University, and the University of Southern California put the U-shaped curve in context by looking at the relationship between age and well-being across four different groupings: wealthy English-speaking countries, eastern Europe and former members of the Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Looking at data from the Gallup World Poll, which measured well-being in different countries, and the English Longitudinal Study, they found that not all patterns of well-being are created equal. While the U.S. and similar nations did indeed stick to the U-shaped curve, elsewhere around the globe, the relationship between age and overall life satisfaction looked markedly different…
A generation from now, however, the relationship between age and wellbeing—across the board—will likely look different still.
Continuing the mid-point slump theme – this research emphasises the extra need for women to work in an organisation that will encourage and support her development, especially because most women report lowered ambitions in their mid careers, unlike the men who start with high ambitions and tend to maintain high expectations throughout their careers. The research findings here challenge the advice being presented to potential women high flyers to hop-scotch their way up, company by company via high stake roles, and show instead that the majority of the (only!?!) 24 women who lead Fortune 500 companies have stayed a long time with the company they now head up, many starting in the lowliest of positions and working their way up.
Ambitious young women hoping to run a major business someday are often advised to take a particular career path: get an undergraduate degree from the most prestigious college you can, an MBA from a selective business school, then land a job at a top consulting firm or investment bank. From there, move between companies as you hopscotch your way into bigger roles and more responsibility.
That’s what we were told as undergraduates, and later on as students at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School. It’s what Meg Whitman did, more or less, and it’s what Sally Blount, dean of the Kellogg School of Management and the only woman running a top-ten business school, recently recommended: “If we want our best and brightest young women to become great leaders…we have to convince more of them that … they should be going for the big jobs,” which for her meant “the most competitive business tracks, like investment banking and management consulting.”
We decided to put our expensively honed analytic skills to work testing that advice by looking at the career paths of the 24 women who head Fortune 500 companies. What we found surprised us.
Most women running Fortune 500 companies did not immediately hop on a “competitive business track.” Only three had a job at a consulting firm or bank right out of college. A larger share of the female CEOs—over 20%—took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run. These weren’t glamorous jobs.
All told, over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO.
Even those who weren’t promoted as long-term insiders often worked their way up a particular corporate ladder, advancing over decades at a single company and later making a lateral move into the CEO role at another company.
The consistent theme in the data is that steady focus wins the day. The median long stint for these women CEOs is 23 years spent at a single company in one stretch before becoming the CEO. To understand whether this was the norm, we pulled a random sample of their male Fortune 500 CEO counterparts. For the men in the sample, the median long stint is 15 years. This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers. Moreover, 71% of the female CEOs were promoted as long-term insiders versus only 48% of the male CEOs. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for hopscotch early in women’s careers.
An immediate implication of the long climb is that for ambitious young women, company culture matters a lot. If a common pattern is to spend multiple decades advancing in a single environment, that environment had better fuel female ambition rather than stifle it. A recent Bain survey shows that while women in entry-level jobs have ambition and confidence to reach top management in large companies that matches or exceeds that of men, at mid-career, men’s ambitions and confidence stay the same, while those of women drop dramatically. A company capable of maintaining the drive of its women as they progress in their careers is a better bet for a long stint than one that allows the more common diminishing trend to occur.
It may be that the playbook for advising young women with their sights set on leading large companies needs to be revised. Just as important, there is something inspiring for young women in the stories of these female CEOs: the notion that regardless of background, you can commit to a company, work hard, prove yourself in multiple roles, and ultimately ascend to top leadership. These female CEOs didn’t have to go to the best schools or get the most prestigious jobs.
Huge congratulations to my friend and eLearning trainer colleague Pilar Ortion launching her new podcast series: 21st Century Work Life.
This very first episode includes some words I wrote about this subject, as well as Pilar’s own intelligent reflections on why happiness at work has come into importance and what this might mean for us. The second part of this podcast is a virtual coffee conversation between Pilar and Lisette Sutherland.
So, I think the fact that we’re starting to talk about Happiness at Work now makes complete sense. It also shows that our attitude to work is changing. Happiness and work just wouldn’t go together before we talked about things like finding your passion, being fulfilled at work and generally, just knowing that work can be something we enjoy if we have the right conditions.
But also, now, many of us feel like we can be a bit more in control at work. Like we can find information when we need it, like we can connect to others when we want to, not when luck throws us in the same room together. Technology is having a really important effect in our lives by facilitating connections (with others, with information) that we never dreamed we could find. So no wonder that now, we feel like we can control our levels of happiness, to a certain degree. There is still much luck involved, but maybe, just maybe, there are small things we can do here and there to make this world a better, or dare I say happier, place.”
Happiness relates to how we feel, but it is more than just a passing mood.
We are emotional beings and experience a wide range of feelings on a daily basis. Negative emotions – such as fear and anger – help us to get away from danger or defend ourselves. And positive emotions – such as enjoyment and hope – help us to connect with others and build our capacity to cope when things go wrong.
Trying to live a happy life is not about denying negative emotions or pretending to feel joyful all the time. We all encounter adversity and it’s completely natural for us to feel anger, sadness, frustration and other negative emotions as a result. To suggest otherwise would be to deny part of the human condition.
Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times – but also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, in order to experience the best possible life overall. Or, in the words of the biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard: “Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.”
One popular misconception about happiness is that happy people are somehow more likely to be lazy or ineffective. In fact research shows the opposite is true: happiness doesn’t just feel good, it actually leads to a wide range of benefits for our performance, health, relationships and more.
For example, economists at Warwick University showed different groups of people either a positive film clip or a neutral film clip and then asked them to carry out standard workplace tasks under paid conditions. The people who were primed to feel happy were 11% more productive than their peers, even after controlling for age, IQ and other factors. Similarly, researchers at Wharton Business School found that companies with happy employees outperform the stock market year on year and a team at UCL has discovered that people who are happy as young adults go on to earn more than their peers later in life. In healthcare, doctors who are happy have been found to make faster and more accurate diagnoses, even when this happiness was induced simply by giving them the small gift of a sugary sweet. In education, schools that focus on children’s social and emotional wellbeing experience significant gains in academic attainment as well as improvements in pupil behaviour. Happiness has also been linked to better decision-making and improved creativity.
So, rather than success being the key to happiness, research shows that happiness could in fact be the key to success.
But it doesn’t just help us function better: happiness also brings substantial benefits for society as a whole. For example, a review of more than 160 studies found “clear and compelling evidence” that happier people have better overall health and live longer than their less happy peers. They are around half as likely to catch the cold virus and have a 50% lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. Happier people are also less likely to engage in risky behaviour – for example, they are more likely to wear seat belts and less likely to be involved in road accidents. Happier people are even more financially responsible, tending to save more and have more control over their expenditures.
But perhaps most importantly of all, people who are happier are more likely to make a positive contribution to society. In particular, they are more likely to vote, do voluntary work and participate in public activities. They also have a greater respect for law and order and offer more help to others. There is even evidence that happiness is contagious, so that happier people help others around them to become happier too. An extensive study in the British Medical Journal followed people over 20 years and found that their happiness affected others in their networks across “three degrees of separation”. In other words, how happy we are has a measurable impact on the mood of our friend’s friend’s friend.
When it comes to the happiness of society as a whole, however, the sad truth is that in recent decades we have become substantially richer but no happier. The positive benefits of higher incomes have been undermined by rising inequality and falling levels of trust and social cohesion. We’ve also reached the point where mental ill health is one of our greatest social challenges – causing more of the suffering in our society than either unemployment or poverty. This is why increasing numbers of policymakers and leaders are now calling for measures of progress to be based on human wellbeing and happiness, not just economic factors such as growth in GDP.
Here in the UK, the government has introduced a programme to measure national wellbeing, and influential figures – including former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell – are calling for wellbeing to become the overall measure of prosperity and the main guide to public policy.
This shift towards prioritising happiness is important because this also reflects what the majority of people want. In a YouGov poll commissioned by Action for Happiness, a majority (87%) of UK adults said they would prefer a society with the “greatest overall happiness and wellbeing”, rather than the “greatest overall wealth” (8%). The findings were consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes.
So happiness does matter – the scientific evidence is compelling.
The pursuit of happiness is not some fluffy nice-to-have or middle-class luxury; it’s about helping people to live better lives and creating a society that is more productive, healthy and cohesive. As Aristotle said: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Of course, being happy is not some magical cure-all. Happy people still get sick and lose loved ones – and not all happy people are efficient, creative or generous. But, other things being equal, happiness brings substantial advantages.
Perhaps the most powerful insight of all comes, not from the research, but from the responses I’ve heard from many hundreds of parents when asking them what they want above all for their children. Nearly all say something like: “I really just want them to be happy.”
Things will always challenge a leader; after all, a leader creates the future.
No recipe exists explaining how to build the way forward. No secret formula has been written for the unknown, as a leader creates it as progress occurs.
A leader lives in a world of vulnerability, something painfully evident when a challenge comes out of seeming nowhere and stamps its presence in every thread of the organisational fabric: a government law with huge financial consequences; a competitor’s new strategy; a customer’s negative review — all have the propensity to put pressure to potential breaking point on the organisational bubble.
But with resilience, the pressure from those events will never burst it completely
Resilience is to a leader as resourcefulness is to Richard Branson. So what conditions must exist for leaders to apply the concept of resilience?
Inner confidence and positivity about themselves and the future, for one. This allows any pressure to be circumstantial, matched or even negated. A positive attitude towards pressure allows it to be welcomed as an invitation to find new ways for change — it becomes just another source of reflection and learning.
The American author Bruce Barton says it so well: “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances”.
That inner confidence and the ensuing resilience can influence others to follow, and with an army tagging along no amount of pressure will ever be able to take hold. Resilience is also about staring down the barrel of challenge, and so a balanced approach and a good state of mind will minimise risk of an explosive response. When the source of agitation has become a source of learning, balanced perspective and even hope become possible.
Many leaders find it easier to be resilient in times of change when they feel they have control over their life; they have a healthy work-life balance in place and plenty of personal time. Nothing can faze the leader who is both grounded and balanced. Resilience, when combined with optimism, ensures no pressure will destabilise completely.
Resilient leaders seem to live in the world accepting that we ourselves can’t possibly predict what’s right or wrong, so it is best to move ahead, knowing that the pressure could result in myriad solutions — meaning we become the creators of the future. Take, for example, an inefficiency in a business that is having a draining effect. Resilience allows this inefficiency to be viewed as a sign that something else is trying to happen in the business system and there would be no better time than now to explore that. An open-minded environment is one that will see things not for what they are but for what they can be.
On the other hand, a closed-minded environment will become stuck in what is, as it is argument-based, divided into camps of right and wrong.
Environments open to possibility can separate the issue from the emotion, gaining clarity first and foremost to what the issue is. This does not mean that no mechanism exists for the emotional side, it means it does not cloud future possibility. If a leader has been made redundant, resilience shines through when that leader is observed almost immediately going into another direction — creating something that was not possible in the past environment, perhaps choosing to channel her entrepreneurial spirit into her own business.
With resilience there’s just no way for a leader to be derailed; the inner push is simply too powerful to allow any source of external agitation to have a permanent detrimental effect.
We have noticed in our learning and development work with organisations over the last several years that the word ‘collaboration‘ seems to have completely replaced what we used to call team working, and is now the main word for all group activity at work. I am not convinced this is always – or even often – what we really intend, and the word could use some stronger interrogation before we hurl around the room to the people we are about to work with.
