May 11, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
At the end of this month, I will be speaking in Copenhagen at a Happiness at Work Conference. This got me thinking about what it is that makes people truly joyous.
Business Insider gathered some research on this topic and amassed 36 Scientific Facts about happiness, some that may come as a surprise.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- You have to earn 2.5x as much money to be as happy working for someone else as you would be working for yourself: Perhaps that is why Forbes reported that approximately 543,000 new U.S. businesses are started every month. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. If I don’t like my boss, I only have me to blame!
- Greater rewards mean less motivation and poorer performance: “Researchers have found that people are sometimes happier and more effective when they do a task for no money at all than when they receive a small payment. If someone offers a good Samaritan $5 for helping with a flat tire, then he starts thinking about the actual market rate for tire-changing, so a fiver is now insufficient—when a minute ago, he’d have been perfectly content with $0.” I have written about this extensively in the past. See my article, I Won’t Work for Money.
- Happy people are lucky: Lucky people tend to focus on the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. For example, an individual arrived to an interview with his leg in a cast and mentioned that he had fallen down a flight of stairs. When asked whether he still felt lucky, he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before as he could have broken his neck. This is absolutely how I live, maybe sometime to a fault. I do operate from the belief that everything happens for a reason – I learned this from my father.
- Happiness is not a destination: I will be happy when I’m married, have more money, or move to a new location. This is what we tell ourselves. But the reality is that while these things can contribute to happiness, it is not as much as you may think. According to Web MD, achieving these milestones account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture. “Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think — things you control — than with many of life’s circumstances.” This is the essence of my Goal-Free Living book.
Other studies show that people with more money are happy. But what is intriguing is that the researchers found that money did not cause happiness. Happiness was the creator of wealth.
What other things make you happy?
April 26, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
In previous posts, I have shared a variety of activities that I engage in to still my mind and foster more creative thinking. These include activities like walking on the beach, meditating or sitting in the hot tub.
Andrew Jarosz for the University of Illinois shares another way… drinking alcohol.
In his recent study, Jarosz found that a moderate level of alcohol “loosens a person’s focus of attention, making it easier to find connections among remotely related ideas.”
The study included 40 men, all of whom were social drinkers. 20 of the participants consumed alcoholic beverages until they achieved “an average peak blood alcohol level of 0.075 percent, just below the current 0.08 percent cutoff for legal intoxication in the United States.” The remaining 20 participants abstained.
Men in both groups then completed a creative problem-solving task.
Compared to the sober group, the “tipsy” men solved their problems faster and were more likely to have sudden insights. Those that had been drinking solved about 9 problems correctly versus only 6 for the sober group.
Additionally, “it took an average of 11.5 seconds for the intoxicated men to generate a correct solution, compared with 15.2 seconds for sober men. The groups performed comparably on the test before the study began.”
Researchers say that it is likely the alcohol makes a person more relaxed and therefore, their brain is able to take in the bigger picture faster.
While I enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, I am neither condoning nor condemning the consumption of alcohol. However, this study provides one more data point confirming that a quiet mind is a creative mind. How to achieve that – is solely up to you.
April 12, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
Last week I had discussed the concept of confirmation bias and the impact that it has on innovation.
In a nutshell, confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our existing beliefs and ignores or refutes evidence to the contrary. While these biases can impact any area of our life, one area where it has been scientifically proven to exist is in politics.
A 2004 Emory College study showed…
where in the brain confirmation bias arises and how it is unconscious and driven by emotions… While undergoing a brain scan, 30 men–half self-described as ‘strong’ Republicans and half as ‘strong’ Democrats–were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
This in itself is not surprising.
During the assessment, the neuroimaging results revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning was dormant.
The most active parts of the brain were those involved in the processing of emotions, conflict resolution, making judgments about moral accountability; and—“once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable–the ventral striatum was activated, which is related to reward and pleasure… Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.”
Our brains are wired to reward us when we align the current view with our existing beliefs. It is no wonder why we have such difficulty seeing other’s perspectives.
Is it possible to change your view? Of course.
There are two ways that I have found useful.
The first involves others: recruit your best devil’s advocates and muster the willingness to really listen - really listen. This is sometimes the easiest method as it provides formal checks and balances.
But if you want to address your biases on your own, studies show that simply being aware of your biases, and having constant reminders of them, may be enough to reduce their impact (see my Best Practices Are Stupid book for more on this). But for this to work, you must be open to assuming that your current beliefs are not accurate.
However, given that the brain rewards us for “seeing what we believe” – confirming our biases – it is not easy or pleasant to change.
April 5, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
Last week I briefly touched upon my perspective on goal setting. While they have been universally considered a magic bullet for success both personally and professionally, goals are not without their downsides.
Interestingly, the way in which you frame your goals can have a significant impact on your relationships.
This, according to the authors of a paper published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science that focused on whether people are open and straightforward when working with others.
The study noted that people who establish goals to improve themselves (“self-improvement goals”), like getting better grades, increasing sales numbers or nailing a perfect “10”, tend to be more cooperative in nature.
Whereas people who set goals that will enable them to perform better than others (“performance goals”) such as becoming Valedictorian or completing a task more quickly than a fellow co-worker, have more of a tendency to be “deceitful and less likely to share information with coworkers. The reason for this is fairly obvious – when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”
The study suggests that those with self-improvement goals on the other hand tend to be quite open. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself, one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people…(however) they’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self-improvement.”
Other research shows that those with self-improvement goals are also more open to hearing different perspectives, while those with performance goals “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.’”
According to the authors, both types of goal setting can be effective. However, their findings suggest that helping individuals frame their goals to focus on self-improvement instead of performance may foster a better overall team environment.
From my perspective, performance goals can be extremely useful for creating a powerful team when the objective is to be better than external competition.
Regardless, a good balance of goals creates a high-performance environment that also fosters collaboration. The key, as I have discussed before, is to not hyper-focus on the goal to the point where you miss the bigger picture and bigger opportunities.
P.S. For more on my goal-setting perspective, read Goal-Free Living.
March 29, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
I have long questioned the practice of goal setting. My book (published in 2006) challenged traditional thinking about goal setting and discusses how we can not only succeed in business (and life) but to do so while achieving great happiness and satisfaction.
Due to its prevalence in business, this goal-free concept is often met with resistance. But apparently there are others that have challenged this conventional wisdom as well.
In a Harvard Business School working paper, the authors of Goals Gone Wild reviewed a number of studies that indicate that the ”beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored.” They state that the side-effects that goal-setting can have include a “narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation. “
One such study is highlighted in a recent New York Times article:
Three groups of participants were asked to create as many words as possible using random letters – similar to the game, Boggle. Two groups were given a specific goal to formulate at least 9 words. One of the two teams was offered a financial incentive for hitting this goal, the other was not. The third group of participants was simply told to do their best.
At the completion, the participants turned in only the answer sheets stating how many words they had created and had disposed of their worksheets. “But the academic researchers running the experiment had a code to match the worksheets with the answer sheets and discovered that both groups that had been given a goal of creating a certain number of words — whether or not money was involved — cheated 8 to 13 percent of the time. Those in the third group rarely did.”
To set goals or not to set goals. The debate continues.