Week 2: Module 3: The 2nd sin, habit, and exercise
Week 2: Module 3: The 2nd sin, habit, and exercise
“The 2nd sin: Chasing superiority…Effects of chasing superiority on happiness…Flow is discovered…Characteristics of flow…When does flow happen…Why flow enhances happiness…Why flow enhances success…Getting flow back into your life…A practice for when things are not going well: Self-compassion…A practice for when things are going well: Gratitude…The 2nd happiness exercise: Expressing gratitude…Summary of week 2…”
A practice for when things are not going well: Self-compassion
A practice for when things are going well: Gratitude
The 2nd happiness exercise: Expressing gratitude
Summary of week 2
The 2nd sin: Chasing superiority
The second deadly happiness sin is something that most of us are culpable of committing and for very good reason.
I was really gratified to see that he was paying full attention to the teacher, trying to sing along with the teacher.
Although my son was paying a lot of attention and singing, it turned out he wasn’t the best singer in the whole group.
The teacher started paying more attention to this kid, smiling and nodding at him a little bit more.
He would look around at the other kids too, but he would longer just a little bit longer on Ben.
As for my son, he became progressively quieter, and in about a minute or so, he started horsing around like some of the other kids.
Still, the teacher’s preferential treatment of Ben had such a significant impact on him that he felt deflated enough to stop singing.
A big reason why we seek superiority is to get others’ approval, as the story that I just told you really epitomizes.
When stand first in class or win a race, everyone around us, our parents, our mentors, our teachers, etc.
They say things like I’m so proud of you, I really admire you, or I don’t know how you do it, you’re so talented.
You might know there is even a movie by that title, I Don’t Know How She Does It. So, it feels good to be admired by other people, and this is one reason why we seek superiority.
Over time, we learn to respect ourselves more, and like ourselves more, when we are superior to others.
In other words, the fact that our self-esteem is tethered to how much better or worse we are compared to other people is another reason why we seek superiority.
Now there’s a third reason why we seek superiority.
We all feel happy when we know that we’re doing something really, really well.
How can we know if we’re doing something really well? One way, and this might actually be the most common way, is by comparing ourselves to other people, and see how well we do something compared to that.
If we know that we run a hundred meters race faster than anyone else, let’s say in 13 seconds, we know that we are progressing toward mastery at running 100 meter races.
On the other hand, 13 seconds is really not that fast, and everybody else around us can run it in 12 seconds, then we know that we still have a little more ways to go in order to achieve mastery in that domain.
So if you are marooned on an island and you couldn’t compare yourself to other people on some dimension, you really couldn’t be as confident about whether you are progressing towards mastery at something or the other.
So comparing ourselves with others and knowing that we are superior to them is one of the most prominent and clear ways by which we know that we’re progressing towards this really important goal for us, the goal of mastery.
In addition to these three reasons why we seek superiority, there’s a fourth and a final one.
We seek superiority because of the desire for autonomy.
So it turns out that in addition to mastery and self esteem and others’ approval, autonomy is a big reason why we chase the need for superiority.
There are four different reasons why we seek superiority.
Given all these four goals, it’s no wonder, I think, that many of us don’t just seek superiority, we actually chase it, feverishly that too.
The question, of course, is what impact does chasing superiority have on our happiness levels? And that is the topic to which I will turn in the next video.
Effects of chasing superiority on happiness
In the last video I talked about how we are socially conditioned by teachers, parents, mentors, by media, etc, to seek superiority.
I also talked about how this desire for superiority is very powerful because it fulfills so many other needs.
The need for other’s approval, the need for self esteem, the need for mastery, and the need for autonomy.
In this video, I want to talk about the effects of chasing superiority on happiness.
What do you think? Does chasing superiority lower or do you think it enhances happiness levels? Good, thanks for answering the question.
As we will soon see, although the need for superiority can light up a fire under our backside and spur us to achieve things, it can also have a very big negative effect on our happiness levels.
Let me walk you through the main reasons why the need for superiority has a negative effect on happiness.
When you have a strong drive for superiority, you’re naturally going to compare yourself and compete with other people.
For example, if you have a strong need to be an attractive person, that is, you want to be superior in terms of looks.
You’re going to have to check out how attractive other people are, so that you know how attractive you are in comparison to them.
As Sonja Lyubomirsky notes in her excellent book, The How of Happiness, although social comparisons can sometimes be useful.
Pretty much, echoing what Professor Lyubominsky’s conclusion was about the effect of comparing yourself with others on your happiness levels.
>> Whenever you have a competitive orientation outside of competitive sports, which we play for fun, that’s not a road for happiness.
Stoll mentions one reason why social comparisons lowers happiness is because it separates you from other people.
A related reason why it is pernicious for happiness is because it leads to envy and envy is, as you might imagine, a big happiness killer.