Executive coach, Mary Jo Asmus agrees – offering this clarification…
Three words that begin with “C” broadly describe the types of interactions and relationships you may have with others. On a continuum, they look like this:
Competition ◊ Cooperation ◊ Collaboration
Collaboration is a step above cooperation, and it’s rarer than hen’s teeth. When people collaborate, they give up their own vested interests for the greater good (often the greater good is fostered by a “compelling vision” of the future). They’re driven to work through their differences to achieve a goal while trying to understand other’s viewpoints, being open and genuinely willing to change their minds. The stakes may be high, but such people are able to collaboratively bust through barriers to reach the end goal.
If you look hard enough, you may see “moments” of true collaboration in your organisation, but it generally doesn’t happen as often as it should. It takes time, effort and ongoing attention by a leader to make collaboration work.
True collaboration is a powerful way of making great things happen. Listening for understanding, co-creating the way forward with all interested parties, and a willingness to sometimes let go of deeply held beliefs can make collaboration part of the culture.
Not to mention that collaborative work can be great fun and seem almost magical for those involved.
Strategic planning has been under assault for years. But good strategy is more important than ever. What does that mean for the strategist?
Achieving real impact today requires strategists to stretch beyond strategic planning to develop at least one of a few signature strengths. Several important facets of the strategist’s role emerged from our research, including reallocating corporate resources, building strategic capabilities at key places in the organization, identifying business-development opportunities, and generating proprietary insights on the basis of external forces at work and long-term market trends. A number of these roles are more appropriate for some strategists and organizations than for others. But the core notion of stretching and choosing is relevant for all.
Since 2010 we’ve sensed, in our work with a wide range of global organizations and strategists, a growing recognition that traditional strategic-planning processes are insufficient to absorb the shocks and disruptions characterizing their markets and to stimulate the ongoing deliberation that a top-management team requires. Increasingly, they recognize a need to rethink their approach to strategic planning and to embrace a more frequent strategic dialogue involving a focused group of senior executives.4Effective organizations seem to be transforming strategy development into an ongoing process of ad hoc, topic-specific leadership conversations and budget-reallocation meetings conducted periodically throughout the year. Some organizations have even instituted a more broadly democratic process that pulls in company-wide participation through social-technology and game-based strategy development.
These experiences are consistent with our own findings. We’ve found that companies that consider themselves “very effective developers of strategy,” and that enjoy higher profitability than their competitors, for example, are twice as likely to review strategy on an ongoing basis (as opposed to say annually or every three to five years). They are, for instance, twice as likely to have a corporate-strategy process that goes beyond the aggregation of business-unit strategies.
Our research also supports one of our major observations about what it takes to innovate in the development and delivery of strategy: over and over, we’ve seen that the chief strategists best at driving more dynamic approaches have a professional credibility that extends well beyond a traditional process-facilitation role. At the same time, we’ve seen tremendous diversity in the characteristics of effective strategists. In a quest for greater precision, we applied statistical cluster analysis to the 13 facets that chief strategists responding to our survey described as most important to their efforts. The analysis yielded five clusters in which the strategist’s role becomes more than the sum of its parts. Widespread across industries, these clusters embody choices that face every strategy leader:
Our Five Chief Strategist Archetypes
The Fund Manager
The complexity of today’s strategic landscape places a premium on good strategy. And just as crafting strategy requires tough choices, so does shaping the role of the strategist. The good news, according to our research, is that strategists have a range of powerful options for adding value to their organizations, and nearly 90 percent of the strategists responding to our survey thought they were effective at the elements of the role they prioritized. The bad news is that over time it’s easy for mismatches to develop between those areas of focus and a company’s strategic needs. By identifying those mismatches and reprioritizing accordingly, strategists, chief executives, and other members of the top team can boost the quality of their strategic insights and actions.
Despite being tagged as a “positive addiction,” workaholism has negative consequences for employees and employers alike.
Being a workaholic is bad for employers and employees alike, damaging one’s health, happiness, and interpersonal relations, according to a new study.
The meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Management, used existing data to relate the causes and effects of workaholism, a term coinedby American psychologist Wayne Oates in 1971.
In a culture that glorifies workaholism, some researchers go so far as to call it a “positive addiction,” according to Malissa Clark, lead author, assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Georgia.
Workaholism is not defined by hard work itself. It is when one’s need to work becomes so excessive that it inevitably interferes with personal health and happiness, interpersonal relations, and social functioning. The quality of work is not relevant, but it is the act of working, itself, that defines workaholism.
Clark refers to this as the difference between workaholism and work engagement. “One is feeling driven to work because of an internal compulsion, when there’s guilt if you’re not working—that’s workaholism,” she said. “The other feeling is wanting to work because you feel joy in work and that’s why you go to work everyday, because you enjoy it. And I say that is work engagement.”
The study revealed that other aspects of a workaholic’s life are negatively affected by this behavior—such as stress level, health, and relationships—which ultimately causes one’s productivity to suffer as well.
“My prior research has shown that workaholics experience negative emotions, both at work and at home. Similar to other types of addictions, workaholics may feel a fleeting high or a rush when they’re at work, but quickly become overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or anxiety,” she said. “Looking at the motivations behind working, workaholics seem pushed to work not because they love it but because they feel internal pressure to work. This internal compulsion is similar to having an addiction.”
The next generation of workers inspire hope that the workaholic culture will not last, said Clark, making way for a more family-friendly culture. She noted that millennials tend to “care more about work-family balance than previous generations,” which could mean that in the future, more companies will promote a healthy work-life balance over working too hard.
“Happier people are more successful, more creative, energetic, resilient,” says the founder of Happy Brain Science, Scott Crabtree. “They work better together. They absorb more information. They have more tools in their tool belt to help them handle whatever life throws them. They are healthier, they live longer—and they show up at work more often.”
There’s a common assumption, he says, that you will be happy when you are successful. But the reverse is actually true, and not just anecdotally. Hard neurological science supports the idea that happy people have more capacity to succeed. And beyond that, that happiness is not a genetic mandate, or a product of circumstance. It’s a choice.
Crabtree boils this choice down into three opportunities for change that can make people happier, and are also the building blocks of high performance:
1. Achieve greater flow and engagement by structuring your goals, making them meaningful and aligned to your strengths (and then avoid multitasking)
2. Prioritise people
3. Practise positivity (you can retrain your brain to maximise your happiness advantage)
Twelve simple everyday routines to change to live a happier life, including not slouching when we walk, not taking pictures of everything, less procrastination, less multitasking, more exercise, more sleep, more time alone and more conversation…
This week’s Happiness At Work takes another look at resilience – the tougher, stronger, beefed up cousin of happiness.
Resilience is becoming one those things we are all expected to be good at – and it may even be starting to be seen as some kind of new panacea
Last year Forbes predicted that it would be one of the key new trends in business
The UK Government is calling for resilience to be taught in schools and resilience is being looked to for our economic recovery and future success.
In their book, ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,’ Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy feature a type of workplace resilience which has caused innovative CEOs all over America and abroad to hire Marketplace Chaplains
Zolli described the thinking in a recent New York Times piece, Learning to Bounce Back “[A] new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.”
This “global race” business is no laughing matter. It’s as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics want us all to stay in training. The language of fitness and athleticism is everywhere: we have to be flexible, we have to be agile, we have to be nimble.
And now, it seems, we have to be resilient too. The civil service is the latest organisation to support “resilience training” as a way of helping staff deal with the pressures of work. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the ministry of justice, told the FT that colleagues could benefit from developing coping skills in today’s tougher climate.
Who could be against resilience, or greater fitness come to think of it? The healthy worker may be more resistant to colds and flu, and will have the energy to keep going when others start to tire. Economists continue to worry about the chronic poor productivity in the UK. A lack of resilience may have something to do with it. Whether you are on a late or early shift, there is work to be done and targets to be hit. That means being ready and able to perform.
But what are we really talking about when we use the word “resilience”? Calmly rising above the daily irritations of the workplace is one thing. Suppressing anxiety in an attempt to appear in control is another. If the demands being made on people are unreasonable then trying to stay resilient may be unwise. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how stiff their upper lip.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, says this. “Talking about mental health is still a taboo in many workplaces,” He supports “any training which can equip staff with the skills they need to help look after their own mental wellbeing”.
There is a caveat, however. Resilience should not be seen as a way of putting up with anything. “Nobody should be expected to cope with ever-increasing demands, excessive workloads and longer working hours,” he says.
What really adds to stress and a sense of powerlessness at work is a loss of autonomy, either as a result of poor work organisation or the impossibility of being able to speak up. And while it might seem refreshing to hear a senior civil servant discussing the need for a more open culture and better two-way communication between bosses and employees, if in practice this doesn’t happen then stress levels are likely to rise.
But a positive mindset can help individuals to overcome the most difficult of situations.
Resilience is definitely something that can be learned and is worth cultivating – it increases our power and range of choices over our circumstances – whatever they nay be – and therefore, ultimately, the outcomes we produce.
Zolli and Healy define resilience as “the capacity … of a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances…”
Resilience has been defined as an attitude that enables the individual to examine, enhance and utilise the strengths, characteristics and other resources available to him or her.
Other definitions of resilience include:
An individual’s response and methods used to allow them to successfully navigate through or past an event perceived to be stressful.
“The flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences” (Tugade et al, 2004) or “a set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversities which can be unusual or common place.” (Neenan, 2010).
“The capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).
The term “bouncing back” is used to describe resilience, but this belies the struggles and adaptations that an individual has to make in order to emerge stronger from a stressful situation and the growth that is part of resilience.
Here are the essential components of resilience that we teach in our training, mapped into our model of Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities:
Southwick & Charney’s 10 Essential Resilience Capabilities mapped to 5 dimensions Mark Trezona (C)
Essential Elements of Resilience
Emotional ~ organisation, problem solving, self-determination.
“Approaching life’s challenges in a positive, optimistic way by demonstrating self-control, stamina and good character with your choices and actions.”
When faced with an event we will appraise the situation reflecting on our own skills and make an assessment of whether or not they are sufficient to navigate the event successfully. If we feel there is a deficiency, this can lead to reduced optimism and positivity. Having prior experience of successful problem solving provides confidence and can assist in the development of a positive attitude. People with high levels of determination are strong self-believers; they believe that they will be able to tackle most things, which gives them positive feelings.
“Strengthening a set of beliefs, principles or values that sustain a person beyond family, institution and societal sources of strength.”
Having a vision gives a sense of purpose and direction to one’s life. Without a life vision, activities and actions have a reduced value and therefore affect the effort and determination that will be applied to overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of achieving the goals associated with the vision.
It also means that when competing demands arrive it is easier to allocate time and energy when appraising them according to goals/vision, which will direct what takes precedence. Having a vision can contribute to self-confidence, hope and excitement about the future. Having goals has been stated as being essential to our survival.
“Performing and excelling in physical activities that require aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, healthy body composition and flexibility derived through exercise, nutrition and training.”
This dimension implies that a healthy body composition is an essential requirement of the physical aspect of resilience. However, the literature on physical exercise suggests that resilience derives from the degree of effort required in each session, and the commitment to an exercise programme over a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of significant effort three times per week over three to four months (Leith, 2010).
This model was developed for the US army, so it may be that the dimension reflects that cohort. A commitment to an exercise programme as described requires self-determination. The actual achievement of this goal contributes to mood control, creates positive emotions and raises self-confidence and, consequently, self-belief.
Social ~ interaction, relationships, self-confidence.
“Developing and maintaining trusted, valued relationships and friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication including a comfortable exchange of ideas, views and experiences.”
We need others to survive, and our methods of interacting will affect the degree to which we obtain our needs. Mowbray advocates strengthening our ability to create reciprocity, the ability to respond, understand and assist in the needs of others and, in return, the “other” will respond to your needs.
Our own personal resilience can be hugely affected by relationships at work, including the effect of line managers. If our manager is limiting our progression, subtly or overtly, it will be a challenge not to allow this to affect how we feel about ourselves, avoid feeling “hard done by” attitude, and remain connected and engaged in our work. On the other hand, a manager who is capable and invests time in encouraging and nurturing us makes it easier us to build up our psychological capital and to be more resilient.
