The Noughties, Positive Psychology and New Year Resolutions

The psychological breakthrough of the noughties

One of the most surprising yet little understood results of psychological research this decade has been the Losada ratio.  Simply, you will get depressed if you experience more than 1 minor negative event to every 3 moderate positive events.

How do we remain sane on trains and tubes and cramped uncomfortable workplaces, I wonder.  Well we don’t.  We languish.  We become inflexible.  Our creativity drops.  And all our energy goes into managing the negativitiy.

Of course, we should become resilient.  Some even say we should become ‘hard’.  But we aren’t saying we should extinguish all negative results.  When negative stuff falls below 8%, we get manic.  The flip side of the 3:1 ratio is 11:1.  We need to be somewhere in between.

We will take 17% of nonsense

The optimal rate is 5 moderate positive to 1 mild negative events.  Let’s spell that out.  People will take a mildly negative comment in the company of 5 moderately positive comments.  You can be mildly unpleasant 17% of the time without demolishing the creativity productivity and creativity of your team. Surely that is sufficient quota for you!!

A simple model of 3 factors

The amazing thing about this research result is the positivity/negativity ratio is believed to interact with two other ratios.  In addition to being positive, it is also healthy to ask slightly more questions about facts, figures and other people’s views than to put on the table what we already know.  Moreover, it is healthy to be slightly more concerned with life outside the group than with internal processes.

Groups that interact in these ratios have moments when they are positive, questioning and externally-oriented and moments when they are negative, internally-oriented and pushing their own point of view. They also have all manner of combination in between the two extremes. If we assume they are one-or-the other, they have 2x2x2, that is 8 states they can be in.

Understanding whether a group is healthy

How can we tell whether a group that is presently negative, internally-oriented and pushy is permanently in that state,  or in a natural swoop of mood?

Simply we cannot tell, until they change. Life isn’t a spectator sport.  If we want to know what  kind of group we are in, we have to hang about long enough to find out.

Funnily enough, if we are curious enough to stay, if we are willing to put our eggs in their basket, then they are more likely to swing into a more positive state.  We should remember though that emotion is contagious.  If they are in a very bad mood, take care to give yourself space to stay positive.  And don’t preach.  Ask! Or as Ben Zander says, apologize and invite. Preaching to preachers doesn’t get them to listen!

Understanding whether a group will stay positive

Also remember, that joining a positive team that seems on top of the world is no guarantee that they will stay there.  Indeed, if they are healthy, they will not stay there.  They will swoop downwards and they are probably about to begin a downward sweep.  So be sure you are happy to join them on the ride.  Be happy that you will join them  . . .

That’s the way to judge a project.  Are you welcome and do you trust this group enough to put up with the bad times?  In sickness and in health?

The question for New Year’s Eve

Remember life isn’t a spectator sport.  Who exactly are you loyal too?  That is the question for New Year’s Eve.  That’s the reason for New Year’s Eve.  To remember those to whom are we deeply committed in the year ahead.

Expand your life: one frontier at a time

Where is your frontier?

Where are the places in your life where you are trying something new and where you know neither the rules and the outcome?

Why those places?  And where are the places that you don’t want to try?

One frontier at a time

I think that like good Generals we can only have one frontier at once.  By their nature, frontiers are scary and ask for all our attention.  Maybe we can have one-and-a-half frontiers – one serious one and one hobby.

Which frontiers are become possible?

More interesting are the frontiers that terrify us.  Aren’t those worth looking at again?  Maybe we can edge towards what we couldn’t contemplate last year.

What terrifies you?  Of this list, which might be quite long, which might you actually want to make your frontier for 2010?  Your frontier where you know neither the rules nor the outcome?  (Breath and breath out slowly!)

I think I will go to bed thinking about the frontiers that frighten me!

Deciding what you want to do is the really hard part, doing it is easy

Fascinated by our capacity for inactivity

I have just discovered Jodee Bock’s blog. As I was whizzing down her latest posts, I found her piece on New Year Resolutions – aren’t we fascinated by our capacity for inactivity?  She reminded me of David Whyte and I have taken the liberty of quoting what she says with two lines from one of David Whyte’s poems.

“If the WHY is big enough, the HOW will take care of itself. The WHY is the PURPOSE. When we’re clear on the WHY, then we can set the vision, which will break the WHY down, maybe into time chunks, for example. Then goals will take a bite out of the vision, and allow us those measurable milestones.” Jodee Bock

“What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough . . .” From “What to Remember When Waking” in River Flow (p. 351).

And is doing it easy?  I’ll write on that another day.

If the WHY  is big enough  .  .  .

Ask not the meaning your life give to you.  Ask what meaning you give to life!

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To centre our sense of self in our relationships

Feeling stuck?  Not looking forward to 2010?

From guru to psychologist, all the people who know about this sort of thing say the same thing.  Start close in.  Begin with everything and everybody right here in life with you now.

“Arrgh,” you say, “That is exactly what I am trying to get away from!”

Uh-uh.  You are trying to get away from the feelings of frustration, irritation and stuck-ness.  You simply need some places to push off against.

Ask some questions

This is what I want you to do ~ ask some questions.

  • Who is around me?  What is around me?
  • What does my relationship with [these things/people] want more of?
  • What’s working, and what should I be celebrate?
  • What would help create a sense of fun and ease in this relationship?

and . . .

The checklist where I found these questions is at WidgetWonder.  I just worked through the whole list checklist for reviewing 2009 and thinking about 2010.  It asks much deeper questions than most goal setting and life purpose blogs.

How we hold the conversation

It is how we hold the conversation.

Consider the space

  • The list helped me put my finger about what I will be doing to contribute to my relationships with others and allow them to be more enjoyable

Store away what is no longer needed

  • The list helped me put my finger on what I feel is ‘done and dusted’ and what I still need to resolve, one way or another. It was amazing how quickly I could resolve things once I had put things like that.

Include more people!

  • The list reminded me that all my plans for 2010 depend upon other people.   What support do I need?  How is this a community project?  The list helped me identify where I was trying to take 100% responsibility when the project is not my responsibility alone.  The responsibility is mutual.  Taking a step back and asking what support do we need to make this happen together has been an invaluable for me.

Clearing our minds for 2010

I strongly recommend you print out the list at Widgetwonder and work through it.

It will help you clear your mind, relax, and enjoy 2010 no matter what it brings.