Positive relationships with our friends, family and colleagues are an integral element of wellbeing. As social beings we need to connect, feel affection, friendship and love but if relationships really are so essential to wellbeing how can we nurture them? [Read more…]
When we use our highest strengths to meet a challenge we are in a state of flow, Martin Seligman describes the feeling of flow as, “being one with the music, time stopping, and the loss of self- consciousness during an absorbing activity”. Full engagement in an activity supports us to develop, learn, create and flourish. [Read more…]
We’ll begin with a disclaimer: The Hamburger Model doesn’t sanction a hamburger fest. Nope, it’s way more nuanced than that. So what does Harvard’s Dr Ben-Shahar have to say about hamburgers and happiness?
Ben-Shar’s happiness model rests upon his assertion that “When you learn how to live for today and for tomorrow at the same time, you learn how to balance your immediate personal needs with long term goals and enjoy life as you never have before.”
Using a hamburger analogy, the happiness model emphasises how some of our choices will bring immediate satisfaction. Cue the image of a big, juicy, cheesy hamburger. Yum. Ben-Shaham equates that with tasty, short term pleasure. But long term? Not so great. Sure there’s a short term gain but it comes with a long term price. Health, wellbeing and physical fitness are all impacted. Ben-Shaham then offers us the alternative example of a veggie burger. Initially, to some, less appealing. It’s the healthy option, we may have negative feelings about consuming the healthy option over the hamburger but long term, it provides us with multiple benefits. The hamburger model illustrates how we oscillate between healthy-unhealthy options, choices and attitudes in every area of our lives. The happiness model encourages us to refine our choices, identifying options that are both healthy and tasty.
In addition to the hamburger analogy, Ben-Shaham identifies four archetypes;
Nihilism: Nihilists feel that all of the joy has been sucked out of life. They don’t see the point. Present and future benefits don’t exist for the nihilist.
Hedonism: Hedonists are all about the present moment. Whatever brings them pleasure is ok by them. There’s little future thought when they make their decisions and choices.
Rat Racing: This archetype focuses upon future reward at the expense of present pleasure. Deferred gratification is the mantra for the rat racer.
Happiness: This archetype represents balance between the present moment and the future.
Do you recognise your own individual archetype?
By developing our awareness and identifying choices that will increase our happiness, Ben-Shahar argues that we can increase our level of happiness. This model is all about incremental steps, small choices or tweaks that we can make each day to contribute to our overall wellbeing.
Ask yourself: What incremental steps or choices am I able to make today that will provide balance and happiness tomorrow?
Want to know more about the Hamburger Model or building your happiness, resilience and wellbeing? We offer consultancy, training, bitesize, half day or one day training courses along with conference sessions on how to build effective organisations. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. We’d love to talk with you.
Emotional intelligence? It’s a soft skill isn’t it? Think again. Research has consistently demonstrated that people with high levels of emotional intelligence outperform those with high IQs. It’s a key workplace differentiator when it comes to performance.
What’s going on?
Emotional intelligence (EI) contributes to your relationships with others, how you lead, how you’re perceived, to your overall performance. It’s your reputational capital. Self assessment is notoriously inaccurate, even more so if you lack EI. So how do you know if you have a deficit? Worry not, we’ve put together 5 telltale signs that you lack EI. Take a look at the clues below to identify patterns in your behaviour that you might want to develop or eradicate.
- You feel angry. If you find yourself wandering around feeling angry for much of the day but you’re not sure why this could be a sign that you’re unaware of your triggers. Try to identify what they are so that you can preempt them and devise strategies to overcome them rather than having them rule your behaviour.
- You feel stressed. This is something of a chicken and egg situation with the first telltale sign. We know from research that self regulation is the first thing to diminish when we’re stressed so feeling angry can be an unfortunate by product. When you ignore your emotions and stressful events in life, allowing them to fester, it damages your mind and your body. Unmanaged emotions may lead to anxiety, depression and isolation. A more emotionally intelligent response is to talk things through or find effective strategies for managing stress such as exercise or meditation.
