Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 18/2017

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

Positive Psychology News Digest

Inc: How to Gain Strength From Your Darkest Moments (Interview with Adam Grant) by Leigh Buchanan


Inc: Pay Attention to These Surprising 6 Red Flags to Burnout. You May Be Closer Than You Think by Laura Garnett


Psychology Today: Are We Evolved for Happiness? by Glenn Geher

Psychology Today: The Problem with Measuring Happiness by Todd Kashdan


Atlantic: Why Do Americans Smile So Much by Olga Khazan


The Age: Debate on future of work needs a Focus by Alex Lavelle


Atlantic: Play Power: How to Turn Around Our Creativity Crisis by Laura Sergeant Richardson


New York Magazine: Thinking of Your Job As a Calling Isn’t Always a Good Thing by Cari Romm


New York Magazine: To Get Better at Reading People’s Feelings, Pay Attention to Your Own Body by Cari Romm


Heleo: See More, Judge Less: A Mindful Approach to Success, no author

How to Replenish Your Energy at Work? Hint: It´s Not the Caffeine

Man_Cookie_kleinMost of us know these days: You´re rushing from one meeting to another, squeezing in those important calls with the tax consultant and your child´s class teacher – while desperately trying to finish that presentation for your boss which is due at 06:00 pm. This is what days at the office look like for a lot of who earn their money as so-called knowledge workers.

To make it through days like this (and perform well!), maintaining a high level of subjective energy is paramount. In the words of Jane Dutton (Center for Positive Organizations at Ross School of Business), human energy is the “fuel” that helps organizations run successfully. Here, an interesting question arises: How do people manage – and in the case of depletion – replenish their energy while still at the office?

This issue was addressed in a paper by researchers Charlotte Fritz, Chak Fu Lam, and Gretchen Spreitzer via an article in “Academy of Management Perspectives” from 2011. In order to do so, they surveyed 214 knowledge workers across all hierarchical levels on their subjective levels of energy (separate for presence and depletion of vitality) throughout their work days – and additionally assessed what kind of (micro-)strategies these people employ to maintain their energetic balance – and how often they use certain strategies compared to others.  Here´s the key takeaway:

When trying to recharge at work, most people get it wrong most of the time!

Among the most frequently used micro-strategies to recharge were:

  • drinking water or coffee, or having a snack;
  • checking e-mails, switching to another task, or making a to-do list;
  • surfing the net or talking to a colleague about non-work issues (e.g., sports).

In the study, none of these behaviors was associated with a heightened energy level, and some were actually connected to further depletion. Instinctively, many people seem to resort to strategies that shift their attention away from the current task. Yet, the scholars show this may be a severe case of looking in the wrong direction. Those energy management strategies found to be most positively related to vitality are:

  1. learning something new;
  2. focusing on what provides joy in work;
  3. setting a new goal;
  4. doing something that will make a colleague happy;
  5. make time to show gratitude to a colleague;
  6. seeking feedback;
  7. reflecting on how to make a difference at work;
  8. reflecting on the meaning of one´s work.

It´s a mental, or sometimes, emotional shift that breeds success.

In a nutshell, all of these strategies are work-related and reflect notions of learning, relationships, and meaning at work. Accordingly, the key to fill your batteries while at work may be to see your job with different eyes without taking your mind off the tasks at hand. It´s a mental, or sometimes, emotional shift that breeds success.

By the way: The only functional non-job-related strategy in the study was taking time to meditate. What about micro-strategies like taking a short nap or going for a walk? Fritz et al. found that these activities were related neither to the presence nor the depletion of energy – they just didn´t matter all that much. The researchers conclude that these strategies may have more potent effects as sources of recovery while being away from work, e.g., during evenings or weekends.

What’s your “Ikigai”? On Purpose, Meaning, and making a Living

There’s a very popular infographic on the net. It’s been around for a couple of years in several different versions.*

The graphic is supposed to help us find our life purpose by showing the different elements it consists of. It displays several overlapping Venn diagrams, thereby distinguishing the elements of mission, vocation, profession, and passion.

Ikigai - Purpose - Meaning
In later versions, at the center of those four circles, you’ll see the Japanese word Ikigai. Just in case you are wondering: Ikigai is composed of two separate Japanese terms: iki (life), and kai, which roughly means the realisation of what one expects and hopes for.

In more specific terms, ikigai is a) used to indicate the things that make one’s life worthwhile, and b) to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable.

Having found (and living according to) one’s personal ikigai seems to be associated with greater health and longevity. At least this was a finding from a large-scale study among Japanese citizens. From the summary:

In this population-based prospective cohort study in Japan, those who did not find a sense of ikigai were significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. The increase in mortality risk was attributed to an increase in the mortality from CVD (mainly stroke) and external causes […]. 

In our study subjects, those who did not find a sense of ikigai were likely to have a poorer socioeconomic status and poorer objective health status. However, the mortality risk in those who did not find a sense of ikigai was consistently increased, irrespective of socioeconomic factors, other psychological factors, physical function, lifestyle habits, and a history of illness.

*The infographic can be found in numerous versions on a ton of websites. In case you know who created it originally, please leave a comment so I can give proper credit.