Professor Lyubomirsky notes, again in the How of Happiness, that you can’t be envious and happy at the same time.
Another reason why we need, why the need for superiority lowers happiness levels is because of materialism.
Now, there’s a good reason to believe that those with a high need for superiority are likely to be materialistic.
Why? Because when you want to be superior to others, it’s easiest to compare yourself to others on materialistic dimensions.
Imagine that you’re a drummer, and you have a high need for superiority, you want to be the best drummer in the world.
In most domains, it’s difficult to figure out how to assess superiority, which is why we often have these huge arguments about who’s the best singer or painter, etc.
What would you do if you have a high need for superiority but you can’t compare yourself with others on talents or skills that matter to you because it’s difficult to do this comparison? You, of course, do the next best thing available to you.
That’s why the need for superiority is likely to make you materialistic.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the other reasons why materialism lowers happiness, you should check out this really neat book by Tim Castle called The High Price of Materialism.
When we move into a bigger house, or buy a fancier car, we feel happy, but this happiness doesn’t last that long.
We’ll need to move into an even bigger house or get an even fancier car to derive the same boost in happiness, and the story of course continues like that.
The point that he makes about how we so quickly adapt to things that we knew existed only ten seconds back, is a big reason why materialism lowers happiness.
So we’ve talked about why the need for superiority lowers happiness.
In addition to these two, there’s a third reason why the need for superiority makes us unhappy.
It’s because others like us less when we seek superiority.
When we chase superiority, we become more self-centered and we end up caring less for others and because of this, others naturally care less for us.
In all, there are at least three powerful reasons why chasing superiority lowers happiness levels.
Social comparisons which lowers happiness, you become materialistic which lowers happiness, and you also end up being disliked by others, which also lowers happiness.
If you want to be happy, it seems that you’re better off getting rid of the need for superiority.
How can you get rid of the need for superiority? Also, and this may be a question that is bothering you right now, particularly if you are from, let’s say, an MBA school.
What would happen to your chances of success if you got rid of the need for superiority? Those are the topics that I will be covering in the next few videos.
Is need for superiority important for success?
In the previous video, we talked about how chasing superiority has all these bad effects on happiness.
The reason they become uncomfortable is because they want to defend the need for superiority.
Now these are of course MBA students that I’m talking about here.
They feel uneasy when I tell them that they’re better off, from the point of view of happiness, in getting rid of the need for superiority.
Now, it’s not that these students disagree about all the ways in which chasing superiority deflates happiness levels.
Most of them understand that the pursuit of superiority is going to have a deflating effect on their happiness.
They’re concerned that if they get rid of the need for superiority, they may become failures in life.
Why? Because they feeling that it is the desire to be superior, the desire to be the best in the world at whatever they choose to do that fuels them, that like motivates that and energizes them to pursue achievements and success.
They know from personal experience, that they routinely used the need for superiority to motivate themselves to well in their studies or at work.
The question is does the need for superiority help us succeed? Or does it come in the way of our success? Most of us never really deeply examine this question.
We just assume that the need for superiority and a feverish desire for success is a very important determinant of the success.
What’s the actual relationship between the desire for superiority and success? On the one hand, there’s no doubt that the desire for superiority, the desire to be better than those around us, can make us try harder at something.
If you’re surrounded by other people in the gym, and you have the desire to look bigger and stronger than them, then you’re likely to not give up so easily.
Are you likely to make a better presentation when you have the desire to be the best presenter? Here, it’s not so clear.
Things like memorizing strings of digits, solving word puzzles, other kinds of spatial puzzles, even physical tasks like throwing a ball through a hoop.
Okay, they gave them these challenges, and they said to incentivize their performance, they gave them three levels of rewards, okay? So if you did pretty well, you got a small monetary reward.
As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected.
Once the task calls for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance.
Which is the higher the reward, the better the performance?
Small performance, low performance, two week’s salary, medium performance, about a month’s salary.
Well, what happened thought was that the people offered the medium reward did no better than the people offered the small reward?
For simple straightforward tasks, those kinds of incentives, if you do this then you get that.
When the task gets more complicated, when it requires some conceptual creative thinking those kinds of motivators demonstrably don’t work.
>> As you just saw, research has shown that people do not necessarily perform better and can in fact perform worse when they are given larger rewards.
The stress that the desire for superiority puts on you takes away some of your brain’s capacity.
I asked him what he thought would happen to my Course Setter’s course, this course that you are currently taking, if I made it my objective to beat his Course Setter’s course? As you may know, Dan offered a hugely popular Course Setter’s course called, A Beginners Guide to Irrational Behavior.
Let’s say this class, and let’s say Course Setter’s was a competition, which of course it’s not, but let’s say you thought of Course Setter’s as a competition.
If at the moment you’re in front of the camera and you’re recording something and you ask yourself there’s a part of it was saying how much better this is than other courses? That would probably not do well.