- You don’t let go of grudges. If you find yourself clinging onto grudges, waging mini vendettas or trying to point score the following Chinese proverb is made for you. “If you are planning on revenge, dig two graves. One for your enemy and one for yourself.” Continuing to hold a grudge is down to your amygdala. Another form of stress response, it is your brain in full fight, flight or freeze mode with all of the associated physiological responses. The emotionally intelligent way to manage this is to deal with it, not to perpetuate it. Holding onto grudges will increase your blood pressure and the likelihood of heart disease. Learn to have difficult conversations and use that stress for something more positive.
- You feel others don’t ‘get you. This is down to communication. If you frequently find yourself misunderstood or wonder why people don’t seem to ‘get’ what you’re saying, it’s probably down to the way you communicate. Emotionally intelligent people recognise that different people require different communication styles, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Modify your communication style depending upon who you’re talking to and be better understand.
- It’s everyone else fault. If you find yourself constantly blaming other people for how you feel you’ve abdicated from responsibility. How you feel is your business and only you can change that. To blame others will prevent you from moving forwards and developing. Accept responsibility for your own emotions, thoughts and feelings. That way when you recognise that you don’t like them you’re in a powerful position to make changes.
Don’t beat yourself up if you recognise yourself in the 5 telltale signs. You’re not alone. Emotional intelligence is a profile of competencies and we all possess varying levels of each competence. The good news is that EI can be developed. By implementing new strategies and building new habits you’ll create new neural networks, increase your neuroplasticity and your emotional intelligence.
If you’d like to know more about emotional intelligence, check out our other blogs on EI and how to build it. Or for information about our bitesize, half day or one day emotional intelligence courses or consultancy contact us at email@example.com we’d love to hear from you.
Is Happiness A Habit?
Strange as it may sound, research suggests that happiness can indeed be learned. Easy to say when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, but what about those days when everything seems grey? What will make you happy and how can you give yourself the lift you need?
Surprisingly what we think will make us happy rarely does. Research tells us that the thrill of acquiring material possessions or becoming a size 0, things that we erroneously believe will make us happy, usually don’t long term, leaving us with a feeling of ‘Is this all there is?’. A major US study found that the richest Americans earning over $10 million annually reported levels of personal happiness only slightly higher than their employees. So the answer isn’t money, a Black Friday offer on the hand bag or the car you’ve had your eye on.
Martin Seligman, the ‘father’ of positive psychology suggests keeping a ‘Gratitude Journal’. His influential research working with 70 severely depressed adults found that the keeping of a journal (and of course writing daily in it) produced impressive results. Weeks and months later, the gratitude journal had a significant impact upon the increased happiness of the research subjects whose depression had significantly decreased.
You may find yourself wondering if a journal is really going to cut the mustard for you on an off day. You may be onto something as longitudinal research with fraternal twins suggests that we may all have a ‘set point’ in terms of our happiness, which originates from our parents. For some, being happy just seems to come naturally whilst for others it takes work. The ‘set point’ is believed by some psychologists to be our baseline, a median point of happiness that we will always return to after highs and lows. Luckily, happiness isn’t something that you either have or you don’t, it’s something that you can develop.
Wherever your set point might be, there are a whole host of habits that you can adopt in an attempt to improve it. We know from extensive studies that the following actions will stand you in good stead in terms of increasing your level of happiness. When followed, each of these behaviours and approaches to life will nudge your level of happiness just a little further up the happy-o-meter.
• Make time to nurture relationships with your family & friends. Get the work/life balance right
• Express gratitude for what you have (a journal is the perfect way to do this, or running over your day in your head before you go to sleep, picking out what you are grateful for as you go along)
• Offer to help others, this will build your self esteem and help someone else at the same time (as well as strengthening your social network)
• Practice optimism when thinking about the future. Forget what everyone else is saying and focus on a positive future.
• Live in the present. Try to make sure that you are really in the moment wherever you are; at work, with friends, or just relaxing. Stop yourself from thinking about what’s on the ‘To do’ list, enjoy life and just be.
