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Month: January 2008

The best goal setting system in the world

Goal setting & wine

Seen at the Vesuvious Cafe 1t 139 3Colt Street in Canary Wharf in London. What brilliance! 13×4 = 52 weeks and 52 bottles of wine. Plan ahead and enjoy! A bottle of wine each weekend.

Goal setting in a bottle

I’ve been trying to distill (ferment?) the principles of this system.

1. It is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based).

2. It is also generative. You would set all this up a year in advance, buying the best wine. And placing in the right weeks depending on the season. And then you get to go down to the market on a Thursday evening or Saturday morning and buy fresh food to match the wine. It pulls you through to a better place.

3. It is expectant. Every week you have the pleasure of knowing that evening of cooking and eating is coming.

4. It is doable – not achievable. It is doable in a pleasurable way. Too many of these GTD systems are sweaty!

Is there something I am missing? And if you are in Canary Wharf, take a look. Have a coffee. They do English and Continental breakfasts. They have Italian wine for sale.

And they are nice.


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Update on Inpowr: the importance of daily diaries

So why do we need web 2.0 applications when an ordinary pencil and supermarket notebook will serve quite adequately as a diary?

This is my experience.

1. By now anyone in the positive psychology world knows the Lorenz ratio. You need 3 positive thoughts to 1 negative thought to function. 5:1 is good. 11:1 is too much – think intoxicated.

2. If you have one major bad event in a day – something important to you does not work well and you are grieving the sense of lost opportunity – the ripple effect through the rest of the day can be significant. Who is it, is it Seligman, who talks of the three P’s : persistent, personal and pervasive. If a setback blocks off a sense of opportunity and hope, yes, it feels persistent, personal and pervasive. You feel very blue.

3. Now here is where diaries and web2.o come in. If you keep a pencil and paper diary, you are likely to rehearse the bad event and the feeling that everything is going wrong. When you use Inpowr, first it reminds you to log in and record your day which you might not do, wisely, if it means writing down what went wrong; second, it effectively runs you through a checklist of your goals. It is very likely that everything else is going quite well, and certainly that your inputs into the bad situation were quite sound.

4. So what do you gain?

  • A prompt to spend some time reviewing your wider life rather than wallowing in the misery of one negative (though important event) and an easy to follow format so it is not laborious
  • Acknowledgment of what has gone well so that so that is factored in to your decision making and is not swamped by what went badly
  • Less self-blame. You are able to distinguish what you put in from how things turned out. And as you blame yourself less, you blame others less, I suppose because the issue is no longer blame. You are back in action mode and thinking about what to do next.

We were built for action and much of our sense of dignity comes from our sense that we are able to act and act appropriately.

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All the hype about positive psychology. Drill down to the essence. We must be real.

What is Positive Psychology all about?

Positive psychology is about us.  What we like to do, and are not even necessarily good at, what brings us alive, and what we contribute to the world through the interaction of our stories.

Understanding positive psychology through computer games

The internet and computer games help us understand the structure of positive psychology.  As games become more sophisticated, the game is not even designed (c.f. Second Life).

The (mis) maths of positive psychology

Even the maths of positive psychology is different.

Old school psychology is based on regression.  I have variable X (which becomes a strength when positive psychology is misapplied), and I have something of interest Y that takes place independently of X and at a later time.  We are lined up on X and Y to see who is better or worse.  And all we ask is whether we can predict who will be better or worse at time Y, with the information we have at time X.  This is all we are doing with the statistics we learn so painfully at uni.  Are the differences between you and me at this minute going to persist in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 days, etc.

Who cares, frankly?  It’s like people who predict the outcome of a cricket game rather than watch it. They’d do better to enjoy the game evolving ball by ball.  Better yet, they could take part with everything and have the real possibility of winning ~ and losing.

Understanding the maths of positive psychology

The new maths describes what is happening internally to one person (or group) and it understands that there will be several things happening and affecting each other (a recursive non-linear model).

So you spend some time thinking about the world. Then you spend some time reflecting.  Then you go back to reflecting about the world.

The point is we are vary our behavior all the time, and what we do at one minute is determined by what we did the previous minute and the reaction we got from the world and ourselves.  That’s obvious right.  Well, actually it is not built into standard psychology.

Happiness is simply being willing to engaged with this dynamic process of changing from minute to minute determined by who were a minute ago and the reaction from the world.