Course Setter’s you sit there in front of a camera, it’s hard to know, you don’t get any of the social cues about them understanding so, and it’s a harder mental exercise.
So if even 15% of your capacity is occupied by thinking about, how is this on the Course Setter’s a competition, it’s not going to do well for you.
>> As you just saw, Dan thinks that my desire to beat him may make me put in more effort and time into the animation and editing and things like that.
As far as my performance in making presentations is concerned, it will actually worsen it.
Since part of my brain’s capacity would be occupied by my desire to beat him.
If I wanted to box Dan, then I think my desire to beat him would not affect my performance, or other kinds of physical activity, like rowing or playing cricket.
In intellectual tasks, the need for superiority is almost definitely likely to lower your performance.
You may feel that your desire to perform better than other people actually makes you perform better.
You need to ask yourself whether it is your performance that improves under pressure, or is that you feel more motivated to work when you are under pressure. Because these are two very different things.
If you and I were promised that in a year from now we will do a task, and we will be offered either small bonus or very huge bonus.
Where does this leave us? To me, it suggests that if you’re able to find another way to motivate yourself to do work you’ll probably be better off getting rid of the need for superiority.
Since not only does it comes in the way of your success and intellectual task, it also lowers your happiness levels as we saw in the last video.
Flow is discovered
The need for superiority is not all bad. It does play a positive role in lighting a fire under our backside and motivating us to get things done.
Several people, including Lance Armstrong and Raj Rajaratnam have been spurred by the need for superiority to accomplish things.
If the only way in which the need for superiority is useful is that it goads us to get things done, but other than that it pretty much only has negative effects on everything else including happiness and success.
If we manage to do this successfully, not only would we get things done, we’d also be happier and more successful.
One of the main points that Frankel makes in his book, is that human beings are unique In that they cannot be happy unless their life is meaningful.
You may not be happy in terms of your creature comforts.
In the 1970s and 80s, another young gentleman named Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi put Frankel’s idea that to be happy your life needs to have meaning to detest.
In his best known studies, Csikszentmihalyi used something called the Experience Sampling Method to figure out when people are happiest and how doing something meaningful is so critical to happiness.
The war, the pager, and the little booklet.
The booklet had pages which asked you, each page set started with what time is it? Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What are you thinking? And then, after that, there were about 40 dimensions of experience they could check, like how well were you concentrating from zero to nine? How easy was it to concentrate, from zero to nine? How happy you were, how creative you felt etc.
A person wears this pager and booklet and at random moments of the day, eight times a day from early morning to 11 at night, two hour intervals roughly, but randomly, you would get the pager signaling, beeping.
When you heard the beep you take out a booklet and fill out the page.
At the end of the week you have about 56 signals that you responded to, and you can plot the person’s life during that week in terms of where he felt most creative, least creative, most happy, least happy.
As you just heard what Czikszentmihalyi did was to ask people to carry a booklet and a pager with them.
He programmed these pagers to go off at random times during the course of the next week.
Whenever the pager went off, the task of the participants was to take out the booklet and write down what they were doing and how happy they were doing it.
If you had been a participant in that study and your pager Went off right now, you would take home a booklet and write in it.
He wanted to find out what types of events or activities make people happy, and whether these events and activities were meaningful to people.
He went on to figure out some common features to the experiences that people from a variety of backgrounds, from artists and business people to scientists and laborers, find meaningful.
Characteristics of flow
How’s it flowing? Good to see you again.
He referred to these experiences as flow experiences.
Ask yourself, what comes to mind when you think of the word flow? Chances are, you think of a river, which has a quiet strength about it.
It turns out that in some sense that’s exactly how you feel when you experience flow.
You have a sense of clarity about what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get to achieve it and at the same time you don’t feel perturbed or disturbed when you’re confronted with obstacles.
Professor Csikszentmihalyi identified as many as six characteristics associated with flow experiences, but I’m going to cover only three of the main ones here.
The first feature of flow is a distorted perception of time.
Often when you’re experiencing flow, time seems to slow down.
Yet when the flow experience is over it seems that time has passed really fast.
Imagine that you’re playing tennis when you suddenly get into flow.
Because time seems to have slowed down, you feel like you have more time on your hands to execute your shots.
At the same time, although you’re moving faster and covering more ground than you normally would, you don’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted because your movements are more efficient and effective.
Time seems to be moving so slowly that you feel like you’re capable of dodging bullets and yet, here’s the paradoxical bit.
That’s the first feature of flow, a distorted perception of time.
The second feature of flow is a lack of self-consciousness.
When you are experiencing flow, you will be so absorbed in the activity that you will not have any excess capacity left over to evaluate or judge how you’re doing.
Why? Because when you’re in flow it takes up everything you have so you don’t have any excess capacity left over to observe and judge yourself.