• Exercise. The latest neuropsychology tells us that exercise not only makes you look and feel better, it strengthens the neural pathways helping them to repair themselves as well as protecting you from the onset of dementia. Add this to the mixture of feel good endorphins that your brain releases into your body when you exercise and you’re onto a winner.
• Have lifelong goals & ambitions. Set yourself goals, what have you always wanted to do? How will you get there? Break it down into small steps and watch yourself grow. As Brian Tracy says ‘You can’t hit a target you can’t see’. Setting and achieving your goals will help you to build your self esteem, resilience and efficacy.
So now you’re armed. You know what to do to make happiness a habit and improve the level of joy in your life. Let us know how you get on!
If you’d like to know more about happiness, positive psychology or you just fancy a chat with us we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or take a look at our half day, full day, bitesize, bespoke or conference sessions.
Compassion and work, strange bedfellows or not?
At first glance they might seem strange bedfellows; compassion and work? Surely not? Whereas compassion may not appear to be a priority in the work place there is increasing evidence that when it’s present, employees flourish and organisations thrive.
So what is compassion at work?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes Compassion as “not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering”. Wharton Management Professor, Sigal Barsade describes compassion as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.” Barsade talks about the importance of an emotional culture, stating that this is equally as important as cognitive organisational culture, stating compassionate employees “are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”
Put simply, compassion at work is empathy with action. The ability to notice the suffering of colleagues, whether it be a stressful day, a difficult conversation with peers or a problem at home – and then the ability to act upon that noticing.
Why is compassion at work important?
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the happier we are at work the more productive we are. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests that happier staff are more engaged, creative, productive and motivated. Successful leaders recognise that happy employees mean increased productivity and ultimately increased profit. It’s not just about the bottom line, nobody wants to be miserable in the place where they spend the majority of their waking hours.
It’s not just about the feel good factor and being civil to each other in workplace. In a 16 month longitudinal study “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” set in a health care facility, Barside and Olivia O’Neil researched the impact of compassion upon the emotional behavioural outcomes of employees. They found that compassion reduced levels of exhaustion and burnout. The researchers also saw a decrease in absenteeism with a corresponding increased levels of employee engagement. Increasingly research in the field of compassion at work is beginning t show that there are tangible results when we develop compassionate individuals, leaders and cultures;
• When we’re on the receiving end of compassionate leadership at work we’re more likely to be committed to our organisation and to talk about it in positive terms (Lilius et al. 2008)
When we experience compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them (Frost et al. 2000).
Managers who believe that their organisation is concerned about their well-being are more likely to show supportive behaviour towards their team members (Eisenberger, 2006).
• Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and care giving to others (Goetz et al. 2010). As Bayside found, this is important in healthcare organisations. Working in a compassionate organisation reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers (Figley 1995). This also provides them with essential emotional resources that they need to care for their clients (Lilius et al. 2011).
• Compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and organisations. Studies show that employees who believe that their leaders care about their well-being are happier with their jobs and more commitment (Lilius et al. 2011). When we experience compassion ate work we are also less likely to leave the organisation, reducing employee turnover.
• Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when we experience positive emotions our heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Our psychological distress also decreases. Compassionate leadership has the potential to improve employee wellbeing.
How can you develop compassion at work?
Consider the way that you interact with others in the workplace. Think about;
- Say ‘Good Morning’ to colleagues, acknowledge their presence and let them know you care.
- Actively look for ways to help colleagues, direct reports and clients.
- If you’re making a coffee, offer to make one for a colleague.
- Notice how others are feeling, bring mindfulness to your interactions and if someone appears to need help, reach out to them.
- Practice mindfulness. Professor Paul Gilbert one of the world’s leading experts in compassion says that mindfulness can be used to develop an attitude of compassion at work.
- Here’s a Mindful practice from Compassion Life by HH The Dalai Lama to help you o your way:
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to pause and relax bringing your focus to your breath. Gently settle into a relaxing breathing rhythm.
Bring to mind a person or situation where you got angry, impatient, frustrated or seriously annoyed. Get a clear picture of the people in this situation and what they were doing that really bothered you…..
Now think of each person when they aren’t at work. Connect with them as another human being.
