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1-250-514-8459 tamara@posminds.com
Why Worry is the Biggest Time Waste Ever (and how to stop)

Why Worry is the Biggest Time Waste Ever (and how to stop)

Unlike many things in the positive psychology realm, worry is quite easy to define. Worry is a chain of negative thoughts about the same or different topics that can have negative consequences for you in the future if a solution is not reached. Worrying is future thinking worst-case scenario planning and it leads to catastrophic levels of anxiety.
It’s the “what if” thoughts that suck us into worry and anxiety. We’re allowing our imagination to become unleashed and creating multiple bad scenarios of what might happen. When my children were little the only rule we regularly followed in our home was no “what if” questions.
“What if” questions are fine if you are using them to create a plan. For example, if you think “what if my car breaks down and I don’t have anybody to call” then you make the plan of buying roadside assistance your what if was useful. It leads you to productive problem-solving.
When worry isn’t helpful is when it escalates to crisis mongering, a term psychologists have coined to describe worrying that keeps spiraling out of control without stopping. It the “what if I am all alone in my car breaks down and nobody comes and it’s cold and there’s a snowstorm and my phone dies” sort of thinking that is not at all helpful in resolving potential future problems or obstacles.
Worry comes from fear. Psychologist Susan Jeffers teaches 5 truths about fear.
1) fear accompanies growth
2) action is the way out of fear
3) every time you move past fear you get greater self-confidence
4) you are not the only one who gets scared
5)  pushing through fear is less frightening over the long run than the feeling of helplessness that accompanies inaction
Worrying about the future doesn’t help you to be a better problem solver, in fact, it induces that fight or flight stress state and impairs your rational thinking.
There’s always an exception to the rule and this exception is when you are in an immediate life-threatening short-term situation. If I’m going to step out onto a busy street when worry kicks in and says maybe I shouldn’t do that without looking both ways, it is useful.

For Kids

According to Lynn Lyons; child anxiety expert, one big problem that happens when children don’t learn how to deal with their worry is it predicts anxiety and depression later in life. In general children today seem to have the ability to cope with more stress than any previous generation. The fact they are coping so well leads parents and educators to think that a child is doing fine when, in fact, they are on the edge of overwhelm. What can adults do to help?
  • stop the use of words that catastrophize like always, never, nobody, and everybody
  • allow them to take a movement breaks-the flood of stress chemicals that your brain sends out when your body is worried make it really hard to think to act well and to make good decisions so encourage a little shake it off moment helps
  • model appropriate stress responses by saying “I’m feeling stressed- let’s take a break” or “this is hard, let’s take a couple of deep breaths before we continue”
  • take a mindful moment– mindfulness and meditation directly counteract all the physical stress responses

At Work

What about at work there are some things that do deserve a little worry?
  • designate a time- a limited duration where you actually give yourself permission to worry but when it’s over it’s over you need to stop
  • hire a lawyer (not literally) but imagine you were presenting your worry case to a judge. Play the role of the opposition and see what the other side would say. Allow yourself to play devil’s advocate to your own worry system and maybe, in the end, it won’t seem like you’ve got so much to worry about
  • if you can’t worry less, worry more- waaay more. Make your worst-case scenario absolutely ridiculous. Allow that snowball of worries to keep going until it’s so big that it’s obvious it’s not real- it’s all in your head

I come from a long line of worriers. If worrying was a sport my family would have some gold medals! The thing is, worriers sometimes feel like their worry on your behalf is useful (it isn’t). They also think that a caring person should worry about others (they shouldn’t). Your worry is zapping your joy and limiting your ability to engage in life. Every moment you are worried about the future you are missing whatever is happening in the present. I often equate worrying to paying the interest before you have the loan. Decide it’s time to stop worrying. you’ll thank yourself!

If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. ~Don Herold

 

How Do You Know If You Work For a Positive Organization?

How Do You Know If You Work For a Positive Organization?

A positive work environment is one where employees feel good about coming to work and have motivation that sustains them throughout the workday. What they do matters. And more importantly, it matters that they are the ones doing the work. With the new emphasis on work/life balance (thanks Millenials!) a juggling act between fulfilling the personal needs of employees and getting the job done can be an organization’s key challenge.
Positive psychology differentiates two types of positive work environments showing that not all positves are equal. The first uses positive organizational behavior;  where the environment is organization driven to increase well-being with a goal of getting the best out of employees for the benefit of the workplace. The second is called positive organizational scholarship and although this title might lead you to believe its’ focus is the study of positivity, it’s actually about getting the best out of an organization for the benefit of the employees. This well-being model recognizes that employees aren’t stupid- they can see the difference between a boss who really wants them to be healthy and one who doesn’t want the production decline that accompanies sick days.
The resources in any office can be broken into the physical, the psychological/social, or organizational aspects. Every type of employee training will fall into a category of:
  • being functional in achieving work goals
  • reducing job demands and associated physiological and psychological costs
  •  stimulating personal growth and development
Although the third option speaks more about an individual than a worker we know that individuals with higher levels of well-being and positivity are more productive, creative, workers who miss less time due to work-related stress and burnout and are more productive.
A positive organization isn’t only training you in the hard skills (impact work productivity directly like training on a new software program) but also on the soft skills,  interpersonal skills which affect the morale of the organization.
Looking at an individual workers’ strengths specifically through the lens of the VIA classification of character strengths we know that individuals who cultivate their strengths are happier and more successful than those whose primary focus is improving areas of weakness.
In business,team leaders, managers, or coaches with specialized training can be deployed to help cultivate strengths. Once the strengths have been cultivated it leads to four key qualities:
  •  self-efficacy
  • optimism
  • hope
  • resilience
A strengths focused worker has confidence to take on the roles they need and to succeed at challenging tasks. They make positive contributions toward goals, they persevere, and even when setbacks occur they bounce back and work with resilience to attain success.