Family ~ relationships, interaction, vision, self-confidence.
“Being part of a unit that is safe, supportive, loving and provides all the resources needed for all members to live in a healthy and secure environment.”
Everyone needs a relationship where they feel safe enough to “just be themselves” without any fear of belittlement, ostracising or other forms of behaviour that make the individual feel that they need to adapt and modify their behaviour. Usually this comes from within the family structure and it is these relationships that can be the most punitive and damaging, in which case the individual will need to develop considerable resilience.
10 tips for building resilience
assembled by The American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association has assembled information from topnotch experts and developed 10 tips for building resilience.
1. Make connections.
Having good relationships gives us the social support we need in order to bounce back from the inevitable trials and tribulations we must face. Having someone who listens to our stories is essential to our well-being. Knowing that we have a friend who will support us when we’re struggling and celebrate with us when we’re successful is one of the most important ingredients for having a happy life.
If you want to strengthen this aspect of your life you’ll benefit enormously from working to improve your skills around showing empathy, which enables others to know that you understand how they’re feeling. Being able to recognize and respond in a caring manner when other people express emotions is the key to being a friend, which is the best way to surround yourself with people who’ll be there for you when you need them.
When we do something to help another person make progress on a project we often make the difference in their being able to achieve success. This gives us a sense of having the power to make the world a better place. Studies show that the happiest people on earth are those who take time to make a meaningful difference in the lives others.
Maintain a daily routine.
Creating rituals that we follow every day is crucial for developing and maintaining healthy habits. Brushing your teeth is a good example of a healthy daily ritual that, once established, we feel compelled to do.
Plan times to take breaks.
The adult human brain can maintain concentration for a maximum of 90 minutes. Regular breaks are important for alleviating the anxiety that accumulates as we feel the pressure to do well, fit in, please others, etc. If you walk around 10 minutes 3 times during the day you’ll burn off significant amounts of stress chemicals.
Promote a balanced lifestyle.
Learning to have a healthy balance in life is crucial to your well-being. Learning to eat properly, get enough exercise and rest, and have fun in ways that involve people rather than electronic devices provides a foundation for being a high-functioning individual.
Keep moving toward goals.
Setting reasonable goals and then taking one step at a time to move toward them builds confidence that we can slowly but surely overcome the challenges we face in life. Focusing on progress and effort keeps us motivated to continue moving forward.
Nourish a positive self-view.
How people feel about themselves is based on how they talk to themselves about their present situation as well as how they envision their future. Quiet your inner critic by reviewing how you’ve successfully handled hardships in the past. Use those lessons to see how to deal with your current problems.
Cultivate an optimistic outlook.
Often we have a difficult time looking beyond our present situation. We need a long-term perspective that enables us to see that it’s possible to move on to recreating good things in life even after bad events have occurred. Everyday take a few minutes to envision life as you’d like it to turn out.
Develop your character strengths.
We have the opportunity to learn the most as a result of the tough times we encounter. Appreciate those character strengths that you’ve developed while struggling with the challenges of life.
10. Keep learning. Accept change as a constant.
Change automatically evokes the fear response. Happy people control their fear by giving themselves quiet time to figure out how to adapt successfully to their new situation.
More than anything else, building resilience relies upon us recognising that how we choose to think about and explain what happens to us matters much much more than the actualities of what happens to us, no matter how severe, unexpected or apparently outside our control this might feel. This idea is encapsulated in what experts are now identifying as a ‘growth’ versus a ‘fixed’ mindset…
One of the most important concepts I’ve learned is the difference between the “fixed” mindset and the “growth” mindset.
It’s a little bit like “nature vs nurture”:
People in a fixed mindset believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.
People in a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.
This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly deep. The fixed mindset is the most common and the most harmful, so it’s worth understanding and considering how it’s affecting you.
In a fixed mindset, you believe “She’s a natural born singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing.”
In a growth mindset, you believe “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”
The fixed mindset believes trouble is devastating. If you believe, “You’re either naturally great or will never be great,” then when you have any trouble, your mind thinks, “See? You’ll never be great at this. Give up now.”
The growth mindset believes trouble is just important feedback in the learning process.
Can you see how this subtle difference in mindset can change everything?
In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure.
In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve.
In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence.
In a growth mindset, you keep up your confidence by always pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning.
In a fixed mindset, you look inside yourself to find your true passion and purpose, as if this is a hidden inherent thing.
In a growth mindset, you commit to mastering valuable skills regardless of mood, knowing passion and purpose come from doing great work, which comes from expertise and experience.
In a fixed mindset, failures define you.
In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks.
In a fixed mindset, you believe if you’re romantically compatible with someone, you should share all of eachother’s views, and everything should just come naturally.
In a growth mindset, you believe a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.
In a fixed mindset, it’s all about the outcome. If you fail, you think all effort was wasted.
In a growth mindset, it’s all about the process, so the outcome hardly matters.
In this Working Families video Julie Hurst distils the resilience intelligence into a robust triangle of: Control, Well-Being and Bounce Back…
A short film from Working Families exploring practical tips and insight from experts and working men and women across the generations about how they build their energy and resilience to be the best they can be at work and enjoy a full life.
• Get the balance right for you
• Find focus and energy when work gets tough
• Keep relationships alive
It might surprise you to know that that your daily dose of little hassles like traffic snarls and annoying arguments can also add up over time and become lethal.
A Shocking Rise in Mortality
To come to this conclusion, a new study led by Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, looked at 1,293 male veterans, following them for as much as two decades. The research team tracked the veterans’ levels of everyday stress, as well as high stress incidents such as a divorce or losing a job, and analyzed their effects on mortality.
What they found might shock those harried by a pile up of seemingly small daily stresses.
Accumulating a lot of these annoyances over time can be as deadly, it seems, as a devastating life event – at least for older men.
Those study subjects who reported low levels of everyday stress had a 28.7 percent mortality rate. And how about those with high numbers of little stressors? By the end of the study, 64.3 percent had passed away.
That’s an alarming jump in the mortality rate, but if your life isn’t exactly a model of calm and peacefulness, don’t get too worried. You still have time to change. It takes a while for little stresses to do their damage. “We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress–if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality,” Aldwin comments.
Fighting Back Against Stress
There are also countermeasures you can take, according to Aldwin–and don’t worry, these don’t involve the often impossible-seeming task of removing all those little annoyances from your life.
“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems. Taking things in stride may protect you,” Aldwin says, adding: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”
Two concepts we tend to lump together are laziness and being unproductive.
But it is possible to be lazy and be productive at the same time; it just depends what areas of your life you’re seeking to improve.
Here are 10 examples of times when it’s okay to be lazy while still improving yourself and your life.
1. When your spouse wants to spend time with you
…The time you spend with your significant other can drastically impact your relationship, so make sure that you put it higher on your priority list than paperwork or household chores.
2. When you’re stressing yourself out
…If you’re stressing yourself out about managing bills, work or your home life, take an hour or two to chill out. You’ll be doing something beneficial for your health and you’ll also find that when you return to the tasks you want to get done, you can focus on them a lot more calmly, thus making your work more productive.
3. When you’re missing the little things
…Take a few minutes to watch the sky change colors and then get back to work.
Watching the sun set, or just making time for the small pleasures in life in general, is thought to have a number of healthy benefits. Plus, they can serve as a great source of inspiration and motivation for future productivity.
4. When you feel a cold coming on
With the seasons changing, most of us are likely to experience a slight onset of sickness. However, if you handle the early signs of a cold by allowing yourself a lazy day, you’re much less likely to get an all-out illness.
Some people actually try to work harder when they feel a cold coming on, believing that they’ll be able to get all of their work done before they start to feel truly awful. However, there will always be more work to do; nipping your cold in the bud is the best thing you can do to keep your health and productivity maxed.
5. When you’re no longer being productive
Sometimes we confuse productivity with simply doing things. And that’s an oversight. Just because you’re working on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s productive work.
If you’re no longer interested in what you’re working on or you’re experiencing a mental block, your time may very well be better spent taking a nap or grabbing dinner. That way, your mind gets time to recharge and you can resume your task later and with better results.
6. When you’re feeling exhausted
There’s a difference between simply not wanting to do something and actually being exhausted. Whether you’re exhausted mentally or physically, it’s wise to listen to what your body is telling you.
If you’re physically exhausted, take a night to veg out in front of the TV or plan a relaxing evening playing board games. If you’re mentally exhausted, just the opposite may be true for you. Exercise is a great way to let go of stress and release some extra endorphins to make you feel good.
7. When you’re spending too much money
While soup and sandwiches might not be ideal for dinner every night, they can definitely be ideal if you’ve been going out to eat often. …Having a lazy meal at home can be a nice change of pace – for both you and your wallet.
8. When you’re planning to aggressively
…Many unexpected things will likely happen to you in the next few weeks, so don’t waste your energy trying to plan and organize everything in advance. Be lazy and go with the flow. You’ll be less stressed and the weeks ahead of you will seem more interesting.
If you’ve got some serious mental blocks about an upcoming project or task, play a mini-game on your computer or browse your favorite websites for a while until you feel nice and rested. Then go back to brainstorming and see what new and creative ideas you can come up with.
If you can produce high quality work in less time than the next guy, I say well done. If you need more time to achieve high-quality work, I still say well done.
The point is that it’s useless to work towards a time-centric goal when you should be working towards a quality-centric goal. Working for quality and not hours can not only improve your career, but also your satisfaction with yourself and the options available to you later in life.
If you’re done with your to-do list, you deserve some lazy time. You just need to hold yourself accountable for the quality of work you’ve produced.
I hope this list has given you a new perspective on what it means to be lazy, and the ways in which it’s okay to be lazy in your own life.
Developing your mental toughness can help you be more emotionally resilient, push you to go further and harder, and build armor to persevere against the bullets that life fires your way. It’s not as easy to just “be tougher,” though.
Here are some tactics to toughen up your mind for life’s hard knocks.
What is Mental Toughness?
“Mental toughness” is keeping strong in the face of adversity. It’s the ability to keep your focus and determination despite the difficulties you encounter. Events in our life rarely go the way we’d like them to, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it throw you off your game. Mental toughness gives you the tenacity to learn from your mistakes without the devastating blow failure can sometimes deal. This resilience and fortitude also gives you the strength to keep emotions in check when something in your life seems overwhelming and you need to be strong. Essentially, mental toughness is the voice in the back of your head that tells you to keep going, keep pushing, and keep trying, even when the going gets tough. They say “life’s tough, get a helmet.” These tactics can help you create the helmet you need.
Manage Your Expectations
The best offense is a good defense. One of the biggest ways you can build resilience to the things that come your way is to manage your expectations. If you have poorly managed expectations, you’ll run into more surprises, which can make you feel out of control. Lack of control can lower your morale and weaken your mental fortitude. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to situations are key components to laying the groundwork for strong mental resolve. Christine M. Riordan at Forbes explains how a leader with flexibility can stay mentally strong, but the same can be said for anyone:
Game-ready leaders have the ability to absorb the unexpected and remain supple and non-defensive. They maintain humor even when the situation becomes tough. If something isn’t going well or doesn’t turn out as expected, they remain flexible in their approach and look for new ways to solve the problem. Just like a quarterback faced with a broken play, a leader may have to decide quickly on a different way to get the ball down the field.