It is only when the flow activity has ended or some kind of external trigger like the pager going off interrupts the flow that you would step back and say, wow, that was something.
This brings me to the third feature of the flow, which is something that actually flows from the other two.
Imagine that you’re climbing a mountain when you get into flow.
If you’re in flow you wouldn’t be focusing on that end goal.
So in flow moments your attention will be focused almost entirely on the present moment.
Flow moments are characterized by three important features.
Now, here’s the really interesting this about flow.
That’s not the only thing that’s beautiful about flow.
It turns out that not only are we all familiar with flow, to some extent at least.
There’s a way by which we can get into flow almost whenever we want to.
When does flow happen
In the last video, we talked about how flow has these three characteristics.
When are you likely to experience flow do you think? When your opponent is far better than you or when he is far worse than you? That is when you think you’re likely to be, as many people put it, in the zone.
Well, as it turns out, you’re not likely to experience flow when you opponent is far better or for worse.
Professor Csikszentmihalyi found that flow happens in this sweet spot between anxiety and boredom.
In other words, flow is most likely when your skill levels are matched by the skill levels of your opponent.
Flow is most likely when the opponent’s skill is just a little bit, ever so slightly higher than your own skills.
You’re most likely to experience flow when you’re playing against somebody who’s just about your level.
So flow happens when you’re stretched, but not by too much.
You can experience flow in chess, right now, by playing against somebody who’s just a little bit better than you are.
Not all situations in which there is a match between available and required ability provide equal flow.
Flow experiences at the bottom left-hand corner of the figure on your screen in which a low level of available ability is matched by an equally low level of required ability.
Given your low skill levels, you and your partner will probably hit the ball out of the court far too often for flow to last.
So whatever flow you experience will be disrupted by long intervals of non-flow.
Now, we’re really talking, right? At this high skill level, you’re likely to sustain flow for much longer durations.
At really high, exalted levels of flow, I’m talking here at the level at which say, Djokovic and Federer experience when they play against each other.
The flow would be so intense, that it would even draw the people watching you into your orbit.
I think people who get to experience these really high levels of flow are really lucky.
We all have a purpose in life, which is to nurture our inherent talents and experience flow.
So to step back, so far, I’ve talked about the characteristics of flow, and I’ve also talked about when, that is the conditions under which we are most likely to experience flow.
In the next video, I’m going to talk about why flow experiences enhance our happiness levels.
Why flow enhances happiness
I also talked about the difference between what might be called low flow and high flow.
In this video, I want to talk about why flow experiences enhance happiness levels.
As it turns out, there are at least three reasons for it.
Because as Professor Czikszentmihayi found, flow experiences are meaningful, and we find meaningful experiences to be enjoyable.
Here’s a video of a guy, street painter named D Westry.
That shows you just how enjoyable flow moments are in the moment.
All right so what is your talent? What will you are performing today? I’m a speed painter and I’m going to do a painting in a minute and a half or less.
Come on guys, we can figure this out.
They’re on their feet, D! As you can tell from the video, Westry was in flow.
That’s what happens to you when you’re in flow.
You’re constantly evolving and growing in new and unexpected ways, and finding new, creative, original ways to harness your talents.
That’s part of the reason why flow activities are so meaningful.
The second reason why flow enhances happiness has to do with charisma.
Let me explain why this is by showing you another video, this time of an artist that I’m sure many of you have heard, Susan Boyle, who is a participant in the 2009 edition of Britain’s Got Talent.
What’s your name darling? My name is Susan Boyle.
And why hasn’t it worked out so far, Susan? I’ve never been given the chance before but here’s hoping it’ll change Okay and who would you like to be successful as? Ellen Paige.
That’s part of the reason why everybody in the audience in the video you just saw including the judges were against her at the beginning, and yet by the end of her performance she had everybody eating out of her hands.
That’s what flow can do for you, when you are in flow, particularly high flow, you naturally become more charismatic.
In my classes I sometimes ask my students to rate Susan Boyle on attractiveness.
Turns out on average she gets a rating of 3.5 out of ten.
It turns out that when you rate her on attractiveness after watching the video, the average rating is over six on the ten point scale, a really big difference.
When I spoke to Professor Csikszentmihalyi recently, I asked him why is it that we like others who exhibit flow. Here’s what he said to me.
One advantage of flow is that it is not a zero sum game, you know? All the other rewards that we work for are zero sums.
The same thing with, most extrinsic rewards are zero sum, and so to be able to get enjoyment and meaning from flow means that you are not dependent on other people being worse off than you are.
As you say, you are allowing them to experience flow by, and flow can be contagious.
It seems that an important reason why people find you more attractive when you exhibit flow is because flow is not a finite resource.
Your flow doesn’t have to come at a cost of my flow.
If you pursue flow, people don’t feel as threatened.
They know that you can have your flow and they can have their own flow.
There are two big reasons why flow enhances happiness.
