The New York Times on Positive Psychology and adjacent: My 10 favorite Pieces

New_York_Times_logo_variationI totally admire how top psychology researchers regularly get a lot of airtime in US mass media outlets – doesn´t happen that much here in Germany. The following list comprises 10 (more or less) recent pieces from the venerable New York Times. All of them were written (or cover work) by some of the figureheads of Positive Psychology.

22 Positive Psychology-infused Articles every (HR) Leader should know

Positive Organizational ScholarshipPositive Psychology has a lot to offer for leaders, especially those people taking on a leadership role in human resources and people management. In this post, I´ve gathered 22 research articles infused by Positive Psychology (more specifically: Positive Organizational Scholarship) that, in my opinion, have tremendous value for aspiring as well as established managers and entrepreneurs.

The topics comprise desirable attributes and personality variables such as grit, character strengths, and core self-evaluations, how to create positive relationships at work, how employee motivation is created and sustained, how to find meaning and purpose in work, and several review articles, e.g., on the connection of positive emotions and job performance. Enjoy!

P.S.
This is my 300. post since I’ve started Mappalicious about two years ago. Giving myself a slight pat on the back right now…

Do you want to find more Meaning in your Work? Here´s where you should look for it – according to Science

Feeling that your work has a deeper meaning or purpose has many positive consequences, for yourself as well as your organization: For instance, higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction, and (individual) performance. Therefore, researchers as well as practitioners have tried to find the antecedents of meaning in work for quite some time. Yet, it turns out that it´s a pretty complicated issue. A job that yields a lot of meaning for one person might feel totally meaningless for another individual.

Where should we look for the source of meaning in work? Is it something that can be found within ourselves? Does it depend on the type of job? Or is it determined by some characteristics of the organization? The answer is: very likely, all of those factors do play their role – and in part, meaning depends on the interaction between the characteristics of the person and those of the job.

In an empirical study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Tatjana Schnell and her colleagues surveyed some 200 people from different occupational backgrounds. In short, here´s what they´ve found:

When looking at all factors in a single model…

  • the strongest predictor of meaning in work is job significance (= the perceived implications one’s deeds have on an organizational, societal or even global level);
  • the runner-up is the organization´s socio-moral climate (= a culture that fosters a) open confrontation with social conflicts and problems; b) reliable appreciation, care, and support; and  c) participative collaboration);
  • third place goes to the organizations´s self-transcendent orientation (= commitment to a higher purpose, combined with a concern for ethics and integrity);
  • and the last (but not least) impact comes in the form of work-role fit (= a perceived match between personal identity and actual job activities).

All in all, those attributes are able to predict almost 50% of the variance pertaining to participants´ level of perceived in meaning in work (that´s quite a lot in the context of psychological research). To put in everyday language:

We find meaning in our work when we frequently have the opportunity to perceive the (positive) outcome of our individual contribution, when our organization promotes a culture of fairness, trust, support – and authentically commits to some “greater good”, and when we feel that our job provides us with lots of opportunities to use our unique talents and matches our personal values.

In another fascinating article, Brent D. Rosso et al. try to provide an integrative model that compasses (more or less) all known factors that influence perceived meaning in work. Personally, I think it´s a very insightful (and: beautiful…) piece of research – and I will reread it frequently. I think, it is pretty self-explanatory, so I´ll leave it up to you to make the most of it.

 

New Article in Professional Magazine: Workplace Happiness and Job Crafting

Mach Dich zufriedenFor my German-speaking readers…

In the October issue of managerSeminare, Germany´s premier professional magazine for coaching and training, the lead article is concerned with workplace happiness and job satisfaction. I´ve been interviewed for that piece and was able to contribute some notions on job-crafting as theorized by MAPP lecturer Amy Wrzesniewski.

The print article lies behind a paywall but I might be able obtain a PDF to share in some weeks. In the meantime, you might want to listen to a podcast based on that article. This is available for free. Enjoy!

By the way: an article from spring 2014 in that same Magazine, which deals with a more general introduction to Positive Psychology, can be obtained for free here.

 

My Mind´s MAP(P): The 4-minute Ivy League Diploma in Positive Psychology

MAPP 9 Superhero MedalFor one of our MAPP final papers, we were asked to come up with a list of bits and pieces of insight, those “eureka moments of comprehension” we´ve had over the two semesters at Penn. I´d like to share those with you as a kind of “MAPP in a nutshell”. As I like to tie knowledge to those teachers that are “responsible” for my comprehension, I will present them to you in that way. Therefore, I´ve created a list of (to my knowledge) all the persons that have taught in MAPP 9 at one point or the other, and will name those that have provided me with an especially memorable insight. Those perceptions do encompass theoretical insights from positive psychology, its real-world application (or its contribution to real-world application of other psychological concepts), or style of (teaching) delivery…

Roy Baumeister: Bad is stronger than good (precisely: bad events and emotions create a stronger and longer-lasting impact on our brains). Therefore, we need to purposefully create more positive events and emotions in our lives to counterbalance this one-sidedness (with a tip to the hat to John Gottman…).

Dan Bowling: Everything that can be done can also be done with style. It makes the world a brighter place.

Art Carey: Has shown me how important the process of writing is for my own life – and that part of my future career should consist of getting paid for being a “wielder of words”.

David Cooperrider: Words create worlds. Accordingly, positive words will create (mostly) positive worlds – whereas negative words will create (mostly) negative worlds. So use your words wisely, especially your questions – as they tend to create the worlds within other people´s minds.

