My new TEDx talk: “Dare to Foster Compassion in Organizations”

I´m super happy right now. After my official TEDx premiere at TEDx Bergen/Norway in 2014 (How to be the architect of your own fortune), as of today, my second TEDx talk is available on YouTube. It was filmed at the very first edition of TEDx EBS late in 2016. EBS University (or European Business School Oestrich-Winkel) is one of the premier business schools in Germany and, coincidentally, the place where I obtained my Ph.D.

The talk is named “Dare to Foster Compassion in Organizations”. It draws on research by luminaries such as Jane Dutton, Monica Worline, Adam Galinsky, Laura Little, Jennifer Berdahl, and the late Peter Frost (and even though they are neither mentioned nor referenced on a slide explicitly, Esa Saarinen, Adam Grant, and Robert Quinn).

I hope you will enjoy the talk! And if you do, please consider sharing the news. Thank You!

If you are interested in a (sort of…) transcript of the talk: this was published here a while ago.

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 07/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017

My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Magazine: Rich People Literally See the World Differently by Drake Baer


American Management Association: Developing GRIT: How To Build Your Optimism And Drive Toward Success by Thomas Boyce


Fast Company: A Psychologist Finally Explains Why You Hate Teamwork So Much by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic


Harvard Business Review: If You Want to Motivate Employees, Stop Trusting Your Instincts by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic & Lewis Garrad


Harvard Business Review: Being Engaged at Work Is Not the Same as Being Productive by Ryan Fuller & Nina Shikaloff


New York Magazine: A Strategy for Making Decisions You Won’t Regret by Cari Romm


New York Magazine: This Study on Altruistic Toddlers Will Make You Feel Better About the World by Cari Romm


Huffington Post: Healing Spaces: Expressing Values vs Being Political at Work by Chris White


Heleo: Embrace Authenticity: How to Break Free from the Tyranny of Positivity, no author


Knowledge@Wharton: You’re Happy and You Know It — Why You Probably Shouldn’t Show It, no author


In German

Capital: Zufriedenheit kann man lernen by Christina Berndt

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 06/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017

My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Magazine: Psychologists Think They Found the Purpose of Depression by Drake Baer


New York Magazine: Everybody Discounts How Much Fun Matters for Their Next Job by Drake Baer


Psychology Today: Five Secrets to a Stress-Proof Brain by Melanie Greenberg


Psychology Today: How Does Gratitude Enhance Trust? by Todd Kashdan


Psychology Today: Employee Engagement Is Declining, but Managers Can Help by Victor Lipman


Fast Company: These are the 5 things that are causing employees to burn out & what you can do about them by Gwen Moran


New York Magazine: The Contact Hypothesis Offers Hope for the World by Jesse Singal


New York Magazine: Seeking a Sense of Belonging in a Divisive Era by Emily Esfahani Smith


Time: The key to success is not having more by Scott Sonenshein


New York Magazine: The Curse of Being Too Passionate by Brad Stulberg

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 05/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017

My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

Forbes: Are You Using Apple’s Secret Skill At Work? by Jessica Amortegui


Bakadesuyo: This Is How To Have A Happy Life: 4 Proven Secrets From Research by Eric Barker


Fast Company: When you really want something, you’re better off thinking you won’t get it by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic


New York Magazine: The 5 Personality Traits That Make for a Better Life by Melissa Dahl


New York Magazine: How ‘Intellectual Humility’ Can Make You a Better Person by Cindy Lamothe


Huffington Post: Is Positive Psychology Still Relevant in 2017? (Interview with Prof. Barbara Fredrickson) by Michelle McQuaid


BBC: The ‘untranslatable’ emotions you never knew you had by David Robson


New York Magazine: An Easy Way to Get Your Co-workers to Trust You More by Cari Romm


The Age: The science of being a hero by Annabel Stafford


Inc: 7 Ways to Stop Complaining and Feel Happier (Backed by Science) by Andrew Thomas

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 04/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

Scientific American: Power of a Meaningful Life by Gareth Cook


New York Magazine: What Makes Your Life Meaningful? by Melissa Dahl & Allyson Young


Times HigherEd: Happiness expert advises UK’s first ‘positive university’ by Jack Grove


Center for Positive Organizations: Soft Skills Training Boosts Productivity by Greta Guest


BBC: How to be wiser by Claudia Hammond


Guardian: Quick steps to mindfulness: the running Treatment by William Pullen


The Positive Organization: Living on the Upward Spiral by Robert Quinn


The Federalist: These New Yorkers Rediscovered Meaning By Serving Their Neighbors by Emily Esfahani Smith


The Economist: Walk in your own shoes: The case for compassion, not empathy, no author


Science Daily: Where belief in free will is linked to happiness, no author

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 03/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Magazine: For Social-Anxiety Disorder, Talk Therapy Is More Effective Than Pills by Drake Baer


New York Magazine: Neurotics Get an Extra Benefit From Being Extra Nice by Drake Baer


New York Magazine: People Learn More When They Have Fun at WorkPeople Learn More When They Have Fun at Work by Drake Baer