How to Find and Live Your Calling (TEDx)

Bryan J. Dik, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University. He has published widely on topics related to work as a calling; meaning and purpose in career development; measurement of vocational interests; and career counseling interventions. Bryan is co-author of Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work, and co-editor of two other books: Psychology of Religion and Workplace Spirituality and Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace.

He´s a colleague of Prof. Michael F. Steger who´s  work I´ve covered before here.

The Flop 10 Positive Psychology Articles on Mappalicious for 2015

Two days ago, I posted a top 10 list of the most-read articles on Mappalicious for 2015. Just for fun, today I also had a look at those articles that attracted the smallest audiences. I´ve attended a seminar on improv comedy this year where I learned that “failure is sexy”. Therefore, the following ten posts made me a lot sexier.

But to be honest, once again, my readers are probably right. Most of the posts are short ones, e.g., a copy/paste of some adage or quote. Still, I find some pretty good stuff on that list, by way of example the piece on Twitter, or the one on callings. Enjoy!

Flop_10

Job, Career, or Calling? It´s the Attitude, Stupid!

The other day, for a German news outlet I regularly blog for, I wrote something on Amy Wrzesniewski´s research on our orientations towards work – so why not do it here as well.

Conventional wisdom tells us that there are more meaningful (e.g., nurse) and less meaningful (e.g., cleaner) jobs out there. Yet, Wrzesniewski and her colleagues found that the level of meaning (or purpose) we can derive from our work is only partly dependent on the type of job per se. The way we think (or feel) about what we do seems to have more importance in this matter. The researchers describe three separate (but not mutually exclusive) orientations that people can take on vis-à-vis their occupation: a) job; b) career; c) work.

Work Orientation: Job

People in this category tend to perceive their work as a means to an end. They work for the paycheck/benefits to support their life outside of work. Accordingly, they prefer jobs which do not interfere with their personal lives and typically do not have a strong connection to the workplace or their job duties.

Work Orientation: Career

Individuals displaying a “career” orientation are more likely to focus on job attributes related to prestige and success. They will be foremost interested in opportunites for upward movement, e.g., receiving raises and titles, and the social standing that come along with that.

Work Orientation: Calling

Employees with a “calling” orientation typically describe their work as an integral part of their lives and their identities. Accordingly, they feel that their careers are a form of self-expression and fulfillment.

The crucial point is: Wrzesniewski and her colleagues found that individuals displaying a “calling” orientation are more likely to be highly engaged – and satisfied with their work and their lives in general. And while there are types of jobs that indeed yield a higher percentage of employees displaying this attitude, the researchers were able to show that each orientation frequently appears within all walks of life.

Typically, this involves being able to “see the big picture” (and thus, leadership comes into play). E.g., a cleaner in a hospital setting might say that she helps to “save lives” (instead of, e.g., cleaning the beds) because she knows that she helps to kill off bacteria that otherwise might infect and kill the patients.

Now, I don’t know how the people displayed in the following video view their work – but they´ve surely turned it into something extraordinary – even though most of them seem to work in rather ordinary jobs. Enjoy!

5 essential brand-new & upcoming Books on Positive Psychology

Are you eager to get some fresh perspectives on Positive Psychology? Here you go…

Recently published books on Positive Psychology

Michelle Gielan: Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. Michelle is a former CBS News anchor and is a Penn MAPP alum. About the book:

“In Broadcasting Happiness, Gielan shows us how our words can move people from fearbased mindsets, where they see obstacles as insurmountable, to positive mindsets, where they see that change is possible and take action. Using scientifically proven communication strategies, we have the ability to increase others’ happiness and success at work, as well as our own, instantly making us more effective leaders.”

Shannon Polly & Kathryn Britton (Eds.): Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Shannon and Kathryn are also Penn MAPP graduates working at the intersection of research and consulting. About the book:

The book brings Peterson´s and Seligman´s character strengths “to life with stories involving children, teenagers, adults, and elders and occurring in family life and business settings, in the present and in the distant past, in locations from China to the United States to the Middle East. Research shows that using character strengths in new ways for a week makes people happier up to six months later. This book includes many ideas for using your character strengths in new ways.”

J. Harold Ellens, Theo D. McCall & David Bryce Yaden (Eds.): Being Called: Scientific, Secular, and Sacred Perspectives. David was an assistant instructor in during my stay in the Penn MAPP program and has his own Mappsterview. About the book:

“This unique book is an essential resource for interdisciplinary research and scholarship on the phenomenon of feeling called to a life path or vocation at the interface of science and religion.”

Positive Psychology Books coming up in 2016

Emma Seppälä: The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. Emma is the Science Director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and founder of Fulfillment Daily. About the book:

“Drawing on the latest findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience—research on happiness, resilience, willpower, compassion, positive stress, creativity, mindfulness—Seppälä shows that finding happiness and fulfillment may, in fact, be the most productive thing we can do to thrive professionally.”

Angela Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. If you are remotely interested in Positive Psychology, it is not necessary to introduce Angela, but for the sake of consistency in this article, she´s a professor at Penn´s Positive Psychology Center and a close colleague of Martin Seligman. About the book:

“Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.”

New Positive Psychology Books