In the next video, I’m going to talk about another reason why flow enhances happiness.
Why flow enhances success
A few videos back, I showed you how the pursuit of superiority can lower your performance.
Amd still many of us feel that it is this need for superiority that is important.
Maybe even the most important determinate of success.
In reality, the single most important determinate of success is arguably whether you’ve had a critical mass of Flow-like experiences.
Specifically what research shows is that if you have had 10,000 hours or more of Flow-like experiences in a particular domain.
Look at anyone who’s a master at what he or she does.
In every domain, if you look at the really top performers.
You can rest assured that they’ve spent at least 10,000 hours involved in Flow-like experiences, doing their thing.
If the need for superiority alone were enough to lead to success, then Michael Jordan, who was famous for being highly competitive.
Two he hadn’t spent as much time mastering his baseball skills as he did mastering his basketball skills.
Or to be more precise, 10,000 hours or more of Flow.
As we saw earlier from Dan Ariely’s findings on how the pressure to perform lowers your performance.
The need for superiority is likely to come in the way of your success, rather than boost it.
I mentioned some time back that it doesn’t matter what the domain is you can be a master of it with 10,000 hours or more of Flow-like experiences, if you have an inherent talent in it.
Let me show you now a video of a master in a somewhat unusual domain, pick pocketing.
Is so skilled at pick pocketing, that he’s often called the world’s best pick pocket.
Now, do you have anything in your front pockets? Money.
If I give you something that belongs to me, this is just something I have, a poker chip.
Now you have your money in your front pocket here? Good.
I’m not going to actually put my hand in your pocket.
One time a guy had a hole in his pocket and that was rather traumatizing.
See, while we’re focused on the hand, it’s setting on your shoulder right now.
Put your hand up a little bit higher, but watch it closer, Joe.
See, if I did it slowly, it’d be back on your shoulder.
You had something inside your front pocket; do you remember what it was? Money? Check your pocket; see if it’s still there.
So if you’re really interested in big success for something, whatever it is, except perhaps drinking beer or being a couch potato.
You would be much better off figuring out how you are going to get to spend 10,000 hours or more in Flow-like states rather than in seeking superiority.
10,000 hours, by the way, translates roughly into ten years, so it’s not easy becoming a master at something but I think its well worth the effort.
Because mastery, as I mentioned in an earlier video, is one of our most important goals.
To summarize the discussion from the last video and this one, Flow enhances happiness levels for three reasons.
Second, we become more charismatic and likeable when we exhibit Flow.
Finally, Flow helps us progress towards mastery
Because Flow leads us to mastery, it not only enhances happiness levels, it also enhances our chances of success.
Because the best way to succeed at something is to master it.
The question of course is how you figure out what to be a master at.
The truth is we can’t be fully happy unless we experience Flow on a regular basis.
We can’t experience Flow on a regular basis unless we’re doing something that we find really enjoyable and challenging at the right level.
So in the next video, I’m going to give you some practical tips on how to get Flow back into your life.
Getting flow back into your life
In the last two videos, I discussed how flow is important for both happiness and for success.
Given how important it is for both, it’s a no-brainer that we should attempt to incorporate as much flow into our lives as possible.
This, in turn, means that we should try and get to experience flow at work, since we spend so much time, about half our waking life, at work.
Unfortunately very few people experience flow at work.
Most people recognize that this is a shame, and that the work that they do is meaningless and fulfilling is not a good thing.
Which is why, as Herminia Ibarra, author of a book called Working Identity, notes, so many of us dream of quitting our job one day and doing something more meaningful?
Or we have not spent enough time cultivating our skills, in order to experience flow on a regular basis, in any domain.
There are some things that you could do right away to get more flow into your life.
Otherwise, as we saw from our earlier discussions on when flow happens, you won’t experience flow.
Flow only happens when you’re stretching yourself
You know just how important it is in your life, so you can easily imagine how much more meaningful and enjoyable your life will be if you could get to experience flow at work as well.
If you aren’t currently experiencing flow at work, what can you do? I recently had the pleasure of talking to one of the most popular business school teachers in Austin, Texas, and actually all of the US. His name is Professor Steven Tomlinson.
Here’s what he said to me when I asked him, what advice he would have for someone who currently finds work to be unfulfilling and meaningless.
>> To find fulfillment in work, you want to take a step back and ask, what is work really about? At the level of finding, at the level of happiness and satisfaction.
If the job you have right now can’t use all of them, and then start to work with that job.
At some point they’ll either put you in another job, the people you’re working with, or you’ll get fired and you’ll be free to go find something else.
The second puzzle that we have to solve in career planning is, you’re not ever going to be happy if you’re trying to get recognition for yourself, if you’re piling up more stuff for yourself, more toys, more money, more praise, more whatever.
So these two things go together, looking outside yourself and doing what you’re good at, taking those gifts as your reliable source of inspiration.
