Get Your Joyful June Calendar from Action for Happiness

As with the previous months of 2018, our friends at Action for Happiness, a UK-based non-for-profit organization backed by luminaries such as the The Dalai Lama and Sir Richard Layard, have created a calendar for the month of June, displaying valuable advice based on the science of Positive Psychology. You can get a printable high-resolution version here.

Joyful June | Action for Happiness

Feel-Good vs. Feel-Purpose: Hedonia and Eudaimonia as separate but connected Pathways to Happiness

Ever since graduating from the Penn MAPP program, I give a handful of presentations and keynotes on Positive Psychology each quarter. Since I´m an executive in a multinational corporation, I mostly get invited to talk to fellow businessmen, and the greater part of my talks addresses human resources, leadership, and organization culture topics. One of the charts I show early on in each and every presentation is this one:

Fifteen_Seconds_Graz_Rose.png

I deliberately show it early in the game in order to convey that Positive Psychology is not a sort of Happyology, that it´s not about wearing rose-colored glasses all the time. Yet, it also serves to clarify the consequences of different human resources and leadership behaviors and programs. One of the most important takeaways:

Hedonic and eudaimonic pathways both play a crucial role in order to keep employees fully engaged and productive – but most measures that foster hedonic experiences are rather short-lived and, perhaps even more important, easy to copy by competitors – whereas conditions that foster meaning an purpose are rather hard to replicate.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an exquisite book chapter by University of Ottawa researcher Veronika Huta which explains in detail the differences between hedonic and eudaimonic orientations in life (and work). She analyzed a multitude of definitions and conceptions on the differences of hedonia and eudaimonia from previous research and boiled them down to a comprehensible set of attributes. These are the most important takeaways.

Hedonia, in short, is about:

  • pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction;
  • and the absence of distress.

Eudaimonia is more complex in it´s nature, it´s about:

  • authenticity: clarifying one’s true self and deep values, staying connected with them, and acting in accord with them;
  • meaning: understanding a bigger picture, relating to it, and contributing to it. This may include broader aspects of one´s life or identity, a purpose, the long term, the community, society, even the entire ecosystem;
  • excellence: striving for higher quality and higher standards in one’s behavior, performance, accomplishments, and ethics;
  • personal growth: self-actualization, fulfilling one’s potential and pursuing personal goals; growth, seeking challenges; and maturing as a human being.

Other important attributes and distinctions:

Hedonia is associated with:

  • physical and emotional needs;
  • desire;
  • what feels good;
  • taking, for me, now;
  • ease;
  • rights;
  • pleasure;
  • self-nourishing and self-care; taking care of one’s own needs and desires, typically in the present or near future; reaching personal release and peace, replenishment; energy and joy.

Eudaimonia is associated with:

  • cognitive values and ideals
  • care;
  • what feels right;
  • giving, building, something broader, the long-term;
  • effort;
  • responsibilities;
  • elevation;
  • cultivating; giving of oneself, investing in a larger aspect of the self, a long-term project, or the surrounding word; quality, rightness, context, the welfare of others.

To close, it is important to say that both pathways to happiness are not mutually exclusive (in the strict sense). Meaningful experiences can certainly bring about pleasure – and taking care of ourselves can certainly add meaning to our lives. As such, we must also refrain from equating the pursuit of hedonia with shallowness. As the graphic at the top of the article illustrates, we need to grow on both dimensions in order to live a truly fulfilling life.

Share and enjoy!

10 Propositions regarding (Positive) Emotions, especially Happiness

Good_AdviceBy now, I have written +400 blog posts on Positive Psychology and given +30 talks and presentations for different audiences, mostly in the realm of business. While I receive a lot of positive feedback (referring to the PP content; I´m not talking about my presentation style here), quite obviously, I also get some pushback once in a while. Over time, I´ve come to notice that most of the counterarguments I hear are based on a rather small set of “shared (mis-)conceptions”. I guess, a lot of these arise over time due to the fact that – for the sake of brevity – speeches and news articles on Positive Psychology have to simplify and overgeneralize their messages in order to get their points across. In order to structure my own thoughts vis-à-vis this situation – but also for discussion – in the following, you´ll find…

10 Propositions regarding (Positive) Emotions, especially Happiness

1) I feel, therefore I am. Emotions are among the very few constants in life. Where´s the consciousness, there´s emotion. They may not always be strong, and we may not always be aware – but they are there.

2) All emotions are valid and adaptive, depending on context and dose.

3) In excess, every emotion can and probably will have detrimental side effects.

4) Different emotions will have different consequences (e.g., for our overall health or the perception of “meaning in life”), especially in high doses and in the long-term.

5) Feelings are contagious and therefore, (almost) always “social”: What we do unto ourselves, we do unto others (to some degree). With that, there comes a responsibility.

6) Happiness is mostly used as an umbrella term, it comes in many different forms and sizes (e.g. serenity, exhilaration, relaxation).

7) Feeling happy is not a (or the) goal in life itself, it’s a “positive side effect” of certain behavior patterns and thinking styles.

8) Feeling happy is not shallow. At least, it´s not shallower than experiencing sadness, anger, or any other kind of emotion.

9) Feeling mostly happy requires effort, at least more work than feeling mostly unhappy (especially with regard to people displaying certain unfavorable genetic predispositions).

10) We seldom feel pure emotions. In most situations, we have several feelings at the same time. Quite often, they display a somewhat antagonistic structure (e.g., experiencing a bittersweet moment; or feeling proud of having been humble).

 

Picture via Gratisography

Happiness lies in the Joy of Achievement and the Thrill of creative Effort.

There are literally hundreds of quotes and definitions on “the happy life”. I find that a lot of them point towards the quieter, more modest forms of happiness, such as practicing gratitude – being content with what we have. 

But there are others sides to happiness – those can be found in the letter A of Martin Seligman’s PERMA definition of the good life. Therefore, I was thrilled to stumble upon this quote by former POTUS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Enjoy!

 

A joyful Life is an individual Creation that cannot be copied from a Recipe.

This powerful quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reminds us that we should approach conventional self-help “wisdom” (but also Positive Psychology interventions) with a certain amount of caution.

There will always be gurus who claim to know the way, and Facebook/Twitter are full of posts such as “These are the 7 things successful/rich/happy people do before breakfast”. These people greatly underestimate human individuality – and the power of context and timing.

Positive Psychology researchers also suggests doing certain things (such as being grateful frequently) but, in general, are very cautious when making claims about efficacy. Additionally, there’s a growing body of research investigating so-called fit models, showing that people may profit greatly from some Positive Psychology interventions, but may not do so with regard to other exercises, e.g., due to individual preferences. If you would like to find out more, I suggest checking out this research article: To each his own well-being boosting intervention: using preference to guide selection.

The No. 1 Secret to Standing Out from the Crowd at an Ivy League School…

Climb* on a chair! 🙂

Outstanding Pomp and Circumstance

Just came home from a fabulous Penn (MAPP) graduation and commencement weekend. Will post lots more on that shortly…

* A big thank you to my classmate Brandy Reece and her husband for the awesome photo. In that moment, I climbed on my chair to give a special shout-out to our program director James Pawelski who was passing by.