Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 49/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Greater Good Science Center: Is Your Empathy Determined by Your Genes? by Summer Allen


Psychology Today: The Happy Brain by Mark Banschick


Wall Street Journal: The perils of empathy by Paul Bloom


New York Times: How to Choose Happiness by Marie Kondo


Redlands Daily Facts: President Obama — our positive psychologist-in-chief: Guest commentary by Sonja Lyubomirsky


Gallup: What Strengths Tell Us About Men and Women by Jane Miller and Amy Adkins


Creativity Post: 3 Foolproof Ways to Prevent Work Burnout, Backed by Science by Emma Seppälä


Greater Good Science Center: Would the World Be Better Off without Empathy? by Jill Suttie


USA Today: Key to money happiness may be in how you spend it by Russ Wiles


Positive.News: Why now is the time for serious optimism by Seán Dagan Wood


Atlantic: Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self by Ed Yong


Heleo: Beyond Grit: The Science of Creativity, Purpose, and Motivation (feat. Angela Duckworth & Adam Grant), no author

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3 Questions for Angela Duckworth, Author of “Grit”

Angela_DuckworthA few weeks ago, Penn professor Angela Duckworth has published her first book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. And while she´s typically busy shipping exceptional research, giving TED presentations, or talking to the New York Times, it says a lot about her character that she also takes the time to answer some questions for my little blog thingy. So, thank you, Angela!

What are you up to these days? Just kidding… What does it feel like to have published a bestseller? And what part did grit play in the process of writing up “Grit”

I’m devoting myself to Character Lab, a nonprofit I founded with educators Dave Levin and Dominic Randolph three years ago. The mission of Character Lab is to advance the science and practice of character development. This includes helping children develop intrapersonal strengths like grit and self-control but also interpersonal strengths like gratitude and pro-social purpose and, finally, intellectual strengths like curiosity and open-minded thinking.

While I’m thrilled with the success of the book, I can also tell you that my attention is entirely on the future and new challenges. And, as for grit while writing Grit? Writing this book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I almost quit many times. So, yes, I used my grit to do it, and I learned a lot about grit in the process!

You´re incredibly successful as a researcher, but also as an educator, first via your TED talk, and now with the book. Clearly, a lot people are intrigued by the concept of grit. Still, I’ve read a couple of articles that give pushback to the concept for allegedly ignoring the socio-economic factors that lead to success in school and life in general. What’s your take on this?

At a recent conference, I sat down next to a sociologist. She knew my work, and it didn’t take long for her to express extreme disdain—even anger—for what she called the grit message. “What’s that,” I asked? “Well, put it this way,” she said. “I happen to think that poverty and inequality matter a heck of a lot more than grit.” I thought for a moment. Then I said, “I see your point.”

If you pit grit against structural barriers to achievement, you may well decide that grit is less worthy of our attention. But I think that’s the right answer to the wrong question.

Caring about how to grow grit in our young people—no matter their socio-economic background—doesn’t preclude concern for things other than grit. For example, I’ve spent a lot of my life in urban classrooms, both as a teacher and as a researcher. I know how much the expertise and care of the adult at the front of the room matter. And I know that a child who comes to school hungry, or scared, or without glasses to see the chalkboard, is not ready to learn. Grit alone is not going to save anyone.

But the importance of the environment is two-fold. It’s not just that you need opportunity in order to benefit from grit. It’s also that the environments our children grow up in profoundly influence their grit and every other aspect of their character. This is the grit message in my words:

Grit may not be sufficient for success, but it sure is necessary.

If we want our children to have a shot at a productive and satisfying life, we adults should make it our concern to provide them with the two things all children deserve: challenges to exceed what they were able to do yesterday and the support that makes that growth possible.

So, the question is not whether we should concern ourselves with grit or structural barriers to achievement. In the most profound sense, both are important, and more than that, they are intertwined.

I’ve pursued and completed a Ph.D. but the truth is: I entirely lost interest in the topic after the first year. Still, I hung in there for another 3.5 years for reasons that the founders of Self-Determination Theory, Ryan and Deci, would probably call “externally regulated”. And while I suffered emotionally during that time, I now do enjoy the upsides that having a Ph.D. entails at times. Was that grit? Or “stupid grit”? Or just stupid?

Good question. I might have asked myself, “Why am I pursuing this Ph.D.?” And in response, what would you have said? The answer gives you a higher-order goal—the “why” that gives meaning to the Ph.D. Was there a way to pivot in terms of your topic or research to achieve that higher-order goal?

And, in terms of pure interest, is there an adjacent topic to the one your pursued that you would have enjoyed more?* Interest and purpose are the drivers of passion, and I think if there is really no interest and no sense of purpose, you need not feel the compulsion to finish what you started.