>> So as you just heard, what Steven suggests is that the best way to get more flow into your work life is by doing two things.
This might take some courage and hard work, but it will definitely be worth it.
Ideally something that lies at their intersection is one way to get to experience meaning and flow at work.
Sir Ken Robinson calls the intersection of what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at your element.
As he argues, one of the best way to find fulfillment and meaning at work is by being in your element.
Doing the things that you’re not just good at but you also enjoy doing.
Of course, if you are like many of my students you may not have a good idea of what you enjoy doing or what you are good at for that matter.
There’s no real short cut to finding out what you’re good at.
As Herminia Ibarra suggests in her book Working Identity, perhaps the best thing you can do is to start with some self-experimentation.
I’m just picking accountant as a job, nothing against it, and that you find this job to be boring and meaningless, and you think that where you’re talent lies and what you would really enjoy doing owns a scuba diving shop.
Then you could spend, say, two to three hours every weekend finding out more about what it would be to own a scuba dive shop.
Over time, as you gain more experience working at the dive shop, you will discover whether you in fact have the skills required to run one, or it was just one of your daydreams and fantasies.
On the other hand, if you find that you do enjoy working at a dive shop and that you’re good at it your time spent volunteering will be well spent.
I could actually say a lot more on this topic of how to transition from your currently boring and meaningless job into something that you find meaningful and fulfilling.
One is Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra, which I mentioned some time back.
It’s as I mentioned in week one, tentatively titled, If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy? In it, I will not just cover the topic of finding your flow in more depth, but I will also be covering a lot of other topics that I don’t have the time to get into in this course.
If you want to know more about the difference between the two rights away, you can check out Professor Vallerand’s talk in the bibliography for this week’s lectures.
A practice for when things are not going well: Self-compassion
I discuss two main ways of getting to experience more flow, first, through hobbies and second, by transitioning to a job that you find to be more meaningful and fulfilling.
The practices are self compassion, for when things are going badly and gratitude when things are going well.
First let me turn to self compassion, which many of you may not be familiar with.
As Professor Kristen Neff, one of my colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin notes, we are often our worst enemies when we haven’t achieved as much as we wanted to or we haven’t behaved like we wanted to.
Here’s Professor Neff talking about this topic.
The way people talk to themselves is way more unkind and cruel than they would ever talk to a friend, and certainly no one they cared about, like their child.
As you just heard, Professor Neff finds that we’re often much harsher on ourselves than we are on other people.
One reason for this is because we feel that the negative self talk is going to motivate us to work harder and do better the next time.
In reality the negative self talk just gets us down and makes us feel miserable.
I recently had the opportunity to interview professor Kristin Neff about whether being self critical makes us perform better or worse.
That if they don’t use the whip, they’ll just be lazy and self indulgent and they won€™t try.
So in other words, not only does being self critical make us feel bad, it doesn’t make us more productive or successful either.
Professor Neff suggests that the way in which we should engage with ourselves when things are going badly, is by being self compassionate, but what exactly is self compassion? Here I’m going to let Professor Neff do the talking again.
The easy way to define self compassion is really treating yourself with the same kindness, and care, and concern that you’d show to a good friend.
Also really important with self compassion, it involves recognition of common humanity.
So self compassion involves recognizing that suffering and imperfection are part of the shared human condition, and that in fact every time we suffer, it’s really an opportunity to feel more connected with others
Then the third component of self compassion is mindfulness.
So those are really the three components, self kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
So as you just heard, self compassion has three components.
The question of course is how you practice self compassion.
Before I get to that, I think it is important to note that self compassion is not the same thing as self pity or self indulgence.
This is very important to note, because as you will hear Professor Neff saying, one of the big reasons why people aren’t as self compassionate as they should be is because they confuse it with self pity.
There’s a lot of, I would say, misconceptions or misgivings people have about self compassion, which are encouraged by the culture.
If people don’t really know what self compassion is, they may confuse it with self pity.
Of course, self compassion is life is difficult for everyone.
>> So now that we have a better understanding of what self compassion is and what it isn’t, let’s turn to how you can practice it.
Here’s Professor Kristin Neff one last time talking about how to practice self compassion.
A lot of people think they can’t be self compassionate, they don’t know how, but pretty much everyone has the experience of being compassionate to a friend, we actually know what to say.
That’s the easiest way to access self compassion, is to think, wow, if I had a close friend in this exact same situation who just failed and this happened, what would I say? And then try it out with yourself.
Then I would say on my website, things like self compassionate letter writing, kind of a similar process.
It’s turning out that it’s easier than you might think to raise people’s self compassion levels, which is encouraging.
So according to Professor Neff, one of the most effective ways to practice self compassion is by asking yourself what you would say to a good friend if he or she were in your shoes and then you say those very things to yourself.