You should not only roll with the punches, but think about how you can take a swing. You cannot control everything that comes your way, but you are in absolute control of how you react to it. Take a look at situations from the outside and try to see a different perspective. It’s hard to see the true causes of events when your vision is clouded with immediate emotional responses. Wait five minutes to respond to something when you have the time. Or pretend like you’re giving advice to yourself when searching for a solution. We tend to immediately overreact to something, even if we don’t completely understand it yet. Comprehend and understand the pieces first, then put things together and react. Doing this over time will help you adjust your expectations to a realistic level.
Eighty-three percent of men and eighty-five percent of women recently reported that when it comes to their wellbeing they are “just functioning”- or worse “languishing” – at work.
And while many employees report they would be more productive if they felt their bosses genuinely cared about them, in the end I discovered it was easier to take responsibility for my own feelings of engagement at work.
So what are the five tested, practical strategies I used to finally show-up, shine and succeed in my work, no matter what my job description said?
1. Find your purpose
Best-selling author and courage coach Margie Warrell suggests finding the intersection of your talents, your passions, your values, and your skills and expertise so that what you do every day is meaningful. Think of it like this: I was passionate about bringing out the best in people, but after a career dedicated to marketing, I couldn’t afford to retrain in human resources without compromising my family’s financial wellbeing.
Luckily purpose is rarely about all or nothing. Rather, Margie suggests it’s about looking at where there is overlap between what you’re good at, what you care about, where there’s value and a need in the marketplace that creates opportunities, and where you have some experience and skills.
I was able to find purpose in my existing role as the marketing director for a small team by focusing on how to use my passion for the field of positive psychology to bring out the best in my employees. I wasn’t changing the world, but it quickly became evident that I could make a positive difference in the lives of my team.
Associate Professor Angela Duckworth explains that “grit” is the passion and perseverance to stick with your long-term goals. Let’s be honest, just because I had new hopes about the way I wanted to work, didn’t mean anyone else in my organization was rushing forward to help turn my purpose into reality.
One strategy Angela suggested I use to cultivate more grit at work was to ensure the goals I was setting were personally interesting and meaningful in the world. When you’re able to connect passion with action it gives you a sense of purpose and energy that researchers are finding prevents burnout and promotes resiliency.
Responsible for repositioning my organization’s brand at the time, I started looking for ways to align our advertising and marketing with messages about creating positive change in people’s lives and the world around them. As a result we delivered what appeared impossible at the outset, competitive differentiation for the first time ever and a job that I really enjoyed doing.
3. Create tiny habits to make lasting changes
BJ Fogg at Stanford University has found that by scaling back bigger behaviors into really small actions you can create dramatic shifts that last. Initially trying to find the energy and time to make the changes in my work that would support my new-found purpose and build my grit, felt impossible to fit in to a schedule already overloaded.
So I decided to apply BJ’s formula for tiny habits by: scaling back change to one very small step; sequencing this step by adding to the end of a habit I already had – “After I (insert existing routine), I will (insert new routine)”; and then celebrating the completion of the step with a heartfelt “Awesome!” to create a jolt of positive emotion to help the habit stick.
Hungry to learn more about the science of positive psychology to use for my team and our brand positioning work, I created a tiny daily habit of exploring one new piece of research each morning when I first got to work. I created the formula: “After I turn on my computer, I will ready one journal article”. And while my heartfelt “awesome” was nice, I gained an extra jolt of positivity by sharing what I’d learnt with my boss or my team and exploring how we could apply the idea in our work.
4. Set clear boundaries
Best-selling author and resilience, wellbeing and productivity coach Valorie Burton recommends setting and keeping clear boundaries with your boss and colleagues if you want to remain productive and happy at work. I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that not everyone at the office was excited about the more positive direction my leadership style and branding strategy was taking. Change, for most of us, can be challenging.
In order to honor the purpose I’d now chosen, Valorie suggested asking: “What are the boundaries I need to protect my own peace, joy and serenity at work?” Then noticing the areas where I felt the most frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed currently and being honest with myself about the conversations it was time to have.
For example, my boss felt my new management approach was much “too nice” and repeatedly instructed me to be tougher on my team. Nervously, I finally sat down and explained to him that while I appreciated this was the way he liked to work, it didn’t feel authentic for me. As I gave him examples of how my approach was still delivering the results we needed, it became clear that my new positive style of leadership was a boundary that would finally be respected.
Self-confidence expert Louisa Jewell, suggests looking at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding. Of course not everything I tried to improve the way I felt about my work was flawlessly executed. Like a baby first learning to walk, at times I clumsily stumbled over my own good intentions.
Louisa believes it’s important not to judge yourself harshly, nor to try and protect your ego by defensively focusing on only your best qualities. Instead, she suggests embracing the fact that to err is indeed human and to gain a realistic sense of your abilities and actions and then figure out what needs to be done differently next time.
By compassionately coaching myself – just like I would any other team member – I was able to see my near misses and mistakes as learning opportunities. Finally freed of the fear that failure would be fatal, I was able to stop playing it safe and show up to do what mattered most in my career.
And in no time at all, the color started returning to my world.
2. Happiness leads to greater productivity.“A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.” Shawn Anchor, Harvard Business Review, June 2011
4. Studies conclude that certain aspects of our ancestral environment are important to health and wellbeing; sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important to physical and psychological health (CJ Fitzgerald, KM Canner, Department of Psychology, Oakland University)
Here are five simple, practical, actionable steps to kickstart results to experience more happiness in your life.
2. Take time to take time. Taking even five minute breaks (zone out time, no stress, no pressure, no problems) every 90 minutes will go a long way in driving greater productivity and happiness. Here are a list of great exercises that take less than 3 minutes. Enjoy!
3. Reset your GPS. Become solution focused. Start looking or the solution amidst the problem because your brain is an idiot savant that will seek out confirmation of what you are thinking and believing.
4. Embrace your ability to become a possibility thinker because the greatest solutions are born of the most challenging problems. Success is all about seeing things differently. Each time you can catch yourself falling into a habitual pattern of thinking, and step forward by looking at a challenge or problem with new eyes you are building resiliency as well as cognitive and emotional adaptability. 5. Start your day the right way…with a smile. The way you start the day is important. If you get up on the wrong side of the bed, start again. Find something that shifts your mood, so that you start your day on the right foot.
8. Improve your relationship with yourself and others. Find new ways to socialize, to develop social bonds of trust and kinship at work and in your personal life. Enhancing the quality of your interaction with others adding a human and social dimension to your work and life is critical on a number of levels.
9. Create an environment that makes you happy. sunlight, greenery, physical movement, social interaction are all important. Determine what you need to feel better and adjust your work and or living environment accordingly.
10. Put on a happy face. Believe it or not the simple act of smiling is a mood elevator. Use your smile more frequently. It helps and it works!
All business has a human side. Part of it is the obvious one – human resources. Part of it is the fundamental one – customers. Part of it is what makes work satisfying rather than draining – acting like a human being.
The human side of business isn’t easy. It can be difficult to get right and is sometimes emotionally gruelling. But those difficulties are a challenge that we have to rise to, and sometimes they’re what makes the human side worthwhile.
Accepting Your Discomfort
Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism emphasise accepting rather than struggling against discomfort. Stress prevention techniques such as mindfulness draw on this same tradition. Acceptance can be a valuable part of rising to the human challenge.
It often feels easier to avoid a difficult situation or piece of work than to tackle it. This instinct can lead to destructive behaviour, pushing back against the discomfort and the relationship causing it. Trying to seize control, sabotage the situation or evade it.
But that pushing creates conflicts. Better to accept that discomfort is part of being human, and if a relationship or piece of work is causing you discomfort then that’s a sign that it matters to you. Try to accept that discomfort, to use it to work out what’s going wrong, and to find ways to fix the situation. Better to work hard at one difficult situation and see it through than to give up on a dozen because you were uncomfortable.
Working at Relationships
Hollywood has taught us to see human relationships as things that just happen. You meet someone and you immediately feel that spark, whether it’s love, hate or something in between. Or perhaps fortuitous circumstances push you together and transform that dynamic.
But just as a cowboy won’t ride into town to save you at the end, high quality relationships don’t really appear out of nowhere. They involve hard work. When they’re going well that work feels easy. When they aren’t it can feel unbearable. But because they’re built on work they can be fixed.
Fixing a damaged working relationship isn’t easy, but it is one of the most important challenges of the human side of business. You have to recognize what’s going wrong, accept that you may be part of the problem, and find common ground to rebuild from. The combination of humility, empathy and hard work required is a challenge, but it’s always better than just giving up and sinking into acrimony.
Embracing What’s Best
This doesn’t mean you should just passively accept every aspect of how people behave. It means embracing what’s best in people and working to tap into that. Some things are inevitable, like some moments of discomfort and occasional conflicts in the workplace. But others can be challenged.
For example, one of the biggest obstacles to change is the human instinct to seek familiar patterns and the discomfort we feel when those patterns are disrupted. That instinct means that we’re programmed to avoid change, even though it’s a vital part of modern business. So accept the discomfort, not the instinct of avoidance. Embrace change and all the possibilities it can unleash.
That kind of differentiation is part of the human challenge.
A More Human Business
As human beings we are not always comfortable, or wise, or right. We all face difficulties and we all make mistakes. Facing those difficulties in ourselves, in our relationships and in the space around us can allow us to build better relationships and a better business.
So rise up to the challenges that make us who we are and make your business more human.
Steve McCurry’s newest photo collection puts the focus on hands and, as ever, evokes in this collection a deeply intimate portrait of the wonderfully grand and many textures of what being human means…
Behold the hands
how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate, refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command, mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of
variation which makes the tongue envious. – Michel de Montaigne
The first ever international celebration of Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood’s inspirational Fun Palaces ideas goes live the weekend after next. If you’re in the UK there’s bound to be at least one happening near you. And whatever Fun Palace you go to, it will be an extraordinary special and not to be missed experience.
This week’s headline theme considers self-mastery: what is it, how is it integral to our learning and our success, and how might we strengthen and develop greater self-mastery?
It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. That’s the the equivalent to the hours spent over five years in a full-time job. And although this number as an absolute is hotly debated, as you will read in the stories below, the fact remains that the more time we spend practising anything the better we get at it, and the better at something we want to become the more time we better be prepared to put into it.
This is good news for those of us who are are not-so-very-young anymore and have plenty of hours doing what we do already on the meter. But what does it mean for learning something new…?
Well, certainly practice, if not making us perfect, is needed to progress us closer towards our ideal state. And practice demands great amounts of self-discipline, determination, willpower, self-belief, perseverance, self-regulation, stamina, optimism, self-reliance and resilience – perhaps summed up best by Charles Handy in his book The New Alchemists as the three essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs: Drive, Doggedness and Difference.
Notice the repeated emphasis on the self in these essential capabilities. More and more self-mastery is becoming one of the essentials for our 21st century work and lives.
Nice word but what is it and how can we develop it?
He titled his ideas The Fifth Discipline to underscore the necessity of Systems Thinking, and if, for Senge, Personal Mastery was not the most important, he made it the his first and arguably the one upon which all the others then depend upon and build out from.
We have developed his ideas to extend into individual capabilities with resonance for everyone one of us, and here then is what we can learn about self-mastery from Senge’s model for deliberate continuous learning and adaptation:
Personal Mastery ~ learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we most desire; continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision and focusing our energies; developing resilience and searching out a wider reality; knowing what ‘playing to our strengths’ means and being willing and able to act differently from our natural style and preferences to better match the demands of the situations we face.
Mental Models ~ learning to expose our internal assumptions and beliefs about the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny; being able to unveil and communicate the assumptions inside our thinking, making our thinking open and porous to influence from others. This discipline enables us to recognise our different mindsets and change them to more helpful when we need to.
Shared Vision ~ building a sense of shared purpose and commitment with the rest of our group by unearthing the collective pictures of the ideal future we hope to create, and the principles, values and practices by which we hope to get there. Knowing why what we want is necessary and compelling and has worth and meaning outside our own self-interests.
