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New Poll Reveals The Continuing Toll of Workplace Stress

April 22nd, 2014

Screen shot 2013-04-06 at 10.51.03 AMIt’s déjà vu time once again: A new poll of nearly 7000 people by the job-search site Monster found high levels of unrelenting stress among workers, which mirror findings form other, periodic surveys. There are many reasons for work-related stress, but I’m struck by the continued lack of focus on the management and workplace culture of too many organizations marked by a debilitating, emotionally damaging environment.

One finding is especially striking, in this respect: Asked “What does your office do to help alleviate stress in the workplace?” 66%, answered “nothing.”

The new poll was summarized by Kathryn Dill in Forbes. She quotes Monster’s Mary Ellen Slayter, who says that “People feel stressed out because there’s that continuing pressure to do more with less. Workers feel pressure to get more accomplished. People know they’re not happy, but they’re not clear on whether or not it would be better somewhere else.” However, nearly 50% report having changed jobs to escape the stress. In her Forbes article, Dill cites a separate survey of more than 900 workers that found an employee’s relationship with their boss as the most common cause of workplace stress, followed closely by workload, work-life balance, and relationships with coworkers. She adds:

Nearly half of employees surveyed report having missed time at work due to work-related stress, and an even greater number, 61%, say that workplace stress has caused them actual physical illness, with insomnia, depression, and family issues cited as results. Seven percent of employees report having been hospitalized as the result of work-related stress.

In another summary of the poll, Constantine von Hoffman writes in CBS Money Watch that

It’s not only workers who are affected. Nearly 85 percent said it had an impact on their personal lives, with 21 percent saying it had caused problems in their family or in other relationships. More than a third said they dealt with it by eating, according to the study, while a quarter resorted to drinking after work. By contrast, many workers also sought to defuse tension through exercise or by stepping away from work and taking a day off.

Nevertheless, there’s the fact that when asked “What does your office do to help alleviate stress in the workplace? 13% noted additional time off and 11% cited the opportunity to work from home. But — the majority, 66% — answered “nothing.”

In her Forbes article, Dill cites Slayter’s observation that people who find themselves regularly overwhelmed to a level that’s unbearable might want to contemplate a job–or career–switch, to something that makes better use of their talents or involves fewer tasks that cause distress. “Make sure that overall your career is a good fit,” says Slater. “If you find yourself thinking that every day is stressful, if everyday is unpleasant, if it feels like that chronically, its time to sit down and ask yourself, ‘Is this the right fit?

I think that’s good advice, per se. But easier said than done. Moreover, the sources of work-related stress are pervasive, across many companies. Failure to build more positive management cultures in our organizations will lead to yet more surveys that will cite similar findings.

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The Rapid Transformation Of Business Leaders Is Underway

March 29th, 2014
Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 5.48.05 PMA version of my article previously appeared in The Huffington Post
Some recent studies reveal a dramatically changing face of business leaders already underway; and, what the leadership needs of the future will look like. I see these and other related observations coinciding with a broader shift in our society, and perhaps worldwide. It’s towards heightened interconnection and interdependence, desire for diversity, collaboration as part of the DNA, and a major shift in attitudes about hierarchy and success.

One study of Fortune 100 executives, featured in the Harvard Business Review, found that the majority of senior executives today went to state universities, not the more elite schools. A Washington Post report of the study pointed out that “In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges.”

Moreover, nearly 11 percent are foreign born. And while women still deal with the glass ceiling, they have a more rapid rise to the top ranks, today. Nevertheless, it’s significant to note that nearly 87 percent of corporate board seats are held by white workers. According to research by DiversityInc and the think tank Catalyst, six African Americans are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 7.4 percent hold corporate board seats; eight Hispanics are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 3.3 percent hold corporate board seats.

Even so, it’s clear that a shift is underway along many fronts. For example, Read more…

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Emerging Leadership Needs Of The Future

March 27th, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 9.35.56 AMA fascinating study by the Hay Group and German futurists at Z-Punkt identifies six trends that their research indicates will shape leadership needs in the years ahead.

I think their findings about leadership needs are very consistent with an ongoing, significant evolution in all sectors of society and in individual lives today, towards heightened collaboration, connection, emotional attunement to others, interdependency and diversity.

The report, Leadership 2030, speaks of the rise of the “altorocentric” leader: In a Washington Post interview by Jena McGregor, Georg Vielmetter of the Hay Group, explains that “Altrocentric” means “…focusing on others. Such a leader doesn’t put himself at the very center. He knows he needs to listen to other people. He knows he needs to be intellectually curious and emotionally open. He knows that he needs empathy to do the job, not just in order to be a good person.” And, “…leaders in the future need to have a full understanding, and also an emotional understanding, of diversity.”

Vielmetter points out that “…positional power and hierarchical power will become smaller. Power will shift to stakeholders, reducing the authority of the people who are supposed to lead the organization.” Perhaps most significantly, “The time of the alpha male — of the dominant, typically male leader who knows everything, who gives direction to everybody and sets the pace, whom everybody follows because this person is so smart and intelligent and clever — this time is over. We need a new kind of leader who focuses much more on relationships and understands that leadership is not about himself.”

Regarding the younger generation, he adds that, “With the Baby Boomer generation, you understood you climb up the ladder and you’re the boss at the end. The new generation has less and less interest to do this….for them it’s just not so important to become the boss. That causes a big problem for organizations. They offer people big jobs, and they don’t want them. They value their private life more.”

For McGregor’s full interview with Vielmetter, click here.

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How To “Grow” Your Mental Health

March 21st, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-03-21 at 7.50.11 PMDespite our advances in understanding and treating emotional problems and the more serious mental disorders, we don’t know much about what mental health is, in contrast. I’ve been thinking about this issue for the last several years, and it was brought to mind again recently by the comments of two psychotherapy patients. As I reflected on them, in relation to some recent research findings from outside the mental health field, it struck me that we can identify some features of a psychologically healthy life in today’s tumultuous, stressed-out, digitalized world.

In fact, there’s a great deal of information that you can use and apply in your daily life to increase your mental health. But you’re more likely to find it from outside the mental health profession than within it.

To explain, consider this 40-year-old woman. Her career and family life feel to her like running on a permanent treadmill. She’s been depressed for years, and her long-standing use of anti-depressant drugs don’t make much of a dent. Moreover, they create many side effects. Nonetheless, she won’t consider how some research-based alternatives suggest ways she might help herself. She’s terrified that she’ll become more depressed if she tapers off her medications.

Then there’s the man with a successful career and seemingly stable marriage. He tells me that despite feeling “pretty normal,” now – he had several years of therapy in the past that helped him with some lifelong relationship issues – he experiences a kind of dullness in life. He works hard, is engaged with his wife and children, but feels little spark or excitement about his day-to-day existence, now or in the future.

Neither person knows what a fully healthy life would look like, or that they might be able to “grow” it. That’s understandable: Ironically, the mental health field doesn’t really deal with mental health. Read more…

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How The Younger Generations Can Leap Into The Future

March 18th, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 11.10.37 AMHere are some insightful perspectives — and suggestions — for the younger generations, from management strategist Umair Haque. Writing in his Harvard Business School Blog, Haque addresses the dilemma facing young people today:

Imagine a towering, sheer cliff. Imagine a deep canyon below, full of ruined cities. Now imagine, on the canyon’s other side, a bountiful plain, rippling in the breeze, stretching into the sunset. Welcome to the economy of the twenty-first century. For young people today, the economy basically feels something like the portrait above, and they’re the ones stuck at the bottom of the ravine.

After citing four conditions that young people face — a broken global economy; overwhelming debts; difficulty getting a job or career track; and the jobs available are not very good — Haque says welcome to “Generation F” — i.e. you’re getting screwed. He points out that

We are all here, in every moment, to make the most of our limitless potential—but your human potential is being squandered, wasted, thrown away.

But he then presents some positive directions that young people can take to deal productively and proactively with the reality they live in. They’re worth heeding. In his full article, “The Great Leap Generation F Needs to Make,” he writes: Read more…

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The Value Of Not Going It Alone

March 4th, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 11.36.53 AMThe Virgin Group founder and business visionary Richard Branson provides some interesting and — in my view — valuable perspectives about the importance of building connections, both in business and in life. He highlights a theme that I think is part of a psychologically and socially healthy life in today’s fluid world. In EntrepreneurBranson writes, “To achieve your goals, you need to be on the lookout for the opportunity to make connections wherever you go. Welcome chance encounters and opportunities to dream up outlandish plans. The person with the skill set you need to get your new business idea off the ground may be sitting at the next table in the cafe. Go over and say hello.”