Or an alternative is to pull out a letter pad, and write a letter to you that’s a self compassionate one.
As you just heard, Professor Neff finds that these types of strategies are amazingly effective, even if you feel that they wouldn’t work when you start out.
If you want to learn more about self-compassion, and what it can do for you, please go to Professor Neff’s website, which is www.
To summarize the discussion in this video, the healthy way to deal with failures and setbacks is not to get out the whip and start whipping yourself, and self flagellating.
When we engage in self compassion, we are less likely to stroke the need for superiority over other people.
Remember that as Professor Kristin Neff mentioned, a major part of self compassion is common humanity.
So self compassion connects us with other people, rather than separating us from them.
A practice for when things are going well: Gratitude
In the last video, I discussed how self-compassion can help mitigate the need for superiority.
Normally, most of us can’t help but feel a tinge of hubristic pride when this kind of thing happens.
Despite make us feel good in the moment, but in the long run, what it does is that it strengthens our need for superiority.
Now, if instead of patting yourself on the back and feeling this hubristic pride, or actually in addition to doing that, imagine that you do something else.
You could even think back in time of all those people who may have had, maybe just an indirect role to help you in your success.
When you realize that you could not have achieved what you did without the support of all these people in your life, what will happen is that you will naturally find yourself feeling a sense of gratitude for these people welling up inside of you.
You think of those who helped you in positive terms.
This, in turn, will make you feel a sense of connection with these people.
There are several studies that show that expressing gratitude strengthens social bonds and relationships.
One way to think of gratitude is that it acts as a bridge between hubristic pride and connection.
It takes you away from a self-centered positive emotion, the feeling of hubristic pride, to a more other-centered positive feeling, the feeling of love or connection.
In that process, it helps you mitigate the need for superiority.
That’s how gratitude helps mitigate the need for superiority.
That’s not the only reason why gratitude helps boost happiness levels.
It also helps in a number of other ways, which is why Professor Sonya Lyubomirsky calls gratitude a Meta strategy, meaning that it helps boost happiness in many ways.
This is why I’ve chosen expressing gratitude as the exercise for this week.
The 2nd happiness exercise: Expressing gratitude
You can go ahead and click on it and read it if you want.
We had them write down as much as they could about why this person was so important.
Now, a lot of them thought at this point the experiment was over, until we really put them on the spot, and tried to get them to call that person, and read what they wrote about them.
So who is that right person for you? >> Person is my sister Erica.
>> No, I’m on this little TV show and they told me to talk about the person that influenced me the most.
The person that influenced me the most would be my mother, Milo Dawson.
>> The person who has had the biggest impact on my life, outside Jesus Christ, who is responsible for my existence, was my college accounting instructor.
You are one of the most important people in my life.
And then they’re like here, you’re going to write this letter.
Then I wrote like this whole long ass letter which I don’t write, and then all of a sudden they’re like hey guess what, now we’re going to call her and you’re going to read her this letter, and I was like what the? [MUSIC] >> Before we let them go, we gave our subjects one more happiness test.
Now, for those who actually picked up the phone and personally expressed their gratitude, we saw increases between 4 and 19%. So either way, expressing your gratitude will make you a happier person.
You want to know something really interesting? The person who experienced the biggest jump in happiness was the least happy person who walked in the door.
I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to give you the instructions for what else? The Gratitude Exercise.
The exercise has seven steps which might seem like a lot but that’s only because we have broken down the three main steps in this exercise which are: thinking of someone to write your letter of gratitude to Writing and conveying the letter, and finally, writing about how you felt when you felt when you conveyed your gratitude letter to the recipient, into many, many steps.
You will be taken to the next page in which you will be asked to enter your first and last name, and your e-mail ID. After providing those details, click on the Get Started to Go to Step 01 button, which will take you to the first step of the exercise, watching the gratitude video by Soul Pancake.
If you have already seen the video, which of course, you have, click on the Go to Step 02 button at the bottom of the screen.
This person can be someone from any time in your life, your teacher, parent, mentor, friend, etc.
If you prefer to wrote your gratitude letter to someone who’s passed on, that’s fine, too.
Once you have thought of someone to write your letter to, enter their name on the website, and indicate whether the person is still alive or not.
Note that if you want to write your letter to someone who’s passed on, you will be asked to provide the name of someone else with whom you can share the letter.
If you want to write your gratitude letter to an uncle who’s passed on, you could read the letter to that uncle, son, or daughter.
Once you have done all this, click on the Go to the next step button on the bottom of the screen, which will lead you to step 3 of the exercise.
Now think of all the reasons why this person had a positive influence in your life, and then write down your thoughts in the space below.
Once you have listed all the reasons why the person you wish to thank had a positive influence on you, click on the I am Done- continue button, which will lead you to the next page, on which you can see all the reasons that you just typed up.
Using these reasons, write out your letter of gratitude.