Team Learning ~ discovering and expanding what we know through the act of listening to each other, using dialogue to suspend assumptions and genuinely ‘think together’ and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to transform our conversations into collective learning so that our group can reliably create intelligence and capability greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Systems Thinking ~ a way of thinking about the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of our system, and a language for describing this to each other. This discipline enables us to look out for the consequences of our choices and actions, to see how to change systems more effectively, and to use all of the disciplines together as an ensemble in order to act in tune with the larger processes of our natural, social, and economic ecosystems.
Linked closely to these ideas and amplifying their importance for both ourselves and the people and organisations we work with is the idea of Achieving Potential, also the top-line outcome from having high level happiness at work. And our thinking about what this means is inherited from Maslow’s hierarchical model of different level needs, and places Self- Actualisation – achieving our fullest potential – at the pinnacle of his pyramid.
What follows is a number of articles that have been collected in this week’s new Happiness At Work #edition 110 that add different ideas, insights, and guidance for building this increasingly crucial capability of self-mastery.
“Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, former US president.
What do you think when you hear the term “self-mastery”? You might picture someone like a martial arts master – calm, focused, and in control at all times. Or, maybe you imagine people who have their lives planned, and are in control of their own future.
Do you show these traits on a regular basis? Do you feel in control of your career and your goals? Or, like many people, do you feel that you should take more control of your actions and emotions?
In this article, we’ll examine what self-mastery is – and we’ll look at what you can do to develop it within yourself.
What is Self-Mastery?
When you have developed self-mastery, you have the ability to control yourself in all situations, and you move forward consciously and steadily towards your goals. You know your purpose, and you have the self-discipline needed to do things in a deliberate, focused, and honorable way.
Think about people you know who don’t have any self-mastery. They’re probably impulsive and rash. They might let their emotions control them, yelling at colleagues when they’re angry, and then being overly polite to make up for this later. They’re unpredictable and, as a result, people see them as untrustworthy.
When you demonstrate self-mastery at work, you prove to your colleagues that you have the inner strength and steadiness needed for effective leadership. So it’s well worth the effort to invest time developing self-mastery. You’ll likely become a happier, more balanced person – and you’ll find that opportunities arise because of this.
Self-mastery is a broad term that covers many aspects of your personal and professional life. Developing self-mastery can mean working on many of these areas. (If so, it may be best to focus on one or two areas at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.)
Look at the following areas of your life to develop self-mastery:
Self-mastery starts with a vision of how you want your life to be.
Think about people you know who have incredible self-discipline. Chances are that they know exactly where they want to go in life, and this vision gives them the strength to get there.
This is why it’s so important to start with a clear vision of your short-term and long-term objectives. Learn how to set personal goals, and get into the habit of moving towards these goals every day. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve in life, the easier it is to move forwards calmly and confidently.
2. Attitude and Emotion
Your attitude and emotions play a major role in self-mastery. Those who show strong self-mastery don’t let their emotions control them – they control their own emotions.
Focus on something positive every day. Be grateful for things, even if these are just things like that fact that you do a job you enjoy, or that the weather is beautiful on your drive to work. Having gratitude and a positive outlook will set the tone for the rest of your day.
Resist the temptation to blame yourself when things go wrong.Self-sabotage is a quick and cruel way of stopping yourself from reaching your true potential. If you find that you’re undermining yourself, consciously make yourself stop. Instead, think of something positive and encouraging.
You can also change negative thinking with cognitive restructuring. Write down the situation that is causing your negative thoughts. Next, write down the emotions you feel, and list the “automatic thoughts” you have while experiencing these emotions. Then, list the evidence that supports these negative thoughts, and the evidence that refutes them. Finally, list some fair, balanced, objective thoughts about the situation.
Being able to manage and control your emotions helps you buildemotional intelligence. This is your awareness of others people’s needs and emotions, and your knowledge of how your own emotions affect those around you. Those who have good self-mastery are always aware of others, and they work hard to make sure that their emotions don’t negatively impact other people.
Think about how many times you’ve set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It’s happened to all of us, and we probably felt ashamed or disappointed that we didn’t achieve what we wanted.
Willpower is an essential part of self-mastery. It’s what pushes you forward to take action, even if you’re feeling scared or hesitant. Willpower is also what keeps you moving towards your goals in the weeks or months ahead.
To boost your willpower, make sure you have both rational and emotional motives for what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to stop surfing the web in work time, a rational motive could be that it’s against company rules, while an emotional motive could be that other people will lose respect for you when they see that you are not working hard.
For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. So, use your initial burst of willpower to change your environment, so that it supports your efforts to reach your goal.
For instance, imagine that your goal is to improve your self-confidence at work. At the beginning, when your willpower is strong, you could focus on changing the environment in your workplace by making a list of everything that hurts your self-confidence. You could also create a plan for overcoming those obstacles, and post items and affirmations in your office that provide reminders about your goal.
After a week or so, you might find that your willpower is not as strong. But, because you changed your environment, you’re better prepared to continue working towards your goal, because you have a foundation already in place.
Improving focus is also key to self-mastery. For instance, how much time do you waste during your work day? How much time do you spend on the Internet, talking casually with colleagues, or getting coffee? What could you accomplish if you fully used the hours available to you?
Start by working on your concentration. Focus on one task at a time, and slowly increase your level of focus.
At first you may find that you can’t concentrate on a task for more than one hour at a time, before you get tired anddistracted. Try to increase this to two hours by adding 15 minutes of focused work every day. This will allow you to strengthen your focus to two-hour stretches – and then even more, if that’s what you need to get things done.
Achieving self-mastery takes time and hard work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
It’s best to work on one or two areas at a time. Start by identifying your life and career goals. Then, focus on maintaining a positive attitude during the day. Also, try not to let negative emotions impact anyone else.
Other strategies, like building your willpower and strengthening your focus, will help ensure that you keep moving forward toward your goals – while further building self-mastery.
Research shows that only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential. I recently sat down with Shirzad Chamine, who believes he has identified exactly why most of us do not reach out true potential, and what we can do about it. In his New York Times Bestseller Positive Intelligence, Shirzad distills his groundbreaking research on the ten well-disguised mental Saboteurs that hold people back, and how you can overcome them. He shares the key to improving your performance at work and feeling happier and less stressed in as little as 21 days. Does this sound too good to be true? Ironically, that may be one of your Saboteurs talking right now!
Shirzad believes it is critical that leaders become aware of the duel perspectives “raging inside their minds.” The constant battle is “between the ‘Sage’ voice that serves them versus the ‘Saboteur’ voices that undermine them.” According to Shirzad, while this conflict between Sage and Saboteur happens inside every mind, it intensifies with most entrepreneurs.
For many entrepreneurs, your identity becomes very wrapped up in your business, which is why it can feel so personal when things don’t go well . This leads to additional stress, which is what fuels the Saboteurs. Shirzad says that the reason only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential is due to the destructive power of their Saboteurs.
There are a total of ten Saboteurs, “internal enemies” as Shirzad calls them; however, most people are undermined by only a couple of them, depending on personality and background. The ten Saboteurs are: Judge, Controller, Victim, Restless, Stickler, Pleaser, Avoider, Hyper-Rational , Hyper-Achiever, and Hyper-Vigilant.
There is a specific subset of Saboteurs that tend to afflict entrepreneurs:
Judge: The Judge causes the greatest damage. It beats you down constantly over your flaws and mistakes. The lie the Judge tells is that by beating you up over your imperfections, you stay driven.
Controller: The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to your own will. By overdoing this, it causes resentment in others and prevents them from developing themselves, because they have to do things your way.
Hyper-Rational: The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions, regarding them as unworthy of your time and attention.
The key to overcoming these Saboteurs and reaching your full potential involves three strategies:
1. Weaken Your Saboteurs
To weaken your Saboteurs, you need to observe and label the Saboteur thoughts and feelings when they arise. Start off by exposing which of the ten Saboteurs are your primary internal enemies. Then create a “mug shot” of each one, profiling key beliefs, assumptions, and feelings. This helps you intercept the Saboteur when it shows up in your head and switch to the Sage alternative. It takes a little practice, but the results are game changing for the company, and life changing for the leader.
For example, if you are feeling stressed out at work and notice yourself saying “I’m such an idiot for saying xx in that meeting”, you might say to yourself “Oh, the Judge is back again, saying I’m going to fail”. It is a powerful act of mindfulness to notice and label your Saboteurs, realize they are not serving you and choose to move into Sage mode instead.
2. Strengthen Sage
The Sage perspective is always available, and Shirzad outlines five specific Sage powers in his book that you can use to meet any challenge. One of the most powerful tools Shirzad gives to switch from Saboteur to Sage involves asking yourself, “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”
The next time you are faced with a challenge, try taking a few deep breaths and then ask yourself “Hmmm……What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?” Force yourself to come up with a list of at least threegifts or opportunities. By simply asking this question, you will start to shift into Sage mode and open yourself to a better outcome.
3. Strengthen Your PQ Brain
In addition to identifying and labeling your primary Saboteurs and strengthening your Sage, the final tool to achieve your potential involves improving your Positive Intelligence (PQ) brain muscles through repetitive exercises.
Positive Intelligence measures how well you are able to control your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest. One example Shirzad uses in his book to illustrate this is when your mind tells you that you should do your best to prepare for a big meeting, it is acting as your friend. When your mind wakes you up at 3:00am anxious about the meeting and racing in a loop over and over again about potential problems, it is acting as your enemy. The key to reaching your potential lies in your ability to use your own mind as your biggest alley rather than your biggest saboteur.
Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to strengthen your PQ Brain. Shirzad suggests doing at least one hundred PQ reps each day for twenty one days and he provides examples of how to do this in the book. Meditation is a great way to strengthen your PQ brain muscles.
To determine your current PQ Score and learn tools to strengthen your PQ brain, click here. According to Shirzad, a PQ score of 75 is the tipping point for a net-positive PQ Vortex, which results in an exponential boost in productivity.
Shirzad believes the reason many management trainings are ineffective is that there is too much focus on “insight,” and too little on building and maintaining new mental habits or muscles. He says “Transformation is 20% insight, 80% muscle”.
And he has found that if you commit to the three tools above for a period of twenty one days, you will build new PQ muscles to create lasting change.
People at the very peak of there fields have been shown to have put in 10,000 hours getting to that level. How does this translate for the rest of us…?
By Ben Carter
A much-touted theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. No innate talent? Not a problem. You just practice. But is it true?
The 10,000-hours concept can be traced back to a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.
It highlighted the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin, who had studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.
The psychologists didn’t see any naturally gifted performers emerge and this surprised them. If natural talent had played a role it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect gifted performers to emerge after, say, 5,000 hours.
Anders Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”.
It is Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely popular book, Outliers, that is largely responsible for introducing “the 10,000-hour rule” to a mass audience – it’s the name of one of the chapters.
But Ericsson was not pleased. He wrote a rebuttal paper in 2012, called The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists.
“The 10,000-hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell who stated that, ‘Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.’ Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalisation to a magical number,” Ericsson writes.
Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.
“In contrast, Gladwell does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice,” Ericsson writes.
Gladwell counters that Ericsson doesn’t really think that talent exists.
“I think that being very, very good at something requires a big healthy dose of natural talent. And when I talk about the Beatles – they had masses of natural talent. They were born geniuses. Ericsson wouldn’t say that.
“Ericsson, if you read some of his writings, is… saying the right kind of practice is sufficient.”
Gladwell places himself roughly in the middle of a sliding scale with Ericsson at one end, placing little emphasis on the role of natural talent, and at the other end a writer such as David Epstein, author of the The Sports Gene. Epstein is “a bit more of a talent person than me” Gladwell suggests.