Thank you, Angela – and best of luck with your book and the Character Lab!


Grit_DuckworthDr. Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies non-IQ competencies, including self-control and grit, which predict success both academically and professionally.

Prior to pursuing a career in academia, Angela was a McKinsey consultant and, for five years, a math teacher in several public schools. In 2013, she was selected as a MacArthur Fellow. Very recently, Angela has published her first book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance with Scribner. It was an instant New York Times best seller and remains on the best seller list today.


* The truth is: When you don´t want to work on your Ph.D., you start to put a lot of time and energy in other things, just to have your calendar really, really stuffed as an excuse. For me, this led to discovering Positive Psychology in the first place, which then led to studying at Penn, which led to meeting Angela.

This is one of my learnings: Whether something is truly good or bad for us should probably not be judged in the moment. It often takes a couple of years to connect the dots and see the real value of our life´s episodes.

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 23/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Sloan Management Review: What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless by Catherine Bailey & Adrian Madden


Bakadesuyo: FOMO: This Is The Best Way To Overcome Fear Of Missing Out by Eric Barker


Harvard Business Review: How leaders can let go without losing control by Mark Bonchek


New York Times: Graduating and Looking for Your Passion? Just Be Patient by Angela Duckworth


New York Times: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice by Adam Grant


Fast Company: Poverty can alter your DNA so you’re at greater risk for depression by Jessica Leber


New York Magazine: To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable by David Marchese


Fast Company: Resilient teams can deal with challenges because they have built these skills by Gwen Moran


Harvard Business Review: Why Rich People Aren’t as Happy as They Could Be by Raj Raghunathan


New York Times: Using Meditation to Help Close the Achievement Gap by Norman Rosenthal


Psychology Today: In Defense of Authenticity and Being Yourself by Mark White


APA Excellence: Workplace Well-being Linked to Senior Leadership Support, New Survey Finds, no author


Psychological Science: Genetic Variations Linked with Social and Economic Success, no author

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Angela Duckworth and Adam Grant in the New York Times

Nico Rose - Angela Duckworth - Adam GrantTwo of my academic heroes have published pieces in the New York Times recently.

Angela Duckworth writes about cultivating, rather than discovering our passion and the corresponding career paths. The key takeaways:

Move toward what interests you

Don’t panic if you can’t think of a career path that’s a perfect fit. A good-enough fit is a more reasonable aim than a perfect one.

Seek purpose

People are hard-wired not only to gratify their personal desires but also to care for others. So ask, “In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?” 

Finish strong

When considering a career change…

Work as hard on your last day as on your first. No matter where you go next, you have an opportunity to make the most of where you are now.

Adam Grant writes about how the concept of authenticity might be misleading in the world of business. He proposes to strive for sincerity instead. The key takeaway:

Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, start with your outer self. Pay attention to how you present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the person you claim to be.

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 21/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Edge: Misunderstanding Positive Emotion by June Gruber

Scientific American: A Self-Improvement Secret: Work on Strengths by Lauren Howe

NPR: MacArthur ‘Genius’ Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit by Anya Kamenetz

Smithsonian: If grit breeds success, how can I get grittier? by Emily Matchar

Psych Central: When Grit Falls Short by Robert McGrath

Huffington Post: A Quick Daily Writing Practice That’s Proven to Make You Happier by Izzy McRae

Quartz: Scarcity mindset is a great way to suck creativity and visionary thinking out of your life by Camille Ricketts

Guardian: Money can’t buy happiness? That’s just wishful thinking by Ruth Whippman

Fulfillment Daily: The Rise of toxic Leaders and what to do about it by Ray Williams

Center for Positive Organizations: Logitech named winner of 2016 Positive Business Project, no author

Center for Positive Organizations: Time to overcome your skepticism – Positive business is the future of capitalism, no author

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Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 19/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Guardian: Is grit the true secret of success? by Paula Cocozza


Quartz: The key to happiness at work isn’t money–it’s autonomy by Bell Beth Cooper


New York Magazine: Don’t Believe the Hype About Grit, Pleads the Scientist Behind the Concept by Melissa Dahl


NPR: How To Teach Children That Failure Is The Secret To Success by Tara Haelle


Scientific American: Review of ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ by Scott Barry Kaufman


Greater Good Science Center: Why Do We Feel Awe? by Dacher Keltner


Atlantic: Self-esteem doesn’t work. Try self-compassion instead by Olga Khazan


Greater Good Science Center: Happy People Don´€™t Need to Feel Superior by Kira M. Newman


The Positive Organization: Adaptive Confidence by Robert Quinn


New York Magazine: You Could Probably Lift a Car, If You Really Needed To by Cari Romm


Harvard Business Review: Creative Job Titles Can Energize Workers, no author, yet feat. Adam Grant

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