In his full article Branson writes:

I love bumping into people and finding out who they are and what they’re working on. You never know who you’re going to meet. Such encounters can be valuable: If you think about how your most important relationships began — with business partners, your spouse, with friends and mentors — the stories will almost all involve chance meetings. My curiosity about others and ability to connect with people have helped me to succeed — after all, if people don’t know who you are, they are not going to do business with you.

Many people think that an entrepreneur is someone who operates alone, overcoming challenges and bringing his idea to market through sheer force of personality. This is completely inaccurate. Few entrepreneurs — scratch that: almost no one — ever achieved anything worthwhile without help. To be successful in business, you need to connect and collaborate and delegate.

Finding ways to meet with people in the real world and build business relationships is becoming ever more important in the digital age. Read more…

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“Your Money Or Your Life!”

February 25th, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 10.34.49 AMIn one of Jack Benny’s classic comedy skits, a robber confronts him, demanding, “Your money or your life!” Benny — in character as a notorious tightwad — pauses for a long moment. The robber shouts his demand one more, with urgency. Finally, Benny says slowly, “I’m thinking it over!”

Many people today are caught up in a real life version of this dilemma. They acknowledge the stress, the physical and psychological perils of our prevailing view of success. The Third Metric movement is raising awareness of this, and surveys continue to document it. But, while most would prefer a more balanced, integrated life, they also feel reluctant or frightened to alter their endless pursuit of money and related measures of success. One of the reasons many keep “thinking it over” is visible in a lament coursing through the lives of many successful careerists: That “I don’t like the person I’ve become,” as one corporate executive expressed it to me.

George is an example. A highly successful executive in his mid 50s, he’s had a solid educational background, a steady career rise, and a functioning though not especially energized marriage, and two children. As he worked with me to deal with chronic anxiety and general malaise in his “always on” life, he awakened to having always “followed the program” in his life. That is, performing well, shaping his values, personality and goals along a path that was laid down and expected by his parents.

George was drawn to public service and journalism when younger, but that wasn’t part of the “program.” He craved Read more…

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Feeling Self-Determination Increases Health And Longevity

February 11th, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 10.24.04 AMA new study by Brandeis University and the University of Rochester, published in Health Psychology, finds that people who have a sense of “control” in their lives and believe they can achieve their goals — despite hardships — are more likely to live longer and and healthier lives. This was found to occur even among less educated people, which contradicted previous research that indicated shorter, less healthy lives among less educated people.

However, what’s meant by a sense of “control?” What constitutes it?

I think the research findings reveal the importance of having a vision, an ideal, to aim for and pursue — “control” in that sense. That’s different from a belief that one is in control of, or can dominate and bend circumstances, to one’s will. Or, the need to control and cling to what inevitably changes and evolves in life. That is, positive “control” means maintaining a belief in what is possible. That’s what sustains energy and flexibility in pursuit of an ideal or goal in life, whatever one’s current circumstances.

 

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Why Companies Benefit From “Outlier” Employees

January 21st, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-01-21 at 2.19.59 PMA recent post on the Harvard Business School Blog by Robert D. Austin and Thorkil Sonne argues that seeking out “outlier” employees bring great benefit to companies. I think this is an important perspective. Companies and organizations need creative innovation to address challenging and changing conditions, whatever their service, product or mission. The authors write,

Most companies don’t perceive the value of people who think or behave differently. Managers are unaware that outliers can create enormous value if they’re placed into environments that maximize their ability to contribute. By bringing out the best in people who think differently, you position your company for greater advantage. That’s because innovation, which is a critical skill for businesses today, is driven by diversity of thought. When you can’t foresee the biggest opportunities and problems coming your way, then your people assets must provide your company with the ability to adapt. This ability arises from employees who see things from new perspectives—people from different backgrounds, and those with different cognitive, developmental, and neurological endowments.

They being with an example of a company that hired employees with autism, and why. The full essay follows: Read more…

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What Do Companies With the Happiest Workers Look Like?

January 7th, 2014
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Screen shot 2014-01-07 at 10.07.43 AMThe latest survey of how employees view their companies provides more evidence that the most engaged, energized and “happiest” workers are those whose workplaces and careers provide a sense of meaning, opportunity for growth, development and creative innovation — more than just pay or career advancement. This survey, conducted by Glassdoor, was summarized in a Fast Company story by Drake Baer about six “secrets” of the happiest workplaces.

Baer writes,”Rather than showing a focus on perks, compensation, and other incentives, the best-rated workplaces had a range of intrinsic motivators, like challenging work, impact upon society, and an opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues.” This year’s overall winners were the consultancy Bain & Company, who was named best large company to work for. The investment website the Motley Fool won for best medium-sized company, while Twitter was named the best tech company to work for.

Unsurprisingly, tech firms were overrepresented in the top 50–though the results have little to do with Silicon Valley perks. “Rather than ‘it’s because they pay a lot’ or because it’s ‘hey, we’re Facebook, and we give everyone as much food as they possibly eat,’” says Glassdoor SVP of People Allyson Willoughby, “the reasons people like where they work were much deeper.”

Click here for the full report and listing of top companies from the survey.

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In Search of Solutions to Life’s Complexity

December 10th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-12-11 at 9.17.13 AMA recent article in The Economist  discussed the impact of complexity in business. It highlights, indirectly, some themes that I think infiltrate all segments of society and that raise new challenges for personal lives as well as organizations. The Schumpeter column points out that “…managing complexity is at the top of businesspeople’s agenda. Businesspeople are confronted by more of everything than ever before. They have to make decisions at a faster pace.” For example, new products have a more uncertain future. “Harvard Business School’s William Sahlman warns young entrepreneurs about ‘the big eraser in the sky’ that can come down at any moment and ‘wipe out all their cleverness and effort’.”

The article contrasts two different views of the solutions to growing complexity: One is to recognize and accept it. It cites Don Tapscott, of “Wikinomics” fame, who observes that “…the information revolution is replacing one kind of management (command-and-control) with another (based on self-organising networks).” And John Hagel of Deloitte has talked about “…the growing disconnect between “linear institutions and the non-linear world that is developing around us.” That is, “Organisations built for this new world may look complex and unwieldy but they have an inner logic and powers of self-organisation.” The alternative solution is to impose simplicity, which the column suggests is a more persuasive strategy: “It is striking how many of the world’s most successful businesses thrive on simplicity of some sort.” And, “The biggest threat to business almost always comes from too much complexity rather than too much simplicity. The conglomerates of the 1960s crumbled because they tried to manage too many businesses in too many different industries.” For the full article, click here.

I think these observations raise broad questions, beyond business: What constitutes the most adaptive, flexible, productive and psychologically healthy ways of dealing with complexity within our individual lives, at one end of the spectrum; and for public policy, at the other? The ongoing, systemic transformation impacts personal relationships, career decisions and dilemmas, one’s values and mental outlook, one’s role as a participant citizen in society; and how to conduct one’s life, overall, in this changing world. What’s the end-game is, so to speak? These are psycho-social questions that need to be addressed as a whole. They are, well…complex.

 

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The Orientation of Millennials at Work Highlights a Social Transformation

November 19th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 10.09.06 AMA recent article in the New York Times by Tom Agan, co-founder and managing partner of Rivia, highlights a significant transformation underway in our culture. Although it’s linked with the rise of the millennials, I think it’s part of a broader shift of mentality, values, outlook on life, and behavior — and will increasingly impact how people conduct their personal relationships, what they seek from their careers, and public policy. Agan’s essay describes how this shift is visible in the workplace; and why embracing it can enhance innovation and creativity, especially when joined with the experience of older workers.

Agan writes, “Social media permeate the personal, academic, political and professional lives of millennials, helping to foster the type of environment where innovation flourishes. So when compared with older generations, millennials learn quickly — and that’s the most important driver of innovation.”

And, “If corporate cultures don’t align with the transparency, free flow of information, and inclusiveness that millennials highly value — and that are also essential for learning and successful innovation — the competitiveness of many established businesses will suffer. Millennials are becoming more aware of their rising worth. Coupling their ability to learn quickly with their insistence on having a say, they pack a powerful punch.” For the complete article, click here.

