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Monday, February 27, 2012

Flourish: Post #13 - Optimism

The Biology of Optimism
a. Positive psychology is not just the absence of disease but the active presence of positive emotion (joy, gratitude, generosity, hope).
b. Learned helplessness—experiments with animals (translated to humans) demonstrate that when people are placed in a situation of stress that they can’t change, they just accept it and do nothing. They “learn to be helpless” and beome victims. Others who are more resilient fight back and get to a better place.
c. State of Mastery—opposite of helplessness—can it make a difference? Deaths of mice nearly 3 times among those who had learned helplessness vs. those who developed mastery.
d. In experiments, 1/3 of people did not become helpless, despite inescapable noise or shock. Those were the Optimists—things would get better. They ultimately controlled their lives.
e. Cardiovascular disease: Optimists’ CVD was 23% of pessimists; pessimism more common among cancer victims—a risk factor.
f. Why optimists fare better: 1) They’re actively trying, whereas pessimists become victims of learned helplessness; 2) Social support—optimists surround themselves with friends, whereas pessimists often isolate themselves; 3) Biology—pessimists quit sooner and experience more stress. Adrenalin and cortisol both damage the immune system when constantly secreted.
g. Optimism and marriage: When your spouse thinks more highly of you (in kindness, being funny, attractive, smart, etc.) than other close friends do, you’re likely to have a strong marriage. Why? Because it’s likely that you know about your spouse’s “benign illusion” and try to live up to it! Optimism helps a marriage; pessimism hurts it.

Flourish: Post #13 - Resilience

Master Resilience Training
a. The U. of Penn team analogized that if teachers could be the cultivators of flourishing in schools, then the Army’s teachers could do the same. Those “teachers” are Drill Sergeants! Teach three aspects: Mental toughness, building strengths, and building strong relationships.
b. Mental Toughness: Overcoming mental traps, like overgeneralization. One guy makes a mistake early on, so he’s labeled a “mess.” Then the assumptions color how you regard him and translate his actions. Icebergs (like “men don’t cry”) are deeply imbedded beliefs that hurt us. Minimize catastrophic thinking—“If we don’t do this, the company will implode.” “Hunt the Good Stuff” is an approach to overcome these traps—change your thinking, change your attitude, change your life. An attitude of gratitude points us in a new direction, a positive one.
c. Building Strengths: We all have strengths and challenges. Key is to work on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Nobody ever got successful by just overcoming a weakness but by figuring it out so his or her strengths could be employed regularly toward the problem. But also be careful not to overuse your strengths that can become “shadows” and hurt you. For example, concentration is good, but obsession can be limiting.
d. Build Strong Relationships: Active and constructive responses to people build your relationships. Specific praise and sincere questions show them you’re very interested. Assertive communication: 1) identify the problem; 2) describe it accurately; 3) express concerns; 4) ask the other person for his/her perspective; 5) list benefits when change is implemented.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flourish: Post #12 - PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Growth [Tedeschi (UNCC) and McNally (Harvard)]
a. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) has become far better known during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars due largely to the violent outbreaks of soldiers after returning from harm’s way. It’s apparent that the scars of the battlefield linger on after the physical wounds heal.
b. Studies of Vietnam prisoners of war show that 61% actually grew from the experience. Witness Senator John McCain, whose relentless torture and eventual survival and thriving are now well documented. The basis of this model is teaching soldiers how to assess what happened to them, anxiety reduction, self disclosure, and creating a trauma narrative to help them realize what helped them succeed and will help them going forward.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flourish: Post #11 - Army and Positive Psch.