Make your letter a relatively long one, but not too long.
Scan your letter to see if it contains something that could be interpreted negatively, and if so, consider removing or revising it.
Once you have written your letter, click on the Next button.
You will be able to see the letter that you just wrote.
If you’re satisfied with the letter you can click I am satisfied, go to the next step button.
Once you click on the Next button you will be taken to step 5 of the exercise, which involves choosing one of the three options for contacting the recipient of your gratitude letter, and conveying your letter to them.
That is, choose whether you want to meet or call the person and read out your letter to them, or email the letter to this person.
After you make a selection, click on the Next button.
Click on the Next button below once you have finished conveying your letter to its recipient.
Once you have conveyed your letter to the recipient, and that person has responded, and you’ve clicked the Next button, you will be asked to respond to two questions, which is step 6 of the exercise.
The two questions are who was the person who had a positive influence on you? Mention the name, relationship to you, and how did he or she influences you? After you have answered this question, click next to see question 2.
What did you feel at various stages of this project, when writing the letter, when conveying the information to him or her, or to the person who knew him or her, and when you were conversing with that person? Once you respond to this question, click on the Next button, which will take you to a screen where you can see and edit your responses if you wish.
If you are happy with your responses, go to the next page to download PDF. Of course, if you want to revise your responses, you can always do it by clicking on the Go back, I’d like to revise my answers.
Clicking on the Go to the next page to download PDF will take you to the last and the final step of the exercise.
With that, let me wish you goodbye for now, and see you next week, when I will be giving you the instructions for the third happiness exercise.
Summary of week 2
We started out with how the need for superiority is such a prevalent need, and how we are all socialized to seek it, even as kids.
As a result of being socialized to seek it, we internalize the need over time and therefore end up seeking it for our own sake, to boost our self-esteem.
The fact that the need for superiority helps fulfill so many different and important needs suggests that it is not a shallow need.
Here’s what she had to say about why we seek the need for superiority.
As you just heard from Kristina, the need for superiority, or the need for the status as she and some other researchers like Michael Marmot call it, is something that we’re hardwired to pursue.
So contrary to what some new aged spiritualists might have us believe, the need for superiority is not some shallow need that only with a really unusually big ego or unusually narcissistic tendencies.
That’s a shame because the need for superiority is not just a killer of happiness.
About the only thing that is good about the need for superiority, is that it can motivate us to get things done.
As we saw from the discussion of flow, we don’t really need the need for superiority to get motivated.
I ended the week by talking about how it’s important to, not just pulse your flow, but also to get rid of, or at least try and mitigate the need for superiority.
Self-compassion lowers the need for superiority by helping you recognize the ways by which you’re similar to, rather than different, from others.
The gratitude mitigates the need for superiority by taking you away from hubristic pride and towards love/connection.
As it turns out, gratitude enhances happiness, not just by helping you build and maintain relationships.
Many happiness researchers consider expressing gratitude to be one of the most powerful happiness boosters.
As I mentioned in the previous video, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky calls gratitude a Meta strategy, meaning that expressing gratitude works on many levels to enhance your happiness.
I recently asked Professor Lyubomirksy exactly why she calls gratitude a Meta strategy and here is what she had to say.
Why I call gratitude a Meta strategy in my book, The How of Happiness.
It is true, expressing gratitude has been found to be a really powerful strategy for making people happy you know lot’s of experiments both with kids and teenagers and adults have shown this, and there are a lot of reasons for it.
You know, we argue in my laboratory and we show that when you express gratitude you feel more connected to others.
Expressing gratitude also makes people feel sort of uplifted and elevated.
Gratitude also helps people reframe adversity to kind of think about negative events in a more positive light, to be grateful for what they have as opposed to focusing on what they don’t have, or what other people have.
Gratitude helps people also to sort of, as I said, appreciate what they have so they don’t adapt to the good things in their lives.
There are many reasons for why gratitude makes you happy.
As you just heard from Professor Lyubomirsky, there are many reasons why expressing gratitude boosts happiness levels, including that it lowers the desire to feed superior to others.
>> I’m confident that those who have completed the expressing gratitude exercise got to sample some of the benefits of this practice.
Please, share your experience with all of us by contributing to the discussion forum titled Expressing Gratitude Exercise.
Now, if you’re one of those who haven’t yet completed the gratitude exercise, because you feel awkward about thanking somebody, let me share something personal with you.
Even though I’ve been asking my students to do the gratitude exercise for several years now, I never got around to doing the exercise myself.
I actually wrote gratitude letters to my parents.
Having done it, I can definitely vouch at a personal level for the positive effects of expressing gratitude and happiness.
If instead of asking my son those questions the relative had asked did you have fun playing soccer, my son? The relative would have reinforced the need to find flow and enjoyment.
Steer them either in the direction of the need for superiority or in the direction of the need for flow.