What I learnt from the Dali Lama conference and why we should listen to Bon Jovi more!
Welcome to the September edition of the newsletter.
Last couple of months has seen me single handedly prop up Qantas share price, launch a new research project with Deakin University around understanding the psychology of transitions within HR professionals (detail on this later in the research section of the newsletter) and battle sleep deprivation with a new born baby in the house. Add to this I have become an ambassador for the White Ribbon foundation and we are progressing on the research looking at how the Third Space can be used to reduce the incidence of violence against women.
One of the most exciting things of late has been presenting at the Happiness and It’s Causes conference in Melbourne with the Dali Lama. After spending 3 days with the leading researchers from all over the globe here is what I learnt about happiness.
“You gotta love the fight!!”
Not to be confused with the teachings from those modern day philosophers ......Bon Jovi “You live for the fight when that’s all that you got!” Ohhhhh so profound!
The research shows that happiness is counterintuitive. Most people think happiness is lying in a hammock with a cocktail in your hand. However that is called ‘pleasure’, you should do it but it is not happiness. Authentic Happiness is where you have a challenge that is just outside your reach and you have to stretch and struggle to reach it. One of the key drivers’ of happiness is evolving and achieving, we love to see that we are getting better.
Unfortunately our society has been sold on this BS that things should be easy, we shouldn’t have to work for it and struggle is bad! Carol Dweck from Stanford has shown that the recent generations are exhibiting lower resilience because we have protected them from struggle. (My daughters playgroup where every surface is padded, even the floor, is one such example. Also I recently spent 15 minutes trying to explain to her what a splinter was. She couldn’t get her head around it.)
What are you most proud of?
Of late in my workshops I have been asking people to come up with what they are most proud of in their life. No one comes back and says “I watch TV like a legend! I can lie there for hours and hours and not move.” Or “I have been doing the same thing for 5 years, I have resisted cultural change .....”.
No! They come back and talk about the struggles they have overcome. Many of them shared examples of failure yet they were proud of the fact that they went down swinging. One woman talked about how the drug she sold had been taken off the list of drugs prescribed in a hospital without consultation. She said that she camped out in the hospital until someone would see her and in that meeting she managed to get it reinstated.
One example recently took my breath away. A woman told me how while pregnant with her daughter they discovered on the ultra sound that she had a profound heart defect. As soon as she was born they would have to operate. Their advice was to have a cesarean, but she realised that she would be under the effects of drugs and would be confined to the bed. She said to the doctors “No I will do a natural birth, and under no circumstance will I have any drugs.” She told me “I had to be alert in case any decisions had to be made or heaven forbid if she was not going to make it I would be able to hold her for the last moments of her life. I just knew I didn’t want anything to impede me.” After the 18 hours it took to birth her, the surgeons rushed her into surgery. I asked her what did you do? She said “I sat up poured a jug of ice cold water over my head to wake me up and chased behind them. A nurse grabbed me and said ‘you must stay in bed’. “I looked her in the eye’s and said ‘you really think you are going to stop me?”. She saw my resolve and said “how about I get you a wheel chair.” Her reflection was, “I am proud of my tenacity and strength.” Good news is that her daughter is an incredibly healthy eight year old. (Incidentally that is why you don’t mess with mum’s because they will take you out)
In the months of doing this exercise no ones examples have ever existed in their comfort zone. However in society struggle has become a dirty word. The problem here is that people who see struggle as a bad thing fall into a fixed mindset (Carol Dweck’s research). This is where they believe that intelligence and talents cannot change. You are as capable and as smart as you will ever be and that will not change until the day you die. In contrast people who embrace and seek out struggle believe that with effort you can increase your intelligence and capability.
When faced with a hard challenge, people with a fixed mindset give up, cheat or blame others. In contrast people with a growth mindset try harder in the face of adversity. One famous experiment gave children very difficult puzzles to solve. The children with fixed mindsets gave up and threw tantrums. As expected the kids with a growth mindset loved the puzzles. Some of the growth mindset children even asked to take some of the puzzles home so they could work on them because they were ‘fun’.
Do you see struggle as an opportunity to develop or as a sign you are not good enough?
Struggle makes us stretch, makes us evolve, makes us proud and ultimately makes us happy.
When faced with a struggle listen to the story you tell yourself, are you responding with a fixed mindset (struggle is bad and means I am not good enough) or a growth mindset (struggle is a chance to learn and develop my skills). Then ensure you talk back in a growth mindset.
Go forth and develop a love affair with struggle and if all else fails turn to Bon Jovi. As they say “When the world gets in my face, I say ‘Have a nice day’”.
Nice one Jon!!!