Big Brains enter to help out the Army’s Online Curriculum Ken Pargament (Bowling Green) and Pat Sweeney for spiritual fitness
a. Emotional Fitness (Barbara Frederickson/UNC) centers around focusing on positive emotions like joy, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, accomplishment, etc. The effect of recognizing these builds a filter to see the world as broadening your perception and building your capacity as a direct adjunct. Also, the Losada line of 3:1 positive interactions is taught as a centerpiece.
b. Family Fitness (John and Julie Gottman/emeritus, U. of Washington) focuses on high ratios of positive-to-negative interactions in a marriage. Gottman suggests levels of 5:1. This module of the online program hones in on developing and maintaining trust, friendship, intimacy; managing stress; soothing a partner; and, avoiding escalation of conflict and managing it.
c. Social Fitness (John Cacioppo/U. of Chicago) teaches the importance of understanding social resilience—how our connections with others can protect us from anxiety, anger, and especially depression and loneliness. He offers that loneliness is easy to slip into but it causes grave injury to us, even at the cellular level. As humans, we reach our potential and protect ourselves from “enemies” by becoming socially cohesive. He also notes that optimistic people and teams fare much better than their pessimistic brethren.
d. Spiritual Fitness [Pargament (Bowling Green) and Sweeney]: The Army determined that spiritual fitness made for more moral and ethical decisions, coupled with greater well-being that resulted in more stable marriages, less drug abuse, and less mental illness.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Flourish: Post #10 - Military & Pos. Psychology

The Military and Positive Psychology
a. Soldiers have had multiple tours in war—“an era of persistent conflict”— that have caused alarming rates of depression, anxiety, anger and suicide. The Army hired M. Seligman and his team to stop the upward negative cycle.
b. Rather than simply treat the big three—depression, anxiety, and anger—Seligman worked to focus on the well-being of soldiers (boosting levels of positivity) and its effect on their lives.
c. He also moved the locus of education to resilience (bounce back rates) and moved from the medical (psychiatric) arena to training to remove any stigma to soldiers.
d. Designed the Global Assessment Tool (GAT) to measure soldiers’ emotional, social, family and spiritual fitness. Soldiers take GAT and then focus on areas of need.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flourish: Post #8 - Education

Teaching Positivity in Education
a. Exercises around the Values in Action Signature Strengths. Students write about when they’re at their best. Then compare stories to their VIA Strengths and see a correlation.
b. Write gratitude letters to parents. Keep gratitude journals and three-blessings journals to focus on positivity.
c. Focus on generosity and its effects on the giver.
d. Imbed in your curriculum: From negative (a time you failed) to positive (a time you succeeded). Readings, speeches, papers more focused around positivity than negativity change the climate over time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flourish: Post #8 - Teaching Positive Psychology

Teaching Positive Psychology
a. The Problem: What parents want for their kids: happiness, contentment, health, balance. What schools teach: thinking skills, literacy, math. Depression is epidemic in kids—10 times what it was 50 years ago and starting younger and younger (first onset below 15 years old).
b. Development of the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP)—a program designed to teach students to “handle day-to-day problems that are common in adolescence.” Research basis: 1) diverse samples racially and ethnically; 2) variety of leaders (teachers, counselors); 3) independently evaluated by outside organizations for validity and reliability.
c. Results of PRP: reduces hopelessness, prevents clinical depression, reduces and prevents anxiety, discipline problems.
d. PRP Builds Character Strengths: PERMA.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flourish: Post #7 - Coaching

Positive Psychology and Coaching
a. Positive Psychology can help Coaching
1. A scientific, evidence-based grounding—with a proper scope of practice as well as reliable processes, interventions, and measurements.
2. A set of proper credentials to exercise professional standards.
b. Transformation in Coaching
1. A Coaching Theory: Using P-E-R-M-A. This approach adds structure to the practice of coaching.
2. Positive Psychology is grounded in research (longitudinal, random assignment, placebo-controlled, etc.), giving coaching a bedrock foundation on which to build, focus and limit scope.
3. This scientific basis and trained coaching technique can provide adequate guidelines for the future of coaching.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Flourish: Post #6 - Experimental and Applied

Positive Psychology: Experimental vs. Applied
a. Work, Love, Play. I loved this reference in the book. “It’s what life’s all about.”
b. In 1946 experimental psychologists “decided” to eschew applied psychology in favor of experimental—to mimic the other “hard “ sciences. That was a mistake, according to Seligman, because it left out such an important aspect of the science—namely its use with patients.
c. Building a program at U. Penn, the author used several approaches
a. Barbara Frederickson’s “Broaden and Build” theory which focuses on positive emotions (joy, optimism, hope) that give us a broader, more open outlook—thus more room to build creativity available in the prefrontal cortex to solve problems.
b. The Losoda Line: the now well-known 3:1 ratio—positive-to-negative interactions for working teams. (Note: the ratio is higher for interpersonal interactions, especially in marriages—5:1).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flourish: Post #5 - Negativity

Dealing with Negativity
a. Personality traits are highly heritable. So if your parents had one of the big three—anger, sadness or anxiety—the chances are that you’ll inherit that trait to one degree or another. The good news: You can deal with it.
1. Most therapies get clients to only 65% cure rates, at best.
2. But a combination of therapy, medication and especially adding positive psychology to the mix bumps up the chances for a better life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flourish: Post #4 - Active Constructive

Active Constructive Responding: Shelly Gable, professor at UC Santa Barbara, has found that how we celebrate good things in a relationship is every bit as important as learning how to disagree. There are four ways to respond to information from someone. As often as possible your focus should be as an Active and Constructive responder—with enthusiastic words and nonverbals.
This will always work better than the other responses: Passive and Constructive (little or no active emotional expression); Active and Destructive (nonverbal display of negative emotions); and Passive and Destructive (no emotional reaction and no nonverbal connection).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flourish: Post #3 - Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology that Works
a. Why is positive psychology worth pursuing?
a. Simple answer: It gets results—success rates in reducing depression and remission rates: 55% (positive psychology); 20% for treatment as usual; and just 8% for usual treatment and drugs!
b. Fifty people did the “What went well” exercise for just one week, and 47 of the 50 became less depressed. That’s an amazing result. At that rate one could even call it a potential law (with testing on a much larger scale).
b. The Gratitude Visit: Seligman suggests writing a one pager to a person who’s meant a lot to us in our lives and then delivering the message in person. Communicating sincere thanks for help along the path of life makes both recipient and donor much more positive immediately.
c. What Went Well (Three Blessings Exercise): Write down three things each day that went well and why you think they went well. I do this nightly and keep a small notebook in a prominent place so I don’t forget to do it. Makes a huge difference.
d. Gratitude List: Keeping a list of 3-5 things you’re grateful for—including even those we often take for granted like running water, heat in the winter, sunlight—is a great way to prime your day with a positive push out the door that can color the rest of the day.
e. Signature Strengths: Go to and take the signature strengths instrument. Try to use your strengths daily, especially if you want to feel the sense of flow (being totally engaged in the moment) and to flourish…being the best you can be.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flourish: Post #2 - Well-being

a. Seligman takes care to distinguish between happiness (the core of his original theory of Authentic Happiness) and well-being. His argument is that he can measure the individual elements of well-being, but happiness is more “mood” related and far more difficult to treat scientifically. Well-being is a construct which leads to the state of someone flourishing and has five elements: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships (positive), Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA). To meet the test of well-being, according to Seligman, each element must meet a rigorous three-pronged test. The element must 1) contribute to well-being, 2) be pursued by people for its own sake, and 3) be able to be defined and measured independently.

b. PERMA: Positive emotions are the cornerstone of positive psychology (studying wellness as opposed to disease) and are a core element of well-being and flourishing. Emotions get us to “move,” and moving in a positive direction always trumps the negative. Engagement has been studied by many researchers, especially the research team at Gallup, and found to be at the core for anyone hoping to really enjoy work or life in general. No engagement, no real satisfaction or joy in our pursuits, only drudgery and compliance. Relationships that are positive nourish us and for most of us are the antidote to depression and other such mental maladies. Meaning is about being connected to others and pursuing something larger than the self. Life gets better as our focus gets bigger. Accomplishment emphasizes the pure joy of doing that which we enjoy for its own sake, and again, often in service of a greater good, something bigger than ourselves. For example, a race car driver might win a race and also test out new safety equipment that could ultimately help all drivers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flourish: Post#1 - Overview

Overview: A vaunted professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman is the architect of positive psychology—which studies how to make people not just less depressed, anxious, or angry but also happier and flourishing. I believe that Flourish, Seligman’s latest book, will stand as a classic text for psychologists and lay people alike who are interested in finding out how to live a better, happier, more productive and meaningful life. His research boils down to a theory of well-being constructed by seeking P-E-R-M-A: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships (positive), Meaning, and Accomplishment. His theory of well-being evolves from his original work on Authentic Happiness. He spends much of his book discussing each of the PERMA critical elements of what gives us well-being, not just smiley-faced, self-absorbed happiness. A self-proclaimed depressive (read that as being a hard-nosed realist), Seligman makes a true distinction between a kind of insufferable (and often insincere) smiling giddiness and well-being, which leads to true flourishing. Moreover, he describes how to craft programs for leaders, teachers, and even the Army that can make the world a better place. Talk about a mission and a legacy! In particular, the work he’s doing on post-traumatic stress is remarkable and something I wish had been around when I was a young Marine.
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. (Free Press, 2011), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #10--Leadership Development

Growing Your Own: A final word about leadership development.
a. In an ever-and-faster changing world, adaptive change becomes more crucial for both success and sustainability. Taking a development stance or a leadership development frame of mind can make this happen. The authors provide seven (7) attributes of this development stance:
i. Adulthood is a time for growth. We evolve throughout our lives.
ii. There’s a big distinction between technical and adaptive changes.
iii. Individuals have intrinsic motivation to grow.
iv. Such mindset changes take time.
v. Mindsets shape feelings, so change needs to involve head and heart (Jefferson would like this one).
vi. Change in mindset and change in behavior are co-dependent in this system.
vii. A development stance provides a safe place for people to experiment and take risks.
b. Leaders who move teams and organizations through this process are adaptive leaders, who themselves take the risk of creating a development frame of mind. But the alternative—treating problems as cosmetic and technical—leads to a very unsatisfied place.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #9--Teams and Change

Collective Immunity to Change (for Teams)
a. Just as individuals have immunity to change, so do teams, groups, and entire organizations have a “collective immunity to change.”
b. When it makes sense to “x-ray” the Group/Team:
i. Groups are stuck, no follow through, don’t hold each other accountable, protect their turf.
ii. Groups are functional—safe places to test, not hostile battlegrounds.
iii. Groups are 12 or less with no strong subgroups.
iv. Groups of more than 12 people with no definable subgroups, break down into groups of 8 and compare outcomes.
v. Construct individual member immunity maps before doing a collective team map. Practice the individual process before applying to a more complex team environment.

c. Team Column #1: Identify the team collective improvement goal
i. Avoid generalities (too broad a scope), like overcoming the achievement gap or being more open-minded.
ii. Use a four-column collective immunity map.
1. Our improvement goal (collective commitment)
2. Our collective fearless inventory (doing/not doing instead of supporting Column 1)
3. Collective competing commitments (that support Column 2 activities that work against our improvement goal)
4. Collective big assumptions (our underlying thinking that supports Column 3—competing commitments).
iii. Brainstorm possible collective improvement goals.
1. Have people independently list them.
2. Next, brainstorm and then vote on most significant.
3. Get agreement and strong alignment on key collective improvement goal before proceeding.

d. Team Column #2: Take a fearless inventory of team behaviors contrary to the team’s collective improvement goal.
i. Consider this key question: What do WE collectively do or fail to do that works against our improvement goal in Column 1?
ii. Criteria for Column #2 entries:
1. Be concrete (focus on observable behaviors)
2. The more entries and more honest the better
3. Ensure that each one works against Column #1
4. Don’t worry about the “why” at this stage
5. Should be behaviors ALL (the group) are doing
iii. Teams get tempted to merely solve Column 2 behaviors. This is a “technical” short-term win but a long-term loss approach. Rather, continue with the map to see the long-term winning, adaptive approach.

e. Team Column 3: Competing Team Commitments
i. These commitments are often INVISIBLE but begin to help explain behaviors in Column 2.
ii. Don’t forget the team’s “Worry Box.” What would the group be worried about if they did the opposite of behaviors listed in Column 2?
iii. Convert each “worry” into a commitment of collective team protection.
iv. Warning: Simply NOT doing Column 2 activities does not solve the problem because those behaviors serve a useful purpose—supporting our competing commitments!
v. Thus, hidden (invisible) commitments in Column 3 create obstructive Column 2 behaviors.
vi. Testing the effectiveness of Column 3 commitments
1. Must evoke: Wow! We’re really being honest here! Or,
2. Our fears evoke our strongest anxieties, are very worrisome, pose real threats, etc.

f. Team Column 4: Uncovering the Team’s Collective BIG Assumption
i. Look at Column #3 and ask: What assumptions must we hold as firmly true that make us believe so strongly in our commitments in Column #3?
ii. Taken as a whole, our assumptions in Column #4 make our commitments inevitable—carved in stone!
iii. Examining such big assumptions as a group pushes you into a “danger zone.”
iv. Don’t take time to “settle” these assumptions but just get them out into the open.
v. These assumptions will motivate you to solve them. Next, conduct experiments.