One of the difficulties with assessing whether expert-level performance can be obtained just through practice is that most studies are done after the subjects have reached that level.
It would be better to follow the progress of someone with no innate talent in a particular discipline who chooses to complete 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in it.
And we can, thanks to our wannabe professional golfer, Dan McLaughlin.
“I began the plan in April 2010 and I basically putted from one foot and slowly worked away from the hole,” he says.
“Eighteen months into it I hit my first driver and now it’s approaching four years and I’m about half way. So I’m 5,000 hours into the project. My current handicap is right at a 4.1 and the goal is to get down to a plus handicap [below zero] where I have the skill set to compete in a legitimate PGA tour event.”
David Epstein hopes that McLaughlin can reach his goal, but he has some doubts. In the sporting world innate ability is mandatory, he believes.
A recent study of baseball players, Epstein points out, found that the average player had 20/13 vision as opposed to normal 20/20 vision. What this means is that they can see at 20 feet what a normal person would need to be at 13 feet to see clearly. That gives a hitter an enormous advantage when it comes to striking a ball being thrown towards them at 95mph from 60 feet (or 153km/h from 18m).
Using an analogy from computing, Epstein says the hardware is someone’s visual acuity – or the physiology of their eye that they cannot change – while the software is the set of skills they learn by many, many hours of practice.
“No matter how good their vision is, it’s like a laptop with only the hardware – with no programmes on it, it’s useless. But once they’ve downloaded that software, once they have learned those sports-specific skills, the better the hardware is the better the total machine is going to be.”
But is there a simpler way to think about all this? Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they’re already good at – because they enjoy it?
“Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and the teacher being at the board writing an equation, and you look at it and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do,” says Gladwell.
“For those people to go home and do two hours of calculus homework is thrilling, whereas for the rest of us it’s beyond a chore and more like a nightmare.
“Those that have done the two hours’ practice come in the following day and everything is easier than it is for those who didn’t enjoy it in the first place and didn’t do the two hours’ homework.”
What Dan McLaughlin is hoping is that what he lacks in innate talent he more than makes up for with his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
If Dan’s plan goes well he could be mixing it with the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2018. If not, he will just be a very good golfer.
The centrepiece of Gladwell’s book was practice well, practice well and you’ll reach the top of your field.
What Dr Ericsson was actually saying [in his 1993 paper] was “It takes 10,000 hours to get the top of an ultra-competitive filed in a very narrow subject.”
But here’s what happened. Ever since Outliers came out, reached the top of the bestseller list and stayed there for three solid months, all of a sudden the 10,000 Rule was everywhere. And a society-wide game of Telephone started to be played. So this message ‘It takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of an ultra-competitive field’ became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become good at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to learn something.’ But that last statement is not true…
And the story of the Learning Curve is when you start you are grossly incompetent and you know it. With a little bit of practice you get really good really quick. That early level of improvement is real fast. Then, at a certain point, you reach a plateau, and the subsequent gains become much harder to get.
How long does it take to get from being grossly incompetent to being reasonably good at something? My research says 20 hours.
You can go from know nothing about any subject – learn a language or learn how to draw or how to juggle flaming chainsaws – if you put 20 hours of deliberate focused practice into learning that thing, you will be astounded at how good you are. And 20 hours isn’t that hard to accumulate – it’s just 20minutes a day for two months.
But this demands more than just fiddling around for about 20hours. There’s a way to practice intelligently and efficiently that will make sure you invest those 20hours in the most effective way that you can. And here’s the method…
4 Simple Steps To Rapid Skill Acquisition
Deconstruct the skill. Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you’re done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces… The more you’re able to break apart the skill, the more you’re able to decide what are the parts of the skill that will actually help me to get to what I want. And then you can practice those most important parts first, and this get to what you want to be able to do in the least amount of time possible.
Learn enough to self-correct. Get 3-5 resources on what it is you’re trying to learn – books, dvdd, course, anything – but don’t use those as a way to procrastinate. What you want to do is learn just enough to self-correct as you’re doing. The learning needs to enable you to know when you’re making a mistake and then do something helpful to correct it.
Remove practice barriers. Remove dust rations – television, internet, social media – all of the things that limit you actually sitting down and doing the work. The more you are able to use just a little bit of willpower to remove the things that get in the way of your practice, the more likely you are to actually do the practice.
Practice at least 20 hours. Most learning has a deeply frustrating part. We don’t like to feel stupid, and feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work. So by pre committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 2o hours you will be able to overcome that frustration barrier and stick with it long enough to reap the rewards.
The major barrier to learning anything is emotional. What do you want to do? Go out and spend 20 hours on it.
Here is Josh Kaufman’s full TEDTalk, including his demonstration of how well he has learned to play dozens of songs on the ukelele, practicing his own 2o hour guidelines:
Josh Kaufman is the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’, as well as the upcoming book ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.’ Josh specializes in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In his talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way.
As we learn new things, we often feel inspired to change.
We discover the possibility of achieving something greater and fall in love with that future idea.
You’ll agree with me in that doing things just once or twice won’t do the trick, right?
To achieve the end result, you need to repeat the same positive action, over and over again, until at one point it becomes automatic. And then, you’ll have a habit that you can’t live without. It becomes part of your routine.
New habits can give your brain pleasure
Installing a new positive habit has the power to bring you closer to your ideal self. But this is just a small part of the story.
Most people tend to perceive the notion of new habits as a ‘bore’ or as a painful thing to do, and feel discouraged to even try. This is because nobody told them about the additional benefits of a habit that has been successfully installed:
It feels effortless. You don’t have to think about it much. You just go on autopilot – like when you brush your teeth.
You don’t need willpower because your behaviour is automatically triggered by a contextual cue (rather than self-control).
There’s a promise of reward from completing the action. And your brain gets pleasure from a completed task.
The automation of common actions frees mental resources for other tasks or thought processes.
We perform thousands of actions a day, 95% of which are automatic: a new habit is part of this group.
This is how you can create freedom and space for other things in your life. Who doesn’t want to create health habits that are sticky and that make us feel great?
Now you may think: “But don’t we need to go through a phase of pure willpower in order to create a new health habit?”
Stay tuned, that’s what we’re here to explore – how to create a health habit that will stick, without having to employ pure willpower.
Can you rely solely on willpower to change?
If we’re talking about long-term change, then the answer isno.
Willpower is the ability to ‘mindfully’ control oneself. Controlling oneself in order to change a behaviour isn’t that easy. It’s an effort.
In contrast, a habit is an almost ‘mindless’ behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. Unlike willpower, a habit feels easy.
Willpower alone will not get you to long-term success. It’s the birthing of a new habit that will.
As Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit, we create a habit through a cue which leads to a routine, that ends in a habit. It is the routine or habit that allows us to access a part of our brain that runs on relatively little gas.
How do you go from self-control to easy habit?
When you feel good internally after completing what you set out to do, you build into your own self accountability. You want to do more of it because you received positive feedback from the task and you felt good doing it.
You completed the new task and you added to your habit strength. It’s almost as if you perpetuate the new behaviour through letting it build its own muscle, if you will.
What’s more, installing a good action in your routine can trigger a positive ripple effect on many other health behaviours.
Australian researchers Oaten and Cheng conducted a study that concluded how one repeated action (in this case exercise) can trigger a variety of positive behaviours and faciliate the improvement of self-regulation.
Is habit automation all you really need to do?
Research led by USC Professor Wendy Wood shows that lack of control – or willpower – doesn’t automatically mean success or failure.
When you don’t have self-control, what really matters is the underlying routine, or the habit groove you’ve already installed – good or bad.
Dr. Wood, who is a leading researcher on habits, goes on to tell us this:
Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control.
Is this also true for your eating habits?
The same principle applies to our eating behaviours.
Willpower – or self-control – is a limited resource and can become depleted as the day goes by.
If you’ve been juggling difficult clients or stressful situations at work to the point of mental exhaustion, there will be none or very little willpower left at the end of your day. That means a reduced ability to change what and how you eat.
So in the long run, developing a habit or an automatic reaction is more effective than self-control: you’ll perform it anyway, even when your mental energy runs out.
Can automation be used for athletic performance?
Absolutely. Here’s an example.
When an athlete is in ‘the zone’ and goes for the gold at the Olympics, it isn’t about self-control; it’s about automation. It’s about relying on that 95% of their (subconscious) machinery that they worked so hard to optimise.
For this reason, most aspiring gold-medalists are already training for 2016. Because, when it comes to star performance on the competition day, relying on automatic actions and intuitive skills is more powerful than having a ‘mental debate’ on how to control an outcome.
So how do you set up a habit?
Start simple and start small.
When you choose an action to push yourself towards your goal, plan specifically when and where you will do this action. Be consistent; choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week. This will help with the adherence, or stickiness.
Surround yourself with new habit-forming contextual cues. These are the subconscious triggers for your new action, which can be, for instance, a time of the day, a certain place, a sound, a particular smell, foods that you keep in the kitchen, or a pre-installed behaviour – typically small things.
The less overwhelming the cues, the better your chances of grooving a habit.
Your goal here is to pay attention to the cues (or to plant new cues) around you, which act as reminders. As your brain reacts to the cue, completing the subsequent action feels like a reward.
It’s this feeling of accomplishment or reward that will cause your brain to want to do it again. When it comes to perpetuating the behaviour, repetition is king!
The bottom line
Remember, it’s about automation. This means that we remove any debates inside your head about whether to perform the action or not. Even when you don’t have the energy to exert self-control (willpower), a habit can keep you on track and in line.
Now it’s over to you! Join in the conversation and tell us in the comments below:
Which new habit can you install this week?
What triggers do you need to plant or remove to make this happen?
This is a supportive and safe place to share and learn from each other!
I think perhaps I would suggest looking at these and selecting the one or two that you believe could have the greatest positive impact of how you do things, rather than take them all – with particular caution around Tip 2…
The hardest part is getting started.
When there’s a long list that needs tackling every day, the hardest part is tackling what needs to be done first. You may feel intimidated to start your next big project or pull your colleague aside for an awkward, but much-needed confrontation.
And prioritizing isn’t getting any easier. In his book Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff blames this modern-day condition on our “continuous, always-on ‘now’“ world which has made us lose our sense of direction.
Successful people know that planning, organizing, and protecting your time is no easy feat, but if you don’t have your priorities straight, who will? Below are four unconventional methods that keep the brightest minds focus on exactly what they need to:
1. Think About Death
Reflecting on death might not be what comes to mind when you want to tackle your to-do list, but studies find it helps you re-prioritize your goals and values. Buddhist teachings encourage reflections of death with the idea that a better understanding of mortality also helps us better understand our purpose in life.
2. Wear The Same Clothes Every Day
When you downsize your closet, you also cut down on the number of choices you have to make every day, which means you can now focus on what’s most important: your priorities.
Plenty of CEOs adopt this “uniform” strategy. Steve Jobs wore the same jeans and black turtleneck day in and day out. Oracle’s Larry Ellison also preferred black turtlenecks, but often wore them underneath fashionable slim jackets. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sticks to khakis, blue shirts, and sometimes a dark jacket. Aspokesperson for the company once said: “[Bezos would] rather spend his time figuring out how to cut prices for customers than figuring out what to wear each day.”
Leo Widrich, cofounder of Buffer, despises these daily decisions so much, he wears the same clothes every day (he owns five white T-shirts and two pairs of pants) and also eats the same dinner six times a week. Widrich believes that the fewer decisions he has to make, the better his decisions will be.
In an interview with Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama agrees with Widrich’s way of life: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus yourdecision-making energy. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
I notice though that every one of these examples is a man. What would we think of a woman who came to work constantly wearing the same outfit?