An example of the innovative and creative energy of this generation is a report in Just Means that a group of Millennials have created an alternative website to HealthCare.gov: Three twenty-something programmers have created a functional website, HealthSherpa.com, that tells consumers what health insurance plans are available, based on their zip code, plan preference, and personal information. Users can find and compare plans and prices, and work with a subsidy calculator. The trio had each tried to get information from the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, but could not. So they built their own site, using data posted on HealthCare.gov and other information requested from state exchanges. Despite its limits (it can not sign up users), HealthSherpa.com has received 1.4 million views; the site’s “how to buy” buttons have been clicked over 150,000 times. It took the group just “a few days” to build out their minimal but useful site. The federal government should consider outsourcing to West Coast millennials instead of the “professionals” to get up a working HealthCare.gov.

 

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Take This Job And…Shove It?/Love It?

November 12th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 11.34.24 AM It may be hard to say, when you see this contradiction: A new survey finds that 90 percent of older workers, and nearly 40 percent of younger workers say they’re satisfied with their work. But many other surveys report high levels of dissatisfaction, stress, unsupportive management and disengagement from work altogether — across age groups.

How to make sense of such divergent findings? Actually, they all make sense when you look at the surveys more closely, in the context of the career and management environments of many organizations. People of different ages, attitudes and desires deal with their workplace environments in different ways, both subtle and overt.

First, the new survey, reported by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research: It found that “9 in 10 workers who are age 50 or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.” Specifically, 65 percent said they were “very satisfied,” while the remaining 26 percent were just “satisfied.”

The survey did find that nearly 40 percent of younger workers reported dissatisfaction with their jobs. But on the face of it, the findings suggest that the older you get, you become more “satisfied” with your work. Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, observed that “Older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense.”

These findings may appear puzzling in the face of many other surveys that report high levels of stress, hostile, unsupportive management, and other negative, debilitating experiences that many workers deal with.

My take is that the AP-NORC Center survey unintentionally masked several underlying phenomena. The result was the high level of reported “satisfaction” among all older workers. Some examples: Read more…

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Are Companies In Tune With Their Own Workers?

October 28th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 5.18.03 PMIt’s clear that we’re in the midst of massive transformations in the business world and the workplace. These transformations are underway, for example, in a rising sense of responsibility to society; recognition of the workplace culture’s contribution to debilitating stress and life imbalance; the impact of the younger generations upon collaboration, innovation, and career goals; and the increasing fluidity and constant external change that impacts all organizations.

Within such flux and change, it can be difficult to assess whether the company you’re working for, or considering joining, is sufficiently in tune with the future. Is it the right mesh between, on the one hand, your own well-being, evolving career goals and personal values; and, on the other, how well the company is positioned to engage and adapt to the business and cultural shifts that will determine it’s future success?

An important question. Especially so, when nearly every week new surveys appear showing how debilitating and disconnected many leadership and management cultures are, in relation to their employees and future business scenarios.

For example, a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. workers for Root Inc., a strategy execution consulting company, examined what workers would like to see change in their companies. “Many surveys tell us there’s something wrong – we know that American workers are unhappy or not engaged, and leaders know they need make adjustments to keep the very best talent,” said Rich Berens, president of Root. “With this research, we wanted to uncover the specifics of where employees really would like to see things be different and how management can take that data and make organizational changes for the better.”

Some of their findings include: Read more…

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Why Unqualified People Get Selected, Hired and Promoted

October 15th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-10-15 at 11.23.34 AMIf you’ve ever wondered why people make mistakes when hiring someone for a job, or selecting a candidate for university admissions, this new study by Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues sheds some light on why that happens. They call it the “fundamental attribution error” — the tendency to make snap judgments about a person’s innate characteristics, which often prove incorrect.

Published in the journal PLOS One, the study was described in a Harvard Business School publication, “Working Knowledge.” The study asked, “Why do businesses evaluate candidates solely on past job performance, failing to consider the job’s difficulty? Why do university admissions officers focus on high GPAs, discounting influence of easy grading standards?”

The research found that the fundamental attribution error “is so deeply rooted in our decision making that not even highly trained people-evaluators, such as hiring managers and school admissions officers, can defeat its effects. One of the consequences is that you end up admitting people who should not be admitted, and rejecting people who should not be rejected.”

Click here for the full report.

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Why Men’s Self-Esteem Drops When Their Romantic Partners Succeed

October 1st, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 9.55.04 AMOne of the writer Gore Vidal’s famous bon mots was, Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.

Some recent research gives credence to that, at least where men in relationships are concerned. It found that men feel bad about themselves without realizing it when their romantic partner succeeds or excels at something. Even worse, if the man fails or performs less than his partner on the same task or goal, his self-esteem drops even lower. Yet women feel no worse about themselves in the reverse situation.

I was reflecting on this and a couple of other seemingly unrelated research studies, that strike me as illuminating hidden themes. One theme is that higher status and material success are associated with attitudes of entitlement and narcissism, but with a positive caveat. The other theme is that couples who drift into power struggles secretly long for mutuality and collaboration.

Taken together, I think these findings indirectly reveal a significant upheaval and transformation underway, regarding what men have traditionally learned to define as “manhood” and “success” in our culture. In effect, their implications constitute a harbinger to us males — an unraveling of the traditional definition of “maleness,” or the values and behavior that have defined being a successful male at work, in intimate relationships and in society.

That is, I think we’re experiencing Read more…

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An ‘Inside-Out’ Life Helps You Redefine Success

September 17th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 9.18.35 AMIn a recent post I explained that you can’t balance work and life because both are part of your outer life, while “balance” comes from guidance by a strong inner life. Since then, many have asked me to describe more about the inner life — where your true self lies — and explain why that’s the core of redefining success –away from fixation with money, power and position, and towards more balanced, healthy and integrated lives.

In the present post I explain more about the inner life and why it’s so crucial for success and well-being in our society during these times of rapid change and turmoil. Previously, I’ve emphasized the parallel need for supportive, positive leadership within companies; and that we can already see examples of workplace and career trends that are redefining success for our “post-careerist” culture. All these shifts — underway and needed — reflect the rising awareness of the inner self and the need to respond to it.

Moreover, these shifts of consciousness, which propel what I’ve called the “4.0″ career orientation, are visible among men and women across the generational spectrum: older baby boomers seeking “encore” careers of more meaning and service, and Millennials, who embrace transparency, collaboration and constant change in their careers. All seek career success within the economic climate and historical moment they live within but also feel the pull towards fulfilling something missing from the soul, the psyche, from relationships and life, itself — missing when only outer life criteria are the measures of success. Read more…

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Great Companies Will Add Value More Than Extract It

September 13th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-09-14 at 5.47.22 PMAn insightful article in the New York Times by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, highlights the fact that many of the highly touted business consultants and authors — who describe high performing companies and why they will remain so — are, well…often flat wrong.

Schwartz writes that the most striking example involves Microsoft, which renowned consultant Jim Collins and his co-author of Great by Choice, Morten T. Hansen, cited, Schwartz points out, as “a great performer, and Apple, which they cite as the comparative laggard. Yes, you read that right. Here’s why: the 15-year period the authors happened to examine was 1987 to 2002.”

Schwartz asks, “How could so much research miss the mark by so far?” He explains that “…huge changes in technology in the last decade have redefined what it takes to be successful – elevating factors like the role of disruptive innovation, quickness to market and speed of responsiveness to competitors. What worked for Microsoft in the era that Mr. Collins and Mr. Hansen studied proved to be wholly inadequate to compete with Apple in the era that immediately followed.”

The prime reason Schwartz cites for getting it wrong is “the definition Mr. Collins uses for greatness…Maximizing returns for shareholders over a given period of time is narrow, one-dimensional and woefully insufficient. In an increasingly complex and interdependent world, a truly great company requires a far richer mix of qualities.”

In contrast, Schwartz emphasizes that “A company’s greatness is grounded in doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and the least harm. It is neither first nor foremost about maximizing short-term return for shareholders. Rather, it is about investing in and valuing all stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, the community and the planet – in order to generate the greatest value over the longest term for all parties, including the shareholders.”

That’s the key.

For Schwartz’s complete article, click here.

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How To Align Your Money, Personal Values and Sustainability

September 5th, 2013

This is a guest post by Brian Kaminer, founder of Talgra, which provides consultation to people on ways to create positive social and environmental change, through aligning money and values with investing. It was previously published on Green Money.

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My Roadmap

After 17 years in the brokerage business at a boutique trading firm, I got the chance to explore areas that were of greater personal interest to me and felt in alignment with my values. Sustainability quickly got my attention and my role as the father of three boys also furthered my interest on the topic. I initially focused on resource / energy conservation and solar energy for about 2 years. After learning about the concept of Slow Money and attending various conferences in 2010, my awareness about the role of money and investing was elevated to a new level. Since then I have immersed myself in this field while working to commit financial resources to support my core values and understanding of sustainability. This is very much an evolving and rewarding personal process.