We know from thought leaders like Simon Sinek and this TED talk, that aligning with purpose is important. If you can’t get a member of your team to see their role as important and meaningful it’s hard to keep them engaged.

Sinek’s talk led to much conversation about whether you’re at a job (making money without connection to a personal sense of meaning), a career (a route to achievement),  or a calling ( intrinsically fulfilling).

Mental wellness comes from a harmonious relationship between one’s work identity and the other identities you choose. An animal rights activist couldn’t work for a pharmaceutical company who tests on lab animals. In an ideal world we would all do jobs that incite curiosity,  have us spending  time in a state of engagement or flow and that reward us both intrinsically and financially.

Want to know if your work is truly positive? Try this psychometric scale called the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale.

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The Danger of Confusing Empathy or Sympathy with Compassion

The Danger of Confusing Empathy or Sympathy with Compassion

We’re hearing more about the positive traits of empathy and compassion. Emotional intelligence is becoming more important than other intelligences (like IQ) at school at work and in life.  In past generations these two words might both have fallen into the category of sympathy but empathy, sympathy, and compassion are not words that can be used interchangeably and one of these three is more powerful than the other two.
Empathy refers to feeling what another person is feeling. Sympathy means you understand what the other person is feeling even without feeling it yourself. Compassion means your feelings have prompted you to take action to relieve the suffering of another person.
Scientists have shown that mirror neurons, a part of the brain whose specific job is to have us mirror what’s happening with someone else, play a big role in both empathy and compassion. When you see someone smile these neurons prompt you to smile back. When you witness someone in pain it can cause you the same type of pain too. Having empathy is your ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. Sympathy happens when you may not on a visceral level experience the sadness or pain that someone else is feeling but on the cognitive level you understand the feelings of another. I’m not sad when my friend’s old dog passes away but I can understand that my friend feels sadness.  Both empathy and sympathy are more about the person experiencing them than they are about the person who sparked the empathy or sympathy.
Compassion on the other hand comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer with”. When you are compassionate you are able to be aware of another’s suffering you have sympathetic concern to the level that you have been emotionally moved by their suffering then you wish to relieve that suffering and you act somehow in a way that is helpful.
Mathieu Richard, a  french Buddhist monk says “compassion is unconditional love applied to the suffering of others”. His belief is that compassion has a powerful ability to heal; both to the one giving and to the receiver.
An important distinction between empathy and compassion is the effect on your personal well-being. Empathy and sympathy are both self-oriented. They say “I’m hurt too” and have you join the suffering or acknowledge that you see the suffering. Interestingly, research is showing that narcissists may have deficit in their mirror neuron receptors. Not only are they unable to mirror the emotional experience of another but they exhibit frustration when someone doesn’t mirror their emotional state. This is been referred to as a narcissistic rage. Of course very few people are diagnosably narcissistic but it seems empathy and sympathy are more about the individual wanting to be seen as a kind and understanding person than they are about  actually being kind and understanding. Empathy and sympathy alone are not enough. Empathy pulls you down where compassion lifts you.
Experiencing empathetic burnout or empathy fatigue is common among people who spend their lives caring for others such as nurses or first responders.  In the United States, a study has shown that 60% of the medical profession suffers or has suffered from burnout, and that a third has been affected to the point of having to suspend their activities temporarily.By the prolonged experience of feeling what others feel they actually burn out and become more anxious, depressed and stressed out.  Compassion on the other hand doesn’t burn you out it, lifts you up.
Research shows that compassion and empathy take place in different parts of the brain and that by turning your empathy into compassion you can fight empathetic distress. The key difference lies in what you do after feeling the feelings evoked by mirror neurons. If you act, you lift yourself and others. If you get stuck in the emotion without positive action, you pull yourself down. The Greater Good Science Center has a quiz to measure how empathetic you are. I suggest you take it to see how much you are recognizing the emotions of others. The second and more important part is turning that empathy into compassion through useful action. See the bottom of the article for tips on how to do this.
Set up a free account to save your quiz scores and track your progress over time.