3. Know The Difference Between Urgent And Important
Like Rushkoff, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how easy it is to lose track of goals if the importance of tasks are confusing. To differentiate between “urgent” and “important” tasks, the 34th President of the United States broke the two into very basic distinctions:
An urgent task requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive mode. An example of an urgent task is calming the baby or attending a meeting.
An important task contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. An example of an important task is planning the company’s next relationship-building mixer. Important tasks can sometimes also be urgent, but often are not.
Warren Buffett knows that you can’t be amazing if you focus on everything you’re interested in at once. This is exactly why, to keep his focus laser sharp, Buffett advises making a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in the next few years. From this list, pick the top five that are most important to you.
Now you have two lists and Buffett suggests you “avoid at all cost” the longer one. According to the business magnate, adding your second most important items into your focus only prevents big things from happening.
Whether it’s reflecting on mortality or getting rid of your wardrobe, the smartest people know that there’s never more time in the day–only better ways to manage your time through prioritizing. And if you’ve tried it all and still get sidetracked from what’s really important, it’s time to learn the most simple, yet effective way you can prioritize: Start saying no.
Creating success in work and life, on our own terms
by Megan Dalla-Camina
Understanding the process of change — why we are the way we are, and how to change when we really want to—is incredibly important. The attribute of driving effective change can give you the keys to the kingdom of success and happiness. However, , if you don’t learn how to use it, you can stay mired in a dark hole of frustration that can lead to self-defeat and low self-esteem.
So let’s start with what we typically know: Changing behaviors is hard. (Change is hard, period.) You get wired to certain behavior patterns, and your brain gets stuck in a groove that takes concerted, conscious, and consistent effort to change. And even when you do manage to change for a few days, weeks or months, it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns.
The good news is that we know, through the latest neuroscience, that our brains are “plastic.” This means they can create new neural pathways, which allows you to create change and form new patterns of behavior that can stick over time. You find a new groove, so to speak. But it takes work—sometimes, a lot of work. And it takes time. The popular myth that you can quickly and easily change a deeply-ingrained habit in 21 days has been largely disproven by brain and behavioral scientists. They now think it actually takes anywhere from six to nine months to create the new neural pathways that support changing behavior.
There are three things you need to make any change, whether mental, emotional or physical: desire, intent, and persistence.Our culture is filled with magazine covers that say you can meet your dream partner by the weekend, land your dream job in five days, or lose 10 pounds in two weeks. This can leave mere mortals feeling completely inadequate when they fail to achieve such results, which are completely unrealistic, if not downright impossible, in the first place.
When you consider that only 8% of people actually follow through on intentions to change a habit, you can see why it’s so critical to understand enough about the change process, and yourself, to smooth a path to success.
So what are the steps and considerations? Here are some questions to think about, as you begin to create positive change in a lasting way:
Do you really want it?
There is no point in saying you are going to stop working so much, so you can get some semblance of balance in your life, if in reality you really don’t care that much about balance, and you really love to work. Who are you doing it for? Don’t kid yourself. You must be serious and care about the change you decide to make, so you’ll be willing to work for it and follow through.
What need is being served by what you are doing now?
Your current behavior is there for a reason, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Hard to swallow, but true. Whether you’re a workaholic, 20 pounds overweight, have angermanagement issues, or are unhappily single—your current situation is serving you somehow. So take some time to think about this. Whether the need is relaxation but the behavior is binge drinking, or the need is recognition but the behavior is overwork, you first need to identify what need is being served by your current behavior. Once you have the answer, you can work out how to meet this need in another way, smoothing the path to change.
How else can you meet your needs?
So, you have identified the current behavior and how it is serving you. Now think about how else you could get this same need met. You may relate to this example. For some people, eating foods they know are not only bad for them, and in fact likely to leave them feeling tired, grumpy, and full of self-loathing, is less about the foods, and more about the nurturing, comfort, or distraction they provide. How else could you get your need met? Perhaps retreating to your meditation cushion, your yoga mat, the bath tub, or even your bed, would give you an even greater sense of the nurturing you need, without the guilt, the self-esteem crash from not following through on your intention, and, of course, the pounds. So when you think about the needs you have, how elsecan they be met?
What’s the price of not changing?
You will experience ambivalence on the change path, no question about it. And that’s okay. But to progress down the road, you have to ask yourself: What is the price of not changing? If you really want a promotion, but are too fearful to ask for the management training you need, the price is staying in the same role. Is overcoming your fear worth the goal? Or if you really want to get healthy, lose weight and get fit, but you don’t want to have to cut the sugar and get out walking, what is the price of that behavior? Putting on yet another 10 kilos? Think about and write down any negative effects your current behaviors are creating in your life—self‑loathing, boredom, career stagnation, frustration. Once you have hit this wall of realization, you are in the perfect place to turn around and move forward.
What positive image can pull you forward?
It is known, from research in positive psychology and neuroscience, that you’ll have more success when you move towards something positive rather than away from something negative. It is also known that positive images pull you forward. (Think vision boards, athletes visualizing their performance success, or thinking through the positive outcome of a business presentation before it takes place.) It works, and science proves it. So what positive image of the outcome you want can you visualize to pull you toward success? Come up with one; have it firmly in your mind; place it on a wall, in your computer, in your journal, or anywhere you will reference it; and look at it frequently. It can be especially helpful when your resolve is slipping, to remind you what you are working so hard for.
Are you acknowledging success?
When you have made progress on your efforts, it is important to acknowledge that achievement. When you celebrate your efforts, you create upward spirals of momentum that help reinforce the positive change and make it stick. Recognizing your efforts also helps to reinforce the direction in which you are moving, and motivates you further toward your goals. Recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating progress, however small, is a key to success on your change path.
Change can be challenging. Anyone who has tried to change a habit knows this is true. But it is possible. And you can smooth the path to success by being aware of the cycle of change, being prepared, and being consistent. The result is worth the effort, if you want it badly enough to work for it.
Here is a brand new MOOC from Berkeley starting next week which I thought you might like to know about…
Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!
An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner andEmiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.
We all want to be happy, and there are countless ideas about what happiness is and how we can get some. But not many of those ideas are based on science. That’s where this course comes in.
“The Science of Happiness” is a free, eight-week online course that explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.
Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the course zeroes in on a fundamental finding from positive psychology: that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. Students will learn about the cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.
What’s more, “The Science of Happiness” will offer students practical strategies for nurturing their own happiness. Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities. So each week, students will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.
The course will include:
Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.
All of these articles and more are collected in the latest edition of Happiness At Work, the weekly free online paper from BridgeBuilders STG of the best stories, research news and articles about learning and leadership, happiness and employee engagement, creativity and resilience from across the web over the previous week.
I hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from.
And do feel welcome to bring your ideas, challenges, insights and experiences to our Facebook page
Several years ago while I was enjoying the fun and reward of making learning programmes with him, Mike Phipps posited this great question, which turned out to be compelling enough to found a new leadership development practice, Politics at Work…
“As you go about your day-to-day activities, where do you get your power and influence from…?”
I have always loved this question, and this week’s Happiness At Work theme considers the potency and power to be found in the ordinary and the everyday.
How can we learn to be happier with what we already have, without having to make any radical changes or costly additions to our current circumstances and without having to depend upon the decisions, actions or behaviours of other people?
What is perhaps already there, right under our noses and within our reach, that we might draw from to advance our own and each other’s success and happiness?
What new potency and life can be discovered in the everyday material of our lives if we would just give ourselves a bit more time and attention to notice?
These are the questions that this collection of articles helps to highlight…
Far too many Americans are illiterate in power — what it is, how it operates and why some people have it. As a result, those few who do understand power wield disproportionate influence over everyone else. “We need to make civics sexy again,” says civics educator Eric Liu. “As sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement.”
On March 20th — the International Day of Happiness — the United Nations recognized “happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” And when it comes to the happiest people, the “World Happiness Report 2013” identified the bacon-loving country of Denmark as holding the highest levels of happiness … but why?
1. They understand the meaning of “It takes a village …”
The Danes place tremendous importance on social, economic and overall security, thus this common quip holds true. In general, volunteerism is given high priority. Ultimately, it appears that community support helps Denmark the most.
2. They are one of the most generous.
Denmark ranks third in the most recent figures for foreign aid expenditure per capita, very generously providing for developing countries and disaster relief.
3. They treat each other with respect.
The Danes are often extremely proud when another Dane launches a successful career, regardless of where they are in the world. For example, the actors Scarlett Johansson (Danish father) and Viggo Mortensen are very popular. Perhaps their cultural regard towards one another also leads to the low reported incidence of corruption in their leadership too.
4. They don’t believe in income inequality.
With an unofficial but recognized $20 minimum wage rate, workers have many reasons to be happy. In addition, their roughly 80% unionization provides them relatively decent leverage if they don’t receive worker benefits. Even still, there are quite a few wealthy people along with a high standard of living, and many wealthy job providers don’t consider their businesses successful until they are able to pay for their workers to have comparable lifestyles to themselves. Employers often cover employee health insurance, too. Denmark is also known for its large GDP per capita.
5. They view certain milestones in reverse (to the U.S.).
Perhaps the Danes are well versed in the psychological reasoning that banning something only increases its desirability. There is no minimum drinking age, for example; Denmark allows parents to decide for their children under age 16. At 16, certain types of alcohol can be bought, while at 18 any legally sold alcohol can be purchased. Eighteen is also the legal age to drive.
6. They don’t support violence.
Other than soldiers in the United Nations, Denmark is not currently involved in any wars, which many believe often create more problems than they resolve, including generations of despairing, disillusioned and forgotten veterans. They also do not have guns readily available and boast an estimated 90% voter turnout rate.
7. They believe that education is a right.
The Danes teach their youth not only Danish but English, giving them a wide perspective and ability to relate as global citizens. Also, university is mostly free to willing students and these students also receive grants towards tuition as an educational incentive. Specifically, the government provides around $1,000 monthly for 70 months towards a degree and students can often easily sign up for loans.
8. They are pretty advanced in social equality.
Denmark outlawed job discrimination against gay people in 1948 and hold values such as tolerance and community accountability quite high — no victim mentalities here.
9. They believe in a military relative in size to its population.
A proportional militia allows more government funding to flow directly to its citizens, rather than subsidizing real or perceived threats.
10. They hold socialist (and capitalist) values.
The Danes believe that people come before profit. Thus, the Danish government provides quite a lot in pensions, unemployment, subsidized child care, free education for professionals, quality infrastructure and sickness benefits, which the Danish understand and appreciate.
11. They understand and appreciate what their taxes subsidize.
Danes pay a pretty penny in taxes: anywhere in range of 36% to 51% in state taxes, along with a 25% sales tax, and around a 1% voluntary church tax. Their Government is also quite astute in managing these particular financial affairs, allowing Danes fairly decent retirement funds and sound infrastructures. While most European countries’ middle class pay more tax than in the United States, the Danish belief in taking care of its citizens means the wealthy pay more in taxes than the working class.
12. They prioritize health.
Many food additives are banned, such as the trans fats that are mostly found in cheap, fried food items. To top it off, with plenty of flat land and a small population, much of Denmark is ideal for the avid bicyclist. The Danes also boast a healthy life expectancy.
Ditch the guilt, banish your inbox and stop blue-sky thinking. As we return to our desks after the summer fun, Richard Godwin finds the formula for feeling good in the office
Early on in his new book, Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan relates a conversation he once had with a friend who is (or rather, was) a high-powered media executive. She spent most of the evening complaining that her line of work made her miserable. Her boss, her colleagues, her commute — all of it brought her down. When she came to pay the bill, however, her final statement took him by surprise. “Of course, I love working in Medialand!” It is apparent contradictions such as this that illuminate Dolan’s central thesis.