While doing so, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of information and resources available on this subject. It seems to be exponentially growing in content and visibility. Organizing and connecting what I have been learning has increased my understanding of the field and presented the opportunity to share this with others by creating a resource document. This process enables me to see the bigger picture.

Towards that, I created the Money and Impact Investing Directory Read more…

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Wealth, Entitlement and An Inflated Self

September 3rd, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 9.55.27 AMResearchers at Berkeley have found that higher social class is associated with an increased sense of entitlement and narcissism. This is another study in the realm of “demonstrating the obvious,” but that’s good, because it gives research data underpinnings to clinical observations. The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, also found that promoting values that reflect a sense of equality with others had a diminishing affect on their narcissism. And that’s especially interesting because it links with other studies that find that empathy and compassion are innate; we’re “hardwired” that way, as this recent study finds, for example. But that capacity can be dulled or diminished by socially conditioned values and rewards, which then shape our conscious sense of self. We then define ourselves in ways that limit and constrict our sense of who we’re capable of being.

The current study about social class and narcissism was summarized by Eric W. Dolan in The Raw Story:

Climbing the economic ladder can influence basic psychological processes within an individual. According to a new study , wealth tends to increase a person’s sense of entitlement, which in turn can lead to narcissistic behaviors. Read more…

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Why CEOs Want Leadership Help — But Don’t Seek It

August 17th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-08-17 at 9.36.29 AMA recent study by the Stanford Business School found that nearly two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive executive coaching or leadership development. And almost half of senior executives in general aren’t receiving any, either. Paradoxically, nearly 100 percent said they would like coaching to enhance their development, as both Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Forbes reported in recent articles.

So, why do CEOs and other senior leaders say they want coaching but don’t seek it?

I think the answer lies in what they’ve learned to think coaching provides, in contrast to what they think they need. Both views create a gap between desire and action. Ironically, that gap is unwittingly supported by most coaching programs, themselves.

That is, most omit or misconstrue the core coaching element that CEOs need to grow their skills and effectiveness: Increased self-awareness, honest self-knowledge, about one’s motives, personality capacities and values. The consequences of this absence play out in ways that diminish the relevance of coaching in the eyes of most senior leaders. Read more…

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Having Power Diminishes Your Empathy For Others

August 13th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 10.51.47 AMSeveral research studies have shown that increasing power in an organization (or in any kind of relationship) tends to diminish capacity for empathy, compassion, and seeing another person’s perspective. This is especially damaging to effective leadership of people subordinate to those in power. Studies have shown that increased power diminishes activity of your “mirror neurons,” which provide the sense of connection with another person’s experience, and fuels empathy. Here’s the latest study that sheds more light on what happens. It shows the need for helping leaders develop and strengthen their capacity to connect with others’ reality and experience, which helps counter the tendency towards self-absorption in one’s own perspective, when one is in a higher-power status.

From the study, summarized in Digital Journal:

Researchers have some new insights into how power diminishes a person’s capacity for empathy. According to scientists, a sense of power shuts down a part of the brain that helps us connect with others. For their study that builds on past information about how the brain operates, the researchers found that even the smallest bit of power – for instance from a job promotion or more money – can shut down our ability to empathize with others. Read more…
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Work-Life Balance Is Impossible — Here’s Why

July 25th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 10.22.07 AMIt’s increasingly visible that our workplace culture and conventional views of success damage people emotionally and physically, and harm productivity and innovation as well. In a recent post, I emphasized the overlooked role of unhealthy management practices because they reflect and reinforce a narrow, self-interested view of success that’s equated with the pursuit of “more” — more money, power and recognition. New efforts to redefine success in healthier directions are encouraging. But most of them focus on ways to achieve better work-life balance. And that’s a problem.

In my view, you can never “balance” work and life. It’s impossible. But knowing why this is the case can lead to redefining success in ways that can really take root in one’s life and career.

To explain, look at the visible conflicts and how they’re typically understood: Research shows that people at all career levels suffer from the emotional and physical damage of workaholic expectations; destructive, stifling management practices; and a lack of sufficient vacation and leisure time — all in the pursuit of “success.” Typically, we frame such damage as products of an imbalanced “work” and “life.” But the two can’t be balanced because both work and life are on the same side of the scale — your outer life.

That is, the true scale is between your outer life and your inner life. On one side is Read more…

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How The Millennials Differ From The “Old White Guys” At Work

July 20th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 12.15.52 PMHere’s a good description of the contrast of orientations to work, career and success between the millennial generation and older workers. Writing in a recent Inc. article How Millennials Think, and What To Do About It, Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, points out the need to understand and attract men and women of the younger generations. That means seeing and dealing with differences from what he calls OWGs (Old White Guys.) He writes, “The problem we OWGs (Old White Guys–that’s what they call us) have is that we built our companies’ cultures around the things that motivated our generation: money, career progression, and retirement plans. The Millennial generation has an entirely different consideration set for motivation, and given that they already comprise more of the workforce than GenXers and Baby Boomers, we need to invest time, money, and energy into creating workplaces that Millennial employees will love.”

In the rest of the article, Halligan contrasts the different orientations along four dimensions: Money vs. Mission; OCD vs. ADD; Place vs. Idea; and Rules vs. Judgment. He writes: Read more…

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Why the Workplace Is So Destructive to So Many People

June 27th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 10.17.20 AMAs Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” We’re seeing yet another survey (they appear with increasing frequency) showing how negatively men and women feel about their workplaces; how damaging the workplace is to mental and physical health, and therefore to the economy. Recently some new high-profile initiatives raise hope about the possibility of meaningful change. But it’s crucial that both hone in the key source of the destructive impact careers and the workplace have upon so many people today: The leadership and management culture of companies, and the practices that result. Ironically, those are often at odds with the personal values and perspectives of the very people who occupy leadership roles, but are hamstrung by constraints from the very top — even when they’re part of it.

Jim, a senior VP, feels unsure about his future role in the organization as it undergoes major transition. His boss provides no information, saying, “just don’t worry about it.” Jim’s also in a bind about Read more…

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Redefining Success In Our Post-Careerist Culture

May 14th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 10.11.16 AMNearly every week a new survey appears showing how stressed out workers are today. The damage is visible in its negative impact upon mental health, increased risk of disease and death, lower worker productivity and a range of other harmful consequences. One recent survey found that 83 percent of all workers report stress. That includes people of all ages, baby boomers to Millennials. The sources cited include too much work, insufficient pay, not enough time for rest or sleep, too little leisure time, co-worker conflicts and general work-life imbalance.

But most of those sources have a deeper origin that the surveys and research don’t tap into. Major changes in our society and world have created a “new normal” of continuous turmoil and disruption. This new environment is pushing both organizations and workers to redefine success beyond the long-prevailing rewards of money, power and position; and towards criteria less focused on self-interest but more adaptive to living and working within what is now a “post-careerist” culture. Much current stress reflects the strain of this growing transition. It’s inevitable and necessary.

That is, many men and women, along with the leadership of companies they work for, are already redefining success. The emerging criteria include Read more…

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More Stress — For More Workers

May 2nd, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 3.25.26 PMIt seems like every other day there’s a new survey or research study that shows – again – how stressed-out American workers are, at all levels of career; both men and women. This latest report, by Harris Interactive for Everest College, finds that about 83% of workers report feeling stressed by their jobs. It’s a number that keeps rising, and the usual sources are multiple: pay, too much to handle with too few resources; troublesome co-workers, and work-life balance issues. These are valid sources of stress, but I think these periodic surveys fail to tap into more pervasive, underlying sources of stress and conflict at work: boredom; lack of mesh between the person’s skills and the role; an unhealthy, unsupportive management culture; outright abusive, arrogant and narcissistic bosses, and so forth. I’ve written about some of these issues in previous posts, and plan to address some new versions of these underlying sources of conflict and stress in some future essays.

The current survey was summarized in a Forbes article, by Susan Adams. She writes:

Some 83% of American workers say they feel stressed out by their jobs, up from 73% a year ago, according to a new study by Harris Interactive for Everest College. The No. 1 reason workers feel stressed, according to the survey: low pay. This is the third year of the survey and the third year that less- than-adequate paychecks were the top stressor for workers. The study was conducted by phone among 1,000 adults between Feb. 21 and March 3.