Picture them as a fellow human being with a family, pets, children, brothers and sisters… just like you
Think of them working to support their family and wanting to live happily…. just like you
Imagine them working as best they know how to work ….. just like you
Think of them having life challenges, fears, worries, insecurities….. just like you
Picture them trying to do their best with what they know to do…. just like you
Know they desire happiness and want to be free from suffering… just like you
Breathe deeply as you picture them with their family or neighbors enjoying life and being happy. Feel the wave of compassion in your body as you connect with your desire for their happiness.
We love to talk about all things compassion at work related at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke compassion at work training for your organisation.
Transformation and Positive Psychology
Would you like to increase your wellbeing? Are you curious to know the practical steps you can take towards positive transformation? Perhaps you’d like to promote a thriving and productive culture in your workplace? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then positive psychology, the scientific study of positive human development, is for you.
Make a difference by changing your mindset
Mindset is one simple yet groundbreaking idea from the field of positive psychology. Psychologist and world renowned mindset expert, Carol Dweck, has spent decades researching achievement and success. Mindset research reveals:
How teaching a simple idea about the brain can drastically increase performance and productivity.
Why intelligence and talent don’t accurately predict success.
How intelligence and talent may even become obstacles to success.
How we can unlock the limitless potential in ourselves and others by developing a growth mindset.
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?
Dweck’s childhood experience of the classroom sparked a lifetime fascination with intelligence and achievement. She remembers of her teacher,
“She let it be known that IQ for her was the ultimate measure of your intelligence and your character…”
Dweck’s research reveals that we all possess either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. It’s possible to have a growth mindset in some areas of life and a fixed mindset in others. Mindset has a profound effect on motivation to learn.
Those with a fixed mindset believe:
intelligence, abilities and talents are fixed and cannot be changed
success is created by innate talent
success = superiority
effort makes no difference to ability
failure is all defining and results in a fear of being judged
people with a fixed mindset have less ability to bounce back from setbacks because they believe failure defines them.
Those with a growth mindset believe:
intelligence, talent and ability are just the starting point, with effort they can be developed
we are capable of improving all areas of our lives by developing our strengths
failure hurts but isn’t defining
the effort and process of learning are enjoyable
you can always learn from setbacks and use them to develop
successes are to be celebrated
A look at the research
In her research with junior high school maths students over a two year period, Dweck noticed a downward trend in performance for students with a fixed mindset and an increase in results for those with a growth mindset.
An eight week intervention was implemented for one group of students who were taught how they could learn to improve results by understanding and adopting a growth mindset. They were told the more they used their brain the greater it’s capacity to learn would become. A control group was taught study skills but not Dweck’s mindset theory about strengthening the brain.
After only two months the students who learned about mindset showed a greater improvement in grades and study habits than students in the control group.
The power of belief
Teaching the students about mindset improved motivation and developed their power of self-belief. The growth mindset group grasped that they could have an impact on their mind. By applying effort to learning, the group understood that they were firing and wiring neurons together in the brain, developing new neural pathways. They were energised by the idea that their efforts could make a physical difference to their brains and a positive difference to their abilities.
Dweck asked the teachers to pick students who had shown positive change. Although the teachers were unaware that there had been two groups, all the children they picked were from the growth mindset group.
Four steps to develop a growth mindset
Follow these four steps to develop a growth mindset:
Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset inner dialogue, typical fixed mindset comments that you might say to yourself are, “Maybe you don’t have the talent?” or “You’ll fail, so why bother?”
Step 2: Recognise that you have a choice in how you respond to such criticism, challenges or setbacks. The choice is yours, you can maintain a fixed mindset or adopt a growth mindset.
Step 3: Talk back to your fixed mindset inner dialogue with a growth mindset voice. A typical growth mindset response to a criticism might be, “Most successful people had failures on their way” or “If I don’t try I automatically fail.”
Step 4: Adopt a growth mindset approach by committing to:
- take on the challenge wholeheartedly
- learn from your setbacks and try again
- hear the criticism and choose a growth mindset response, your mindset is up to you
How does praise impact mindset? Catch Carol Dweck discussing mindset and praise here: