Positive side of pessimism

December 10, 2013

… and now there’s some research on how pessimism can actually be good for you. Take a look at this article in The Third Metric (Huff Post): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/09/pessimism-health-benefits_n_4392525.html?utm_hp_ref=tw#! Bah! Humbug!

Money = Happiness!

July 2, 2013

It seems that money can buy happiness but only if you spend it in the right way. In their new book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton lay out the five principles for turning cash into pleasure:

  • Buy experiences. Activities like concerts, days out and vacations are more satisfying than buying objects.
  • Make it a luxury. Only have your favourite things occasionally, that way you will continue to enjoy them.
  • Buy time. Extra time and the freedom to do what you want are more satisfying than money.
  • Delay gratification. Having to wait will make you appreciate things more, so buy now and experience later.
  • Treat others. Spending money on other people makes us happier than spending it on ourselves.

What’s this got to do with business? To pick one of the above – Make it a luxury – this can be used to shape behaviour by using the power of scarcity. People are programmed to want things more if there is limited availability (the power of ‘sales’); and if it’s memorable, which can of course be enhanced by having to wait (the power of anticipation)…

Book: Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton (Simon & Schuster, 2013)

Talk: Great presentation by Michael Norton:

If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will!

June 29, 2012

Do you say ‘Yes’ when you should say ‘No’… We all do it, but why? Read Greg McKeown’s article:


Paradox of choice

May 31, 2012

On why less is more… Psychologist Barry Schwartz (the one wearing the shorts) takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. Try this great TED talk:


Learn to love your co-workers through smiley power

November 13, 2010

Here’s something I’ve only just discovered, the Smiley Face was designed in 1963 as part of a PR campaign to calm things down after a particularly bad-tempered merger between two insurance companies.  The creator was Harvey Richard Ball who as we now know hit on a design classic. From its earliest days it became a universal symbol of friendship, peace, happiness and harmony. In fact it’s such a well-recognised symbol that its become an emoticon :)

What does this tell us? Don’t underestimate the power of strong visual imagery, even in places where you would not expect it to have an effect. Sometimes things that are ‘simply done’ and ‘simply understood’ (Richard Ball) can change attitudes, but in a subtle, unconscious way. Just what’s needed when people are out of their comfort zone, or in the case of the companies mentioned earlier, when significant change is afoot.

(R) The Smiley Face is a registered trademark of Franklin Loufrani/Smiley World in the UK and Europe, and of the World Smile Corporation in the US.

Happily self-deluded or on to a good thing?

November 8, 2010

Have you noticed that we often think those who appear to be blissfully happy are somehow foolish or just plain naïve? Well, interestingly, there is some evidence to support the view that negative (‘glass half empty”) thinking lends itself to more accurate decisions, and that being too optimistic (“glass half full”) can lead to the miscalculation of potential risks – so perhaps there is something in it. But not much! Because there is actually far more evidence in favour of optimism – or happiness – being the catalyst for success at work, improved physical health, and better and more fulfilling relationships. So it looks like the happy folk really are on to a winner! Mental note to self: be less grumpy.

Want some evidence? Try: Lyubomirsky, S., King, L.A. & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.

Photo credit: Margolove.

Psychometrics and strength-based testing

September 12, 2010

If you’re on top of your positive psychology you will know that there’s a movement to look at what people enjoy doing, rather than what they’re good at. Not a bad idea because what you like (to do) and what you do are not necessarily the same thing. And we’ve all met people who are perfectly competent but not performing at their best. Thus it’s all quite reasonable that if someone uses their real strengths at work, those that engage enjoyment and competence, they will actually be at their best, work harder, work smarter etc. If you’re interested you’ll find more information on Martin Seligman’s website:



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