While pay was the biggest source of stress last year, Read more…

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6 Keys to Well-Being and Growth Relevant to Life in Today’s Unpredictable World

April 25th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-04-23 at 11.10.31 AMJim, who’s in his early 40s, consulted me about a troubling dilemma. He told me that he’s worked on himself for years, both with and without the help of therapists, and that he’s “tamed many demons” from the traumas and family dysfunctions he experienced growing up. He’s now living a stable and reasonably successful life. Yet he finds himself asking “Now what?” and “Is this it?” He explained that he’s learned to manage and cope pretty well with the residue of conflicts that had, in the past, derailed successful relationships as well as his career. Nevertheless, he feels trapped by the past actions that continue to have a shelf life. And, especially, he wants to experience a more fulfilling, expansive existence, beyond the “flat-lined comfortableness” that Cheryl, a 38-year-old small-business owner, described about her own life.

They and others reflect the impact of living in today’s world, especially since the new century began. Our lives now exist within a new normal of uncertainty and turmoil, of unpredictable events and rapid social change, as well as ever-evolving technology that infiltrates every aspect of daily life. This new environment raises an important question: What describes a fulfilling, positive and psychologically healthy life today? Moreover, what can you do to create it?

That’s where our traditional thinking and prescriptions fall short. Read more…

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What Does Having Power in Your Organization Do to You?

April 11th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 10.10.11 AMCompanies are evolving and adapting to ongoing, often unpredictable business challenges today. in the context of teamwork and collaboration needs, leaders and the management cultures they build are rethinking the meaning and impact of power. Several new research studies have examined the impact of power and authority upon the behavior and emotional attitudes of people in their career and leadership roles. Much of this research yields useful findings for companies. But some contains significant limitations — and distortions.

Among the latter are many academic studies, based on controlled experiments in which college students are the participants. They construct artificial, experimental conditions, and then draw broad conclusions from the findings. Most seriously, they often neglect to study actual people in business environments. Moreover, some of the studies use definitions of “power” that don’t fit the realities of today’s organizations. Those flaws affect their conclusions.

For example, recent research found that “powerful” people are more likely to Read more…

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Daily Stress Affects Long-Term Mental Health

April 6th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-04-06 at 10.51.03 AMOnce again, we find more evidence that daily stress has a long-term negative impact on mental health. Any research that highlights this fact is helpful, but it also draws attention to the role our social conditioning plays in generating the stress that debilitates mental health. And that’s not addressed as much as it should be. I’m referring to the ways we learn to behave in our public and private roles – in relationships, in our careers — that define “success,” and what you learn to do to achieve it, in ways that steadily create emotional conflicts. Without addressing those issues, which include over-emphasis on manipulation, self-centeredness, domination-submission struggles, to name a few — it’s difficult to describe what can support the “emotional balance,” the researchers cite as crucial for avoiding long-term emotional problems.

The latest research about this, published in the journal Psychological Science, was conducted by Susan Charles, UC Irvine professor of psychology and social behaviour, and her colleagues. Here’s what they reported:

Our emotional responses to the stresses of daily life may predict our long-term mental health. The research suggests that maintaining emotional balance is crucial to avoiding severe mental health problems down the road. The study examined this question: Do everyday irritations add up to make the straw that breaks the camel’s back, or do they make us stronger and “inoculate” us against later tribulations? Using data from two national, longitudinal surveys, the researchers found that participants’ negative emotional responses to daily stressors – such as arguments with a spouse or partner, conflicts at work, standing in long lines or sitting in traffic – predicted psychological distress and self-reported anxiety/mood disorders 10 years later. Read more…

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Work Better By Working “Less”

February 19th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 10.22.35 AMEvidence continues to mount that the workaholic expectations and demands of many companies are counterproductive. Both observation and research studies show that creativity and productivity increase when the work culture provides time out, so to speak — including periods for naps and vacations. Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project, discusses this in a recent New York Times article, and points out that “A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

He writes:

THINK for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings? More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less…

“More, bigger, faster.” This, the ethos of the market economies since the Industrial Revolution, is grounded in a mythical and misguided assumption — that our resources are infinite. Time is the resource on which we’ve relied to get more accomplished. When there’s more to do, we invest more hours. But time is finite, and many of us feel we’re running out, that we’re investing as many hours as we can while trying to retain some semblance of a life outside work.

 Click here  for the full article.

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Self-Examination And Success

February 12th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 11.42.52 AMOne of the themes I’ve been writing about and highlighting in recent years is the crucial role that self-examination and self-awareness play in life — for internal wellbeing, personal relationships and external success in your work and career. In this recent New York Times essay, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield provide a range of examples of just how important self-awareness is to “success,” in whatever form it takes. They write:

WHAT does self-awareness have to do with a restaurant empire? A tennis championship? Or a rock star’s dream? David Chang’s experience is instructive.

Mr. Chang is an internationally renowned, award-winning Korean-American chef, restaurateur and owner of the Momofuku restaurant group with eight restaurants from Toronto to Sydney, and other thriving enterprises, including bakeries and bars, a PBS TV show, guest spots on HBO’s “Treme” and a foodie magazine, Lucky Peach. He says he worked himself to the bone to realize his dream — to own a humble noodle bar. He spent years cooking in some of New York City’s best restaurants, apprenticed in different noodle shops in Japan and then, finally, worked 18-hour days in his tiny restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar. Mr. Chang could barely pay himself a salary. He had trouble keeping staff. And he was miserably stressed.

He recalls a low moment when he went with his staff on a night off to eat burgers at a restaurant that was everything his wasn’t — packed, critically acclaimed and financially successful. He could cook better than they did, he thought, so why was his restaurant failing? “I couldn’t figure out what the hell we were doing wrong,” he told us. Mr. Chang could have blamed someone else for his troubles, or worked harder (though available evidence suggests that might not have been possible) or he could have made minor tweaks to the menu. Instead he looked inward and subjected himself to brutal self-assessment.  Click here to continue.

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Why “Wanting” Material Things Is More Pleasurable Than “Having” Them

February 8th, 2013
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Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 11.00.36 AMSome new research shows that people who are driven by materialistic goals — getting and having material things — are more turned-on by the desire for acquiring them than actually possessing them. This underscores, I think, the essential emptiness that one ultimately feels when dominated by acquiring more and more — an endless quest anyway — and by defining one’s self-worth and status by the possessions one accumulates. The gap between one’s outer and inner life will take a toll, ultimately.

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research and summarized in Medical News Today as follows: Read more…

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Loneliness Can Harm Your Overall Health

January 24th, 2013
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A new study finds that loneliness has a negative impact on your immune system, and makes you more susceptible to illness. This should be no surprise: Everything is connected; we are one mind-body-spirit interwoven system, interconnected with the social and other “external” forces that shape our experience of life. The research, conducted at Ohio State University, was summarized in Science Daily as follows:

New research links loneliness to a number of dysfunctional immune responses, suggesting that being lonely has the potential to harm overall health. Researchers found that people who were more lonely showed signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than did people who felt more socially connected.

These proteins signal the presence of inflammation, and chronic inflammation is linked to numerous conditions, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the frailty and functional decline that can accompany aging. Reactivation of a latent herpes virus is known to be associated with stress, suggesting that loneliness functions as a chronic stressor that triggers a poorly controlled immune response. Read more…

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Gun Violence, Mental Illness and Their Hidden Roots

December 23rd, 2012
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Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 1.40.33 PMI expanded my previous post for this Huffington Post article, as follows:

Much of the discussion about gun violence, mental illness and public policy is like looking at the branches of the tree and its trunk. But we don’t consider the roots, which fuel how the tree grows. Those roots lie within some of our cultural values and aspirations that we absorb as we grow through our families, schools, and into adult relationships and careers. They are murky, hard to see. But here I suggest some worthy of facing and dealing with.

First, it’s quite likely that not much will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. As Dana Milbank recently wrote inThe Washington Post, the tendency has been to “slow-walk” discussion about change. And then it never occurs. But if a sea change of attitude and action does result, it would require a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans to summon the courage to confront the political power of the NRA, and enact reasonable gun laws, one’s that would be enforced. Such laws would respect the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want firearms to protect their homes. But they would also limit the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. Protecting the public from the danger of being killed by people wielding assault weapons with multiple rounds of ammunition is no less a “right” than that of possessing a gun.

At the same time, Read more…

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What Prevents Unethical Behavior In The Workplace?

November 5th, 2012
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A business school professor has argued that there’s a gap between business students’ description of ethical behavior in business and the traits they report in themselves. Thomas A. Wright, at Kansas State University, contends that there is a moral decline in higher education, which affects those entering the business world. “Many citizens are increasingly seeing the potentially grave consequences of dishonest and fraudulent actions by our business and political leaders,” he says.

Wright’s study examined student character strength on a number of dimensions including valor, hope, zest, honesty, critical thinking, kindness and gratitude. This is where the students exhibited gaps between their own qualities and those they value for ethical business. For example, MBA students listed honesty as one of their top five strengths. However, Wright found that 88 percent of the students reported that they have cheated in school, with many students reporting they had cheated 100 or more times. Wright said that students who cheat in school are not only more likely to cheat in graduate and professional school, but they also are more likely to engage in unethical business practices. And that this provides all the more reason for why higher education institutions should include ethical and character development. The study was reported in a news release from Kansas State, and summarized in Science Daily here:

 A Kansas State University professor’s research is showing a gap between the character traits that business students say make a good executive and the traits they describe having themselves.Thomas A. Wright, the Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in Business Administration, said business schools need to close that gap by continuously discussing ethics and character in the classroom. Read more…

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Can True Solitude Be Found In A Wired World?

October 30th, 2012
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This article, by AP writer Martha Irvine, highlights an issue worth deeper exploration: the simultaneous upside and downside of being always wired. Especially its impact on both well-being and a sense of interconnection, of community. The latter is visible during Hurricane Sandy’s impact on our lives.

She writes:

When was the last time you were alone, and unwired? Really, truly by yourself. Just you and your thoughts — no cellphone, no tablet, no laptop. Many of us crave that kind of solitude, though in an increasingly wired world, it’s a rare commodity. We check texts and emails, and update our online status, at any hour — when we’re lying in bed or sitting at stop lights or on trains. Sometimes, we even do so when we’re on the toilet.

We feel obligated, yes. But we’re also fascinated with this connectedness, constantly tinkering and checking in — an obsession that’s starting to get pushback from a small but growing legion of tech users who are feeling the need to unplug and get away.

“What might have felt like an obligation at first has become an addiction. It’s almost as if we don’t know how to be alone, or we are afraid of what we’ll find when we are alone with ourselves,” says Camille Preston, a tech and communication consultant based in Cambridge, Mass.

“It’s easier to keep doing, than it is to be in stillness.”

One could argue that, in this economy, Read more…

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Why Your Work Will Continue To Drive You Crazy

October 25th, 2012
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Still Crazy After All These Years

The title of that old Paul Simon song could easily describe what many people feel about life in their careers and organizations today. Studies and surveys regularly show that the workplace is damaging to many people, physically and mentally. But these reports focus on the effect rather than the cause; the surface symptoms rather than the roots of the problems men and women grapple with in their careers. The latter are found in a negative, undermining management culture and narrow, careerist values.

To explain, a few decades ago I wrote in Modern Madness about the findings of my project on how careers impact people, emotionally — especially successful careers among younger men and women rising in their companies (the yuppies of the time — remember them?). I described a troika of experiences: compromises between their personal values and the behavior required for upward movement and greater success; debilitating trade-offs between their beliefs or attitudes and the behavior necessary for continued career advancement; and — not surprisingly — anger, often severe and usually suppressed, but sometimes exploding in rage.

Back then, in the late 1980s, I found that the major source of such personal conflicts was a negative, stifling management culture. It included the personality — and sometimes the outright pathology — of bosses who created conditions that generated anxiety, depression, suspicion and other dysfunctional behavior; as well as physical illness. And this was among otherwise not-very-troubled people. I called them the “Working Wounded.”

Their conflicts were also intensified by a view of success and achievement Read more…

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Richard Branson Calls For A “B Team” Of Business Leaders

October 10th, 2012
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Sir Richard Branson’s ideas are always worth attention. Here, he calls for a “B Team:” A small group of business leaders who will campaign for reforms to make capitalism more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible. He’s always been on the forefront of ideas and actions that promote joining successful business enterprises with contributing to the social good. In this article from The Economist, he describes a new venture that he calls the “B Team:”

SLOWING down seems to be the last thing on Sir Richard Branson’s mind. Since turning 62 in July, the bearded British entrepreneur has as usual been making headlines around the world. On October 3rd he celebrated victory in a campaign to overturn the British government’s decision to strip Virgin Trains, of which his Virgin Group owns 51%, of the West Coast main-line rail franchise. The government now admits it got its sums wrong, as Sir Richard had claimed, and the bidding process will be rerun (see article). Recently Sir Richard has also been in the news for (among other things) urging Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to end America’s war on drugs; declaring his intention to visit Mars; and parking a mock-up of the new Upper Class bar from his transatlantic aircraft outside the New York Stock Exchange. From there he promoted his latest book (“Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School”) and led a discussion with his Twitter followers. The subject under discussion was: “How can business change the world for the better?”

This last topic has become increasingly central to Brand Branson in the past few years—although social activism has been part of Sir Richard’s repertoire since he opened advice centres for students in the 1960s. Under Virgin Unite, its charitable arm, his corporate empire has become a leader in the booming business of “cause marketing” (aligning brands with charities). Read more…

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New Study Finds Executives Experience Worsening Work-Life Balance

September 18th, 2012
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This should be no surprise, really: A new study by Harvard Business School, and reported by Reuters, found that executives across several countries report deteriorating work-life balance. I see this encroaching downside of 24/7 availability and data bombardment – for all of its advantages – in many of the execs I work with in particular; and in people’s lives, in general.

The study found that “…modern communications may allow less time in the office, but compel them to work around the clock” One executive envisioned a scenario “…where people who have every five minutes of their lives planned out and technology on the fly and data coming to them left and right, and…most people would look at that and say ‘Oh my God, that’s awful.”

Here’s the report, by Adam Tanner:

“I feel compelled to be constantly in touch with my work, including weekends and holidays, but you learn to live with this situation,” said Barbero, the chief technology officer at Spanish and Portuguese-language media group Prisa.

“When you are part of the most important decision-making bodies of a company, there are no limits on dedication. I have little time for family or social activities.”

In recent years, many companies on Wall Street and beyond have embraced the mantra of flexible hours and work-life balance. Read any image-building column written by a top executive, and he or she is likely to stress the importance of getting to a child’s soccer game or concert. Read more…

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Overconfidence May Lead You To Incompetence

August 27th, 2012
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Some new research gives a new twist to the “Peter Principle” – the idea that people often rise up in their career to their level of incompetence. This study found that being overconfident can increase one’s social status, including greater power to sway others and subsequently achieve higher levels of success. However, the downside is that the overconfident person may convince themselves that they are more skilled and capable than they really are. That is, they can delude themselves and others; and be promoted beyond their actual level of competence. The research was conducted at Berkeley’s Hass School of Business, and summarized by Medical News Today in the following report: Read more…

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Green Leadership: Learning It And Doing It

July 31st, 2012
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A previous post described what a green business leadership mindset consists of. I argued personal buy-in among leaders is essential to establish, communicate and enact sustainable and socially responsible practices. Here, I describe how leaders can learn to build that mindset, and how that underlies successful and innovative practices.

I see two linked pathways to developing and applying green leadership: First, acquiring and learning relevant facts and evidence-based understanding about emerging global and workforce realities. These require new actions for long-term survival and success. The second is leadership self-development, through self-awareness awareness and other sources of learning. Both must become part of the leader’s “DNA” in order for sustainable practices to be successful.

Two Pathways To A Green Leadership Mentality

Learning Facts and Information

This includes acquiring information: Documented research findings; related, science-derived data; and evidence-based understanding and interpretation of current environmental and workforce realities. For example: Read more…

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Green Leadership — What Is It?

July 23rd, 2012
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Politically motivated politicians continue denying man-made climate change and it’s devastating harm. They reject the need for alternative energy sources that could stem the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. They gasp when hearing the word “sustainability.” They block efforts to deal with these or other significant challenges. Nevertheless, many businesses and even the military are seeking solutions to these threats to our economy, way of life, and our national security.

But creating successful, sustainable practices and policies, and the long-term vision they require is complex. The above challenges are interwoven with vested interests of those seeking deregulation or new tax laws that enables continued profit for themselves, at the expense of the larger society. Investment in infrastructure or human capital is ignored.

Positive solutions call for “green leadership.” In business, successful, sustainable practices rest upon an internal foundation, a mindset of emotional and mental perspectives, values and capacities. This mindset helps create sustainable, growth-oriented practices that contribute to long-term security and development for all.

In this post I describe what a green leadership mindset consists of. Part 2 describes what it looks like in practice, and how leaders can learn to build it.

Business and Military Organizations Embrace Reality

To better understand the rise of green leadership, consider that climate change is recognized and being addressed by many decision-makers, despite the deniers. For example, The Economist and others recently focused on the melting Arctic, the sea level rise and ways to deal with long-term implications. Companies research and invest in alternative energy technologies, and receive federal support, though the latter is opposed by fossil fuel-funded politicians, including Mitt Romney, who has called wind and solar power “…two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative energy.” Nevertheless, research abounds. Companies continue to explore innovations for increasing solar energy efficiency, for example.

The military recognizes the national security threat Read more…

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Macho Men Have Worse Romantic Relationships — Here’s Why

July 21st, 2012
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I’ve seen this repeatedly over the years working with men & women in their careers and personal lives: The research finds that men who are not so traditional in their masculinity have better quality relationships with their female partner. It’s summarized in Science News, from the journal Sex Roles:

Macho men whose partners earn more than they do have worse romantic relationships, in part because the difference in income is a strain for them, according to a new study by Patrick Coughlin and Jay Wade from Fordham University in the US. Conversely, men who are not so traditional in their masculinity do not place as much importance on the difference in income and, as a result, appear to have better quality relationships with their female partner.

The work is published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles. The breadwinner role for men is still the accepted norm in marriage, and allows for and supports the husband’s power and authority in the family. It is therefore reasonable for a man who earns less than his female partner to feel removed from this traditional gender role, and feel a void because he does not fulfil this role. However, the reality is that marriages in which both the husband and wife work are becoming the rule rather than the exception. It is increasingly possible for both partners to either earn equal amounts, or for the female to earn more than the male.

Coughlin and Wade were interested in the effects of this growing trend on the experience of marriage and the quality of romantic relationships in particular. Is the extent of men’s masculinity ideology, in other words, emotional control, success, dominance, violence, power, and anti-femininity and homophobia, an influential factor on relationship quality?

A total of 47 men, who were involved in a romantic relationship, and had a female partner who had a higher income, took part in the study. Through an online survey, the researchers assessed their beliefs about masculinity, the quality of their relationships, and the importance of the disparity in income between them and their female partners.

They found, on the one hand, that the stronger a man’s endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology, the more likely he was to report a low-quality romantic relationship, and the more he perceived the difference in incomes as important. On the other hand, the more a man endorsed non-traditional masculinity ideology, the more likely he was to have a high-quality relationship with his female partner and not place too much importance on the income disparity.

The authors conclude: “Our results demonstrate the importance of masculinity ideology in understanding how and why men with higher-earning partners will have low or high quality romantic relationships. The findings are relevant to men who are married as well as non-married men in a romantic relationship.”

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Resilience and Life Satisfaction

June 27th, 2012
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Some new research from Spain indicates that resiliency is associated with greater life satisfaction. I think this validates what can and should occur, and is reflective of positive mental health. However, I think the study is limited in two ways. First, it was done with young adult students, which does not take into account how the experiences of adult years and adult life impact the sense of resiliency and emotional control that one might demonstrate when it’s less tested. But beyond that, I think the study is limited by a view of resiliency that’s essentially reactive – focused on being able to “bounce back” to a previous state of equilibrium. In my view, that’s not as relevant to today’s turbulent world. The current environment requires much more pro-active, flexible behavior in the face of ongoing change; not just recovery from setbacks or trauma. That is, resiliency and life satisfaction will connect to the extent that the person is able to anticipate and deal with a “non-equilibrium” world. Here is the report of the Spanish study, Its summary states:

When confronted with adverse situations such as the loss of a loved one, some people never fully recover from the pain. Others, the majority, pull through and experiment how the intensity of negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, depression) grows dimmer with time until they adapt to the new situation. A third group is made up of individuals whose adversities have made them grow personally and whose life takes on new meaning, making them feel stronger than before.

Researchers at the Basic Psychology Unit at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona analysed the responses of 254 students from the Faculty of Psychology in different questionnaires. The purpose was to evaluate their level of satisfaction with life and find connections between their resilience and their capacity of emotional recovery, one of the components of emotional intelligence which consists in the ability to control one’s emotions and those of others.

Research data shows that students who are more resilient, 20% of those surveyed, are more satisfied with their lives and are also those who believe they have control over their emotions and their state of mind. Resilience therefore has a positive prediction effect on the level of satisfaction with one’s life.

Some of the characteristics of being resilient can be worked on and improved, such as self-esteem and being able to regulate one’s emotions. Learning these techniques can offer people the resources needed to help them adapt and improve their quality of life”, explains Dr Joaquin T Limonero, professor of the UAB Research Group on Stress and Health at UAB and coordinator of the research.

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Business Leadership Programs Ignore the Key Ingredients of Success

June 9th, 2012
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Leadership development and executive coaching programs have become pretty widespread in companies and organizations today, and with good reason: Positive, effective leadership is essential for success within today’s turbulent work environment. Moreover, growing your leadership skills is also necessary for successful career development in today’s workplace, where nothing is guaranteed.

But there’s a problem with these programs: Many fail to help with three crucial areas: building personal growth through self-awareness and self-examination; learning the leadership actions that increase company success in the midst of a changing workforce and fluid environment; and then, learning to align the two.

The absence of programs that really help in these areas gets reflected in periodic surveys finding that people at all levels are unhappy and dissatisfied with their work and careers. They struggle with the emotional impact of negative, unhealthy leadership that appears stuck in a 20th century mindset of top down, command-and-control.

Executive development programs typically take you through questionnaires, various exercises and “tools” to build skills and resolving roadblocks or conflicts. Many of them provide important and useful help for strengthening leaders’ knowledge and capacity for greater effectiveness in their roles. Some are provided by large consulting organizations like Right Management; others by university executive education programs, such as Harvard’s or Wharton’s. Efforts have been made to evaluate the effectiveness and scope of coaching programs, as well.

But many of them miss, on the one hand, building the necessary self-awareness of your “drivers” as a leader or manager. That is, your emotional makeup, your values and attitudes; your personality traits, and your unresolved conflicts. You’re a total person, not just a set of skills performing a role.

On the other hand, the programs often fail to incorporate current knowledge about the changing workforce, as well as the link between sustainable, socially responsible practices and long-term business or mission success. Yet bringing these two key ingredients together is the vehicle for both a thriving career and organization. Let’s look at both:

Self-Awareness and Self-Examination
Personal growth and career growth go hand-in-hand, and are the foundation for successful leadership in today’s organizations. Most successful and satisfied executives, whether at the top or on their way up, practice some form of self-awareness and self-examination. They learn to align their personal values and life goals with the kinds of leadership practices that will promote growth and development at all levels.

Becoming self-aware and orienting yourself to self-examination involves your entire mentality – that mixture of your emotions, your mental perspectives and attitudes, your values and beliefs. It includes, for example: Read more…

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A New Survey Finds A Majority Of Workers Are Dissatisfied With Their Jobs

May 30th, 2012
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Periodically, another survey finds that many, if not the majority of people — at all levels of their work and career — are unhappy, dissatisfied or experience emotional conflicts and stress. The latest was conducted by Right Management. In my view, what’s consistently overlooked is the role that a negative, unhealthy, non-transparent management culture and leadership has upon people. The best companies are aware of that; some are making efforts to build more positive, learning-oriented, open cultures. These are of hope, especially among the younger leaders who are more in tune with these issues.

The survey was reported by Forbes, in an article by Susan Adams. She writes:

RightManagement, a subsidiary of the giant staffing firm ManpowerGroup, just released a new snapshot survey that underlines the dissatisfaction among American workers. At a time of high unemployment, lackluster job growth and major uncertainty in world financial markets, many employees feel stuck in their jobs, unable to consider a career move even if theyre unhappy.

Right Management ran the online survey between April 16 and May 15, and culled responses from 411 workers in the U.S. and Canada. Only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were somewhat satisfied. But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work. Twenty-one percent said they were somewhat satisfied and 44% said they were unsatisfied. Saffing firms and consultants release employee engagement and loyalty surveys periodically. The news on this front has not been good for some time. In November, Ireportedon a more in-depth study, a Mercer survey of 30,000 workers worldwide, which showed that between 28% and 56% of employees in 17 spots around the globe wanted to leave their jobs. In the U.S., 32% said they wanted to find new work. Thats about half of the 65% of respondents to the Right Management survey, who said they were either somewhat or totally unsatisfied.