g. Final Step: Conduct Experiments.
i. Experiment should be S-M-A-R-T (discussed previously)
ii. Safe—failure in the experiment will not destroy anyone or any group.
iii. Modest—take experiments one step at a time. No giant steps.
iv. Actionable—keep the momentum going. Take action.
v. Research—use a rigorous system to collect accurate data.
vi. Test—the research should test your assumptions.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #8--Testing Assumptions

Testing your assumptions: Core Element of Change
a. Criteria to select an assumption: 1) Powerful—has a strong hold; 2) Testable—you can measure change.
b. Example: I think I know more about what’s best for my adult children; thus, I should give them my observations, opinions about everything.
c. Test: I won’t offer my opinion, rather offer coaching and see what’s better for my adult kids. I’ll take the opposite position from my default and see what happens—how I feel and my effect on others.
d. S-M-A-R-T Tests: Safe & Modest—small risk; A: Actionable—easy and fast to carry out; R-T—you’re research focused and testing a big assumption.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #7--Overcoming Immunity to Change

Overcoming Immunity to Change
a. Build a structure to bridge the gap between our intent and behavior by overcoming competing self-protective motivations. Do this by testing our big assumptions that get in the way of change (one foot on the gas and one on the brake prevents us from ever getting to the goal).
b. The change process takes time, roughly 3 months if you work on it. You can do it alone (tougher), with a friend, or with a coach.
c. The process
i. Hone the map: Review and edit the immunity map.
ii. Survey: Get outside agreement and input on Column 1.
iii. Envision: What’s the ideal look like if you achieve Column 1?
iv. Observe: Look at when big assumptions work and when they don’t. When, how, where did it start; what’s the current status?
v. Test: Poke at your assumptions by acting counter to them—record results. The authors call this experimenting. I like “poking” better because it’s not so daunting.
vi. Follow-up: Ask for input from others. How am I doing? What’s my effect on others?
vii. Identify: Note any hooks (hang-ups) or releases (freedom from assumptions) that emerge.
viii. Project: Once released from faulty assumptions, lean into unmet goals.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #6--Big Assumptions

Column 4: The Big Assumptions
a. Here we create a tool for adaptive (not merely technical) change.
b. Best way to disrupt the anxiety management or immunity-to-change system is to identify a core assumption that sustains it.
c. We don’t see these assumptions as artificial mental constructs, rather we see them as THE truth…the way the world really is.
d. When we make “big assumptions” they can take us down a destructive path. Like a pilot saying to his co-pilot: “Hey, what’s a mountain goat doing way up here in the cloud bank?!”
e. We have an uncanny ability to filter out countervailing evidence in order to support our own assumptions (ladder of inference)—much to our own peril.
f. What are the BIG assumptions underlying your Column 3 commitments?
g. To identify your big assumptions, try the following criteria:
i. You may absolutely regard the assumption as true.
ii. Each big assumption makes the commitments in Column 3 inevitable.
iii. Unveiling big assumptions opens you up to a much bigger world to explore. Will often lead to “ah-ha” moments.
h. Taking assumptions from being invisible to visible leads to disrupting them and making real change.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Immunity to Change: Post #5--Competing Commitments

Column 3: Hidden Competing Commitments
a. Look at Column 2 items. Imagine doing the opposite and how it might upset you and how you’d feel. What might you not like…or what might you have said “yuck” to?
b. Get to a place that seems unsettling, even dangerous to you.
c. Often people go initially only to a surface level (I am bored or impatient) but not to a deeper, more gut wrenching, raw level (I feel dismissed and irrelevant, or I feel like my kids will screw up).
d. Put the raw feelings/raw material in your “worry box”— a kind of holding tank.
e. Next, generate competing commitments.
i. Competing commitments protect us from our fears and anxieties. They are our commitment to self-protection.
f. Signs of a good third column
i. We become captives of a mental system that protects us…an effective immune system.
ii. Each commitment makes Column 2 behaviors more understandable.
iii. Trying simply to eliminate Column 2 behaviors is fruitless because they serve a powerful purpose—self-protection.
iv. You feel stuck—like moving in two opposite directions.

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