Angela Duckworth/Peggy Kern: Woohoo! Learning (and teaching…) statistics can be fun. Go figure…

Jane Dutton: High-Quality Connections (HQC) are the high-octane fuel of every organization. Suspend your judgment and try to walk a mile in your fellow men´s shoes before coming to any conclusion. Build trust via giving open, positive feedback – if possible, on a daily basis.

Chris Feudtner: Keeping an open heart while working in dark places (e.g. palliative care units for children) can grant you an enormous “aura” and tangible “clarity of the mind”. When there´s nothing left, there can still be hope. What do we hope for – when there´s no other option left but hope?

Barbara Fredrickson: Positive emotions are not a trifle. They are essential building blocks for our well-being and should be fostered actively.

Adam Grant: It is more blessed smarter to give than to receive. Being altruistic does not turn you into a doormat. It can lead to success, even in competitive corporate environments.

Jonathan Haidt: 1) There are no good reasons (at least not good enough) to be pessimistic about the fate of mankind. Judged by most empirical indicators, it´s not foolish to say that we are on an “upwards trajectory”: things are bound to get better. On that note, I would also like to thank my classmate David Nevill for giving me the sentence “We never have enough data to be pessimistic.” It continues to inspire me, even on a sort of metaphysical level. 2) Look to the extreme ends of the (positive) emotional continuum, e.g., to emotions such as awe and elevation. They may be powerful change catalysts.

Emilia Lahti: You have tons of soul mates somewhere out there. They may live at the other end of the world. But eventually, some of them will find you (especially if you start a blog, that is…)

Ellen Langer: Everything that can be done is worth being done mindful. It leads to better results and more satisfaction. Plus: Don´t fear getting old.

Daniel Lerner: Everything that can be done can also be done with “an eye for excellence”. It pushes the boundaries of human achievement.

Chris Major: A man with a true purpose is (almost) unstoppable.

Ryan Niemiec: 1) Strengths matter more than frailties. They are the key to our “true self” and the building blocks on our road to (work and life) satisfaction. 2) A movie is never “just a movie”. It´s a lesson on character strengths.

Off the Beat: Singing is life!

Ken Pargament: Even atheists value the “sacred moments” in their lives. Find them, cultivate them, and cherish them. They are valuable.

James Pawelski: 1) Trust the process. 2) It´s always valuable not to be the smartest person in the room. 3) Know which giants´ shoulders you are standing on. 4) There is nothing more practical than a good theory (and a proper definition). 5) Know the limits of your knowledge. 6) Positive psychology is grounded in meliorism (the belief that people/things can improve/be better than they are today). 7) You can be a proper scientist and nevertheless enjoy Tony Robbins.

Isaac Prilleltensky: Fairness on the community and societal level influences our individual well-being. Countries with developed democracies, a high degree of personal freedom, generous social security systems and relatively small gaps between top earners and “normal” workers are the happiest (on average)

John Ratey/Tom Rath: Move your ASS! Your brain will appreciate it.

Ann Roepke: Our life is a narrative and as such, we do have tremendous power over it by actively re-writing or pre-writing the storylines.

Esa Saarinen: Don´t hold back. Create systems of generosity. Err on the giving side. Embrace your inner (and outer!) “weird”.

Barry Schwartz: 1) Most times, “good” is “good enough”. 2) Purposefully limit the choices you have to make in life. E.g., choose not to choose by setting defaults and creating habits.

Martin Seligman: Think and dream big.

Daniel Tomasulo: Everything that can be done can also be done with a twinkle in the eye. Makes hard work feel “easy”.

Amy Wrzesniewski: Purpose and meaning (at work) are the result of finding work that integrates your strengths, passions, and values. The calling comes from within. Other people matter (at work, too).

I am deeply thankful to all of you!

 

P.S. Thanks to my classmate Linda Rufer for designing those MAPP 9 superhero medals. The backside says I was voted “most mappalicious” person in our cohort. Whatever that means at the end of the day… 🙂

Positive Psychology and MAPP at Penn: Doing that Namedropping Thing

Actually, I should be busy writing on my MAPP final papers right now. But then, taking short breaks is supposed to help your mind stay fresh, right?

By now, a lot of people that have read my blog also contacted me to ask about my MAPP experience. Obviously, it´s not that easy to tell a story of 10 months in a few sentences. Hey, that´s why I started this blog in the first place…* There´s also been some questions about the tuition – and to be honest, it´s not exactly a bargain. I could have not taken part without some generous support from my employer (or rather: my boss). But hey – Penn belongs to the Ivy League and that comes with a price tag.

If you´d like to know why I am convinced that it was worth each and every penny (and much more…), please read my blog front to back. Otherwise, you might be convinced by the sheer (work-)force of people that you’ll  have the pleasure and honor to learn from. So here is the name-dropping list. Please note that the guest lecturers and assistant instructors will vary from year to year (C = core faculty; G = guest lecturer; A = assistant instructor that has taught part of a class at some point):

That´s value for money…

*And to become super-duper famous, of course…

What makes Life meaningful? 3 Answers for You…

My Direction

One of the letters in Martin Seligman´s PERMA outline of Positive Psychology is M for Meaning (in life). In this post, I would like to point you to three outstanding resources on that topic:

First, check out Maria Popova´s fabulous Brain Pickings site – in this case her essay on Viktor Frankl´s Logotherapy and his conception of meaning in life.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

Second, you might want to have a look at Michael Steger´s TEDx talk – where he explains why and how meaning in life can be a matter of life an death; and what role relationships play in that piece.

And third, here´s a link to a website I discovered recently which contains a psychological test that can help you to find your personal “purpose pattern” (at work). It was created by a team around Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy. I found that some familiar MAPP faces are also associated with that project, namely “Chief Giving Officer” Adam Grant, and Job Crafting Authority Amy Wrzesniewski.

Enjoy!