Whats the message to employers? A lot of unhappy workers are staying put. But if employers want an upbeat, engaged workforce, they need to find ways to help employees feel challenged and rewarded by work. A couple of suggestions: offer more training and education. Also it pays to try to find a path up the ladder for current employees, and to help them know its available to them.

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Feeling Obligated To Stay In Your Job? You’ll Become Emotionally Troubled

May 13th, 2012
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A new study published in the journal Human Relations finds that people who stay in their jobs because they feel obligated towards their employers, or don’t perceive alternatives outside their organization, are more likely to experience emotional conflict. And those who have higher self-esteem are especially affected when they perceive a lack of alternatives. These findings highlight, in my view, the ongoing problem of unhealthy leadership and management culture. A summary of the study was published in Medical News Today, and I’ve reposted it here:

Love it or leave it – if only it were that simple. According to new research from Concordia University, the Universite de Montreal and HEC Montreal, staying in an organization out of a sense of obligation or for lack of alternatives can lead to emotional exhaustion, a chronic state of physical and mental depletion resulting from continuousstressand excessive job demands.

Published in the journal Human Relations, the study found that people who stay in their organizations because they feel an obligation towards their employer are more likely to experience burnout. The same applies when employees stay because they don’t perceive employment alternatives outside their organization.

“Our study examined whether some forms of commitment to an organization could have detrimental effects, such as emotional exhaustion and, eventually, turnover,” says co-author Alexandra Panaccio, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.

“When employees stay with their organization because they feel that they have no other options, explains Panaccio, “they are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion. This feeling, in turn, may lead them to leave the organization. The implication is that employers should Read more…

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Live With Impermanence…And Discover Your True Self

March 19th, 2012
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When the reality of impermanence and change in life hits you, it can feel sad, even terrifying. Seeing your children grow up before you eyes. The end of a love relationship. Losing your job, fearing you might never get “back on track.” The death of someone close. Some freeze with fear when faced with how impermanent everything is, especially the things we’re attached to and define us. Others can’t redirect what they were aiming for, with damaging consequences.

But consider this: Learning to embrace impermanence is the portal to discovering your true self and letting it emerge from beneath all you’ve learned to believe about who you are. Considerable research shows that you can learn to embrace the flow and flux of life’s impermanence. That enables you to awaken and act upon your more authentic self: Your capacities, unique facets of personality, your talents and birthright to fully flower as a connected, engaged, loving human being; a person who can thrive in the face of present and future unknowns.Of course, people know in their heads that everything in life is impermanent, that change is constant. The Eastern traditions, especially, describe the underlying reality that all is constant flux, evolution and change. It has been and always will be. Our planet circles the sun, which is about midpoint in its own lifespan. All life on our planet repeats the cycles of birth, growth, death, including the cells of our physical body,

Yet it’s difficult to incorporate that awareness, flow with change, yet retain energy and wellbeing. Impermanence doesn’t penetrate so easily because what you fear losing when it confronts you is largely external - beliefs, values, “needs,” and all that defines who you are. The culture conditions us into defining ourselves by such external criteria. That creates a false, surface ego. Social conditioning of self-definition is powerful, visible, even, in brain activity differences between people of different cultures regarding their self-definitions.

Then, when change occurs, it subverts your conditioned attachments and you can become unglued. The essential falseness and illusion of much of your world is suddenly exposed.

Living With Impermanence – And Flourishing

The key is looking for the upside in whatever situation now exists. Flexibility in the face of change, rather than dwelling in it. But also, creating a vision of what to aim for now, in this moment. Research confirms the brain’s capacity to modify itself and strengthen emotional attitudes that enable you to do just that, as Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley describe in Your Emotional Brain.

Several studies show that depressed people tend to remain stuck on negative thoughts, while people who focus on positive emotionswithin their situation experience greater wellbeing and healthier lives. Moreover, research also shows that people can learn to change their personalities with intent and practice. You can promote such shifts by disengaging from negative emotional reactions, as Eastern meditative practices have indicated. For example, according to the lead researcher in a University of Michigan study, Ethan Kross, “Reviewing our mistakes over and over, re-experiencing the same negative emotions we felt the first time around, tends to keep us stuck in negativity. It can be very helpful to take a sort of mental time-out, to sit back and try to review the situation from a distance.”

Other research finds that the stress associated with change can actually help you make better decisions. It focuses you more on the positive potential rather than the negative aspect of your situation. A man in his late 20s, who had become overly dependent, financially, on his family, illustrates this. When he was cut off following a painful falling out with his parents, he focused like a laser beam on how to arrange what he needed to do to support himself and become more fully independent, whatever it took.

In a relationship, remaining fixed on what’s changed – refusing to acknowledge it or sinking into regret about it – undermines the potential for new growth within the relationship as it now exists. Interestingly, studies have found that women are happier in their relationships when men expose feelings of pain or disappointment. That’s understandable — it brings both partners into confronting the reality of the moment they’re living in. That opens the door to dealing positively with what’s changed. An example happened in a couples therapy session, when the man suddenly shouted, “No more lies! I don’t like our relationship! We’ve got to deal with this, regardless of where it leads!

Consider a person whose lifelong dream to become a musician ended. She experienced loss, but then retrained for a different career that provided alternative fulfillment. Contrast that with the man who became bitter, comparing himself with peers who had “gotten farther ahead” in life. He berated himself for getting a degree in the “wrong” field. He languished, entrapped himself, and couldn’t envision the possibility for moving in a different direction that could become more fulfilling. People who are unable to find a career foothold in the realm they hoped for, but then seek a different path towards another kind of work, experience greater psychological health and fulfillment. In a similar vein, some baby boomers who left their careers to do work that involves helping others report feelings of growth, connection and service.

Whether in your relationship or at work, embracing impermanence and change pulls you out of the fixation with your own thwarted wants or desires. It enables you to put your energies into another form, another venue, that could lead to new kinds of fulfillment and positive energy.

The Indian Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan, who lectured in Europe and the U.S. in the early 20th Century, pointed out that “Inner life is not separate from outer life. Nor does it require leaving the world renouncing all pleasures and comforts. It is the enrichment of life with qualities that will last, with a source of energy and love which is truly your own… What we (have been) seeking slips out of our hold sooner or later. We depend upon things outside ourselves. Let us find our real being.

Some guidelines to help you live an impermanent life and affirm your true, inner self when facing change:

  • Self-examine what your “successes” and “failures” reveal about your true self; where you resonate, or don’t. Look at what that tells you about what you may have been trying to express through your life choices.
  • Open yourself to looking for new possibilities or directions that feel more in tune with your true self. Pursue them fully, vigorously, with great intent. Look for the feedback your actions give you until you see whether it’s the right path or not.
  • Infuse your actions with a spirit of service and love for what you’re engaging in, each moment. When you consciously display kindness, compassion, generosity, and justice in your thoughts, emotions and behavior, you keep your ego contained. You can see your true self with greater clarity.

When you embrace life’s impermanence, you become better able to recognize the kind of relationship you desire and feels right for you; the right mesh. And the kind of work or career that’s more in synch with your talents. And, you’ll know what actions contribute to a positive future for those to whom you are, right now, a future ancestor.

So, let it go and let if flow…

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The End Of Mental Health — And Why That’s Good

February 23rd, 2012

The idea of mental healthas we know ithas reached a dead end. It doesn’t describe much of anything relevant to people’s lives today. If you Google “mental health,” most of what comes up describes mentalillness, not mentalhealth. Both practitioners and researchers focus more onunderstandingand treating emotional disturbance, than on describing what health is or how to build it.

That’s good, actually, because it opens the door to a needed, broad re-thinking of what psychological health looks like in today’s worldin your emotions, thoughts, attitudes, values and behavior. In this post I explain what’s brought us to this dead-end, and I sketch some features of psychological health that reflect new challenges and realities of today’s tumultuous world.

First, let’s look at why we’re at this dead-end. The aims of treatment for emotional conflictswhether via medications,psychotherapyor a combination of the twohave been, in essence, goodmanagement, coping and adaptation. That is, management of emotional conflicts that create dysfunction and symptoms like depression and anxiety. Coping withstressor sustained conflict in your work, relationships and other parts of your life. And good adaptation or adjustment to the norms, values and conventional behavior of the society or group you’re part of. Thosegoalsare useful, per se, but there are three problems with them. One is that Read more…
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