Change Your Empathy and Sympathy into Compassion

1. Notice the feelings

2. Ask yourself how you can help. This doesn’t mean changing everything. What small step could you take to make the situation better?

3. Take action while staying in touch with your emotional barometer. If you are too emotionally overwhelmed start with a loving kindness meditation. This type of meditation is proven to increase well-being while decreasing empathetic fatigue.

 

If you’ve moved from empathy to compassion, I’d love to hear how you did it and what the results were. By sharing your story you inspire others to make positive change.

Don’t Mess With Happiness- What Happens When the World’s Top Positive Education Experts Meet in Texas?

Don’t Mess With Happiness- What Happens When the World’s Top Positive Education Experts Meet in Texas?

Imagine what can happen when you bring together 1200 stakeholders in the positive education field including academics, educators, students, parents, lawyers, policy-makers, and psychologists all with the common purpose of making a quantum leap in the ways positive education impacts academics and well-being globally.

The World Positive Education Accelerator is an IPEN event that just might change the world! With so many mike-drops it was difficult to choose but here are my top 10 aha moments from this four day appreciative inquiry summit.

1. “We are expecting our children to change the world and we aren’t giving them the skills to do it.” Champlain University President Don Laackman discussed how a radically pragmatic approach is needed in rethinking  how we educate.  To make our world a place, where children and learners of all ages can thrive, he suggested that connecting professional success with life’s purpose was one of the keys.

2. “We need to change our deficit oriented way of looking at the mental health of students.” In her keynote Lea Waters suggested  parents and educators need help to see and build strengths in children. When this happens it protects children against depression and anxiety, it increases self-confidence and life satisfaction, it buffers stress and anxiety, and it enhances self-efficacy. She included a reminder that it is our responsibility to educate not just children but also their parents about the strength-based approach.

3. “!t’s happiness stupid!” was Sir Anthony Seldon‘s  reminder to us to distinguish happiness from pleasure. Selden discussed the fourth education revolution pointing out that under the factory model of school we are not interested in who children are. that we are stronger together when we embrace the unknown, when we say goodbye to our binary ways of thinking, and when we get out of our own ways,

4. “Well-being is skill-based and learnable” according to Alejandro Adler. Investing in teacher well-being creates classrooms with a system of well-being which translates to advanced academic well-being, more pro-social behavior, and better health. His reminder that this begins with the educator was a key point.

5. “Optimism is the belief that our actions matteraccording to Amy Blankson who spoke on the intersection of education and technology. Blankson implored us to become balanced technology users learning to love technology and live with it not to escape from it. Recognizing that the average smartphone user checks 150 times a day is the first step, the is second putting the phone away. She shared that the mere presence of a phone is a happiness zapper. The power of a potential dopamine hit keeps us addicted and distracted while our brain is partially focused on the task at hand and partially waiting for additional content that is released every time we see notifications on our phone. This reward system is highly addictive we need to delete the temptations minimize notifications .
She reminded us with a great visual but our concerns are not new they are just different her for rules embrace a growth mindset about technology minimize distracting technology teach self-awareness set healthy boundaries to gather invisible boundaries until kids can self regulate

6. ” I believe wealth is not meant to create more wealth. Wealth is meant to create well-being.” Martin Seligman asked us to think about what are we going to do with human prosperity? Together Seligman and David Cooperrider envisioned new opportunities and possibilities for accelerating positive education.

7. “The best person in the class to up the connection of curiosity is the student” according to Angela Duckworth who has launched a character lab at UPenn designed to help use psychological sciences to help people thrive. She uses the heart, mind, will. method of seeing strengths.

  • heart to give to and receive from others
  • mind to think imagining create
  • will to achieve your goals through optimism growth mindset and grit

Her lab hopes to answer the question is character born or earned? Using the science of goal-setting to help increase your results, Duckworth suggests her WOOP model in creating a path to a goal:

  1. wish for something
  2. identify and imagine outcomes
  3. identify and imagine obstacles
  4. form a plan

8. “Progress not perfection”  says David Cooperrider who compared planning to a jazz improvisation.  Cooperrider said the world of leadership design is about legacy; it’s not just crazy creative it’s also detailed execution.  To avoid constraints or see opportunities and to get more creative using the core question “how might we…?” to begin a conversation designed to creatively solve the problems of the world. He also sees a need to remove the barriers that keep students from moving forward and staying curious and joyful.

9. “The heliotropic principle reminds us that we move towards things that give us life” we need to activate the motivation of our children said Jacklyn Wong. Speaking from her personal experience of using positive education to transform Singapore as a city. “It’s the essence not the architecture that’s the difference between a house and a home. ” Wong is one of the keys to changing the way an organization uses positive psychology to give leaders, teams and individuals the tools-the house, but they need to make it a home themselves.

10. “To prepare young people for a changing world, we need to support them in their self-discovery and awareness and increase their empathy.” President of Universidad Tecmilenio, Hector Escamilla spoke passionately about 29 campuses across Mexico who redesigned their process to start from purpose. When education is connected to what matters to a student they go farther faster.