Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 01/2017

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

New York Times: The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking by Lesley Alderman


New York Magazine: Living With Purpose Yields a Longer Life and Higher Income by Drake Baer


Guardian: From Groundhog Day to … Raging Bull? – films to inspire and uplift by Peter Bradshaw


New York Magazine: Small Things to Remember to Change Your Life for the Better by Melissa Dahl


Fast Company: How To Use Brain Science To Be Your Best Self In 2017 by Lydia Dishman


Greater Good Science Center: What Does a Compassionate Workplace Look Like? by Nir Eyal & Monica Worline


Harvard Business Review: To Recover from Failure, Try Some Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer


Psychology of Wellbeing: The Law of Diminishing Returns, Applied by Jeremy McCarthy


Fast Company: 10 Science-Backed Ways To Be More Positive In 2017 by Gwen Moran


Inc: 5 things science learned about happiness last year by Jessica Stillman


Greater Good Science Center: How to Reduce Rudeness in the Workplace by Jill Suttie


Wharton Knowledge: Why Mental Bandwidth Could Explain the Psychology Behind Poverty, no author

On the Intersection of Positive Psychology and Pokémon GO

At the end of July, the Pokémon GO app had been downloaded more than 100 million times. These days, you see people using it literally everywhere. I’m really convinced that playing Pokémon GO has a lot of potential for are you f.cking kidding me?

Please go and get a life. If you want to go out in the park, take a good book with you. Here are some suggestions for you…

giphy

10 Books on Purpose and Meaning in Life and Work

Esfahani_MeaningI don´t know if it´s my age (…the 40s are clearly in sight…), or the fact that I will become a father for the second time over the upcoming weeks (Yeah…!), or if it´s just in the air anyway (I believe so…) – but my mind is preoccupied with the topic of meaning and purpose at work and in life in general most of the time.

If you also would like to dig deeper into that subject-matter: Here´s a neat book list for you. Some books are brand-new (e.g., Dan Pontefract´s) or haven’t even been published yet (as in the case of Emily Esfahani Smith´s, a fellow Penn Mappster), some have been published over the last two years (e.g., Aaron Hurst´s book), some are a bit older (e.g., Rick Warren´s bestseller), and with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and Viktor Frankl I´ve also included some classics. Some books are based on solid science through and through (e.g., Vic Strecher), some are more self-help style (e.g. Marsha Beck), some are scholarly books (Dik et al.), most are clearly written for the layman.

Share and enjoy!

Top 10 Positive Psychology Articles for the first Half of 2016

 Top 10 Positive Psychology ArticlesCherished reader, as it has become a tradition, I’m sharing with you those articles that your fellow readers liked the most over the first half of the year. Maybe, there’s something that you’ve missed and want to read again?

Looking at the selection, it becomes clear that readers were strongly interested (and willing to share) blog posts that contain infographics. I’ll try to keep that in mind when thinking about future directions for Mappalicious.

  1. Great Infographic on Self-Compassion: How not to be Hard on Yourself
  2. Fabulous Infographic: Why People become Unhappy
  3. The Meaning of Life according to different Philosophers [Infographic)
  4. Do you want to find more Meaning in your Work? Here´s where you should look for it – according to Science
  5. Strengths gone astray: The real mental Illnesses?
  6. Explaining Character Strengths to Children: Meet the Dynamos
  7. Surprising Finding | Mental Illness vs. Mental Health: Continuum or Matrix?
  8. Infographic: How to be Wise – as an Entrepreneur (and in Life)
  9. The 3 Layers of Meaningful Work
  10. Meaninglessness at Work: The 7 Deadly Sins [Infographic]

Honorable mentions

These two articles are not blog posts, they are permanent pages on my site. But as people like them so much, they typically show up in the top 10 list every year. For that reason, I’ve taken them out of the regular top 10 but still present them here:

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!

On the Meaning of Meaning at Work: A Collection of Infographics

Over the last weeks, I invested a lot of hours in trying to better understand the antecedents of meaning and purpose at/in work. While doing so, I created a couple of info graphics that serve to explain different theories and outlines. I thought it would make sense to collect them all in one place to show point of convergence and divergence. Here you go…

CARMA_Work

Anatomy_Meaning_Work

IMG_9786

Three_Level_Meaning_StegerThe final graphic is not my creation – the picture is taken directly from the article listed in the respective headline.

Meaning at Work Grid

Share and enjoy!

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.

The Anatomy of Meaningful Work [Infographic]

This week, I stumbled upon a fascinating article in the MIT Sloan Management Review written by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden. They interviewed 135 people from 10 different walks of life in order to find out what makes their work especially meaningful – and also, what destroys their job-related sense of meaningfulness. While I´ve read other articles that provide valuable syntheses of meaning in work in the past (see here, here, and here), this one is especially rich in context, providing in-depth personal accounts of peoples´ experiences. This makes the findings especially palpable.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Meaningfulness is not dependent on the type of work. A garbage collector can experience the same amount of meaning in work as a nurse or a doctor.
  • Bosses (and specific leadership behaviors) are typically not perceived as a source of meaningfulness. Yet, they can easily destroy the perception of meaning in work.
  • More generalized, the creation of meaning in work is an individual endeavor, while its dismantling is caused by others, or the organizational system as a whole.

Moreover, the researchers describe several crucial components of meaningful work. They´ve inspired me to create this infographic based on their findings. Share and enjoy!

Anatomy_Meaning_Work.png

Additionally, Bailey and Madden describe the “seven deadly sins” leaders can commit to destroy meaningfulness. I´ll share those in the upcoming post.

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

IMG_7977-5

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.