Greater Good Science Center: Are Your Happiness Goals Too High? by James Baraz


Psychology Today: The Psychology Of Professional Purpose: Follow Your Calling by Caroline Beaton


Fast Company: Why You Might Do Your Best Work When You Don’t Have A Boss by Rich Bellis


New York Magazine: You (and Your Therapist) Can Change Your Personality by Melissa Dahl


Scientific American: Which Personality Traits Are Most Predictive of Well-Being? by Scott Barry Kaufman


Wired: The science of touch: why physical contact can make you happier and more successful by Dacher Keltner


Guardian: How to escape the overthinking trap: stop judging yourself by Mark Rice-Oxley


Guardian: Friend zone: why we all long to belong by Emily Esfahani Smith

3 Questions for Emily Esfahani Smith, Author of “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters”

emily_esfahani_smithEmily Esfahani Smith is a writer and fellow Penn MAPP alum. She writes about culture, relationships, and psychology. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Atlantic, and other publications. A few days ago her first book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, was published. Today, she took some time to talk about her work on Mappalicious.

Emily, in your book, you propose there are four pillars of a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. I´ve already come across the first three while studying Positive Psychology, the last one seems to be a very unique angle. So what´s the story with storytelling?

When people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because three conditions have been satisfied, according to psychologists—they feel their lives matter and have worth; they feel their lives are driven by a sense of purpose; and they believe their lives are coherent or comprehensible. Storytelling relates to that third prong of meaning, coherence. Storytelling is the act of taking our disparate experiences and weaving them into a whole. Rather than seeing their experiences as random or disconnected, people who feel their lives are meaningful see their experiences as part of a narrative that explains who they are and how they got to be that way. Another word for storytelling is sense-making—when we tell stories, we’re really trying to make sense of our experiences.

One of the people I interviewed for my book, for example, told me that experiencing adversity as a child ultimately made him a more compassionate person—that’s the story he tells about his adversity; that’s how he makes sense of it. But storytelling isn’t just about understanding ourselves more deeply, it’s also about understanding others. When we watch movies or read novels or listen to a friend’s story, we’re ultimately gaining more wisdom and perspective about what it means to be human.

power_meaning_esfahaniIn my day job, I´m heading a department in a multinational corporation. Therefore, I take special interest in the application of Positive Psychology in organizations. Do those four pillars you describe also apply to meaning in work – or are there additional aspects leaders should consider when thinking about their employees´ experience?

One of the most exciting trends of the last few decades has been the emergence of what I call “cultures of meaning” in institutions like corporations. Many companies are actively building cultures of meaning for their consumers and employees by relying on the four pillars of meaning.

A great example is the apparel brand Life Is Good, which sees its purpose as spreading hope and optimism around the world. It does this with its apparel, which has the words Life Is Good emblazoned on it. Many consumers have written to the company saying that its elevating message has helped them get through adversities and tragedies like cancer and losing loved ones. The leaders at Life Is Good have shared those stories with their employees, to show them that their work is making a positive impact on others. Life Is Good also has a non-profit arm that helps children facing adversities. When I spoke to several of the employees at the company—from a receptionist to a designer—they all told me that they are driven by the good that their company is doing in the world. So here, I see Life Is Good relying on the pillars of purpose and storytelling to create cultures of meaning.

It’s important for leaders to be aware of whether employees are experiencing their work as meaningful. Nothing engages or motivates employees quite like meaningful work—and research by Adam Grant suggests that doing meaningful work makes employees more productive, too (Adam´s interview on Mappalicious can be found here).

I feel my life is already pretty meaningful. I´m happily married and have two beautiful kids. Additionally, I can spend a lot of my time working on things I deeply care about and help other people. But I´m not so sure about the storytelling part. What are some steps I could take to enhance my experience of meaning in life via this pillar?

Storytelling requires reflection. I would recommend setting aside some time—maybe 15 minutes a day a few times a week—to either think or write about your life story. That may sound daunting or vague, but here are some specific things you can reflect on during that time.

1. Try dividing your life into chapters. How many chapters are there? What is the title or theme of each chapter? What makes each chapter unique? What chapters are yet to come? How many future chapters are there? What do you want the final chapter to say?

2. When you look back on your life, what were the turning points? What were the high points and the low points? How did those experiences change you? What did you learn from them? Are you still working to process them?

3. Reflect on the places in your life that played a formative role in your development—like where you grew up, perhaps, or where you went to college, or where you first met your husband or wife. While you’re thinking about these places, ask yourself: why were your experiences there so meaningful? How did they change you? What would your life have been life if you had grown up somewhere else or gone to a different school? What does it feel like being back in those places?

I’d like to add that storytelling is a pillar that takes work—sometimes we have to go over and over an experience hundreds of time before we can begin to make sense of it and understand how it fits into the broader arc of our lives. But it’s ultimately worth it, because that sense-making process brings us wisdom, resolution, and even a measure of peace.

Thank you, Emily, and best of luck with your book!

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For more info on Emily and her work, please check out her The Psychology Podcast, or recent features on The Psychology Podcast, Heleo and Virgin.