Positive psychology and story-telling

The strengths-based positive approach to undertanding psychology focuses on is our narrative.  We continually make sense of our lives and we are engaged in this to-and-fro business of making sense and taking action.  We like our stories and we do better when we are around people who like them too.  When we are ignored or our stories are deemed irrelevant, we sag.

Belonging is important.  I can study it with a questionnaire, true.  But I cannot make it happen with a questionnaire.

We need real people to listen to our narratives.  We need real people to like us.  And we need real people to like in return.

There are no guarantees either.  Real people may not listen.  They may not like us.  We may not like them.

But do we enjoy finding out?  Do we enjoy the adventure? What is it like to have the adventure?  What do our stories look like when we stop adventuring?  What happens to us when we stop adventuring?  Can we start again?  How would we start again?  How do 2 or more people adventure together?  How do our stories intertwine?

And most importantly of all?  How does the adventure of being a psychologist intertwine with the adventure of our clients?  Where are we going together?  When do we hear each other?  When do we like each other?

Oh, we must be real.  We must be real.

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We set out to be happy (or not)

The essence of the self-help movement is that we should decide to be happy.  Follow this link to the references that 40% of our happiness is what we intend.  We set out to have a good or bad time?  I haven’t read this yet, so I need to log on to Amazon and put this on my wish list.

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Happiness 101 at Harvard

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend Tal Ben-Shahar’s presentations in Scotland earlier this month, so I was delighted to find this link on the Happiness Institute to his appearance on a US talkshow.

UPDATE:  I believe Tal Ben-Shahar has moved to Penn Uni and is running an online course on happiness from there.

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The Desiderata

Positivism or positive psychology?

The words sound so similar yet have almost the opposite meanings.  This is the difference.

I’ll believe it when I see it or I will see it when I believe it.

I’ve been familiar with the Desiderata since I was a child (it was popularised by a pop singer in the sixties, wasn’t it?) and I have just re-read it.

Now I read the poetry of David Whyte, Otto Scharmer’s work on presencing, ideas of emergence behind The Legend of Bagger Vance, I see and hear a lot more in this well-quoted poem.

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Agenda for the 21st century: management & leadership

Is it leadership and management ~ or ~ leadership or management?

So many people believe that management and leadership are separate, even antagonistic, activities. But I still believe that the two go hand-in-hand.  Leadership requires good management.  It is important to understand how work is organized and to shape institutions so we can make work easier, more fun and more productive.

The strategic plan for positive psychology

I’ve just tracked back to Martin Seligman’s original plans to develop critical mass for positive psychology.  It is an excellent case study of organizational leadership.  This paper was published at the outset.  It describes the inputs, outputs and processes needed to create a successful institution.  We can see the results for ourselves.

Competent positive leadership is being called for on many fronts

I couldn’t help thinking of the parallels in the Executive Summary and Barack Obama’s speeches.

“Entering a new millennium, we face a historical choice. Left alone on the pinnacle of economic and political leadership, the United States can continue to increase its material wealth while ignoring the human needs of its people and that of the rest of the planet. Such a course is likely to lead to increasing selfishness, alienation between the more and the less fortunate, and eventually to chaos and despair.

At this juncture the social and behavioral sciences can play an enormously important role. They can articulate a vision of the good life that is empirically sound while being understandable and attractive. They can show what actions lead to well being, to positive individuals, and to flourishing community. Psychology should be able to help document what kind of families result in the healthiest children, what work environments support the greatest satisfaction among workers, what policies result in the strongest civic commitment.

Yet we have scant knowledge of what makes life worth living. Psychology has come to understand quite a bit about how people survive and endure under conditions of adversity. But we know very little about how normal people flourish under more benign conditions.  .  .”

We won’t get a positive world without positive competent management too

Positive psychology is our zeitgeist.  We want a more positive world.  That doesn’t mean a “happy clappy” world. It means a competent world where we address our differences vigorously, yet with thought and compassion.

Positive psychology is an example of positive competent management

The positive psychology movement is been a masterful piece of strategic management.  Study it to see the merging of leadership and management!

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29% using Appreciative Inquiry

Thanks to Jon Ingham, I had a look at a Melcrum report on employee engagement. 29% of employers who use a formal scheme to engage employees use appreciative inquiry. Well 29% of 25% is 8% – that is a lot of employers. That is the most welcome news of 2008.

Anyone else interested in this, particularly if you are in the UK, please do contact me.

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