A professor of behavioural sciences at LSE, Dolan came from what he describes as a “lower working-class” family in east London to become one of the world’s leading experts in the emerging study of happiness. Daniel Kahneman, the fabled Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, views him as something of a protégé. The Office for National Statistics has employed him to help establish the framework of David Cameron’s national wellbeing survey.
He is part of a wave of social scientists whose discoveries at once confound your expectations and provide an appreciable way of acting on that knowledge. It’s self-help for pseuds, in other words, in the best traditions of Kahneman’s own Thinking, Fast and Slow, or Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, and full of facts that make you go: “Huh.”
Did you know, for example, that accidents among small children — which have been in decline for decades — have risen since the invention of the smartphone? (Distraction is one of the most significant barriers to happiness, as well as to responsible parenting.) Or that people who tweet about how they’re trying to lose weight actually lose more weight than people who don’t? The rate is 0.5 per cent of weight loss per 10 tweets. Dolan includes that as an example of how peer pressure may be turned into a positive — if losing weight is indeed what makes you happy. The evidence suggests that it does not in the long term.
Dolan’s central insight is that how we evaluate our happiness is very different from how we actually experience it. His media friend thought she was happy (“I love working in Medialand!”). But what was really important, Dolan argues, is her day-to-day experience of it. “[We] generally pay more attention to what we think should make us happy rather than focusing on what actually does,” as he puts it. If we want to be happy, we should get better at working out what makes us happy in the moment.
For this he cites what he calls the “Pleasure Purpose Principle”. We need to balance both pleasure and purpose to experience happiness. It explains why we “solve” a crappy day at work (purpose) with an evening in front of the TV (pleasure). However, when pleasure has no purpose, that doesn’t make us happy either — which is why we’ll often choose to watch some worthy documentary over a silly romcom. Likewise, if there is no pleasure in our purpose — for example, if we’re working on something that we know is a pointless waste of time — it makes us unhappy. Take the dreaded “unassigned” Hooli staff in the sitcom Silicon Valley. Making money from doing nothing does not make them happy. As Dolan counsels: “Happiness is ultimately about the pleasure-purpose principle over time.”
And while the insights are applicable in many areas of life, it’s at work they are most acute. It’s where we spend most of our conscious lives, after all. Here are 10 of the take-home lessons.
Your attention is a scarce resource. Use it wisely …
All work and no play leads to regret …
Future happiness does not compensate for present misery…
…But do consider the present benefits of future decisions …
Change your environment …
Making decisions is difficult. Seek help …
Don’t think about the weather …
Minimise distractions …
Surround yourself with people who increase your happiness…
…But do not compare yourself too much with people around you …
[It is all too easy to become] caught up in the “bigger picture” and the intricacies of your role. But by doing so, it is possible to become disconnected from the day-to-day operations of your business, particularly your impact on employees, customers and suppliers.
When you are only thinking about this broad view, you may notice a downturn in sales, more customer complaints, or employee productivity taking a dive. You may begin to question the way in which you [are working], spending many long, exasperating hours trying to determine why [you are] not moving in the right direction. That is when the “human-side” of the operation — the satisfaction of employees, customers and others who interact with the company — is negatively impacted.
It’s at this point that you’d better start asking questions.
To improve employee engagement and make positive changes in the workplace, leaders should be asking employees for their honest opinion about what is working — or not working — in the organization. If handled properly, the results can yield feedback that may enable you to bolster morale, streamline systems and increase customer satisfaction. It may even help you to become a better leader.
To get employees talking, you don’t need to have them fill out a huge questionnaire. Instead start with these four simple questions.
1. What are we doing when operating at our best? The goal here is to extract out best practices. The answers you receive will also speak to the culture of the organization and will allow you to leverage those best practices in your marketing collateral as well as when recruiting employees.
2. What are you hearing customers say about our business? The objective of this inquiry is to capture — directly from the front line — what customers or clients are saying. Look carefully for emerging patterns.
3. If you were in my shoes and could make all the decisions, what would you do and why? The purpose of this question is three-fold. First, it engages the employee and demonstrates that management cares about what they think. Second, it puts part of the responsibility on the employee to think more like a leader and put themselves in your shoes. Not only does this instigate creative thought, but it also generates empathy for the responsibilities of company leadership. Most importantly, since the employee is closest to the customer, they will be able to suggest clearly-defined opportunities for improvement.
4. What is the “one essential thing” I need to know in order to make this business a success? This question gets to the heart of how your organization’s time, resources and initiative should be directed in order to prosper. Once again, look for patterns and, if possible, further validate those findings through customer surveys or focus groups.
Be aware that some associates may be fearful of backlash and not be willing to tell it like it is. To avoid this response, meet in small groups, one-on-one (or even allow anonymity) during the process. Determine what works best for your company and don’t forget to show appreciation for the feedback you receive. Recognize that you may be inclined to disagree or provide an explanation for some of your employee’s reactions — so try to keep an open mind.
This exercise achieves multiple benefits. You acquire worthwhile data and, at the same time, the employee will feel that they are recognized, heard and respected.
Take your employee’s feedback and work with it. Build a supportive environment that promotes creativity. Get clear about the relationships between associates, suppliers and customers. Keep it positive and let your employees know that you are receptive to new ideas. Finally, do a little soul searching on your own contribution. Use your insight and focused attention to instil confidence and commitment in your employees that will support them in their efforts to do their very best for your organization.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?
Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. “It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences,” says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. “As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better.”
Hanson assures he isn’t just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. “This is not just ‘smell the roses,'” he says. “I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”
Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:
~ Recognise your negativity bias…
~ Don’t just think positively. Think realistically…
~ Know what’s going on in the brain…
~ Follow the 10-second rule…
~ Think of your brain like a cassette recorder…
…Our brains are working just fine, you might be thinking. Why mess with something that’s not broken? But the fact of the matter is happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you can teach your brain to experience more fully.
“We should not fool ourselves,” says Hanson. “We’ve got a brain that is pulled together to help lizards, mice, and monkeys get through the day and pass on their genes. We’ve got a brain that’s like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. Be muscular from the inside out. Grow the good stuff inside yourself.”
We’d be lying if we didn’t admit that getting a compliment is an instant mood booster. While we all know there’s a difference between meaningful compliments and ones that are more surface-level, how you act on the receiving end of praise is just as important as how you act when offering it.
How we carry ourselves is key to any conversation, but when it comes to really accepting compliments, body language could be your greatest ally. Our bodies can sometimes say way more than the words we speak — and they can also influence our thought patterns. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in her TED Talk on the power of body language, standing confidently, even when you don’t feel that way on the inside, can influence cortisol levels in the brain and can potentially influence success.
At its core, mindfulness is about having total awareness of your thoughts as they happen — and with this awareness also comes alack of judgment or categorization of these thoughts. By practicing mindfulness, we’re recognizing the compliment and our initial thoughts on it — and then choosing not to react in a negative manner. Need help incorporating more mindfulness in your everyday life? Try these tricks.
Realize the difference between humility and self-deprecation.
Even women with high self-esteem reject compliments, but mainly because they want to appear more modest, social psychologist Laura Brannon told TODAY. But in reality, humble people accept themselves for who they are. “Many people think of humility as … thinking very little of yourself, and I don’t think that’s right,” Mike Austin, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, previously told HuffPost Healthy Living. “It’s more about a proper or accurate assessment. A big part of humility is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses, morally or otherwise.”
Don’t compliment them back right away.
How many times have you been paid a compliment only to feel compelled to return the favor? This behavior — while inherently kind — isn’t the most effective way to help you accept genuine praise better.
As psychologist Susan Quilliam tells the Daily Mail, many women do this because it gets the attention off of them — another habit that could reinforce the idea that you don’t deserve the compliment in the first place (and you do). Complimenting others just for the sake of it can also feel disingenuous — so it’s better to leave it at a simple “thank you.”
Store it in your memory.
When we have self-critical thoughts after hearing kind remarks, it usually stems from the delusional idea that people don’t really mean what they say — or worse, they’re wrong about your positive qualities. And simply put, that’s just not true. Next time someone pays you a genuine compliment, file it in your memory and think about it when you’re feeling inadequate. The sooner you start believing you’re worth the praise, the easier it will be to accept it graciously — and you’ll be much happier for it.
People who are overconfident in their own abilities are considered more talented by others than they really are, a new study finds.
These overconfident individuals are probably more likely to get promoted, to become the leaders of organisations and even nations.
On the other hand, people who are not so confident in their abilities are judged as less competent than they actually are.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, provide evidence for a controversial theory of the evolution of self-deception (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).
Being better at deceiving yourself makes you better at deceiving others, some have argued, and this study provides evidence for the theory.
Dr. Vivek Nityananda, who co-authored the study, explained:
“These findings suggest that people don’t always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived.
We think this supports an evolutionary theory of self-deception.
It can be beneficial to have others believe you are better than you are and the best way to do this is to deceive yourself — which might be what we have evolved to do.”
The study shows how belief in your own abilities doesn’t just affect you but also those around you, who also pick up on your levels of self-belief very quickly.
The authors conclude that…
“…[since] overconfident individuals are more likely to be risk-prone, then by promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk.
From our smallest interactions to the institutions we build, self-deception may play a profound role in shaping the world we inhabit.” (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).
How to counter the gradual narrowing of our horizons.
In Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, serial entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan examines the intricate, pervasive cognitive and emotional mechanisms by which we choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to remain unseeing in situations where “we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.” We do that, Heffernan argues and illustrates through a multitude of case studies ranging from dictatorships to disastrous love affairs to Bernie Madoff, because “the more tightly we focus, the more we leave out” — or, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz put it in her remarkable exploration of exactly what we leave out in our daily lives, because “attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator.”…
“Whether individual or collective, willful blindness doesn’t have a single driver, but many. It is a human phenomenon to which we all succumb in matters little and large. We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial. We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs. It’s a truism that love is blind; what’s less obvious is just how much evidence it can ignore. Ideology powerfully masks what, to the uncaptivated mind, is obvious, dangerous, or absurd and there’s much about how, and even where, we live that leaves us in the dark. Fear of conflict, fear of change keeps us that way. An unconscious (and much denied) impulse to obey and conform shields us from confrontation and crowds provide friendly alibis for our inertia. And money has the power to blind us, even to our better selves…
“Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. And what’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty. We think we see more — even as the landscape shrinks…
And yet wilful blindness, Heffernan argues, isn’t a fatal diagnosis of the human condition — it may be our natural, evolutionarily cultivated tendency, but it is within our capability to diffuse it with the right combination of intention and attention. She reflects on the heartening evidence to which the various studies reviewed in the book point:
“The most crucial learning that has emerged from this science is the recognition that we continue to change right up to the moment we die. Every experience and encounter, each piece of new learning, each relationship or reassessment alters how our minds work. And no two experiences are the same. In his work on the human genome, the Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner reminds us that even identical twins will have different experiences in different environments and that that makes them fundamentally different beings. Identical twins develop different immune systems. Mental practice alone can change how our brains operate. The plasticity and responsiveness of our minds is what makes each of us most remarkable… We aren’t automata serving the master computer in our heads, and our capacity for change can never be underestimated…
“We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking. The very fact that willful blindness is willed, that it is a product of a rich mix of experience, knowledge, thinking, neurons, and neuroses, is what gives us the capacity to change it. Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?”
Ziyah Gafić photographs everyday objects—watches, shoes, glasses. But these images are deceptively simple; the items in them were exhumed from the mass graves of the Bosnian War. Gafić, a TED Fellow and Sarajevo native, has photographed every item from these graves in order to create a living archive of the identities of those lost.
Happiness At Work edition #109
All of these stories and many more are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection
We hope you enjoy the surprise of unearthing something delightful that was already there sometime over the coming week…