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.
Our northermost neighbors, the Danes, frequently take the number one spot when researchers try to find the happiest country on earth. While this finding has to be treated with some caution (please see What people around the world mean when they say they’re happy) they probably one or two things about the good life.
Here’s what former corporate executive and nowadays writer Malene Rydahl has to say on the topic.
A couple of days a go, I stumbled upon two TEDx talks by clinical neuroscientist Stephen Ilardi (University of Kansas). He shares how we can “naturally” (without taking antidepressants) fight depression. The talks are instructive and entertaining, yet pretty similar to each other – so if you´re short on time, it´s probably sufficient to watch only one of them. Here´s the summary:
We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, fast-food-laden, frenetic pace of modern life.
Accordingly, among the most potent remedies for depression are:
going outside (daylight);
eating healthy food;
getting enough sleep;
and spending time with the people you love.
And while I´m happy and impressed that these recommendations are now being backed by “hard science”, I guess we should have known all along. Here are some quotes by Greek physician and “father of Western medicine” Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC).
If you are in a bad mood go for a walk.
To do nothing is also a good remedy.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
One of the central tenets of Positive Psychology is Other People Matter, coined by the late Prof. Christopher Peterson. If you want to learn just how much they matter to your happiness and your health, you might want to watch this TED talk by Prof. John Cacioppo from University of Chicago.
Now, I perfectly know from my own life what Prof. Cacioppo is talking about. When I was 16, I went to the USA for a year to attend high school and improve my English skills. I left my family and friends behind – platforms such as Skype and Facebook weren’t available (in fact, Mark Zuckerberg probably was entering middle school at that time). I agreed to have a phone call with my parents only every other Sunday – in order not to abet homesickness. Bad idea, most likely…
For reasons which are to complex and difficult to explain (if it can be explained at all – because every person will have a very different vantage point…), this was by far the loneliest year of my life. I found it hard to connect to my guest families and the larger part of my schoolmates.* For most of the time, m closest social connections consisted of other exchange students (during school hours) and the folks I encountered during basketball pick-up games (in the afternoon). Other than that, for most of the year, I felt utterly alone and devoid of warm social connections, let alone love.
I am now perfectly aware what a situation like this does to your body and your soul. When I came to the U.S., I was a healthy and (ordinarily) happy teenager. By the time I went home, I had developed allergy-based asthma, suffered from recurring panic attacks, and was – according to what I´ve learned during my psychology studies later in life – more than mildly depressed (including, at times, suicidal thoughts). It took me several years to shake all of this off – but I did.
To end this post on a high note (or rather: two high notes), I have to add that even though this was probably the worst year of my life, that doesn´t mean it hasn’t been a valuable experience. On the one hand, it´s a classic case of “What doesn´t kill me makes me stronger“. On the other hand – and that may be a strangely wonderful twist of fate – this year gave my life a whole new direction. The high school I attended offered psychology as an elective course. These two hours or so every week always were among the regular lights at the end of my tunnel. And I think my psychology teacher is the reason why I chose to pursue that profession later on in my life.
And then, there´s this other – equally beautiful and strange – twist of fate. Mappalicious exists as a blog because I was part of the ninth cohort of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania – it started as a kind of diary. So, 19 years after what I´ve described above, I spent another year in the U.S. (more precisely, several days per months as travelled back and forth between Germany and Philly). Actually, it all happened only about a hundred miles from where I went to school.
This post is just a little off-topic, but really just a little. Marc Stoffel is the CEO of Haufe-umantis, a Swiss software company. What make him special is the fact that he´s an elected CEO.
Haufe-umantis is special in many ways. Among the peculiarities is the fact that all leaders within the company are chosen by a democratic election – up to the position of CEO. I´ve had the chance to meet Marc on a couple of occasions. He´s a great guy and holds very intriguing conceptions of leadership, organization design, and engagement. One of his quotes still rings in my ears very clearly:
Employees choose their leaders each and every day – whether they are allowed to or not.
What is altruism? According to Matthieu Ricard, happiness researcher, Buddhist monk and right-hand man of the Dalai Lama, it’s the wish that other people may be happy. And he believes altruism is also a great lens for making decisions, both for the short and long term, in work and in life.
Do happy employees affect a company´s bottom line (in a positive way)? What seems like no-brainer is actually quite hard to detect in real life. Studies in Positive Organizational Scholarship have been able to show that happy workers tend to be more productive, but this relation has been mostly detected for individuals, not on the “systems level”.
Alex Edmans, finance professor at London Business School, has been busy trying to change that. He created a hypothetic stock portfolio comprised of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” (as a proxy for organizations that treat their employees exceptionally well) and tracked this for more than 20 years. His conclusion: after controlling for confounding variables such as company size and industry, employee-centric companies significantly outperform their competitors year after year.
What more, he also seems to able to detect a causal relationship. Over the years, some firms drop out of the “Best Companies” ranking, while others obviously make it for the first time. Edmans finds that corporations begin to outperform their competition – several years after they´ve managed to be listed on that index.
Here are Edmans´ original research papers on this fascinating topic:
If you think that money cannot by happiness, you´re probably wrong. Science shows that money can indeed buy happiness if you spend it on the right things (which mostly aren’t things at all…)
You can learn all about it via these two TED talks. Elizabeth Dunn is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Michael Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Together, both researchers have published the book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.
OK, so I know this a kind of cheesy request, but here I go anyway… 🙂
I´m putting a lot of time and effort in this blog, bringing together valuable information, inspirational things, and sometimes fun stuff on Positive Psychology and related topics. I´m doing this for free – and to be honest: for fun, because I just love writing. I´m not selling anything and I even pay 80$ (or so…) a year to WordPress so Mappalicious stays free of ads.
Nevertheless, I do have goals: I try to broaden the audience of Mappalicious year by year, because I want as many people as possible to learn about research and practice in the field of Positive Psychology. At the beginning of this year, I set a goal of reaching 80.000 page views for 2015 (after managing close to 60.000 in 2014). Due to some exceptional outreach in early summer, I extended that goal to 100.000 page views – but in the fall, I was too busy working in my main job, so I couldn’t write as much as I would have liked to do. Therefore, the audience dropped for some months. Still, right now the count is at 90.400.
In really, really good months I have +10.000 page views. So, if December will be a really, really good month for Mappalicious, I will be able to reach the goal I´ve set for myself in summer. And this is where you come in to play: Only you, my cherished readers, can help me to turn December into a really, really good month for my blog. So here´s my plea:
If you have found something useful/joyful on Mappalicious in 2015, I kindly ask you to share this (again) with your friends on Facebook, Twitter etc. pp.
To make life a little easier for you, here you´ll find a list of the 10 most-read articles on Mappalicious for 2015. But of course, you can share anything that you particularly liked.
For those of you that can’t get enough of Positive Psychology-related TED talks – I’ve found some (more or less) new stuff for you. This list comprises Lea Waters, who focuses on the application of Positive Psychology in the field of education, James Doty, founder of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), Rick Hanson, one of the world’s foremost authorities on meditation and compassion, and Shane Lopez, who specializes in research on hope.
As a bonus, here’s an introductory talk on Positive Psychology in German I gave at a BarCamp in Hamburg three weeks ago. It was first streamed via the app Periscope so it’s a vertical video. Enjoy!